I found out recently that a colleague had, behind the scenes, codified and organised phonics teaching in the younger years for our school (resourcing, planning, everything). She had done so much, but I wasn’t aware. Why? So obsessed are we with making sure that every single scrap of energy goes towards the ‘needs’ of children, that we don’t even set aside a few moments in a staff meeting to share what has gone well or to praise staff members for doing so much behind the scenes. Based on this situation alone, I would recommend that all school staff meetings learn from industry and put one additional item on the agenda for that week: sharing good practice, praising those who have created intellectual property and for making staff in other phases or subject areas aware of what goes on behind the scenes.
But, it’s more than that. It’s also about how the ‘system’ has put each and every teacher’s head over a barrel such that there is no spare moment to do ‘normal’ things like support each other or give each other praise in an informal way. I find it ironic that those of the progressive persuasion make such a big deal out of ’empathy’ and ‘mental health’ and ‘social skills’ for children, yet seem unaware that their design for education involves such copious squandering of resources (including teacher’s energy), that said children never even get to witness a simple ‘Would you like me to do get you a coffee?’ moment of shared kindness between colleagues because no one has any energy left to do this.
When you think about it, not only do disadvantaged children lack the knowledge and vocabulary that advantaged children have (so, we should teach knowledge), or the self-discipline instilled through routine, manners and daily music/reading practice (so, we should have good discipline, routine, practice and manners taught at school), but they also don’t get to see ‘ordinary conversation’ if they happen to live in chaotic households or single parent families where (typically) the mother is the only adult in the house. How can we have children witness simple, polite and kind conversation if all the adults have been brow-beaten into differentiating god knows how many ways, and the enforcement of the prog’s ideal of ‘inquiry based learning’ ‘in groups’ has led to children only thinking of themselves and generally shouting at the tops of their voices at each other such that the adult voice is nothing in comparison?
Most primary teachers at least have days where they do not speak to another adult: you come in and it’s immediately a mad dash to create all the different worksheets and activities for the day. There is no time to say hello to the TA as she immediately sits down with a child to read. The teacher is on duty for break, and will spend that time talking to children about their various accusations that ‘friends’ aren’t ‘letting them do what they want’. Then, lunchtime will be spent in the classroom either in meetings, or marking or getting extra children in for ‘detention’. After school? A club. After that? More marking. Where is the humanity in that? How are the children learning that adults (women in particular) are not just edu-servants, there to proffer a smorgasbord of edu-choice whenever the child’s whim changes like the wind?
My solution? Of course, the trad way. Whole class teaching, discipline (whole school), textbooks, children facing the front etc means that the teacher is less tired and could perhaps offer to make another teacher a coffee. Perhaps another child could witness this and see what ‘normal’ adult behaviour looks like.
Who’s with me?