Dear Colleagues,

It’s been a tough old year. The kids have needed more  quotidian reassurance than ever and colleagues have collapsed before our eyes.  The ceaseless tectonic shifts in Education Policy, which up until now have been felt only as vague rumblings far from the bastion of our mature, close-knit and well resourced Department, have made themselves felt with a vengeance since January; for everyone still standing, the last term and a half has been a maelstrom of extra lessons, exam preparation and coursework marking.

It’s all easing off now, of course.  Once the public exams start in a school like mine, a big chunk of the lessons stops and no matter if the revision workshops go on to the eve of the exam itself (so that we can tell the managers, the parents and the inspectors that we left no stone unturned in our efforts to get the kids those grades) eventually the day rolls round and for once in the school year time is on our side: well prepared or not, the kids are on their own in a big hall with rows of desks and finally there’s no more we can do for them, so we can stop. And breathe.  The pressure is off, until next year.  There are still a few weeks to go, but now we have time to think again we might even have some fun with our younger classes, who, if we’re honest, haven’t been getting our best this last half term.  They don’t complain, but some time in the Summer Term some U6th former will inevitably assert that ‘We’re your most important class now’. They remember when they weren’t.

My last post, way back in April (wonder why that was…) considered ‘What is education for?’ Having time to think and reflect on the realities of our practice inevitably leads anyone involved to the question ‘What keeps us doing it?’  This year at least, I’ve been kept going by the anticipation of a mini sabbatical for the second half of the summer term, to study the relationship between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators, and learning.  I’ll declare an interest now: in my experience (nearly twenty years teaching)  an over-reliance on extrinsic motivators leads to some poor outcomes for both learners and teachers. The trend has both accelerated and intensified over the last five years and it seems to me that the way we do it, even narrowly quantitative ‘good outcomes’ are increasingly dependent on the heroism of individual teachers and the compliance of their pupils. Does that seem familiar?

I’m currently spending a lot of my time reading (yay!) and getting familiar with some of the research based on Deci and Ryan’s self determination theory, and I’d be interested to hear from other teachers about their own experiences, firstly by completing a short survey on attitudes. Technical alert: you need to be registered with Google (e.g. have a Gmail account) to take the survey – that way your details are anonymised unless/until you include them in the survey itself, (the last question, not ‘required’) for me to contact you with follow up questions. Please follow the blog for updates on my discoveries over the next few months, and let me know your views (I’m new to this, so am keen to read constructive comments and advice). Thank you!