Paul Jenkins is a UK based teacher with fifteen years of experience! After ten years as a secondary drama teacher he now runs workshops in poetry and creative writing. Paul explains to Silly Fish Learning why he thinks creativity is important in the classroom.
SF: Tell us a little bit about your career so far:
Paul: I began work as a teacher in a ‘challenging’ secondary school in Blackburn. It was a highly deprived area with what can only be described as ‘difficult’ circumstances at every turn. Behaviour management and raising self esteem in pupils was the number one priority so I learned very quickly that sessions which focused on pupil creativity and team building were going to be winners.
Since leaving the classroom full time to work as a poet freelance ‘teacher at large’ I’ve expanded my repertoire to work at Primary level – so now get a real taste of what life is like in classrooms up and down the country.
In quiet periods I still do the odd day of supply so also get some bite size reminders of the daily grind too!
SF: What’s your silliest teaching story?
Paul: It’s possibly the time that on Halloween one year I convinced one of my Year 7 drama classes that I had an evil twin who had come in to teach them that day.
A subtle change of shirt & tie from the usual; hair combed back and gelled; a bit of a sinister inflection on the voice plus a whole heap of ham acting and I was away.
When I came back in the following week there were kids who still genuinely thought that my ‘brother’ had been in as a cover teacher banging on about Macbeth and threatening them with overly long detentions about the slightest misdemeanour.
The next week I didn’t let on straightaway – and if I remember correctly there were a few pupils who for a good few weeks still believed that the ‘other’ Mr Jenkins taught them that day. I suggested to them that he may come back if they didn’t get on with their rehearsals in lessons!
SF: And what do you think your students learned?
Paul: Never trust teachers! 😂
Seriously – playing in role can have a massive effect for pupils – they learn that the staff are able to be flexible with their delivery and that there can be other viewpoints too.
From a drama/performance perspective I hope it also gave them a sense of why commitment to a role and a sense of continuity can have a massive effect on an audience. If you believe in what you’re acting, then your audience certainly will.
SF: Can you explain how you incorporate creativity into your classes?
Paul: There are times in my sessions where I have to wonder how much is me actually ‘teaching’ in the traditional sense. My entire role is to facilitate creativity, whether it be through helping pupils mould poems as a group or helping students understand and deliver a complex scene from a playtext.
I would say that I present the aims of the activity we are doing, I demonstrate a fair bit to make sure everyone understands the ball park we are in and then the creativity of the pupils takes over from there. Sometimes that takes a session to an unknown place but that’s what is both fun and in the long run, beneficial for pupils.'Tomorrow’s engineers, scientists, politicians and lawyers are all going to need to learn to think on their feet - as will the next generation of actors!' - @teacherwriterPJ Click To Tweet
SF: And what advice would you give to other teachers?
Paul: Be flexible – both in your teaching and your approach. What worked last year or even last week with pupil X may not work with the same pupil this time round and you probably shouldn’t expect it to for pupil Y either.
They’re all different – with their own knowledge and baggage and constantly changing learning styles. Talk to them – find out what it is that makes them tick – then start to think about what it is you really need to teach them from there.
You’ll probably learn a thing or too yourself in the process.
SF: Do you have a Silly Fish favourite?
Paul: I loved the stuff recently about using non-verbal communication and gestures as a classroom code. I’ve nicked a few for my own sessions already – there’s nothing worse than you or a group of students repeating something ten times verbally in a session!
Keep up with Paul!
Paul Jenkins Books
Paul Jenkins – Poet
Paul offers author and poetry visits across the UK. If you’re interested in meeting him email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you in touch!
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