SETT Reflections – Lady Marie Stubbs
This was the first keynote I attended, and was also the first session I signed up for when I saw the programme. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and my natural cynicism at TV adaptaions of real people meant that despite having seen the programme with Julie Walters, I did my best to approach the KN with an open mind. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised for, I think, slightly unusual reasons.
The first surprise came when Lady Stubbs asked some of the audience to speak about their favourite teacher. Three ‘volunteers’ gave us accounts of teachers that had made an impact on them, and what struck me at the time, and even more so after a few days have passed, was the enthusiasm with which they spoke. One could hear the passion and gratitude come through in their words, and the observation I made in my notebook was “Teachers get enthusiastic when they are talking about a subject they love”. I think this is a really important observation as we begin to embrace A Curriculum for Excellence (ACE). All too often we ask pupils to do things they neither love nor see any use for, and then are frustrated when the pupils do not show any enthusiasm for the tasks/work set. We could learn from Marie Stubbs’ question. Give someone a topic they care about, or are passionate about, and we will reap the benefits. It is up to us as educators to mould and form that passion so that the pupils can gain the education they need and deserve. Stubbs reminded us that it was the job of the teacher, ‘…to challenge young people’ and I hope that ACE will be one way of doing that.
She made several points that rang true and which I could relate directly to my own teaching experience. Specifically, she told us of a book called Dibs In Search Of Self. She saw Dibs as a symbol that all children need to get a hand and help, however, I admired her candour when she said later in her speech that we can’t always help everyone, that sometimes we have to pass pupils onto the people that can help. I think this should be seen in a positive way rather than an admission of defeat on the part of the teacher.
One message that came over loud and clear – was the need to remain professional in all we do as teachers. As she said, “…they are not my babies.” We need to push pupils by making clear what is and is not acceptable, we must be firm, be consistent and be fair. Sage advice that most of us take for granted, or have discovered the hard way, and reminded me that Lady Stubbs had been asked to address the newly qualified/probationary teachers.
This lead her neatly onto questioning the nature of change in education. We should be asking at every new initiative or idea, “In what way will this take the children’s development and learning forward?” What we often forget is that change is frightening, and that this applies to staff as well as pupils, however, clear expectations of what the change is intended to achieve coupled with godd planning can go a long way to mitigate any problems that may be encountered on the way.
Speaking directly to the NQTs again, she reminded us that: “Motivation gets you going… habit keeps you going!” Many of the changes she talked about are simply part of the slow process of moving towards an open, inclusive school.
As she began to wind down, Lady Stubbs reminded us that change begins at home. She quoted some Jung, which I have paraphrased as, “If you want to change the child, you should look to change the teacher first.” This is a dangerous idea because all too often we will sit in our own comfort zones and wait for… well what? Are we merely ‘counting the beats’ as ARobert Graves put it? I hope not.
Finally Lady Stubbs finished by asking us what teaching was all about, and it is, as she said, to be a ‘force of nature’. A force that had three of my colleagues standing up and praising the person that had been so influential on their lives, a teacher. We should never forget that we have the privilege of being an immensely important influence on the pupils we teach. There are times when we need to be reminded of that, and I was grateful for the opportunity to hear someone of Lady Stubbs’ stature remind me.