This BBC headline – ‘Local trouble shooters should be appointed to identify failing schools and sack incompetent heads, England’s new chief education inspector has said.’ was just such a comment. Sometimes you come across a headline that just sucks you in!
Some time ago, when I still read the TES, I found this – ‘Plagued by an army of fleas that won’t get off our backs, is it any wonder teachers descend into mediocrity?’ The article was written by Dr. Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers & Lecturers.
She was complaining, as many of us have done in the past, about the number of different people who seem to think they need to be forever watching and judging our teachers:
There can be no profession which is more watched over, more regulated and more directed, than teaching.
There is a saying – big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them. The teaching profession is flea ridden – bitten by armies of ‘others’ who watch over teachers and attempt to direct their every move.
This is so true. If you work in a school ask yourself, “Whose back am I on and who is on my back?” If we are to rid ourselves of this flea infestation then the best place to start is with yourself. Who can you stop watching and directing? The article goes on to say that if we are to change then we need to re-examine our schools, how they are led and how our staff develop professionally.
We need to remake our schools as learning communities, for staff as well as pupils.
Once again this takes us back to the role of school leaders, in particular Headteachers. Many have so many ‘fleas’ on their back, sucking them dry, that the best that they can hope for is to manage their schools and keep the ‘watchers’ at bay. This might be a good and sometimes necessary survival tactic, but does it help children’s learning? We need to reform our schools and the rest of our archaic education system. This is not going to be done by politicians and their ‘White Papers’ but by giving schools and their leaders the freedom to innovate. Not only do we need to recognise the mavericks in our midst but also encourage and support them. As Seth Godin in his great book ‘Tribes’ said,
We live in a world where we have the leverage to make things happen, the desire to do the work we believe in and an opportunity for us to be remarkable – but we still get stuck. Stuck following archaic rules; stuck in a system that avoids change; stuck in fear of what ‘our bosses’ will say: stuck acting like managers instead of leaders.
Or we could argue that we are stuck with the fleas, unless we make a concerted effort to get rid of them.