According to Mick Lyons, newly appointed president of the NASUWT union, we NQTs are entering a profession that is being “attacked by interests who do not recognise the intrinsic value of education, who want to control the curriculum and dictate the work of teachers, and who are determined to strip us of our professionalism”.
Perhaps it is the ever-lasting winter we’ve been enduring, but these words sent a chill through me; are we teachers given so little recognition for our skills, viewed as so untrustworthy, so incapable of developing and nurturing the best ways to educate our own pupils?
Such concerns were drifting about my head as I sat, locked away from the first glimpses of spring sunshine, in the Teach First offices for a session of early Saturday morning CPD.
This session in “stakeholder management” endeavoured to answer such life-affirming questions as “who are our stakeholders?” and “where would we place our stakeholders on a map of importance versus influence?”. Apologies for my cynicism, but it all seems a little bit like wishy-washy nonsense.
Through the blurry haze of my third coffee, I overheard one teacher lamenting that pupils at her school were given very little power; decisions were simply thrust upon them.
Wouldn’t it be nice, she mused, if pupils were actively involved in defining the school’s goals and making decisions? This, to me, is a very interesting issue.
Encouraging pupils to be active members of their school communities promotes feelings of self-efficacy, ownership of their education, and above all, provides a model for how young people can become involved in making positive changes in their own communities outside of school.
The general consensus at my training session seemed to be that pupils are our single most important stakeholder (followed by parents). But are we kidding ourselves to believe that there is not a subtle, more powerful beneficiary looming in the shadows?
As an NQT, I have trawled literature on how to teach “outstanding” lessons, and the new government rhetoric, on the surface, seems to be on-board with the concept of engaging pupils as active navigators of their own learning. However, when considering how to implement this in practice, one feels painfully constrained by the framework in which we are expected to operate.
So dependent are our pupils on how well we have equipped them to answer a set of bland and alien questions, deviation within classrooms from the tightly bound curriculum is trampled by the fear that allowances for such creativity and exploration into off-topic concepts is going to be detrimental to pupils’ futures.
You would be forgiven for feeling that our role as teachers is merely to be manufacturers of perfectly honed robots produced solely for assimilation into a system designed to keep the status quo.
My point is that I am beginning to question what exactly our role as educators is, how closely aligned it is with my ideal of what it should be, and whether we, as trained practitioners, even have the power do anything about it.
Our NQT diarist this year writes anonymously and is a teacher of maths from a south London secondary school.