Tag Archives: teachers

on being a revolutionary

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I’ve never considered myself a revolutionary. To anyone who knows me, that’s hardly surprising. I’m more of a polite petition-signer and pensive ponderer: I respond internally and then talk to my friends about things that matter to me, but I don’t often act. What can I really do? I think, What difference can I make? and, anyway I need to start making that pasta-bake or the kids will have nothing to eat for tea…

You might be nodding your head in recognition at that or you might be wringing your hands in frustration. Really, we should all do more. I get that. Society needs us to do more. The world needs us to do more but… that pasta isn’t going to cook itself… it’s the smallest AND the biggest thoughts that can prompt inaction.

For these reasons, along with a profound fear of saying the ‘wrong thing‘, I’ve basically kept this blog free of political opinion. Even as, over the past year, things have got worse for so many in our society, I’ve kept quiet. The misery of teachers and junior doctors (to name just a few) has been plastered all over the news and my social media feeds and I’ve felt so angry and so sad but, I thought – beyond signing petitions (and please, everyone, do keep signing petitions!) – what could I do? My blog has a tiny readership! Why speak up?

And then last Friday it all got too much. The feelings I’d had about this government’s educational policy finally came pouring out. Who cared if I wrote the wrong thing? And who cared if hardly anyone read it? I had to write about it, HAD to, and the words just fell, rolled, cascaded onto the page. And without really meaning to come up with anything at all, I came up with a plan to use parent power to support our teachers and get the government to listen. I had no idea if it would work. I HAVE no idea if it could work. But…

Wow. Just wow. The response has been immense. In less than a week that post has been viewed over five thousand times. FIVE THOUSAND! That’s more views than my entire blog normally gets in three months (I told you my blog was tiny, right?)!

But it’s so much more than just the figures (although, as any blogger will tell you, the figures can be kind of exciting in their own right: Ooh look at that graph! Get that referral count!) the comments on the post, on Twitter and on Facebook have been amazing. Teachers and parents have suggested we should really try and put my plan into action. I’ve spent hours chatting on social media about the necessity for action and what it means for our kids and schools and society if we don’t. I’ve felt overwhelmed, moved to tears at times, by the strength of emotion people have shared.

So this post is a thank you to everyone who’s commented, shared and tweeted. And it’s a thank you to all the teachers who work so hard to care for all our kids. ALL our kids. Not just the clever ones, not just the wealthy ones. Because good teachers know how important all our children are. They know what their potential is and how best to achieve that. And that’s why it’s so vital that we listen to them – that we support them when they say that there’s something fundamentally wrong with government policy.

Just before hitting publish on this post I found out that a group of parents has just launched a campaign to boycott year 2 SATs in favour of ‘a day of fun learning out of school’. BOOM. Check out their website and petition!

I still don’t consider myself a revolutionary. But if we work together, all of us – parents and teachers and everyone who sees the urgent need for change – if we’re ALL united?

Maybe that’s precisely what we can be.

mumturnedmom

The Prompt this week is ‘Renewal’. I’m linking this post because the response to my education post has reminded me of how many people out there want change and has given me a renewed sense of hope.

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No, Mr Cameron, No.

No, Mr Cameron, no.
There’s been a post bubbling up inside me about education for a while now, only I’ve not been sure how to articulate what I feel. There’s so much to say.

I keep hearing how changing government standards and expectations are pushing more and more (wonderful) teachers out of the profession. I keep reading about the expectations, targets and tests that are making it harder and harder for teachers to teach in a way that instils a passion for learning into our kids. I’ve read and thought about the impact that these demands could have on the mental health of the next generation; how making school a stressful – or less enjoyable – place to be could damage children’s relationship with education forever. As a parent it worries me. As a member of society it worries me.

We had our school parents’ meetings a few weeks ago and our six-year-old son’s teachers gave us mock SATs papers to look at. I could hardly believe it: five thick test papers covering English and Maths. With a huge emphasis on grammar. With TEST emblazoned on the front and at the back ensuring that any teacher – in the knowledge that telling kids they’re doing ‘tests’ can cause stress – will fail in a mission to pass them off as just ‘some fun’. With one of the maths papers requiring an ability to read and reason before you even get to the actual mathematics. FIVE THICK TEST PAPERS. They’re only six and seven years old!

Then I went into school last week and noticed the handwriting of the kids in my son’s class. I looked and I remembered the papers they were going to be given and my heart sank. How are they all going to manage? These kids aren’t unintelligent or incapable, their handwriting is unrefined because they’re six and seven. They can’t all read perfectly and reason wonderfully yet because they’re six and seven. And the fact that the teachers are unlikely to be able to train them to pass the tests with flying colours isn’t because the teachers are bad – they’re great! But the kids are flippin’ six and seven years old.

The government can’t do this, I thought – they can’t assess all these children’s intelligence and aptitude and potential and possibilities based on these tests. These tests don’t look at how a child’s eyes light up when someone reads them a story or how they can draw a wonderful picture with only a handful of pencils or how they can invent an entire imaginary world with the contents of a recycling bin.

These tests don’t show that that child is awesome at football, that this one can captivate a room with her wicked sense of humour, or that this little boy is really empathetic and kind. Oh, or that this little girl here could one day be a novelist if we don’t teach her, right now aged six, that she can’t write much at all. She can’t write much YET because she’s SIX.

And yet they ARE trying to assess our kids, and these tests necessitate a style of teaching that’s counter to so much research about the best ways that kids learn. A way of teaching that means the rules of grammar take precedence over encouragement to write for the enjoyment of it, or means maths questions must be tackled in a way that no one would ever use in the real world. We have so many talented teachers in this country that are trying so hard to wrestle with the curriculum to make learning as engaging as possible, but the government is making it harder and harder. No wonder they’re resigning in droves. No wonder schools are struggling to recruit staff.

The government can’t do this, I thought.

They can’t do this to our kids.

And then I thought… what if… what if we just don’t let them?

What if on SATs day we parents all agree not to send our kids into school?

Not because we don’t believe in school. Not because we don’t believe in education. But because we DO. We believe, no, dammit, we KNOW it is incredibly important. That it is fundamental to society and that we, as a society, have to get it RIGHT (or heck, right now I’d settle for just ‘not so completely wrong that it makes my eyes bleed’).

What if instead of school that day we have a National ‘Learning Is Fun’ day, where we all teach our kids by giving them exciting, meaningful and memorable experiences?

Where we teach them love of words and stories and literature by reading them great books?

Where we ignite their imaginations with drama and stories and art?

Where we teach them history by visiting interactive museums and talking to people who had real-life experiences?

Where we instil a love of maths or science through practical experiences and experiments?

Where we teach them about the things we love, be they gardening or building or hiking or snorkelling or painting or writing or morris dancing… whatever… in the best way we can?

We do it together, with friends, family or wider communities or we do it on our own, just us and our kids, but everyone does their bit, even if it’s only a tiny bit, to show their children the fun parts of learning and the ways in which it can affect our lives.

And then we share, share, share what we’ve learnt. We share it on social media, on TV, on the radio, in the local paper. We share by drawing pictures and putting up posters… doing pieces of performance art in the street (I don’t know, whatever, just think of something!). We share as much as we can, as widely as we can.

And together we show the government what teachers have been trying to tell them all along if they’d only listen: what really makes children tick, what really ignites their passions, what sets their imaginations free and lets their potential soar.

On that day, we’d do our best to support our country’s wonderful teaching profession. It would be a day when we as parents would say: we will not put our children through this. Our kids deserve better. Teachers and schools deserve better. Society deserves better.

No, Mr Cameron, no.

What if..?

***

UPDATE: I was so overwhelmed by the response to this post that, along with a fellow blogger, I’ve launched a #THISislearning campaign. Please click here to find out more!

*** Since I wrote this post a new petition has been launched at 38 degrees, calling for a SATs boycott on 3rd May. Click here to find out more***

mumturnedmom

This post was inspired by The Prompt which, this week, is ‘Mighty’. I often feel helpless in the face of this government and I got to thinking that although I feel tiny, together we have the potential to be mighty.

You might like to sign these petitions calling for the extension of the Early Years Foundation Stage from “birth to 5″ to “birth to 7″:

This one is on UK Government and Parliament Petitions. If it gets 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament.

This one is on Change.org.

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