After 8 weeks, it’s half term. Not too many of the work periods in school have been this long, in my experience, and although I have welcomed the 8th week, in order to complete some really fulfilling tasks (teacher appraisal, which is always a joy and privilege to carry out, for instance), illness and tiredness have begun to take their toll on friends and co-workers. I don’t honestly think that those outside education can imagine the intensity of working in schools – different from all sorts of other intensities, and at a pace that is driven by the needs of young children, rather than the sedate pace we hope to set for ourselves – especially when we have to stand firm under/protect one another from the rotting cabbage leaves and old turnips of government initiaitives and announcements raining down on us. We do not actually need to be driven forward! We are going at quite a pace anyway!
In the palaver over David Laws frustration at the way some schools are not encouraging children to aim “high enough”, Libby Purves has weighed in, not necessarily on his side against schools, but in an impassioned plea that we do not let children down by lowering our expectations. I like Libby Purves, listen to her on Radio 4 when I can and always read her Times columns. However, my point in the previous blog stands – we need to allow our children to see that “being the best” can also mean returning to our communities to serve, not leaving them to make the largest amount of money they possibly can. There is a case for financial gain being a “narrow expectation”. What matters is good, productive work, and for our children to embrace that, as part of the oikonomos – rather than just making a fast buck.
When I look back at the term, and see the vast amount of good work that has been done by all those in the school, then I am satisfied, at a very deep level, that the work we have done will have an impact for good – good learning and learnt goodness too. Some are still nervous about new classes, others uncertain about the best way to give the best to their children. No matter. These things will come in time. Learning is at the heart of what we are doing, and all the signs of improvement in lessons I have observed show that there is a sea-change in the way that we are teaching, more focused on the needs of individual children. The break is deserved; the rest need be taken. Nobody need listen for a moment to the rantings of politicians. They have nothing to offer here. We cannot be perfect, but we can work hard at bringing goodness and good learning to our children. And we do.