Given the offer of a trip in an educational time machine, I wonder if it would prove more beneficial to go backwards or forwards in time? A trip backwards would prove if the ‘good old days’ were indeed just that, and enable us to revisit approaches and ideas for the classroom that may have been long forgotten, writes Jim Smith.
A trip forwards would satisfy the current craving to refine our knowledge of what works, and it would decide emphatically if educational research is steering us in the right direction or reveal if we are forgetting two huge variables in any roll-out: the skills of children and talents of teachers.
Like most debates in education a strong case could be made for travel in either direction, with some wanting to go a little back and a little bit forward! And why not?Recognising the merits of different approaches: the needs of students; the resources available; the culture of a school or college; and the experience and skills of a teacher, all play a part in determining what will be effective and need to be the starting point for your journey.
So a journey that takes you backwards to look at what you used to do, as well as looking forwards to engage with new approaches, may be just what you need. Perhaps taking two steps forward and one step back is not as muddled as we once thought and may be another reason why us teachers need to have eyes in the back of our head.
Jim Smith is the head teacher of a secondary school in Bristol and author of The Really Lazy Teacher’s Handbook.