When NOT TO blog, and when TO blog, became an internal argument with myself about HOW to blog…
I was accused of copping out after my last post.
So while this streaming cold I have ensures my sporadic insomnia becomes total, I lie awake at 5am, thinking about how I can blog what I am currently feeling. How I can be more open about it.
I have an amazing job. At least it was amazing up until Christmas. In January, everything changed.
I teach art, and just art, in a primary school. It is the school my own children went to. My eldest son is 29 this year, so for almost 25 yrs, I have felt part of this place, hugely proud of this place the people in it, and what they did for my children – both of whom now teach. They are a testament to its ethos. The school’s mission statement, a thing bolted onto many establishments, was a tenet we lived by: Bringing out the best in everyone, for the benefit of all, in the spirit of Christ. Whether you believe in the last bit or not, bringing out the best in everyone, for the benefit of all is a pretty good thing.
I have worked there for exactly ten years next month. I hold the belief that getting best from everyone happens through valuing the whole person, their talents, preferences, personalities. I felt as a member of staff, those things were valued, in me and those around me, from dinner ladies who were there for an hour or so in the middle of the day, to the head teacher, who seemed to be there from dawn to dusk and beyond, to the wonderful teachers and classroom assistants, to the knowledgeable secretary, to the cleaners, who took such pride in their work, they were frequently awarded 100% by the council inspection team. Of course the children were assessed, of course data was collected, but it never seemed to be the driving force. Professional trust was the thing. It was assumed. And consequently given. In this atmosphere I blossomed. I finished my long-abandoned BA, and completed my MA in Arts Practice and Education. My experience, specialism and skill were respected, and used, my opinion sought.
In this atmosphere of respect and valuing of all, the children flourish too. We thought so, and Ofsted thought so too. We are an outstanding school. We are an outstanding school because of all the reasons above. Our individual differences and weirdnesses not just tolerated, but seen as part of life’s rich pattern and celebrated. I have visited and worked in dozens of schools in my time, and none of them feel like this one did. Past tense.
Since January, it seems to me it is only the scores that count. I have been asked to do less art, and to support maths and English. This is not what I am good at. Being asked to do this has felt like a personal attack. But it has also felt like an attack on my subject, that I have repeatedly tried to defend. It has felt like an attack on the children who excel in the arts, but perhaps struggle in the more formal areas of the curriculum. I felt I had to defend them too. I tried to manage the change of leadership. I tried to understand the other person’s point of view. I tried to minimise the effects. I have found it increasingly difficult to do so. I feel undermined, belittled, unappreciated, disregarded. I have been asked to be a square peg in a round hole. I believe that some of the children are being asked the same.
My philosophy of education had grown through being in this school. I didn’t even realise I had one until it came under attack.
This week, the requests upon my time became concrete, time related, deadline driven. I couldn’t take any more. Having been given a deadline, I panicked. I feel grief-stricken. I now find myself signed off work. I need time away to think how I can cope with this, or even, perhaps, if I can cope with this.