Are you a standards parasite?

Standards of achievement and behaviour in schools take constant and relentless effort to maintain. Every member of staff and every student has a duty to act in the way that improves the quality of the school.

Teachers in particular are responsible for setting and maintaining boundaries, modelling good relationships, and stretching students. Every teacher has good days and bad days, but today it occurred to me that every school has some particularly outstanding staff who are even more visible, even more relentless in applying, maintaining and raising standards.

If you look at the last few weeks at your school, I’m sure you can think of times where students behaved well without you having to put in much effort. Thinking back over my years of teaching, I know there were days when I took classes like this as a great reason to relax a bit, and let a few lapses go by without comment. Similarly there were students who may have not done some work where I just let them be.

However, it occurs to me that at those times I was being a standards parasite. I happily accepted the results of my colleagues’ hard work while eroding those same expectations. The recent discussion about Troops to Teachers seems to be very pertinent to this – there seems to be a suggestion that former troops are less likely to let agreed standards slip than the average teacher, which of course makes it easier to raise standards in challenging schools.

I have no doubt, as with any ‘magic fix’ in education, that this is not a panacea: that not all former troops can make the transition to great teachers, and indeed clearly there are many non-ex-military teachers who are outstanding practitioners in this area already.

However, anyone who is a high-standards exporter, anyone who is an aspiration-raiser, and anyone who can combine the magical complexity of teaching with a relentless drive to raise standards for all must surely be welcome in the classroom.

Do you raise standards, or are you a standards parasite? It’s something that has certainly provoked a lot of reflection about my own everyday classroom practice.

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