The Hotel was very welcoming, the staff personable and, on the surface, seemed genuine in their desire to do all they could to help guests have an enjoyable experience. ‘Stay’ no longer adequately massages & moulds hearts & minds, apparently. No, a tad austere & cold. Plus, experience could also speak to outcomes and be measured, thought the teacher. Lucky hotel employees, never happen in my world. Ha.
The room was functional, difficult to find fault, but equally never going to inspire others to imitate. She had spent the evening in a curious binary state; stressed yet optimistic in a hopeful way. The oscillations danced a relentless tango all evening long. I don’t even want to think what will be waiting for me at school when I return from this “luxury”, as she read the latest membership list for the new improvement council. She began to guess from the names & designations the positions that many, if not all, would take. At ease, biases, stay at bay, I know you are there, she felt. Open mind, as the sudden onslaught of stress reappeared. Why are you here, she felt herself repeat? You have a school to run. I should be here though. Must be. Deserve to be, even.
‘Walled Gardens’ have that curiously misunderstood propensity to encourage groupthink. Where has the richness of friction and debate gone, she pondered silently. Evanesced to shadows of collusion and ‘well dones’ and ‘pats on the back.’ Don’t be cynical. We are all supporting a moral imperative, she assured herself. We are all in this together she said. Some more in this together than others, jabbing through her thoughts. Must stop that. Not who I am. I’m a professional who loves my career as a teacher. Not going down the road of cynicism that has afflicted too many colleagues I admire (please don’t, her inner voice repeated silently on an unconscious loop)
He had slept well in the same hotel. The powerpoint needed only the briefest of tweaks, date change and reference to the most recent advisory council rhetoric. Still room for the same jokes at the same point & he hoped, same polite ripples of laughter without the acknowledgment to any discernible humour. We are doing the right thing, he knew. That the system was predicated as much on what occurred beyond than during contractual hours strangely less quoted in this moral narrative. Maybe best not to mention that, he thought. Better to valorise teachers, any destructive shibboleth thereafter can be attributed to teachers ignoring systems advice on well being. Yep, good plan.
Buffet breakfast and comforting coffee. He sat looking around him, wondering what the other guests did for a living. Salesmen. Their suits certainly seemed to suggest that, he thought uncharitably. Very chatty also and smiling. Refining their in-group newspeak in preparation for the rhetoric of social persuasion & influencing others, no doubt. Further glances confirmed his earlier thought; no one here attending the conference. If there was I’d definitely know them.
Another Four and Five star hotel, another conference, different but the same. She sat listening, overtly attentive, para linguistics of agreement & confirmation. Better delivery today, more fluent and the message seems to be landing very well with the audience. As Hollywood would attest, many takes may be required to elicit and encourage a manufactured consent of credibility. Stop being cynical, again jabbing through her conscience. I’ve read Haidt and moral biases always precede moral reasoning. Slow down and truly internalise the message; “closing a poverty induced attainment gap is a national and moral imperative”. Who could argue? Who would argue? Who has argued?
Heartbeats quicken. How many emails await? When was the meeting to conduct a stress at work interview with that colleague? Do hope I can help otherwise another teacher off long term due to stress. No supply staff either. Can’t juggle timetables anymore.
He was enjoying this conference. He arrived late last night, but the speech pretty much delivered itself now & his ‘front of house’ was superb, hubris not withstanding he checked his ego. Slightly. Win hearts and minds and you are halfway there, his distinguished, high profile mentor had always engrained in him. And it seemed from the connection today he was doing just that;
“We need to strategically target the most disadvantaged pupils and provide coherent, sustainable and demonstrable interventions that can make a difference”
We? Whose we, she thought? “The Royal We” of we are in this together, similar to a Cameron cabinet of multimillionaires, she mused cynically? Of course we do. Say something less nebulous please.
“We need to break this cycle of poverty and stimulate a joy of reading and language in that critical period hypothesis of early years.”
We again? Stop. You’re absolutely right. A language rich environment in the early years has strong correlations to positive post school destinations. I’m with you, all the way. Shoot. Forgot that meeting with those parents who want to make official complaint against Mr——– in Science. Damn, need to catch up tomorrow and make space in my diary, somehow. Not sure how though.
“We need to walk the words of our values and transmit consistently high expectations; we need more of our most disadvantaged pupils to gain entry to FE and HE, breaking slowly a cycle of poverty of choice.” Absolutely, we may hold different contentions around the purposes of education, but ultimately the beautiful risk is to give everyone choice. Wonder if staffing have read my email and will expedite to national advert those Physics, Biology, Maths, English and Tech vacancies I’ve been waiting to fill for what seems like an eternity.
“We need to bridge this gap….” Hold on tiger, that’s a new one. Like that. Bridge the gap. After all, education in one sense is cognitive enhancement and surely that is possible for all. Maybe even greater opportunity to increase Gf / Gc of a targeted, disadvantaged cohort. Plus, high boundaries and high levels of care also helps bridge the gap and I know we do that well. Don’t I?
Well done, great points made today, she said to him at the end, serendipitously catching his eye after he had networked with the ”names’. Absolutely hit the nail on the head.
Now to make sure we translate into reality, she ventured.
Thank you, absolutely he agreed. We are in this together and on a moral level, you could argue we have no choice but to address our gaps. So true, she said, genuinely.
He walked away to be met by his entourage. Taxi to airport, flight to London and meeting with CBI tomorrow he thought. Same hotel chain, so at least his points would increase. Wonder if the next series of House of Cards is on Netflix yet. Need to check.
Need a break from this reality.
She walked away, positive and mildly hitting Csikszentmihalyi’s flow. But. Against her better judgement, she opened the app and checked her emails. The colour in her face almost at once began to gently drain of optimism, her heart notched up its rhythm, her thoughts spiralled to light speed again. Back to her world.
Back to this reality.
We are in this together, she again mused.
Part 2; ‘We’ll meet again. I know where. I know when’