I have always been vaguely suspicious of people who profess to have a ‘type’. I mean in terms of partners: those men who seek out only blondes, the women who go for nothing but tattooed TOWIE types. It’s like these people somehow came to possess a grainy photo of their perfect mate, only they can’t quite make out the face. They then spend their dating years thumbing through lookalikes, forever searching for that photo’s match. I wonder if there’s an Oedipal thing going on here, or maybe they are simply trying to reclaim a lost first love?
People who only read books of a certain genre, listen to music of a specific type or watch films that are derivative eschew the diversity offered by these forms of art. We all have favourite foods, but who wants to eat tagine in summer or strawberries in December? Sticking on the tagine theme, variety is indeed the spice of life, and limiting oneself to specific ‘types’ of anything leads to a much duller existence.
Think of some pupils you’ve really enjoyed teaching over the years. Got a few names? I’d be surprised if you found a ‘type’ in there, and if you did, it may suggest that you’re getting through to, or building relationships with, only a small cross-section of the pupils you teach. Some pupils are easy to teach, some are hard work; some are charmless, others are politeness personified; sometimes you make a real difference (positively or negatively) and at other times it could be anyone standing in front of that pupil – the result would be the same.
The best pupil to teach is every type of pupil – the shy, outgoing, rude, timid, confident, obtuse, challenging, knowledge-hungry, laddish, witty, oafish, sharp, keen, delightful pupil. Pupils should not be pigeon-holed. We are all confident in certain situations and mouse-like in others. The point is that pupils are developing all the time. They are never the finished article at School. Even the most lazy, slobbish and insensitive pupils at 15 years of age *might* turn out to be wonderful characters in their early 20s. We don’t take a roast chicken out of the oven after 20 minutes, decide it’s inedible and throw it away. Believe in the possibility for change, that even the ugliest caterpillar might soar as a beautiful butterfly. It won’t always happen, of course, but the fact that it *could* is what makes teaching so rewarding, what makes pupils worth persevering with and what makes having a perfect ‘type’ of anything so pointless.
How about your colleagues? Try to be just as generous. The possibility of change is even less likely in adulthood, but try to embrace the various types you come across. No-one has a monopoly on good ideas in education and you can learn something from everyone. Probably.