Early in my teaching career, I started to get annoyed by those people in the staff room who would declare that they’d seen everything in education come round before. You know the ones? Where every new development in school gets met with a knowing nod and a declaration that it’s just one big circle and everything comes back into fashion?
I mean there I would be, just trying to enthusiastically deliver the latest initiative that would revolutionise the teaching of someone who’d been doing it for 20 years longer than me, and there they were, folding their arms and telling me they’d seen it all before.
Turns out they were mostly right.
If you’ve ever tried to play one of those car games in the arcade, you’ll know the feeling well. You try to turn left but you do it so hard that before you know it you’re out of control and have crashed into the barrier on the other side. And scarred by that experience you quickly pull the wheel too vigorously in the other direction and bang, you’ve hit the barrier you were trying to avoid in the first place.
I trained in the late 90s and was a child of the literacy and numeracy strategies. Clear, rigorous, primary, instruction. Crisp four part lessons. 8-10 minute plenaries only. Punctuated with mini-plenaries. Mechanical coverage was ensured.
Then came the noughties; the lure of learning styles, the freedom of the creative curriculum. Life-skills. Topic work. Curriculum freedoms (remember those?). After all, what does it matter what we do in school when the skills needed for future jobs haven’t been dreamed about yet and who needs handwriting or spelling when we’ve got laptops and spell checker (and they only count for a handful of marks on the SATs test)?
And now the teenies and social media has brought all extremes together in a single timeline that can persuade, embarrass, divide, unify and both create and dispel edu-myths alike.
Marking. Too much marking. No marking.
Curriculum in balance. Curriculum doesn’t matter. Curriculum matters.
What’s technology? Use technology. Avoid technology.
Can we prevent ourselves from over-steering; from pulling the wheel down too hard for fear of crashing off in one direction only to find ourselves so far off the track on the other? Can we avoid lurching from initiative to counter-initiative, ignoring the nuance and context in the bright lights of the ‘next thing’.
Can complex problems be solved with simple solutions?
Does educational extremism ever solve anything?
Over-steer is ‘a thing’.
Let’s keep the balance.