Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Be Happy to be Good.

I am very proud of my school.

I am proud of the way it coped with an HMIe inspection when I was off on long term illness. I am proud that the inspector enjoyed the visit and recognised that the steps we needed to take, in order to improve, were ones that we had already identified and begun to action. But, I am still feeling guilty at not having been in post for it! Actually, if truth be told, I am disappointed not to have had the discussions, affirmations and critiques; the experience.

There is no doubt that Inspections have changed, and changed for the better. For my school, and the acting head teacher at least, it was a positive experience. But I have a deep unease that I cannot seem to shake, an unease with the culture of excellence.

I believe we are loosing the holistic approach to excellence to education. The oft repeated mantra, "It's all about the children." is wrong. It's not. We cannot drive eduction by focusing on the needs of the pupils alone. I would argue that you can only improve when the standard of excellence is equally applied to the needs of teachers in their planning, support, training, remit and time.  Crucially, it should be applied to the expectations.

At the present, much is expected of teaching. Excellence is expected. Local education authorities expect new planning across all the whole curriculum, expect the new approaches to be embedded, expect attendance at training initiatives and lessons learned quickly. Councillors expect schools to report more frequently and always in more detail and always expect improvements and success. Government expect 'standards' and 'results' to ever rise, and expect teachers to be supportive and engaged in all new initiatives. And head teachers are seeing their email boxes fill up with demands for completed questionnaires, statistical reports, statements, targets, plans and FOI requests. All with the same apologetic voice that still demands the quick, drop-everything-else reply!

All this is expected in an environment that is seeing reduced financial, staff and time resources. In other words, we are having staff hours reduced, budgets squeezed and removed, and more things to change, do, redo, plan, talk about, and precious little time to do it in.


Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, recorded their dying thoughts in her blog. (http://www.inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html) The regret of every male was, "I wish I hadn't worked so hard.All of the men she nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. The top regret of everyone was, significantly,  "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me"


If we haven't the time to do it, if we haven't the staff to do it, if we haven't the funding to do it... we should be happy to be 'good' and cease to worry about being 'excellent'.  We are professionals. We will always want to do our best: for the pupils, for the staff, for the authority, for the country. But, if life has become a constant worry about the 'nots'- not having finished..., not having done..., not having submitted..., not having tried.... - then isn't our pedagogy wrong?


It's not all about the children. Excellence is about education that seeks the best with what we've got.

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