There’ll no doubt be student teachers wandering around your school at the moment, or very soon, looking terrified and lost. It’s an intimidating experience to be hurtled back to what was, for me anyway, the scene of a particularly traumatic time in one’s life. One of my teaching placements was in the school I attended and it hadn’t changed much. I felt sick going back there and that feeling didn’t go away. I wandered the corridors expecting ghosts at every turn. So I feel a little bit of sympathy for the new guys starting out on what could be a long and challenging career.
I stopped to chat and began to realise that the corridors are often excellent, but undervalued, places for informal learning in schools. During a five minute conversation I was able to introduce this particular student to four members of staff, none of whom I see as often as I’d like. Each spoke of projects in which they were involved or extra-curricular clubs they were running that week. That the student teacher was a bit overawed with all of the information he had to take in merely reminded me what an incredibly complex learning environment a school is and how the corridors are the areas which connect us.
The school staff room is a much missed phenomenon in some schools in Scotland. New buildings went up without them, instead providing us with Departmental staff bases. Conspiracy theorists might say that was deliberate as part of a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy but I couldn’t possibly comment. What is clear from speaking to those in new buildings is that staff moral and ethos have never been the same. Stolen moments in the corridor are as much as I see of members of staff to whom I used to be very close. There just isn’t the time anymore, is there?
I do often take a walk around the school when I have a spare ten minutes, which isn’t as often as I’d like. It’s a great way of seeing pupils out of the classroom environment: recognising them and being recognised by them; chatting to pupils from previous years, perhaps ones I’ve never taught; developing those relationships which we count on so much when we get back to class. I see fantastic wall displays in other departments, news of extra-curricular activities. I meet the occasional member of the Senior Management Team. I feel much more a part of the school and that’s a good thing to pass on to student teachers. Informal learning is essential in finding your way in a school.
If you are a student teacher reading this them make sure you take the time, probably every day, to go for a walk through the corridors. It may surprise you how much that connection to other parts of the school informs and helps you become a teacher. As for me, well I may complain about litter and corridor indiscipline at times but taking a walk on the wild side might just mean I begin to do something about it. Perhaps we all should.