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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Gove Waltzes In...

My fantastic friend has composed a piece about his feelings towards Mr Gove. 

Please listen. Whilst wearing a cape. In your pants. 

Thank you Mr Chapman! 

Miss Honey on a Mission (MHOAM)

My last blog entry, much to my surprise, seems to have hit a nerve with many people. When I wrote it, I felt a little guilty at having such a big old moan. I am incredibly flattered by the response, but more than that it's emphasised what a huge problem education is facing at the moment. 

Shortly after handing in my notice I received an email from my old university asking if I would be interested in contributing towards the final lecture for the PGCE students before them embark on their teaching careers, to give them an account of teaching and aim to inspire them. I had to laugh and asked if it was a good time to tell her that I was leaving the profession at Easter... Interestingly enough when I met my old lecturer for a coffee she explained to me that she too left part way through a school year and that the world of education, like fashion, can often be cyclical. This time however, it's worse than it has ever been - with the most enthusiastic teachers being beaten by the system. One of my most influential undergraduate lecturers once told me I would be a great teacher, but beaten by the system - turns out he was right. In the end I agreed to do the lecture, I will take the positives with me and if nothing else try to encourage the students to hold on to what believe in. If there are enough of them out there doing it, it may just make a difference.

Many people have approached me, lots of them I don't even know, relating to the issues in my last blog entry, some even saying they were reduced to tears - which sounds dramatic but shows that so many people are feeling the same. Downtrodden and fed up with it all. A few people have told me 'it's just the school you're at' and to some extent I am sure that's true. However, it's not long before the claws of Ofsted reach into those schools who are doing it right, I hear regular reports of the most inspirational head teachers giving in to the powers that be, because they have to. 

A few weeks ago a new report came out about the education of our real little ones, the children in nurseries. The main issue being that apparently children from 'disadvantaged backgrounds' are being let down by teachers. As I said, I'm no expert on politics and this is just my opinion.

"Unfortunately, even when the most disadvantaged do access early-years provision they rarely find the support they need because too many practitioners are afraid to, or simply don't know how to, teach," Wilshaw said.(Richard Adams, Guardian Thursday 3 April 2014)

In a nutshell, the man is saying that poor kids aren't being taught properly because the teachers are either afraid or not up to it. He is also saying that 'middle class' kids are getting a better chance at education. 

"It is a middle-class prejudice for which some of the most disadvantaged pay the price." 

There are obviously many, many things I could say about this. I could ride around on my high horse all day long. There are some things though that I feel I must point out;

A) It seems that Sir Wilshaw has labelled all children from 'disadvantaged backgrounds' in the same way. (They do love a one size fits all approach this government.) Does this also mean that all parents that aren't middle class are doing a bad job of it? That for some reason not having lots of money means that your children won't do well at school? That because of your social status your children should go to school earlier? It doesn't matter where you come from, or who you are - there will always be children that struggle. Just like there will always be children who want to learn and will succeed. I can't deny there might be more issues in some demographics than others, but surely those children have just as much right to a childhood as others?

B) It has been suggested there will be a checklist of things that all children should be able to do by aged 5. These things include, toilet training, putting on a coat and shoes, speaking in sentences and simple counting.

Will there be an exam? Will there be points of progress? What will happen at parents evening?

 "Jimmy has only made 1 sub-level of progress in Nursery. One of his next steps is to aim his willy at the back of the toilet and fold the toilet paper instead of scrunching. Then he will make his target."

C) I like to believe there are some parents in the world who still think it is their responsibility to teach their own children these things. Sure, teachers have a huge influence on a child but there has to be a balance on the responsibility of the families and teachers. I fear for the next report from Ofsted...

'Teachers are now responsible for babies in the womb and their development.'
Scrap that.
'Teachers are now responsible for sperm. All sperm must reach a level 6 by time of... take off.'

In ten years time, teachers will be there at the time of conception with a clip board, ready to make their observations. "Come on little Jimmy! You can do it! A little bit further and 
you've made your 3 points!"

In considering my next adventure, the first step will be to do a bit of a supply and hopefully reassure myself that there is joy in some schools out there. I do need to pay rent after all. I also intend to tutor children individually, meet their needs and give them a chance if I can. I will be taking a course with an amazing company called Relax Kids and hopefully once qualified will be able to work with different children in various schools, small groups in the holidays, 1:1 if needed. I have realised that if we can't change the system, then for now, I have to work with it the support the children in it. They will be going through a lot in the next few years and will be under a huge amount of pressure, as will the teachers and parents. By helping the kids to calm down and remember who they are outside of their targets and levels then hopefully I can make a small difference. My biggest next step though is to quit ranting and look for the positives and to keep remembering that there is always a choice, in whatever we're doing. One voice alone can make so much difference, so lots of us together can change the world. (In my mind, I am wearing my pants over some tights, a cape and stood on a clifftop somewhere right now and it is GLORIOUS.) I am Miss Honey on a mission.

One final thought. 

"So let us not pander to those who think children's childhoods are being stolen," Wilshaw said. 

Fear not Sir, I will not be 'pandered' to, nor bullied by you. A little boy in an old class of mine was being picked on for his size. He is a wonderful child, I admit quite rotund and of the most incredible nature. I witnessed another boy call him 'fat' then continue to pick on him. I sat back for moment to watch his response before I intervened. He replied;

"I am strong" - flexing his left bicep.
"I am powerful" - flexing the right.
"And this is where my magic is stored' - rubbing his belly.
"My heart is bigger than yours and always will be."

I don't know who taught him that, but he believes it. He isn't middle class, lower class or upper class. He is determined, hard working, believes in himself and is happy. 
He is a child - and that's what he needs to be. So please, let him have his childhood. 

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