With a name like Watkins you may spot that I’m from a Welsh family – one of those Welsh families that over-produced teachers all through the last century. My mother was a teacher early on in her life – until she got thrown out! – for getting married!! Fortunately when Mum & Dad moved toward London she became a teacher in the lovely village of Kingsclere (see my extra page) https://www.chriswatkins.net/kingsclere/. I’ve just seen the Watkins coat of arms. It has a motto: “Pen-aur-y-chalon Wir” which translates: “A golden head and true heart.” I hope I’ve lived up to that
I trained as a mathematician in industry and that helped me decide to become a teacher. After a PGCE at Keele University, I was fortunate to get a job at the only comprehensive school in Kent. I seemed to get on well with students whose effect was disruptive elsewhere, and became teacher in charge of a unit for such pupils. Feeling somewhat amateur, I did a one-year counselling training at Swansea, and from there went to the Institute of Education as a research student. I soon found myself contributing to courses and in 1982 set up the Diploma in Pastoral Care, Counselling & Welfare in Education. That year I was a member of the founding executive of the National Association for Pastoral Care in Education, and was chair of NAPCE from 1992 to 1994.
In England the introduction of the so-called National so-called Curriculum sidelined schools’ focus on pastoral care and personal-social education, so teachers no longer came on those courses. Fortunately we had been clear about why we were interested in those areas anyway – in order to promote a broad and inclusive view of learning and support pupils’ learning in that way. In 1995 a key collection of colleagues formed the academic group “Assessment, Guidance and Effective Learning” which I was honoured to lead.
In 1999 I founded the MA in Effective Learning and since that time have been involved in projects with a range of schools and local authorities on learning about learning, effective learning, classroom learning, teachers’ learning and school learning. This work culminates in the idea of classrooms as learning communities.
When I was made head of the academic group “Assessment, Guidance and Effective Learning”, I gave my colleagues one of these badges:
Some were wearing them twenty years later
And that was during the period when politics invaded education and changed the culture of our schools. As a neighbouring village expresses it:
Since 2005 I have been an independent consultant and project leader with a range of schools, some in the London area, but also with key local authorities beyond London. The development of learning-centred classrooms and schools has inspired me greatly, and is represented in my most recent publications
I would be continuing now (in my “retirement”) but a doctor gave me some antibiotics which have damaged my energy system and my speech is poor. So this is my own little “heritage site” – no “legacy site”!
I’ve now got a neurological condition which means I can’t walk or talk (not much of a visiting lecturer now).
When I got my “death sentence” i.e. a diagnosis that was PUF: progressive, untreatable, fatal I was glad my training as a counsellor had introduced me to “radical acceptance”.
Some doctors believe (i.e. no research) that it is caused by wifi. That would fit in my case: I spent a decade working from home with an early wifi transmitter on the shelf behind my head. That’s also ironical because during that decade I was working with schools across the country (contact by email) and setting up this website.
But given Covid I’m celebrating being housebound – thanks to Patsy
I hope to have left my mark in a way that is constructive (and constructivist). Over to you.