As I look around the staffroom I am struck by the fact that, among the piles of exercise books and unwashed coffee cups, there is an endangered species, dwindling to the point of extinction.
I’m not talking about the semi-corporate teachers who look like they’d be more at home in a boardroom than a classroom – they are flourishing. The threatened group I speak of is that most British breed: the eccentric.
Over my 10 years in teaching, I have seen eccentric colleagues pushed, blinking and disorientated, into a new world of lesson observations, targets, data and appraisals. There are undoubtedly those who, as well as being eccentric, are rather lazy and probably not up to the job. But the problem is that many of these mavericks, who wouldn’t recognise a lesson plan if it bit them on the behind and couldn’t care less about student data or targets, are brilliant.
This means that teachers who have spent years honing their craft are ushered into offices to be told that, regretfully, their approach requires improvement because they haven’t made enough use of data and their plenaries don’t sufficiently summarise the learning.
I understand that schools need to improve accountability, but couldn’t they also have the flexibility to accommodate those teachers whose lessons don’t always tick all of the boxes?
It may not be possible to measure fun, inspiration, pleasure and wonder, but these are the things that make our education system great. They are the bits of school that we all remember, and many of us owe our careers, hobbies, interests and livelihoods to them.
Perhaps it is inevitable that schools will become more corporate, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of great teachers who don’t quite fit the mould. The ones who make school memorable, make lessons enjoyable and inspire a love of learning. Without them, school’s just not the same. I may as well throw myself out of the window along with my students’ equipment.