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I Have Discovered The Secret Of School Development!

I imagine the responses when people saw the title of this post ranged somewhere from 'Ooh, at last, I must have a look at that' to 'Oh, you bloody think so, do you?' Whatever your response it would seem that you are either sufficiently intrigued, professionally curious or just already bored with The World Cup, enough to find out what this secret might be, because you are still reading. Hopefully, you will stay with me whilst I set the scene, before my big reveal! Sometimes I think being in a room whilst my wife is watching TV is having too much influence on my thinking. Who or what is Gok Wan?

I digress, one of my consummate failings, but let's not go there. For many years headteachers and schools have searched and strived to find the Holy Grail that is the secret to consistent school development and improvement to raise attainment and achievement. I was one of those souls, ( or should it be soles?), who had trod metaphorical, and literal,  paths and roads in search of school and self-fulfilment. Greater minds than my feeble and often befuddled efforts have scanned and travelled similar journeys in search of an elusive dream; the delivery of the best education for all the learners and one which is self-regulatory, self-improving, self-correcting and in a perpetual state of creative flux and improvement, leading to higher standards and greater understanding for all. 'You're mad!' observers would cry as we explained our quest to any who would listen. Some would come to shun or avoid us as we constantly sought to talk about and share or unconsummated passion, lest they too became infected, or 'deluded' as they viewed it. They pitied the constant haunted emptiness in our eyes and the bemused looks on our faces as we faced disappointment after disappointment.

We embraced change and chased the illusory shafts of light that we thought were leading us to Eldorado. Brain Gym? That might be the answer. Nope! Mind Maps? They helped some but were unable to deliver all we sought. Active Learning? Became about pupils being busy, classes noisier, but still not delivering. At various times we were so desperate we would turn to anything that promised new hope. Learning Styles? Yes that makes sense, remember 'feeble and befuddled' thinking. Even the desperate quickly saw through the toshness of this nonesense. Formative Assessment? Now we were getting somewhere, or so we thought until school became over-run with traffic lights and lollipop sticks. There were times when we began to think we were working in garages, so overrun were we with tool-boxes and road maps. Think outside the box became a mantra which we embraced. Soon we couldn't remember what a box was, couldn't understand why staff turnover had increased and, worse, we had nothing to put things in! Personal Learning morphed into Personal Learning Plans and these soon turned into the longest piece of fiction many of our parents, and some teachers, had ever read. They neither promoted learning, nor encouraged reading, as they became turgid and formulaic in format and content.

And so it continued, day after day, week after week, year after year, this desperate and disappointing search for THE answer. At times it seemed so close, so tangible, we could almost reach out and touch it. Once or twice we cried 'Eureka!' These were only false dawns. We began to see these visions like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, ethereal as they seemed to get closer, but only to keep moving way as we approached. Mirage like, always just out of reach! In truth, many gave up their desperate search and fell by the wayside. I must admit, dear reader, I too became such a wretch, and confronted defeat. It all became too much and I had to confront the thought that I had been chasing an illusion. The thought grew that I should stop and instead focus on what was in front of me, and concentrate my mind on, and support, those I worked alongside and who had shared so many false dawns at my side.

And lo, a miracle happened! (I am not sure exactly when this turned into a religious tract, but have patience we are nearly there.) When we ceased the constant search for magic bullets, quick fixes and panaceas, something happened. We began to focus on what each of us was doing to facilitate and develop learning in our schools. We began to talk about learning and support each other with learning. We began to recognise our collective strength through collaboration. We began to really reflect and consider our impact on learning. We began to change. We tried new tweaks to our practice and built on our strengths. We began to challenge each other in a culture of support and trust. We learnt with and from each other. We slowed down, but achieved more. Teachers became adaptive experts, reflective and able to adjust their pedagogies according to circumstances and clientele. Schools became adaptive systems, transforming to meet changing need. Pupil attainment and achievement was raised for all. Babies and bath water were no longer being cast aside with gay abandon.

We look back now and ask questions. Did we have to go through all that angst? Did we have to try so hard to reach our distant dream? Did we need to rush so lemming (or lemon?)like towards the precipice to reach our Eldorado? Was all this part of the process we needed to go thought to get where we are? Did Sue Ellen really shoot JR, or was it all a dream? Oops, sorry that's another post about divergent thinking.

It would seem that by hook or by crook, by good fortune or perhaps just by good luck, we have stumbled upon that which we searched for. Serendipity? We now realise that there are no panaceas, silver bullets, or quick fixes to achieve our aims. There is nothing magic to seek, know or have. What was needed was all the things we discovered when we stopped searching.

Just as it is at home when you have lost something, or with your mind when you can't remember something, it would seem that when we stopped searching, we actually found the thing we were looking for. It was there right under our noses and right in front of us all the time. If you are still with me, can I suggest you try the same? How many times when we are looking for something do we find it in the last place we look?

Notes: All characters are fictitious and bear no resemblance to you, me or anyone else you may know
           No alcohol was wasted in the construction of this post
           Toshness: (my attempt to get into next edition of of the New Oxford Dictionary list of New      Words) basically means: absolute rubbish: displaying thinking and actions that might lead to suspicions of delusion and megalomania.

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