New Yorkers ‘are both guards and prisoners and as a result they no longer have…the capacity to leave the prison they have made, or even see it as a prison.’
My Dinner with Andre
Is it true that teachers can be guilty of building our prisons, blocking us off from opportunity. Perhaps it is not always our own fault, but does it happen?
Since publishing my first post on this Blog on January 1st 2011 my teaching life has changed beyond all recognition. I sat with my first post in draft form for ages. No confidence to jump in. Why would I have? I work in, perhaps, the most conservative profession there is. Little changes and when it does it does so very slowly. People know their place in the pecking order and if you hang around long enough you’ll get your reward. Anyone who stands out gets shot down.
When you believe that, it becomes very difficult to break out of the chains. The ‘My Dinner with Andre’ clip reminded me that we can become our own prisoners when we accept our lot. It is easier not to stick your head above the parapet. It is easier to keep quiet and nod. And because of those often self-imposed prison walls we arrive at the stage where teachers announce that they have accessed research in an embarrassed tone, where teachers apologise for daring to improve.
At a time when we, more and more, expect our learners to be active, to be independent, resilient, resourceful, can we really be confident that our teachers can always say that of themselves? Many have been oppressed by management structure for so long that they do not bother any more. Many are afraid of change. Many are lazy. And many are waiting for an opportunity.
When given that opportunity great things happen. Walls come down, confidence explodes and teachers find the lost passion which transforms classrooms.
I said earlier that change in education systems is slow. I do, however, detect a transformation. The rise of Teachmeet, allowing teachers of any experience to listen to great practice and develop the confidence to present their ideas – when did we ever have that? – and connections through Twitter, are changing the culture of what we do. Teachers feel involved in change rather than having it imposed.
I think that when you impose a curriculum on teachers and indeed learners, then you provide the circumstances for those teachers to absolve themselves of responsibility when it goes wrong. ‘Nothing to do with me.’ This is why consultation is so essential in these decisions. And not cursory, disrespectful consultation which we know is a box ticking exercise as decisions have already been made. Real involvement in change. Providing opportunities for teachers to develop the kind of abilities I see blossoming at every Teachmeet I attend is essential if we are to provide the best for our learners. Allow them to flourish and watch change take place.
Pressing the publish button nearly two years ago brought that change for me. But seeing others follow me and blog, tweet, teachmeet, pedagoo all indicate that there is a better way. Press that publish button. Or better still, encourage someone else to do it too. Go to a Teacmeet. Just to watch. At first. Break down those walls and set yourself free.