A Time to be Brave – Invest in Teaching.

The world of educational academia seems so distant from the humble classroom teacher that at times it could be from a different planet. There can be little doubt that there is a vast tsunami of great research being undertaken at University level, and much of it fascinating I’ve no doubt, but I never read it unless I have to and I very rarely have to. The tragedy is that there is clearly a lot of fabulous work being done in education which is having very little impact. And surely our time and resources – human or otherwise –  could be put to better use.

clock-407101__180The rise of the teacher conference has brought this to my attention. I look down the Twitter feeds of those in attendance and very rarely see a classroom teacher. Okay, they might be there and not tweeting but it seems that more and more take place during the week and those that happen on a Saturday come and go without even registering. And believe me if I haven’t heard about them then the vast majority of my colleagues won’t have heard of them either. However, there’s a bigger problem with teachers not getting out of school for important conferences than me getting annoyed about it.

A passive acceptance that there is no cover available to allow us out of school is not only unacceptable but standing as a block to our own professional development. I know of very few teachers who get out of school to attend the ‘bigger picture’ conferences and certainly none who bring back ideas and thoughts which they are then given time to share and develop. The lack of resources available to provide that space is not something we should merely accept. We are being deprived of the opportunity to access the very research and information which could radically change the educational experiences of the children we teach. Being told that ‘we know you’re busy but…’ isn’t good enough. Recognition of time constraints should never have ‘but’ as an addition.

So it seems to me that a sensible approach to real educational improvement would be to genuinely invest in our teachers: investment in time rather than empty but shiny initiatives imposed from who knows where; investment in genuine engagement with current research, not merely reading it; investment in proper and effective peer observation and collaboration. It’s not a selfish stance. I’m not complaining about my workload here. Teaching is a difficult but important job and the workload comes with it.  I’d simply prefer that if I have to have that excessive workload then it should involve things that are helpful and important; not tedious box-ticking tasks which deflect me from the very thing I’m good at.

There are many teachers who do their best to access current research as much as possible, quite happy to do the extra when appropriate. However, it’s a soul destroying and dispiriting task when you realise that nothing is changing.; when you realise that, probably, teaching hasn’t changed much in the last ten years; when you realise that time is a valuable resource both in terms of school and life. The opportunity to change our educational system is here. I won’t get another chance in my career. And the financial resources required would indeed be an investment, not merely additional waste on a profligate profession. The gains could be immense; the impact on our classrooms huge. All it would take is bravery. From all of us.

12 thoughts on “A Time to be Brave – Invest in Teaching.

  1. Here’s a quote from the summaries of the recent summit called ‘Politics in Education’ that brought together leaders from education and policy to question the role of politics in education (the transcripts from this event sparked the recent Select Committee inquiry into the Purpose if Education);

    “Technological advances have exposed our lack of structures for mobilising existing research knowledge. This was called out as, arguably, our most significant limiter to informed system improvement right now…”

    – there were many more insights and the organisers wanted teachers there, but it proved so hard to find willing sponsors for such a close-to-the-bone event to cover the cost of many teacher places. The event also took place on a Monday, for the convenience of the speakers.

    However, seeing the potential waste of incredibly empowering information I’ve turned the content of the day – recorded via pages of event transcript – into a free, self-paced, 5 part eCourse. It’s all here: http://leahkstewart.com/politicsineducation/

    Could actions like this help democratise important information, do you think Kenny? The conversations inside the eCourse between teachers are really great; thoughtful and in a platform that doesn’t infringe on people’s day to day commitments. Hope you’ll take a look and share your thoughts.

    • That looks really great but I’m not sure it overcomes the ‘time’ issue though. Beyond a relatively small band of enthusiasts, will most teachers engage? Not sure.

    • oh well, if it doesn’t work then at least I know I’ve tried to share this information rather than keeping it to selfishly advance my own status by using it.

      There’s a small band of about 60 teachers + parents + students following the eCourse now. One enthusiast in each UK town would be absolutely great 😀 I’m finding them too – so much fun! What a shame for the enthusiasts if I tried to make this popular.

  2. Pingback: A Time to be Brave – Invest in Teaching. | The Echo Chamber

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Kenny. I do wonder whether the ‘time’ issue is more to do with teacher supply than economics. Giving teachers more time would be fantastic on so many levels, but if teachers taught a little less, more teachers would be needed, and at the moment it looks like we’re struggling to recruit the ones we currently need, let alone more. What do you think?

    • But isn’t teacher supply directly linked to economics? My argument would be that by investing in teachers – whether that be more teachers or more time or more teachers to provide more time – then we could gain so much more in the long run. It seems nonsensical to accept that we all need to to take our share of the cuts. Education should be an investment in times of recession.
      Thanks, as always, for taking the time to comment Jill. I hope you’re well.

      • I think, ironically, if teachers were less pressured and better valued this would be good for teacher recruitment and retention, which would mean that teachers were less likely to be over-worked and so would feel less-pressured! But in the short- and medium-term, where do the new teachers come from to create time for those already in the profession to do a less manic and so a better job?

        I’m good, thanks, Kenny. Hope you are too, and that you are enjoying a restful Easter break

      • Well I think that’s where initial investment should go. Teacher training and recruitment. First step. Take it from there. Thanks Jill. Have a lovely break.

      • “where do the new teachers come from to create time for those already in the profession to do a less manic and so a better job?”

        Or this… http://leahkstewart.com/incompetent/ …powers of the internet; I’m not trained as a teacher yet students are seeing my work and asking me honest question which I find fun to answer. This has led to a number asking to pay me for career consultations, because it’s my input they want. Another example, linked to from that page, is an ex teacher providing lots of free advice on exam revision and uni applications, who is also available for paid consultations with students, but some prefer to buy her book from her website instead. I’ve also just started a project with a full-time school teacher who’s passionate about the Afrikaans language enough to explore it in her own time via her interviews with various experts, and my role is to package this into an online experience for her to easily share with any students or adults who care to follow and learn alongside her, for fun.

        If we can get away from the idea that students, teenage students, need constant instruction, then teachers will have time and head-space to lead only empowering learning experiences for students and themselves.

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