I have written before about the image I have of teachers being candles in the darkness. The potential we have to shine brightly in a world of negativity, ignorance and unthinking cruelty is huge. I genuinely believe that we have the power to make a difference and be a positive force. We can make a difference in our individual classrooms through everything we do. We have a lot of autonomy behind our classroom door and we can use it well.
A tweet from teacher and blogger @thatboycanteach got me thinking this morning.
It is all very well us trying to make a difference in our classroom but we are too few. So many teachers are disengaged from their profession. We have had decades now of things being done too teachers not things done with them. Years of top down reform, accountability and mistrust which has stripped teachers of their agency. Unsurprisingly, this has created a deep culture of despondency and a desire to just keep your head down and plough on. These are the teachers we need to reach and lift up if we are ever going to see a lasting change in education.
The question of how we do it is a vexing one. How do you reach someone who isn’t engaged? I’d suggest that there are a few things we can do.
- Be the change you want to see. Model enthusiasm for education. Not for crazy workload, martyrdom or “vocationalism” but for the simple joy of exploring ways to do the job well. Talk about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Share things you have read, TeachMeets you are attending, blogs you have stumbled upon. Show that these things make your job easier and not more time consuming.
- Set up CPD book clubs. There might just be two of you at first but persevere. Have coffee and cake, make them social and fun. Build it and they will come.
- Write! Get your ideas out there and off of blogs and twitter. Propose articles for newspapers and magazines that challenge the narrative of the lazy or brow-beaten teacher. Take part in phone-ins. Never let a negative stereotype slide.
- Talk to your SLT. It isn’t an us-vs-them. If you have read an excellent idea for making assessment more meaningful or feedback less time consuming then take it to them. Talk to others in your school about it and get a movement for change going. If it makes education better they are likely to love it. It’s just in the sales pitch. We need to make the positive changes we have made in our classrooms take hold in entire schools. Then a candle becomes a real flame.
I love EdTwitter and teaching blogs. There is a real sense of community there, but there is a danger of being lulled into a false sense of security. A lot of the progress that is being made in this community stays in this fragment of the wider profession and it is only by burning brighter that we can challenge the dark.
To arms my friends. This is the call.