Three years ago, I left my highly sought after permanent position as a teacher because like so many other teachers I spoke to, I was fed up. Fed up with the red tape which bound me to data records as opposed to my students. Fed up with a jam-packed curriculum that did not allow for student interests. Fed up with striving to reach student academic goals when my reality was more striving to keep bums on seats.
I see so many of my colleagues feeling the same way and I wonder, what can we do – if anything? The powers above us will keep marching on and insisting on the data, the evidence, the results. But where is the data collection based on attitudes, commitment and personal growth?
My favourite all time quote is by Dr Haim Ginott “Only if a child feels right, can he think right”. I regularly refer to this quote when giving talks around ‘How to talk so kids listen’ strategies. I don’t think it’s specific to kids – but us all. If WE don’t feel right, as I wasn’t in my teaching position, how can we give our best? I took this into my own hands and decided to leave the job that I used to love (and to be truthful, still do) because I am an adult and have control over my actions and livelihood. A child cannot do the same thing when it comes to their education; it’s non-negotiable.
So, here’s the problem as I see it. Unless a child feels safe, respected, loved and included then all this data and all this red tape is wasted. What good is the knowledge of pronouns to an eight year old child who essentially cares for his siblings? How can he be expected to master time tables when he’s been out all night and had no sleep?
There is an assumption in education that all student can and will learn – and I don’t disagree – but they are not all on even footing, and it’s our job as their teacher to at least attempt to level the playing field. WE are the one who can influence the ‘feel right’ in our classroom, for the ‘think right’ to happen.
Education follows relationship. I am forever grateful to those who have not given up, as I did, but continue to create safe and happy environments so that my children can educationally grow and learn.
I urge teachers to push against the pressure of back to back curriculum, and acknowledge when the ‘feel right’ is more important than the ‘think right’.
Teaching is tough, but so is the life of some of those students. Teachers; acknowledge their feelings, listen to their stories, accept their situations. And importantly, recognise your ‘feel right’ and cut yourself some slack when you need it – you are doing your best.