Headmaster Michael Hodge on adapting teaching methods to respond to each pupil’s individual learning style
Words Michael Hodge
Thinking back, most of us can name that one teacher who was inspirational. Mine was called Mr Wessels. Unlike many other teachers, he listened to me and made me feel my opinions mattered. As a result of his encouragement and contagious enthusiasm, my light-bulb moments came thick and fast. His example taught me far more about being a good teacher than any other professional training I later undertook.
Teaching is so much more than imparting knowledge. To ignite a child’s curiosity, teachers must first build relationships with their pupils, understanding what makes each child tick and developing mutual trust.
Children are naturally inquisitive and it is through questioning that they gain a deeper understanding, which ultimately drives their desire to learn. But if a child lacks the self-confidence to speak up, many of their questions remain unanswered. What a wasted opportunity.
It is our responsibility to create a learning environment where children feel free to raise their hand to ask a question or voice an opinion, safe in the knowledge this will lead to supportive discussion, not derisive criticism.
The positive impact of recognising and rewarding success can never be underestimated. Regardless of a child’s ability, every small success leads to greater self-belief, nurturing a confident “can do” attitude.
Every child learns in a different way and we need to adapt our resources and teaching methods to respond to each individual’s learning styles. In today’s environment of instant gratification, my staff and I believe in teaching children the value of perseverance and resilience and giving them the right skills to utilise when things feel difficult.
As teachers we also need constantly to improve and update the way we educate. At Prospect House, we evaluate our own teaching methods continuously, investigating new educational thinking and initiatives. Classrooms should be alive with discussion and activities, not rooms where one person is speaking and the rest are quietly listening. When walking around our school, I expect to see the children engaged, teachers working with groups or individuals, questions being asked, and interesting discussions taking place with everyone participating. As the headmaster of Prospect House, in addition to the teaching of the children, I am tasked with the responsibility to develop and guide the next generation of teachers: the two go hand-in-hand. It is my aim to help each of our teachers to be brilliant practitioners. A great teacher makes a huge difference to a child’s life and it is our responsibility to be great; it is what makes our profession so rewarding.
In the words of William Arthur Ward: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Amen to that.