Hidden gems a lesson for us all

I had a dream the other night in which two old friends met in Princes Street on Hogmanay and, as you do at that time of year, enquired after each other's lives over the previous 12 months.

"How's your self-evaluation been, then, Jimmy? Have you managed to tick off all your quality indicators and met the targets on your personal development plan . . ."

Naw - life's not like that, really, is it? And, I have to admit, my heart tells me that neither is education. Certainly there needs to be accountability, and structures in place to ensure standards are high and consistent. But, generally speaking, those areas of education that make it all worthwhile cannot be easily ticked off in boxes. So, for my review of the year just gone, a few moments that stood out, that came without bullet points or evaluation sheets.

There was the circle of pupils at our senior ceilidh, from Sweden, the Philippines, Germany, England and Scotland, united in mastering the dance, just part of a brilliant evening organised by the pupils themselves, that demonstrated teenagers can still enjoy themselves to the full without the need for sex, drugs, drink, or rock and roll.

I remember, too, the sixth-year pupil sitting with a first-year child who has additional needs, as part of our paired reading scheme, and with infinite patience encouraging the youngster to read with greater confidence and ever-increasing fluency.

At a continuing professional development session for our newly-qualified staff, I sat inspired while, unbidden, they spoke for more than half an hour, with passion and energy, about their commitment to the job, their care for their pupils and their willingness to learn and develop - and not a shadow of cynicism in sight.

There were many occasions when I deliberately passed the classroom of one of these teachers to lift my spirits, seeing her perched on a desk at the front of the room, pupils fully engaged and enthusiastic, and I celebrated classroom management and the art of teaching at its very best.

Then I think of the disturbed pupil who struggled socially to such an extent that, for his first three years and more at secondary school, he found it almost impossible to mix with his peers at breaks and during lunch. Now, however, he strides confidently across the atrium, clad in his chef's uniform, on his way to complete yet another learning outcome in his hospitality course.

And maybe hospitality is not a bad place to end at this time of the year for, when we are at our very best as teachers, we always do manage to find more room at the inn.

A Happy New Development Plan to one and all.

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