‘Had we but world enough, and time…’

The OverPromise

Debate Club. Reading Club. Parent meeting. Parent phone call. Mock exam small group support. Middle leader meeting. CPD training. Department meeting. Teach. Mark. Plan. A week like any other.

Perhaps one of the problems of the teaching profession is a tendency to over promise, for both others and ourselves. We want to do more than we are capable of. Teachers are usually, by their nature, committed to making a difference. Not super, not heroes, but pretty serious about the job they do.  The world of school can read like a series of Matrix codes floating above the heads of every individual. We know how to make a difference, we can crack the code, but we are always in conflict with reality – facing a lack of real time and human resources. Even that doesn’t stop our engrained desire to solve, fix and make good with the world.  And that is often where many problems begin.

We tell the anxious Y11 student we can mark that quickly. We tell ourselves that we can run off a scheme of work whilst sipping a latte and munching on a Danish pastry, and be done in time for lunch (actually, some of #teamenglish can). We tell ourselves we can do it all, but we can’t.

Sometimes, others over-promise for us, A fairly innocuous pledge to support a child, in a meeting between a leader and a parent, can equate to hours of work over time for the classroom teacher; time that unfortunately, does not exist.

Likewise, systems can over promise on what they can deliver. Designed to evidence what we do, they are invariably cumbersome and fraught with problems. Perhaps, when the focus is too firmly fixed on the promise of the solution, it is easy to lose sight of actual process teachers will have to go through to get there.  Evidence favours things that are swift, neat and linear. But as many English teachers would agree – swift, neat and linear are concepts that don’t always sit well with the progress of something like writing.

Expectations from institutions and the government continue to move steadily skywards, set against the backdrop of teacher shortages and a financial squeeze. Given that I’m more Mini-me than Morpheus, I have no power to challenge the over-promises made by governments on my behalf. However, I can keep my own in check:

No, I can’t run a third club this week, even though you are wonderful students and I’m sure it would be fun. Sorry.

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