Sarah Wright: `We must value and utilise the research and reflection that happens in our classrooms every single day'

1st January 2015 at 00:00
Sarah Wright, senior lecturer for foundation subjects at Edge Hill University, writes:

"So what do you do?"

"I'm a lawyer," "ooh."

"I'm a doctor," "ooh."

"I'm a teacher," "ahh."

Why does that happen? Call me cynical, but at times the levity of the job that `boots on the ground' teachers do is relegated to a fluffy, wholesome 9am-3pm job where paintings dangle aimlessly from pegs and non-descript `sunshines' are furiously coloured in with wax crayons. It's tiresome. As a primary teacher, if I had a quid for the amount of times I'd heard the holiday jibes or sand and water jokes I'd be rich, but I'd still be a teacher. Our profession is also a vocation - that is something we must exploit.

Teachers are highly politicised. We are governed by numerous bodies, entities and individuals, some of which have never spent a day in our shoes. We revel in renouncing decisions that impact the way we operate in our daily profession. We despair as more decisions are made by those who we deem ill-informed, under-qualified and out of touch with the people we are really here for: our learners.

Is the College of Teaching an answer?

Educational academic Dylan Wiliam recently referred to the proposal for a College of Teaching as an opportunity for the "reprofessionalism of teachers". He is right.

It is time to take the temperature of our profession and use the momentum created by the College proposal to find our voice as a collective. David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, is a key figure in the proposal; likens the current mood to the 2012 Olympics; a feeling of coming together "as something larger than ourselves". As professionals, we are fervently in need of a collective voice and the College of Teaching, if built on the principals of what a good teacher is, will provide that. Having met David recently, his zeal for the development of teaching as a profession is nothing less than infectious. His inherent understanding of our profession is refreshing, stirring and thought - provoking. Having him at the helm of the proposal adds an air of credibility that is extremely difficult to question.

As teachers, we cultivate a capacity to reflect, both in ourselves and in the children we work with. It is time to harness this. The links that the College movement have fostered with both the Teacher Development Trust and SSAT should speak volumes to those sitting quietly on the fence. Both organisations have proven themselves to be `by teachers, for teachers', working to elevate standards from within, from real practice rather than from another non-descript report or government paper. These partnerships have the potential to drive an intrinsic movement, to nurture the feeling of collective that Weston refers to, to allow us as a professional voice to develop and steer education in the direction that we know is best for our learners. The key principles of the College revolve around adding value and raising expectations around our everyday practice. Surely this is something to embrace?

Yet, we are suspicious creatures, and who can blame us? The pillar-to-post policies and knee-jerk reactions are beginning to numb us as professionals, we are accepting things we should be questioning; faddism is invading education and it has to stop. This is evident in the headlines referring to more of us leaving the profession than ever.

Some will see the College as out of reach, as an elitist group reserved only for `Twitterati' teachers or highly favoured bloggers. This cannot be the case. The College cannot be the Order of the Phoenix. Transparency and equality must be absolute and unconditional; now is not the time to be anaesthetized, quite the opposite, we need to wake up. It is imperative that we engage with a future for our profession; that we begin to value and utilise the research and reflection that happens in our classrooms every single day.

A College of Teaching will not stop the "aah" reaction, nor will it diminish reckless decisions in education. However, it will give us the opportunity to re-educate from within, to re-energise our worth and to resist the opportunity to stagnate.

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