Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Leaders of Learning

Today, a group of Year 9 students from Hodgson Academy, came in to run a 90 minute session with my Year 5 class. They were self-penned "Leaders of Learning". I like that. A lot of schools, mine included, have digital leaders or similar, but in a way, it restricts the good work they can do to one educational avenue - digital/technological based stuff. I think I'm going to steal the Leaders of Learning thing. I like the multi faceted nature of the title, implying that their role is to be a broad and informed tier of leaders - much like schools are trying to implement with management structures. Why not make use of children's abilities in a much more efficient way? I think digital leaders just expanded for me.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Thank You, Mr Maloney, for helping my child to fail.

From the title, I expect you think this post is all negative. That's logical, based on the failure element of it, but it's wrong. This was a magic moment that happened with a parent the other day.

Her child - a bright girl - has done really well with me this year but, as I keep saying, I've not really done that much, it was all her own efforts. Her mother responded by saying something really interesting, in my opinon, which is paraphrased below:

Every year we've been told how well she's doing, how she's brilliant at everything and is top of the class. You've told us how she's all of those things, but also how she can move forward and what we can do and why we should. You've put her in positions where she'll fail, where she can't rely on her academic intelligence and watched her struggle and then explained why it's okay to feel that frustration and how to overcome it. Thank you, Mr Maloney, for helping my child to fail.

This comment came off the back of a lot of work about the importance of coping strategies for higher ability children, but all children in general. The root of this was started by a quote which I was introduced to by Dawn Hallybone, a teacher in London.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Samuel Beckett

That's up on my door and I make the meaning of that quote tangible in every activity I do. I purposely plan opportunities for failure as it is not the great demon that children historically are told they should avoid, but a companion on their learning journey towards a successful and invigorating future.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Being a Political Football

I wanted this to be eloquent. I wanted this post to whizz through the ether and bounce onto Michael Gove's desk and for him to smile at the clever turns of phrase and rhetoric. I haven't got the bloody energy. You'll have to make do with this:

I am lucky that I am in a career that I love. That statement is one that many, many thousands of people cannot say. It is, unfortunately, increasingly difficult to believe it anymore. Teaching isn't about just, well, teaching. In the last two weeks I have cleaned cuts, dealt with arguments, healed broken hearts, acted as judge and jury, cajoled, supported, fed (yes, fed), parented, reassured, inspired and taught.

The main problem is that my profession is viewed as a political football. This is historic, I know, and I should state I knew this was the case before training to become a teacher. But most recently, the analogy of a football is defunct.

Teaching is not a political football. It is the tennis ball in the longest and most frenetic rally the world has ever seen. The problem is that I do not believe that either player gives two sh^%s about the ball, they are simply trying to out-maneuver each other by pelting it. I wonder if they have any idea about how the ball feels. I'll tell you how I feel. I feel tired. Tired of having to defend myself when I haven't done anything wrong. Tired of feeling guilty about going to sleep at 1am after marking for 3 hours once my planning was re-written based on the events of that day. Tired of getting to work at 7am, so that I can complete paperwork for awards so that the school doesn't get told it isn't doing its job.

So                  tired                          of                           it                          all.

I know we are in a recession. I know there are cuts to be made. I accept that my pension is going to be pilfered, my working life extended to the point just before I atrophy but I am FED UP TO THE BACK TEETH of not being able to spend enough time teaching.

Sir Michael Winshaw's supportive statement towards teachers & stress was a low point for me. It must have been ever so hard to be a head when you had no national curriculum to follow, not health & safety edits, SEFs, SIPs and the rest. I bet going to all those meetings with external agencies was hard to manage - or figuring out how to fit all the additional requirements of an overcrowded curriculum into a school day, differentiating for the needs of the different groups within schools and not forgetting ensuring all the work you do is transparent and accessible for all stakeholders. Oh, hold on. Sir Michael, you are supposed to be on our side and your comments make it harder for us all; thanks.

I then read a post that summed up perfectly what I was thinking (and what I'm trying to say) Mark Clarkson wrote this blog post. I know exactly what he means and I completely agreed with Doug Belshaw's comments on his blog post reply (hence why I'm not adding to it here).

I love my job, but the more political games that are played with it, the harder it is to do it properly. They talk a lot about reforming, reshaping and re-energising the curriculum but they are using the wrong tools for the job. They're trying to bake a cake with a sledgehammer. In the Guardian, one politician talked about the model for teaching in Japan and how we could learn from it. The one thing we need to take from there is that teachers are afforded respect and are trusted to do the job.

I am not going to sit here and lament our workload. All jobs require hard work - if you want to be the best at what you do, you work your backside off.  But please don't tell me I get '15 weeks paid holiday' and I need to 'get a grip' until you've done a year in my job at the level and pace that I maintain and at the standards expect from myself.