Skip to main content

Are teachers like priests? Is it time to start believing in ourselves?


I keep track of GapingVoid and this blog post, combined with a few other events this week, have made me think.  I pondered briefly on this subject back in 2011.  Hugh’s main point in the post above is that we’re all looking for new stuff to believe in.

Following Hugh’s format, here are a few ingredients:

  • One of my favourite tracks contains this lyric:

‘Believe in me, Help me believe in anything, I want to be someone who believes’

  • Thinking about digital exercise books over at the Microsoft School’s Blog.
  • Some excellent blog posts defending Gove and his policies by Tom Bennett, Andrew Old and Kevin Bartle that I tend to agree with.  Having been dragged up in the Welsh Valleys as the son of a mining engineer, I’m a life long Labour party supporter. If you haven’t already, read them. In essence, we have to stop saying that Gove’s educational policy is pants because it originates from Gove. This post isn’t as good as any of these.
  • Planning some reaction and getting students involved in hacking / mashing up the ‘new’ National Curriculum. Whenever it turns up.

Hugh asks what ‘new certainties’ our work is bringing to the world.  I often like teaching to the priesthood.  I was an altar boy until my early teens and went to Catholic Schools.  It seems to me that many teachers loose their ‘faith’ in teaching much like a priest may question their belief in God.  There’s nothing wrong with a little naval gazing now and again, however it’s starting to get silly.  The problem is of course that our figurehead changes often.  Therefore, it’s important to develop an individual core set of principles or beliefs of what education is. 

The only ‘new certainty’ that I know of is that there is a disconnect between political rhetoric and intentions and what actually happens many times removed from Whitehall.

We attack Gove and the Government for destroying education. Really?  I can only ever tell stories based on my own experiences so,

  • I was told that my first Ofsted inspection would be horrendous. It wasn’t.
  • I was told that BSF would revolutionise my teaching. It didn’t.
  • I was told that the cancelation of BSF was a disaster. It wasn’t.
  • Every time the Ofsted framework changes, I’m told that it will be a disaster. It hasn’t been.
  • I was told that Controlled Assessment would be bad for learning and destroy GCSE Geography.  It didn’t.
  • When the curriculum changed last time, it was going to transform teaching. It didn’t.
  • I’m often told that accountability and driving up standards will destroy creativity in the classroom. It hasn’t.

I could go on.  Maybe I haven’t been doing this for long enough. Maybe I’m just a muppet with no idea. But, what I believe is that by acting professionally and creating, adapting, subverting and changing our curriculum, teaching and learning will get better. 

Every change brings opportunity.

Is the problem with education that we are all looking for a leader to tell us what good learning looks like? Are teachers too afraid to define it themselves and act upon it? Are we, as a profession, content with shouting and moaning or are we brave enough to do something about it? 

How many of the sceptics present an alternative reality?

My point?  I like listening to the background noise and trying to understand the arguments. However, my focus is on the staff and young people that I work with.  I’ve said this before, but I see it as my job to twist whatever pops out of the political machine for good.


  1. Interesting
    Thanks for posting

    We're more likely to go down a Google Docs route than a Windows one...

    But I do think it's tough sometimes without considerable self belief.

  2. Super to have found your blog, I am thinking of becoming a teacher - a geography teacher - but have been warned that teachers just have to comply with the system and there is no scope for inspiring the kids and just going off-lesson every so often.
    I love your take on the teaching system, I feel a little better about persuing my passion now, thank you!

  3. Thank you for the comment. It's a great job :-)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Getting the curriculum right can set teachers free.

During my NQT year I was a shocking teacher. I lurched from lesson to lesson, with the aim of getting through them.  There was no interconnection between lessons and no sequence of lessons. During my second year of teaching I was very fortunate to be able to work with Jeff Stanfield, then the Geography Advisor for Hampshire and we create several schemes of work together. It became clear to me that individual lessons matter little without a coherent curriculum that binds them together.

In 2008 when I became a middle leader, I inherited a 'curriculum' that was on one page, a bit like this:

I really wish I was joking. The thing is, if teachers are to focus upon planning for every pupil, then they need to be aware of the bigger picture. Working without a scheme of work and a detailed curriculum us crippling. Not only so young people not benefit from a common curriculum entitlement, but much time is wasted in needless planning. Now, I'm not talking about prescription here, but…

So what does being an Assistant Headteacher for Teaching and Learning actually mean?

James T. Kirk: I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. I only know what I CAN do.I’ve been an Assistant Headteacher and part of the school’s teaching and learning team for 45 working days now.  I remember a few comments on being appointed back in May along the lines of ‘isn’t everyone responsible for teaching and learning, blah blah…’  Of course, that’s a no brainer as leadership extends right into the classroom (indeed, successful leadership’s roots are firmly in the classroom).  In addition, a few people have asked me what this job actually means. This will be useful for those who may be considering the move.  You can read the first and second posts about the SLT adventure if you like.  I don’t pretend to be any sort of SLT expert by any means, even when I’m growing half a beard for Movember.  Those reading this who are already in SLT may wish to reach out if we share common areas.I’m very lucky to be working in a school that places such a high value on developing teaching and l…

What makes a learning experience profound? Personal reflections and possible implications for classroom practice.

I have recently begun a Leadership Pathways journey.  As part of the first core day, we were asked to reflect on a profound learning experience. This got me thinking about how many profound learning experiences I have both been involved in, and how many I have been able to give to others.  Our group came up with a huge long list, but these are my five.Emotional ConnectedDemandingReflectiveCollaborativeAs always, these are personal thoughts and quite mixed up.  I put them here so that I can look back on them (plus they’d get lost inside my world-cup-free brain)1. EmotionalI can’t think of a time where deep learning hasn’t engaged my emotions.  From being awe inspired to that tingle feeling when a student gets a light bulb moment.  From this-is-the-happiest-day-ever, to I-think-I’m-about-to die.  How often do we engage the emotions of those we teach?  Here, I would argue that having a safe learning environment is not always conducive to profound learning.  I think we sometime need to ta…