I am not an “expert”.
For a very simple reason. I have had “my experience”; have seen those experiences through my eyes and distilled my thinking through my own reflections. I’ve taught in particular schools, with their own ethos, so have derived my own through that lens. I cannot hope to have read “all” the books nor listened to “all” the speakers, but I also know that every experience I’ve had has left a mark on me in some way, some immediately, more often than not, later, as a result of further reflection. I am also aware that there is a litter trail of ideas that were considered and put to one side at the time, because they did not support the holistic direction of school development.
I am, and always have been, a “work in progress”, which I think sums up the idea of a life-long learner. I am aware that it will have had an impact on my decisions, throughout my life.
I have had my own personal life experiences, which I detailed in a blog post. Some of these experiences will have been shared by some readers, but not others. They have given me insights and empathy for those in similar situations. I know that, at times, life can be tough, but I am not living the life of those for whom it is toughest.
We are asked to consider our biases, which we all carry. I’d prefer to consider them, tendencies or personal preferences. I am inevitably drawn to certain things rather than others. An example would be in art, where I enjoy the Impressionist style, but also developments such as Cubism. I like listening to, playing for and singing folk music, although that is within a more eclectic appreciation of music generally. I am an unashamed Francophile. J’habite en Angleterre, je vive en France.
All these (favourite) things make me the person that I am. An eclectic mix of life and learning experiences. Each has contributed to making me the person I am.
Je ne suis pas “expert”
But, I do have a lifetime of expertise, skills and knowledge that is the residue of the breadth of these experiences. After headship, I have had the chance to use this expertise to the advantage of a wide variety of schools, supporting them to think about certain areas where development was still needed. One of my skills is distilling information and reflecting back to a school where evidence might be weaker than they think, so could be a vulnerable area.
I can only ever give thought to that which I know, although I can articulate questions that arise and for which I try to seek answers. My thoughts at a particular moment may not chime with someone else’s, but that does not negate them. All ideas are food for thought, so are worthy of expression. To seek to do otherwise could be a form of censorship, which is a “very bad thing”, in a world where we still allow free speech.
I am not an expert, although I blog to explore and share ideas. Occasionally, my insights seem to resonate. They are insights, and like all insights can be developed further.
Others may be seen seen as experts, by virtue of their own publications and their very public pronouncements about the views of others. They have become de facto “experts”, so have joined the group that they seek to challenge. This can only lead to polarisation and self-limiting behaviours from those that feel more vulnerable.
The opportunities to share ideas have broadened considerably over the past ten years, with many, and a growing band of excellent members of the blogging and speaking community sharing high quality thinking regularly. It would be a great shame if this came to a standstill. The only casualty would be everyone’s education.
We are all, after all, works in progress, and I know I still have much to learn and I hope, a sufficiently long and active life in which to do so.
It might be worth considering the notion of a consultant as someone to talk to, to consult, who may have expertise that is useful. If experts rule the world, we might just end up with problems. Life is for human beings, with the tendency to have faults and make errors occasionally.