Twitt-err!

Grrrrrr!  Twitter has been well angsty this week!

I have been on twitter for a month, and currently have very mixed feeling about it. I feel it is an amazing platform for discussion, sharing and support. It is also great at challenging viewpoint and making me reflect on my practice. Conversely I also find it incredibly stressful, get really frustrated at trying to explain my views in 140 characters. It only ever comes across as glib and surface. This I feel creates tension and hardened position, everything is a headline. I guess that’s the point.

Most people I’ve come across are passionate, and driven  and there-in lies the problem. I am unwittingly in the middle of many arguments. Not because I am a fence-sitter, but because 23 years, 5 different schools, LA lead literacy teacher, local authority advisory experience, tells me it’s not clean-cut.

What I find most frustrating is people who with an evangelical zeal deem to tell me how to run my school. Thing is that is none of their damn business. People who know nothing of the context and history of my school, make snap judgements based on DfE published data, and tell me how I can be like this school or that school if I do this or do that.  Simply I don’t want to be like this school or that school. That is not to say that we don’t use models of good practice, but they have to fit into our overall aims for what we are trying to achieve for the children of our school.

I have had aggressive Synthetic Phonics proponents, criticise my school and me, saying they’ll come back in two years to  look at our data. Like I give a stuff! What right do they have to be so judgemental. Give me Ofsted any day, the busted myths were true for us by the way.  Fact is I think phonics are important, decoding is an important toolkit for pupils, but equally I know phonics is not reading. Phonics can allow access to reading, but when I have parents say their child ‘hates’ reading because of the phonics based texts, you have to question the approach of what you are doing. I think real books and real reading are essential for the development of readers. That is why we set up our ‘bedtime reading library,’ a collection of brilliant books, not phonic based, but amazing texts to be shared to develop parents reading with children. This has had real impact for us and has got families loving reading.  I also believe picture books are the most under-used resources in primary schools, they are the key into higher level reading. (The under-used missing link.) That is why in my own evangelical way I have been sharing amazing books on twitter, currently up-to number 45. My reason is purely because I think more people should see them. I suppose we all have our cause.

The other argument I’ve found myself in the middle of is the ‘traditional’ vs ‘progressive’ argument.  I would say if it works and the children learn then go for it. I have seen inspirational ‘traditional’ lessons and astounding ‘progressive’ lessons, the key to both was  that the pupils were the winners, due to the expertise of the teaching. Personally I am probably a bit of a ‘progressive.’ I used to have long hair, I have a hipster-ish penchant for facial hair.  Teaching at my school varies  between ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’ at different points depending on the aim of the learning, most staff don’t even think in those terms. We reflect and discuss choices and consider the impact on learning. If it works, go for it! This approach is adaptive to the class needs.

Then we have the whole use of film argument that has blown up following @tombennett71 article. Actually I agree with the article , not how it has been reported in the press. The key word was ‘some’ and it was about making every minute count. A film used well can have real impact. The writing produced by my Year 6 after using a Literacy Shed film was amazing.  For my pupils part of that is about experience and ensuring they have the experiences which allow them access to learning. we are developing our use of  talk, (external studies show that pupils in our geographical area come in significantly national in their ability to talk.) great books,  reasoning in Maths, investigative Science and most importantly purpose for learning.

We seem too keen to tell each other what to do, and how to do it, rather than look at the merits of what Twitter can offer us. It has great power, #primaryrocks showed that. I am excited by #readingrocks, definately my sort of thing.  Equally I have been able to ask questions of people with real expertise in their fields. If you love what you do great, but respect others who feel and believe differently to you.

My concern with all this is that from twitter we seem like a very divided profession, scrabbling around to get our own way, rather than supporting and learning from each other. It tells me that the idea of a school-led system is still some distance away as we continue to draw battle-lines rather than supporting each other in getting it right for our pupils.

Maybe #Learningfirst will give us a way forward, but only if we focus on pupils rather than ideologies.

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