The Three Golden Rules of Teaching


As my formal teaching career draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on some wise words by Tom Hetherington. They were told to me at the start of my teaching career. Tom lectured at Wolverhampton Polytechnic on the Cert Ed course I studied. I felt a kinship when, on the first session, he sat down below a “No Smoking” sign, lit up a cigarette and invited us to do the same should we wish. He then proceeded to tell us the three golden rules of teaching which were:

  1. Every teacher in English is a teacher of English”. It is a teacher’s duty to correct students so that they learn to communicate effectively. Fail to correct grammar, spelling and punctuation means you are failing your students.
  2. There is no such thing as a special needs student”. Nowadays we would call them dyslexic, dyspraxia or whatever but Tom’s point was that we all learn in different ways and at different paces so it is the teacher’s duty to adapt their teaching style to match the students’ learning abilities.
  3. “Teaching is a social activity”. As in other social interactions some people will like you and your teaching style, most will be fairly neutral and a few will actively dislike you. This is normal so deal with it. It is the teacher’s duty to be true to themselves, their subject and their students.
Well, now we’ve got the Internet, social media, VLEs, MLEs and a host of other technologies which allow us to facilitate, enable, construct new pathways or whatever other terminology there might be. For the most part, I think they are ersatz substitutes for Rule 3. Likewise, we have an increasingly corporatized world of Higher Education as a whole sub-industry of  QA procedures, module evaluation forms, student support officers, learning support officers and a myriad other things has sprung forth do over-manage those rules, especially number 2.  If we, as a profession, adhered to Tom’s Golden Rules (and their associated duties) we really would have first class HE institutions.
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About ReidIvinsMedia

After working for many years in Higher Education I've decided to drop out and join the real world. Here I blog about my interests which include education, politics, backpacking, poker, photography and real ale.
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