Gray morning light spits through the shade
Another day older, closer to the grave
Closer to the grave and come the dawn
I woke up this morning shackled and drawn.’
‘Shackled and Drawn’ Bruce Springsteen – from the ‘Wrecking Ball’ album
Do you know, my blog started with such lofty intentions? Early posts dealt with my classroom experience, which was the point in the first place. I wrote about reading and writing; about digital literacy; about things which happened in the day to day existence of an English teacher. Somewhere along the line, however, I got bogged down. I found myself more and more defending our ‘new’ curriculum and less and less reflecting on classroom practice; and I think the blog has suffered because of that.
That epiphany arrived recently when I returned to my big Curriculum for Excellence folder and was attempting, once again, to make sense of all of the outcomes and experiences in both English and Literacy in the documents. There is a lot of good sense in that big folder and I wanted to reaffirm the direction I was taking, hoping to find some little nugget of genius which would inspire and enthuse. Almost driven mad by the endless verbiage, I slammed it shut, vowing never to return. Enough already.
There is a real danger that, whilst attempting to take in all of the Es and Os in our subject areas, as well as those for which we are all responsible, I could feel ‘shackled and drawn’, tied down, held back. The problem now seems to be that I have to ask myself how much I should allow those outcomes to dictate my preparation and planning. How much notice should I be paying them as I attempt to make sense of what is happening in my classroom? How much should I allow them to lead the way?
There’s a certain irony there, though, isn’t there? How can I expect to be creative when I’m feeling handcuffed by a bunch of outcomes which don’t appear to lead me anywhere? Is it possible for creativity to flourish in that environment? When faced with a folder full of information is it any wonder that some teachers feel overwhelmed by the scale of it all?
The news that schools would be allowed to delay the implementation of national exams should appease many of those who felt genuinely under pressure but, to be honest, I can’t see how that will improve the classroom experience for children. I worry that we will be in the same situation a year from now. I worry that the potential delay will be seen as a victory against Cfe by some sources in the media, as well as within the profession.
The word ‘responsibility’ becomes key now. The responsibility of a Government to support an Education system in transition. The responsibility of School Management teams to support teachers as they change their practice. The responsibility of teachers to deliver a challenging, creative curriculum. When I plan classroom activities it is my responsibility to ensure that my pupils are challenged and engaged. I may, at times, stray from the script, perhaps, necessarily in order to achieve educational gains. It is the duty and responsibility of my principal teacher to call me up on that; but, more importantly, it is my professional duty to justify what I am doing. The necessity of conversations like that are what will allow the curriculum to progress.
Now, however, having been given that time, there is a responsibility to ensure that we do embed courses which match up to the ambition and imagination we all deserve. If you have more time, then use it wisely. The handcuffs have been removed, for a time, and we are free to be as creative as we please. So ask yourself this: what would you like learning in your class to look like? You are, the great man says: ‘Another day older and closer to the grave’. The shackles are off: let’s get to work.