Pedagogy for People

It is now six months since @betsysalt made her impassioned plea in  “What I wish teacher bloggers would write about more…” asking for more blogging on the practice of education, in context, with examples from actual practice, with actual children. Her disappointment was that the topics covered by teacher bloggers tended to concentrate on a narrow band of subjects and rarely offered real, tangible, ideas, recommendations and strategies from authentic experiences in the classroom.

Her blog asked for more honesty, more humility, and more sharing: “perhaps most of all, can we hear about your mistakes. We all know failure is a vital stage of learning…when did you fail? What did you learn?

So you fantastic teachers out there, yes you, you who inspire your class most days, make them laugh, keep them safe and engage them in that staggeringly complex process of learning…can we have less pedagogy and more people.

In fact, more children. What worked? What didn’t?

I’m all for learning, I’m all for developing practice. But can you put pedagogy in context please.”

Her blog ended with the wonderful slogan – “It’s not people v pedagogy. It’s pedagogy for people”

So, how much has changed? Has Betsy got what she wanted? Have we noticed a change in the kinds of blogs about education we read, or are they still from the same shallow pool, without examples of real classroom practice and on the same recurring subjects – Ofsted, lesson observations, SLTs?

To be honest, I’m bored reading about Ofsted and whether they have changed this month or not. I suspect some bloggers write about Ofsted almost obsessively because they know it generates more hits for their website. I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, there most surely is, but how many more times do we need to keep raking over the same old coals? We’ve all got Ofsted horror stories, do they need repeating over and over again?

It is the same with bad lesson observations and bad senior leaders. Everybody in education at some point has been on the wrong end of an unfair observation and bad managers exist in every walk of life. Again, I’m not downplaying their perniciousness or how horrible and undermining a bad observation or a bad manager can be, I’ve experienced both and resigned as a consequence, but do they need to play such a predominant role in the subjects covered in education blogs?

Let’s move on and take up the challenge Betsy made of us back in May, let’s write more blogs about real practice, let’s discuss our mistakes, let’s use examples from real classrooms, with real children. Let’s moan less and celebrate more. Let’s stop attacking the practice of others and the strategies they find work. Let’s respect each other as professionals and stop pretending there is a single (and unimpeachable) way of teaching. Most of all let’s be honest about the role of empirical evidence in education and stop using it as cudgel to attack ways of working we don’t like or understand.

Last week a group of teachers (me included) started a new re-blogging website called Primary Blogging, the aim of this site is to essentially collect, collate and disseminate blogs on primary education. It is no closed shop, it carries no ideological baggage, and is pushing no particular pedagogical approach. Inevitably a number of the re-blogs are about the old favourites of Ofsted, observations, and bad SLTs, but many of them are not. Although they might not get the hit rate of more controversial subjects, there are blogs about the role of TAs, autistic children, writing, the use of praise, and (most prominently) marking. The latter is because of the wonderful initiative, #blogsync which promotes a single topic of discussion on education each month. #blogsync is exactly the kind of project we should be developing for teacher blogging – it is respectful, professional and inclusive.

I hope, as more and more teacher bloggers begin to join the conversation, they will take the Betsy’s advice and follow #blogsync’s example and write more about the kinds of subjects that will move us on as a profession.  Writing that focuses on real classroom practice, warts and all, without fear of being attacked, criticized or ridiculed by others. Many people say that Twitter and Blogging is the most valuable CPD they have ever had. That’s great news, but it can be so much better.

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