The Dichotomy Of Teaching

Reading time: 3

Helen Davis

Helen writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a primary perspective. She is a primary school teacher and a new headteacher who, after 27 years is still learning about learning. She says “it has been a challenge to swim and not drown during many of...
Read more about Helen Davis
 Why do some of us stick at it and others jump ship?

That’s one question I have and there are plenty more where that came from. For example,

  • Why do some of us grow and develop and others fail to take root and flourish?
  • Why do some of us support colleagues, work collaboratively and seek to get the best out of people and others become the bullies they teach the children not to be?
  • Why do some of us see the privilege and inspiration in the role and some cannot find the light in the darkness?

Poles Apart

Ours is a tough job. One that can bring a deep joy in being part of and witnessing human achievements and that brings honour in the privilege of being so immersed in our pupils and families lives. But one that can also (sadly) bring such detrimental stress and unhappiness when the job feels overwhelming and negativity is rife.

It is such a dichotomy that we work in a profession where it is our job to simply nurture and to challenge our pupils to give them their very best possible learning outcomes and yet too many teachers experience the opposite. Whether from colleagues, SMT or Ofsted I fail, with disbelief, to understand how being detrimental and disparaging can have a long term positive effect on professional development and therefore the learning outcomes for pupils.

Why have I taken this stance for this blog? ‘Write about opening up a new school’ was the advice from TT, but this led me to reflect on my journey to being as headteacher of a brand new primary school. So, I have some more questions:

  • How come I made it?
  • How come I stuck at being a class teacher?
  • How come I made it from creative classroom teacher to SMT and then Headship?
  • How come I  survived the introduction of the National Curriculum when I witnessed so many effective and experienced teachers make it their swan song?
  • How come I survived the literacy and numeracy hours?
  • How come I survived ‘levels’ and the farce of summative assessment as it spiralled out of control and Dylan Wiliams was turning in his undug grave?

In a way it is simple – the child. Keeping the child truly at the heart of why we turn up every morning. Engaging the child in developing and learning and ensuring that we motivate, inspire, support, challenge and therefore create the best possible learning. Knowing how to balance all the essential ingredients that promote the best chances for learning for all in our care to succeed.

That ‘balance’ means tough judgement calls on the paperwork, on how much one delivered the ‘literacy hour’ or stuck to what works for your class that day. Maybe a trick or two of appearing to deliver the requested latest farce whilst remaining the ruler in your kingdom of your classroom. If it isn’t going to affect the child in that seat and enhance their chances, then it’s ‘simple’ … don’t do it.

No More Hoop Jumping

I am blessed with the team I work with and our ‘Growing Together in Love and Respect’ ethos. I’ve been there, done it and got the t-shirt over the past nearly thirty years in education, and I hope to never make our team jump through any hoops that take them away from that child.

We won’t be doing mock Ofsteds, compiling additional paperwork to prove what we have been achieving, creating tick-lists for no other purpose than having tick-lists, promoting a member of staff at the detriment to another.

Our school is a place where you can feel the love and respect for all and one where our school family works together for our children. Yes sometimes that love is ‘tough love’, but to quote Sir John Jones, “We are all on the bus together”.

And here endeth my blog without exploring the details on the joy of my new role, the impact that twitter has had on my personal development, the challenges and positives of working within the free school system, the delight of working in a school team where all are centred on a common goal.

One More Thing…

Today I read with sadness those that were already publicly (via twitter) disparagingly knocking the Chartered College and judging their conference negatively on the fact that a collective song had been chosen as one small part of the day.

Whether you agree or disagree that this was a wise choice of activity, why the need to so publicly and negatively condemn your fellow professionals who are simply aiming to bring the strength of collaboration to our profession?

It seemed to me that such ferocity was unnecessary and somehow unprofessional. Of course we will all have difference of opinions on how things should be done but messages need to be delivered in a more professional manner… otherwise we are being those bullying voices.

One thought on “The Dichotomy Of Teaching

  1. I thoroughly agree having worked with a variety of Headteachers from very poor to excellent. I recently read an article about Hitler, which surprisingly is very relevant. At his most “successful” (when the German army stormed across Europe) he operated in what is termed mission command, in other words he gave the orders and the generals carried them out using their experience and knowledge. When he came under pressure (D Day landings) he went into micro, or over command mode, where every action had to be authorised by Hitler himself. Fortunately this meant that Rommel could not deploy his tanks efficiently, and had he been able to do so would have pushed the allies back into the sea.
    Heads have to adopt the role of mission command where they produce aims and overall direction of the school and staff use their skill and experience to work towards those aims.
    I have worked with a very unsuccessful Head who was of the opinion he knew everything and actually worked against department teams. A specific example was the IT team that delivered a GNVQ qualification that was very successful (and kept the school out of special measures). He was always antagonistic towards the department and over time wound the department time, on the basis that it wasn’t as successful as IT in comparable schools, not achieving enough higher grades. However, had he actually looked into it, other schools delivered the course as a “double” option whereas as he only allowed the time for a single option. He could or would not allow the department to get on with managing the situation they were given. A classic case of an over management style.
    I also agree with the tick box mentality which tends to measure if something is done, rather than whether actions are actually effective.
    How can the profession accept the mantra that pupils must achieve two levels etcetera? We all know that each child, class, teacher, school are unique. Statistics at a national level are
    i self prophesising and cannot be reduced to a school or class level. (Standard Deviation calculations would verify this).
    ii only an indication of what has happened, not will happen. If statistics could predict what would happen we would be rich and bookies would be poor. A five pound bet on Leicester, Brexit and Trump would have come in at £12 mill.
    The most successful Heads realise that all they can do is guide the team and provide them with what they need.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.