Seven Reasons Teachers (EVERYONE) Should Shake Things Up
Try something new! Yep, we’ve heard it before. Loads and Loads of times. But being told something a million times doesn’t make us hear it any differently. Even meeting friends who have taken up pottery or Asian Fusion cooking and are enthusing endlessly has little impact. It takes 50 hours to change a habit or embed a new skill into our normal way of working. 10, 000 hours to become experts. Change is hard.
Schools are very good at creating resistance ‘mindsets’. Tight routines and structures give little chance to think differently – education is almost opium to teachers. Maybe the government’s strategy is to hem teachers in so tight that we cannot change or leave. It certainly feels that way. I’ve taken up bouldering, a form of climbing without ropes, only not so high. It made me think about other aspects of life I want to change. We are quickly institutionalised by schools – trying something new is an act of rebellion against the oppression of the system. Here’s why we should:
1) Because teaching is the most routine profession. Everything is dictated by the timings of the school day. Such routine means we never miss a lesson or a meeting – my body clock even knows when it is coffee time on holiday. Disrupting the routine and the familiar is vital. Small changes – like taking a different route to school – can make a huge difference.
2) Because we need to be stimulated too! We spend our time inspiring and motivating our students and become robots when we have taught a text or mathematical concept or historical event so many times we can do it with our eyes shut. But we get very little opportunity to enrich our own imaginations and creativity, to think in different ways and do things differently. Much as I really enjoy the learning dialogue that marking invites, another batch of essays on a text I have taught fifteen times simply isn’t motivating – even when they are funny (by which I mean tragically wrong).
3) Because it’s dangerous! Trying something new is scary when you are used to the safety and comfort of the familiar. I walked into a buzzing seminar room at Ealing Studios at the weekend feeling very small and alone and learned how to read film scripts for the studios. I can’t remember the last time I did that – when I walk into a classroom or meeting room I take control of my space. But doing new things regularly makes it easier, until it’s also routine.
4) Because it’s really hard to be a student again. We get too comfortable being the experts; we forget what the students don’t know. We pitch and pace lessons every day but when were we last in a situation where we couldn’t keep up with the learning? Our students experience this regularly; we are more sympathetic to their anxieties and worries if we remember what it feels like. That makes us better teachers. No brainer.
5) Because teachers are insular. Education is insular. You know that teachers will be talking shop all night in the pub; you never bring more than one teacher to a party. If you do, they will have found each other within minutes through some kind of invisible GPS, and they will be talking shop… again. We live and breathe education; attempting new things brings something new into the classroom – the world beyond these walls just happens to be the place where many of our students are happier, too, so making that connection for them only builds their confidence.
6) Because teachers are blinkered. We are passionate about our subjects, and we might even call ourselves experts in our fields. But when was the world all about Geography or Literature or PE? What would happen if we let teachers loose with proper CPD that took them outside their academic environments? Corporations give their staff challenge days under the guise of bonding. Let’s get a multi-disciplinary, co-curricular perspective into our teaching – a way of thinking and working much better suited to the modern world.
7) Because teaching is about growing. Building a ‘Growth Mindset’ is the big idea in education at the moment. Building grit and resilience develops out of our comfort zone – another education buzzword. But why are we preaching to our students about taking risks and being bold when we do nothing of the sort? If education is about growth, we should all be growing together.
Go on – get out there.