Sharing is Caring.
I started teaching in 1980, before many of those with whom I connect on Twitter/through blogs were even born, I realise. This was pre the 1988 Education Reform Act, the arrival of Ofsted, National Curriculum, SATs and league tables. It was a different world….
But I don’t think it was a better world. As a young, new, experienced teacher of English, I remember feeling quite isolated, rather than liberated. The first year or two I felt particularly pressured – I had a recurring dream that I would wake up one morning with absolutely no more ideas about what I might teach. We had a syllabus to cover for CSE/O level (this was before GCSE) and A level, but in Years 7 to 9 I felt I was just relying on my own resources, and those resources were, inevitably, limited. I made the most of material and ideas I had used during my PGCE teaching practices. I used the range of text books the department owned (and they were very much a mixed bag). I found poems and prose extracts based on different themes which I thought my classes could find interesting. However, it took a long time before I felt I had a sufficient bank of resources and lesson ideas to draw on, and by that stage I felt more experienced, more confident, and teaching became a little easier.
I was in a good school, within a supportive department, but there was no culture at that time of sharing ideas and resources. I was observed a few times in my first year (as part of completing my ‘probationary year’ and qualifying as a teacher – it was very much observation to judge) but I never observed others teach, to learn from them. It wasn’t the norm. We didn’t swap resources or even talk much about what we were teaching our classes. Sometimes it felt as if we were all working in our own separate little boxes that didn’t inter-connect.
Things started to change with GCSE coursework and speaking and listening moderation. We sat around as a department and discussed our assessment of students, and, in the process, shared ideas, materials and teaching strategies. Then the National Curriculum arrived as I became a Head of Department in 1989. I understand how some might consider this a straitjacket, but I found it a helpful structure within which teachers could still teach to their strengths. As a department we worked together to plan and deliver lessons which would enable us to fulfil the National Curriculum requirements. We started to share.
When I look at what is happening in classrooms today, I feel the learners get a far better deal. We know much more about how people learn, how to motivate and engage them (and despite the occasional flurry on Twitter about ‘engagement’ I’m convinced it’s important). We share ideas, observe each other (to LEARN and not just to judge) and support and inspire each other. We do this within schools and across schools. We do it through social networking and face-to-face at TeachMeets and other Twitter spin-off events. An excellent example of this is @PairandShare – see https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1qdAC7gEhZSquxl-JjOhANek9woerpELIVOulxUE0198/viewform for further information.
I finished as a full-time head in 2010 – I loved headship (and constantly recommend it to others!) but ten years as a head in one school was enough for me, and I didn’t want to move to a second headship. I started to use Twitter for educational professional networking in 2011, and I read and comment on a fair number of educational blogs and articles. I write the occasional article and guest blog, but am resisting starting a blog of my own until the doctoral thesis I’m currently writing (which is based on research into the transition from deputy headship to headship) is finished. Beginning a blog will be my reward to myself…
I hope that one of the ways I can be professionally useful in this post-career phase of my life is to read, recommend and tweet about some of the interesting things I find in the edu-sphere. I don’t necessarily agree with everything I retweet, but often the posts I don’t fully agree with are the ones that give me most to think about. My view is that I have more time than I had during 30 years of teaching, and I certainly have more time than many of my followers on Twitter, so if I can support them by passing on blogs, articles and book recommendations, that’s very satisfying. Networking is a ‘net’, with cross threads, and putting one of my contacts in contact with another contact gives me a lift! When teachers and school leaders at all levels find something useful and helpful to them in their professional context, I feel a sense of purpose (which I think we all need, even post-career!) I was cheered this morning by this tweet from @readingthebooks:
It’s quite an achievement to find something Jo hasn’t already read! To pass on a suggestion she and others might find useful is rewarding – and it’s a recommendation I got from @Andy_Buck in the first place!
I care about education, I care about educators and those they teach and nurture. Sharing what I read and think is one way in which I hope I demonstrate that care.
Thanks for reading this.
PS: Being technologically challenged, I had never captured and pasted a screenshot of a tweet into a Word document. I put a plea on Twitter this afternoon and was overwhelmed with information and offers of help. Sharing is caring. THANK YOU!