Living Contradiction is the book that I wish I had had when I embarked on a career as a teacher.
The -˜living contradiction' that is its starting point is painfully familiar to everyone who has stood in a classroom and wondered how they had ended up this way, with the energy-sapping task of keeping order becoming an end in itself. We had thought it was a precondition for learning, and we craved the respect of pupils and colleagues, but we had sacrificed the excitement that brought us into the profession. Sometimes we blamed our pupils for forcing us into an authoritarian role, for not sharing the love of learning that we were so miserably failing to instil in them.
Warren and Bigger's book breaks out of this sterile dilemma: discipline versus self-expression, strength versus weakness. Warren is no naive idealist, and is well aware that teachers continue to be accountable to a regime that insists on measurable, quantitative, and sometimes trivial outcomes. But he has been willing to reappraise every aspect of the professional skills that had brought a form of success and recognition, along with deep frustration, and to hold onto the conviction that a classroom can be a place where education happens.
The breaking of familiar patterns is challenging for him, for colleagues, and for pupils. It is a rocky ride for everyone, but also an exemplary exercise in practice-based research. Armed with insights from educationalists and a rigorous methodology that enables him to analyse and interpret the results of his new approach, and fortified by a constant, questioning dialogue with Stephen Bigger, Sean Warren succeeds in changing the dynamic in his classroom -“ a hard-won achievement and a thrilling one.
This is not an arid book -“ all teachers will recognise the day-to-day dilemmas, confrontations, and compromises recounted here with honesty and wit. But it is inspirational: here is someone who has had the courage to believe in his students, in himself, and in the power of education.