Educational hopes and fears for my own children, by @xJulieSmithx

@TeacherToolkitIn 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the ‘most followed teacher on social media in the UK’. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the ‘500 Most Influential People in Britain’ by The Sunday… Read more about @TeacherToolkitThis post answers the 22nd question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks. You can see my other top – Thunks here.Thunk 22: Educational hopes and fears for my own children, by English teacher (Julie Smith) @xJulieSmithxAnswer below:A few weeks ago, my eight year old son asked me an interesting question:“If you could travel back to any point in time, where would you go?” “If you could travel back to any point in time, where would you go?”His question may well have been the consequence of too many episodes of ‘Doctor Who’, but nevertheless, it epitomised for me, one of the greatest pleasures of being a parent and a teacher… Children and young people have their own ways of thinking, seeing and feeling; and discussing with them the ‘big’ questions, such as his, are just one way in which young people learn about the world around them.After his last parent’s evening, my son asked me a far less interesting question. I’d finished praising him for his hard work (so far) in Year Four, but all he wanted to know was his level! I found his question almost Orwellian; if students begin to define their progress purely in terms of their levels, that is indeed troubling……Of course summative assessment is vital for effective teaching. However, as a consequence of our current educational system, I worry that assessment is beginning to lead, rather than support, what is happening in our classrooms. I want my children to experience genuine, deep learning; teaching to the test is not helpful for their progress, nor is it beneficial for their teachers’ professionalism.How will Gove’s marginalisation of these subjects affect her?I want them to experience a wide-ranging, balanced curriculum. My son has learnt as much about resilience, overcoming adversity and the benefits of teamwork on the sports field as he has in the classroom. Both my children have enjoyed experiencing the Forest Schools initiative; they have valued the opportunity to learn about handling risks and problem-solving in a natural environment. My daughter has been inspired, while learning how to form letters in sand and from play dough. Aged five, she is already passionate about music, dance and the theatre.How will Gove’s marginalisation of these subjects affect her?I want my children to be challenged. I want them to be given the opportunity to explore their developing knowledge, to make mistakes and learn from them, to reach so far they fail, and learn to try and try again until they succeed (and to respond with tenacity when they don’t). I want them to be supported and nurtured in their endeavours by informed, enthusiastic professionals who understand what they both need in order for them to learn and progress.“…I worry that their teachers will soon be expected to become personified versions of Skinner’s 1950’s ‘teaching machine….”However, to enable these complex learning experiences to happen, their teachers need to be given their professionalism back. Since I joined the profession, I have been told what to teach; teachers are increasingly being told how to teach. Teachers have their own personalities, idiosyncrasies and areas of expertise. I worry that their teachers will soon be expected to become personified versions of Skinner’s 1950’s ‘teaching machine’, simply technicians and transmitters of information.Their teachers must be good at what they do.Teachers need to share good practice.They need to be allowed time to observe other practitioners, and to be observed in turn within a collegiate and professional framework. Time needs to given to them for discussion, debate and the opportunity to study current (and not so current) pedagogical research. Teachers not suited to the profession need to have coaching, firstly to help them to improve, then if necessary, to enable them to change profession.It is a basic human right for my children, their peers and the students I teach myself, to leave school fully literate and numerate. They must be equipped, especially in a time of rapid technological advances, for the world of work that waits for them. They must be safe, happy, and they must have learnt how to have positive, meaningful relationships with those around them. Ultimately, I want them, like their mother, never to stop asking big questions and neither should they expect to have easy answers provided for English teacher Julie Smith (@xJulieSmithx), edited and posted by @TeacherToolkit.Julie Smith is currently a teacher of English (post equivalent to an AST role), at Wyedean School, in Gloucestershire. She is studying for an M.Ed in Professional Studies at Gloucester University.Julie Smith is currently a teacher of English – @xJulieSmithxRelated articlesDear Parent, what I’d really like to say is…, by @StephenDrew72 ( – my ’12 highlights and ’13 hopes, by @TeacherToolkit (

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