Inspirational Teaching – The S.E.R.V.E Method

The S.E.R.V.E Method

As an educator in this era, it is easy to get caught in the Ofsted rhetoric and the exam coaching nature of schools. However, I joined the noblest of professions, not to achieve 80% + 3 Levels of progress but to change the lives of my pupils; To foster a love of learning, to ignite a passion for change in their hearts.

Back in the year 2010, I was asked to perform a whole school CPD session based on inspirational learning. I did what most of us would do; I went and asked a bunch of friends and colleagues, through these conversations and meetings I noticed that the some of the same traits and described with similar adjectives.

More importantly, I consulted the most important people in our profession, our students. After discussing a range of inspirational figures Harvey Milk, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Eva Peron, their fathers, etc.

This question was posed

What makes these ‘inspirational’ people ‘inspirational’?”

Inspirational figures make us think about ourselves, our actions and our even our thoughts. When I think about my self my father challenges my thinking to this very day. When Gandhi was arrested in Dandi at the end of Salt March, the actions made the people think about the sacrifice, would you of risked arrest? violent repercussions?

When I read about Emiline Davisson’s sacrifice at the derby in 1913, and her militant life (she went on hunger strike 7 times and forced feed almost 50 times), I was moved with the anger against injustice, the reverence towards her passion, sadness of the times, and for me it made me think, what would I do to fight for what I believed in? would I and do I live by ‘deeds not words’. Interestingly even if the context is totally misaligned with my own beliefs it also has a similar impact, as long as they are emotional responses an inspiration will follow either for or against that vision.

Gandhi, Davisson and my father were all relevant to my own context, in fact, every person that I find inspiring I can also relate to. Within my own context, on some level, change only comes from one’s self.

Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Eva Peron all great orators, entertainers in their own right this is also a common trait. They all spoke well, they use humour, righteous indignation and held their audience in the palm of their hands. In every inspirational interaction, I have encountered I have been enriched, it had real worth, it changed the way I live my life for the better. The value was evident from get-go, a part of the allure.

The answer from both teachers and students broadly fell into these categories,

  • Self Reflection
  • Evoke Emotions
  • Relative to the audience
  • Value and Worth
  • Entertaining

What do you think? Have I missed anything? Let me know, and as long as it starts with a suitable letter for the mnemonic, we’ll add it.

So what happened next?

I added the 5 different boxes to my everyday lesson plans. This resulted in a revolution in my practice. Pupils moving from shallow to deep, and I believe profound (life changing) learning. The engagement increased in my pupils but also in myself. As a physicist, the boring ticker timers went out of the window and were replaced with a forensic breakdown of D-T/V-T graph of real-life inspirational examples.

My passions for all things science was back, teaching material that was not necessarily on their curriculum. Pupils would never see exam questions on this content. Was this too radical? To do what I fundamentally believe is right for my pupils? Well in the last 15 years my exam grades have only risen from strength to strength.

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