Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Impressionable young minds

I've been getting more and more involved with education over the last few years. First there was the games design course at NSAD (now NUCA), where I helped to design the syllabus and was an examiner, then Short Fuze got involved with NESTA Futurelab, and were invited to consult on various aspects of using technology in schools, and now we're doing Moviestorm workshops in schools and colleges, and I'm actually finding myself teaching. This, of course, is something I promised I'd never do. My mum was a teacher (and still is), and I decided that I really didn't want to do the same.

But - and please pardon the cliche - it really is a rewarding job. As I wrote over in the official Moviestorm blog yesterday, there comes a moment in every session when the students suddenly "get it". As Johnnie so neatly puts it (and he's done more of these and is a better teacher than me):

"During every workshop, and for every single user, there was always a moment when they moved from an attitude of “Talk slower – I'm trying to take all this on board” to “Would you shut up for a second? I'm trying to make a movie here!”. The moment that the user realises that Moviestorm will let them tell whatever story they wish is the moment that the concept is sold to them. Although different users reached this moment at different points, every user got there."

It's not like we're trying to teach these people geography or the history of the Suez crisis. Learning Moviestorm genuinely is fun, and within an hour, our students get a skill that most of them never believed they would ever have. When you see that moment, it feels good. And you know you've made a difference to someone's life. It was the same when I was coaching rugby at Castle Cary RFC: when you watch a child finally learn to catch a ball, and then become part of a team, you know you're doing something that matters. I still don't want to be a teacher, but every so often it's good to get out of the business environment and see the effect that you can have on real people.

Which got me thinking about all the teachers who made me who I am. Most of them won't ever read this. Half of them are probably dead. And these names won't mean a damn thing to most of you either. But I wanted to say thanks to them anyway. Teachers don't get nearly enough respect in this country. They work bloody hard, they do a vital job, and our government knows it can get away with paying them crap because most teachers do the job out of love. Teachers, not politicians, priests, celebrities, journalists or businessmen, are the people who are shaping the next generation. The knowledge and the values they pass on to our children is what will determine who they become. I was lucky. I had a lot of good teachers. And I never appreciated that at the time.

So, thanks to you all, in particular: Geoffrey and Charlotte Wass, Don Clarke and Simon Ransome, Peter Yerburgh, John Thorn, Martin Scott, Nick Fennell, Peter Partner, John Durran, and Alan MacFarlane. And most especially to Stephan Hopkinson, the kindest and most caring man I have ever known, who taught me how to subvert the system without malice, and how to think from other people's points of view.

1 comment:

twak said...

I'll drink to that, but I think there is a real problem with the government scaring away the best teachers with over prescriptive rules about how to teach.

You always remember the good teachers, and always forget the mediocre or bad ones.

I'm worried that the kids in the english education system won't have a list like yours mr mongoose.