Dear children, I’m sorry for all the little things I do to make you feel rubbish, by Tim Sully

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So what is it I do (unconsciously, subconsciously) which gives my children the message that I don’t believe in them, I don’t believe they can achieve?

This is my back-of-a-fag-packet list:

As a teacher…

  • I do planning which does not accommodate opportunities for changes in direction or looping back if you need it. You must fit in with my plans, sink or swim, I do not change my plans to suit your needs.
  • I give feedback with no time to act upon it, so you are always stuck with reminders of how rubbish you are, not evidence of how you moved your own thinking on by correcting your own work.
  • I give feedback which doesn’t inform you of your next steps so you know it is wrong but don’t know how to change it and then I do the above.
  • I tell my T.A. to support you rather than ‘Challenge’ or ‘Enable’ you – so you know that if a T.A. sits next to you, you must be rubbish.
  • I use setting and streaming as opposed to self selection and challenge, yes I make sure you know you are in the lowest group for a reason, and let’s be honest, you have probably been in the lowest group since you started school, how’s that for a motivator?
  • I make sure you are always sitting in the same seats, working with the same children, never experiencing and sharing ideas with the likes of Billy, Simon or Evie.
  • I make sure you are not able to see the higher attaining children (at this moment in time) being challenged and making errors too. Wouldn’t that be great if you knew that all learners have times when they struggle in their learning? Yes it would, but it isn’t going to happen in my class.
  • I play safe in my teaching, I am risk adverse and I make you risk adverse too. Better make sure you don’t make any errors!
  • I avoid giving you opportunities to struggle with your learning. My lessons are slick, choreographed, devoid of real challenge. I don’t want you to develop persistence and resilience now do I?
  • I make sure that you don’t know what a good one looks like, what beauty and excellence is expected of you. I may share pieces but I am not going to share the whole.
  • I don’t use the previous year’s learning as a springboard, sharing your past competences and achievements. Yes folks I am going to start right at the beginning again, I bet that makes you feel competent?
  • I make sure that I don’t show you beautiful and excellent work and I don’t tell you that someone just like you wrote it so you won’t know that it is within your ken to reproduce it and go beyond it. In fact I shall probably write it myself and let’s face it, I have had plenty of years to hone my skills so it is going to be good. Don’t you just think I’m great kids?
  • I talk about how clever you are so that you know that some of you were just born clever, more clever than the others. Heaven forbid you should appreciate that outcome is a direct result of effort.
  • I make it known that this classroom is like a racetrack, a race to the top and the ones at the top are the best kids. I will make sure that you don’t appreciate that you are on a personal journey to mastery, and that you might just be in different places.
  • I won’t ever point out how you have improved or recognise your achievements. I will just tell you that you haven’t reached the expected standard.
  • I won’t recognise any other talents and gifts you might have even if you are wonderful at bagpipes, break dancing or badminton. Only English and Maths count. My ‘nets define what I catch’ and I am not catching you.
  • I will continue to patronise you with faint praise, not notice you and celebrate the many facets of your wonderful personality.
  • I will continue to endlessly ask you questions about your learning rather than invite you to ask questions which might show me just how inadequate my teaching has been (yes its you’re fault you haven’t learnt it not mine).
  • I use language which suggests your race is already run rather than I don’t know where your race is going to end (thank you targets and labels for making this so much easier).
  • I accept you are bored because my delivery of content is more important than your deeper understanding.
  • I make sure that you are not encouraged to link different pieces of learning up (far as opposed to near learning). Stay in present the now, the shallow waters, the current episode, do not think beyond.
  • I present you with a differentiated worksheet which says, you won’t be able to do any more than this because you won’t! “Put a lid on it!”

And so I put a lid on learning…


See Tim Sully’s range of publications for teachers available from the Learning Exchange here or call us on 01934 427508 for training opportunities…

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