The College of Teaching has been given boost with the recent appointment of a new CEO and I admit I am very worried. Perhaps my fears are unfounded, but given the progressive leaning of the people in charge and the history of the GTC I worry that The Blob has just been given even more power over all things State Education. I can’t really understand why the DfE decided that it was a good idea? Primary schools are already progressive enough! Anyway, I’d like to put forward a personal view of an ordinary classroom teacher regarding the CoT proposals and the inherent lack of trust that is afforded of teachers as individuals.
I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet a teacher who is lazy or shirking of their responsibilities. All teachers, regardless of whether they are of the progressive or traditional leanings, care very much about the children they teach and they all work very, very hard for little reward be it financial or otherwise. Some teachers give up their whole lives for The Cause and I am horrified that so many young teachers willingly eschew personal relationships and the chance to found their own family or even just pursue hobbies in order to do their jobs well, knowing full well that at some point and just like all the older colleagues they have said goodbye to, they too will be ‘encouraged’ to leave teaching in order to make way for younger, more vibrant versions of themselves. I have never in my colourful and varied life seen such contempt for experience and worldly wisdom as I have in teaching, and for a profession that bangs on about being ‘caring’ I find this contempt for older colleagues somewhat hypocritical, almost cruel. Anyway, experienced or not, we should assume that all teachers work hard, yet why do we need to have a CoT ensuring that teachers work even harder when they’re already busting a gut? What do these people want? Blood?
It’s taken me a long while too to get over the SCITT and NQT year and I never quite got used to the stress of those constant observations and relentless flapping over collecting evidence to ‘prove’ I was ticking off each and every item on the enormously long list of teacher standards. Hand on heart I don’t think I could repeat that process because I could not take the mental battering of being told over and over that whatever I was doing was not quite right, could do with improvement, or was downright wrong. It’s only now, a few years in, that I am starting to feel confident and trusted. I will still be observed regularly and have my books and walls monitored, but this is balanced against my reputation and results. Looking at the CoT FAQs it seems yet more monitoring is coming my way, as well as a requirement for me to be taking part in approved CPD. Using CoT parlance, do we really need to ‘drive’ teachers to be better in order to improve the education of children given that they already work so very hard? You know what would help me improve the education of the children I teach? Not being so bloody tired, that’s what. I think a simple way to improve teaching and learning would be for children to work harder and behave better, frankly, rather than have them sit back and expect a whizz-bang lesson that is ‘entertaining’ and easy (and lovingly prepared by a Chartered Teacher).
I’m not against CPD either; in fact, I really like it. My problem is with the assumption that I need to be strong-armed into doing it. First off, I have my own damn life to lead and teaching, with all its peripheral bureaucracy, bleeds heavily into it, threatening to snuff out all relationships, even the bond I have with my children. What I don’t need is for some pompous quangocrat to mandate that I take CPD on an iteration of ‘Differentiation via Learning Styles’ when I am just about managing to keep my wits about me as a parent, friend, family member, and of course a teacher. What if I get cancer and just need to spend what PRECIOUS little spare time I have at the hospital? Will I lose my status? Of course, you could simply tell me that I don’t need to join in the first place, but both you and I know deep down that I will have to join. To not join would be folly, an indication that I do not care enough about children’s education to overtly prove that I am improving myself, driving myself to do more and be better for the children I teach.
What will happen is that everybody will eventually join, except for the teachers at the end of their career who have built up enough financial security to potentially throw in the towel when they can no longer take any more lip from young upstarts, or because they have had quite enough of ‘Learning Styles’ CPD for one lifetime. The difference between now and the GTC days is that the technology is there to rigorously monitor and enforce teacher compliance and I reckon many school leaders would happily offload the burden of sourcing and suggesting CPD. Then of course membership will become a prerequisite for job applications; both LAs and MATs could easily do this, especially if a database can be referred to in order to check up on the kind of CPD a potential candidate has done. You know, I also love to read. What are the odds that simple reading research does not count as CoT approved CPD? I would say quite high because of course reading research is difficult to monitor, and it also doesn’t involve a big payout for a consultant either. Because I am more likely to want to read a bit of Siegfried Engelmen, or research some equally contentious subject of my own choosing, I am likely to lose out in career terms to someone who prefers to go to a Learning Styles Drama Workshop organised by a group of consultants approved by the CoT.
I think many teachers prefer to read up about all things education according to their own curiosity, or even attend events at the weekend that appeal and they do this for fun, in their spare time; they enjoy meeting like-minded people and debating controversial subjects away from their employer’s scrutiny. I find it slightly creepy that a huge organisation threatens to not only interfere with what teachers do during working time (that may well extend into weekends and evenings) but also with what teachers do during their down time, their thinking and fellowship time. Actually, ‘creepy’ doesn’t even get to the root of why I am so dead set against the CoT. I actually have a fear that I will be expected to give up even more of my life, my humanity, even my spare thoughts, to Teaching. This job may be taking my health, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let it own my thoughts. I won’t feel safe until the CoT is stopped in its tracks and I and my fellow compadres can have a bit of trust to do our jobs well.
Who’s with me?