October 9, 2020

Infectious Enthusiasm.


I am someone who was fortunate enough to grow up in a household which proudly celebrates two cultures: British and American, and as anybody who has grown up with a multicultural background can tell you, this unique upbringing brings with it many obstacles along with a wealth of opportunities. That said, there is one experience that many of my peers from similarly international families had woven into their daily life which was not a part of my own English-speaking family’s routine, namely, a foreign language. Still the importance of engaging and understanding different cultures was instilled in me from birth and I have grown up to love languages. French, Spanish, my native English; I revel in them all, continuing to pursue them throughout my formal education and thereafter.

Having worked in a girl’s primary school for the last two years I had the pleasure of seeing teachers and children working hard together to get the best out of their education and achieving fantastic 11+ results. When the schools closed the overall message was to keep up the levels of energy so that the girls would stay motivated and enjoy the time they spent on Zoom and not resent it. Obviously as the weeks grew into months the girls found it harder and harder to stay on task, attendance dropped citing reasons such as poor internet or unfortunate clashes with a sibling’s timetable.

The headmistress again pleaded with us to keep energy levels high and continue to be enthusiastic about our teaching. In the midst of lockdown, it appeared that it wasn’t just the girls who were unmotivated, the teachers were struggling with boredom and a lack of creativity too.

I signed onto a General Studies zoom session with a group of year 6 girls ready to have a discussion about the recent Space X launch, something I really wasn’t interested in but I had done my research and was ready to go. The girls logged on and there was the usual state of half interest from most of them. There was one girl, however, who gave a bright and sunny greeting saying, “I’m so excited about this Mr Greenlees!”. This gave me the most incredible boost, I was instantly feeling great, I re-read some of my key points and found them to be much more interesting than I had remembered, things were looking up. When everyone had joined, I started off with said enthusiastic girl, “what has made you so excited then?” I asked. I had opened the flood gates; she spoke animatedly and eloquently about Space X and space travel. She gave her opinions on the benefits and the downsides. She offered insight into the past and the future and what the next objectives were. She spoke about films that had accurately portrayed take offs and landings and ones that had got it very wrong. It was remarkable, she was so passionate about space that she essentially took over, the other girls started to take notice and were asking her questions, I was even asking her question. She was in full flow and nothing was going to stop her. It transpired that her Grandfather had worked for NASA and her family had been to visit the Kennedy Space Station in the Summer 2019. There she had been infected by the vivacious tour guides and by her grandfather’s wild stories and had been obsessed ever since. Luckily for me she had singlehandedly saved my general studies lesson and given the other girls a highly enjoyable hour on an otherwise bleak day. I later spoke to the maths teacher, who had year 6 after me, and he thanked me for getting the girls so excited (I of course gave him the full story and he later thanked the child as well) and said that he had had his most productive lesson in a long time.

It is with this enthusiasm that we, as educators, must try to approach each and every lesson. You never know what the child will take from a certain topic, but you can be sure that if you don’t give it 100%, they certainly won’t. If you talk half-heartedly about apostrophes or semi-colons, the child will talk/learn half-heartedly about apostrophes and semi-colons. Enthusiasm sticks and is passed on as easily as it is absorbed. I’m now gripped by the SpaceX programme and all it has to offer all because of an 11-year-old girl! It is my ambition in life to pass on as much information as I can to as many pupils as I can as enthusiastically as I can so that when they pass that information on to an exam paper or in an interview they shine out as a passionate and interesting person. And who knows, maybe they will infect some of their peers with the same enthusiasm and end up taking up the teaching baton to continue spreading the bug!