Why did we choose to teach? What made us want to enter the profession? Some say their school days were great, or they had inspirational teachers. Some say they want to change the system and do things differently. Are the reasons we chose this career as strong now as they were when we entered the profession?
I’ve been toying with these questions recently. Every now and then something happens to test our moral purpose, to make us take a stance for what we believe. I give you a couple of my own examples:
The tuck shop saga
In my first headship I was faced with a dilema over the very popular and pretty lucrative tuck shop. You see the problem was it sold absolute rubbish to the children. Unhealthy and probably downright harmful, cheap excuses for crisps, sweets and sugary drinks. Parents didn’t seem to mind, pupils loved it and it paid for a lot of school stationary so some staff thought it a good thing. As head do you:
A) Run with things as they are? Everyone’s happy and the tuck shop serves a purpose.
B) Shut it down? It is obviously completely unhealthy and not doing the kids any good
Despite protests from most quarters, and ongoing requests from the children to keep it we closed it down and re launched it as a less successful but healthier fruit tuck shop.
School had traditionally opened to children at 9.00am but many arrived earlier. Staff would make their way to their classes about 8.50 with a warm drink while looking out on children and parents freezing in the cold. We opening the doors at 8.50 was suggested it was met with hostility from staff who valued this time and felt parents should not turn up till 9.00am. Changing the routine was going to cause a lot of ill feeling for little apparent gain. The children played outside, they would lose this social time and parents would just drop off and not have the chance to speak and socialise with other parents and children as they had in the past. Do you:
A) Keep the status quo? A lot of people were happy and those who weren’t accepted it anyway.
B) Allow children and parents to come in from 8.50? Then no one has to hang around on a cold playground, shivering, waiting for doors to be opened.
Opening up 10 minutes earlier meant we could stagger children coming in which made the start of the day less chaotic. Children came in and got themselves settled in for a prompt start. Music played, they could read or attempt a short morning challenge to get them going.
Both these changes took some time to ‘bed in’ but eventually became part of the culture of the school. Both could have been left as no one expected any changes. However, the changes were right, morally. There have been many other times when I know my own beliefs and morals have been tested in this way. It happens regularly, more than we know. If we were to film ourselves for a few weeks, watch our interactions, the decisions we make, the way we address others, it would help us see our values and beliefs in action.
Education is driven by moral purpose, sometimes we have to be brave and stick our neck out for what we know is right. Our moral purpose was there on the day we entered the profession. We just need to remind ourselves of it now and again.