Wanneer gaan we staken

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Dit is de oproep die ik dinsdag in NRC Next plaatste. Hier is een link naar een PDF versie van het NRC artikel: “Wanneer gaan we staken” – NRC Next. Deel het, laat van je horen, spreek politici aan, spreek collega’s aan, print het uit en verspreid het op school. En mocht je nog geen lid zijn van een vakbond of vakvereniging doe dat dan. De AOB heeft de komende weken bijeenkomsten om acties en het loonakkoord te bespreken. 22 september is er een debat in de Balie. Komt allen!

Geen staking, maar ook geen les

Terwijl de politie langzaamaan de druk steeds verder opvoert blijft het zoals gewoonlijk erg rustig in het onderwijs. Wat is dat toch met leraren? Wel veel klagen, maar als  puntje bij paaltje komt ondergaan we een jarenlange nullijn lijdzaam als gewillige slaven. En toch is het hard nodig dat er nu wordt gestaakt. Maar dan net even anders.

De nood is hoog. Het lerarentekort,  met name onder eerstegraads docenten in de bèta-vakken en moderne vreemde talen is nijpend. En schattingen gaan uit dat twintig procent van de docenten onbevoegd voor de klas staat. Terwijl goed geschoolde docenten noodzakelijk zijn voor de onderwijskwaliteit. Binnen vijf jaar vertrekt een te groot deel van nieuwe docenten. Redenen om te vertrekken zijn werkdruk en een achterblijvend salaris.  Uit recente maatregelen blijkt dat de noodzaak voor betere leraren wel wordt onderkend. De toelatingseisen van de PABO zijn verscherpt en voor bèta- en talendocenten in opleiding komt er een beurs tot 5000.  Alleen zijn dat maatregelen aan de voorkant, de instroom. Aan de achterkant, de voorwaarden, wordt weinig gedaan. Er is een bestaande lerarenbeurs van €3000 om een studie erbij te doen, maar alle goede bedoelingen ten spijt heeft dat weinig veranderd. Het verloop blijft hoog en daar kan geen beurs tegenop. Er moet wat aan het salaris en de werkdruk worden gedaan.

Neem een voorbeeld aan Singapore

Terwijl het geld bij de banken weer tegen de plinten klotst en er in het bedrijfsleven flinke winst wordt gemaakt blijven de lonen in het onderwijs ver achter. Nu inleveren om weer groei te bewerkstelligen, dat was het devies van het kabinet na de crisis. Leraren staan nu inmiddels zeven jaar op de nullijn. Alle maatregelen van het rapport Leerkracht! van de commissie Rinnooy Kan uit 2007 om het salaris van leraren meer met het bedrijfsleven te laten concurreren  , zijn al lang teniet gedaan. In de laatste Education at a Glance van de OESO staat dat leraren in het PO  30% achterblijven en leraren in het VO 16% achterblijven  op de gemiddelde salarissen van hoger opgeleiden . Voor de vakantie kwam de VO-Raad met een loonsverhoging van 0,2%. En de algemene 5% voor ambtenaren die het kabinet onlangs aanbood is natuurlijk een sigaar uit eigen doos, want het wordt betaald uit onze eigen pensioenpot. Nee, dan Singapore, dat net heeft aangekondigd een loonsverhoging tussen de 4 en 9% door te voeren. Dat is echt investeren in de toekomst.

Voor de vakbonden is het erop of eronder.

Als vakbonden zelfs op dit punt geen vuist durven te maken zijn ze volstrekt irrelevant geworden voor hun leden. Om relevant te blijven moeten vakbonden kritisch kijken naar hun methodes en imago. Eerdere stakingen zoals in 2012, hebben het beleid op onder andere de 1040-urennorm en passend onderwijs wel beïnvloed, maar op het gebied waar het echt om gaat, de randvoorwaarden, helemaal niet. Met het beeld van een hossende in polonaise lopende meute in de Arena of op het Malieveld heb je de slag in de publieke opinie gelijk al verloren. Misschien nog wel belangrijker: veel leraren ben je ook kwijt. Ik ga het in ieder geval niet doen. Het geld voor petjes, hesjes en fluitjes kan ook beter besteed worden. Staken is een krachtig middel, maar de manier waarop doet ertoe in de 21e eeuw. Het is de hoogste tijd om slimmer te staken. Leraren kaarten terecht het gebrek aan tijd aan om hun werk goed te doen. Internationaal gezien geven we veel te veel les waardoor er weinig tijd overblijft om binnen school samen te werken. Laat staan dat dit buiten school gebeurt. Stel nou dat we het werk twee weken neerleggen? Wat zouden we daarmee voor elkaar krijgen?

In plaats van het werk stilleggen, blijven we wel werken, maar geven we geen les. Dan is er tijd om te overleggen, lessen voor te bereiden, lesmateriaal te maken, toetsen te vergelijken, mentoraten op elkaar af stemmen. En om dat gezamenlijk met andere scholen te doen. Ouders en leerlingen zijn van harte welkom om mee te denken en doen. Dit kunnen we ook op grotere schaal landelijk organiseren en coördineren. Onder de noemer van Onderwijs2032 komt er binnenkort een voorstel tot een nieuw curriculum. Leraren hebben vorige week het manifest Leraar2032 geschreven om dat curriculum vorm te geven. Waarom  gaan we dat manifest niet al uitwerken en aanpassen aan onze eigen schoolcontext? We kunnen ook met honderden vakgenoten tegelijkertijd onze eigen boeken en lesmethodes schrijven, die voor iedereen toegankelijk zijn. Dat moet allemaal georganiseerd en gefaciliteerd worden: denk aan fysieke bijeenkomsten en een digitaal platform. Stel nou dat de vakbonden leraren daarin ondersteunen? Leraren zijn vakidioten. Op deze manier willen we wel staken, claimen we de tijd die we nodig hebben om ons werk goed te doen en het onderwijs wordt er beter van.

Staken en in de spiegel kijken

Ik stel voor dat alle bonden de huidige voorstellen verwerpen en dat we in het PO, VO en MBO gaan staken voor een concurrerend salaris en genoeg tijd om ons werk goed te doen. Tenslotte moeten we als leraren in de spiegel kijken. Willen we verandering? Dan zul je je toch echt moeten organiseren. Je moeten committeren aan een vakbond en die vakbond meenemen in de verandering die je voorstaat. Of je blijft klagen en er verandert niets. Als we stoppen met lesgeven zijn onze leerlingen helaas op de korte termijn de dupe, maar die zijn ook niet gebaat bij opgebrande en onbevoegde leraren of helemaal geen leraar voor de klas. Niemand is daar gebaat bij, goed onderwijs is de verantwoordelijkheid van ons allemaal. Maar als wij leraren onze verantwoordelijkheid hier niet in  nemen, wie doet dat dan wel?

Wanneer gaan we staken?

Jelmer Evers is docent geschiedenis en auteur van het onlangs verschenen boek: “Flip the System: changing education from the ground up”

Good Intentions

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“Easy is the descent into Hell, for it is paved with good intentions.” That is what John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost. You can undertake something with the best intentions, but the unintended consequences might be disastrous. This is often the feeling I have with educational policy. It will be interesting to see if the policies being discussed at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP) have another outcome. The global educational reforms of the last 20 years at least give us reason for caution. And more recent technological innovations being introduced in education aren’t always as innocent as they seem.

The whole standardized testing movement stems partly from a genuine worry that our education systems don’t serve all of our children well. One the one hand there is a worry that the quality of education is declining and we need strict standards and tests to monitor the progress of individual students, teachers and schools. At the same time it the “crisis in education” is also an issue of equity. Strict standards ensure that underprivileged students are getting the same opportunities as children from an affluent background. Both intentions are good, but the offered solution: testing, external accountability, standardization, privatization have left some educational systems in disarray. Some states in the US being a particular case in point. While trying to raise the standards, reformers have left parts of the teaching profession in ruin. One of the unintended consequences being for example that application to teacher training in the US has dropped dramatically recently. Leaving us with a pressing question: Who is going to teach our children?

Some people would say algorithms, apps and, robo-graders and robots. Again with a genuine believe, techno-optimism, that “personalized learning” will lead to better education for all of our students. But these new “reformers” aren’t taking into account that in the current political, social and economic context this “disruption” will lead to standardized education in a new commercialized and tech enabled guise. The track record of online charter schools in the US is not good to say the least. And who is getting the short end of the stick? Exactly, students from poor backgrounds. While those who can afford it send their kids to schools that offer a broad curriculum, good facilities and extra-curricular activities. Poor kids get stuck in a cubicle while their richer peers are playing in a safe learning environment. Thanks for the app Silicon Valley, but if that’s the case I’ll pass.

But at the start of the fifth International Summit on the Teaching Profession we are seeing a slow shift away from standardized external accountability towards a focus on collective autonomy and collaboration. I think it is justified to say that the standardized movement has run its course. That doesn’t mean that standardized testing, privatization and the like have disappeared. On the contrary, we will continue to see those policies being implemented. But a new paradigm of collaboration is slowly emerging, and this time it is backed up by firm evidence from the TALIS report. From this report and the last summit Education International and the OECD defined three themes (Schleicher, 2015):

  1. Leadership
  2. Recognition and efficacy
  3. Innovation

It will be interesting to see how these three themes are interpreted and put into practice.

Leadership

In the report leadership focuses on both principals and distributed leadership. The most recent TALIS report indicates a link between collaborative culture, ownership and teacher self efficacy leading to better student outcomes. One of the key factors is the role of the principal in building that collaborative culture. The logical follow up is to focus on principal professionalization.

But in a complementary report to TALIS, commissioned by Education International, Linda Darling-Hammond noticed that there is a big difference in how principals and teachers perceived collaborative culture (Darling-hammond & Burns, 2014):

While most teachers agreed that they experienced “a collaborative school culture characterized by mutual support,” there were noticeable differences in the degree to which principals and teachers reported this kind of climate. For example, across TALIS jurisdictions, 95% of principals agreed with this statement (with responses ranging from 83% in France to 100% in Norway). However, the average for teachers was 79%, ranging from 66% of teachers in England to 93% of teachers in Norway.”

“Teachers were significantly more likely to indicate the existence of a collaborative school culture in jurisdictions where they also reported that staff had opportunities to participate in decision-making, suggesting a positive association between distributed leadership and a collaborative school climate. Teachers’ involvement in school decisionmaking was also linked with self-efficacy in most jurisdictions, and with job satisfaction (with very large effect sizes) in all jurisdictions.”

 On the issue of decision making, real distributive leadership, there is also a big gap between principals and teachers:

However, teachers and principals differed in the extent to which they perceived opportunities for staff decision-making, and there was no association between principals’ reporting of staff opportunities for decision-making and teachers’ perceptions that they experienced a collaborative culture. More than 90% of principals in each jurisdiction reported that teachers had opportunities to actively participate in school decisions, as compared with 74% of teachers, an average difference of 24 percentage points. The greatest differences were found in England, where the average rate of agreement from teachers was below 60%, and principals’ and teachers’ reports were apart by 39 percentage points.

If professional development of principals strengthens distributed leadership then I’d agree with the premise of focusing on school leadership. But that would mean professionalization both horizontally between principals, but also vertically with teachers, in a way as peers as well. You have to model the behavior that you want to learn. Anything else is shallow and doesn’t lead to a change in behavior. So the intention is good but how it will be put into practice is crucial. A stronger focus on the principal might result in strengthening the formal position of school leaders, which might lead to an entrenchment of the Attilla the Hun model of school management as John Bangs named it.

 Recognition and efficacy

Recognition has, amongst others, to do with working conditions. One of those is class size. If we would just go with the TALIS report, and this was highlighted by Andreas Schleicher (OECD) at the summit, class size wouldn’t matter. This feels intuitively wrong to me as a teacher. But according to TALIS class size doesn’t matter, or at least only when you factor in behavior problems:

“class size seems to have only a minimal effect on either teaching efficacy or job satisfaction, and in just a few countries (OECD, 2014, Tables 7.6 and 7.7). Other TALIS data indicate that it is not the number of students but the type of students who are in a class that has the largest association with the teacher’s self-efficacy and job satisfaction. An example of this is provided in Figure 3.5, where the minimal effect of class size on teachers’ job satisfaction is contrasted with the stronger influence of teaching students with behavioural problems. “

class size TALIS

Policy maker will probably conclude from this that it’s better to focus on addressing behavior problems. Then class size won’t matter as much. But there are several problems with this. As a practitioner I know that it definitely impairs the attention I can spend on an individual students needs. Discussing Deeper Learning outcomes, the third issue addressed at the ISTP, in a meaningful way is almost impossible. But even the data is not as conclusive as the OECD makes us believe. If we look at Darling Hammonds further analysis we see that there is a link with classroom size and teacher turnover rate.

“Interestingly, we found a significant relationship between class sizes and teacher shortages across countries. Jurisdictions in which principals reported few shortages were also those with smaller average class sizes.”

darling hammond

It goes further than that and it is probably an open door, but we should improve working conditions across the board:

“Class size is certainly not the only variable that matters. It may be one of a numberof supportive conditions for teaching that co-occur and make it more probable that teachers will be easier to recruit and retain. For example, as noted above, we found that higher teacher salaries in a jurisdiction are also associated with more plentiful and widely available instructional resources, as measured on the TALIS survey. This suggests that jurisdictions that provide sufficient resources to their schools also pay their teachers well, conditions that would improve the overall attractions to teaching.”

Class size is a contested issue in education. But the issue is not as clear-cut as it seems. Since we’re in an era of austerity it is an easy target for governments for a more efficient educational system and focus on other issues. But we shouldn’t be surprised if the dramatic teacher drop-out rates and dramatic decline in admissions to teacher training will continue.

Innovation

Innovation was the odd one out at the ISTP, and the one closest to my heart. UniC, my school would fit right in the report. There is of course the danger I pointed out earlier, of personalized learning turning into an individualized automated test-machine. But the report did a real good job of not making innovation quantifiable in the sense of the PISA and TALIS reports, that would have been contrary with the aim of fostering innovative learning communities. The report contains vignettes of innovative schools focusing on pedagogy, technology and organization. Story telling and data-informed policies, the balance that the OECD struck is to me the right one.

At the summit technology was conspicuously absent in the discussion on innovation. Instead it focused on whole systems change to create the conditions to make innovation possible. The conclusion was very clear across the board that teachers need to collaborate and design education to scale the pockets of innovation that are already there. Collaboration, distributed leadership and designing local solutions to create whole child schools are definitely prerequisites for creating an innovative learning environment. A tell tale sign if a government is really serious about innovation whether if it will keep excessive standardized testing practices and external accountability in place at the same time as calling for an innovative learning environment. These are signs of distrust and of the real intentions of the powers that be.

It also ties in with the idea of teacher leadership, I don’t think I’ve heard those two words used this often before. If it is embraced that widely you have to be on your guard and be crystal clear by what you mean. Notably Singapore has implemented a comprehensive tier-like structure of positional teacher leadership, teachers in different career tracks, but with a focus on classrooms. Non-positional teacher leadership is another way of looking at teachers influencing the system. This means that distributed leadership is embedded on all levels of the educational system and will lead to real teacher agency. A big theme of our forthcoming book, Flip the System: changing education from the ground up (link). (Evers & Kneyber, 2015)

Again these ideas can easily get hijacked. If it means that departments of education only fund teacher leadership organizations who follow the government line on educational policy, testing for example, then it is very close to astroturfing instead of fostering an autonomous grassroots movement and giving teachers real autonomy. Instead of being a vehicle of emancipation it will just be another, more indirect, form of control.

But it depends on all of us how we shape the future of our education system. The fact that these three uplifting themes were discussed so in-depth and that a consensus is emerging that the reforms of the last decade have failed is amazing. I could never have dreamed these kinds of conversations at such a high-level a couple of years ago. I met with fellow teacherprize nominees, Jeff Charbonau and Mark Reid, who are both doing amazing things in their respective countries. And they, more than anything embody everything what the summit was about. I’m sure we will have more input from practicing teachers at the next summitnext year in Germany. A teacher must have a seat at the expert panel for example. So while the road to hell might often be paved with good intentions, I’m extremely optimistic that we’re taking a different road this time.

Darling-hammond, L., & Burns, D. (2014). Teaching Around the World : What Can TALIS Tell Us? Stanford, CA.

Evers, J., & Kneyber, R. (2015). Flip the System: Changing Education from the Ground Up. London: Routledge.

Schleicher, A. (2015). Schools for 21st-Century Learners: Strong Leaders, Confident Teachers, Innovative Approaches.

Piketty in de klas

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Afgelopen zaterdag was er een geslaagde Onderwijs Hackathon op Freedom Lab. Aan de hand van Piketty en zijn we aan de slag gegaan met een vakoverstijgend curricullum. Het was een inspirerende dag, maar daarover binnenkort meer.

De aanleiding van deze dag was een gesprek dat Ferry Haan en ik in de auto hadden op de weg terug van Den Haag. We waren enthousiast aan het brainstormen hoe we Piketty bij economie en geschiedenis konden inzetten. Uit dat gesprek is ook een artikel voortgekomen dat in de Kleio (vakblad geschiedenisdocenten) en TEO (Tijdschrift voor het Economisch Onderwijs) is verschenen. We gaan in op verschillende manieren hoe Piketty vakoverstijgend bij economie en geschiedenis kunnen worden verwerkt. Ik kan niet wachten om dat al uit te gaan proberen 🙂 (waarschijnlijk al mei op UniC)

Piketty in de Klas
(het kan even duren voordat het bestand verschijnt, je kunt het ook downloaden)

Links bij het artikel:

Over Piketty:

http://youtu.be/HL-YUTFqtuI (Piketty in three minutes, BBC)
http://youtu.be/JKsHhXwqDqM (TEDxPiketty)
http://www.groene.nl/artikel/rijk-wordt-almaar-rijker (special De Groene Amsterdammer)
https://www.quandl.com/PIKETTY (Data Piketty)

 Visualisatie tools:

https://plot.ly
https://datahero.com/
https://bigml.com/
http://rapporter.net/

Download (PDF, Unknown)

And the nominees are… Thoughts on Global Teacher Prize

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The final 10 nominees are in and they’re a wonderful choice. Of course I would be deluding myself if I wasn’t hoping for a spot among the shortlist of 10 nominees. Yes, I was disapointed. The closer you get the more you think that maybe, just maybe, there might be a chance that….  But I’m very glad for the 10 nominees and I’m glad that there is a Global Teacher Prize and it was already a huge honour to be amongst the 50 nominees. It sheds a spotlight on the wonderful work teachers are doing and the wonderful job we have working with children. All of the 50 nominated teachers are a bigger advert than any government agency can come up with (In the Netherlands these campaigns are exceedingly dull and lame) Each and everyone of them is showing what teaching is about: inspiration, opportunities, creativity. Who wouldn’t want to work in an environment like that? On the other hand the teaching profession is undervalued and plagued by many and similar issues worldwide. Teachers are valued individually, but as a profession we’re not. That really needs to change and the Teacher Prize is one step in that direction.

On the other hand we shouldn’t just rely on others awarding us an honour. It would be an empty gesture in itself if we do not also proudly claim discretionary space for our own. We’re not the role models that students deserve if we do not act accordingly. These wonderful 49 nominees are already doing that. Tom Bennet who is a role model and inspiration of how teachers should relate to research in eduation and who steadily working on an international Researched network. Cesar Bona is a focal point for educational reform in Spain and an inspiration for teachers in Latin America. And if the educational system is not doing the children justice you start your own schools like Elisa Guerra Cruz in Mexico.  Everyone has so many innovative teaching practises to share, from Vese Vesela Bogdanovic and her literally magical teaching experiences to Cameron Patterson, whose history  teaching practices are giving me food for thought.

Personally I already knew some of the teachers in the top-50. Tom is contributing to our new book. I’ve met Noah Zeichner in Canada at a teacher leadership conference. I’ll meet Jeff Charboneau at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession where we’ll be both making the case for teacher leadership. And both Jeff, Noah, Nancy Barile and I are already part of the Centre for Teacher Quality. Hopefully I’ll meet Mark Reid when he comes over to visit his family in the Netherlands. And I’m sure I’ll meet Mareike Hachemer soon, since she lives just around the corner (relatively speaking). But distance shouldn’t be a problem any more since we are all connected on-line. New information technology is allowing us to level not only institutional, but also national boundaries.

Now we’re also part of the Varkey Teachers Ambassadors Programme. I’m proud to be part of a growing international teacher network which will shape the future of education. Through their work these 49 teachers are already making a case for teacher led educational reform. How can we not give more responsibility and recognition to teachers if this is just a small sampling of what’s going on worldwide?

I wish the 10 nominees all the best in the world and I’ll conclude with these wonderful words of Dutch secretary of Education Jet Bussemaker and State Secretary Sander Dekker. Educational reform should be a combined effort of all parties involved. No matter how difficult that is sometimes, I think that is what we’re doing in the Netherlands.

Dear Jelmer ,  

What a pity that you have not reached the top 10 of The Global Teacher Prize. We would have supported such an honor awarded to you wholeheartedly. As for us , you have already earned it! But you will undoubtedly get over the disappointment quickly, because you have every reason to be proud of yourself. After all, according to the jury you already belong to the fifty best teachers in the world, and there is no teacher in the Netherlands who can repeat that!  

Therefore continue in the way that characterizes you: as an inspiring and motivating teacher for your students and therefore a role model for your colleagues. That way you can ensure that our education gets even better.  And then many more Dutch teachers will enter the top 50 of The Global Teacher Prize !  

With regards,

Jet Bussemaker

Sander Dekker

Beste Jelmer,

Wat jammer dat je niet bent doorgedrongen tot de top 10 van The Global Teacher Prize. We hadden je zo’n ereplaats van harte gegund. Wat ons betreft heb je die ook verdiend! Maar je zult ongetwijfeld snel over de teleurstelling heen komen, want je hebt alle reden om trots op jezelf te zijn. Volgens de jury behoor je immers tot de vijftig beste leraren ter wereld, en er is geen docent in Nederland die je dat na kan zeggen!

Blijf daarom vooral doorgaan op de manier die we van je kennen: als inspirerende en motiverende docent voor je leerlingen en daarmee ook als rolmodel voor je collega’s. Op die manier kun jij ervoor zorgen dat ons  onderwijs nóg beter wordt. En dan komen er nog veel meer Nederlandse leraren in de top 50 van The Global Teacher Prize!

Met vriendelijke groet,

Jet Bussemaker

Sander Dekker

(Well since I’m now free to do so I can now endorse my favourite teachers: Phalla Neang and Azizullah Royesh will hopefully both win!  🙂 I’m in awe of their achievements)

On the Global Teacher Prize: Doubt, trust and ambition

By | english, English, Uncategorized | One Comment

This is an accompyaning blogpost to a lecture I gave at De Balie on “My idea for education” Both the Dutch and the version were streamed and recorded. You can find both streams at De Balie site. Below is the English stream. At the bottom of the post is the Dutch Stream.

Jelmer Evers – Global Teacher Prize nominee – at De Balie [ENGLISH] from De Balie on Vimeo.

Doubt, trust and ambtion

My first five minutes as a teacher were horrible. One of those moments that can wake you up middle of the night in dread years later after the fact. I was doing a practice lesson to see if teaching would suit me. Het Utrechts Christelijk Gymnasium is a very nice grammar school in the old medieval city centre of Utrecht. History galore,  a small class and I was thoroughly prepared. All the right conditions for a nice history lesson. I’d meticulously planned a lesson on American presidents and the Vietnam war. We were going to study the decisions of consecutive presidents  through cartoons. But the second I started I blacked out. There I was in front of around 20 16-year olds who looked at me expectantly and I didn’t know what to say.

After stammering incoherently for a couple of minutes I decided to do the right thing and restart the lesson. A liberating decision. The lesson went fine afterwards. The students were more than willing to let me finish the lesson, they showed empathy and were eager to learn. A lesson I’ve took to heart since which formed the basis of my teaching

Twelve years on and I’m nominated for the Global Teacher Prize. Apparently I’ve come a long way. But it was a long and winding road with many ups and downs. I’ve laughed, talked for hours, learned from and even shed tears with some of my students. Students never seize to amaze me with their creativity and sense of wonderment. It’s that personal connection that matters most.

The 10.000 hour rule? That applies to me. Practice makes you a better practitioner. And teaching is about practice. Practice as in perform repeatedly, but also practice as in my profession.

Throughout those years I have become less certain of the right approach to education. My reality is one of doubt. Not uncertainty, but doubt. A continuing search for what is the right thing to do. Doubt has lead me to question my practice continuously and to search for the “why” behind what I’m doing.

In the meanwhile a whole chorus worldwide have chimed in on the need for educational reform. Not hindered by any doubt, everyone has THE next best idea for education. The list is seemingly endless and quite bewildering: we need to have lessons in mindfulness, focus on the basics: language and calculus, citizenship,  global citizenship! autonomy, flipping the classroom, classroom management, cross-curricular Project Based Education (PBL), 21st Century Skills, 19th Century Skills, makereducation, personalisation, differentiation, more structure, direct instruction, game based learning, gamification. And everything is evidence based. Have you read Hattie by the way?

Still there? That’s how it feels to work in education. And then you still have to teach all those lessons, mark, do extra-curricular work, spend time that student that really needs your attention. That reality feels very different from all those certainties espoused by various talking heads. Schools kill creativity? Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

Research informs my practice, but doesn’t drive it. What most politicians and administrators don’t understand is that practice equals research in good teaching. With experience comes intuition for what is right at that exact moment for that particular child. That moment is unique and can’t be caught in big data and averages. But to understand what you’re doing you need to delve into the research.

Sadly under the banner of evidence based education politicians worldwide stampede after one educational fad after another. In the Netherlands “excellence” has been the buzz-word of the last couple of years.

And that stampede has increased with the first publication of the PISA reports in 2000. International rankings have lead to a convergence of educational policies of which several  nefarious components  stand out: standardized testing, competition, data driven and deprofessionalization of teachers.

Teaching at UniC, a progressive and experimental school, made crystal clear what kind of effect standardized testing can have. Working at the edge of the system you suddenly get a beter sense of how those boundaries are influencing your work.

After five years I wanted to have more room to breathe, to work with students on  a one-on-one basis, allow for more creativity, use more technology, allow students the space and time to explore . Don’t get me wrong, traditional forms of education worked and work well for a lot of students and teachers. The “lecture is dead” narrative has never appealed to me. But for me the 50-minute lesson system wasn’t working anymore.

Working at UniC felt like breathing again. I was amazed by the self-reflection, creativity and maturity of the students. I was amazed at how much I didn’t know and how much I had to learn about pedagogy and working with children. Some of my colleagues are so good, I’ll never reach that level. And I was amazed by how important it was to design, teach and learn together. Teaching is a profoundly cooperative and creative profession, yet a lot teachers work in isolation with the doors closed and  follow a script written by someone else. But time and time again, rigid rules enforced by a top-down inspectorate steer you towards teaching to the test.

One of my goals is to give students the tools to shape their own lives, take matters into their own hands. But how can we teach that to students if we are seen as cogs in the machine, and sadly act like it too. If something is going wrong you have a choice. Go along or change how the system works. Working at UniC gave me the mindset, will and skills to act.

Blogging, writing, social media, researching transformed me into a different teacher. Connecting to other teachers, researchers and politicians has opened up a completely new world. The more I learned about how our educational system worked the more one question kept popping up: where are the teachers? In places where policy is decided teachers are absent. Teachers are distrusted to do the right thing. I don’t accept other people telling me what to do anymore while they clearly have no idea what they’re talking about. Teachers should take responsibility to do what’s right for their students and not outsource that responsibility to a test. The key to good education lies with teachers. And that is slowly but steadily happening in the Netherlands. Teachers taking the lead in educational change. We need to “Flip the System

That is why I think the Teacher Prize is so important. As long as people say “those who can do, those who can’t teach” we have a lot of work to do. Highlighting and honouring the wonderful, but also difficult work of teachers is a noble endeavour. Thousands of teachers have applied. And most of them probably would have deserved the nomination. There is a certain randomness to these kinds of awards, but that goes for the Nobel Prize as well. Look at the wonderful 49 teachers from all over the world and the amazing things they have achieved. Teachers make the difference and to achieve change we need to enhance the image of teaching. And we do need change. Millions of children in poorer countries are without a proper education at all and millions more endure a rigid, standardized education. Good education for all  should be our ambition

We need to acknowledge that there is no one-size fit all solution to education. Teachers need to let go of certainties and question their own practice: doubt. We need to have the ambition to achieve the best education for every child. And society needs to trust teachers to make it happen.

Jelmer Evers – Global Teacher Prize nominee – at De Balie [ENGLISH] from De Balie on Vimeo.