A century on from the First World War, today’s students are increasingly distanced from the lives and experiences of those who fought in the conflict. There are fewer and fewer people who can talk to grandparents and great grandparents about the war, and how it affected people living at the time, from soldiers to women and children on the Home Front.
Despite all the educational changes that have happened since I started teaching History just under a decade ago, one thing has remained a constant. Source analysis is the hardest component for students to understand. This is part of my ‘why’ in that I do not remember any lesson in Secondary, A-level or degree that asked me to develop my ability to use sources. This may be me being incredibly disingenuous, and I am sure that any ability I have is not divined or been bestowed by anything other than practice. It may just have not been made as obvious to me it is now. Nevertheless I have constantly looked for ways to make source analysis more engaging, purposeful and develop the skills for students to engage in a real critique of sources.
We know that teachers are leaving our profession in record numbers, and I have heard of schools where more teachers are leaving than staying. We also know that not enough young people are choosing to become teachers themselves. Teacher training places are going unfilled, and there simply aren’t enough teachers to educate our children of the future. As the population grows, there seems to be little effort to make any changes to recruit and retain quality teachers. Year-on-year, teachers are voting with their feet and leaving the profession.
Since taking on a head of department role four years ago I have had the same flashback every time I sit down at my desk on the first morning back. I was up on the bleak wilds of Dartmoor in October with the daylight fading and rain coming down fast and furious. I wasn’t sure where I was or where I was going. Panic rose in my throat. I was lost.
James and Louise play a game of pool. Louise strikes the ball at a 45-degree angle and watches with great fascination to see how many times the ball bounces against the cushion. She wonders if the number of bounces would change if she had a bigger or a smaller pool table. She drags James around countless pool halls, keeping a record in a hand-drawn tally chart attached to her clipboard, until she believes that she has collected enough data to find a pattern. After several hours of puzzling, Louise finds a rule and is able to use this rule to find out how many bounces there will be on any pool table in the world!
For the 2016/17 academic year I was determined that I would use a more flipped learning and independent learning style with my A Level students, and start introducing it with my GCSE classes as well. I wanted to do this as I felt that by spoon-feeding the students the information I was doing them a disservice and, rather than educating them, I was just schooling them for the exam. I also selfishly, wanted to try and create a better work/home balance and be more organised in my planning.