Welcome Robert Tillsley, Hosting this Week from the UK


Firstly, I just need to say that these responses are purely personal and in no way related to my current employer.

My background in education is relatively recent. Before this, I worked in technology for over a decade. I reached a point where I wanted to do something more personally fulfilling. I wanted to give back and I’ve always had an interest in teaching. Fundamentally, I like working with kids. They are amazing, even when deeply challenging. I have taught casually and am now in my first permanent role teaching a year five class in the UK.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

Inspiration and motivation are needed in large doses. Sometimes it is completely overwhelming, especially the feeling that there is always more to do. Two things keep me going. It may be a little obvious but the children are key. Their wonder, striving and trust is very powerful. The other is the teaching staff. I am very lucky to work with amazing teachers. Without their support and belief in me, I would have given up or collapsed.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

The rewards can be obvious such as when the children learn; you feel that you finally did something right. It can be helping a student to make friends. It may not be measured but their social wellbeing is critical. Teaching permanently is completely different to casual teaching and the long term relationships are special.

Every now and then, you can have a day when you feel like you’re flying because there was a touch of magic in every lesson.

When it comes to challenges, I can only speak as a new teacher in a new country. I have worked in several schools, and so this is not a school specific response.

Here in the UK, the implementation of the new curriculum and the adversarial OFSTED approach, have created a lot of unnecessary stress. There seems to be a default assumption that teachers don’t know their jobs and that if there isn’t evidence within a book, then learning didn’t happen. The new curriculum is very demanding and has been dumped on schools, expecting children to suddenly jump two years of education in one. Throw in nation wide assessments that haven’t been organised properly in advance and there is plenty of stress to go round. I think this places unreasonable pressure on both teachers and students. That said, many schools do great jobs in minimising the impact on teachers and bringing the focus back to children’s learning.

On a personal note, the biggest challenge as a new teacher is making use of the principles of assessment for learning across wildly different student abilities. I love the freedom to change lessons as needed, but the responsibility is huge.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I’d talk to experts. The education systems of the world suffer from too many ignorant people messing with them. That is probably the least controversial thing I’ll say. I do have a laundry list tucked away in my pocket. I have no doubt many would disagree with them. Remember, I’d talk to the experts first…

Needs based funding: Enough said.

School Budgets: Individual school budgets should never have to pay for failing buildings or vandalism.

Teaching Courses: I had some great lecturers and tutors. So sorry guys, but large portions of my teaching course were next to worthless. Too many units failed to use basic teaching principles themselves. Many of the nitty gritty teaching skills were neglected or superficial. No wonder so many teachers quit early on. Teach teachers thoroughly and students will prosper.

Private Schools: Cut off all government funding or close them down altogether. Separating students by belief or wealth is terribly destructive to the social fabric of Australia. If all children were in the same system, then more effort would be made to improve it. And G8 universities with large endowments, watch your back.

Education ministers must have taught at public schools: You wouldn’t want a judge that only read about all that ‘law talking’.

School land can’t be sold off: The population goes through cycles. Children will come again, but next time there’ll be no money to buy the land back. Give it a hundred years and schools will have to be underground.

Critical thinking: The national curriculum did a good job of detailing this, but the more the merrier.

Universal free optional preschool: Help child have early access to rich literature and social interaction.

An end to Special Religious Education (SRE): Leave it for home.

Permanent Teaching Roles: The shift to contract teaching, like the casualisation of the workforce in general, seriously impacts on home life.

An end to seeing schools as the way to fix all social problems: Have proper community support.

………….I better stop here before I put the reader to sleep.

There are schools that service communities with specific needs or circumstances. I haven’t learnt anywhere near enough to make even off the cuff comments.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I see EduTweetOz as being vital for the cross-pollination of ideas. Teachers, principals and more have taken to twitter to support each other to be better educators. I still have so much to learn, but I would like to share some hard learnt lessons– many that I’m relearning over and over. Teaching in a new country has meant taking onboard a new curriculum, different work cultures and student expectations. If I can help others avoid the culture shock I’ve been through, then I’ll be happy.

You can follow Robert on Twitter @rtillsley



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