This is the start of my eigth year as a headteacher at East Whitby.
The hopes and aspirations for this year are vital. More than any other year we have to get our plans for the upcoming year right. The seeds that are planted in September are the ones you nurture through the year. Year on year we have as a school steadily improved, not change, change, change but building on the strengths we have and most of the time pushing in the same direction. Then COVID happened. Fact is the past two years have told us we can’t control the outside, but we definitely can control the inside.
I think we all know that we can’t change the “weather.” DfE and Ofsted will do what they do but we will be ready to react accordingly to that, we’ve got sun-cream, wooly hats and umbrellas at the ready.
I do however have a few wishes for the upcoming year. Ones that we will hope to fulfil in our school.
Firstly I wish for this upcoming school year that we, as teachers, act on the principle that education is not only about the mind — but that it’s about the person. The past two years of pandemic have highlighted for me that the gaps aren’t what we do in our classrooms. I believe a school must function for the purpose of developing students as whole people, not just merely as empty minds which require regular and constant filling up of knowledge. School just is more.
Children more than ever need schools and they need them to be more. That is not saying that we don’t have to teach stuff because blatantly we do and obviously that is our core purpose, but there is so much more to what we do and we ignore that at our peril.
My wish for teachers is that we can truly focus back in our classrooms. That we can can strip away the nonsense and just get on with doing the best job in the world. As a head a huge part of my job is creating the conditions so that is the case. I will be that “crap” umbrella so my teachers can just get on with the job.
I also wish that we can get our children back to that spot where learning is a motivator in and of itself and that we embrace the joy that brings.
I hope that we can move to a place that engagement and excitement in our classrooms are not seen as the enemy. School should be a joy. Children should rush out to tell parents what they’ve learnt, personally I think it’s never been more important that that is the case. Smiles and happiness should be synonomous with school, so I also wish that we make time to have fun, to enjoy the time teachers spend with the children in their class. Great primary schools are fuelled by brilliant relationships.
Is it too much to ask that we find time to laugh? Time to breathe, and wonder, and imagine, and daydream? Time to draw and dance and sculpt and create. Time to rest as well as time to work.
What’s been lost in the past two years is more than education. We can recover the education we just need to ensure that we don’t do it at the expense of other things that are important in our schools.
To put it another way in the words of Kevin Bacon in Footloose…
“Ecclesiastes assures us… that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh… and a time to weep. A time to mourn… and there is a time to dance. And there was a time for this law, but not anymore. See, this is our time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now.”