Why Engage?

James Cooper
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As part of our commitment to our partner schools, Engage Education employs two highly respected former school senior leaders who advise on teaching and learning and behaviour management systems, deliver bespoke CPD, coaching and mentoring programmes, as well as offering in-class support for developing teachers.
Between them, Mike Conaghan and Jay Treloar boast more than 25 years’ teaching experience and a wealth of training expertise. They work collaboratively to provide unrivalled support for the children, teachers and schools they work with.This week’s blog sees Mike take on the challenge of teaching a Year 4 class in order to better understand the needs of a teacher he is currently supporting. A secondary specialist, Mike approaches the moment of truth wondering whether he would be better off coaching from the sidelines..

“With butterflies fluttering furiously in my stomach, I breach the threshold of “Butterfly”, a Year 4 class in a Surrey school with whom we have formed a genuine partnership over the last few months.

Why the trepidation?

Well, this is a school visit with a twist. I am about to teach them!A stroll in the park, I hear you cry! Tiny, timid treasures, treats to teach, wonders to witness, joys to behold!

Hmm… Rewind two weeks to my first encounter with these pupils, and the reality is far from rosy. Ray, their third teacher in as many months, is trying admirably to calm a storm that has been whipped up by the recent deluge of inconsistency. It’s Ray to the rescue, but he is close to being out of his depth.

Ray is a secondary trained Aussie, unfamiliar with the age group, unfamiliar with the curriculum, and struggling to swim in a sea of special needs.”Guess I’ll just have to get on with it, mate, no point bein’ a sook!”, he quips, chin barely above water.

Ray is exactly what these children need: dependable, caring and willing to learn. I’m hoping to support him on this journey. But what do I know? Who am I to preach? As we discuss strategies following the lesson I observe Ray teach, it becomes increasingly apparent that, while I can talk the talk, I’ve not walked the walk. If I am going to provide effective mentoring, I need to know how it feels to be Ray. Well, for an hour, at least….

Into the fray!

I’ve never taught a primary class in my life and it seems an age since I even set foot in a class as a teacher. But as a former (and very recent) senior leader,  behaviour management specialist, not to mention English teacher,  all of a sudden my reputation is on the line. What on earth have I let myself in for?

The knees are weak, the voice a little wobbly, but once I get going, all butterflies settle. Thankfully, over a decade working alongside a string of genuinely outstanding teachers stands me in good stead: I’ve planned meticulously and concentrated on engaging the pupils.

And, in the end, a thoroughly enjoyable hour or so ensues: they listen, they engage, they learn and we have fun. And it would, of course, be nice to think that this was down to my talents as a teacher. Truth is, though, these children have been given a Ray of sunshine in their lives: this is why they are smiling; this is why they are learning.

And this is why I am happy to be on this journey with them.I reflect and find myself confident that it won’t be long before Butterfly’s metamorphosis is complete.

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