@eddiekayshun – Who I am.

I had intended to write a post about my philosophy of education, about epistemology and paradigms. I had intended to continue the debate around traditional and progressive education, but thanks to the wise advice and example of some of my friends and colleagues on Twitter, I decided to write about who I am, and what I do.

I enjoy my job, I honestly do. Although there are days when I struggle to keep up the enthusiasm and I feel that my lessons are less than good, I am motivated by what I do. The job of educating young people is a challenge and a privilege and I try to remember the enormous impact I can have on their lives. I make an effort to talk to people in my school, and to listen to them too. Time is too short and although the day is long, moments of true communication are few in an average day. The contact I have with other people is the highlight of every day. These moments are usually stolen, between lessons, in corridors, walking across playgrounds. These are the moments which count and which I remember. Occasionally these moments occur in lessons, too, when the students see that I am trying to understand them, when they see that I respect them. Twice last week I was thanked by students because I had given them breathing space when they were visibly upset and angry about something. I am not strong on classroom discipline, but I believe that I have the respect of my students because I give them mine. A year 9 student with whom I worked in my training year, who was on the ROPES (risk of permanent exclusion) told me that I was a good teacher because I respected him without demanding that he respect me first. It is perhaps semantic, but he felt the difference and appreciated me for it.

My work as a sixth form tutor is incredibly rewarding, as I see students growing through adolescence towards adulthood. I stand up for them, and as long as they are honest with me, will generally do what I can to help them. We have been through some tough moments over the past year and a half, and I am proud of them. Tutor time is invariably a mix of YouTube videos, loud music, and discussions on pedagogy and politics. They have a lot to say and their impression of school is that not many of their teachers really listen to them. For an insight into their views, see the post by one of my year 13 tutees: http://eddiekayshun.edublogs.org/2014/03/08/reply-to-children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard-by-year13-student-missybuck96/

What do I do in school? Well, I teach French, with a few lessons of Japanese and a little Citizenship. I do not consider myself to be an outstanding teacher. Most of the observations I have had have graded me “good with outstanding features”. There is always something missing from my lessons. I try to improve, I am open to feedback, I welcome visitors and observers to my classroom, and I listen to my students when we discuss what we are doing. My lessons are usually not very well planned, I struggle to find time to source and create resources for every lesson. I mark my students’ books probably once every three weeks, but when I do, I will write comments for them on how they have improved and what they need to do to improve further. I teach the curriculum, the content, and very often it is “chalk and talk”. I cover the material in the textbook, and I prepare my students for the tests and exams which are coming up. My philosophy of education is often submerged by the daily grind and pressures of classroom teaching. I care about each of my students and about their welfare, their learning, and their development. The buzz of a good lesson is immensely rewarding, and I can see that it is for the students as well. I enjoy parents’ evenings, and appreciate the chance to tell parents something positive about their children. For some of my students, it is the wake-up call that they need. For the vast majority of them, it is an uplifting experience. I am a parent and I know what I need to know and would like to hear from my children’s teachers. Two evenings ago, with a year 10 French group who would probably not have chosen French had they the choice, two students told me how they are enjoying French for the first time since they started learning it. This is important to me. If my students are not enjoying my lessons, it is very difficult for them and for me to go about the learning process. Because we respect each other, they know that there will be tests and revisions and more boring lessons, but they appreciate that I make an effort to reach out to them and to help them to enjoy school. Having an element of choice in homework tasks means that the work is done more willingly, and is often completed to a higher standard than it would be otherwise. If I have to give detentions for lateness, or missed homeworks, or for behaviour, I will use that time to work with the students and to check their work and understanding, as well as talking through the reasons for my keeping them back. It is a useful time for me, and most students do not begrudge being sanctioned when they understand the reasons. My classroom is a welcoming environment and my door is always open.

I aim to collaborate with my colleagues as much as possible, but the constraints of the day mean that this is rarely possible. There are few teachers who will actively seek out opportunities for collaboration, and very often the effort seems to be coming largely from me. It is tiring, but I continue to seek out chances to share with my co-workers. The timetable is such that, even with willing partners, projects such as lesson study or interdisciplinary learning have very little chance of long term success due to the fact that time is not made available for teachers to work together. Despite this fact, I have been involved with, and instigated, many projects across the school through which I have come to know colleagues and students of whom I would otherwise have been ignorant. These projects demand a lot of my time and effort, but they are so rewarding that I continue with them, and they bring me great value. I am aware that it may be perceived that my participation in these other projects may be the reason that I do not find enough time for marking and planning, but I would say that they are done in time which I would otherwise take for myself – after school, at weekends, during holidays. The amount of time I spend on my actual teaching role is considerable, and it would be difficult and in my opinion wrong to add to it.

All of which brings me to my home life. I am fortunate to have a loving and caring wife who understands the demands of my job. I do not really have any friends or hobbies outside of the home, and I sometimes regret this. However, the time I spend on my job usually amounts to about 60 hours a week, and any time I have then I try to spend with my family. I have three beautiful children, a girl aged 15, a boy aged 12, and a little girl aged 5. They are all wonderful and each is different with their own virtues and foibles. I spend more time with the 5 year old, because she demands Daddy time, and perhaps because it is more relaxing to be with her. The two oldest are harder to approach, and I know that a major part of this relational difficulty is due to my stress and fatigue. I imagine that most evenings I do not project a very approachable vibe. Often if I speak to them it is to ask them to do something, or to check if they have done something. I find it hard to relate to them sometimes, and I deeply regret this and wonder what part my job plays in this scenario. The weekends I am either resting or working, and when I do ask them if they want to go out, they often decline – perhaps again because of my tired and stressed demeanour. There is little opportunity for quality time with my wife, and the sacred hour of 9.30 to 10.30 is often spent catching up on family admin or discussing the children. Would all this be any different were I in another job? Probably not. Before becoming a teacher, I had my own business as a property developer / builder and decorator, and there were times when I was at least as stressed as I sometimes get now. The tiredness was more physical than mental, but the situation was similar. There is a lot I could do to make things better at home, and I have worked hard on being more positive when I am tired, and being more patient when I am stressed. I continue to work on this, and hope that as time flies by, I will be able to look back at this time and say that I managed to spend time with my family. Is it better in the holidays? Yes, but the two oldest are usually away with their father, and this missed opportunity of bonding with them when I am more at ease is hard. I love all three of them, and am aware of spending more time with the youngest, but I do what I can to be there for all three of them.

I had intended to write a post about my philosophy of education, about epistemology and paradigms, but this is who I am, this is what I do.

3 thoughts on “@eddiekayshun – Who I am.

  1. Comments stream copied over from my own blog (eddiekayshun.edublogs.org)
    Submitted on 2014/04/01 at 4:39 pm

    You are just fab. How refreshing to read someone who is prepared to make themselves quite vulnerable with such an honest and frank account of themselves. It makes me admire and respect you so much!I just wish I could give you the gift of time.
    Eve Terry

    Submitted on 2014/04/01 at 5:12 pm | In reply to Eve Terry.
    Hi Eve! Thank you for that lovely comment. I will make the time for my family and myself – this post has helped me to realise the balance I need to achieve. Hopefully I will have inspired other teachers to speak out honestly about who they are and what they do – new series of blog posts coming up. Watch out here: http://whoiamwhatido.edublogs.org/ All the best. Rory

    I’ve been meaning to write a blog for a while and have been thinking about what it means to be a teacher and what it means to be an outstanding teacher. I’ve been wondering whether the impact on other people’s lives weighs as heavily as that which I tend to carry. Such a heartfelt account that has really resonated with me. Much more than epistemology or paradigms ever would or could. Thank you for sharing. @kabradders

    Submitted on 2014/04/01 at 7:36 am | In reply to @kabradders.
    Thank you very much for that comment. I am so glad that this post has resonated with people. It has helped me unload some of the weight I carry with me!

    Submitted on 2014/03/31 at 8:28 pm by chemistrypoet
    I am not a teacher, but think that anyone with teenage kids will relate to what you say about the issue of spending time with them. I don’t think this is job related. My own kids are now old enough to produce their own kids (and have started to). When they were teenagers they didn’t have much time for their parents…..but as they became independent adults the relationship moved on, and interactions became close. I think the key is showing them respect. They do recognise and appreciate it, but don’t say so at the time. Given your emphasis on showing respect in the classroom, I suspect things will be fine……

    Submitted on 2014/03/31 at 9:01 pm | In reply to Chemistrypoet.
    Many thanks for your comments. Respect is what I strive to show and instil both at school and at home. Sometimes it is easier to stay calm in a professional environment and sometimes I relax (and respect less?) at home. I will keep working at being and becoming better.

    Submitted on 2014/03/31 at 7:08 pm by @teachertoolkit
    Definitely the best blog write up I have read in a long time. I’ve been meaning to write this up too – and you have captured this fittingly – I may just write it up over Easter; just to get it (the frustration) out of my system.
    Teaching is an incredibly beautiful career; but the pressures and the responsibility sometimes far outweighs our reasons and philosophy for being in education.

    Submitted on 2014/03/31 at 8:58 pm | In reply to @TeacherToolkit.
    Thank you very much for your comments. I hope to develop this post in further posts and keep defining my philosophy of education through action as much as reflection. I look forward to others sharing their thoughts on this. Thanks again.

    Submitted on 2014/03/31 at 5:49 pm by Jill Berry
    And this is SO much more interesting than epistemology and paradigms Rory….
    Many thanks for sharing. I loved the openness and honesty of this. It also made me want to ask you questions! (We must meet for a drink and a chat when I come down to Dorchester!)
    eg What is it about your professional practice would you most like to change? Why would you choose that and how would you go about it?
    And is there anything in your personal life that you’d like to change? Could you develop more friendships/hobbies outside work and home? If so, what would you choose/how would you do it and how do you think you might benefit?
    I know time is pressured and seems limited, but it’s all about choices/priorities, I think. The time is there. How do we most want to use it?
    Thanks again for the post.

    Submitted on 2014/03/31 at 6:39 pm | In reply to Jill Berry.
    Hi Jill, Many thanks for your comment. Yes the post does raise more questions than it answers, but that perhaps is part of my philosophy of education?! As to the specific questions you have asked, I do of course think of these things often, and will think about a follow-up post to this which addresses some of the problems I have identified in this one. I would love to meet up with you sometime – do let me know if you are heading this way! Thanks again for the comment and best wishes. Rory

    Submitted on 2014/02/25 at 8:26 pm | In reply to mistergallagher.
    Hi Rory, thank you for your reply.
    I do agree that there is a big difference between opening the dialogue about the choice of subject themselves and about lessons as they are, especially in our current system. However, in my very imperfect lessons, these dialogues sometimes lead to talking about the general purpose of studying such and such subjects anyway. I have noticed that my students, even if they sometimes complain, are in fact more settled since their thoughts have been heard. Nothing has changed much in lessons, (apart from my load of worries) but they have been heard and they seem to appreciate just as it is so far. This also seems to have built more trust between me and my classes.
    I think that Leave me alone (Joanna Gore, 2004) is a good read for this matter even though I personally don’t relate to all of the author’s work. After partly reading this work, I phrased the problem as follows: I wonder why we ask children to act with maturity but don’t show interest in what they have to say in the classroom or even decide not to hear them at all? It does sound contradictory.
    I would assume that a lot of current teachers were not brought up in an environment in which they were heard, whether it is in school or at home. Hence, this may be one of the reasons why we find it scary to hear children. We have not been taught and we have not taught ourselves. Some of us may have even been specifically taught not to discuss our parent’s ideas. We don’t know how to do this and we may regard this as “wrong” as we are at risk of losing control as we are unsure of what limits to set. It is not my intention to judge my colleagues here, but I would like to raise this question.
    Thank you,

    Submitted on 2014/03/02 at 7:15 pm | In reply to Sarra.
    Thanks Sarra for the comment. I am planning a follow up to this post and will try to address some of your questions. Please get in touch on twitter as well for some more immediate chat! Thanks again, Rory. @eddiekayshun

    Submitted on 2014/02/23 at 9:22 pm by Nancy Gedge
    Thanks for writing this – I find myself struck by another potential difference between my life, as a primary teacher, more specifically of SEN children in a primary school, and yours in secondary.
    In my job, I routinely teach the most challenging children. They don’t challenge me with their desire to learn – on the contrary, they challenge me with their desire to do the very opposite. They find learning hard. They will do what they can to avoid it.
    The point of this is to say that, without listening to them, without taking note of their feedback, I would be toast, and they would learn diddly squat.
    But the feedback they give me is not the sort you would find on a website, or in a questionnaire. Their feedback is more immediate than that. I can tell from the way they smile, the way they settle, the way they tell me they liked it straight away, how it didn’t feel like work, or, even, the way they mob me in the playground when I am on duty to tell me about lessons!
    Without listening to them, without taking the time to notice what switches them on to classroom activities, we are on a hiding to nothing.

    Submitted on 2014/02/24 at 3:25 pm | In reply to Nancy Gedge.
    Dear Nancy,
    Thank you very much for your comment, which highlights an important point I neglected in my post. That is that we as teachers already receive feedback every single day from our students, and that it is vital that we listen to this feedback. As you say, if we do not take the time to notice what they value, we will find it hard to improve as teachers and to improve the educational opportunities of our students.
    With regard to challenging children, and their desire to learn, one of the key findings from my research last year was that some of the least engaged and most challenging students contributed most to the feedback process and offered the most insightful remarks. I understand that we are not dealing with the same students, but by asking my students what they find hard and why they do not enjoy things, I was able to learn a great deal about my own teaching and hopefully have been able to improve their learning experience.
    Thanks again for your comments, and I look forward to hearing more about your experiences,

    Submitted on 2014/02/23 at 10:09 pm | In reply to mistergallagher.
    Hi Rory,
    I have started to open the dialogue with my students as the main current issue in my case is that many of them don’t value languages (I teach MFL). Indeed, they don’t necessarily want videos and games but they want to learn with a purpose and, in my case/subject, I find it challenging to make the long-term feeling of purposeful learning clear. Some students just accept that they have to study a language and are committed but some others really do complain since I have opened this dialogue (languages are compulsory in my school).
    I would like to tackle both situations and I have been developing (modest) ideas to give languages their place in my school beyond the argument of employability or traveling. But I still ask myself this question: if, in general, a student does not want to study a subject, do you believe we should always let this student choose?
    I am questioning the compulsory/inflexible side of school here really and my previous question in the above post referred to this.
    I believe that one of the purposes of school is to allow children to, at least, discover what they believe they don’t enjoy. Therefore, all children should have access to all subjects available at some point. Any teenager could voice up sensible and thought though choices/opinions if we help them develop strong self-awareness but, in a system where students voices are heard and decisions are made by an entire community, how much place should we make for compulsory matters, if any?
    I hope this is not too confusing?

    Submitted on 2014/02/24 at 3:19 pm | In reply to Sarra.
    Hi Sarra,
    Many thanks for your comments. I too teach MFL and understand the challenge of teaching languages to those who have no choice in the matter (compulsory to GCSE at our school). I believe there is a big difference between allowing students to choose which subjects to study, and having some choice in how they study a subject. Although I do not presently have the opportunity to do so, I believe that we should let students choose which language they study (see the Language Futures http://www.phf.org.uk/page.asp?id=1854 movement for some more ideas on this). If we are to open up a dialogue, it must be clear what we are able to offer to the students and what is not possible. In an ideal world I would love students to choose their own subjects, and to have more choice in how they learn those subjects. As it is, working in a secondary school in the UK, I can for the moment only open limited channels of dialogue that offer students a say in their lessons with me. We follow a curriculum, do national exams etc., but I believe that my students value being listened to, appreciate when I make the changes that are possible to me, and that a better classroom environment is possible as a result of this dialogue.
    I don’t think I have been able to answer your question, but as with everything, we can but start within the field of what is possible to us.
    WIth very best wishes

    Submitted on 2014/02/23 at 12:43 pm | In reply to mistergallagher.
    Hi Rory,
    A great read, and nothing short of thought provoking! It is especially timely as I get myself refocused for this half of the year. So, thank you for forwarding this.
    When I consider the best examples I have seen of Student Voice in action, it goes way beyond student-teacher feedback. My understanding of S.V. takes the shape of students leading areas of the school and maximising opportunities for themselves and others around them. Now I will shamelessly plug the work of Rose Fox and Student Voice at Clevedon School! Rose has set up Peer Listeners, Peer Supervisors, encouraged departments to advertise their student feedback and actions publicly, and supported the development of student ambassadors in all areas of the curriculum. The student-teacher feedback is considered important, and often takes the shape of “Keep, Grow, Change” – which obviously needs some elaboration: most common response for all 3 = “iPads”.
    I would be interested to see what Tom Bennett has to say in response to your ideas. Have you had any communication with him?
    Keep up the work with the blog – it’s a little luxury to read the fruits of others’ labour! If you consider yourself to be of little reading, then you put a lot of us to shame. It’s great to have some choice selections summarised and made public. Keep us posted.

    Submitted on 2014/02/23 at 1:11 pm | In reply to ClareColvin.
    Hi Clare,
    Thank you so much for your comments. I agree that student voice is so much more than feedback on lessons. I am focusing on that for my dissertation because I found that I had to hone it down to a single aspect of SV. In fact, may point of interest is teacher attitude to student feedback – hence this post! Clevedon is pioneering in many ways, and there are many schools who are doing amazing work with SV. I have not yet had comment from Tom Bennett, but look forward to hearing from him. It is amazing how even a blog post can seem to short to get your ideas across – moving from 140 characters to 1400 words does not always help… I plan to follow this post with an analysis of the literature surrounding student voice and student agency (which will be more academic in tone). This first post was to set out my own position, values, and bias. Thanks again, and look forward to chatting more soon,

    “students should be seen but not heard” was a great read. Thank you. I am a new teacher and I am torn between my vision of education, which matches very closely, if not exactly, the one you describe here and the mainstream vision of education that my colleagues support and apply. I would like to ask you: how can we take children’s wishes into account and at the same time encourage them to genuinely try things they don’t seem to like as it is important to give them opportunities?”
    Thanks for your comments. Please try and keep your own vision of education. It is vital to have a philosophy of Ed that you can fall back on. In answer to your question, students generally understand what we want and expect of them. Teachers are often afraid that students just want to watch videos, play around etc. the vast majority I believe will tell you that they are at school to learn, and respect the teacher and what they have to offer. Open the dialogue and see where it will goes. In my humble and short experience I have always been pleasantly surprised by my students!

  2. ‘I had intended to write a post about my philosophy of education, about epistemology and paradigms’ > I really think you have, Rory! But – unlike many of us – you have spoken through your actions.

    You’re really making me miss classroom teaching. Working with teenagers was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done!

    I hope the work/life balance will get a little better for you soon and you’ll have a bit more time to rest and spend quality time with your family.

    • Hello Florentina. Thank you for the comments. It was @cijane02 Mark Healey who advised me to define who i am but what i do, rather thqn by what i think. Great advice, and it has reamly helped me. I am working on the work life balance and have shown the blog to my family too. Thanks again, Rory.

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