Thursday, 5 September 2013

Educating anywhere

I'm fresh from my first watch of Educating Yorkshire, well once I'd checked on the kids, popped to the Co Op for milk before it shut and then watched the bit at the end I'd missed.  I want to try and get down in a blog some thoughts because I'm sure in 12 hours the to do list will have taken back over.

I loved it.  It's inspiring, it's heart-warming, it resonates deeply with everything I believe in as a headteacher and always have believed in as a teacher.  It celebrates the pupils in a way that is just fabulous and it shows in a real way how a new headteacher has seeded, watered and grown an ethos.  The seedlings of this ethos are in front of our eyes here and that is a fabulous privilege to be able to see.  But it isn't all the way grown yet and that is also deep within it's beauty.  I'm sure Johnny Mitchell will go into school tomorrow and see just how much taller the trees of that ethos are from when the show was filmed.

I don't think in this job we ever get to rest in the shade of those trees, but most of us would just get bored of that anyway!

Many people online are making comparisons between Educating Yorkshire and Educating Essex.  I don't think the two are comparable.  They are from different areas with different social perceptions and cultural norms.  We are led into that comparison by the media in a very Pavlovian way.  It sounds and looks similar.  Creatures find that comforting.  We liked Educating Essex, this has the same sounds, we like it!  The bell ringing at the beginning, the music, the filming techniques.  But, to be fair, this is a very ethical production team and they do this stuff well actually.

It reminded me about the way Tom Bennett wrote about cultural memes in this brilliant blog about Trollday:

I didn't have much understanding about the term meme before I read this and it made me wish Tom had been my English teacher!  This subtle media branding is everywhere and that's in play here.  I don't think for gaming, just because that's always the case.  Let's be careful though that it doesn't get in the way of us celebrating Passmores for what it is, and Thornhill for what it is.  Whilst I don't think they are comparable though, that doesn't mean I don't think there are many similarities.

I watched the Sky reality program about Harrow last night and what struck me wasn't really the differences, they are a given as it costs £30,000 a year, but the similarities.  For example the Assistant Headteacher and the way he supported the boys who were getting detentions or having friendship issues.  The support staff, they might be called something old fashioned but there's no difference between them and the staff doing the same at Passmores or Thornhill when you actually hear what they are saying about their pupils and how they care and support and challenge.  Is Ollie, who detests his straw hat because he wants to look cool, that different in his essence to Luke or Kammren?  All clever, all railing against authority.  All in possession of the thing that frustrates teachers the most.  The possession of the ability to do amazingly well but the lack of any inclination whatsoever to do it and using their ability to wind up every adult they encounter!

For those that didn't catch the Harrow thing here's the link:

What Vic Goddard, Martin Smith (head of West Acre at Harrow) and Johnny Mitchell do all have in common though is that they quite clearly love this job.  We hear and see an awful lot of what there is to dislike about being a headteacher.  But even on the days (sometimes months...sometimes whole academic years) where the wrung out feeling outweighs the heartswell it's still the best job in the world.  There are always glimmers.  Even in a really bad week.  The other great thing is that one minute of heartswell counters 100 minutes of heartache.  That's headteacher maths there.

I think it was hard for Passmores in some ways as they did it first.  I hope the Daily Mail will give Thornhill an easier ride, I'm avoiding the daily fail at the moment for the sake of my blood pressure so I shan't know.  I am very grateful though to Vic for trailblazing as before that I thought quite a lot of what I was doing as a head was probably about to get me the sack and that I wasn't anywhere near thick skinned enough!  We don't get a lot of love sometimes and we don't ask for it but the likes of Johnny and Vic sure help with the idea that it's ok to be a normal human being.

I very much look forward to the rest of Educating Yorkshire and Thornhill deserve to feel very proud.