Saturday, 27 August 2016

Your reputation matters

A professional is a person who understands that learning your craft is an ongoing process and that there will always be more to learn. 

I was home alone the other night and leafing through Mum's movie collection. I ended up watching 'Mona Lisa Smile', which strangely mirrored just what I had been feeling and thinking about. A teacher comes to a new school hoping to make a difference. She does with the students, but comes up against opposition all the way by the influential families who control the college curriculum from behind the scenes. This is frustrating and tiring, but she continues to do what she believes is right. In the end she moves on, but with her ideals intact.  

I didn't come into this profession by an organized plan. I don't live life that way, which is why I'm constantly surprised by the way things turn out. Having always believed that my time as a teacher was temporary, it never occurred to me to be concerned about the legacy that my teaching practice was leaving behind me. Hindsight has shown me that temporary can be a lot longer than you think, and I don't regret that. I'm sure that was the direction my life was supposed to take up until now. There have been very few easy moments, but that's the nature of the game.

In 2009 the Early Years Learning Framework left lovely spaces free for innovation. They said "We're not done yet. You the educators will develop the rest of this document as you work with it, come to understand and share its language, talk to each other, test it out". That's what I was told in early 2010. A curriculum document is a political document, and politics blows around like the wind, influencing schools and parents, influenced mainly by economic priorities.

Remember, we're helping to prepare children for a world that doesn't yet exist. Technology and the political climate will probably be unrecognizable from how they are now. Children will need skills that are transferable, as job roles will be transient and evolving. Knowledge is not enough. They will need to be able to apply it in multiple contexts. This will be impossible for them if they believe that there is one right answer, if they are too unsettled by change, if they lose their confidence by not being allowed to explore and express themselves, and if they believe that they don't know how to think and create.

Families will come and go, opinions will vary, economic factors will influence educational settings. Your professional reputation will follow you wherever you go. It will live on in the lives of the children that you teach. People will trust and respect you if you are true to what you believe is right, and can back it up. If you bow to pressure to lower your standards to please the occasional parent, you will probably end up disappointing others, and yourself. That practice will become part of your professional legacy.

There is nothing like education, with its propensity to move with trends and times. Don't ever expect to feel comfortable, or completely sure of what you're doing. I'm too hard on myself. We should try not to be. Remember, its the nature of the game. A job that makes a difference. The children of the future need us to believe in ourselves, so that they can learn to. They matter, and what they will grow up to do matters. 

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