Education Wellbeing

“Getting rid of the Dross”

Towards the end of 2012 I had two conversations with teachers in two different schools that made me stop and think.

The first was with a principal who in response to my assertion that we overuse grades in school replied:

I’ve heard all this before. But if we stop grading, we end up with kids who are shit but who don’t know they’re shit.

A few days later during a Q&A with a teaching faculty, a number of teachers started referring to “the Dross”, and once they’d “gotten rid of the dross,”they could really start teaching.


Now I’m not in the business of over-generalising or stereotyping, and I’m well aware of the challenges presented by some kids, but these two instances encouraged me to write the following for a Generation Next Newsletter. It’s not intended to be a detailed, in-depth look at teacher – student relationships. Rather it’s intended to serve as a conversation starter… what do you think?


Teacher Student

Of course we all know that relationships are central to teaching, and of course we all know that good relationships are pre-cursor to good teaching.

But I wonder if we can clarify what a good Teacher/Student relationship looks like?

In my experience good relationships in the classroom don’t depend on likeability as such. By that I mean we shouldn’t be aiming to be friends with students.

Rather a good relationship is built on 3 key things.

1. Respect

Respect must be a two-way street. No you shouldn’t expect students to respect you just because you’re a teacher. No-one has EVER been able to convince as to why this should be the case. Respect is something that takes time to be built and nurtured. Calling kids by their first name (not a nickname or surname) is a good starting point.

2. Trust

Let’s be honest, schools don’t trust kids. That’s why schools ban Facebook. That’s why unions panic if student feedback is suggested as a good way of measuring teacher performance. But if we don’t trust the kids – and they know this – why would they trust us? How many kids think that a teacher’s “out to get them?”

3. Show that you care.

Studies have shown time and again, the number one thing kids need from a teacher is the sense that they care about how they’re doing; both socially and academically. They feel that the teacher wants what’s best for them, and the way this is conveyed with respect and trust.

I wonder what would happen if every schools’ motto was: “We respect, trust and care about our students.”

Change Leadership Tech & Social Media

What if every teacher blogged?

Let’s just say for a moment that in teaching, we value concepts such as:

  • Fostering relationships
  • Enhancing resilience & staff wellbeing
  • Encouraging deep reflection
  • Sharing of best practice and vision
  • Engagement in our profession
  • Enhancing teacher quality
  • Cross-curricular links
  • Links to the “real” world*
  • Peer-to-peer coaching
  • The development of a body of work
  • The ability to stay “current” with social & technological trends

Which one of these would blogging NOT address?

I believe that blogging is the simplest, cheapest but also the most effective way to enhance teacher quality in your school… without the need to fire or hire anyone.

I suggest that as a start, school leaders could create a school-based blog and allocate 1hr every one or two weeks for staff to blog. You can keep it completely “in-house” or use it as a window into your learning community – whatever suits your school.

In fact there are probably already a number of bloggers on your staff who could help facilitate the setting up of your blog.

If your school is devoid of bloggers, this link gives you the 101 on what’s needed to get a blog up and running.

Make sure you encourage openness, honesty and consistency. Encourage staff to read and comment on each others posts. Make sure you allocate time for this.

Struggling to think about what to write about? Why not start with:

What went well for me at school this week and why?

Do this for a couple of weeks and see how it develops.

As with most things, it will take time, but persevere and perhaps in 6-12 months, you could write a post about the benefits, challenges and opportunities blogging  in your school has presented.

And please send me the link to your post when you do!

Of course if your school is already doing this please feel free to leave us a comment to share your experiences.

*I’m not sure why school is so often seen as NOT being a part of the “real” world. But that’s another blog post for another time. 🙂