I Am Not A Camera

Quite frankly, there are days when I wish I had Stepford Kids. Take today, for instance. The kids did not make it out of their pyjamas. They spent more time than they should have on screens, and less time than they should have doing chores. On days like this, I wish someone could Stepford my kids: train them up to do as they are told. I wish there was someone on the other end of a camera, going ‘do this’ or ‘say that’, so that I could become a more efficient parent. And yet … and yet. Yesterday, we laughed and learned at the Zoo. Tomorrow one goes to a friend while the other gets a special day out with mum. Next week we will decamp to Portugal, where there will be all sorts of opportunities for quality time, and for downtime as well. The kids will spend half the time driving us mad, and the other half giving us joy. We will spend half the time driving the kids mad, and the other half giving them joy. There will be sunshine, and there will also be rain.

Such is life. Such are people. And such is teaching too.

About ten years ago, I was involved in a project with Teachers TV, where I was at the end of a secret camera, coaching teachers while they taught a real life class. Today I came across “I Am Not Tom Brady” by Amy Berard, on EduShyster’s blog. It explains how the ‘hidden camera’ technique is being used in the US. Please read it if you haven’t. Coaching via camera is a fascinating experience, but I felt it was a subtle, nuanced and difficult thing to do. I found it worked best for me to act as the camera for the teacher, spotting the issues that it’s impossible to see when you’re in the midst of 30 living, breathing human beings. The teachers who did it with me found it tricky too, and I don’t blame them. I didn’t feel that it was appropriate for me to script exactly what the teacher should say, or tell them how they should stand. I’m not here tomorrow; the teacher is. I did give strategies, maybe suggesting the teacher pause or use a time target. That stuff is useful when you’re in the thick of it. But I didn’t try to control another human being, because people are not robots.

I can no more precisely script what a teacher does, than I can turn my children into Stepford Kids. Well, I could, but why on earth would I want to? No one wants their life to be scripted for them; we all want to write our own scripts for ourselves. Some days we will get it right, and other days we will get it wrong. But I don’t get to have any rainbows, if I can’t put up with the rain.

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5 Responses to I Am Not A Camera

  1. Julia Lund says:

    One of the reasons I left the classroom after twenty years was because I was fed up of teaching to targets and results instead of individual students. I now work as a LSA and though the pay is a pittance, the rewards are priceless

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  2. Julia Lund says:

    One of the reasons I left the classroom after twenty years was because I was fed up of teaching to targets and results instead of individual students. I now work as a LSA and though the pay is a pittance, the rewards are priceless.

    Like

  3. Shelly Tarbox says:

    I’m not sure why I have spent so much time in the last two days reflecting on the blog by Amy Berard and the comments that have ensued. I in no way would be able to teach to a script and I sympathise with Amy and appreciate her blog, but as I think about other constructs of our existence as human beings, it occurs to me that there are many that are “scripted.” For example, I remember attending a church service with a friend of mine as a teenager, and thinking it was strange that everyone had a printed book that told them when and how to respond at particular times. It seemed very rote and uninspiring to me at the time, strange and without meaning. Yet, this was a religion that has been around for nearly 2000 years, being practised in this manner without much divergence, or change. So it has me thinking about human nature and the need for predictability and certainty in our lives. We like answers to things to make us feel more in control, we like to prepare and hope that our preparations lead to an outcome that is desirable. And when something is measured it makes us that more intent on finding the winning formula. But life is unpredictable and the unexpected can bring pure joy or devastating despair, and this can make us extremely uncomfortable or stressed. Perhaps some people need that “script” because they can’t handle the unexpected or they need the right “formula” to get the “right answer”, or else!! It is sad to me that this type of thinking is being exploited in schools, I don’t advocate this at all, but I can understand how it has come about (high stakes testing, closing the gap). I must admit that I worry for eight weeks after exams, waiting for results day, hoping my students have done well, because that is how I am measured as a teacher. I resist teaching to the test and try very hard to challenge my students to learn and explore the content rather than just memorise the marking scheme, but it is stressful, and sometimes I wish I did have the formula for them all to be highly successful. But I am also someone that understands that life’s unpredictability is how I learn to empathise, reflect and appreciate all that is grand about the human condition. So I suppose at this moment I am sad that education has become obsessed with measurement and comparison, causing joy to be suppressed and mistakes to be criticised without reflection. In the meantime, I too hope to be caught in the rain unexpectedly and take pure joy in the rainbow that follows in hopes that a two week holiday will re-establish my faith that education is more than a script.

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  4. Kyle says:

    On the Pivotal Podcast with Paul Dix [I enjoyed yours Sue/} Doctor Tim O Brien talked from the heart about when he was leading a special school and how respecting the students was so important even though they were very very difficult. I loved hearing that from him. No room for robots children if he was running the school and that is exactly right. You are right that people might need a script. I did to a degree when I started teaching but I also enjoyed what you so wonderfully describe as the “pure joy” of what might happen. We are fortunate to have such humane people like you and him and others I have heard on that podcast such as Jarleth O’Brien and Paul Dix himself in education.

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