but I do remember sitting with my mum and listening to stories, sitting in our caravan and trying to copy letters. I don’t remember learning to speak, to feel, to explore things, learning what flowers smelt like, but I must have done, because no-one worried for me about things I couldn’t seem to do. I must have learned the names of things and to be able to talk about them.
I don’t remember learning at school, from 5-8,
but I do remember taking part in the Christmas productions, dressed up once for Aladdin, another as a bumble bee. I remember paintings on the wall, of a colourful shiny fish that I’d caught and wanted to paint. Making junk models of boats for a display and designing and making a net for a house for the pet mice. Sitting in the sunshine and reading is my memory of reading and writing can be summed up in a personal piece of writing which was published in the school magazine.
At home, lots of time was spent outside, with friends, exploring the local area, playing games and fishing. Home meant Look and Learn, a magazine to explore and read, occasional Biggles books, a Wonder World of Nature encyclopaedia one Christmas.
Holidays chez grandparents in Wales entailed the train journey from Exeter St David’s, via Bristol Temple Meads, then into the valleys, where time was our own and exploration the experience. It was a case of wondering, seeing, feeling, smelling, and asking questions. It was experiencing the unusual; seeing turkeys and chickens killed and plucked ready for the main meal, seeing uncles arrive home in the morning from the pit, covered in coal dust, the tin bath being prepared and the endless need for cups of tea to slake the raging thirst. The uncle who took us for walks and showed us things; things to capture imaginations and get us looking more.
But I do remember endless sunshine, days spent outdoors, finding unusual creatures, including snakes; fishing, Tom Sawyer style on the creek for a never ending supply of very large and very strong catfish. Moving schools was a regular feature, so the detail of learning is sparse, but I can remember the nib pens, messy ink pots and copperplate handwriting practice. On Shorncliffe pier, I did encounter the wide variety of sea creatures that it is possible to bring out of the sea and I suppose I did learn the names of more things, but seeing a Manta ray rising out of the sea and effectively “flying”, was an incredible experience.
Sport was a major feature and by moving schools, I was able to experience rugby, union and league, as well as Aussie Rules and cricket, on a concrete strip. All sport was played bare-foot, so you had to be nimble. Was I a good copyist, able to reproduce what I had seen?
I’m still a bit hazy about what I learned at Grammar School 12-16.
There was a lot of sport and my Australian experiences enabled me to participate and be a team player, but also to have a go at new sports; at 12, I broke the school shot putt record by 4 metres, just by turning up and throwing. I must have been quite good at English, as I got a dictionary prize and the year end. I remember slippering, for having chewed nails and not having clothes labelled, but I don’t remember the learning.
New school at 12, nicer people, no slippering. Again lots of sport, and I did discover a passion for working with wood. One thing I learned was how to make a good dovetail, through endless repetition, plus a growing care and attention to the detail. Me, the set square, ruler and the saw. The same skills as developing as a future County schoolboy cricketer; watch, repeat, and rehearse (mentally and physically).
I wonder if I don’t remember because I always have been naturally inquisitive and wondering, my curiosity enabled through school and life experiences, with a natural propensity to seek to make sense of what I am experiencing. Perhaps I have always found learning easy, so have not had to spend time analysing any reason why I can’t so something. I wonder if that is the same for many people who became teachers.
I know that I like to explore solutions to things that might be problems and that my natural approach could be described as an analytical, lateral thinker, which has occasionally been a strength in the teacher role, with individual children and with institutional needs.
Perhaps I have learned without a real focus on learning?
Perhaps, as David Didau has argued, you can’t see actual learning in a lesson.
But each lesson can be set up so that the conditions for learning exist and, to me that can be simplified as: -
Something to think about, something to talk about then possibly to write about, or, take it in, chew it around a bit and then let it come out again in your own form.
Learning is about minds, focussed on an activity, making sense in the light of what is already embedded, re-evaluating and refining.
In other words, growing up, where some will need more understanding than others. Good teachers learn to walk beside, as well as ahead of, their learners and remember that learning is not just about school.