Pace #MonthlyWritingChallenge

Pace Verb Definition move or develop (something) at a particular rate or speed.

Often associated with sport in particular football and running, but mentioned frequently within a school context, pace is a term which is used with both negative and positive connotations.

Whether it is discussing pace of lessons, pace of teacher talk or pace of change, there are many things in education which require us to consider the speed at which something is developing.

During the recent October holiday, I used the communal laundry to do not one, but two, loads of washing – the joy of caravan life! Whilst some people might find this hugely inconvenient and time consuming, (traipsing back and forward until a machine becomes available, timing the cycle, setting a reminder to return so that someone else does not need to unload your clean underwear, and then waiting patiently while the seconds count down and it is tossed through the tumble dryer) there is something I love about this opportunity to be mindful of this period of time we usually take for granted. As I stood watching the tumble dryer timer tick down and querying the pace of my own tumble dryer, I realised that I’d never actually stood in the same way, mindfully counting down until the end of the cycle. By contrast, the whole laundry experience provided a useful pause to reflect on the pace of something which often goes unnoticed. I wonder how often we get an opportunity like this in school?

Now from the outset, it’s important to recognise that pace of change is not the same as pace of improvement. It can be very easy to feel like within a school context there is constant change. Especially within the context of the past 18months. Changes to the structure of the school day, changes to safety measures, changes to the way in which courses Are taught and changes to assessment. Never before has education experienced such rapid pace of change. It has forced teachers to be flexible, adaptable and reactive in a way which has arguably been needed but for many, has been faced with reluctance. Without doubt, some of these changes have had a positive impact. I wrote a little about this here. But change for change sake is not useful. Instead, schools need considered, sustained improvement and this is perhaps more difficult to see.

‘Sometimes we can become impatient with the pace of improvement.’

Just before the holiday, amidst a mix of family covid scares, extreme end of term tiredness two new jobs and the stress of being unable to find a more permanent home for our family, I reflected on the pace of improvement within my new role. I was pretty hard on myself. I wanted to see immediate impact, measurable improvement and real change as a result of my leadership. I felt like progress had been slower than I might have liked. In the laundry during my holiday week when forced to pause and consider pace from a different perspective, I reminded myself that it’s only been 10weeks in post during a particularly challenging term amidst a global pandemic and I should probably cut myself some slack. I realised that whilst there may not have been huge visible changes outwardly, I hope that incremental improvement is evident in the meaningful conversations which have taken place, and the building of strong foundations through positive relationships with both pupils and staff. This I hope is a more sustainable pace of improvement and is more valuable in the long run.

I’m no plumber, but I reckon the pace of my washing machine cycle at home would be similar, if not slower, to the industrial laundry machines I used this holiday. However the laundry experience itself, provided a different perspective to consider the pace of this everyday household task. Whilst in the midst of change, it can often feel difficult to see our progress, but by changing perspective it is possible to become more aware of the subtleties of improvement. Take some time to remember your impact both individually snd as a team.

To all those beginning post graduate student placements tomorrow, all the very best. Be mindful of the huge learning curve you are on and the pace of improvement you will experience over the next few weeks. Reflect on your incremental improvements and learn from every experience. I wrote this post last year to remind us we were all student teachers at one point. All the best. Have a great week.

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