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Returning to teaching became a rich experience

Published on 16/05/19

I left teaching a few years ago. The short term reasons were my tiredness of the three coloured pen marking policy and having no time to myself.

There was a more deep-rooted reason. Having become a teacher so that I could give children a chance at the same opportunities I had received through education, I felt frustrated by my inability to do so. I thought that I had done my duty and all I could after a decade. It seems like such a long time ago and so much has changed in the intervening three years.

Joining the online edu-community was an accident but the more I learnt, the more my experiences as a teacher finally made sense. It also left me with a burning sense of injustice for all those children who had similar backgrounds to mine but simply had not received the standard of education I had. 

This should not be a matter of luck or chance.  Dame Rachel de Souza knows this and it is for this reason that I finally chose to apply for a role at Inspiration Trust as a teacher. I don’t think that I could or would want to teach anything but a coherent curriculum to primary pupils now. I don’t think any primary teacher should be ashamed of the fact that they can not possibly be an expert in every subject they teach. We are privileged to  have excellently researched materials available to us. Moreover there is the thought that has gone on behind producing each unit individually and collectively. 

The impact on the children is immense. Children are confident that they will learn in each lesson - they are worth something and go somewhere. They still have their favourite subjects and lessons but they can see the value of the ones that are not. They can see why they need to know about the Romans in order to understand the story of Jesus’ birth, life and death. They can see why their understanding of Christianity means they can understand the symbolism in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They can see why a computer virus is called that and use their knowledge of disease and cells to support their understanding. They can understand why J K Rowling chose the name Fenrir for a werewolf character based on their understanding of the Vikings. 

It is making links within and between subjects that I think is the greatest strength of the knowledge rich curriculum. It seems that some think that the links made by the subject specialists are the only ones that we teach. But it’s not like that. I am constantly making links and references to what has been previously learnt over. More to the point, it’s the ones they make independently and to themselves that matter the most. Every child is unique and so the links they make are too. This misconception is the greatest one that needs to be dispelled. 

All the children have had different experiences and tap into existing and new ones. I’ve always believed that a classroom should be a microcosm of society. They act as one too. When a previously learnt word, concept or idea comes up again they are expected to remember it. They surprise themselves so often when they do. And, yes, on occasion it is only one of them who has retained it. Yet these young children take pride in that one person and in remembering back to lessons they have learnt and try that little bit harder to retain what may have been almost forgotten. The sense of importance in the knowledge they are learning reinforces and supports their personal development, good behaviour and self-confidence. 

There is a sheer joy in shared knowledge and understanding, which a skills-based curriculum, that neglects the collective and superficially extols the individual, simply can’t replicate.

  • Tarjinder Gill is a Year 6 teacher at Great Yarmouth Primary Academy, and lead teacher in primary English for the Inspiration Trust