Thursday, 30 April 2015

Privileges all round

Regular and frequent sufferers of this emumble will know I am a great fan of songs and, to be more precise, song lyrics.  This blog has been largely inspired by the little known “This Life” by the wonderful (and should be more famous) Kristina Train.  It is a beautiful song all about longing to live and lead an exciting and fulfilling life, then suddenly realising that that is exactly what she is doing.  She sings in the chorus

One day, I’ll call
That life I dreamed of
This life.

Poetic, eh? 

Anyway, its lines struck me when I was, to be honest, struggling to come up with a decent subject.  Attendance is, as ever, a prominent issue.  Recruitment, strategic planning, budgeting all highly pertinent right now.  Chances are though you’d turn away from this claptrap even sooner than usual.

So, what to write about?  It has been bothering me, in the midst of all these exciting projects I’m being invited into, in amongst all the great work I’ve been seeing, all the interesting discussions I have been privy to and the ability to look on in Christmas Eve-esque anticipation at some of the great things happening in education this moment.  Yeah, what to write about…

Then, like a (Kristina) train, it hit me.  Especially now, when the election (only mention, I promise) is reducing education to a we-care-more-than-they-do football, it seems only right that we spend time celebrating what we’ve actually built, and been privileged to be a part of.

I know it has its detractors, but I think the current educational landscape is incredibly exciting.  We have so much to celebrate that we didn’t have a few years ago, yet we never take the time to say how fortunate we are, to be both architects and beneficiaries of the new view.  The different styles of schools has been a previous topic of mine ( but I still believe it is an exciting state of affairs; yes, scary and potential confusing, but it has made schools of all styles and shapes thoughtfully consider what and, ultimately, who they really are. 

Never, in my time in education, have schools communicated, co-operated and collaborated so openly, and with such good effect.  It was always somewhere on our wish list, often a long way down, and more lip service was paid to it that real energy.  Yet that has changed, and it is a strong and privileged position to find oneself in.  We now collaborate on teaching, learning, assessment, staffing, training, you name it,  more effectively than we have ever done before, and with far greater effect.  If you asked some of the teachers in  my school to name another school that has had some impact in our own, I hope all staff could name at least three – hopefully our Trym partners, but possibly some of the local schools with whom we work and some further afield who may have shared a good idea. I don’t recall being in that situation before.

When I moved to Badock’s Wood in 2008, there was in the city a little half-soaked sentiment about schools working together.  It was underwhelming, and slightly embarrassing, sending me away from the table for a few years.  Now, however, there is genuine desire and passion to be collective leaders of a system, not individual silos within it.  The lip service has been replaced with action, the sentiment with strategy, and the heads talk as one.  It is fascinating, exciting and not a little humbling to play a part.

Only this evening, I have been to a meeting about our local teaching school alliance, and I was so pleased to be invited, but more than that, I was a little awestruck at the potential of what this team had already achieved, and how far we could potentially collaboratively go. 

However, the most amazing this is this: this is the landscape we have built for ourselves.  Yes, we have had to succumb to certain limitations, and pretend to follow certain rules, but ask yourself this about what we have created: who does it suit better, the politicians who will take credit for it or the children who will enjoy it? 

“Thing is, your life may be brilliant already” Andy Cope

And the impact back in our own schools is tangible and undeniable – we’re all reaping the benefits.  Far from waiting for a (hopefully decent) course to crop up, we can now get on the phone to another head and arrange CPD of far greater value for the very next week or even day.  Teachers now talk to colleagues in other schools like never before.  LSAs lead on subjects and projects in a way unthinkable 5 years ago, but that’s the landscape we’re building.

Our new curriculum, decried and bemoaned by many a Daily Mail reader, is, I’m not ashamed to admit it, wonderful.  We love it, all of us, from our youngest newest nursery children to our most cool year 6.  Why? Because we have professionally, collaboratively and with a great deal of tender loving flair created something deeply enjoyable and meaningful.

Those young nursery children make binoculars and then create tally charts of the birds they have spotted – yes, tally charts for three year olds.  Those most cool year 6 walk from their class to the suite with the earphones and headsets ready to get onto the web and compose music, using some of the most complex coding I have ever see.  In between, year 3 and 4 compose music using notes on staves, performing their compositions on a whole range of instruments, and year 1 and 2 are planning what they would grow in their garden … if they lived in Japan, or the Arctic, or wherever they took their place as a global citizen.

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller

I consider myself unbelievably lucky that I am the person who gets to take pride in all this when I show more and more new parents around.  Furthermore, I am privileged (and I have deliberately used that word repeatedly) to be invited and involved in several discussions and projects at the minutes which are all about Badock’s Wood benefitting from exciting and purposeful collaboration. Times have never been so exciting, and we should grab every chance, savour every moment, and squeeze every drop out of it.

Otherwise, aren’t we just guilty of watching a potential “this life” float on by?

Thank you Kristina, I needed a good kick for this one, but what a kick.

Let me finish with a story I’ve always enjoyed.  Henrik Ibsen, a born worrier, was dining with his mate George Bernard Shaw.  Ibsen, as ever, was being all existential.  “But Shaw, what if there is no point; what if there is nothing more; what if life is a really all one huge joke?
“Better make it a good one,” replied Shaw.  Enough said.

That is, quite merrily and happily, all.