I’m standing outside and chucking stones

Maybe pebbles, not stones is the correct image. But I’d hate to change someone’s line about me without their permission. Pebbles, like stones, are smooth and well-worn yet they are smaller. They perhaps are more worn down by time and the elements and this may be what accounts for the minimal impact they can do if thrown. I think I’m a pebble thrower, not a stone thrower – after all the latter conjures images of death, both humourous (Monty Python’s Life of Brian) and tragic (the story of Ukrainian beauty Katya Koren) and to be honest, I’d like to distance myself from both.

Labels abound on twitter and the edu blogosphere that attempt to describe the behaviours and attitudes of teachers who are fed up with the current state of education: edupunk, agitator, provocateur, radical, reformer, innovator, disruptor, instigator. Perhaps you have included one or more of these in your bio at some point. Ultimately those people who claim this label, or have it thrust upon them, have very good intentions for education and educational change. Sometimes working *within* a system – and its accompanying policies – is just ineffectual. Sometimes working outside of the system (and voicing this decision to work outside) can yield beautiful things for those inside … and sometimes you just get labelled the anti-social, grumpy freak.

As someone who has been heavily influenced by individuals who can easily be described using the list above, I have increasingly found myself outside of systems and communities … even the community to which I was one of the most steadfast members: twitter. Why? I can’t explain it entirely, perhaps my reading up on the Romantics is making me elect a solitary state of mind, a desire to reconnect with my own thoughts about education, free from the constant barrage of ideas and information that twitter provides. There is a need, I see, for silence and reflection. Of course a community of like-minded individuals has an enormous pull – we all seek to have an ‘@mention’ or a ‘favourite’ or a ‘RT’ as these assure us that we are valued, needed, trusted, wanted. But when it becomes that and nothing else, I guess it’s time to take a step back and reassess the reasons for being part of the community in the first place.

So how does this relate to the title of the post? Separate from the tweet, retweet, favourite, quote cycle of twitter and from the read/comment/read of blogging, I have discovered that I am at bottom a grumpy and cynical educator, frustrated by talk that yields little action. Thus, I suppose, I am a Romantic … unfortunately that may result in a complete removal from the community and an immersion in my own fantastical imaginings: the classroom. In fact an outburst of emotion and despair regarding the future of my children’s education ended in the observation that I am simply standing outside and chucking stones.

For me the reality of education is confronted daily … there is a future for it, but like Nick Cave, I don’t fall for the Utopiate that the edu-crew preach – a utopian vision of education where all students and teachers are Apple and Google certified, learning together in open spaces of colour and comfort, engaging effortlessly with technology and reshaping society in an image of themselves. I see struggle, confusion, frustration, failure and yes – learning. Just look at the young people taking part in the #OWS movement (the trauma they are experiencing, the denial they confront daily, the refusal by those in power – the touted 1% – to acknowledge this protest as being valid) and you can’t deny that there is such deep, systemic inequality in our world that talking up breaking down walls between public and private, rich and poor, haves and have nots is merely talk. And there I am. I have come full circle. I have thrown the stone.

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9 thoughts on “I’m standing outside and chucking stones

    • You know what i love most about reading? The way in which we shape our response based on our current and past experiences … I love that this post provided you with the impetus to share your frustrations with the system in which you are/have been working. I am young in the field of teaching and to feel the frustration I do with it, I can imagine it could only be significantly amplified given your length of experience!
      I can’t tell you how frustrating I find it that wonderfully talented individuals (teachers) are reduced to teaching to a test due to contextual pressures. It really is a sad state of affairs for teachers and students.
      I guess we can cling to the hope that in 20 years time the people in power may be some like you, me, the rest … although I would prefer to think that power would be distributed and centralised on the teachers and learners.
      I guess our responsibility it to find the right targets for our stones, huh?

  1. Just think of the beautiful ripples you cause when you throw those stones…. You have a big impact on many people! Stay romantic… It is how you inspire us all!

    • Indeed, young lady – the ripples are what I seek when planning and launching the stone πŸ˜‰
      I find it hard to see myself as an ‘inspiration’ and it scares me to have that responsibility … I just am committed to being honest, trying new stuff and crossing my fingers that reflecting on my experience as a teacher doesn’t just make me look like a git, lol!
      To the Romantic title … I am just learning about this way of thinking and am realising the very clear delineation between the passive and the active Romantics … those who resign and recoil from an unfair, cruel and meaningless world and those who charge forth gallantly to meet their expected doom.
      I flit between both states – hence the erratic nature of this blog – yay then a day later, boo … I think that pretty much sums the everyday teacher’s experience though, huh?

  2. In the spirit of your post, here’s a provocation πŸ˜‰

    It is relatively easy to throw stones. The irony is, they mostly hit students (if those trying to bring about change give-up). For every frustrated teacher who leaves it for someone else the longer it will take. You are ‘walking the walk’ and that is invaluable. Also, you have been ‘in the system’ for a relatively brief time. I am sure you can be influential, if you persist.

    If you really want to be romantic, think about Nelson Mandela. He did something amazing. If we want to fix up the mess it will take lots years and effort.

    Chuck stones. Stay the course. Make a difference. πŸ™‚

    • For me, Mr Moore, you are the embodiment of provocateur and as such I would be terribly disappointed if you didn’t incite a little challenge to my thinking and behaviour.
      Yes, throwing stones is far too easy and trust me when I say I am one of the first to lay myself in front of the stones if their trajectory is in line with a student … for many this marks me as weak and naive. I’m OK with that assessment. As I said to Mark, above, it is fascinating how differently we each respond to a piece of text … for you saw that I was recoiling from my accidental profession, when in fact this all-too self-absorbed post was a mini-manifesto for my immediate future as a teacher – a devotion to the classroom and my own personal insights and experiences unmediated (mostly) by edu-hype.
      You’re right though, I am teacher baby.
      A comparison to Mandela? No one can hope for that. True change that will liberate the young from the tyranny of inequality, inequity, injustice, apathy and the fitfulness of a life devoted to bought ‘things’? Messy … not clean or summed up by a Keynote or a system. I get that. Yup … sticking with it.

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