In leaving speeches, teachers often say ‘It’s the kids who I’ll miss most of all’. It’s true. Almost three months after leaving Gatton, I am bereft without my pupils. But if you are expecting a sentimental message about the joy of moulding young minds similar to a DfE advert, my reason will only disappoint. I miss my pupils because they can use technology.
I’d been coping fine as a non-teacher until I had to make a Prezi presentation. The nerves started as I checked out a few examples (There is zooming! And integrating different media-y sources! And it moves in a funny order, not just from top to bottom or left to right!), but I reassured myself that it would be user-friendly and intuitive, a bit like using an app. Two chocolate bars and much circle-confusion later, I was desperate for a Year 9 to appear, laugh at my feeble attempt and magic it into something workable. Google didn’t really help: The Prezi support documents that I found were either YouTube videos or actual Prezis. I need a list that I can print onto paper and put ticks next to as I complete each stage.
But digging a little deeper, it’s not just tech-y teenagers that I miss, but having the authority to control situations. Why did I never set a ‘Make a Prezi about the anthology works’ task? Because I didn’t feel comfortable using Prezi myself. As teachers we have considerable freedom to impose our own working approaches onto our pupils. I like using coloured paper to help with filing, so my GCSE class were given blue worksheets for the All Blues tasks. Revision activities often included bullet points and tables to indulge my own love of list-making.
All of these strategies helped me to feel more in control of my teaching, thus focusing greater attention on my pupils’ genuine musical experiences rather than the ‘writing down’ tasks that particularly crop up with GCSE revision, but perhaps more flexibility over outcome would increase pupil engagement with this part of the course. However, that would have required more time for independent work in lessons and giving more personalised feedback, and time is always a limiting factor. Tailoring tasks to my own strengths may have limited personalisation and pupil choice, but it gave me greater control over my limited planning and marking time. Once again, it’s a fine line between helping teachers and helping pupils, a balance that we need to seek if everyone is to thrive within the school system.
So here’s to my ‘Bothy family’. Thank you for tolerating my learning preferences. Thank you for demonstrating how to use phone handsets, explaining Twitter, writing down PowerPoint short-cuts and generally rescuing me from my own ignorance. And if you ever find yourself with time to spare, consider making a ‘How to use Prezi’ tip sheet. Preferable arranged in bullet points and printed on coloured paper. There’s a gap in the market for it!