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Passion is what changes a teacher into a Great Teacher

In this article Mr Duncan, Pilgrims' Second Master, considers the privilege of being a Prep School teacher and how a passionate teacher can, within reason, connect with any age group.

I have written a fair bit about the Year 8s in recent weeks, and rightly so as it is an important time of year for them.  However, not everything which happens at this time of year is focused on them.

This time last week, I attended a most delightful Pre-Prep Celebration Assembly, and this week I have joined several of the 'Move Up' parents’ meetings. This time of year is, of course, important for the younger boys too, as they move from one class teacher to the next; a significant step in a young life. This transition can take time for some, but it is remarkable how adaptable children are, and pretty soon they are all in their new routines and any worries fade away quickly. More often it is the parents who worry most about this transition, which is why we offer the aforementioned meetings (and there will be more in the new academic year!).

It is an extraordinary privilege as a Prep School Teacher to see young boys taking their very first steps in school (some little more than four years old), right through to when they leave us as fledgling young men (some nearly 14). Prep Schools are in a unique position to see and cater for the most dramatic changes in their charges: from learning to read and do simple maths, to writing essays on philosophy and doing simultaneous equations. When you have been in a place for 11 years, there are boys whom you have seen all the way through their journeys, which is extraordinary. It really is an honour and a privilege to work in a Prep School with both the incredible enthusiasm of the very young, and the growing maturity of our older boys.

Equally, I am constantly in awe of our band of teachers, some of whom teach from Reception to Year 8 and can transition from four-year-olds to thirteen-year-olds, often with as little as five minutes between their lessons (for example, music teachers, sports teachers, and Mr Power, our Head of French).  It takes real skill to do this.  However, I think that the key ingredient is passion. A passionate teacher can, within reason, connect with any age group.

Passion is what changes a teacher into a Great Teacher. There is A LOT written about pedagogy – different teaching styles, catering to different learning styles, differentiation, effective marking strategies, using different lesson structures (at one point it was all about the three part lesson, then the five part, then mini plenaries – my head spins!); I don’t doubt the importance of an awareness of these, but I have never met a great teacher who doesn’t simply ooze passion for the things they are teaching.  To this I would add one final important ingredient - the fact that they care.

At Pilgrims’ we are lucky to have Great Teachers who are passionate about what they do, and care very much.  And when reading their reports or sitting in meetings listening to them talk about their pupils, those two things are obvious.

This is how a successful Prep School can successfully cater for four-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds on the same site.  And it is a privilege.

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