Reading time: 3 minutes. Relevant programme: Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP)
Corinne Settle was deeply affected by seeing prisoners’ responses to educational opportunities
I often pinch myself at the incredible and privileged role I have. Working for SSAT as educational lead for teaching and learning is my dream job. I get to talk about teaching and learning all day, every day. I get to visit remarkable schools across the country and meet teachers and school leaders who change children’s lives for the better each and every day. I am fiercely proud of the profession we work in.
As with every year, this year has brought many new experiences. In the autumn term I travelled to Kenya to work with an international school in Nairobi. I can’t deny that stepping into an international school with over 40 different nationalities across their staff and students filled me with fear. How different are teachers from across the world? Are the messages I want to share relevant? After 20 years of teaching, I felt like an NQT again. I worked with teachers across all key stages and quickly realised that our shared passion for learning and the children we work with bridged any differences. The challenges we face are the same. These teachers are enthusiastic, willing to take risks and step out of their comfort zone.
In the last two terms, I have been spending time working in prisons delivering TEEP (Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme) training. Indeed, the fact that I have spent time ‘inside’ has given much amusement to friends. Another entirely new experience for me has been working with the breadth of teachers who teach a diverse range of subjects – including horticulture, bricklaying, catering and meditation as well as English and maths – to learners in groups, or 1:1 in the cells.
‘We’re nice really’
Although I have been mainly working with teachers in prisons, I have also spent time with prisoners in lessons. The first time I walked into a class, I must have looked quite worried as the first thing one prisoner said to me was ’its ok love, we’re nice really’. I sat with this group of men talking about learning at length. They were eloquent and reflective about their experiences in education. Their priority, though, was about how they could become better and the support they needed to do this. Many of these men were caught in a cycle, having been through the prison system several times.
I also experienced the sadness and frustration of the system. A prisoner returning after less than a week outside, having committed a crime just so he had somewhere warm to sleep. Another prisoner explaining politely that he couldn’t complete his English assessment during induction as his withdrawal symptoms were so severe, he couldn’t focus on the paper.
Just a week after the training, I returned again and saw a carefully crafted lesson designed to engage the learners as they arrived for the lesson. In prison, their arrival is often very staggered as they are released from different wings at different times. The teacher welcomed them to the lesson and engaged them in a deep discussion using a ‘big’ question. As they arrived, they were immediately engaged and expertly drawn into a discussion around whether a window is still a window if it’s painted black. Each learner had a unique perspective to offer and shared their thinking. As this was the group’s first session, this activity led beautifully into a discussion about expectations for the course. I didn’t want to leave that room.
With both of these experiences, there have been two golden threads: care and hope. Our profession, regardless of where we work, has both in abundance. Teachers love and care for their learners. These are no weak words, these words are the most powerful we have. It doesn’t matter who or where the learner is, they matter and we make a difference.
So as we start to look forward to the end of the year, take a moment, take a breath and look at the incredible difference you have made to your learners’ lives. Thank you.
Each learner had a unique perspective to offer and shared their thinking…. This activity led beautifully into a discussion about expectations for the course. I didn’t want to leave that room
The SSAT Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP) is a teaching and learning framework that is proven to improve teaching and school outcomes. Find out more about getting involved.
Read on the SSAT blog: Thank you!
Corinne Settle, SSAT