In the world of Harry Potter, the Room of Requirement is a hidden room that appears in Hogwarts School when someone is in great need. The room is furnished with whatever will best meet that need. A hungry pupil might find a table set for a feast. An exhausted teacher might find a lovely soft bed. Harry and his pals make good use of the room as a secret training arena to prepare for their showdown with that ultimate bad guy, Lord Voldemort.
I wonder what a Room of Requirement might look like in your school? What would appear in there to meet your greatest need?
Given the current discourse on teacher workload and the burgeoning teacher recruitment and retention crisis across Scotland, perhaps it seems obvious that a machine to vaporise marking, bureaucracy and unnecessary paperwork would be top of the wish list for most teachers when they open the Room of Requirement. But is it really that simple?
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Again and again, we hear teachers say that they just want to teach. To feel unburdened by the pressures and distractions that get in the way of high-quality teaching and learning and be able to just do the job. But pressure and distraction are part of change, and change is the only constant. We cannot simply zap away all the things we don’t like about the job, much as we might wish we could.
The staffroom: where magic happens
Contrary to popular opinion, teachers are not in it for the money. They are not even in it for the holidays. There are quicker and infinitely more profitable career options in the private sector if making a comfortable nest is your primary objective. It may be a Scottish government bumper sticker but it is also true: teaching is a vocation.
So if teachers love what they do, why are they so fed up?
A lot of teacher energy and time goes into setting the right conditions for learning. Making sure that pupils have what they need to be able to meet their full potential and achieve success.
Who sets the right conditions for teachers? Who ensures that the pressures and distractions of change don’t obliterate the love of the job? Who provides the listening ear, the much-needed chocolate digestive? Who suggests another way of doing things that might save some time and sanity? Who has the shared understanding, earned through shared experience, that it is a bloody hard job? Who sits beside our teachers and gently pats their hand when the system seems overwhelming then reminds them quietly that we will not ever blink first when it comes to doing the very best we can for the children and young people in our care?
That’s what teachers need from their Room of Requirement. Not some snazzy magical machine, new planning model or altered curriculum that will suddenly make change go away.
The good news is there might actually be a Room of Requirement in your school already. It’s called the staffroom. Head in there next time your need is great. I hope you find understanding, support, kindness and some decent biscuits. I hope you find a reminder of why you do the job, who you are doing it for and why it is so very worth it.
And if your staffroom doesn’t provide those things? Well, start talking and create some magic of your own. Share what you do and build your own Room of Requirement. Just make sure you don’t keep it a secret.
Susan Ward is depute headteacher at Kingsland Primary School in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. She tweets @susanward30