This much I know about…the number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime

#Blogsync post number 1. http://share.edutronic.net/

I have been a teacher of English for 24 years, a Headteacher for 9 years and, at the age of 48, this much I know about the number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime.

WARNING: I’m an idealist. I make no apology for that. Peter Bratton, who was Headteacher when I worked at Hove Park School, told me once that I was the least cynical person he had ever met. What follows is, then, predictably idealistic!

What annoys you about education? This is the question we ask to conclude final panel teacher recruitment interviews at Huntington School. Over the years it has elicited two or three predictable answers, the worst, and most un-thinking of which is, All the paperwork. Increasingly people respond, The politicisation of education. One of my favourite answers came from an idealistic young teacher who said, The moaners in the corner of the staff room; the ones who are like black holes trying to drag others into their cynical world. (I wrote that one down verbatim, I liked it so much!)

The answer I am waiting to hear to that question is simply this, What annoys me about education is the talk about students fulfilling their potential, because teachers cannot know what a student’s potential is because that student does not know his or her self, because none of us does. Michael Barber might give me this answer if he was my interviewee, because he made this point in his book The Learning Game; it is something I have never forgotten.

So, the number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime is the genuine eradication of everything in schools which explicitly or implicitly limits our belief in what we – students and staff – can achieve. The more you think about what limits our beliefs in what we can achieve, the more apparent it is that it will require a systemic shift in our thinking of monumental proportions to achieve my own Universal Panecea. But if you are a teacher you can begin to remove your students’ self-imposed caps on achievement tomorrow, in the very next lesson you teach, by consciously eradicating anything you do which will limit your students’ self-belief in their own ability. Go create the conditions for growth in your classroom and you’ll find that our potential is limitless.

No limits concept.

About johntomsett

Headteacher in York. All views are my own.
This entry was posted in General educational issues. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to This much I know about…the number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime

  1. Michael Tidd says:

    An excellent point, well-argued. Sadly, the constructs of our current system will too often lead to lessons with no limits being interpreted as lessons with no differentiation. Sometimes I wonder if differentiation (the label) is not the worst thing in the system for limiting attainment.

  2. Very good point well made ! Eduzine believes in celebrating children’s achievements. It inspires and drives them to achieve more and more and much more! No limits to what every child can achieve … & inspiration & encouragement are often all that is needed.

  3. I like to call the moaners in the staffroom “dementors”. They suck all the happiness out of you. Then I have to unleash my patronus to defeat them…..a even bigger, brighter, more positive and enthusiastic version of me!

  4. @cparkie says:

    This echoes my belief John. We shouldn’t limit children to what they are capable of; we should ask them to strive for more than they ever thought possible. Those that can will, those that can’t won’t. The problem for me comes when teachers fail to allow children to rise. We are not limiters of pupils potential, we are safety nets disguised as trampolines!

    • Brian says:

      Well said.

      “We are not limiters of pupils potential, we are safety nets disguised as trampolines”

      Brilliant

  5. Pingback: The Universal Panacea | Monkeymagic

  6. Suzi Bewell says:

    An interesting post – I follow your blog via twitter with interest.
    A big thanks also for all the great work that Lisa Lefebvre and team are currently doing with my PGCE MFL trainee.

  7. Brian says:

    I am also a follower. I read every word you write and soak up as much wisdom as I am able. On this one I have a slightly different perspective.

    “One of my favourite answers came from an idealistic young teacher who said, The moaners in the corner of the staff room; the ones who are like black holes trying to drag others into their cynical world.”

    The thing is that these people have the potential to be non-moaners. These people have the potential to be optimists and idealists.

    There are many examples from history in which people wish to be idealist but are not given the freedom. When battered and beaten by managers into producing useless and irrelevant nonsense for Ofsted because the managers do not have the spine/backbone to say no, I believe people have every right to moan. When the work life balance of people with families is destroyed by people who have neither the talent nor the inclination to do what is right rather than what is expedient then people have the right to moan.

    Your “favourite” answer, for me, expresses much of what is wrong with the state system in the UK. “Cynical” is simply the idealists description of the realist. Most of the idealists I have ever met are very happy for others to pay the price of the success that arises from their idealism.

    You John are for me an exceptional leader. But to be exceptional you need by definition to be an exception to the norm.

    I believe your vision will not materialise as long as those like your favourite idealist teacher are left in charge. I am not saying I would clap my hands at the “paperwork” answer, but I think it admirable that someone would have the courage to give such an answer rather than the condescending and frankly brown nosey answer of your idealist who it is likely would say anything to get the job. Just as they would say anything to get the “Outstanding” Ofsted.

    I still think you are inspirational. I still think you will not change the world. I still think you are having a good try. I hope your workshop went well, I wish I could have been there. Alas I am sitting in the corner sucking all of the enthusiasm and optimism from anyone who comes within 3 yards (or as I call it, teaching with my feet on the ground).

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