Fight, flight or freeze
I want to start with an admission: I could not join my handwriting in a fluent, legible style until I was 22 years old. To clarify, I think it was more ‘would not’. Yet even without this key skill - dictated by current government objectives - I got GCSEs, A-Levels and a very good degree. No joins. Not one. However, this all changed when I hit the road of teacher training. My second placement teacher refused to let me write on her board until my ‘cursive from the line’ was as good as hers. After 3 nights and no sleep, it was. Did it make my lessons better? No. In today's world this would mean I was not at the standard of a 6 year old child. So now in 2016, children at the age of 6 are told they are not at standard. What life-altering effect might this have if they are pigeon-holed so young? With this thought buzzing in my head, I went for a jog and stumbled across a Radio 4 programme that featured interviews with people who had acted for the good of others in potentially tragic situations. Unlike most of us, who may have acted selfishly, or simply frozen up when forced to make a decision and let others act for us; when faced with fight, flight or freeze, these good folk had saved the lives of complete strangers. Is the action easier if there is less time to consider the consequences? Is taking action more worthwhile if you can see the rewards immediately? I ask these questions because I am a teacher. A teacher who still believes in the power of creating a good education. A teacher who knows collaborating and creating a shared understanding of a good education is the answer. Yet, when I speak to colleagues; rational, intelligent and inspirational educators, they are becoming increasingly adrift. Schools are riding the constant revisions from government agendas and Ofsted reforms, while also trying to plot their journey for the golden egg - sorry, I mean the dream data set - sorry, I mean Ofsted outstanding. See what I mean? The focus of children is in there somewhere, isn't it? Education and its professionals are in troubled waters. Stress and pressure is felt at every level. Despite good intentions, leaders continue to trudge to the beat of an incredibly outdated drum which is focuses on tests and scores -short-term gains with immediate consequences - instead of the life skills our children and young people actually need for the society that that will need to function in. We freeze in inaction because there is no time to make our own decisions. Under immense pressure, we let others decide for us. Cut to teacher recruitment adverts: yes, those high-octane, wittily voiced works of art. Inspire, motivate and develop the next great minds (insert science visual here)! But what a lie this is at the moment. What is missing from the day-to-day delivery is the actual freedom to do this. Teachers are considerably limited by the enforced short-term agenda to achieve the standard someone else has set for them.
So, what of education in 2016? Simply, we have a system that is outdated. Leaders are tasked to make it work so that the UK can compete in the international league tables, without questioning what this actually means. Short-term gains, sacrificing long-term goals. We are frozen. When is enough enough? There is a faceless foe, an educational ideology that is putting the lives of millions of teachers and pupils at risk. Back to the question: fight, flight or freeze? How do we make the right decisions when we are faced with enormous time pressure, and the immediacy of reward or sanction bears down on us with full force? I rewind to the NQT me. Would I have questioned educational policy? No. It was there because, in my naïve belief, government policy makers were based in educational understanding and would only lead us the right way. And, like a diligent professional, I would follow. However, I am 12 years in and I am completely ready to fight. To fight for the time to meet and collaborate with colleagues to create new systems of learning. To fight for the freedom to try and adapt alternative systems. To fight for lives. 2016; it is time. Action. Action. Action. Because it really does start with you! #FlipthesystemUk