I have the luxury of being able to step back and observe life in schools. For the past twenty three years, the majority of my working life has been based around the daily routine of planning, delivering, marking, assessing young people. I reflect on how that has changed over time. Lessons are more dynamic, the wealth of pupil diversity has broadened, technology has blasted pen and paper into another stratosphere…yet one thing remains; school is a secure haven for the many.
We went to school, safe in the knowledge that we formed a unit with our class in our own unique way; our pecking order established. Everyday was different, each one having its own trials and tribulations, but it was a known quantity. What made it that way? It was the staff that made or broke your school experience. The staff who could say something inspiring and encouraging or equally, deliver that shattering blow that remained ingrained into adulthood.
It is commonplace to share stories of childhood with peers; reminisce about the ‘good old days’, that is what Facebook and its predecessor, Friends Reunited allowed us to do, with relative ease. We tell the ‘classic’ tales to our new loved ones, our children, yet it is the human face of school life that has the greatest impact. I vividly recall the teacher who assumed I had a vivid imagination and basically called me a liar. Equally, I remember the wonderful lady who believed in me. Chalk and cheese. It is potluck for a child who they encounter and who has the opportunity to shape their futures. That was then. What about now?
I have been lucky to work in some wonderful establishments, with pastoral care high on the agenda. The welfare of the pupils has been paramount. I am equally aware that these places go above and beyond to ensure the careful nurturing of their cohort. Children who need that special bond with their teachers and assistants. Children who have school as their sanctuary when life outside is tough, unpredictable and full of unease. Those children need ‘school love’. Those children crave the bonds that a teacher can provide; the security, the structure, the routine and the praise. Small things that allow an individual to flourish. Small things that like a fine wine, mature over time.
It worries me that time is no longer something in abundance in school. With the constant pressure-cooker of observations, scrutinies, reviews and the dreaded OFSTED, teaching is no longer about the children, it is about paper and data. Is there time for the warmth of relationships with our class? Such key things matter. It matters more than data. Data quantifies the learning, but nurturing is unquantifiable; it is priceless.
We have something fundamentally wrong in our education system. It is no longer about the whole child. It is targeted and cold. I champion the need to return the warmth. Let’s give our teachers that chance once again.
“I’ve learned people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY