Reclaiming the Discourse

It should have come as no surprise that a letter in the TESScotland would refer to the ‘dreadful Curriculum for Excellence’. Since it inception a mere nine years ago there have been similar claims, many of them much more antagonistic than that.  What is more disappointing is that negative language seems to be at the heart of the discourse of teaching. It so much easier to knock down than it is to build. Despite the pages of excellent practice each week in the TESS we are still faced with this unsubstantiated verbiage each week in the letters page.

The domination of negative discourse is a real problem. It pervades our staff rooms: it dominates our Inservice days. We are happy to treat the staff curmudgeon as a real character. Always been there, always first to tell us that thIngs were much better in the past. That there are no new ideas: merely ones which come back again and again. But what happens is that we become mired in the ease of negativity. It is safer to be like that, to retreat behind a mask of cynicism. In turn, we begin to agree with the negativity, refuse to change and, well, opportunities are wasted.

I’ve always argued that it is not only our right to speak up about things which concern us, it is our professional duty. But that duty comes with the responsibility to be active in finding solutions, to provide evidence  that another way is better and, indeed, possible. In Scotland the new curriculum is here and here to stay whether we like it or not. Should it not be our professional duty to make it work? This is where I, again, am described as an apologist for the new fancy shmancy teaching ways but I simply want it to work because I truly believe that it is the best way. I am happy to stick my head above the parapet to be shot down but at least have the discussion in an intelligent and constructive manner.

I admit that, in the face of almost constant custard pie throwing (see my last post), it is very difficult to stay positive. The empowerment of positivity, however, can be a wonderful thing. Reminding yourself that you are making a difference, that you are reaching the kids in front of you must surely be a better alternative. When we flood the discourse with negativity then, eventually, it will become the norm. When we criticize instead of praise we take a step backwards.

So let us stop using ludicrous expressions like ‘natural ability’ and ‘winners and losers’, with all of their connotations,  stop tearing each other apart when we hear something we don’t like. Let us stop dampening the spirits of younger teachers. We are here to educate all children. This is no idealistic call for smiles and huggling. It is a genuine attempt to swallow down that negativity we all feel at time. Perhaps our staff rooms, such as they are, will be nicer places.

6 thoughts on “Reclaiming the Discourse

  1. Oh I love it!!! This is so positive and I am sick of all the negativity (despite the fact I can moan for Britain). We need to start thinking about how to prepare children for a changing, 21st century world. To me, Scotland has an opportunity to meet the needs of EVERY learner, an opportunity to take a real lead in world education. I teach in England but can get so frustrated because we are teaching 21st century kids with a 19th century curriculum. So thank you – again!!

  2. Go, Kenny! Whatever you think of CfE, it’s a fabulous opportunity for good classroom teachers to make some wonderful stuff happen. The rest should move to England where there’s an education system more suited to them.

    • Cheers Nick,
      Just getting a little hacked off by the usual stuff. Happy to have the discussion but not to listen to the constant negativity. Time to look upwards.

  3. Negative, toxic cultures are so hard to turn around. Such change takes commitment of individuals and explicit steps by school leadership – and a lot of time.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how school thinking can change and how a country’s perception of education can change. If you have any ideas, let me know :).

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