When I first rather excitedly joined the “Twittersphere” (admittedly rather unfashionably late), I found myself quite overwhelmed by the amount of information about education that awaited me.
Panic soon set in as I began to feel that I hadn’t been keeping myself sufficiently informed about our ever-shifting landscape. Next came a sense of inferiority: why wasn’t I finding time to write a regular blog, updating it three or four times a day?
Thankfully, sanity heaved me back up through this spiral of self-doubt and I landed with an annoyed thud onto the platform of “How on earth do they find the time?”
Time in teaching is ridiculously precious and the thought of spending what little free time I have on reading a constant barrage of blogs, articles, research papers and teaching manuals, let alone having the head space to openly spread my own “pearls of wisdom” through the medium of a blog, makes my head spin.
I do have a family, friends and a non-teaching related hobby (I know, shock, horror – don’t breathe a word!). The only way that I am able to write even this one article is because I am writing it ahead of time, during half-term break.
'Be a do-ru, not a guru'
Days after this revelation, in the midst of a SLT meeting, my deputy head coined the phrase: “be a do-ru rather than a guru”. The context for this remark was a discussion around celebrating those teachers who quietly get on with the job rather than trumpeting the perceived wisdom of those who seem to spend so much of their time writing about it. Hear, hear, I say.
In a world where self-promotion has rather shamelessly crept into education, the real heroes are not those who we may follow on Twitter, read about in leadership manuals or hear speak at conferences, but those who are at the chalkface.
These are the teachers who seek no recognition beyond a set of decent GCSE results; a thank-you from their headteacher every now and again and, best of all: “Thanks Sir/Miss, I enjoyed that lesson”.
They haven’t got time to attend every single TeachMeet in their region, read every piece of research written, attend every conference around the country on their subject area or update their blog. Does that mean they don’t care as much as those who do? No chance – they’re too busy marking and planning.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a very important place for research in our lives as professionals. However, we need to maintain a balance between spending hours sifting through information to find a single pearl of wisdom, and ensuring that we are up to date with what matters in our constantly changing context.
What works for me is one “guru”-style manual a year (read over summer), following around three trusted educational organisations on Twitter so I know the latest government changes, observing my inspiring colleagues to steal any new teaching tips and regularly attending my local, collaborative subject networking events.
Keep informed and up to date through carefully chosen sources. But don’t become overwhelmed with the mass of stuff out there. And remember: the greatest teachers aren’t necessarily the ones most celebrated. Carry on being a “do-ru”. That’s what really makes a difference.
Claire Narayanan is assistant headteacher at Levenshulme High School, Manchester