Mary-Jo Hill

12 Aug 2020
It appears that we are all the audience, and the action changes at breakneck speed in response to our visceral reactions.

My reflections on how this year’s exam results season is becoming similar to live theatre.

Several years ago in the midst of Holt Festival, I along with many other people at the Auden Theatre, experienced a play that no one in the world will ever experience again.

Well, not exactly. Because White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour – a dazzling, transcendent piece of alive-and-kicking avant-garde theatre – is performed by a different lead actor or actress every time it’s staged and not only that but one of my girlfriends, sitting right next to me was in a seat ‘earmarked’ for a part in the live show. She shared a stage with John Hurt, no less. A claim to fame that not too many can boast of. She pulled off a remarkable feat of improvisation.

A trailer from the 2011 version staged at the Volcano Theatre

There is a reason for the live and unfurling performance, beyond the marketing gimmick. The play ends with the actor’s possible demise. Or is that the ultimate marketing gimmick? Somehow, this appears so relevant to the show unfurling right now, the live theatre that is the education department and examinations debacle right now. It appears that we are all the audience, and the action changes at breakneck speed in response to our visceral reactions. Thank goodness we have Scotland trying it out first , but I worry that in this capitalist quest for trying to please the customer, we are missing the point.

To imagine that exam results are largely a construct, in which algorithms play a part, and not the direct correlation of the relationship and years of symbiotic work between teacher and student, shatters our illusion that we are all individuals deserving of individual merit. There will be mistakes, disappointments and some that get real lucky. This quest for integrity is what keeps the teaching profession motivated, excelling and continually learning. And why teaching is a profession.

Why is coaching so important in education?

This also answers the question ‘Why is coaching so important in education?’ The conflict between individual, role, system and society is not going away. How to navigate this amongst colleagues and with an increasingly demanding set of stakeholders is oft the stuff of coaching in education. That, and of course, how to improve the teaching and learning for all those children in the bubble, the class, the school. Reaching every single one; which is what the examinations system by its very nature will not always be able to do. So I wonder, will this be the demise of our current minister, as per the play? Soleimanpour encourages ad-libbing in his, so long as the audience knows how to differentiate the actor’s words from his own in the script. I am not entirely sure whose words we are hearing right now.