Sunday, 13 May 2012

We're all doomed! Don't worry about a talent drain, Christine- there's no where to go.

'Is that Wilshaw?' 'He's SO hot right now!'
Second blog of the weekend because I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS. Why? Because every time I pick up a paper I read things about teaching and teachers that bears no resemblance to the reality of education. Usually it's from someone who only steps foot in a school to give a speech, who's never actually taught a child, and doesn't know what it's actually like to be a teacher.

And why should they? No one actually asks us. It's why some of us end up fomenting our own Arab Springs via blogs and Tweeting with one hand as the other marks ('Only one t in innit, Caspar.') which is about as desperate as it gets. It's King Canut turning back the tide as he pisses into the wind, wishes on a star AND tries to put the cat out as he lights a fire. It's a Kessel run in less than 11 parsecs; it's the hill of Sisyphus; it's the definition of optimism.

Today's catalyst was this article in the Guardian 'Schools face talent drain as level of morale of teachers dives.' Says who? Says Christine Gilbert, ex Head of Ofsted, and previous occupant of La Dame Wilshaw's torture chamber. Which is like Torquemada saying, 'Eeeh,  Auto-da-fés were better in my day,' but we'll pass on that. 

The claim is that teachers have never had it so perishing dismal; 

Her comments come as a survey from the biggest teaching union, the NASUWT, reveals that nearly half of its 230,000 members have considered quitting in the last year, amid a collective crisis of confidence in the profession.
More than a third said that they did not believe they were respected as professionals and half said their job satisfaction had declined in the last year.

Hmm. Thinking abut leaving, and leaving are two separate concepts. Who hasn't thought about leaving at some point?  I love my job and my school, and it crosses my mind because I don't imagine that a spell keeps me to any one place like La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Anyone fancy a follow up survey to see how many of those teachers left after a year? Anyone?

Also, in a market where people are hanging on to their jobs like Britain clutches dancing dogs to its bosom, I have never seen, in ten years, a worse time for teachers to be thinking about jumping ship and starting up another career. In a storm, people furl the jib, lower the mainsail and batten down the hatches. They do not go for joyrides on inflatable bananas.People might want to leave the profession, but that's far from a talent drain. I've worked in and outside the school sector, and believe me, schools seem like Anderson shelters by comparison to the world beyond the school gates.

'Obey the inspector...happy...'
So why the claim that the profession is being undermined? Ironically, the claim is entirely correct, but for entirely the wrong reasons. We have never been so tragically underestimated and represented; we have never been seen as less important than now. Rhetoric that 'teachers are the backbone of society' (which is rolled out in EVERY public speech, ever, about teachers, by everyone. We're like nurses, or minor saints. Which makes it odd that we are so relentlessly bummed by successive leaderships, but oh well) is Newspeak.

  • No one asks us what we think about teaching and learning. Ever.
  • No one asks us what we think of targets and target setting
  • No one challenges the orthodoxy that, the targets we are evaluated on, are composed of fluff and fairy tales.

Let me be clear; the reason why teachers feel a bit crappy is because

1. Behaviour. Poor behaviour, weak leadership, poor training to handle it; a culture where children are seen as equal stakeholders in the classroom; where parents have more recourse to provide input than professionals. And the death of the exclusion system.

2. An obsession with Data. Nothing wrong with having targets, but they have to be meaningful. As I've said elsewhere, FFT data is a completely inappropriate way of predicting where a child 'should be'. It;s based on unreliable data from feeder schools, and the school and the teachers spend the rest of their education trying to dance around the scatter graphs to show mindless, moronic progress. And the targets get harder every year, as if we operated in some soulless factory production line predicated in infinite expansion. Give me strength. Targets, I'm fine with. Meaningful targets though.

2.5. The marketisation of education (see: Information economy, JESUS CHRIST). This leads to the view that there is a model of education that every school should conform to, and every teacher should aspire to. one size does NOT fit all. Instead of trying to cram human experience into geometric models, we need a system where teachers scrutinise teachers, where key education factors are focussed on- punctuality, attendance, behaviour, lesson quality, mutual respect, effort- and the flim-flam of data management plays a distant second fiddle; as a commentary not a critical factor.

It isn't because of the odd shirty comment from Wilshaw that many teachers are feeling lousy. That's a manufactured outrage, and  completely inconsequential to the day-to-day job  of teachers. So SMW made Rambo noises about stress. Oh NO! Boo hoo, how will I sleep tonight?... seriously..

Twiggy Twigg is banging on about Wilshaw being Mr Nasty, and international comparisons with Japan; Gove is worried there are too many posh people in education (which is like Lady Macbeth worrying that the House of Lords is unrepresentative); Gilbert says, depressingly, that the profession has never been so professional, presumably because we have all that lovely data now. In times like this we need to focus more and more on what's important in education.

But more and more it seems like no one's talking about it.

And as a teacher, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

8 comments:

  1. I agree with you Tom that a lot of teachers aren't moving on because there's no where to go. Not as many as are thinking about it anyway. I still think there are serious concerns when everybody's thinking about moving on all the time though.

    I constantly thought about leaving teaching the whole time I was doing it, and then hung onto my job like a barnacle because I was scared of the job market. I don't feel that way at all now I'm in a different career: I never think about leaving.

    I still think there are a lot of teachers being pushed out through bullying and there's a serious issue with stress and mental health, even if that's not what M-Wil was on about recently. I think we are heading for a talent drain, but for those reasons, not because everyone's willingly moving on to something better.

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  2. Great article that knocks the nail well and truly on the head.

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  3. Why is the Comment section visible (if tiddly) on my phone (where it takes ages to type my Great Thoughts in response to your awesome analyses) but not on the browser on my computer? Is it a conspiracy?

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  4. Why is the Comment section visible (if tiddly) on my phone (where it takes ages to type my Great Thoughts in response to your awesome analyses) but not on the browser on my computer? Is it a conspiracy?

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  5. You think teachers have it bad ... try being a school librarian

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  6. Heaven help us if our classrooms end up loaded with teachers who are too scared to do anything else - I can't think of a worse reason to stay in teaching?

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  7. Phew - HT has (for the moment) stopped madly observing us all to the percieved new OFSTED standard. She is marginally less stressed - and consequently has cut us a little slack. In the middle of last term EVERY member of teaching staff was at wits end having all recieved "satisfactory" obs. Seriously great teachers (that I hope to be only half as good as) demoralised enough to jack it all in.

    I've only been a teacher 5 minutes (2 years) but feel that the goal posts will endlessly shift. This is a thankless job. I work 50-60 hours a week - good job I'm not in it for the money... it is a terrible hourly rate.

    I feel really strongly that all of the panic about new inspection framework has wasted a heap of time and effort. As well as destroying morale. Tho SMW maintains that if staff morale is low, a HT is doing their job!

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  8. I agree, the fashion for dodgy data is a major issue that has an interesting history related to the influence technology players have had on education over the last decade and more. Have a look at a recent post by Larry Cuban on this. It is far worse in the States.
    http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/the-data-driven-parent-mya-frazier/

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