I’m not quite like the rest of you…

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:

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.

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6 thoughts on “I’m not quite like the rest of you…

  1. teachingbattleground 25 August 2013 at 1:22 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. jobadge 25 August 2013 at 6:35 pm Reply

    It was the influential blog of primary teacher Tom Barrett that got me into primary teaching after a career in HE. He has moved on to a wide stage, but I would recommend follow Oliver Quinlan, who was a primary teacher before moving into teacher training at Plymouth. http://www.oliverquinlan.com/blog/

    Another primary teacher I admire and follow is Claire Lorriet is also worth following, and reading her blog : http://clairelotriet.com/

    I try to follow secondary and middle school teachers, but it does often feel like a very different job. Having come to primary education from outside, I’ve noticed that it can be a very tight knit community and the primary classroom can be a very solitary place. That influences how you connect with teachers outside school and outside your area of practice too. Twitter is helping to break those barriers and allow us to share practice more widely but you are right in that we need more of this cross fertilisation.

    I’ve been at the other end of the scale in HE, and have ex-colleagues now looking at MOOCs and impact. Perhaps teachers should also look beyond the school sector too? I’d recommend Alan Cann http://scienceoftheinvisible.blogspot.co.uk/ and Martin Weller, http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/, both ex-colleagues and still people I look to for the bleeding edge of where my primary school chiln may be going in a few years time.

    It’s a big world out there!

    • Michael Tidd 25 August 2013 at 8:17 pm Reply

      Thanks, Jo!
      As you rightly say, it can sometimes seem like a completely different job!
      I am familiar with Claire Lotriet and really like her stuff – although we don’t see enough of her. I shall have to look at some of the others you suggest.

  3. […] not the things that get me animated about my profession.” Click here to read further:  https://michaelt1979.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/im-not-quite-like-the-rest-of-you/ […]

  4. Tracey 26 August 2013 at 5:32 am Reply

    I am in the current 2013 cohort of Future Leaders and this year was the 1st year for primary candidates. There are 8 of us among approx 70 secondary. We have training called Foundations which consists of a Saturday Induction Day, then 2 long weekends and then 2 weeks in the summer holidays. We stay in a hotel together for all the training. Amazing experience. But the best part is being amongst secondary colleagues. I cannot even begin to list what I have learned from them and hopefully what I believe they have learned from us. There is definitely going to be some collaboration work going on in the next year around transition etc and as a teaching Deputy of Year 6 this has been an influential experience! I am constantly plugging Twitter to my staff and have at least 2 who are hooked. I agree about data – it is more important for SLT at primary although my staff are using it more and more effectively. But the main concern for me is the lack of engagement with the bigger issues. I have introduced staff to Hattie and Dweck and will continue with this work this year. I do think some primary teachers become bogged down in resources and classroom environment etc and now is the time to engage with the issues around teaching & learning. At my school we are well on our way on this journey and there are many many schools already there but from what I read online there are also many who still have to engage in order to close the achievement gap and make school and futures equal for all. Great blog – thank you. Will continue to follow.

  5. ficklepickle 15 June 2015 at 8:55 pm Reply

    agreed. I am in primary too, and to further isolate myself (!), teach in Scotland. Lots of the Ofsted/observation/SATS/levels talk is hard to fully plug in to but I am finding a lot to interest me in terms of teaching and learning – cultural myths vs educational research.

    I would love to read/discover more of this research being applied to teaching in the Primary Sector and read/see ways in which people are using research to adapt and improve their practise working with the under 12s.

    Meanwhile, I shall continue to investigate my own approach to offering feedback, assessing learning, and, our current obsession, PROVIDE EVIDENCE of all that I am doing.

    I have to say, though. all this learning that I am doing is definitely giving me greater confidence to voice feelings and opinions I have had about various strategies and ideas that have been variously introduced to us in recent years (5-part lessons, learning intentions vs success criteria, transferable generic skills, one-size-fits-all lesson planning, differentiation,….)

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