Working within schools, it is easy to be scared, follow the crowd, and dance along to a tune which you know, deep down, does not resonate with the values of teaching and learning you have inside. Examination systems, accountability structures, and whimsical policy changes all make individual teachers and school leaders look like rabbits caught in headlights, being easily bemused by the latest initiative they are expected to put into place, whilst ensuring exam outcomes are higher than last year. No one can deny that high standards and outcomes in schools are bad - we all want the very best for our pupils - but the narrow pursuit of results can lead to despair and conformity.
Let me introduce you to Brian. Brian is a (fictional) primary school head teacher in England, UK. Well, maybe not fictional, as many working in schools will relate to the story created by Will Ryan in his -˜Dare to be Different' book. Following the internal dialogues, reflections and incidents that Brian is faced with on a daily basis, the story unfolds telling how an individual can strive to take back ownership of what happens in the classroom and build vibrant curriculum with which to hook the imaginations of pupils. How? Will has cleverly inserted over 100 tips based on exciting primary practice, along with nearly fifty significant ideas to strengthen leadership, and accompanied a similar number of inspiring quotations throughout the story that encourages head-teachers to be brave and follow their own rules for what is best for that school community.
Without spoiling the plot, or ruining the ending (this is not a spoiler alert!), the book concludes in a reflective manner, reminding the reader that without struggle, there is no progress. Offering staff the opportunity to participate in hubs of excellence allows individual teachers to keep updated with pedagogical advances, a strong sense of efficacy, and the opportunity to value and celebrate their own learning. Also, offering three-generational lessons within a fourth-generation curriculum (earlier discussed in the book) allows for a rich, experiential and inspiring learning opportunities. One of Brian's final reflections in his notebook concludes:
Children should enjoy a curriculum that provides a rich variety of knowledge and experience in school, no matter what their skills and abilities, and regardless of their personal circumstances-¦
-¦it is vitally important that schools offer a broad and balanced curriculum that contributes to the social, moral, spiritual and cultural development of pupils.
Ask yourself-¦.does your school reflect this?
We are usually confronted with books that can sit on shelves and be picked up, dipped into and used for pithy activities whenever suits. Very few books demand to be read from start to finish, but Will Ryan's book tells a story and deserves to be given time to follow the flow, absorb the advice, and learn from the lessons underpinning the narrative. If you are the teacher, or school-leader who doesn't want to follow the herd, satisfy the policy-makers, but take action to do justice to your colleagues and pupils, then this is a story that should encourage and inspire you. PROS:
An easily readable storybook entwined with inspiration and lessons for leaders.
Told from the perspective of a Primary School Head-teacher in England.
Calls for school leaders not to follow the crowd, but do what's best for your pupils and community.
to read the review on UKEdChat.