Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died…
Everybody Knows, Leonard Cohen
I feel we have reached a kairotic point in education and the wellbeing of its workforce.
Kairotic is Greek for a defining moment, a transition, a juncture or a crossroads.
I sat in a heads meeting this week in which each and every head ( there were 12) made a clear statement about where their staff where at. It was not pretty. There was a real sense that they were ‘hanging’, or at ‘breaking point’. For some, “one more thing!” was ‘’two more things’ too many.
How has this happened? How have senior leaders in education (not just school based) allowed us to get to such a seemingly low point? A point in which recruitment is at a crisis (especially regionally – and listen to people on the ground not warped statistics) and morale is like I have ‘never’ known it. I am not talking about teachers alone. I am talking about support staff in schools as well. In some ways they are feeling it even more.
It would be easy to point the finger of blame. Leadership in schools is so often on the spectrum of ok to ’bat-mad-bloody-nuts.’ I know because I have been in many, many, schools over the years where the break down can be pinpointed to individuals, individuals with too much power and not enough accountability; people usually under huge stress who have lost their key purpose (Even as they wave the bloodied machete screaming, “It’s FOR the children!”). I feel I can say I have seen things that would make, ‘a shy bold Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder…” and on occasions I have been in schools with the plan has been seen through.
I keep asking myself how this has happened. How have we become so divided and why is there no real sense of, “In it together!”?
Is it a fiscal system that has put the ethics of business at the heart of education?
Is it the cold militancy of a hard-core of teachers bucking against the system?
Is it the power shifts of the progressives and the traditionalists and the influence they have over politicians who are looking for solutions? (I see them as gangs from the film The Warriors – cue the 80’s computer music and costumes)
Is it global change and ‘progress’ – Are we in a state of flux and this sense of uncertainty and at times ‘powerlessness’ just natural flows within the process of change?
I feel it is a combination of many of these things. That this sense of ‘doom’ and ‘gloom’ is a heightened condition that is as much manufactured as it is real.
I can’t picture a time in my career where teachers were ever happy (I include senior leaders in this). Since 1995 when I started I have never walked in to a staffroom to high fives, heel clips and whoops of joy. Even the golden days of “Education, Education, Education” echoed to some poor ‘teacher’ wheezing in to a harmonica in the corner of the staffroom whilst the rest idly tapped and stared, glassy eyed, at some imagined past.
What has changed is the way we now communicate. Dissatisfaction no longer needs you to gather in the winter cold outside some regional office on a Saturday morning clutching a stitched banner shouting for equality and rights. Everyone can moan on social media instead. I can sip my morning tea and write this blog about the flaws in the system and pat myself on the head for my BIFF to the ‘powers that BE’. It seems that rather than activists we are becoming a mass of white noise over an already overcrowded media. Hits having more influence than actions.
What we need are activists who do as much as they think…
That is why I feel that my opening statement needs a re-write:
I feel I have reached a kairotic point in how I operate within the world of education and the role I have in looking after the wellbeing of its workforce.
We can talk, write, agree and disagree but the fact is IF we believe that we are at a crisis point (I would love to hear from someone who thinks we are in a ‘golden era’ for education from the perspective of teachers wellbeing – really!) then we must get a little ‘old skool’ on our approach to it. We need to act rather than pontificate. It does not have to be this way. We can make it different. We can do it differently. We don’t need to be afraid. Fear breeds this sense of negativity. If teachers are at breaking point then we have to go back to ‘core’ purpose and empower those that matter the most in all this…
If we don’t another song springs to mind, with slightly abridged lyrics:
“This school (school) is coming like a ghost school…
February 8, 2016 at 3:19 pm
Well done ” Old Primary Head” What you say makes a lot of sense. We need to get back to ‘core purpose” Being all things to all men ( and women!) is no use. We are teachers. Lets keep it simple and narrow the job spec. How do we do this? Need to hear more from your blog and start one myself
From another Old Primary Head
February 13, 2016 at 9:36 pm
Than you for your blogs; I’m one of the ‘statistics’, a teacher for 30 years who has just quit to get her life back. The usual story…lessons were always good/outstanding, got on well with children/parents/colleagues; still loved the job but hated the crap and the unending guilt. Such is the shortage of teachers that I could have taken another job ten times over, but will never go back and will do supply in winter and summer seasonal work abroad!
Here, however, is a somewhat drastic idea from someone who studiously avoided all SLT responsibility: What if Headteachers found a harmless technicality that would cause them to fail an Ofsted inspection- and what if, in the interests of saving the system, you ALL did so? It would be terrifying for the first few, but would bring the system down within months. They can’t replace you all (good Headteachers are rare and precious already)and they can’t possibly afford to put that precious support (yeah right) in place for every ‘failing’ school.
Ok, so this is madness, but is it really any more insane than what is going on now? In any case, continue to look after yourself and your staff and keep up the great blogs.
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February 15, 2016 at 5:17 pm
I’m ready for action.