I often see many classrooms in action and wonder if today was the last day a teacher taught, what would they do differently? If it was the only day they had to really make an impact on their students and there was no limit to what they would do, what would it be?
For those of you that are teachers reading this, think about your own answer before reading on.
Often in education we are faced with the realities of having to work externally. By this I don’t mean working outside the classroom but instead working within the classroom to satisfy an external demand or need. The most common externalised push is to improve school data for an external source to use. It might also be to inform parents or a local authority. In many cases it has nothing to do with the internal – your classroom and most importantly your students.
For far too long the external demands of education push educators away from what they are most passionate about – their own students. Meeting after meeting is spent on data analysis, skill development and how to communicate with the outside world to give the ‘right image’ of the school. Even when working on improving student results, if we truly unpack the deepest reason for doing this at a school level, it isn’t about the student themselves but the collective result for an external audience.
I understand that schools are under enormous pressure to ‘perform’ thus giving them less autonomy to do what they themselves know is best. Leaders within them are under pressure to get results often in limited areas of the curriulum which takes away their own love of education to support their students the way they know is best through their staff. In the end, it is the ‘system’ that is the issue. Those making the educational decisions in political arenas.
If today was your last day of teaching and you wanted to make the biggest impact on your students, would you focus on the students or meeting an external need? I have no hesitation in saying it would be about your students.
I also am concerned about what externalised pressures do for our students. Although their anxieties are heightened, their confidence may decline and their concept of what matters is challenged, what would a student be thinking if they are constantly drilled to achieve more especially in areas of the curriculum they are not as strong in? What would they be thinking if the focus was on ‘our results’ rather than their personal best? Seeing externalisation modelled this way will only breed students that believe that it’s all about what is on the outside. Imagine the impact this would have on them long term? Life will be about meeting external demands not internal needs where their real power, talent, passion, creativity and happiness exists.
We often hear the term ‘flipping the classroom’ which relates to how teachers teach with their students using technology. When I use this term in education I see it differently. At the core of the most solid and transformational education is flipping the education system, where it is led and driven by students, their needs, their personal best, their beautiful imaginations, their vision for their future, their skills, their talents, their creativity and their intellect. The bottom up approach.
I understand there are so many educators out there that do everything possible to focus on the internal and challenge the very system that is supposed to be there for their students. What I would like to see in my lifetime is that eventually all teachers regain their power and passion and do this daily as if each day was their last. I can only imagine what this would do for our students. Interestingly it will give ‘the system’ the results it has been looking for all along.