GTCS Teaching Scotland Blog 21/05/12

Cross-posted from GTCS Teaching Scotland Blog

A dysfunctional relationship?

This week we welcome guest blogger Kenneth Allen, a lecturer in Business and Computing at James Watt College and a member of the GTC Scotland Council.

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” (Victor Hugo)

In my experience, there are two distinct forces at work in Scottish education, perhaps in education globally. Firstly, you have teachers, the front line of educational provision, the communicators, the changers, the shapers. Secondly, you have the politicians and their conduits of policy implementation. Here is where we often find the dysfunctional relationship…the ‘if only he/she would listen’, ‘you just don’t understand me’ rhetoric, often resulting in an educational polemic (from both sides!). Do we have incongruous goals? I think not! What we often do have is a disagreement on the formulation of objectives on how to get to where we want to be.

The introduction of CfE has, for me, allowed extensive reflection on my professional practice. It has, in many ways, as I’m sure it has done for others, permitted an examination of one’s engagement with pedagogy in a way that resonates with the experience of Initial Teacher Education…a time when the thirst for pedagogical knowledge was never sated and the anticipation of putting creative ideas into practice was all consuming. For me, the movement away from and indeed for some, a professional paradigm shift, is where that dysfunctional relationship starts to bleed into dysfunctional teaching practice. I attend meetings on a regular basis where I am subjected to (and I mean subjected to!) the KPI spreadsheet….a spreadsheet contacting data on achievement/ attainment and retention. Has this become the driving force of my profession? I am not arguing that quantitative data is not necessary or valid, what I am suggesting is that when this take precedence over, or indeed replaces a commitment to the quality of learning provision, this then becomes akin to inspecting quality out, rather than building it in to our practice. If further evidence of this is needed, take some time to access any college’s strategic plan and see for yourself the emphasis that is placed on the teaching and learning provided to Scotland’s young people and adults returning to a formal educational setting. Can we do anything to strengthen our position against the significant challenges we face? Yes, we can!

Re-affirm our own commitment

What we as practitioners must realise, is that being a teacher gives you power. Power to do the things I mentioned earlier…to shape, to change…and with power comes great responsibility (Voltaire). We cannot simply give up or hide in our staffrooms. We cannot give in to those who would decry our profession, but rather we should celebrate it and seek out ways to enrich our teaching and improve our relationships with our colleagues, our politicians and our managers. Victor Hugo’s quote always reminds me of the importance of our place in society – “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

Engage with our fellow professionals

What can we do to improve this dysfunctional relationship? An open and honest, effective dialogue must be the answer…marriage guidance, if you will. We need a relationship devoid of managerial hubris and teacher intransigence. Technology has given us the means to collaborate in ways we never dreamed of. Sharing our thoughts, ideas, experiences and creativity can, and should be an everyday occurrence and form an integral part of our practice. I would like to suggest one way of embracing our ‘great responsibility’-the Personal Learning Network.

Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) exist in several forms. For me,Twitter is an excellent portal for my learning. I have developed relationships with educational practitioners from not only Scotland, but from all over the world. These individuals (and organisations) have challenged my thinking, provided inspiration and shown excellent examples of creativity. If you’re looking for a start to your own personal learning journey, I can think of no better than to suggest you join the family at

Pedagoo is an attempt by a loose collection of educators in Scotland to move beyond the rhetoric and inevitable negativity that surrounds most new initiatives in education. If we stand for anything, it is making sure that those we teach are given the best preparation possible for the future. We are interested in ensuring that young people are given every opportunity, every support, and every helping hand as we guide them to master the skills they will need to thrive in an unknowable future.

Sign up to Twitter and join the revolution at Pedagoo and make your learner journey unavoidable

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