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Debate: Communication

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By John Coe — General Secretary of the National Association for Primary Education

John Coe reflects on an inspirational teacher he once observed. But after 40 years, what lesson has he learned from her?

John Coe

Funny thing learning. Some things you pick up or hear, and you immediately have them fixed in your mind. This is seldom though, unless what you hear or are taught (not the same thing) – gels with a past experience and your thinking about it. Perhaps I’m naturally slow on the uptake, but it’s taken a full 40 years for something I experienced many years ago to finally make some sense to me.

Our marvellous chief, Alec Clegg, had asked us to consider why one of his teachers, who worked in Castleford, was so successful. I was not alone among my fellow inspectors in Yorkshire in finding it hard to explain why. One of the first tasks Alec set me, fresh from my Essex headship, was to go to said teacher’s school. ‘Spend some time with her,’ he said. ‘And come back and tell me why she’s so good.’ I went – and was astonished.

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