The Lazy Teacher

Starter    Introduction    Stimulus    Investigation    Questioning    Recap     Plenary

 

Starter:

I’m a lazy person.  I think I always have been.  I remember as a young child in Primary School fantasising about how, in the future, we would have moving walkways, like horizontal escalators, to take me from my front door to school.  This was long before they became common in airports and I thought it was the best idea ever.  There was one house between mine and the school gates.

I have always enjoyed the absolute pleasure of doing nothing and was fascinated by Zen Buddhism, which seemed to me to be an entire religion based around doing nothing.  The beauty of Zen, of course, was that by doing nothing, you could achieve the highest state of enlightenment.  This was an amazing idea and first opened me up to the possibility that doing nothing was actually the best course to take, that lack of action was the fastest way forward.

Being lazy is far more complex than simply doing nothing however, it is a way of getting the most done with the least amount of effort.  I trialled various techniques in laziness as I grew up, spending hours planning the least amount of work i could do in order to pass my exams, or the least number of points I needed in a test paper to scrape by.  It turned out that laziness was quite a hard job to keep up.  I managed to get by, hoping that my experience would make being lazy much easier as I got older, scraping the lowest degree possible at university by doing virtually nothing until the last year, when I worked for two hours a day for two months, which I’d calculated was enough for a Third.  It was.

After Uni it became a bit harder and I had an interesting time working on building sites for a year or so, picking up tips on laziness from our ever reliable British builders and their friends.  The cushiest job I had for a while was fitting the sprinkler system at the new British Library.  I had no experience in this so thought it probably best to have as little to do with the actual work as was necessary – this was our cultural knowledge at stake here –  I couldn’t risk doing a bad job and seeing all of our literature and science go up in smoke.  Getting the night shift turned out to be best for this as I would potter around for an hour or so, measuring lengths of pipe and making marks on them with chalk until the Foreman left for the night.  After that, I would find a nice nook, normally somewhere up the top of a bit of internal scaffolding, and get my head down until morning.  6 a.m. would herald the arrival of the day crews which gave me enough time to position myself where I could peruse the night’s handiwork, the bits done by the people who were actually trained for this sort of thing.  Double time for 3 months.

I got bored of this though as it wasn’t much of a challenge to be lazy in that environment, it was almost expected of you.  I decided (or rather, was told by some friends) that my constant need to be right all the time and irritating know-it-all attitude would be perfect for being a teacher.  As it happened, it was that phase in British education where nobody wanted to be a teacher, in particular, nobody with a Science degree wanted to be a teacher.  Everybody with good degrees was either slogging away in research for the love of the subject and peanuts for pay, or jumped ship and became an accountant, hating the subject but getting good pay.  I didn’t fancy either option so went along to my interview at a London teaching college.  The only question I remember was, “So why do you want to become a teacher?”.  I suppose I should have been expecting it but had decided that doing no preparation would be best as I would trust the interviewers as to whether they though I could be a good teacher or not.  I answered honestly, “I don’t.  Just don’t know what else to do.”.  Two months later I was on a PGCE course and weeks away from being in a classroom with real, live children.  I started to have my doubts.

The first lesson I taught is still burned into my memory as it was possibly the worst lesson I have ever taught in my entire life.  I talked for 15 minutes then realised I had nothing else to say and 45 minutes left.  Thinking on my feet, I got the poor children to open their textbooks and answer the questions on a random page.  Reflecting on this later I realised that actually, that was the most common type of lesson I ever received at school.  At either end would be the Art type lesson, “Carry on with what you were doing last week”, or the worst, the History lesson, “Take notes while I lecture you for an hour, then write them up in neat.”  I decided there and then that I would never produce an utterly shit lesson like that again, and I would strive to be better than any of the shitty teachers that I had at school.  The next year turned out to be the hardest year of my life so far.

Introduction

Let me make this clear now:  I am a good teacher.  I care very much about my students and want nothing but the best for them.  I put their own needs way above mine, it just so happens that being lazy is a benefit in this job – students actually learn better when they do all the work.  This may seem like an obvious thing but sometimes the most obvious things get overlooked.  Students learn better when they do all the work.  I’ll keep repeating it until we believe it.  Actually I’ll just put it on a poster, or on the background of my computer desktop, so I only have to say it once.  That would be lazier and more effective.

I’m not a bad lazy teacher.  The worst type of bad lazy teacher is the one who thinks that they work really hard.  I worked for a couple of years volunteering in a Kenyan school a few hours inland from Mombasa and saw some incredibly bad lazy teachers there.  They would burst through the doors of the tiny staffroom, sweat dripping from every pore, panting chalk dust all over the place and declare, “Man!  I really taught that lesson!  I taught the Hell out of those guys!”  before collapsing onto a slightly badly welded metal chair and falling asleep for the rest of the afternoon.  I would go into the classroom afterwards and ask the kids how their lesson was and they’d say, “Sir really taught very hard that lesson.  He was teaching non-stop for the whole two hours!’.  I’d ask them what they’d been taught and they’d reply that they didn’t know yet because they were still copying it off the board.

Copying.  I despise copying.  It has pretty much zero educational value so why does it still exist in nearly every school in the world?  I could copy the entire bible in Aramaic and still believe that evolution is the driving force behind the origin of species.  It is also the enemy of laziness.  Writing in general is the enemy of laziness.  We have computers these days.  Some of which even have voice recognition (yeah it’s shit but still…).  I once did a music cover lesson where the work set was, “copy this A4 sheet of notes”.  Each kid was even given the printed sheet of notes to take home with them.  This was a music lesson.  And wordsearches.  What the fuck is that about?  Another cover lesson I did, where the students were set a wordsearch, I finished it before them.  It was a Bengali lesson.  And just for the record, they were all from Bangladesh and I wasn’t.

 

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