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Headmaster's Blog

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” – President Theodore Roosevelt

I came across these words of Teddy Roosevelt a few years ago and I immediately wished I had come up with them myself. in my opinion, the profound truth of these words has to lie at the very heart of any educational establishment.

When you think back on your experiences at school, and specifically in the classroom, I rather imagine your memories are less to do with what you learnt and more to do with the people who were delivering your classes.

I remember some of my teachers precisely because they did not inspire me and, in some cases, because they governed the classroom setting with no small amount of terror. However, I have even stronger memories of those teachers who were just out of this world. I didn’t find some of my subjects at all easy and yet the willingness of some teachers to work with me to overcome the challenges with which I was confronted, gave me the belief that I could rise to the tasks and tackle them with at least some degree of confidence and instilled in me a hitherto unacknowledged self-belief. It was these teachers who showed me that the love of their subject was more than just academic and was something that they passionately felt would enrich their pupils’ lives. Their enthusiasm would often take them off on wild tangents but in so doing, they opened our eyes to a world that went far beyond the confines and constraints of the curriculum and broadened our minds and experiences.

Sadly, I still encounter far too many teachers who stick religiously to the curriculum and teach almost exclusively through the text books. If this is evident in a school when you are looking around, don't waste your time, start looking elsewhere. These teachers have not responded to a vocational calling and even if that had been the case once upon a time, their passion for their subject has long gone and teaching has become just a job. Your children will not learn much in these lessons unless it comes from their own independent curiosity.

For those who come into teaching with anything less than a profound desire to have a positive impact on young people and passion to share their own knowledge because they truly believe in its ability to transform the lives of those they teach, schools are difficult places to be and I struggle to understand why they have chosen to become teachers. Perhaps the thought of long holidays is sufficient to lure them in but it is a false promise. If you are going to be a successful teacher, education has to be a calling, and when you respond to a calling, the holidays are your opportunity to further your own knowledge of your subject to further enrich the education of your pupils upon returning to the classroom.

This is where Teddy Roosevelt’s words come to life. The teachers that love what they do are in the classroom because they see in front of them, a group of young minds with the capacity to learn and go on to have bright futures. That is the greatest motivation for any good teacher and it stirs within them a passion not just for their subject, but for others to share in that enthusiasm and excitement. That desire and enthusiasm will always resonate with young people – it is what draws them to their music idols and to film stars and it is what draws them to particular teachers. When you can see how much a person cares about something it creates empathy with that person and a desire to enjoy what they are enjoying, to share and participate in their passion.

The truth is that we learn our teachers, not the subject itself. It is their passion that provides the inspiration and enjoyment for pupils’ learning and when you have such teachers in a school you know you have struck gold because it is these teachers who will instil a love of learning for no other reason than because it becomes fun to learn.

When you know how much your teachers care about what they are teaching and that the reason they are in the classroom is because they want their pupils to share in what they consider to be something truly special, then the pupils respond and the learning just happens. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Your meeting with the Head Teacher is crucial when you are deciding on a school for your son or daughter. If they say that a school is not about the buildings but about the teachers and the pupils, and if it is said with sincerity, then it is worth looking at what else is on offer because you can be confident that the foundations of that school are strong and the purpose of that school is to bring out the best in your son or daughter. It is a great starting point.

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