I got a feeling inside of me
It’s kind of strange like a stormy sea
The Damned – New Rose
It is easy to get caught up in educations negative narrative net. I sometimes look to the left and I sometimes look to the right, it all looks bleak. It all plays a minor chord. Sometimes, I just wished that I stopped looking for hope and walked away with my umbrella thrust forward, shielding me from the relentless blizzards of doom, trying to blink out my thousand yard stare.
Cuts, school failure, urban decay, social breakdown, useless this and useless that, thieving scum bags here and corporate oligarchs there. At times, it feels as though it may overwhelm us and we may just drown. We clearly have a confused, monster of a system in the UK and no one can really agree on what to do for the best.
So, why do I love my job more than ever? Why do I want to be part of the educational landscape like no other time within my career? Why am I a strange kind of happy (without any form of medication)?
I believe that there is so much good in our education system. So much skill and so much knowledge; so many that understand our purpose as humane educationalists. We may be a fragmented bunch but I can hear them loud and clear and it gives me hope.
I can also see my opposition better than ever. Their voices are no longer hidden in dark and dusty libraries. I feel positive because I see my stance reflected in their now very well documented views. I will always stand up for the child – any child. I will always try everything I can to help children through the storms in their lives. I will never adhere to a point of view that condemns or dismisses any individual. Twitter has helped me navigate my perspective better than at any time ever. Take a bow Twitter.
To read Old Andrew (who I met once and found to be far more pleasant than I ever thought he would be and despite this paragraph I do have respect for) write about @iQuirky_Teacher in Schools Week this week galvanised something in me. I respect these voices but I utterly disagree with a lot of what they say and seem to stand for. It can feel responsibility-lite and often absolutely blind to the challenges of running a school in a community in modern Britain – it does not explore the purpose we ALL have to tackle the many challenges we have in society. The fall of education is bemoaned as though it happens in isolation to everything else happening around it and it is the fault of crazy progressive education. I speak as a headteacher here. A headteacher with 13 years of experience running schools. I despair when I hear teachers running away from challenges or bemoaning them without any concrete solutions to actively change the issues – passing the baton to leaders rather than taking some responsibility for the problem as well. If I could hear the solutions that will make a difference; rather than the issues being debated in to eternity then I might be able to see how change could be more effective. That is not to say these voices are not to be heard – they must be (especially by bleeding heart liberals like me) but I feel they are far from the mark of a true understanding of the why and the how of system leadership and the infrastructure of running state schools. They will not solve any issues we have in the vast majority of schools, worse still if they do get to influence policy (which I feel they will) then they often paint a picture of (mainly primary) education that is just not based on the day to day reality of my experience. I rarely come across illogical practice or low expectations in primary. Maybe I am lucky on my travels and they are unlucky as they visit hundreds of school up and down the country with a cursed four leaf clover in their pocket. I always worry when change in primary comes and the people behind it have a very narrow view of the system. I especially worry when ‘firmer discipline’ is touted as though every primary school is a riot of roving delinquents smashing our schools to the ground. This is just not true.
I often read certain blogs and they make me feel I have it all wrong, they make me think and they make me question (I include Quirky in this). I bet these bloggers have a ton of wine and chocolate from parents who love the impact they have made on their children this week. But, as much as their voice should be heard, I believe in standing up and saying I do not agree with many of the sweeping statements made in blogs about ‘progressive’ education, ‘caring bleeding heart liberals’ or ‘poor management’ weekly that have no real evidence to back them, or quite often use one example to damn the world of education. That would be like me saying that they don’t care – just plain wrong and lazy. I do not feel that because you can string a decent blog together that makes your voice more valued than any other. I will listen closer when certain blogs represent what the vast majority seem to feel rather than represent well published marginal views on education that seem alien to most of the people I work with. I certainly put the behaviour doom mongers in this camp. I have visited and supported 9 difference schools this last term (Some in VERY challenging circumstances), not one caused me concern regarding behaviour. I have only worked in a small handful of schools in twenty years that I would say had a behaviour problem. I worry that too many of the behaviour is terrible group are not even teachers – just marginal voices amplified. This is where twitter can cloud the issues. It is dangerous because there are real challenges in school around behaviour but they are complex and intricate.
The Damned were singing about love in New Rose. It is one of the all time great punk songs. I believe that teachers need compassion, empathy and love for ALL children and they need to find even more for a few children; I know that there are certain children that all the love in the world will still not be enough for and I despair when I hear teachers dismiss this in the name of the game. They deserve better from the adults employed to educate and support them. Rather than argue that it is the fault of progressive teachers and leaders bringing the system to its knees; give me your solutions to make the system better. I would genuinely listen to this.
This is why I feel so good right now. This is why I have more purpose than ever before. I know I can be part of a high standards, high expectations and better outcomes system and never lose sight of a single child. This is evidenced in my school and many many others. We are the majority of primary schools. It is because I believe I want to do this rather than I believe I can that fills me with hope. It is hope and purpose alongside skills and knowledge that will move us forward.