I need to beg an indulgence. Before we get on to matters educational I’d like to talk to you briefly about Dungeons and Dragons. When the 4th edition of D&D came out they decided that they wanted to give the world in which their adventures’ took place a particular feel. They were set in a land of darkness. Once great empires had fallen into rubble and been lost. Bands of monsters stalked the land, driving fear into the hearts of many, whilst dragons and demons fought for supremacy of the skies. Evil, fallen gods, moved among men creating madness and mayhem. All is lost. But in this dark world there are flickering lights. Candles in the darkness. Communities holding out against the dark, guarded by brave adventures who use their skills, strength and knowledge to push back against the creeping gloom.
This image has kept returning to me over the last few months. Our world seems incredibly dark right now. The wider world and the world of education. Great empires have fallen or are weakened. We have embraced ignorance and condemned intellectualism. A man who boasts of sexually assaulting women has been elected to one of the most powerful offices on the planet. Our public services are collapsing, libraries closing, schools face huge budget cuts at the same time as pressure to perform increases. Teachers and leaders are fleeing schools. It often feels hopeless.
There are candles in the darkness. There are those who are pushing back. In the dark world of education we have the brave knights of the Head Teachers Roundtable under Stephen Tierney. In my mind they gather in their fortress and ride out to take on the malign forces of DeEfEe armed with battle plans. We have the new Chartered College of Teaching. A beacon of light, a monastery of learning, giving power to teachers all over this blighted land. There are the unknowable clerics of #ResearchEd, led by the cowled figure of Tom Bennett, searching for the answers of the deepest riddles of teaching.
And there is us. Thousands of teachers up and down the country. Each one of us can be, needs to be, a candle in the darkness. We need to be strong and wise and brave. We need to have the courage of our convictions, we need to trust in our skills as teachers and we need to close our doors to the darkness outside and just teach. Teach like no one is watching. Have the courage to ignore that ambitious assistant head with his endless policy initiatives. Ignore Progress 8, ebacc, and OFSTED. They don’t matter, they are a distraction.
Make each lesson excellent for your students. Whether you are a didactic traditionalist who will inspire the class with a lecture or a dyed in the wool progressive who will set up a deep inquiry; or like most of us you are somewhere between the two. It doesn’t matter. We can fight back against ignorance and fear. We can and must collaborate. We must lift each other up. We must look for every opportunity to make the world a brighter place.
We must be candles holding back the dark.