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.
[bctt tweet=”‘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 ” username=”@sillyfishlearn”]
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 [email protected] and we’ll put you in touch!
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