#WeeklyBlogChallenge17

#WBC17 [week 8]

Lying Loyalties

My days are spent being pushed and pulled between two realities.

Two truths that both, independently make sense.

People call on me to provide ‘the answer’.

Like Solomon, I can usually call it: putting forward a case where logic and the ‘big picture’ reign triumphant.

But now…not so much.

Maybe I am the one who will be cut in two?

Unless I choose.

Who gains the most from my decision, I wonder?

Who will hurt me most, once I go against them?

Whose side am I really on?

Maybe the decision will be made for me?

I doubt it.

solomon-hk2037-lg

#WBC17 [week 7]

World Book Day 2017.

And so began the debate on Twitter about dressing up…

It’s just a bit of fun.

– Trying to teach a class of 30 Harry Potters is not fun.

It’s the only way to get reluctant readers to engage in books.

– No, it’s not. Good books do that.

But it gets kids to use their imagination when making their own costumes.

– Wearing a muscly spiderman outfit from Asda is not creative.

It’s once a year and helps promotes books.

– It’s once a year and it help promotes a cheap capitalist endeavour that puts undue pressure on poor families.

Oh…don’t dress up then.

– I won’t.

Well, why are you dressed as Oscar Wilde then?

– I just happen to like fur coats, silk ties and floppy hair.

It’s easy to become tired of dressing up days. It usually results in a load of kids running around the playground in supermarket costumes trying to hit each other with wizard wands and sonic screwdrivers. Gone are the days I bothered to get dressed up myself…the last time I did, I went as Arthur Dent which, if I’m honest, was motivated by the fact that I wouldn’t have to get dressed to go to work.

But this year, as I saw the children come through the school gates, I genuinely thought: this is cool!

I saw:

  • Multiple copies of Thing 1 and Thing 2
  • Portia, from Merchant of Venice
  • Alice, exploding out of a house
  • Ted Hughes
  • A cow jumping over the moon
  • A grandfather clock with a mouse running up it
  • The owl
  • The pussycat
  • A member of the light brigade
  • Michael Rosen
  • Three little pigs
  • Mafia cats
  • Mad Hatters
  • Old McDonald
  • War poets
  • A fox in socks
  • A pink crayon

But, more than that, I witnessed children all discussing who they were and explaining why their costumes were ‘so’ spot on and you couldn’t walk more than two steps without hearing children reciting their favourite lines off by heart.

All in all, I think it was a pretty good day for books.

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#WBC17 [week 6]

Fake News

I have never worked in a school where it was felt communication was perfect. And yet, in every school I have worked at, the levels, and quality, of communication have increased, and improved, dramitically. Communication, however, is one of those issues where the communicator will seldom win.

You can communicate a message with clarity. You cannot always determine how people will interpret your message. It can be tempting to correct every piece of mis-communication that makes its way back to you.

Social media is a case in point. There are many times when a mass of interpreted information will get confused with the school’s message and this can create tension and concern. At worst, untruths can be shared with the implication that the school’s word is being represented.

As painful, and frustrating, as it can be, my approach is to ignore social media that isn’t directly linked to a school’s authorship. It is seldom serious enough to warrant legal action and people, who have read messages from others and are really concerned, will find the correct channels and communicate with you directly.

In the meantime…tune it out.

fakebook

 

#WBC17 [week 5]

Guilt

I honestly think I work hard. Always have. Well, my student days were less than 100% studious and, during my NQT year, I seem to remember going clubbing…a lot! But, now that I have grown up, I think I keep my nose, pretty firmly, to the grindstone.

Nobody has ever accused me of shirking and I put in the hours…and then some.

I think most decent educators would say the same. I am not unique. As a species, teachers (including senior leaders) work very, very hard.

And yet, I feel such guilt when I’m not at school.

I don’t mean the holidays. Oh no. When they rock up I can kick back and literally forget about school with no worries whatsoever. (Now there I may be different to others.)

I mean if I am ‘caught’ out of school during work hours. I attend many meetings away from school and occasionally – occasionally – I’ll pop into a supermarket on my way back, to get that ingredient I forget to pick up the previous night, or, I’ll dash to the dry cleaners to pick up my suit before heading back to work, or, maybe, yeah maybe, I’ll go into a coffee shop and get a proper coffee before heading back to school.

And all I feel during these brief moments in time is guilt and paranoia that someone will ‘spot’ me and hold me to account. They will use it against me. It will justify their point of view that I am a sham.

Sometimes I have met parents out and about. Like an idiot I end up going up to them and spluttering some justification as to why I’m there and assuring them that I had an important meeting and that I’ll be working late tonight so it sort of cancels itself out doesn’t it?

I have never had anyone accuse me of not fulfilling my roles and responsibilities on account of them seeing me buy an egg sandwich during the school day. I have never received a formal complaint because I was spotted filling up my car with petrol at a time when I am usually doing assembly.

And yet, these feelings of guilt never go away.

shadow-of-guilt

 

#WBC17 [Week 4]

The sponge

Sometimes I feel like a sponge. Swelling, as the week progresses, until I feel like I cannot possibly take on any more…what?

  • Information
  • Pressure
  • Emotions
  • Problems
  • Jobs
  • Worries

Yeah, all that.

Occasionally, I notice that I’m leaking. I feel this ‘stuff’ drip out of me, saturating others. Sometimes it seems fair – why should I be the only one dealing with it all? Sometimes it doesn’t. I feel guilty because I haven’t been able to keep it all in. Sometimes I worry that one day it will all get squeezed out of me in one big squelch. I’ll open my eyes and everyone will be looking at me, a dry husk of a man surrounded by my own mental and emotional widdle, and they’ll know: he was never fit for this job.

And then, something happens:

  • A meeting outside of school
  • An act of kindness
  • A conversation
  • Progress
  • Something funny
  • The weekend

And I realise: I’m no soggier a sponge than anyone else.

natural-sea-sponge

#WBC17 [Week 3]

Intelligence Lost

I attended a Head’s meeting a while ago where our RSC spoke about the educational landscape’s future. (Missed it? Do not fret, you can find it here.) By the end of the talk, I wasn’t exactly won over by the heavily implied message of only MAT = good. I’m still not. I find the endlessly pro-MAT rhetoric, that pours from every commissioner’s communication outlet, wearisome, to say the least. I object, ideologically, to the concept that MATs are the future of education. They’re not. Oh, they may be the future financially speaking, I’ll give them that. What with every local authority getting royally fleeced by the treasury it stands to reason that schools will soon have to adopt a Trumpesque dogma of ‘our school first’ and stop agreeing to top-slicing their budgets to fund local authority services that are diminishing.

So that, by default, leads schools down the road to academisation. If I close my eyes I can already hear the RSC’s roar of self-triumphalist hooting as they announce that their ‘strategy’ has been proven right; kidding themselves that every school is now part of a MAT because school leaders saw the light as opposed to it being the only way they could afford to put teachers in the classrooms.

Just because something is going to happen, doesn’t mean it’s happening for the right reason.

Which leads me to a specific chink in the RSC’s logic: intentional design. For too long, claim the RSCs, MATs have been created, and have grown, with no thought as to why particular schools have joined particular MATs. Thus, our cities are now covered in a variety of patchwork MATs. Failing schools have been swallowed up. MATs have grown due to their own hunger rather than down to educational strategy. This, apparently, must end. MATs must now be intentionally designed. Sounds dandy. I agree,

However, paradoxically, the RSCs do not want new MATs. But, says I, won’t this leads to an educational case of catch 22?

School A, wishes to become an academy and must do so by being part of an intentionally designed MAT. School A joins in discussions with other schools who are considering the same survival plan. Together, through sound reasoning and a shared ethos, they decide to MAT. The RSC says that this all sounds lovely but they can’t start a new MAT. School A must now, cap in hand, ask to join an already existing MAT and hope that they can find a decent enough reason to justify their choice to all the stakeholders.

This sort of logic sounds neither intentional nor intelligent.

But hey, like I said, just because something is going to happen, doesn’t mean it’ happening for the right reason.

#WBC17 [week 2]
I heard a story the other day, about a person’s experience of being reassessed for their disability allowance. Nothing had changed in terms of their disability, they still could barely see. Still, the letter arrived saying that to continue receiving their disability allowance they needed to take part in this assessment. This person dutifully organised their train journey and, with the help of their children, they made their way to the assessment centre.

A couple of days later a letter arrived. Here is the summary:

  1. Well, you made it to the appointment. I guess you’re able to get around.
  2. You travelled with children. I guess you consider yourself to be safe looking after them.
  3. Your children helped you get around the assessment centre. I guess you’ve trained them to help you.

Conclusion: Some people are worse off. You seem to be managing your disability. You don’t need our support anymore.

PS This assessment was not carried out by a health professional

At no point does the letter say: you’re no longer blind! They are still blind but, compared to others, they’re able to make it work.

We should not be surprised by this. After all, this is what happens when the money does the talking.

  • You qualify for support.
  • Others also qualify but cannot support themselves as well as you.
  • You no longer qualify for support.

Maybe you think this is fair. Maybe you don’t. It doesn’t really matter. Just know that this way of thinking is going to become standard, everywhere, as money becomes tighter.

Here are two school examples that I imagine will soon become standard:

Parents

  • Your child has SEND.
  • You can afford support privately.
  • Your child will not be supported in school.

Schools

  • Your budget won’t support a full complement of staff.
  • Roles and responsibilities will be forced to change.
  • Your Head has just proved that the school doesn’t need a bigger budget.

We are our own worst enemy. Because we make it work. Because we seek solutions. Because we attempt to succeed despite the circumstances that are not our making.

PS These circumstances are not being carried out by educational professionals.

I just hope that while we’re busy creatively avoiding a deficit budget we don’t end up losing the purpose of our buildings: providing equitable support to those that need it, whatever the cost.

Somehow though, I think the money will end up winning.

Shame.

#WBC17 [week 1]

Testing, testing, 1 2 3!

Well, we’re one day into the first day of school of 2017 and it’s only just dawned on me that I’ve signed up for the #WeeklyBlogChallenge17.

As I consider myself to be a fairly regular blogger I think I’ll use this as a random mini-thought diary.

Fascinating, I’m sure.

Yours truly,

@theprimaryhead

2017