Recently I was privileged to attend the IEUA National Conference in Melbourne. It was wonderful to be able to listen to knowledgeable keynote and guest speakers who posed interesting questions and certainly made us think about the future of our profession.
One of the themes of the conference was about taking back control – being able to make educational decisions and control our own teaching based on our knowledge and skill, the relationships we develop with the children and families and our professionalism, rather than teaching for data collection, ticking boxes and chasing ratings.
How has our work changed over the years? We certainly have less influence over our work as we are now required to keep lengthy and time consuming documentation at the expense of time spent in building relationships, teaching, reflection, planning and professional development.
Is the quality of our teaching suffering because we are under the pump to send out to the family’s regular learning stories about what the child has done during the day? Have we sacrificed valuable learning opportunities in order to document? Is this documentation as thoughtful as it could be? Does it document learning properly and are ongoing plans relevant to the child or are we now forced to send out less than satisfactory observations and generic plans so that someone can tick a box and chase a rating because they are scared of the consequences of getting a low rating all at the expense of the child and quality teaching? Is it time to say – enough!
I know what I am doing, I’m a teacher first and foremost, not a data keeper; I’m a knowledgeable professional and I want to spend time with my children getting to know their learning styles, their interests, scaffolding their learning, planning exciting and engaging programs with this knowledge and building relationships with families so we have proper family engagement. A comment at the end of a digital notification such as ‘love the photo’ is not family engagement, no matter how hard we try to say it is.
We are falling into the trap of data informed practice – how many did we send out this week, how many responses did we get? I’m really sad to see that teachers are placed in a position where they are head down writing observations and taking photos and missing countless opportunities to engage with children and scaffold learning. If an amazing interaction takes place between a teacher and child which leads to the child’s increased learning and skill development, if it awakens a thirst for knowledge, if it develops a new skill, does it matter that we haven’t photographed it and documented it if we really know the child and what the next step is and we can engage the family by talking about it in two way conversation? Is that not more dynamic and valuable family engagement? And what of all those opportunities missed while we are writing, writing, writing or looking at the day through a lens?
I seem to be looking at my day through a camera lens and I don’t like it. I’m not happy with the quality of documentation I keep now.
I have children who tell me to stop writing and come and play with them. Who is the documentation really for? Were we worse teachers before? I don’t think so. We were better, we had control, we used professional judgements and we had time to develop proper relationships with children, families and colleagues. One of the keynote speakers stated that research has shown that the loss of relationships is the most damaging outcome of data informed practise.
We need to push back those frontiers of control. Take back the power. Trust our own judgements.
Let’s claim back what we really do. Let’s be teachers once again.