A few weeks ago, on this platform, a wise man wrote this*:
‘Currently, it feels like we are in a giant “laboratory of teaching.” It’s early doors, but who knows what wonders will emerge before the referee checks his watch and puts his whistle to his lips?’
Leaving aside the football-speak (you had to be there), I wonder just how wise he was. Have new wonders emerged since lockdown?
Some, certainly. Joe Wicks, Captain Tom Moore, community clapping, people actually getting to know their neighbours.
But I – dammit, “he” – really meant “teaching wonders”. Have they emerged?
To be honest, I’m not sure teaching has been revolutionised. I’m still creating and delivering lessons. My pupils are still writing paragraphs, interpreting sources and giving opinions. Not much change there.
There have been some wonders, though. I can now, pretty reliably, teach a whole class from anywhere with a decent internet connection. Equally, my pupils can attend from anywhere. We couldn’t have done that a few weeks ago.
It was wonderful when the historian whose work we have been studying in Year 7 Zoomed into my classes. She gave them the answer to the essay they were writing and they were able to quote her. That was so much easier to arrange than in the pre-Zoom world.
Last week, we showed Year 8 a Zoom video made by some Year 9s about moving into the House system, which went a long way to calming any fears about the House system. Previously we’ve done this in assembly. I think the video was better.
Perhaps I’ve not been imaginative enough, and should have taken this opportunity to reinvent my profession. Maybe I’m underestimating the scale of the wonders that have been wrought. But my overriding feeling is that the biggest wonder to come out of all this is something we had all along: school itself.
I miss it so much. All the wonderful things that happen every day. The kind words and helping hands. The caring form tutors and the assiduous teachers. The clatter in the dining room and the chaos in the locker room. The passing conversations. The shared grins, whines and tears. The passionate debates. The extraordinary experiments.
This is the wonder that has emerged for me. The stark reminder that, for all its faults, school is a wondrous place.
*Well, my mum thinks I’m wise, anyway.
Now in his second stint as a teacher in a career characterised more by the verb than the noun, Sam is Head of Lower School (Years 7 and 8) and also teaches History and Politics. Prior to Highgate, a long spell in the Civil Service was bookended by two tours of duty at Presdales School, near Hertford.