I went to see the Lego Movie recently. I rather enjoyed it – the pathetic Green Lantern, the angsty Batman and the mockery of cat motivational posters were particularly appealing to my geeky soul. Okay, it was clearly a kids film and had the necessary saccharine moralistic ending. Bear with me!
One point really struck me in relation to teaching. It was at the end, when Emmett, the ordinary hero, was appealing to President Business, the evil OCD overlord who wanted to glue everything so that nothing would ever change or move. Emmett gestured, in a lego-like way, to all the odd vehicles and weapons that the ordinary people had made in revolt and pointed out that they were all based on President Business’ own inventions and that everything shouldn’t always be the same, shouldn’t be controlled or restricted by one person, even if they are a good idea.
One of the things that really aggravates me the most in teaching is how some educators will hoard their resources – perhaps share with a long standing colleague, but otherwise holding them close to the chest. This attitude is not, in my view, justifiable as a teacher or as a researcher. If we come up with a good idea for teaching, say, risk assessments, this should be shared, adapted and expanded freely by other teachers. For example, a teacher in my previous school took the idea of exit tickets and made end of topic bunting to decorate the classroom with. Or I made a lesson for Physics coursework teaching risk assessment by risk assessing the Triwizard Tournament. I shared this with my colleagues and on TES and another teacher in the department changed it to Twilight, as her class were particularly obsessed with the series. My class did not produce any less exemplary work because another class had access to the same resources.
I think that the hoarding attitude is prompted by the obsession with league tables. Every state school is compared with their neighbours in the competition for students, funding, teachers etc. So, it’s not only about providing a good education for your students, it’s also about trying to make sure the school does better than other schools, or conversely that other schools do worse. OFSTED criteria also add further fuel to this – to achieve an ‘outstanding’ lesson all students have to demonstrate ‘rapid and sustained progress’ so much better in comparison with other schools. This sounds nice in theory, but it is another contributor to this unhealthy competition. As with students, comparisons are simplistic and counter to the goal of improving educational standards.
No teacher goes into education thinking “I want to help students, but only the twenty sitting in front of me, so I’m going to keep all my good resources”. Some teachers have justified it to me by saying they put a lot of work into their worksheet/presentation/whatever. So what? You are not losing the resource and if everyone shares their material, you can save time somewhere else. Anyway, I don’t know a single teacher who just passively takes resources and delivers them mindlessly to their class – even a resource I made myself that I was perfectly happy with last week will receive a make over to be appropriate for this week’s students, current events and so on.
As with President Business’ Lego constructions, teaching materials can be shared and developed to make something unique and appropriate for each teachers needs. I’m not insisting that we must all be “special little snowflakes”, as President Business mocked. However, wider sharing of resources (as is happening with such MOOCS as iTunes U), as we have seen with computing and other open source developments, can help and support teachers and students alike. Share your resources and see what fantastic developments other educators might make! You lose nothing, and you could be helping hundreds of students far beyond your classroom. In the words of the annoyingly catchy Lego theme song: “everything is awesome when you’re part of a team”.