Trying to Change Everything by Changing Everything – Part Two

As part of the McCrone Agreement, ‘A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century’, an alternative route was provided for experienced teachers who did not want to enter management; those who had reached the top of pay scale and had no where else to go.

We now had the Chartered Teacher programme – a Masters level programme which would provide a different direction for those who didn’t want to go along the management route and run a department. I was one of those. I wanted to develop my teaching practice. The programme consisted a series of modules and, after each two, teachers automatically received a salary increment.

(At this point, I would like to apologise for repetition but the next section is part of a blog post I wrote in the past. I repeat it here for, hopefully, obvious reasons)

There is a scene in Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, which reminds me, in a strange kind of way, of schools and their teachers. It’s the scene where Graham Chapman, as Brian, is being chased by a band of followers, who are convinced that he is the Messiah. As the group moves on, a character played by Spike Milligan shouts for attention, convinced he has the answer to their prayers. The group ignores him. They walk off in another direction. He shrugs his shoulders. He walks off in the opposite direction. Not that important to him, really. We give up so easily.spike

There are various ways to metamorphose this scene into schools, especially in the current CPD context. The group are completely ignoring the one man there claiming he has the answer. How many times has someone popped up in your department with a sure-fire way of improving Learning and Teaching, be it Writing/ Reading/ any other thing we do every day, badly, allegedly? And how many times has this person been ignored and dismissed as another ambitious wannabe manager looking for a foothold on the ‘golden’ ladder of promotion?

But what about Spike, himself? Giving up at the first sign of any obstacle to dispensing his vital, perhaps even crucial, view of the problem area. Give up. Nobody is listening anyway. Sound familiar?

However, you could see the real culprit as the so-called messiah figure who always seems to be disappearing round the corner at the least opportune moment. I’ve been teaching for almost fifteen years now and in that time I’ve experienced several of these remote messiahs. Currently ‘Co-operative learning’. And very often I blindly follow, hoping for the answer, just around another corner, just out of reach.

And for me that symbolises the disconnect when it comes to professional development in teaching. There are great things happening all over the place but no real co-ordinated connection, no-one persisting in getting those messages across.

Let’s return to Edwin Morgan:


Is it not a mystery? The parts cohere, they come together

like petals of a flower, yet they also send their tongues

outward to feel and taste the teeming earth.

Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments? A

growl of old Gothic grandeur? A blissfully boring box?

Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but

curves and caverns, nooks and niches, huddles and

heavens syncopations and surprises. Leave symmetry to

the cemetery.


In part three, I will discuss the more recent Donaldson Report and how this may lead the way to something better.

One thought on “Trying to Change Everything by Changing Everything – Part Two

  1. Pingback: ResearchED York- the blogs - Tom Bennett - Blog - Tom Bennett - TES Community

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