We would be naïve to think that the recent shootings in Paris will not have an impact on our children and in our classrooms. Emotions are still high and there is a danger that we could step further towards intolerance. Dawn Cox reminds us why it is so important to teach children to be sceptical and to look carefully at what they share on social media. As Churchill said “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Cox argues that: “Scepticism belongs to all subjects and all classrooms but it needs to be taught. Teachers need to be pleased to be challenged over an issue with students not defensive.” The space and time in classrooms to debate and discuss and teach the skills of text analysis has never been so important.
I remember doing a quiz to find out my learning style and then attempting to discover which of the multiple intelligences I had. We also had to plan lessons to prove that we were including different learning styles; this came not long after the extra box on the planning sheets to evidence our use of IT in every lesson. New fads in education are frustrating and it is always the teachers who end up with an increased workload of nonsense.
After teaching for 12 years I saw initiatives, previously discredited, returning. Kidd is absolutely right: to stop this constant pendulum of educational ideas and ideals “we need to be as careful about shedding ideas as we are about embracing them. We need to ask ourselves ‘what is potentially useful here? How might we look at this differently? How might we connect to other things we know?’ Instead of sneering and jeering, we should be peering, examining, questioning . . . And maybe then, instead of running around in endless circles, we would set out on a journey in which we could map out constructive information and build a genuine overview of what (might) work.”
One things that strikes me when I hear of teachers being bullied by management is how contradictory this is to the emblazoned signs in the school entrance hall screaming about the school’s respect and tolerance for others.
As Modern Miss states: “This is because tolerance is neither permitted nor promoted amongst the staff. Schools are run as a very tight ship and people can be made to feel very uncomfortable if they disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy”.
I have to state at this point that I am not talking about racism or any other illegal or dangerous ideology. Rather, I mean the simple concept of a difference of opinion and the ability to express this. Or, to put in another way, freedom of speech.” No teacher would argue against the need for tolerance in our schools and, as Modern Miss aptly puts it, “If teachers do not work in a tolerant environment, how are they meant to teach such a concept to their pupils?”
The future for our poorest students and their families looks bleak and deeply saddening. “The Office for National Statistics reported in January 2014 that between 2010 and 2014 real wages fell consistently by 2.2 per cent a year, the longest period of wage suppression for 50 years,” Tomsett writes. “In terms of buying power, our wages now buy 8-10 per cent less than five years ago. People are working harder for less pay.” The cuts to education are here and they will only get worse. “By September 1, 2017, we will spend £662,000 less per year than we did on September 1, 2010. Amongst a host of reductions we have had to make, we will have ten fewer teachers than when I began as headteacher at Huntington in 2007.”