I was talking to the headteacher of a primary school the other day. She’s been in the business many, many years and seen the many changes. Some of which are good, she says. They make us better teachers in many ways as we have to be more analytical of what the kids are learning each lesson making us sharper in what we do.
But equally there are aspects of this which are not so good, she adds. Much of this analytical process is far too over-the-top. We spend so much time having to talk about our objectives for the lesson to the kids, then talking about our success criteria, then talking again at the end about what they’ve actually learned, that the time spent actually doing is so small and by then the kids are switched off anyway!
This is definitely what I see in many children’s faces. In attempts to sharpen teaching practises we’ve actually lost much inspirational educational activity. But sitting in their exclusive surroundings the politicians who devise these strategies never actually see that.
The other sad thing, she said, is that we’ve actually lost the nurturing environment schools used to have. Schools used to be a nurturing place where teachers had time to care for the individual and their learning development. Now that has gone, teaching is a cut-throat business akin to that of a commercial business. Teachers are looking out for their jobs and this affects their teaching not always in positive ways. This competitive climate instead of improving performance tends to make it tense and back biting, creating bitchiness among staff members and pseudo teaching performances that look good at Ofsted but which do sod all for the kids. Schools now have the air of the commercial more than the personal. And they seldom retain that climate of care.
The thing is, wherever the development of the young are concerned there should be a climate of care. I don’t mean wet nursing! I mean that caring is important to demonstrate. Caring is an essential part of development, of intelligence, of being a good citizen. It is where responsibility begins. If a child’s education is cared for, rather than conveyor belted as it is becoming, then children know what caring is. They know it’s important. They know it matters. So they start to care. They care for others. They care for their work. They care for the consequences of their actions. They care for the planet. That’s why a sense of care is SO important for them to experience. It starts at a personal level. It expands from there. Children need to be learning in a caring environment.
If that sense of care disappears from our schools it will begin to diminish in our society. Caring for our kids is vital. Creating caring environments in which they can learn is an essential part of that. If kids do not feel that, they will not show it to others. If teachers have no time to care, are too anxious, or stressed, or afraid they will not be good teachers. It doesn’t take hours of analytical thinking to work that out!
What can parents do about it? They can demand a caring environment for their kids rather than a political one. They can dismiss the Ofsted reports and the league tables. And support those schools where a caring environment resides. Perhaps then the politicians would get the message.