“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”Saint Augustine
A recurring theme this week on Twitter and the wider blogosphere is trust. Mr Didau’s speech on trust and his subsequent blogs, “What if we started trusting teachers?” and “What I’ve learned about trust from arguing about driving”, will I hope succeed in unifying the debates about teacher workload, performance descriptors, and an accountability system based on the principle: “I will believe it when I see it”.
Mr Didau’s blogs on trust are infused with grace. They ask administrators (let’s call them leaders) to accept ambiguity and to hold faith with those of us who falter, as we all do from time to time (except inspectors, of course: they were great teachers). As long as we show willing, we should (in the main) be given the benefit of faith – not doubt.
Last week, Mike Stuchbery (of Bantergate fame) had his contract cut with a secondary school in Great Yarmouth by “mutual consent”. His head teacher professed to agree with his stand against banter as “a term of concealment” – an excuse behind which hides many a bully. Somehow it was “agreed” that the current status quo was unworkable and that the best course of action for both parties was “non-renewal” of his short-term contract.
A teacher tackles bullying behaviour…
…and is sacked….
…because the publicity that surrounded “Bantergate” could have brought OfSTED back to this school in Great Yarmouth. Could, but also, in all likelihood, may not have done so. Admittedly, Mike was instrumental in garnering this publicity, but (if you read his blogs) there is nothing actually wrong with his approach to a legitimate problem he identified in his class.
Read his tweets and you will find him to be an erudite and inquisitive historian. Read his blog and you will find him to be a thoughtful and invigorating writer. He is a spirited chap, who knows things, seeks to know more things and can communicate with panache. That sounds like a great teacher to me.
Accepting ambiguity; intuiting what is felt to be right; feeling the pull of conscience. These are qualities that define humanity, but they are not a given. If we do not have faith in one another, and (let’s face it) our inspection regime doesn’t advertise trust, then we become embroiled in an ever-decreasing circle of evaluation, observation, accusation and, finally (as in the case of Mike) resignation.
Grace, faith and optimism would have kept Mike in Great Yarmouth. Grace, faith and optimism would allow teachers to share their gifts with children. Ask yourself this question: what would you do if OfSTED vanished and you no longer had to justify yourself numerically to a higher power? For a time, you might go a little crazy and show a lot of DVDs in your classes. But, like the Buddha, you would soon repent of your hedonistic ways. What would you do then?
My bet is that you would look at the children before you and, once the fear of accountability fully subsided, you would feel love. Of course, you already do, however much the stresses of the job mitigate against it. But to be given free reign to inspire your children without having to tell someone else that you are doing what you should be doing in a numerical fashion that distorts and misdirects you from what you should be doing (take a breath!).
Well, to be given that chance. That would take a little faith.
I think we would find it worthwhile.
How do I know?