Order, control, obedience, ranking, systematised and quiet (This sounds like an exciting place)
No, this isn’t an abandoned factory from the now long forgotten industrial era in the UK, but actually a collection of adjectives to describe an Ofsted accredited outstanding school in a nearby local area. So, why was I led to his school? I was invited by the assisted head teacher, following a long debate on how appropriate it was to rank all students in each year from 1 to 180. For someone who is more focused on developing the individual, this seemed highly counterproductive and quite frankly dangerous for the psychological health of students.
Very quickly after discussing with students the impact of the ranking system it was quick and easy to discover that this method fostered peer pressure, stress and social dysmorphia – however, results were higher (so that’s all that matters, right?). After dodging many of my questions on how students were supported through this, I was guided around the college, through an assessment PowerPoint and into classrooms to observe. It was good to hear (irony) that all lessons in science were uniform, with all activities, assessments, homework’s and teachers – all uniform (actually this does sound like a functioning 19th century factory – is that what education really is?). All in all, there is a sacrifice that has to be made to achieving outstanding Ofsted and exam result. What we idealise to what we consider as realistic.
What did I take away?
There was a clear contrast between new innovative pedagogy and innovative, neoliberal pedagogy (Other school). How do they contrast? The latter is highly business orientated and focuses on improving processes and deliverance of an already determine model (“I talk, you learn”) – not changing but increasing transference by reducing deficiencies. The prior refers to developing new methods of pedagogy that engage and entice all agents in education to genuinely address the requirements of every person (both students and teacher): to be an individual; to understand the ramifications of your knowledge beyond the exam result; to hold a vision and to never stop changing – because the world doesn’t.
I feel like a professional teacher. What does that mean? I can only really define this anecdotally as opposed to offering a defined definition and I think this is because teaching is a deeply personal profession and trying to define a professional role on to a person doesn’t and can’t work. Back to the anecdote, I am able to immediately respond to the needs of the learners; drop an entire lesson plan because it no longer suits; teach without a power point and continually make mistakes. So I ask you, what is your philosophy of education? How would you define yourself as a teacher? I guarantee you that it won’t be the same as mine.