Turning a tough lesson into a success

Danny Holliday, PE teacher

Danny Holliday, physical education (PE) teacher

Danny began teaching in an inner-city school. “It was quite a hard school in a deprived area. I taught there for three years and it was tough, but extremely rewarding.”

For him, the career was daunting because “teaching is a massive responsibility; you’re tasked with working with hundreds of students each day, and they’re placed into your care – that’s quite a demanding responsibility. But it’s part of what you do as a teacher.”

He explains that behaviour management skills are important, particularly in PE: “They need to be absolutely spot-on if the students are to learn in your lessons, because there are a lot of barriers that can prevent the students from accessing that learning.”

If you can overcome those challenges, the rewards are huge: “I’ve worked with students who are, almost, PE refusers. Most you manage to get on-side and work with, but some have a preconcieved view that it’s not for them.”

During his training, Danny worked with a number of such students. “They arrived to the lesson – a rugby lesson – and they detested the idea. It took a lot of work, a great deal of effort to turn their minds around and see what the sport could offer them.

“These year 10s had arrived with the view that they weren’t going to do rugby and that it wasn’t for them.

“Once we got out to the field, they weren’t prepared to take part at all. I had to start my lesson with a talk about how I would deliver the lesson in a way that’s accessible to them, that they could enjoy. I basically asked them to give me a chance, to go with it and see how they get on.”

From speaking to the students, Danny understood that they were worried about the physical side of the game, so he started them off with tag rugby: “There’s so many different things you can do with rugby – you take out that physical side of the game and it’s still competitive, it still requires the same skills.”

His efforts were rewarded when several of the students joined his extracurricular rugby class five days later.

“That really surprised me. But it was so pleasing to see. That lesson had been quite a challenge for me to turn around, and – seeing them turn up to play rugby in their own time – I really felt like I’d achieved something.”