I’m a middle school teacher by training and trade, and that makes me different. It also makes me part of a rapidly decreasing breed and has always left me feeling a bit separated from other things going on in schools.
I have been a great fan of Twitter this past year or so, and have found it informative, educational and useful in many ways, but increasingly I’m also becoming aware of a further divide between the two sectors of our system: primary and secondary.
The divide manifests itself in many ways. Firstly, I try to keep up to speed with a fair few blogs. I notice that blogs from primary teachers are rarer, but also that they tend to take a different tack. There are far more blogs from primary teachers about displays, or resource ideas, role play areas and the other paraphernalia of the primary classroom. Naturally these have their place, and I am grateful for those teachers who are expert in these areas and from whom I might learn a thing or two. But they’re not the things that get me animated about my profession.
Increasingly, my awareness of secondary teacher blogs is their focus on research (with debate of varying quality), the ‘big issues’ of teacher improvement, observation, use of data and effective leadership. I think these are important issues, but often what applies for a teacher of sixth-form Sociology is less directly relevant to the teacher getting their head round how best to teach column addition.
What concerns me most is the lack of overlap between these two. Not only because as a middle school teacher I am always concerned about the lack of understanding between the two sectors, but also because of the divergence of the profession more generally.
A classic example is this tweet this morning from @johndblake:
@dannyhilditch Using data well is one of the most powerfully effective things a teacher can do. Denying that is obtuse.—
John Blake (@johndavidblake) August 24, 2013
I happen to agree. Up to a point. But there is a massive difference between, say, the secondary school RE teacher who has perhaps 400 students to teach each week at various stages of their education career, and the primary school teacher with a class of 24 8-year-olds with whom she spends over 20 hours a week. The data just cannot have the same impact for those two people. The difference between the two sectors is hugely significant in this case, and a lack of understanding between the two can lead to disagreement, argument and too often a lack of respect, without furthering the case on either side.
This is why I worry about the prevalence of secondary teachers both in twitter, blogs and more widely – or rather the dearth of primary colleagues.
I have been reading Hattie’s Visible Learning lately, and while I recognise the value of much of what he says, it is harder for me to translate that thinking into primary practice than it might be if I were considering my GCSE History class. And I don’t see widespread discussion of those ideas among primary teachers as I do our secondary colleagues.
Lastly, let me stress that this is not to argue that primary teachers are not thinking of these big issues; merely that they are not finding their way into national discussions in the way that they seem to be among secondary colleagues.
I have seen several people comment about the need to get more teachers engaged in twitter and its surrounding debate. I couldn’t agree more, and the case is especially strong for recruiting more of our primary colleagues to tackle these issues in the many different ways they affect us.