I’ve often looked at artists, writers,musicians and hairdressers and thought how creative they are in everything they do. They weave a certain kind of magic and look so at home when they do with fabulous clothes, hair that just seems to suit them ultimately a lot of them just look happy in their own skin.
Various conversations this week have reaffirmed my view that teaching is indeed a kind of magic all by itself however we find that creativity being stifled more and more and the dreaded teaching to the test seems to be hanging over us once again like the grim reaper.
Three conversations in particular struck me this week.
The first was with a subject leader who is a very creative, positive and I would say Bohemian individual who would not be out-of-place in a Sartre scene is a Parisian café. We were discussing the recent ( ridiculous imho) cut off scores for exams and how the students in the department performed. She talked about the beautiful contexts that she used to teach language with theatre, wildlife, fashion. Everything that screams curriculum for excellence and she remarked that she now feels that she can’t do that as she doesn’t have the time to explore it in a meaningful way as that type of language won’t get through an exam. Who are we to limit language learning? Well it would appear we feel we need to. I don’t believe I signed up for that and I thank my stars you teachers and lecturers didn’t limit my exposure to language. Creativity -gone?
The second conversation resonated with an earlier one I had at the weekend. One of my very astute student teachers asked me if I honestly though there was a vacuum in specialist leadership at subject level. I jumped off my fence to talk about it. If I am honest, with so much paper, policy, and accountability, people are feeling less than empowered to be that creative leader. Being accountable for bums on seats, results, and pristine paper returns has reduced some people to knackered wrecks of themselves. The thought of the subject sword being wielded has left a gap in the curriculum knights in shining armour. The phrase of why bother when no one else is perfectly understandable. How can we expect our learners to engage and have the best experience when the weavers of magic don’t feel able to create that beauty and sparkle that is education. How do we expect our teachers to convey that enthusiasm, love and passion for that very thing that makes them smile at work? ( weans) when they know what is best but are shackled by having to focus on a product and not a process.
The last conversation was with a fairly new teacher I was coaching. We were working with primary 3 and I had my handy unicorn Florence with me. She only speaks French and made and appearance to see the boys and girls. Sitting with our legs in a basket we spoke about why we thought being able to talk another language was a good idea. What kind of things did we want to say, what would be useful? By the end of a 45 minute slot, the wee tinnies were chatting and singing with the most fabulous French accents. They were smiling and laughing. They also reported to having sore faces as they had been using so many different muscles to talk another language so it must have been good for their health.
The teacher laughed the whole time with us and asked if I always carried a unicorn with me. Of course. Doesn’t everyone? We talked about different ways of language learning at early stages and how she could deliver it in a way she loved. Low and behold she is musical but had never thought to tie them both together. Her parting shot was that it had been magic.
I don’t think it’s magic,I think it is just how we roll. As teachers we strive to meet the learners on their journey and create the magic. But you can’t do magic if you don’t have the right circumstances.
Magic wand. Check
Sore derrière from sitting on the fence. Not yet.
Unicorn. Check ( standard issue in my magic circle)