Saturday, June 2, 2018


Teaching in primary schools has often been thought of as having a somewhat lower status than 'real'
teaching – that is, teaching a proper subject in a proper school, which means a secondary school.
Primary teaching, so the folklore tells us, is just looking after young children until they get to the
'proper' school – showing them how to hold a pencil, wiping their noses, telling them a story or two,
but not actually teaching them too much of real importance. Those (fairly rare) teachers who have
made the change from teaching in secondary schools to primary schools often find that parents, even
pupils, ask them why they have 'come down here', the idea that someone might voluntarily choose
primary teaching over secondary being a hard one to grasp.
Thankfully, at least in official quarters, the image of primary teaching has changed and we now
recognise that primary school is a crucial period, perhaps the most crucial, in children's learning during
which children have to be taught those complex skills which are the foundation of all the learning they
will do in the rest of their lives. It is primary teachers that teach children to read, to write, to manipulate
numbers, to observe and record their experiences of the world, and provide them with experiences
which stimulate their imaginations and expand their worlds. Primary teachers now, far from being
seen as child-minders with little expertise, are viewed as professional learning enablers, possessing an
incredibly complex range of skills which must be employed in collaboration with vision and imagination.
Even when the complexity of the primary teacher's job is recognised, there are still a number of
different ways of conceptualising what makes a good primary teacher. A description which is often
used is that primary teaching is a vocation – rather like the priesthood, you have to have a calling in
order to be a good primary teacher.

 This view produces such ideas as the belief that good teachers are
born, not made, and that to become a teacher all you really need to do is to work for a while alongside
another experienced teacher and copy what he or she does. This used to be referred to as a 'sitting with
Nellie' approach to becoming a teacher. It does have the merit that, if Nellie is a good teacher, then
watching and copying what she does will almost certainly pass on some pretty good habits of classroom



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