Monday, March 9, 2015

kids and teaching

Sometimes teaching is like herding cats, (which the myth busters well and truly proved is impossible), a room full of people seemingly going in any direction but together or the direction you want.

Teaching can feel like scaling an impossible mountain in a pair of stilettos and a party hat.

Mostly I realise what an absolute joy and privilege it is to be left to care and guide for what is most important to people.

This week these are the things that have made me smile as I have met a much of new people in small bodies:

Did you build that dress?

How many years does it take to make a dress?

and when we were using fabric scraps from my sewing room and they pulled out a matching piece to the dress I was wearing -

(gasp) you cut up your dress!

Kids say the best stuff. You are never long without something to smile about when you hang out with them. That's not to say it's all peachy and there aren't any teacher eyes (I'm sure you've seen those before) happening.

Teaching is one of those jobs that is demanding on every front - energy, emotion, problem solving, relationally ... the work is never, ever finished and there is always something you could do better or more or another resource you could make or a plan to refine or an assessment to do - it is a relentless job in the way parenting is.

You have to be able to muster courage and patience when you feel like hiding or shouting or throwing in the towel. You have to be the adult but you also have to engage the child in you - you have to find the balance between steering the ship and inspiring the sailors - even when it's time to scrub the decks.

I think most children start the learning journey filled with a sense of wonder and possibility and I think as teachers we can lose that so quickly when we look at the demands put on us from every direction. Sometimes teaching doesn't feel like taking a group of unique, interesting and potential-filled children on a journey as much as it feels like a train station where you are constant being harassed by people who aren't on your train for things they need - records, data, notices, permissions, health and safety...

That's not a reflection on where I am at right now it's a reflection on teaching as a profession which it seems is often run by someone at the top of the pyramid (in government) who has never taught and who is trying to make schools run on a business model.... it makes me sad.

Somewhere, somehow we need to try to hold on to learning first for the joy of learning, engaging with potential, and taking children on a journey. Targets, nationalised tests, league tables, and grading in many cases do nothing for each student or for the integrity of the classroom programme. Maybe they fit a catch cry for accountability but they don't really, not in the things that matter.

Truth is there are going to be fabulous teachers and there are going to be rubbish teachers and all the national standards in the world are never going to make a difference to what I want from a teacher - a person who can continue to be committed to my child on their good and bad days, a person who genuinely loves to learn, a person who can inspire, lead, guide and meet my children where they are and knows - or will work hard to find out - how to build a pathway from where they are now to the joy of new knowledge (even when the new knowledge is totally tedious like a spelling rule).

Am I a perfect teacher? Heck no! Some days I do pretty well and other days I know I miss opportunities. As a parent there is no one whose job is more important to me than the people who teach my children and that is both motivating and terrifying to me in equal measure as I teach other people's children.

If you know a teacher give them a little hug today and don't tell them they should love their job because of all the holidays (let's not go there) tell them what they are doing will have lasting effects, thank them for what they are doing well, tell them something nice your child has said about them, remind them that their job is one of the most important jobs in the whole world - because there are leaders and criminals and parents and environmental activists and authors and artists and politicians and researchers and all sorts of children that will be adults in every class.

Children are the best, children are also our future and let's all of us take that responsibility very seriously.

Who was a teacher that made a difference for you? And why?

love you more than a pile of completed marking xxx