Mary-Jo Hill

24 Feb 2018
Taking the easy road. We all do it. Me included. Complicit to what norms?

My reflections on photos, taking the easy road and the need for external validation.

So, I am the mother of three boys and I would like to tell you a story that in an instant crushed something inside me. Some small nugget gone and I am not too sure really what it was.

Back in September 2017, having settled quite well into the new routines of reception class at school, my four-year-old and I sat contentedly one Saturday morning playing with ‘Magna’ tiles, those really clever magnetic tiles that support building and creative play and suddenly at that point when he had made a pretend tent or garage or small house or in fact, whatever it was – he poignantly, expectantly suggested that I take a photo of it with him in it. Now, I don’t readily use my phone and so astonished, he stood merrily beside his creation, waiting as he had so obviously done at school. Why did I feel so crushed? Well, I don’t know your immediate thoughts but the fact that he was being trained in external validation rather than intrinsic real-time engagement and presence struck a discord. It felt a bit alarming. What to do?

Teacher at heart, a former school governor, and not one to really shy away from a difficult conversation I needed to think a bit about this. I resisted engaging with the online Tapestry software parent sign up. I stalled and resisted. What necessity to be pinged regular pictures of what my four-year-old was playing with at school? The eventual school conversation went well. I was reassured that the taking of such pictures on an Ipad of considerable size would not interfere with the children’s learning. Yet, sadly it already had.

More thoughts

External validation from others. Pride; but also a boastfulness perhaps (albeit in our own vacuum). Exhibitionism? What exactly is it? I was just not really sure and I worry that before I know it, as in fact, I have done already, I kind of shrugged my shoulders and accepted it. It’s easier to collect the data for the school, measure progress etc, etc… which brings me onto Tom Sherrington @teacherhead, at the Headteacher’s RoundTable Summit 2018, February 23rd, 2018. What is this collection of data really all about? Do we really need it all? Or as Geoff Barton put it ‘Are we complicit in complacency?’ Accepting the norm presented to us.

So I return to that Saturday morning on the floor with my son. I didn’t take a photo- I suggested that we got a piece of paper and a pen instead and he drew it. His finer motor skills in action. And yet, how easy would it have been to take the easier option?

So maybe that explains the current song I keep hitting on repeat, on CD, on my car journeys as I travel to new schools in Norfolk as Coach for School Improvement. ‘I won’t take the easy road’. First Aid ‘Show Me My Silver Lining’. Check it out below.