With Father’s Day this Sunday, we chat to father and primary school teacher James Ross.
We ask him about education, the challenges and rewards of working with kids, and his experience of raising a little girl.
Tootsa: What or who inspired you to become a teacher?
James: My dad used to be a teacher, and I think that a passion for sharing knowledge runs in my family. But it wasn’t until my daughter, Evie, was born – and the fact that she doesn’t live with me – that I realised how many children go through their early years without a day-to-day male role model. I thought through primary teaching I could help, and decided to pursue teaching as a career.
Tootsa: Working in education certainly has its challenges. What is it about the job that you love and find rewarding?
James: The only real challenge is the bureaucracy surrounding the school system in the UK that can stifle so many good teachers! Of course some children can be difficult, but it’s getting through to them, and getting them to engage with and make progress in their education that makes the job so rewarding. For me there is nothing better than hearing children discuss in the playground what they have read or heard in a lesson, or coming back the next day with questions about something they have learnt.
James: Be positive and enthusiastic yourself! Children are like sponges: if you delight in reading with/to your children (or at least for their sake pretend that you do!) it will be a fun experience for you both. Children love stories, so try to weave them into everything they see and do. Make sure that they enjoy reading and writing and don’t see it as a chore. Praise them for effort… and persevere!
If you have a really reluctant reader, don’t think of books as the only option. Put subtitles on when they watch films; comics or simple worded picture books work too. Find a format and context that works for your child.
Tootsa: Do you have any fun ways to introduce pre-school children to maths?
James: Blimey! Well, sums in themselves are a pretty abstract concept, and numbers still confuse me at times! But whatever you do, make it easy to relate to. Use things they are familiar with, don’t talk too much and let them ‘do’. Practical maths where children can touch, feel and move objects is a vital way to gain an understanding. Do activities together, and make them entertaining!
Tootsa: These days some children are able to use iPads and laptops before they can even talk! Can you recommend any fun educational apps or websites for children?
James: There is a wealth of choice on the market these days, and different formats work for different children. The secret is for the children to be learning without realising it… there is a series of ‘games’ called Toca Boca which my daughter absolutely loves. They are simple, informative and gentle; children can play at being a chef, a vet, a fashion designer… and it helps hand-eye co-ordination whilst being fun at the same time.
For slightly older children I would recommend ‘Mathletics’. It is suitable for all primary school children, and combines exercises on all aspects of maths, has fun challenges, and they can even play games against other children from all over the world. There is a useful tool that enables you to track their progress, and helps pick the most suitable activities for them.
Tootsa: You have a 3 year old daughter. What do you recognise as the challenges for a father bringing up a little girl?
James: My biggest challenge is ensuring I can maintain a strong influence in her life. It’s great now she is old enough to ‘FaceTime’ when we are apart so we can interact more naturally, although this does involve long periods looking at her ceiling as she draws me a picture or bounces on her bed! I have all of my holidays with her and we have a very strong bond, but dealing with the time apart doesn’t get any easier.
Other than that I have two main issues… PINK and PRINCESSES! Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with either in moderation, but the gender-stereotyping that surrounds our children is horrifying. I am pleased to say that Evie loves to dress as IRONMAN and is obsessed with cars. But try to find either of these things on the high street, and – guess what? – we have to go the ‘boys’ section!
Tootsa: What are your favourite places to take your daughter which are great for learning as well?
James: What I love about being with children is that they learn wherever they are! Be it at the supermarket, in the park, at the breakfast table, or on the train. They have a natural curiosity that should be nurtured. My favourite outings with Evie are walks in the woods, and we both love castles! There is nothing better than dashing around them, making up stories or, if granddad is there, being told what really happened… which is usually just as exciting!
Tootsa: With father’s day this week, what advice have you received from the male figures in your life that you will pass on?
James: My dad would always say, “It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you have done your best.” It didn’t sit well with me as a teenager, but growing up and then becoming a dad I realise just how true it is. As a parent, so long as you do the best job you can, putting your child’s happiness and well-being first, no one could ask more of you.
Want to learn more? We highly recommend Goods Ideas: How to Be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher by former children’s laureate Michael Rosen
“Learning should be much more fun and former children’s laureate, million-selling author, broadcaster, father of five and all-round national treasure, Michael Rosen wants to show you how. Forget lists, passing tests and ticking boxes, the world outside the classroom can’t be contained within the limits of any kind of curriculum – and it’s all the better for it.
Long car journeys, poems about farting, cake baking, even shouting at the TV can teach lessons that will last a lifetime. Packed with enough practical tips, stories and games to inspire a legion of anxious parents and bored children, Good Ideas shows that the best kind of education really does start at home.”
We have gathered together a few gifts for all those fathers out there. If they weren’t daddy cool before, they certainly will be after receiving one of these!
1 The Original Man from The Hambledon // 2 Anatomy Of A Bike by David Sparshott // 3 Bose Wireless Soundlink Headphones // 4 Vans Foldable Wayfarer Sunglasses // 5 Polka Dot Hankerchief from Hymn // 6 Fjallraven Kanken backpack // 7 Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Camera // 8 Kiels White Eagle Ultimate Brushless Shave Cream // 9 Danner Orange Laces //
If you fancy getting crafty (and impressing everyone) check out this “Shrinky Dink Father’s Day Gift” tutorial from the ever wonderful Oh Happy Day.
Happy Father’s Day!