Keep It Simple, Stupid

Some teachers on twitter have criticised these early blog posts because I’ve “never taught”. Apart from from 14 weeks teaching practice, that’s true, but my writing (so far) hasn’t been about teaching. It’s been about my attempts, as a newbie, to understand the theories and philosophies behind the Scottish education system. Firstly I don’t think the CfE materials we’re given during our training year are user friendly enough.

I said in my first post that I didn’t like the way the Experiences and Outcomes are written. On reflection maybe there isn’t that much wrong with them. Maybe, years from now, I’ll see that there is a significant difference between (random example) :

– Throughout the writing process, I can review and edit my writing to ensure that it meets its purpose and communicates meaning at first reading. LIT 3-23a


– Throughout the writing process, I can review and edit my writing independently to ensure that it meets its purpose and communicates meaning at first reading. LIT 4-23a

My real problem is that as a new teacher starting out these aren’t helpful at all. For us, right at the start of our careers, we need everything to be laid out as simply and succinctly as possible. Planning lessons for the first time, dealing with behaviour and completing coursework for university takes up pretty much 100% of our time and attention. Seriously, who has time to sit and commit to memory 317 pages of Curriculum guidelines?

Please Education Scotland / teacher training colleges – just tell us what to teach and how to teach it. Let us master the basics before we move on. Tell us how to deal with the kids who laugh at us, swear at us, talk over us. Tell us the small things we can do that get big results. Teach us routines that work, and have been proven to work over time.

Honestly, all the other stuff, the stuff about the Effective Contributors and the Responsible Citizens and whatever, we ignore it. It’s not meaningful for us. Save that for after we’ve been teaching for five years and are starting to have a clue about what we’re doing. Our stressed wee brains can only take in so much information at a time. What’s the analogy comparing an NQT to a medical student performing heart surgery after one year’s training? Help us out. Keep it simple, then build.


6 thoughts on “Keep It Simple, Stupid

  1. Sorry, it’s probably my fault that people saw your post and got annoyed at it. But, having been part of a system in England where dissent was completely marginalised and seen how positive it is to have open debate, I thought what you were doing was worthwhile. Debate in England has transformed in the last 5 years, for a large part because people have been willing to disagree publicly and it is no longer the case that one can demonstrate one’s professionalism or authority by parroting a single viewpoint.

  2. Of everything I’ve read in your blog so far, this worries me most: “Please Education Scotland / teacher training colleges – just tell us what to teach and how to teach it.”

    In English, freedom to decide on what to teach and how to teach it is absolutely fundamental, and it makes my heart sink a bit to see teachers (regardless of how much experience they have) who simply want some grand authority to make all of their decisions for them.

    Also, ignoring the Four Capacities isn’t the way to go, as these are actually the very things that can liberate you from the ridiculous Es & Os that you (rightly) dislike. The idea that certain aspects of teaching should be postponed for 5 years is dangerous, as the best way for you to develop as a teacher is, I think, to trust your ability from day one (whereas your suggestion would create a two-tier profession which would not help anyone).

  3. Our brains get tired with each decision we have to make, leading to poorer choices. Outsourcing some of those big decisions to authorities would mean less decision fatigue for teachers and more attention left over for making decisions in the classroom – which I think matters most.

    I mentioned five years because I know that lots of teachers leave the profession before they reach that point. I’d guess that fatigue and exhaustion are two big reasons why they leave, and why I’ve thought about quitting already – I don’t think that teaching its current form is good for your health. If you do reach the five year mark then you can rely more on experience and aren’t constantly making new decisions throughout the day.

    My situations and yours might be quite different. Compare the stress felt by a learner driver to someone who’s been driving for a few years. Completely different experience.

    This article explains things better than I can :

  4. It might be useful for me to point out that I have just finished by third year in teaching (including the probation year) so trust me when I say that, as a new teacher, it is crucial that you don’t get into the ‘what do I teach and how do I teach it’ mindset.

    Yes, teaching is tiring and stressful (although no more so than a lot of other professions) but that doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand for a few years is the way to go.

    In all honesty the fact that you are already thinking about quitting is concerning, but much of your perspective will be being influenced by your PGDE year (with all the absurd lesson-planning and crit lessons that comes with it) and the louder voices in the blogging world, both of which are less than accurate representations of what you are likely to encounter.

    (I sent you a Twitter DM by the way).

  5. That’s reassuring. I think my anxiety about starting has made me fear the worst. I meant I had thought about quitting during PGDE when it wasn’t so enjoyable, and other friends were dropping out, but am hopefully over that and looking forward to getting started with the real thing. Pretty excited about it now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s