I love watching reruns of the old TV show ‘Are You Being Served?’ The characters make me giggle. “Are you free?” being the catchcry of Captain Peacock as he seeks to find someone to serve the Grace Brothers’ customers.
The concept of service is very close to my heart as a teacher. I became a teacher to do just that – be of service to others. I then became a school leader so that I could take that a step further and influence and support others to be of service too. This is a role that I take very seriously.
Part of our role as a member of a school community is to make sure that our practices and programs are serving those in our care. That is, our students. But how do we measure who is being served by our efforts? Do we consider that we have done our jobs when the top 50% of students are achieving at grade level? Do we accept the recent claims that we should be proud when 85% of students can read? I suggest not.
The only acceptable situation in any school is that 100% of the students in our care are growing and learning in real terms. I don’t just mean a NAPLAN measure (although that can be an important indictor), I mean that there is demonstrated growth for every child, every term. Not all students will progress at the same rate. Not all will achieve grade level expectations while they are in your class. However, every student should be achieving at least a year’s worth of learning for a year spent at school. There will be those students whose disabilities and difficulties mean that the pace of learning will be very gradual and they will require large amounts of support, practice and an intense program to achieve that. But, for everyone else, measurable growth should be evident.
When we are evaluating the effectiveness of our practices and processes in a school, the question needs to be asked, “Who is not currently being served?” It is only through answering this question and developing a moral imperative to serve them AND the rest of the student population, that we will create the sense of urgency that drives change. While ever it is acceptable for 10% 15%, 20% (or more) of students to finish a term at school with only a modicum of learning to show for that time, we are not working in an ethical or professional capacity. While ever it is acceptable for schools to continue to use outdated, disproven methods of teaching that exclude a large cohort of students, we are condemning those students to poorer life outcomes. This is simply not ok when we have all of the information we need in front of us to make sure that every child in our schools learn to read.
And let’s be clear, I do mean every child. Not some. Not most. I mean every single one.
So, if you are an influencer of change, here are some guiding questions to lead you in your efforts and discussions with staff, leadership and the wider school community.
- Who is and who is not being served by our current school practices and processes?
- How are we measuring growth and achievement?
- What actions are being taken across our school to ensure that we are only teaching using evidence based, proven methods?
- How are we supporting our school community to build their capacity in reaching EVERY child?
- How are we communicating high expectations and then backing that up with professional learning and ongoing coaching and support?
- What would it look like if we really got reading instruction right? What would we see, do, hear and feel?
- What are the insecurities, habits and beliefs that limit our ability to aim high?
The answer to the question, “Who is not being served?” in your school can be an uncomfortable one. That answer can shine a light on parts of our schools and ourselves we would rather not face for a variety of reasons. Being of service sometimes means being uncomfortable. It sometimes means facing our own vulnerabilities and challenges. It sometimes means opening ourselves up to fear and doubt. But we are the grown-ups. We have choices. Our students do not and every one of them deserve to be served by us.
Looking to join a group of people committed to creating change in literacy practices? Join Inspiring Change! (Please note, only those who answer the questions will be accepted into the group.) https://www.facebook.com/groups/928721530883626/