Reading the newspapers, listening to conversations in the staff-room and engaging with UK education blogs this week, make the world of teaching seem a stressful and despairing place. There are notes of light, notes of clinging to the joy of what we do and seeing the ‘sparkling moments’ of teaching as evidence that this madness might pass – maybe, one day, there will be a political movement that will not raise the heckles of every teacher with various declarations of inadequacy, one that the Guardian will not feel the need to beat up on every issue, but what do we do until then? How do we keep going until then and not get cynical and depressed?I’m in the middle of the final module of my masters in Maths Ed and will hopefully start my dissertation in September. I’ve been reading a lot of research and a lot about research recently – which has all got me thinking. It seems that at this point in time, when educational research is becoming sophisticated enough to be able to say something meaningful to those of us who still stand at the chalk face (alright, whiteboard face …), that our political masters are ignoring the implications to policy and are rolling out measures to superficially deal with the surface of what is going on while berating teachers for not working hard enough. I’ve recently reread David Hopkins book, A Teachers Guide to Classroom Research, and have been encouraged to see the teacher researcher as an agent of change in schools.
So, I want to encourage you to find something that you want to try (which I guess if you’re reading this you already do) and think about seeing if it works. Be systematic, collect some data, write about it, share with colleagues and with us on here. Why? So that, when we have policies passed down from on high, we are in the habit of being able to meaningfully test things in our own classrooms and be able to make evidence based comments on what works and doesn’t. Let us be the drivers of policy, let us say yes this works and no this doesn’t. Let us do the things we know we should do and try not to get too bogged down with the fear of our overlords! Let us remember we enjoy this job, we are good at it and we are committed to improving.
It is hard to ignore the entire country – we know that when people have actual relationship with schools they tend to be more positive than when they are talking about education in the abstract, we know that we cannot fix all the problems of society, however much we might be expected to. But, we do also know how to teach and we can year on year get better and better. Research can help us. The chasm between the academic in her ivory tower and the practitioner in his classroom is closing, we can be part of helping that to close and together write the next chapter in our educational history.