Do teachers really work in partnership with each other?
Have you ever had that uneasy feeling that you are in competition? Do you ever compare yourself to others, thinking that you’ll just never be as good as them? Partnership is everything, but the toxicity of competition in education is everywhere.
Teachers and countless other professions feel it too. There have been times where I have longed to have just a bit of what a colleague has. It might be an excellent classroom environment, brilliant behaviour management or slick organisation skills. The sense that I am only just adequate at what I do is one I am not unfamiliar to.
Ask and share
The logical thing to do when you see a colleague doing something great is to talk to them. Ask them how they do it. Perhaps you might even ask if you can use your non-class contact to observe them. But through a combination of your desire to be a self-made wonder-teacher, you never get around to asking. You don’t want to show your weaknesses! It works the other way too. Sometimes I have done something that has worked wonders with the children and have felt precious about sharing it for fear others might think I am arrogant. And I also fear they may take my idea one step further and seek credit themselves.
As a matter of fact, many people have observed this trait happening on an institutional level. Has your school started to share more self-congratulating posts and bulletins about events, successes and performance? Are you publicly lauding your school’s Ofsted rating? Perhaps there are other schools in your cluster who seem to be doing everything right, but your school is struggling to keep up.
The original postcode lottery
As self-indulging as it feels, doing something awesome that no one else seems to be doing, it is important to remember that most of our children do not get a say in which school they attend. Our duty as teachers should be to seek out and to share good practice between classes, schools and even authorities.
It does not seem right that two children who live a few streets away from each other with identical circumstances could end up with drastically different experiences at school. If all leadership teams forgot the depressing individualism and atomised approach that has crept into state schooling, these two children needn’t experience wholly different educations.
Collaboration has never been so important
It is a glum reality that school budgets have been ruthlessly squeezed for nearly a decade. Austerity has had untold effects on millions of families and countless communities across the country. Moreover, constantly increasing costs of school necessities means that the school purse has never been so tiny.
Despite their best efforts to ring-fence the money, management teams have long since started to spend money which traditionally would have been used to ‘upskill’ their staff to cover the costs of essentials, such as paper and pencils.
At this juncture, schools have two options:
- Accept a dwindling level of professional development and oversee a stagnation in teacher morale, professionalism and up-to-date practice.
- Think positively of exciting new ways in which to inspire, educate and motivate their staff without having to purchase tickets to fully catered days out at posh hotels with a bit of CPD.
My point is that the more inventive among us have started to explore the more cost-effective option and are beginning to reap the rewards.
“How?” I hear you ask.
By abandoning ego and seeking help from professionals across establishments, CPD can be infinitely cheaper and arguably more effective than the traditional format.
I am lucky enough to be working in a school in central Scotland whose early years team has formed a partnership with three other schools to work on implementing research and principles set out by Friedrich Froebel into their classroom practice.
Each school takes it in turns to host the other three, and they meet to discuss outcomes and next steps at least once a term. Though they are only in the first year of collaboration, the mood from the sessions is infectious, and most importantly, child-centred.
Could you lead a project like this in your local cluster? Is there a school – perhaps your school – that is doing something particularly well? There has never been a more necessary time to abandon our instinctive desire to be better than each other and work together for the children we put so much effort into educating.