A popular post on stress free teacher @stress_freeuk this week was the tweet mentioned in the title. Why was this post so popular? It is a combination of a few things in my opinion. The tweet strikes a chord with so many teachers and educators in the profession today who maybe feeling a little under-appreciated? The education profession is a tough career choice to undertake these days. It is undergoing a serious change both in terms of the curriculum and organisation. Pisa results and Donaldson have had a huge impact on how education is evolving and mutating on the front lines for educators. The goal posts have been moved. A game lots of teachers felt they understood well and were successful in; is not only having the rules changed but also its style of play. What of pupil outcomes? Well they have changed too!
I once sat in a conference in Wales regarding the new Literacy and Numeracy framework that was to be introduced in Wales. In short the expectations of pupils’ attainment were being increased so that the standard Level 4 was being replaced by Level 5 for most pupils. The skills the children were to be taught and experience for each year group would be set against the higher outcomes. A Headteacher turned to me and said,
“It’s like we are asking the children to run a marathon in a set time (Nursery to Y6) and now we expect them to run the marathon in the same time but we’ve added 6 miles on the end of the race!”
This got me thinking and he was absolutely correct. This analogy rings true across the country. We are given targets that some deem to be unrealistic. Of course most educators agree with Donaldson and his vision for what education should be like for our students. As educators we need the proper support structures and resources in place to do so. It’s not unrealistic to ask staff to raise their expectations of pupils if the structure is in place to support such a venture.
Headteachers face the dilemma of making these targets set for pupils a reality and deal with pressures from all angles to raise pupil attainment. Headteachers will tell you that their priority is the pupils of the school. Quite rightly so! I agree! Placed in the same situation a few years back I remember thinking of what is right for the pupils in this situation or in this scenario.
The overall aim should be for pupils to achieve their full potential. I would argue that whilst this needs to be the ‘end goal’ the focus in schools must be placed upon your most valuable resource in the school – the staff.
I read a quote by Richard Branson who said that he doesn’t worry about his clients he worries about his staff. He knows if he looks after his staff that they will in turn take care of the clients. I totally agree with this. Senior leaders need to enthuse motivate and up-skill the staff so that they are able to teach at their full potential. If they are given the tools and knowledge to do so in a supportive and encouraging environment they will in turn do their very best in the classroom and that impact will be transferred from staff to pupils in the classroom.
How do we foster this in our teachers?
- Encourage teachers to take risks
- Encourage staff to work together (provide the time)
- Encourage the staff to share good practise (non formal initially) with each other
- Allow staff to take ownership over initiatives and ideas
- Encourage creativity and guide and support when necessary
- Praise and reward initiative and collaboration of staff
- Praise and reward the hard work staff provide for the school (even the quite ones)
What will dampen spirits and kill moral and motivation?
- Praising a teacher for good practise when others know they are not following policy / procedure
- Not allowing staff to be creative or take risks.
- Dictating to staff how and when they teach the children (taking away professionalism)
- Treating staff as individuals (particularly those struggling)
- Focussing on the bigger picture without putting support structures in place.
- Not praising or rewarding staff that have gone the extra mile for the school.
- Not praising or rewarding – even recognising those quiet teachers that give their all 100% of the time.
When asked in an interview up and down the country for a teaching role: what does excellent teaching and learning look like? These are some of the things that may be mentioned:
- Happy pupils who are motivated!
- Collaboration of pupils,
- Independent learning,
- Pupils focussed on tasks!
- Resources being used effectively!
- A range of strategies being used!
- Pupil engagement high!
- Teacher as a facilitator of learning!
- Confident pupils!
- Children achieving full potential!
If I was Headteacher of your school these things are the same things I would like my staff to display around the school. Happy, motivated, confident, working together, resources being used effectively etc. The principles are the same. What we want for our pupils are the same principles we should want for our staff. If we give the staff the tools to display these qualities in our schools they in turn will radiate this in front of the pupils who in turn will create an ethos or environment conducive to effective teaching and learning.
Let’s ask ourselves not what do our pupils need but what will make our teachers come alive? Because what all our schools need is teachers that have come alive!
Until next time,
Stress Free Teacher