The most valuable resource of all

So we all know that at the moment there’s a problem with a lack of availability of qualified Computing teachers. There is a huge push going on to train people up to take on this role and improve their skills, and this training is in large part coming from teachers who already know what they are doing. We also know that the Government is trying to introduce performance related pay for teachers. You might be thinking “what does this have to do with you, you work in an independent school?”. It’s going to have severe consequences for the most valuable resource of all.

It appears that in the age of social media and pervasive technology, we have developed something unheard of even a few years ago – the concept of the ‘rockstar teacher’. This is someone who considers that they know what they are doing in the classroom AND goes out of their way online to promote themself, blog, put up resources, cultivate twitter following, is probably invited to speak at a lot of events and has lots of people kissing their butt and telling them how wonderful they are. (Sorry, I said it. It’s true.) Speaking in the field of Computing, there are certainly a few rockstars and a few who are trying to set themselves up as such. No one, not even me, is immune. I like it when people appreciate my resources or say nice things about me – who doesn’t?

Most of these rockstars seem (from my limited knowledge of them) excellent teachers and do indeed do very good work – that’s not my gripe. For a while, I did think it was pretty much a good thing – let’s all share our stuff and raise the profile of Computing and if we all work together we can make this subject a real success. But this model doesn’t really work, and it’s being further perpetuated by the government’s policy – in the words of John Tomsett:

Whilst the rhetoric from Michael Gove is collaborate, collaborate, collaborate, DfE policy-making encourages competition at every level.

As a teacher with a CS degree who already knows the subject, for me it has become increasingly stressful to have to keep up with all of the extra ‘things’ I feel I have to do to set myself apart as a competent teacher of Computing – writing articles, running courses, creating resources, speaking, running workshops, having my own ‘thing’ that people know me for. It does annoy me that a lot of being invited to do high profile things is on the basis of who you know and how easy it is for lazy media researchers to find you online and is not based on what you do on a day to day basis in the classroom. (Or, in other words, boo hoo, they didn’t invite me 😉 )

I’m really tired of trying to prove myself to other people.

It’s exhausting, and is it really that productive? Shouldn’t I just be content to know for myself that I did a good lesson today? We’re in danger of good Computing teachers becoming so pre-occupied with setting themselves up for newspaper articles and speaking gigs and making a name for themselves that they forget what we’re trying to do here – provide quality lessons.

To my mind the most valuable resource of all is time. If we’re going to succeed with our revolution, time is most efficiently spent working together. Giving your time to help a colleague. Working on projects together, rather than fragmenting and each trying to make a name for ourselves. Working together to build a strong workforce of quality teachers. who are all good at their jobs and who can all do our students and our subject proud rather than hoarding up our spare time trying to be better than the next guy.

I don’t want to do this any more.

(But I might have to.)



7 thoughts on “The most valuable resource of all

  1. Laura

    You certainly make some very fair points, without it sounding like ‘sour grapes’, though I don’t imagine you will hear of many ‘rockstar teachers’ complaining about this particular situation.

    While I myself have been invited to ‘perform’ at a handful of these ‘rockstar teacher’ gigs, and immensely enjoyed the experience I believe it’s just as important for any of these rockstar teachers to help shine the bright lights on other budding rockstars. While there is an immense sense of euphoria that comes when another teacher approaches you and says “Thanks, you inspired me to try …”, perhaps a rather more altruistic approach or response is what is required, for example; “That’s fantastic, how about sharing your experiences with others?”, investing time to listen to others and help them recognise their own achievements.

    If one rockstar can successfully inspire another teacher to achieve rockstar status, then they truly are a genuine star. True stars must seek to elevate others to allow them to enjoy the same rewards, by spotting their talents and encouraging them, not keeping all the spoils for themselves.

    1. …an after thought. However, many of the current rockstar teachers were pioneers leading the way. As more and more teachers embrace the curriculum changes, the work that the rockstars were originally doing will start to seem more ordinary and everyday.

      1. I agree that it’s a great and humble thing to recognise others achievements – something which is not always done and which makes a massive difference to morale and ultimately to the quality of teaching. If someone feels peer validated, they will in turn have confidence and eventually be able to train others – which is exactly what we want! I’m always grateful for the help and encouragement you give me and I’ve mentioned it several times on this blog.

        You mention that the current pioneers led the way – I am sure that for every ‘rockstar’ credited with being a leader there is another equally excellent teacher who was doing exactly the same stuff at the same time but who remains relatively unknown – I certainly have a few examples in mind of people I hold in high regard. Without intending to insult anyone, It’s not the qualities of good subject knowledge or good pedagogy that makes a teacher into a rockstar, it’s knowing how to make yourself heard. I think that’s a sad lesson to teach our children.

  2. It’s not who you know, it’s who you…

    I’d advise you stop caring about being great at your job – and just milk the dry teets of the highschool cash cow until it’s spewing lovely creamy milk all over your current account. £££

    Same story for me – I’m a YouTuber! Do the best and most talented content creators rise to the top? No way! It’s almost purely based on who you suck up to.

  3. I’d tend to agree with what you’re saying. I noticed the other day that several schools are now running consulting businesses using teachers. Nice if you have the time but I do start to wonder where the focus should truly lie.

    For those of us in the independent sector, we don’t attract Master Teacher funding, some of us teach at weekends too and have just as challenging a role in taking extremely traditional schools into a brave new era of technology not just in Computing, but in every subject (where appropriate). I would probably like to be a ‘rockstar teacher’ but I don’t have the time. I’m too busy setting up new department(s), new facilities and whilst I’m not pulling in consulting fees, book deals and regular slots in the broadsheets (despite having been asked to write for one), I’m happy with what I do and the kids seem to appreciate it with 47% of Yr9 signing up for our first official GCSE Computing option.

    So don’t take it to heart, the world revolves around who you know. Just rest assured that you’re doing the right thing the right way, more so because it seems like a grind a lot of the time. When the kids turn around and ask if they can join your class instead of going to other subjects, then you know you are a rockstar teacher, it just doesn’t matter how wide your exposure is!

  4. I think the difficulty lies in that teaching is a very closed, private activity. No-one outside your school can see or really appreciate your teaching efforts. The only thing they can observe is all the rest: the tweeting, the resource-sharing, the speaking, and so on. Therefore teachers get recognition for their peripheral activities rather than their main activities. But I’m not sure what can be done to change this.

    In an ideal world, I would really like to see something like a 20% time allocation for teachers to do things outside the classroom. There are lots of situations — delivering teacher training, serving on expert panels, writing articles — where being a current teacher is a clear benefit, as the teacher can lend their expertise. But the problem is that teachers are so busy teaching that a lot of activities seem to be served by ex-teachers, who leave to run consultancies or join educational foundations. It would surely be best if we could allow/support these extra-curricular activities but keep them in the classroom too — a bit like Alan O’Donohoe is aiming for with his grant.

  5. Hi Laura, meant to reply to this ages ago, but the work life balance got in the way!

    Alan is a GREAT teacher and he does the stuff we all dare to dream about, I don’t know how he has the hours in the day, once i thought i’d be able to keep up with his pace, but now i just trail in his wake!

    I’m a bit like you, I work hard, I put all my resources online and try my best to do a good job. But sometimes i think that the idea that you have to get recognised by your peers to even to progress up the ladder (I aspire to be a head of dept or a master teacher), could get in the way of teaching itself.

    So should I just shut up shop and just do my job, I’ll probably get on just fine? With a new baby as well, i find I’m more picky with what i do now-a-days and yes, i do get jealous of someone doing a CPD that i haven’t attended, but i guess that’s just me thinking that i have to do it all….and that contributes to more teacher burnout that anything else i imagine.

    one of the biggest buzzes i got was walking into a school 20 miles away and seeing my resource on the wall, even though he had no clue who i was (although i maybe shouldn’t have shouted “THAT’S MINE WHOO HOO” at the top of my voice)

    Keep doing what you are doing, we’d miss you if you were gone!

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