I probably wanted to be a teacher because I felt uncomfortable with aspects of the education that I had. Through university and the start of my career my discomfort displayed itself in small ways. I would read outside the recommended reading lists. I only worked hard on assignments I felt were worthwhile. I discussed and debated with other teachers in the staffroom. I visited other schools if they seemed to have solved a problem I was struggling with. I pretended to observers that I was following whatever methodology was en vogue but did what I felt was effective once the door was shut. I looked for employment with headteachers who wanted results but did not dictate how staff had to achieve them.
Every few years I would wonder where I had reached in my journey to solve the problem that had made me want to teach in the first place. I re-read the books that had interested me at university. I tracked down other teachers and schools that I’d visited over the years to see what success they’d had. I applied unsuccessfully to a Masters programme – thinking that the experience would help me investigate and collate the solutions I’d found so far.
So I was left by myself. I was alone mentally because I couldn’t find a book that answered all of my problems. I was alone at work because although we could teach in unrestricted ways – there was no-one else who thought the same way I did. So, I talked (and talked and talked) to my family.
By 2009 this was changing. The schools that I’d been following since the late nineties were now publishing their methods online. I could access their processes and they had much more of the answers to my uncomfortable feelings.
By 2012 I was aware that there were many teachers who shared my beliefs. I could see them on forums. I could see them in book sales figures. And I began to silently follow parts of the twitter and blog community.
At first, I did not want to write. I was gaining by reading. I found research papers, books and critiques. The more I read the less interested I was in the revelations, perspectives or critiques of researchers, authors, think-tank members, journalists, consultants and academics. It wasn’t because I disagreed with them. It wasn’t because I didn’t think their thoughts were valuable. It was because I still hadn’t finished working on an earlier idea.
In the past, good ideas had seemed so difficult to find. It had been expensive to attend training courses, take out journal subscriptions or visit schools in other countries. It was frustrating to go through libraries – on the off-chance that I would spot a book or article with a different perspective. Now, good ideas were in abundance. There were more ideas than I could read. I had to find a way to sort through them.
And so, I found it more satisfying to read blogs by those still employed in education and trying to implement change. Some write critiques of bad practise. They highlight that many behaviours, predjudices and resources I thought were unique to a poor headteacher or a failing school I had worked in were ubiquitous. Others write about their experience of implementing change, focussing on evaluating their own work rather than critiquing others.
Finally, I saw that by remaining a silent reader I was closing my opportunity to interact offline with other teachers who felt, thought and worked in a similar way.
So in this blog I’m trying to a) clearly express ideas about education b) evaluate them to find out where they fail c) find other teachers with ideas