Some thoughts from a teacher in the early stages of her career. Inspired by all the great edubloggers out there!

Posts tagged ‘primary’

Come again?

So here I am on a gloomy Friday morning, casually reading the Guardian app when I come across this gem – Toddlers must learn British values.
My brain was struggling slightly – toddlers? Must? Learn? British? Values?
As I read deeper, it all became clear as obviously we are nipping extremism in the bud by starting with the British values while they are in nappies! Nappies!!!

To be honest, I’m not quite sure why I am writing this blogpost now, as I am yet to form a fully coherent thought about this topic that isn’t “what? But? What? How? Why?” but it is my new resolution to blog more so here I am.

I have never worked below key stage one, so I am not particularly well placed to talk about what happens in our nurseries (for 2 and 3 year olds) but from my discussions with the members of staff who do, the last thing they will be starting with in September is the teaching of British values; chances are they will be more focused on making sure all the children have been toilet trained and can feed themselves.

My school is situated in a very ethnically diverse area, so to be quite honest, it would not surprise me if our school was to get a little ‘visit’ to check that we are not promoting extremism too. But for two and three year olds?!? They are deemed to young to go to Arabic school anyway so where the extremism would start to be dripped in, I don’t know – would they even understand what they are being told? I can just picture a tiny 3 year old now “I’m sorry Imam, but I just can’t agree with your radical views as just today in nursery we learnt all about the British values of fairness and democracy for all” – yep that’s definitely happening.

How will we show that we are promoting British values? Festoon everything in Union Jack flags? Ensure the children can sing the National Anthem by heart before they leave Reception? Some nurseries will probably take this too far and there will be no mention of any other religious stories for fear of promoting creationism and then having their funding cut. It was interesting that in the article somebody is quoted as saying ‘we’re not saying you can’t teach Bible stories’. But what about the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu creation stories? To create a well rounded society, we need to understand everyone’s view points. If we can teach a Bible story about how the world began, then why not a Muslim story too?

I fully appreciate the sentiment for where this statement came from; that to create a fully inclusive society we all need to understand that we live in Britain so therefore we must all abide by the same ‘British values’ (which if I’m honest sounds all about too UKIP for my liking) but equally we need to value diversity. The community that my school is situated in is fantastic and not once have I ever thought ‘oh my goodness, we need to get some British values instilled around here’! British values are linked in with the values for a healthy society and any good school will be teaching these values anyway – they just don’t call them ‘British’. If we are not careful, we could almost end up going the opposite way and indoctrinating children into extremism about British values – a 3 year old BNP member anyone?

I just hope that nurseries across the UK and nursery managers/head teachers who have read this this morning think ‘pfft what tosh, I am confident in my nursery staff that the values we teach are ‘British’ enough to satisfy any ofsted inspector’. But sadly, I know that there will be some nurseries who panic and go the other way – making everything overly British, banning the creationist stories from other cultures (which are often some of the children’s favourites anyway) and stamping down on any reference to any cultures that they deem not British enough. I have a horrible feeling that this ‘inclusive’ policy could backfire horribly.

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But you are young though…

I hadn’t been intending to blog about this comment that was made to me yesterday but I feel it may be cathartic to get it off my chest!

On my absolutely brilliant middle leaders course yesterday (I do have positive things to blog about which I will do later), we were instructed to work in a triad with colleagues who we had not spoken to yet. I found myself working with two older colleagues, one from a secondary and one from a primary. The aim of the task was to coach one another to solve a current problem that we were facing. I was prepared to listen carefully and take the opportunity to work on my coaching skills by asking questions when needed.

My first surprise was that on being given the ‘go’ signal, they both turned straight to me and waited to hear my problem. At the time, I didn’t think much of it as someone would have to start, but in hindsight, did they turn to me first because they had assumed that I would have a problem, as I am young? Nevertheless, I stated my problem and eagerly awaited the challenging coaching questions, so that I could solve my problem. Instead, I was given lots and lots of advice which started with ‘in my experience,’ ‘if I was in your situation,’ and so on. I fully appreciate that these colleagues have had more experience than myself and I always tap into knowledge from my older colleagues at school, but I had been looking forward to finding out the answers for myself! I chalked that session down to our inexperience with coaching and vowed to perform better for my next colleague.

Over the next two triads, I was surprised to find myself almost blocked out of the conversation as my colleagues had conversations between themselves. I had to fight to make myself heard and give an opinion, so all thoughts of good coaching went right out of the window! Any opinions that I did manage to give were either a) talked over the end of or b) dismissed. I found myself repeating the same things (and I know they were valid because they had worked in my setting) only to then have my idea rephrased and eagerly lapped up! I cannot bear it when things like this happen and I always try to give credit where it’s due if I am in a similar situation.

Finally, there were two more incidents that really topped it off! One of the colleagues’ problem involved supporting a new colleague in her setting. Within the conversation it transpired that this colleague was young. The other colleague then assumed ‘oh I bet he’s one of those who has gone straight from school to college to university and back to school – no wonder he’s not very good’. This is the exact route I had taken and I wish I had challenged her thought process behind that comment. I was shocked that she seemed to believe that this route into teaching would make you a poor teacher and that his lack of ‘life experience’ contributed to that. I have always wanted to be a teacher – why would I have spent money on a degree and 5-10 years in a career I was not interested in, just to gain life experience so that I could become a ‘better’ teacher?

Anyway, it actually turned out that he had had a previous career so unfortunately his ‘lack of life experience’ could not be the reason that he was struggling. We continued to discuss ideas that the colleague could use to support him and along the way, a comment just popped out, as a reply to one of my contributions.
‘But you are young though…’
Does this make my opinion any less valid? Does this make my ideas any less imaginative? Does this make me any less successful? I could not believe that I was battling against this kind of response on a professional course.

Admittedly, I probably was one of the youngest people in the room. But I don’t feel that that makes me any less of a leader. If I was not demonstrating the qualities needed to be a leader, my head teacher would not have allowed me to attend the course. If I was not demonstrating the qualities needed to be a leader, I would not be entrusted with leadership tasks.

As a fellow ‘young’ leader said to me – ‘you make your own fast track.’ and I firmly believe that. I push myself because I want to achieve my best and learn more. There might be times in the future where I will consider my next move and wonder ‘am I experienced enough for this?’ and if the answer is no then I will take the steps needed to make myself more experienced in the areas I am lacking. But at this moment in my career, I do not feel that this applies. So to have others dismiss me through age….well let’s say it riled me!

However, my inner optimist has turned this into a valuable experience. This experience has taught me that there will always be colleagues who frown upon the ambitious young upstarts. My job is to prove to them that I am capable of leading and will get positive results through my leadership. My job is to remain professional and treat everyone with respect regardless of their treatment of me. My job is to continue to identify areas of expertise from all my colleagues (old or young) and create a fantastic team where everyone is equally supported.

This experience has also re-identified my main area of weakness; confrontation. Why did I not stop the triad activity at the point that I started feeling uncomfortable and reassert myself/question their behaviour? Why did I not challenge the thought processes behind poor teaching and lack of life experience being linked? I don’t do this because I don’t enjoy the awkward moments that will follow – but as a leader, I must overcome this! Lots of practice is needed in this area and, in a way, it is actually the part that I am most looking forward to!

Next time I come across these prehistoric ideas, I will be prepared and ready to show that I am more than capable of being a good leader, regardless of my ‘youth’! There will be more positive blogs to follow, I promise!

Middle Leaders – The Journey

This is a blog that I have written as part of my NPQML course. The John Burnham opinion piece quoted is provided by the National College and about curriculum development through middle leadership.

From John Burnham’s opinion piece, I feel there are a number of implications for middle leaders, with the first and most important, being that we need to inspire the team we are working with. In this current educational climate, we have all been slightly ‘untethered’ so that we have the ability to roam a little more freely. It is in times such as these, that teams can be divided, aspirations forgotten and purposes lost. I think that my first job as a middle leader is to unite my team with a common goal and remind them about what we are working towards, without getting too distracted by the endless possibilities that such freedom brings.

Once we are all working from the same page, I feel that then is the time for the middle leader to adapt and innovate. As John Burnham states ‘In many ways middle leaders are pivotal to this debate because they are central to ensuring that the political and social aspirations for the curriculum are turned into consistently high-quality practice in schools’. What a frightening but exciting prospect that we are the people in control of keeping all of these things rubbing along! And this is alongside teaching a class and managing the day-to-day minutiae of our jobs… Is anyone else feeling a little David and Goliath at this point?! I feel that in my curriculum area of PE, I have a strong responsibility towards ensuring that all children receive quality PE lessons because of the current obesity problems this country is facing (a social aspiration). Luckily, I am in the fortunate position of having a forward-thinking team with very similar aspirations for the children we work with and together we are creating a vision that does juggle all of these political and social aspirations.

In regards to a middle leader’s subject knowledge, I think it is more important than ever to have a secure understanding of your subject and know about any changes in policies that may have occurred. I try and keep on top of new policies and developments through social media, such as Twitter, and then passing this on to the relevant parties in my school. I do not feel concerned about my own, or my direct teams, subject knowledge but, as always with PE, there are gaps in other colleagues’ knowledge. It is my responsibility as middle leader, to ensure that I pass my knowledge on and encourage professional development whenever possible. With PE being a ‘scary subject’, I think this is going to be my biggest challenge over the next year or so; I need to make staff believe that they can teach PE because they are intellectually equipped to do so.

While reading this opinion piece, it reminded me how much freedom we have to be creative and innovate. I am lucky in that I feel very passionately about my subject and I’m really inspired to encourage the next generation of children into life-long participation. Everywhere I look there seems to be another great idea and another fantastic initiative that I could implement in school and encourage others to join with. I feel like a magpie at times, being constantly distracted by the shiny titbits on offer. This is fine for gathering ideas but I must remember that too much change at once is counter-productive. I am going to keep these ideas in mind as my long-term goals but I’m going to keep my feet on the ground and get the basics right first – good quality teaching, resources and assessment to encourage further engagement from both staff and children. I am very excited to get started on this journey!

Just Getting Started…..

So here it is, my first blog post! I’m trying this out in the hope that I will use my writing to discuss and evaluate my practice and also as a way of documenting my journey through my career.

I am a teacher who works in the East Midlands,UK. I am in my third year of teaching and beginning to take on more and more responsibility within my school setting. I am passionate about PE and about providing children with opportunities that they may not otherwise receive. I will be starting my NPQML soon and this blog will hopefully provide me with some much needed reflection time!

I am in no way trying to compete with the great edubloggers of the Twittersphere! I have been developing my Twitter ‘stalking’ over the past 6 months or so and can’t believe how fabulous this medium is for spreading news and changing opinions. I have read many blog posts which have made me think twice and I hope that maybe, one day, I will also write a post that will make someone else think twice.

I think that is enough rambling for now – hopefully my next post will be much more coherent and actually share something that’s worth saying. Off on the start of an exciting new journey!