‘Big’ Lessons

For those unfortunate individuals who have not seen the film ‘Big’, it is a 1980’s wonderpiece which presents a young boy who wishes he was ‘Big’. He then wakes up the next day having his wish granted.

The fully grown, yet still mentally thirteen year old character played by Tom Hanks, has to adapt to living in the adult world; learning the importance of childhood along the way.

As an audience we are left to reflect on the benefits of a young person’s perspective and the significance of fun and enjoyment at work; all in all a wholesome feel good film for all the family.

Watching the film again as a teacher it becomes increasingly apparent to me that, as adults and educators, it is essential to remember that regardless of how ‘big’ our students may seem, they are still not as mature as they will be and will make mistakes.

It is through our mistakes that we are able to gain the experience that gives us our perspective as adults. Too often I hear people asking students questions like “why can’t you act more maturely?” The answer is of course shared with us by Tom Hanks in ‘Big’ – it’s because, regardless of appearance or perception, they are not mature!

Maturity is earned and even our students who seem to act maturely will still slip up, will still find themselves not knowing how to act and behave in new situations and will still be devastated when 1D split.

In the film Tom Hanks is presented as a maverick in his adult working environment. He does not follow the accepted codes and practices of corporate life, merely does the jobs that he enjoys because they are fun.

Of course our students are motivated by their life chances and the pieces of paper they will walk away with at the end of their education, however it is important to remember that kids should also be having fun and developing their ability to interact with the world around them. Sometimes there’s more than content and spreadsheets.

My lasting memories from school are not the content I had stuffed into my brain, but the times when I laughed, the times when I was amazed, the times when learning was fun. If your lesson is not one that they enjoy, it does not matter how many pedagogical strategies and techniques you apply, how many times you quintuple mark their books, if they do not enjoy your subject and learning with you, they will not be motivated to achieve in your lessons.

All of the good practice that we put in place is wasted if our lessons are not engaging and at the very least interesting.

It is currently the week before the Easter holidays, and for most of my classes it is that wonderful part of the term when the end of unit assessments have been completed and I get the chance to remind my students why English is their favourite subject.

Progress will not be measured, dissected and typed onto an excel document – enjoying the process of creating and the adventure of reading is the aim of the game. Learning is not a business and being corporately efficient, as we learn from Tom Hanks, is not always the best way to engage the young people in our charge. Go out and re-find your inner thirteen year old!


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