Michael Gove is right: We need 3D Teachers

“Next Up, It’s Sir on the Ukulele” ran the headline in The Sunday Telegraph as the paper Ukulele teachers with textgently poked fun at plans for teachers to take part in school variety shows with the comment, “It is difficult to know who will be more embarrassed, the teachers or their pupils.” This attitude is wrong however, and betrays a lack of understanding of what makes a good teacher.

Teaching is often inaccurately portrayed as a one dimensional profession, with the emphasis on academic outcomes and exam results. Some view ‘a good teacher’ as someone who can efficiently shovel knowledge and exam technique into the brains of pupils; everything else they do is barely valued and largely irrelevant. It is a view that Michael Gove has helped reinforce with the use of SATS, GCSE and A Level metrics to measure school performance.

Good exam results open doors to universities and employment opportunities, but a collection of grades are just one of the many things children take with them when they leave school behind. The real purpose of any school, and the main role of any teacher, is to prepare children for a successful and happy adult life – and this involves far more than just teaching the curriculum in a classroom setting.

Preparation for life is a 3D process that requires teachers who will not just share their academic knowledge (the first dimension), but also provide pastoral care (the second dimension) and impart passion for extra-curricular opportunities (the third dimension).

The best teachers are three dimensional. ‘Ukulele playing’ teachers in school variety shows are not a subject for ridicule, they exemplify the importance of non-academic activities in schools; the music, drama, sport, art, clubs and societies that children learn so much from. These extra-curricular activities provide children with excellent opportunities for leadership, organisation, teamwork and communication – helping develop the attitude and skills so valued by employers.

Teachers and pupils working together on extra-curricular projects such as variety shows see each other in different lights. Mr X is no longer just a Chemistry teacher but a gifted choral singer; pupil Y may struggle with the periodic table but he can play the guitar solo from Stairway to Heaven. Three dimensional teachers enjoy better relationships with their pupils and this has a positive impact on classroom learning.

At The Perse I am proud to say that we have a huge array of 3D teachers. They deliver exceptional lessons, have genuine empathy and care for young people, and can also offer insight into a vast array of fascinating extra-curricular pursuits. A brief look around the staff room reveals (amongst many others) a ballroom dancer, a beekeeper, an Aerobics instructor, an awarding winning musical writer, a session jazz musician, a part time DJ, a published fiction author, an ultra-marathon runner, a grade 8 cello player, an Olympic hockey player and a conservation worker with the Orang-utans of Borneo. All that seems to be missing is a ukulele player!

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