Teacher Retention : More Than Just An Image Problem

This is long. If you don’t like long, don’t read it. If anyone posts a comment saying “It’s too long”, after reading this warning, they’re a bit silly. It’s also personal: you’re reading essentially my internal argument about whether – and when – to give up teaching. As such, it’s a rambling muse more than an impassioned rant. It may prompt some thoughts about what we can, or should, do to retain experienced teachers. Or it may not. Sorry if anyone is disappointed by the absence of shouting. However, I make up for that by linking all my sub-headings to appropriate cheesy pop songs. Can’t say fairer than that.

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How to complain effectively

The Guardian published one of my pieces here. It was intended as light entertainment, and hopefully will be taken as such. When originally asked to do it, I was worried that if I did it seriously, it would come across like a tedious leaflet stuck to the community noticeboard in the local library, whereas if I went for laughs, I’d either hugely offend teachers, or hugely offend parents. Given that I’m both a teacher and a parent, this felt like a no-win situation. Anyway, the Guardian clearly thought it wasn’t too offensive, although a few bits were lost in the sub-editing. One of those bits was my traditional insult to Gove. As a Disappointed Idealist piece without a Gove insult is like mash without sausage, or rugby league without a fight, I felt I’d better reproduce the original unedited version here for those people who want a Gove-bashing fix. Continue reading

Trust and Teachers

Earlier this evening, I had the following twitter conversation. It was all very civilized. It began with a fellow history tweeter being asked a question by an @ANONAHT. I barged in with my size 10s shortly after. I’ve simplified the thread and anonymized the tweeters, but they are most welcome to lay claim to their identities here if they so wish. I want to be very clear I make no criticism of the chap I was exchanging tweets with. He sounded a lovely, reasonable fellow. I just felt his position was illogical, and thus am using it as an example of how even lovely, reasonable people can find themselves forced into a position in which, without pressures from Ofsted or silliness from the current Cult of the Leader, they probably wouldn’t naturally find themselves.

The purpose of showing the account below is to demonstrate (again) what to me is a fundamental problem of the “leadership” culture in education. This could be what we history teachers might call a “differentiation question”: readers are going to fall on one side of this fence or the other. Those who don’t see a problem with the current trend of SLTs demanding “evidence” of compliance with a rigid marking policy, are probably either in SLTs, or one day will be in SLTs. If you fall on my side of the fence, I suspect you wouldn’t enjoy many NCTL courses on “leadership” as it is currently promoted, and I hope you like the classroom experience, because you’ll never leave it. Continue reading

Lack of a Uniform Belief

I’m a genuine agnostic on school uniform. I wore a uniform at school, and I have always taught in schools with a uniform. It’s pretty common in England. But I’m also aware of another world in which people get to choose their own clothes (amazing!); my children watch endless US teen shows in which students never wear uniforms, and I understand many places in Europe eschew uniforms. The sky doesn’t fall in when kids wear jeans in classrooms, but nor do children start emulating delegates at a North Korean communist party conference just because they’re all forced to wear nasty grey jumpers.

I see the reasonableness of the argument that uniforms might reduce (but never eliminate) the potential for income-based bullying, although I think the days when the boys who had Lacoste crocodiles on their jumpers were able to take the piss out of boys who didn’t, have long been replaced by those with iPhones taking the mickey out of those without (although my teenage scars have not yet fully healed from being nicknamed “The St Michaels Kid” because of my mother’s addiction to Marks&Spencers). I also accept that it’s possible to have a uniform policy which isn’t oppressive, prejudiced against poorer families, or just mad http://littlemavis.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/are-we-uniform/

Likewise, I accept the argument that a uniform is a method of insisting on conformity and discouraging individuality, and so I’m instinctively inclined against it on principle. I also note that the evidence base for the many claims made on behalf of uniforms is rather thin.  http://thelearningcurve.pearson.com/articles/article/uniforms-for-learning

And I’m not going to go anywhere near the issue about boys and girls distracting each other unless they’re covered up properly, which has created a furore in the States this last year or so. Suffice it to say that, if I recall correctly, you could have dressed all the girls in my class in full burqas when I was 15 and I would have still been distracted by them. Such are teenage hormones.

Fundamentally, I don’t really care much. It’s just not an issue which is in my top ten things to be bothered by in a school. Perhaps not even the top twenty. So generally I file uniforms into the “can’t be bothered enough to get worked up” category of stuff.

Astonishing degrees of crashing idiocy

Then, something like this comes along : Continue reading

Teacher Workload – You’ll Need More Than A Bonfire Of Red Tape

Politicians in Crocodile Tears Shock

Something rather strange has happened in the last two weeks. For four years we have been told by politicians that teachers have never had it so good, and that they don’t work hard enough without the encouragement of having their pay cut through spurious performance mechanisms. An accompaniment to this dismal tune has been faithfully played by HMCI Wilshaw, who did a passable solo impersonation of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen when telling us that modern teachers didn’t really know what stress was, while simultaneously condemning any teachers who committed the cardinal crime of working their contracted hours, or taking their marking home rather than hanging around school buildings. Continue reading