Reading time: 3 minutes. Relevant opportunity: The Pearson Teaching Awards
Michael Grant, winner of the Pearson Awards’ outstanding new teacher of the year, describes his feeling of inspiration at the awards ceremony
When asked how I feel about winning the award for outstanding new teacher of the year at the Pearson Teaching Awards, a number of adjectives come to mind. As an English teacher, I am always worried that I will struggle for the correct word to use – ‘brilliant’ I feel didn’t do it justice, but it is still my go-to word for summarising my emotions.
I quickly realised that no words could actually describe how I felt. Standing up on the platform, thirty seconds after my name had been announced, was when one idea clicked… inspired. I felt inspired.
I was standing in a room full of teachers, teaching assistants and educational support staff. How could I not be inspired? Every single person in that auditorium inspired someone, somewhere, on a daily basis. Let’s be honest, the likelihood is that they inspire a lot more than that, but I’ve always said that if I can make a positive difference to just one person in the course of my day at work, then I should be proud of that. I am inspired everyday by the people that I work with – an amazing team of teachers and support staff that work tirelessly to give our students the best opportunities we can offer.
If I can make a positive difference to just one person in the course of my day at work, then I should be proud of that
I am also inspired by the students that I teach – shout out to my tutor group here, who always start my day with some of the most hilarious stories I’ve ever heard. If that doesn’t set you up for the day, then what does? I also hope that I inspire people too because, in my opinion, it is inspiration that makes the difference.
Hearing the phrase ‘oh no, not Shakespeare’ is the driving force behind this. ‘Challenge accepted’ I respond. Six weeks later and everyone has made it through Romeo and Juliet intact and has actually, much to their surprise, enjoyed it. Without inspiration, how are the students supposed to engage with a text that many feel is irrelevant? Convincing them that the characters are about as interesting a collection of people you’d wish to meet and that there is more drama in one act than in a whole week of EastEnders is a tough thing to do. It’s about tapping into everyone’s desire to achieve. It’s about ‘you can do it’. It’s about instilling that it’s fine to have off days, but it’s important to have the perseverance and resilience to keep going, to keep trying, to never give up.
Being human is an important part of inspiration. After all, we are all human. Mistakes are definitely good in my classroom. ‘Sir, I’ve done it wrong.’ ‘So what?’ comes the reply. Perhaps not the most inspirational phrasing, I know, but I really don’t care if a student makes a mistake, because then I get a chance to do my job and help them get it right. Inspire them to look at what they did, see the brilliance that is there and develop it. We should inspire our students to trust that if they get it wrong, it’s fine; if they’ve got no idea, it’s fine; if they are scared, it’s still fine. The acceptance of being human I feel is an integral part of a classroom and should be embraced. Break down the barriers of expectation and inspire our students by telling that that they can achieve – no matter how many times they have to start again.
I am a fan of letting your personality explode and using it to inspire. Whether this be wearing Easter Bunny ears all day to earn 1000 points for your tutor group, pretending there’s a monster in the cupboard, or having an argument with a chair (yes, all true). Do it.
Let your personality explode and use it to inspire – whether it be wearing Easter Bunny ears all day, pretending there’s a monster in the cupboard, or having an argument with a chair
Show them that learning is a pleasure; a privilege; a gift. Think of the most vibrant colour you can and ask yourself how you can bring that into lessons. I’m not talking about lesson content here (I love a 34 mark exam answer peer assessed against the success criteria; as seeing a student answer this well does fill me with pride) but I mean motivation. Bring your passion and your drive and let the kids inspire you to inspire them. The impact that we have as teachers is astounding – embrace this. Be the teacher who sings, who gets things wrong, who asks year 10 which cake they should get at break, because it is who you are that inspires your students. Let them see that.
To finish, when I was standing on the platform at the awards ceremony, I felt so proud of the job that I did. There was nothing that I wanted more than to go and teach a class – right there and then – because it made me remember the talent that sits every day at the tables in my classroom. It made me realise that I could make a difference. It inspired me to want to go and inspire them.
Read more on the SSAT blog: A low cost, high impact strategy to maintain morale and high performance
Michael Grant, award winner 2017, New Rickstones Academy