The Traditionalist Revolution: Apologia

When I started teaching in 2007 it wasn’t uncommon for teachers to be criticised by the then educational establishment for using traditional teaching methods. Teaching from the front was said to bore students causing them to switch off and not learn anything or inciting them to behave poorly in class. I’ve never bought into this reasoning and books like It’s your time you’re wasting by Frank Chalk or Andrew Old’s Scenes from the battleground blog provided reassurance to my younger self that other teachers felt the same way.

Inspired by Andrew, Winston Smith, Inspector Gadget and others I began to interact online anonymously describing my experiences and thoughts about the education system. Online I was free to blog and debate with those who weren’t used to being debated with about the cultural orthodoxy they sought to impose on teachers. This juxtaposed with day to day things like being asked to attend mentoring meetings with a behaviour consultant for following school policy on detentions; blogging was a form of catharsis.

The educational landscape has changed a lot since 2007. Blogging and online teacher activism has been an important driver for some really positive developments e.g Ofsted ceasing to grade individual lessons or advocate a particular pedagogy. Most of the traditional bloggers from a decade ago are no longer anonymous, some have published books, some have opened schools, some are quoted favourably by education ministers. Thanks to those ministers there is now less money available for schools which, in my experience, means less funding channelled towards progressive education consultants. My point is that traditionalism and it’s advocates are in the ascendancy.

I am older and hopefully wiser. Having learnt through personal experience and observation of some brilliant colleagues here are five principle bits of advice I’d offer to my younger self when entering the profession:

  • Never say, or imply, to anyone that you (or your school!) are better than your colleagues, doing so makes people think you are an arse. Most people don’t want anything to do with an arse.
  • There are no magic bullets in education. I’ve noticed that when someone (usually an arse) claims to have found a quick fix careful analysis of the facts reveals gaming, selection or unsustainable practice. Genuine school improvement takes years.
  • Some people are unreasonable and/or incredibly nasty. If you have to interact with them do so professionally and for no longer than absolutely necessary. Trying to change unreasonable or incredibly nasty people is a waste of your precious energy and time.
  • Teaching will not give your life meaning. I still struggle with this a lot, I am still easily provoked by certain individuals and I find it difficult to switch off compromising my relationships with the people who genuinely add meaning to life.
  • If you get into management don’t be a shit funnel.

It is with these five principles in mind that I turn to the burgeoning ‘traditional revolution’ led by some well known colleagues on social media. Most of what I’ve read contains some intriguing ideas and methods that, as a traditional teacher, ought to be of interest yet something grates and has done for some time. I’ve tried very hard to look beyond it but I find the majority of current, traditionalist blogging communicates ideas in a manner that is provocative, self-aggrandising and singularly unwilling to consider English schooling as a system comprised of many parts that all effect each other.

So in order to avoid betraying the principles of behaviour I’ve found most useful I will not be joining the ‘revolution’ or whatever it is my traditionalist contemporaries think they are doing. I very much doubt this will bother anyone, at worst I imagine this blog will be ‘one for a file’ or I’ll be labelled an ‘enemy of promise’ or ‘prog’ – if that is the case so be it.


6 Comments on “The Traditionalist Revolution: Apologia”

  1. It was hard to ‘like’ this post but I understand your position. Don’t forget that the people who are trying to start a ‘revolution’ as you put it aren’t going to be able to put their message across like the media-trained, slick consultants and prominent progressives with people behind them to edit their work or even write their articles for them! Most of us are just ordinary class teachers trying to be heard and sometimes you do need to be writing in a certain way to just cut through. I don’t think anybody tries deliberately to be self-aggrandising; it’s probably that in a progressive world you’ve got to have a bit of self-belief before you even take the big step of asking people to join you! It’s a big ask to expect those who are trying to change things to do so while also being super-meek, self-deprecating and generally not trying to upset people’s sensitivities, particularly the sensitivities of the upper (progressive) echelons. It takes a lot of balls to stand up, take a risk, and ask people to join you and I for one try to accept that those who are trying to change things are just human beings and that we shouldn’t be so judgmental.

  2. […] my last post I expressed my reservations about the current state of traditionalist blogging and the clamour for […]


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