A journey to self development

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Joe Mabbort, Director of Education at GeoVLE

How did we get to this point?

Well for myself, I had been teaching for some 26 years. I worked in a range of schools in the state sector ranging from ‘failing’ schools to ‘beacon’ schools . I have held a spectrum of positions; key stage coordinator, subject lead, assistant head of faculty, head of department, AST and senior manager within the same range of schools. I’d done well within the system and have always managed to build strong positive relationships with both staff and students and, within limits, attained good results for those in my care.

It was in my last state school appointment that I had my negative ‘road to Damascus’ moment. I was asked to put students into courses that were inappropriate at that time for them and it lead me to start to question the whole rationale of what we were trying to achieve. I had thought for a time that there were a few issues to overcome:

  • The appropriateness of the courses for the average student in the class

  • The overuse of statistics as answers and indicators of problems

  • Girls in science

  • The most able

  • Differentiation

These were the thoughts that had been running round my head and I suddenly came to the conclusion that the system was not only failing to deliver but that it was fundamentally broken. Having children of my own going through various stages of the system also added to the questioning of the very system that I dedicated half my life to.

And I think therein lies part of the problem for change. The change would have to come from the very people that have invested so much, in fact it may well define their success in life. Yet, like me, a large number of teachers were leaving the profession after only a few years, giving up and retiring early or carrying on but desperately unhappy.

Once the thought had taken hold it snowballed to the extent where I was questioning the very fabric of the system and I came to the conclusion ‘it was broken’.

The system has not really fundamentally changed from the time of it being set up, it still had the same fundamental goals and was, as it always has been, set in the mould of academic rigour.

Once in this position the outcome was perhaps inevitable, I had to get out. I left and set up a business on the fringe of the education system providing private tuition, consultancy work and science work clubs for primary schools. I’d left the career that I worked so hard on and that I’d invested so much time in. The overwhelming feeling that I had was one of disappointment that I had spent so much time on something that I no longer believed in.

I was in this limbo for a couple of years, I kept in touch with colleagues who echoed my feelings and informed me that the worship of data for its own sake had got worse.

One anecdote that amused was a school that I had been involved with set PPE (pre public exams, mocks to you and me) and that they would not inform students of the scope of the exam and they would not give them any additional time to prepare. The students across the whole cohort performed at least on grade and sometimes two grades below their predicted grades. The schools’ answer to this was to give another test to the entire cohort with same conditions two weeks after the first. Result: disaster. This is the sort of thing that has been driving good teachers to distraction.

I worked for myself for a period of two years and also during that time worked with my own children at home, some of my most rewarding times as a teacher. I came to a point where I needed some additional money and decided to offer my services as supply. I felt that if I could turn up, do my best and leave at the end of the day, then it wouldn't be too bad and I could work for a year. It was then that I found my current position and started to research independent learning strategies as a teaching method.

I recognised straight away that using a VLE combined with empowering learners with tools, curiosity and investigative techniques ticked the boxes for the problems and complaints that I had with the system as it stood.

I realised that if implemented fully that this would work for all individuals, free teacher time for effective coaching and mentoring and provide the workplace with a truly adaptive workforce and fully differentiate the classroom.

It is through the integrated implementation of new technologies, with well researched and written AI combined with an open enquiring curriculum that we foster and build an environment that produces individuals who are ready for the modern age.

The debate out whether the current education system is broken or not is an irrelevance and a distraction.

The undeniable truth is that for the majority of students it is unfit for purpose, it doesn't prepare students for the modern world of work. It worked well for a large number of students when the future was more predictable and the rate of change in industry and society was at a slower pace.

We do not know what the future will bring, we do not know the demands of tomorrow and we do not know what the jobs of tomorrow will be. We need individuals that are able to quickly adapt to the rapid changes in our society. This demands lateral thinkers and problem solvers to which the current system does not lend itself.

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