It’s a funny time of year in education, November and December. I never knew this before. It’s the time when educators need to decide if they’re staying or going in their current school or position, and if not, what the next move will be. I’m new to this game, and as I librarian I get to see all classes, all teachers and many parents. Observation and conversations are things that happen a lot.
The 10% use of the brain myth has been debunked I know, but I think it is still a useful meme to use in education. Because one of the things that keep coming up in the conversations I’m having with people who are leaving of their own volition (some are due to partner careers, or family issues) is the frustration that for one reason or another, all they have, know and are capable of is not being used or recognised. I know, because as an older educator coming late to the game with a longer “past” I feel this very acutely.
A little while back a group of us had an interesting lunch conversation along the lines of our former pre-teaching lives, or what we’d taught before we were teaching what we were teaching. There is so much unlocked knowledge, skill and potential in education. And I’ve just mentioned the teachers. Before I was a TL I was a sort-of SAHM (stay at home mum). Sort of, because I kept studying and doing stuff. Stuff that would keep me sane and my brain occupied while my body was present for young children and a partner who travelled anything from 70-90% of the time, and then we’d move country to spice things up a little more. And I kept bumping into women (mainly) with amazing brains. Women with fantastic pasts whose only outlet was pouring themselves into organising PTA/O fundraising and events and being class-mothers. Not that it’s unimportant, but really? Think of the energy equation – it’s like starting up a blast-furnace every-time you need enough fuel to drive around the block.
While the unlocked potential in teachers is particularly acute in primary, where teachers are often limited to their own classrooms, teaching a breadth of skills and subject areas they may or may not be optimally suited for, I heard the same while working in secondary. One person in particular sticks out. He was very bright, very capable in his own field, constantly seeking out new knowledge. He was also not from the dominant mono-lingual white male BANA pack, and such was an outsider. He left in frustration saying that while he’d been hired for all the bits and pieces he had, he was only being used for a small portion of them and wasn’t even consulted when his PhD specialisation was being looked at in the community (I won’t mention what this was as it would be a give away). I’ve spoken to language teachers a lot, who say they sit mute and unsolicited in meetings while mono-linguals decide language strategy and curricula. Parents who come from a huge diversity of educational and learning backgrounds who are literally NEVER consulted because they are “just” parents. And if they ever dare mention that things could be, and are different elsewhere, at least in some areas, they’re quickly shut down with “well, this is the way we do it here” while the dominant culture and pedagogy continues hurtling down the track.
I use hurtling consciously. Because the sad thing in education is the pace. There is just so much busyness. It is no wonder that the 10% usage exists – there is just not enough time for anything else. And all the time there is that anxiety. Parents are skittish that their child is in the “right” school. Ready to run and change at the drop of a hat. Students mete out their time for subject by subject homework. Teachers are stretched thin juggling reporting, marking, teaching, preparation, running excursions and events. And somehow, most times, in the midst of this all, miraculously, learning takes place.
Another sadder thing I’m noticing at the moment is that there is a widespread occurrence of “losing weight after the divorce” to use another bad analogy. And that is, suddenly there is a bunch of people getting all sorts of qualifications (albeit sometimes the maligned-by-me google-educator badges), suddenly getting out there at teacher events and PD as they polish themselves up for the market. That’s more than just a little bit sad. And a lot of a bit of waste on both sides of the equation.