Guest reviewer Jill Berry takes us through this week’s best education blogs.
If you know me, you will not be surprised when I say that I am a believer in accentuating the positive. I hope I’m not a blithely naive, overly-optimistic Pollyanna, but teaching and school leadership are tough, so I use Twitter and blogs to lift me rather than to make me feel even more ground down.
All the blogs in this week’s selection had a positive impact.
Don’t tell me there’s no joy
Summer Turner’s post from the last part of the summer term and exam season is a beautifully written and compelling account of the joy to be found in teaching, despite those parts of the job that make it tough. Yes, “schools are in the business of dealing with human lives, which are complex and sometimes impossibly difficult” but still, “our schools, our teachers, our children are full of joy. Just watch us twirl”.
On becoming a teacher
Alex Quigley’s post also focuses on the rewards of teaching, while fully recognising the demands and frustrations. I used his and Summer’s posts with on-the-job trainee teachers this August to illustrate something that I think is vital for those embarking on their careers. As Quigley neatly puts it, “I don’t believe in revelations and it is too easy to romanticise teaching, but sometimes it catches your heart and it leaves an indelible impression.”
Identity, professionalism and me
Caroline Spalding picks up the idea of developing a professional identity as a teacher while being true to yourself and authentic as a person. She reflects on professionalism as she prepares to make the move to senior leadership while, at the same time, letting her hair down (or changing its colour) over the summer. She concludes, “like my core values, professionalism for me is unchanging. The way I present myself, see myself, and am seen by others – my identity – may change. But what I believe, work for, and the way I work, will not.”
7 powerful questions for leaders
On the subject of leadership, David Weston suggests seven questions that leaders might profitably ask their staff, a post I thought could be particularly helpful to anyone embarking on a new leadership role this autumn. As he says: “Communication is the life-blood of an organisation”; getting communication right and establishing the most positive, mutually respectful relationships are essential foundations on which to begin to build.
The benefit of experience
Chris Hildrew’s reflections on his first year of headship have been fascinating. Here he considers the importance of experience and the danger of “schools undervaluing experienced staff and the ‘cult of youth’ that sees some schools placing too much emphasis on new career entrants with ‘fresh ideas’ and ‘energy.’”
We must ensure we value and make the most of the experience of those who have dedicated significant time to honing their craft. Hildrew also considers the ways in which we can prepare and ensure we continue to develop personally and professionally but, ultimately, “the fact is, you only really get better at doing this job – teaching, or headteaching – by actually doing it.”
Not all screen time is equal
Finally, following a fascinating Twitter debate this summer regarding screen time and whether it is acceptable to talk about “addiction”, “dependency” or “detoxing” about our use of technology, Jose Picardo wrote this brilliant piece about how not all screen time is equal. “Maybe technology is not the problem. Maybe it’s just down to human behaviour”, he says – and that using medical terms to refer to appropriate or inappropriate behaviour may not be helpful. You may agree with his stance, or you may disagree, but I guarantee that this post will make you think.