Posted by: Nigel Morgan | February 5, 2011

Connections

Sometimes I can’t believe my luck; I’m paid well for doing a job that is fun and inspirational. I know that as a primary school headteacher there are many difficult challenges and sometimes downright stupid things to deal with, but the enthusiasm of children constantly makes up for all the political and statistical nonsense that infects the state education system.
I believe that my vocational role is to promote good quality teaching and learning; to encourage staff to have high expectations of themselves and of children, to be proud of their profession and to help young people to ‘learn how to learn’ and, more to the point, to have enthusiasm for learning. Government, on the other hand, appear to see my role as one of producing rafts of data and percentages to show the voting public what a good job THEY are doing!
I tend to use language such as trust, encourage, support and praise. I refer to the people in the school community as children, parents, friends and work-mates. Politicians, when addressing education, only seem to use vocabulary of the cut-throat market place – targets, evidence, rigorous scrutiny and, when referring to people, they use the term ‘stakeholders!’ There’s never anything to make us feel wanted or worthwhile, but hey, we only work with and for people, not with money! Destroy a bank and an economic system with irresponsible gambling and you get obscene bonuses; ensure that a school is successful and the only comment you’re likely to get is, ‘now, how can you improve further?’
These are my views and opinions only, of course, and having stepped off my soapbox, I can reiterate that I am lucky to be working in such a rewarding job! To work and talk with children is such a joy; to tap into their inquisitiveness, their imagination and their desire to explore a wonderful world is truly inspirational.
This week I had the privilege of working with a class of seven to eight year olds – a year 3 class. They were using books and stories and were making ‘connections.’ The teacher was encouraging active learning and was prompting with a clever range of questions, which sparked wonderful collaborative work from groups of children who, in turn, were using questions of their own to make connections. I stood back, watched and listened as children jotted questions on post-it notes and made connections from their reading material. They connected characters, places, information and incidents, and developed a deeper bond with the text by carrying their post-it questions from page to page until they found answers and greater understanding.
During this activity children were making connections not only with the specifics of a particular text but also with styles in a range of books; connections of genre, and connections with bigger, worldwide, current or historical issues such as natural disasters, sporting events and beliefs. Perhaps the most important connections, however, were the ones the children were making with themselves – connections with their own interests, emotions, curiosity and even fears.
As they worked, the children were constantly engaging with the text with questions, from the simple, ‘what does this word mean?’ to, ‘what if? Or ‘what would it be like to?’ There were, of course, many content-specific questions such as, ‘how many teeth do sharks have?’
I realised that, as writers of books for children, we provide young people with a vast range of opportunities to make connections with themselves, with their imaginations, with fantasy, with knowledge and with the wider world. Above all, though, we provide children with enjoyment, and that enjoyment was evident as I watched them engage with the written word and illustrations, and make those connections.


Responses

  1. Lovely blog, Nigel, heartfelt and passionate. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been re-reading “A Passage to India” recently, which has that thematic line in it, “Only connect.”


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