I have been a teacher for over a decade and one thing I have realised is that ‘being brave’ is one of the most important characteristics to have. If we are not brave and don’t take risks then we don’t push boundaries and we definitely ‘always do what we’ve always done’!
Anyone who has worked in education knows the pressure teachers are constantly under – the ones who haven’t, think we all finish at 3 o’clock. Don’t you just love that perception? I hear staff say they feel like they are fighting the tide, some say they ride the waves but the problem with both of these is that the water is always in charge! Why can’t we build a submarine and then we can do what we want – when we want to?
This sounds a bit abstract I know but in the ‘real world’ of teaching I have seen so many teachers jump through hoops to get short term results just because they feel they have to – they don’t have the chance to look at the ‘big picture’ and the power of taking things slowly. Embedding core beliefs is needed before anything else. It’s scary to spend the first half term with a new class and dedicating it to instilling things like: Professor Guy Claxton’s learning capacities; Edward De Bono’s thinking hats & CoRT 1 tools; how to self and peer critique effectively; how to have good people skills; the importance of having good values and more importantly of all – to have drive and a thirst for life.
The teachers who tell me they are being challenged by the tide will say they are too busy. The teachers who can ride the waves say don’t worry I’ll teach it as I go along. The teacher who spent that time constructing the submarine while everyone was ‘busy’ allows the submarine to submerge further and take learning as deep as they like – in any direction.
If the teacher has truly instilled these skills, their pupils will be effective, independent and confident learners. Regardless of how long it takes, the time is worth it! The foundations are in place for them to learn anything and everything.
Do I practice what I preach? Yes. I spend a lot of time in the Autumn term feeling like I’m ‘falling behind’ my colleagues with regards to covering ‘the curriculum’ so that I can make sure these skills are embedded. Once they are the pupils can accelerate through the rest of the year and travel the oceans of the world for the rest of their lives. If a teacher gets to this point then there won’t be one leader standing at the front of the class – but 30 looking at them!
Like all things in life, there are two ends to any spectrum and ‘risk’ is no different – when does being brave become being stupid? All risks need to be manageable and there needs to be a clear vision of ‘why?’ from the start. In my experience, if my gut says it’s a good idea and I know the pupils will get something out of it – why not?
Matt Wynne is deputy headteacher at Victoria Park Academy, Smethwick.
Twitter @matt_Wynne1 @VicParkAcademy