Teaching influenc-ez…

I’ve realised today that I appear to have unconsciously imitated Mr Bruten.

This guy left an indelible mark on me (along with the knowledge of the meaning of ‘pugnacious’) he taught us English language in secondary school for one term and will always be one of my favourite teachers in memory. He was a pleasant enough guy but you put a single foot wrong and he would turn on you like a terrier with a rat. He peppered his lessons with random information (such as the meanings of long and seldom used words) and would do things like make us repeat him in a sort of sing song chorus in order to get his point across (I’ve yet to try this one with my guys but now I’ve remembered it I can see it happening).

He was friendly but demanded obedience, he made things fun but kept you on your toes with his mercurial moods, if he said he had a headache and didn’t want to hear a sound then (usually once Ricky McCormick had been forcibly ejected from the room) there was not a peep to be heard – if there was then the offender would usually be rubbing the part of their anatomy which had been struck by an accurately thrown piece of chalk; unless the question was one that had not been covered in the lesson delivery (I may have to institute a nerf gun policy for this purpose…)

There were also the days when we had pleased him so much that he’d just out of nowhere produce a pocket full of sweets and start handing them around at the end of the class.

I think the thing I liked most about his classes was the unpredictability of them; even when reading he would find some way of shaking things up. This is how I want to be. Learning should be fun, it should be something you look forward to doing because life is far too short to do things that make you want to slam your head through a window. Yes, I realise it is impossible to make things fun all the time – but it is also far too easy to make things boring; I refuse to take the easy route, I want my kids to take something from the class beyond the required material; I want them to start thinking as well.

This is why I’ve attempted to incorporate the use of chat rooms, in-class exercise contests and allow little bit of free chat where I will answer practically ANY question asked of me – OK so occasionally my response may be ‘is that really appropriate?’ but I think  a small amount of an ‘anything goes’ laxity within a moderated space is healthy; these guys come from all walks of life and incredibly varied backgrounds – if you can’t address that in some fashion in the classroom then what exactly are we teaching them beyond the requirements of an assignment?

I just hope I’m not quite as mercurial as Mr Bruten on the mood front; I will admit that he was a tad scary on occasion…