It is never a bad thing to try and put yourself in the shoes of those you teach, for you to remember what it is like to not know everything and face an uphill battle to wrestle with new concepts. It can be quite difficult to achieve though, after all, most teachers are themselves the successes of the education system. So much so that they went back into school to teach!
I have never been massively sporty. I particularly hated much of school sport, the netball matches where popular girls were picked first, the muddy cross-country running around the (terraced) playing fields in hockey boots and gym knickers. I have enjoyed some sport, I was OK at hockey and quite liked social badminton and squash, and going to step aerobics in an evening with my friend Tory but overall exercise is not something I find easy.
So in order to tackle this I got myself a good teacher, well personal trainer. And this is where it is dawning on me that my exercise experiences are not unlike those of some pupils when they are tackling chemistry. Exercise is hard to me, chemistry is hard to lots of kids. Like most teachers though, my PT doesn’t let me give up. No, he is encouraging, constantly cajoling, praising my tiny steps of progress, he also occasionally gives me the hard word (his words tend to be less professional than the ones I’m allowed to use in school!) I can only manage one short training session a week, but in that I work intensively and sometimes I want to give up. Now I would be lying if I said that all my students worked intensively throughout my lessons (although if you’re some kind of inspector then of course they do…) but they certainly at times want to give up. Particularly hard work has had me on the verge of tears, I have seen chemistry have that effect on past students. My PT sets homework, I struggle to fit it in around my life (small child, single mother, several jobs, yada, yada, yada…). Now the demands on the lives of my students might not be the same but in their teenaged brains the struggle to prioritise leads them to not meet their homework demands too. My battles with the barbell, the ski erg and the kettle bell are the same as theirs with the concepts of equilibrium or reaction mechanisms.
Looking back on my training though I can say that I am making progress. When the boys at school ask the usual “what do you deadlift madam?” I can legitimately and truthfully say “zip it, I could deadlift you”. My progress hasn’t exactly been lightening pace but it is measurable.
And one more thing…. The biggest lesson of all… I know I would make even more progress if I worked harder, for longer and more frequently… The same can be said for chemistry students too!