I’ve been doing lots of clearing out recently. Clearing out old files, setting up new ones etc. It seems to have been endless over the last couple of years. Moving to a new school building last session was another big clear out event.Today I was giving a hand in a nursery and we were binning out of date things in the office.
I couldn’t begin to count the amount of bin bags, skips and bins I’ve filled with colleagues over my career. What worries me is that as you go through boxes and files the enormous amount of work done over the years becomes clear – it might be the folders and folders of programmes of study produced and which are now out of date, the materials for outdated ICT software, the endless publications on various curricular areas with advice, the development plans, schemes, parent prompts etc etc etc. The question which keeps coming back to me is how much impact has this volume of work had on children’s learning and on how we teach? How much has been achieved by completing all these tasks? Were these things about improvement or just development for no reasoned purpose? Where is the measurement of what was accomplished? If this pile of stuff had made an impact would it not still be in use in some small part? How did we get to the point where improvement has been pushed into a corner where it fights against this huge institution of development which seems at times to have little real purpose.
John Connell was blogging about the crossroads we are at and I agree wholeheartedly with him. We are at a crossroads right now, where if we don’t make a huge paradigm shift, our educational establishments will become increasingly outdated and irrelevant.
But looking at the volume of advice and materials produced over just four or five years in this one office, from within and outwith the establishment, just put this into even more stark perspective for me – has this stuff made enough of a difference? Was this industrious way of working and producing stuff the right thing to do? Where is the impact evident of all this work on the children? How has it skilled us up to be better at learning and teaching? This approach to improving can’t go on in this way, but are we in any way learning from this?
John’s right I think that we, as teachers and as leaders at all levels, feed off each other in our conservatism of approach. And I think we all have to take some responsibility for where we have taken ourselves in terms of improving education, we all made these reams of paper, programmes, documents….I certainly did and still keep trying to do it!! Somehow doing this allowed us to continue our conservative approach to change and legitimises our complaints about the way education is, because it stops improvement dead in its tracks. It comes back to my moans about unpacking CfE – is this burgeoning industry getting in the way of trying to do CfE?
Until we all make the shift from this production and completion of development tasks to talking and learning from and with each other, about learning and teaching and the experiences of children, we’re snookered. That’s the huge shift needed first and that’s where those people using web 2.0 collaborative tools of all sorts are starting to make a real shift in their whole way of being a person never mind a teacher, because what they are doing is building valid communities of learning .