I taught in two schools during my teaching days, both quite different. My best teaching days were probably in the first school and I have so much to be thankful for from St Benedicts. The reason I think it was my best teaching days is that there was more freedom. There were fewer targets to chase, less assessment forms to fill and do you know what – my student’s academic results were pretty impressive in both schools. My track record spoke for itself and their grades didn’t improve the more measures, assessments and targets that were put in place. However, the students and the teachers’ happiness changed in that time.
In the days when I loved teaching, I would plan fun lessons, I would tweak them until happy, I would spend hours cutting things up, making resources. I didn’t work in an ‘easy school’ either. It was known as a tough school, but I skipped in each morning happy to be part of a brilliant staff, led by two great heads in my time there. Two heads that both encouraged me professionally and personally. I learnt so much from both of them.
However, this post isn’t about their academic progress it is about the adults those teenagers turned into. In my classroom, there was always mutual respect and I tried to understand my students. The kids were challenged and I was quite a firm teacher. Classes often worked in silence and I was certainly no pushover but I respected my students and built relationships with my classes. There are a few year groups that really stand out too. Years that I saw go right through the school – from year 7-11. They are now in their late 20’s which is insane to me. Yet it is these adults that have shown me the respect was mutual.
A few weeks back we had a water leak in the middle of the night. We woke to hear rushing water and quickly negotiated a burst connection. Water was turned off and a plumber was needed.
On a Sunday morning.
During a Bank Holiday weekend.
Queue the £ signs in my mind.
I turned to Facebook for a recommendation and one of my ex students suggested another ex student. Katy had already sorted me out a few years ago by making sweet cones for a birthday party. The man she suggested was contacted and he was at my house within the hour. He came in, knew immediately what needed to be changed, popped to the suppliers came back and had us fixed. He then charged us a lot less than we would have got anywhere else. As he left he also told us his twin was now an electrician if we ever needed one! Another student done good and one that has skills we don’t. I know we would happily call either of them when we need skilled tradesmen.
Lee and I had taught these adults as teens. We were fair and now they are repaying that. They are polite, chatty and friendly and I smiled knowing how they had turned out. The satisfaction I felt at that was immense and it transported me back to the classroom when they were 14/15 sitting in front of me as we read Romeo and Juliet. It might not have seemed relevant but they got on with it and together we finished the curriculum.
Just this month another student has come to our rescue. Chloe was looking for a summer job and once again I turned to Facebook, once again my ex students contacted me Katy included. However, it was another student that suggested Chloe to someone he does some casual work for. Chloe had the job, just because Matt suggested her.
These examples are a stark reminder that you should always be nice, be respectful and treat people well. These were young teens when we knew them and now they are helping us out. I write so much about teenagers and have always said they get a bad press and that we should be empowering them. Teenagers are tomorrows adults and as I have seen these adults will surpass you in terms of skills and you never know when you will need them. So that teen that scowls and pulls their hood up and struggles with eye contact, could soon be that person you turn to when your boiler blows, your own needs needs sweet cones for a party or the water pipe bursts.
Be good to people and you will benefit from it in the long term. Even when I was working with what some would call ‘naughty boys’ I truly believed that although I would not see the benefit of my patience and belief that others in the future would. That although as their classroom teacher I may never have got a thank you but I was sure that in years to come they would look back with a smile and think it wasn’t so bad and that I had helped them on their way and their behaviour would have changed. Working with teenagers is something I miss, it was a privilege to work with individuals in that stage before they were adults.
Some of those teens are now adults who have saved me in times of need and I take that as the ultimate win in educating teens. I am rambling now, but I hope you get the message and this is why I continue to champion teenagers.