Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Coming soon to a cinema near you… Moonlight Over Great Eastern Street!

Matt Damon stars as the rough, tough, maverick accountancy lecturer who’s never afraid to push his budget analysis to extreme variance limits.

I think Matt Damon would be good to play my part. Okay we might have to fatten him up a little, and perhaps dye his hair grey, but I think he could pull it off; the part that is, not his hair.

Sad though it is to admit, my subjects just don’t have mass-market box office appeal. So what can I do to enliven my teaching? Humour! That’s it. Humour. Education inspectors who’d attended one of my accountancy classes once said that I bring humour to a subject not known for its humour. I suspect however my students might claim that my humour is not known for its humour.

I sometimes describe my subjects as ‘gear change’ subjects. Learning to change gear is not exciting in itself, but you cannot have fun in a Porsche without first learning how to do it. So it is with accountancy and finance: learning such subjects can appear ‘dry’ but they support careers which might span from being a finance director of a large company to the next Sir Richard Branson. 

Consequently the ‘gear change’ becomes the all-important link to the adrenalin rush of the supercharged engine, and that is why I can find these subjects stimulating and exciting. I find that students who are further down the line in their careers know and understand this already and share the feeling. However, what can we do for the younger students just starting out who have not yet engaged in this way? How do we help them to go down the line and share the feeling?

I have been teaching for a long time, however I believe the best approach is always to share good practice. Recently before teaching politics and economics to a young group I asked a colleague how she approaches the subject. Out of this discussion came a link to the BBC news channel, where a game show format had been used to ask people in the street about how well the UK economy was working. I replicated this in the class, and it went down really well.

Another colleague overheard our conversation. She had an idea… she got her students and mine up on their feet to do star jumps! It only lasted a couple of minutes, but those students were re-energised and their output improved afterwards. I remember that such class room creativity was encouraged during my teacher training days, when we all had to try a new way of delivery, and I taught a segment by rapping it.

The theme here is clear. Don’t be a hero, be a teacher. A hero would try and do it all alone, but a teacher should care and share. This is why we also encourage an exchange of ideas between the older and the younger teachers: the older ones have the experience, and the younger ones have the fresh ideas, and together the synergy is irresistible.

Sadly not every institution can make this happen, as personal politics can get in the way of a free flow of shared ideas. At ECBM we don’t have this problem. Someone is always ready with a suggestion or an idea. It all goes on behind the scenes, and although our students won’t see this preparation taking place, hopefully they will feel the benefits.

Now if you will forgive me, I have to climb up the outside of the building to the helicopter hovering overhead, leap up and pull myself inside, overpower the pilot and speed off in to the velvet night sky. Destination: a place of mystery far away. Route: via the supermarket.

Graham Harman-Baker

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