Skip to main content

Teachers, beware the onslaught of buzz phrases

Somewhere in Westminster sits an team of civil servants who make up 'buzz bombs' to deploy throughout schools, according to this teacher

Buzzwords, edu-buzzwords

I love a conspiracy theory. Did you know that the moon landings were faked and possibly staged in Morecambe? That Elvis is alive and working in Poundland in Norwich? And that half of the population of the earth is made up of aliens?

My current favourite is about an elite pod of well-paid civil servants called the Buzz Gods. The job of the Buzz Gods (BGs) is to create new buzz phrases – or ‘buzz bombs’ - which cause untold damage on the education profession.

The BGs don’t drop buzz bombs out in the open, with a huge amount of noise, smoke and destruction. No, they’re much more subtle than that – they surreptitiously leak them into the fabric of education.

They start to be mentioned in training sessions and briefing notes. The ripple effect begins as teachers clamour to understand what the bright, shiny new theory is all about.

Colleagues casually mention the phrases in the staffroom and as they walk past you in the corridor. They appear on the end of staff emails – the ones that start off asking for tea money, and end with the sender desperately trying to prove that they are up-to-date with the latest lingo. The bloggers get hold of them, and soon, they're trending on Twitter.

We can’t afford to get wrapped up in it: we need to look at the wider picture and ask, why are these buzz bombs being thrown at us?

They’re something else to ponder on, to reflect about, to look at our shortcomings as professionals and as a profession. Another opiate for the people, a conundrum to focus upon that we can neither explain nor ignore, but that keeps us questioning our validity.

There will be those who refuse to believe. Those who say buzz bombs are simply a reaction to our constant reflection, improvisation and regeneration? Those who argue that buzz bombs are for our own good: they keep us alive and fresh.

During my time in education, I have been involved in and seen some amazing and positive initiatives improve the outcomes for children.

But consider this: every time the BGs throw out another buzz-bomb-led initiative, we’re all distracted, suddenly scrabbling to fulfil the latest expectations.

The acronyms that (always) follow further complicate the issue and make the initiative like a puzzle for teachers to solve.

When I began my first foray into teaching, we talked integrated days and the developing, burgeoning national curriculum, we revelled in learning objectives and intentions. We then became focused upon testing.

We spent a great deal of time looking at WALT and WILF and a WAGOL, all of which sound like Roald Dahl characters.

We have endured plenary, mini-plenary, Assessment for Learning: all of which good teachers were already doing, but were thrown at us as if they were wholly new concepts with completely new names.

Let’s not forget flight plans – sadly not one that takes us to the sunny isle of Barbados, but one that looks at the progress of children? Who seriously thought ‘flight plans’ was a good label?

The BGs exist to throw out curveballs. To either reinvent an old concept and to call it something else, or to throw in a new idea with a complex name into the mix.

And I’ve got a warning for them: BGs, you may exist to shackle us to a constant treadmill of chasing new ideas and strategies, but we are onto you.

Your buzz bombs are designed to detonate and confuse enough to keep us in a constant stupor. They do not make us better teachers.

Keep dropping them at your peril. One by one, they’re destroying your department’s very purpose: a consistent and high-quality education for every child.

Samantha Shearer is a deputy head in England. She tweets @educationisthe1

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you