This week, together with colleagues I spent a couple of hours brainstorming a way towards formulating a new school mission/vision plan. Prior to the afternoon I’d already given the subject some thought. I’ve been doing it quite a bit since the Covid interruptions that started back in 2020. What sort of school environment do I want to work in, and what do I miss at the moment.
Exam results are a subject that often raise their head in such discussions. They are a very tangible piece of evidence to the successes or failures in any school. But an overly focussed attention on this the academic success of an institution often leads to a vicious circle of pressure. Teachers need to perform better to squeeze the best out of their pupils, pupils need to work harder and focus more on the teachers’ message, and the teachers need to be more aware of the needs of their pupils when constructing their lessons, and the pupils need to make the best use of what the teachers offer them. It all sounds obvious and sensible enough, but this upwards educational spiral can equally become a downward one where pupils point fingers and the shortcomings of their teachers and teachers lament the failures of their pupils.
Within this educational pressure-cooker the pressure builds on all involved, and in the end reaches into most corners of a school.
One of the things that came out of the productive discussion table I found myself sitting at during the mission statement discussions this week reached into this area. It touched on areas of well-being and state of mind amongst staff and pupils at school, and how by addressing shortcomings in this area we might contribute positively to relationships between:
Staff and staff
Pupils and pupils
Pupils and staff
It’s a personal view, but in the classroom, I generally think that we have too much of a ‘them and us’ view when considering the educational process. Staff and here to teach and pupils are here to learn. Of course, this is true to a degree, we are in the process together, there should be more space for a sense of ‘we are doing this together’ as opposed to ‘you have to do this’.
We seem to escape this ‘them and us’ relationship on occasions in education, on a school trip, exchange or excursion, a snippet of doing things together, but get back to school and things seem to change back again.
Togetherness, contact and collaboration were, for me, the key words in our brainstorm session. Steps towards a greater sense of positive wellbeing, where pupils and staff work together on a better flow of contact that stretches beyond the academic level. Get this right and it will surely bring its own contribution to the academic performance.
Let me repost an earlier piece I wrote on the artist/educator whose work made me first take steps towards entering teaching. Tim Rollins knew the importance of working together and the benefits it could bring.