Is it all about the pupils?

I entered the education profession to help pupils see their potential and enjoy their learning regardless of their starting points. This is a result of my school experience but it’s also about championing the pupil and provide for them opportunities and experiences that they may otherwise not be able fulfill because of their social-economic status. However, I am cautious and, at times, reluctant to take the position I hear a lot from colleagues “it’s about the pupils”.

Yes, it is, but it is so easy to say it (too easy) and I think that is what makes it difficult for me to accept it, especially when it is used to justify certain actions or decision making by leaders. It acts almost as a default position that makes everything better again or okay regardless of the impact it has on others.

I have added a new policy for you to mark every book before the next day. It’s about the pupils!

I want to see a lesson plan for each class for the next month. It’s about the pupils!

Directed time? Why do they ask? It’s about the pupils!

Is it? Really? Who is actually benefiting from it?

My thinking is that we need to start saying it’s about the teachers! The most valuable resource we can offer pupils is the expertise and determination of the teacher. Real change happens when teachers are excited and eager to get the most out of pupils. It is the fire and passion to engage and enthrall pupils which brought many of us to the classroom. How can teachers spark a student’s imagination when we, leaders, have snuffed it out? Hence, it is surely plausible to state that everything we do is about the pupils; however, we must first start with creating a culture that facilitates mastery, autonomy and purpose for teachers.

Our leadership should be about removing obstacles, not adding more bureaucracy; provide challenge, not blame; offer support, not guilt. The biggest impact in a pupil’s educational life is the teacher. If decision making overlooks it’s most valuable asset in delivering progress than we are failing pupils.

A highly motivated, empowered and skilled teacher is about the pupils and will make learning infectious in the classroom. I remember my best lessons were with teachers super excited about the content and, even though it was at times amusing (if not cringe worthy), it was contagious, and you could not help but to get involved. Yet, a teacher restricted by tick boxes, artificial accountability systems and consumed with fear will offer little enthusiasm or a desire to go the extra mile, yet, instead, go the opposite direction and start to work to satisfy policy, not pupils.

I came into education to help pupils see their potential and enjoy learning and this starts with my love for education and excitement to inspire pupils. If we create a culture that view teachers as disposable commodities and take certain actions that weigh down creativity with bureaucracy than it’s actually not about the kids, it’s about an educational system which has lost its way.

Pupils are at the heart of what we do but we must not forget about the other organs that keep it pumping.