Fail we may, sail we must

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.

Vincent Van Gogh

If you’re lucky, the opportunity for global discussion comes around once in a generation. Sometimes we are gifted with the power of a platform to share our voice or, for many, these opportunities are out of grasp. Left to others to shape and alter the way forward; our place only to accept and roll with whatever decision that is made on behalf.

This is evident from many moments of history etched and carved within our cultural chronicles. Discussions missed. Conversations never spoken. Emails never sent and letters, well and truly, left undelivered or, in fact, unwritten. The chance to really challenge the way we do things, unfortunately, lost in the ever-quickening pace of the here and now. Journeys never taken. Oceans left unexplored.

As educators across the globe, we are now witnessing the most extensive cultural change in a generation. As schools and colleges temporarily close their doors for learning, and as more and more pupils learn to take instruction from teachers and educators from the other side of a screen, we now must be all too aware that the status quo of education, as we know it, is evolving in front of our very eyes.

Of course, change within education is the only permanency we have become to know. Generations of educators have become used to the refashioning of curriculums, modification of accountability measures, grappling with the ever-changing foci from local and central governments and, importantly, the need to respond to the evolving contexts of the communities we serve in order to provide the best educational starting points in life. However this, for once, is very different. The situation we find ourselves is not one of localised policy revision or a change in the national perception of education. This is education evolving from within. Responding to the now. Taking shape, forming and undertaking a unique metamorphosis to fit the needs of a global situation; moving almost without direction to its new home within the ether.

As educators, we have always fallen foul of reinventing the wheel. From effective classroom resources to successful features of school culture. However hard we try not to duplicate what has already been used or achieved across our shared educational landscape, we still end up creating our own versions of previous ideas; remodelling and reshaping to fit the needs of our schools and pupils.

Of course, this isn’t an issue; one hat doesn’t fit all heads. Schools serve a vast range of communities, and to offer the same approach would be lunacy. The colossal, megalithic repository of educational ideas only offers the starting points; allowing leaders and educators access to the origins in order to shape and craft the idea further. Tweaking material, concepts and ideologies to fit existing paradigms that we recognise from our own childhood experience of schooling to the work we undertake on a daily basis as teachers and educators. The form remains, the content slightly altered.

However, the move towards remote learning is the now accepted face of the ‘new normal’ – the way forward for the foreseeable future. So as the world responds to this unique global situation, the cultural norms and structures are responding in return; taking an existence of their own.

The tide is coming in.

At present, the world is responding immediately to the interfacing of education; maintaining the contact and interaction between teacher and pupil. With this, we also continue to maintain the transaction of learning, tasks continue to be set, assessed, scaffolded, shaped and organised to meet the needs of our pupils. The two fundamental constructs of education are in place but, the question remains, what do we do next?

How can we ensure that we are utilising these new tools of learning in the most effective way possible? If this is to remain, how can we offer a standardised model of delivery, create equitable access to fair assessment methodology and, significantly, support all pupils, regardless of social context, in order for them to achieve their academic goals. From supporting those students on their pathway to higher education, allowing pupils in secondary education the breadth of experience to define their academic preferences and, more importantly, to engaging those children at the earliest stage of their school life in order for them to explore the richness of learning, harness curiosity within the curriculum and equip them with the fundamental skills to access education whatever form it evolves to take. We must recognise that the journey has not yet begun.

The sea, at present, is already stirring but the waters lap gently. We sit in the harbour. However, as we set course for an unfamiliar journey, a fresh pedagogical approach needs to be explored, researched, considered and developed. The classrooms we have grown to know are slowly losing their walls and new methodologies need to take shape.

The choice to travel is not within our hands. The ocean awaits. The boat will leave.

The seas we are soon to sail are very much unchartered and, without a coherent and logical plan for development, a course to navigate, a crew to steer, these gentle waters we float within, will grow and swell to test the finest of sailor.

So now is the time to talk, to share ideas, start conversations, park political persuasions, understand global timezones and, as a world of educators, seek opportunities for professional global dialogue.

The water churns.

We are the crew to steer the ship.

We are those who set the chart and draw the map.

Let us not be distracted by the size of the storm, the height of the waves or the pace of tide. Our ship has faced many a swirling current and darkening cloud before.

It’s time to lift anchor.

Fail we may, sail we must.

Dan Edwards