A demoralised colleague

I sent the following message to a fellow teacher who has been treated with contempt by those employed to support and guide her. She had taught a literacy lesson to a class of five and six year olds. Some of the children had used ‘ellipsis’ (as a set of dots) in their writing because they had learned about these three little dots earlier in the week. The children knew about them and were intrigued by them and by their special name: ellipsis. The management/observers regarded this as reason enough to dismiss the entire lesson as ‘inadequate’. Curiously they felt the need to ‘reassure’ this particular teacher that she was an outstanding teacher but – due to the grave matter of five year olds messing around with dots – the lesson in question had to be judged as ‘inadequate’.

A message of support:

I was dismayed to hear of your recent observation. I really do feel for you. It is an extraordinary process. I am stunned that a school can internalise the punitive OFSTED approach to staff ‘development’ to the extent that utterly demoralising someone is considered ‘what’s best for the children’. The horrible passive-aggressive nature of such encounters with our managers is very unpleasant. Just remember that there are two kinds of authority: hierarchical and natural. The former, in its worst form, is characterised by bogus ‘cleverer than thou’ language and by petty attacks on those who are further down the chain. Both of these characteristics are symptoms of insecurity. Natural authority is not about ‘x’ telling ‘y’ what to do and how to do it but rather by ‘y’ learning from ‘x’ because ‘x’ has more experience and knowledge and hence expertise than ‘y’. With natural authority one can only learn and grow in a supportive atmosphere.

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