It is inevitable within a collection of people, that “friendship” groups create themselves. I feel very lucky over the past few years to have been able to meet with Twitter friends in real life, to be able to spend quality time with them and significantly extend the 140 character limit of social media.
It’s clear, from the regular photos of meetings that this is not an uncommon phenomenon, whereas, for most people whose careers started in the previous 30 years, communication would be locality based. Now it is possible to discuss, exchange blogged ideas and then to meet over greater distance. Ideas can therefore travel quickly, be developed in a variety of contexts and refined in practice.
Like friendship groups in real life, it’s inevitable that “like-minded” people will be drawn together.
Where this means a regular chat in the pub, thrashing out minor difference in nuance between their ideas, this is unlikely to hurt anyone else. Twitter has introduced me to probably the brightest company in which I have been able to participate within education. The number of Tweeters who have or are studying for masters or doctorates appears huge. The range of areas of expertise is equally broad. But, as for the majority of individual teachers, the contexts within which they operate and study is likely to be limited.
We are all victims of our context and experience. and life's not a pantomime.
This is why I worry about some efforts to narrow discussion, to seek “right answers” to every minor point at discussion. Schools are incredibly organic structures, with so many variables that it would be virtually impossible to conduct any fully scientific study within them. The “right answer” is “what works with these children in my context”. The right answer might be a slight variation on what is proposed, to fit in with the available space, resources or the experience of the teachers.
A “right answer” being promulgated by some appears to be #JustTellThem, perhaps because it provides a relatively simple mantra, always within the teacher control. There is potentially some justification for this. There is stuff that children need to know, in order to be able to think about it, then use and apply it effectively. Like all teachers, I did just that. Using a term, resource tasks, that came from an early form of the Design and Technology national Curriculum, these were “resource lessons”, full of key information. Even within “progressive group based project based challenges”, when children were “stuck”, I did #JustTellThem, so that they could continue and make progress.
You see, the #JustTellThem mantra exists in all teacher-child relations and, sometimes, is exactly the right thing to do. However, unless #JustTellThem is followed up with an opportunity to discuss and clarify, it’s likely that some will need #JustTelling again, as a reminder.
Anecdote (1960s); my first Grammar School was a boy’s grammar, with incredibly traditional staff. They had a #JustTellThem approach, which consisted of talking to the class, writing on the board what they were saying, followed by us having to write down their notes verbatim. For some lessons this worked well, for others it left questions unasked and unanswered, allowing gaps to be created. From being good at maths, I found that by the year end I was achieving around 30% and being seen very differently by the teachers. It was the days of rapped knuckles for getting answers wrong. Still not sure how that helped concentration. Parental separation meant a move and a school transfer to the Grammar on the other side of the bay. Suffice to say that the approach was the polar opposite and I took GCE maths a year early.
It makes me reflect that every method, even #JustTellThem in the wrong hands, leads to poor outcomes, regardless.
Apparently all current ills in education are the responsibility of ITE providers, not doing “enough” of seemingly anything. That can alternate with parental responsibilities. Today it is marking, yesterday, it might have been planning, assessment, SEN or behaviour management. It’s a daily round of “pick a topic, any topic” and start an argument. The trouble is that this deflection is almost designed to stop the buck before it hits the teacher. As a University Link Tutor supporting trainees in schools, the variety and nuances within internal systems makes it virtually impossible to ensure that every trainee goes into the practical context with exactly the right mix of skills. Every school is different.
The momentum is sometimes built to imply that certain things are not a part of the teacher role, in some cases the reduction is virtually to the “talking head” teacher. Planning, assessment and marking all take their place in the pantheon of items to be jettisoned.
And don’t even mention SEN; in some arguments, children “such as these” should not be “in my classroom” or “in this school”.
The “talking heads” image always reminds me of the original film of George Orwell’s 1984, with the talking face of Big Brother coming through the TV screen on the wall. With interactive whiteboards being commonplace, this could easily be accomplished.
The problem with movements is the creation of self-styled gurus, with a message that often, through interpretation, becomes ever more reductive. Consider recent political announcements, here and across the Atlantic. Simple message, repeated endlessly, develops a sort of cult, with significant “othering”.
What the system needs is ordered and organised systems and individuals, with knowledge and articulacy that enables them to share it appropriately with different groups (know-how with show-how), able to spot and pick up the signs that a child may be struggling with learning (or something else) and have the skills to accommodate to the evident need. They must be able to provide guidance, feedback and sometimes coaching and mentoring to need.
Most of all, they have to be human(e) and able to develop high quality relationships with children.