The summer is officially over and the new academic year has begun. So far I completed a week of teaching, seeing the return of old groups (the second year of A-level) and brand new classes.

These are the things that I’ve learnt over the past week:

1. I talk too much


Yes, I tend to talk far too often in the first week or two of teaching new groups. Why? Well, I don’t really know. But I have a couple of theories: perhaps I am compensating for the new classes who are probably anxious and not willing to put themselves forward. Or perhaps it is because I don’t fully trust the new students yet; after all, what do they know of the specifics of these brand new topics? Either way, my dominance of talking does not fit the preferred model of allowing much student talk and discussion.

2. I need to check the facilities in the new classrooms


I’ve been allotted some new rooms and didn’t give it a proper inspection before the first classes. In some the screen seemed to only provide half of the project (why would this be an option?!), and in others there weren’t enough chairs and tables.

3. Nobody likes icebreakers


I guess I’ve always known this: nobody likes to introduce themselves in an unfamiliar environment. There is the so-called “Cringe Factor”, but perhaps it is more than that. Ultimately, we need to feel at home in our learning environments – as per Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ – before we can open up, and the dreaded icebreaker does not help with this.

4. Introducing History as a topic of study is hard


For the past several years I’ve introduced studying History in different ways. Recently – over the past year of so – I’ve tended to go down the route of revealing all before we engage in deeper study. This requires me discussing the importance of interpretations and the notion of historiography, but in doing so I also threaten to completely alienate the students. I guess I’m always trying to replicate the first History class that really mattered for me, which happened to be my very first A-level class back in 1997. My lecturer told me about a particular event and myself and fellow students were keen to jot down the dates and facts, but we were stopped by being asked: ‘Why?’ This question – the why – remains the key question. Anybody can find a date or a fact, but understanding why such an event happened is the gold-dust of study. But attempting to illustrate is a very hard task, and one that I have yet to succeed at.