We had a staff meeting recently, and in a school renowned for high turnover and incredibly high bureaucratic demands on teachers, we were told of a ramping up of evidence gathering requirements. At once point during a lull in proceedings, we teachers were literally stunned into silence and we all struggled to suppress feelings of horror, dread and worry showing on our faces. So far this academic year we have had marking, planning, guided reading carousels, new regular tests (with spreadsheets to update weekly), learning objectives mandates (all skills based), book scrutinies as topics of ‘concern’ in staff meetings where we have been given new directives and increased requirements. This is pretty typical of primary schools, although not all will be like this (of course). It’s got to the point where I’m dreading the next staff meeting and it seems like bit by bit every single aspect of what we do is being subject to micromanaging and top-down control.
I do try to ask those difficult questions in staff meetings as the token ‘old person’, and it certainly helps to be able to call on my own experience of being a parent when it comes to missives about children and what they’re doing in class, but I tend to get shirty answers, you know, the typical ‘If you get your teaching right, everything will be wonderful’ (which are really just code for ‘Why don’t you just shut up’) type of reply. I’m not used to this because in my previous working life it was expected that everyone contributed and the nature of financial services meant that everyone was trained to look for what could go wrong as well as what could go right, lest mistakes be made and people’s livelihoods/savings/businesses be put at risk, so pointing out the downside of some new policy was not viewed as a threat rather as a valid and intelligent contribution to proceedings.
Further, it also regularly occurs to me that while the pressure from SLT on us teachers is continuously being ramped up, such that people like me are worried about job security (someone has already called me lazy for not working all weekends/evenings due to to the fact I have a family), but the pressure on children is basically at level zero. To me, this all seems the wrong way round. Back when I was a child, SLT seemed to spend a lot of time checking up on children and doing a lot of ticking off of the less compliant contingent, but now SLT do exactly that to the teachers. But, it doesn’t matter how much we teach our arses off and photograph, mark, assess and compile evidence of the children’s learning if the children don’t pay attention because they can’t be bothered. I think the behaviour of children has deteriorated to the point where the low-level disruption obliterates teaching and it really makes you feel like shit when children are being silly, talking over you and making fun of what you say when you’re trying to teach. And then of course there is this situation where we can’t really teach anyway because, apparently, we should just be letting the children discover everything.
Maybe children should work harder?
Who’s with me?