Stop Press: Season of Goodwill cancelled!

I have not known a time like this – on Twitter.
Students – this is one of my rare posts about education and the industry in which I am proud to work. It has no relevance your exams or your studies – by all means read it, but this one is really for your teachers…

Has there ever been a more divisive time to be a Tweacher? When I joined Twitter in 2011 it really did seem to be a place where teachers shared resources and ideas, offered advice and consolation and tried not to indulge (too much) in ad hominem attack and tried not to use the facility as a platform to impose their views on all comers, resorting swiftly to abuse and blocking if their ideas were not shared by 100% of the community. Now a more binary approach to discussion is the norm, it seems.

There is now a new element in this so called debate which upsets me greatly: the continued abuse and opprobrium heaped on the Micaela Community College by detractors, many of whom have never set foot in the place and are in no way threatened by its existence. Yesterday, there was worse: MCS has an open door policy to let teachers and other professionals visit and experience something of their ethos. In a post by @jofacer, Head of English, we learned yesterday that the bahaviour by adults who sought entry to the school was in many cases despicable – finally leading to the school closing its doors to visits following a safeguarding concern as visitors sought to take their hatred of what they perceive as a hateful school out on the very people benefitting from its existence – its pupils. Years 7&8. Small children who are proud to discuss their school with visitors. Here is Jo’s post

Despicable behaviour.

On Twitter today, some on my timeline are blaming the school for allowing visitors in the first place.

NO.

All schools should welcome visitors as long as the daily routine is not affected. We should have a pride in our school and be happy to share it with other teachers for discussion and development of ideas.

Love it or loathe it, @MCSBrent has stirred up educational debate like no other school. On Twitter recently Debra Kidd shared a lengthy review of the school based on its recent book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers: https://debrakidd.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/battle-hymn-of-the-tiger-teachers-a-review-part-1/ and https://debrakidd.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/battle-hymn-of-the-tiger-teachers-part-2/  Now, I do not know Debra, but I read her material and she does not strike me as a shoe in for lead apologist for Micaela and its way of doing things. These reviews are well balanced and do not shy from praise where due and considered criticism of the elements of the school which she finds disturbing. She was due to visit in the near future – a pity we shall not read her response to visiting in the flesh.

I was amused by one exchange in her comments section when reading the review – a teacher saying that someone should do an in depth study of the school and its practices – Debra’s terse response, that the 11000 words she had just written might be such a thing, made me chuckle.

For those opposed to the ideas which Micaela proposes there seems to be only one tolerable response to their existence – a veritable walk of shame down Wembley High Road being pelted with “right-thinking” texts. It obviously is not enough to castigate the staff “extreme right wing” attitudes any more.

And here’s the thing. We are teachers. We all do the same job. We all have stresses, disappointments and moments of utter joy in our own schools and in our own ways. I have never visited a school without leaving with something tucked away in my mind (not stolen, as suggested by Jo) which might be adapted to fit into my learning environment. And yes, probably with at least one “that would never work here!” moment.

I would like to read “Tiger Teachers II, the KS4 years” when it emerges. I wonder if the highly evangelical tone of some of the writers may mellow with time and I am interested to see how the school responds to growth and to raging hormones. I share Debra’s concerns about the tone of explanation of the Zero Excuse policy among other areas – even judges can take mitigating circumstances into consideration – but I fail to see how a school whose aim is to instil self discipline and self respect can be failing its pupils as some suggest. I live about 10 miles form the school. My local news is not riven with stories of complaint or rebellion – maybe it is true that the pupils and parents lucky enough to be placed into the school really are pleased to be there. I see regular complaints about schools in which behaviour policies barely exist and in which the disruptive element and their families can begin to set the tone and agenda of the school. Here is a school daring to act against the status quo and I applaud it. Maybe it is not all “right” yet – It’s only had 2 years and is growing. Many schools do the same in their own, individual ways. Micaela does not have a monopoly on being right. But it seems that many of those voicing criticism feel that they do.

Much of the ideas form the academic side of the school seem to be excellent – the lack of marking, the revision homework, the focus on knowledge rather than “fun” and the whole team ethos strike me as excellent – I would have loved to see them in operation, but had only begun to discuss a visit with Jo last week!

Micaela has raised hackles by its attempts to break the mould, and I see the strap line “Secondary School – Private School Ethos” is unnecessarily antagonistic. Incidently, I teach in a Private School. We seem to be limp liberals in contrast to the MCS way in some areas… drop it. You do not need to use this line – you are achieving enough in your own right.

So, how about this: If you teach in Wembley and your school is in some way suffering as a result of Micaela, make your case and enter into adult debate. If you don’t and your opinion is based on assumption and dogma, then back off. This is a school, maybe not like your school or my school, but a school. A community of vulnerable young souls who do not deserve the scorn they receive. A community of dedicated teaching professionals (and yes, an Unqualified teacher is a teaching professional) who are giving their all for the benefit of their students – just as we all do.

The behaviour of a minority of our colleagues has evidently been quite appalling on a professional and a personal level. Let’s stop it here.

Have a Good Christmas.

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