A Passionate Plea

Imagine ….

KeysYou enter an organisation and sign in. You’re given keys to hang around your neck or clip to your belt. There’s A Block, B Block, perhaps even H Block. You unlock each door as you enter and lock it again as you leave. Any infractions of the rules by the inmates mean they ‘go on report’.

It’s a prison or a juvenile justice centre, right?


It’s a large, modern high school.

And in some of the classrooms in these modern schools, teaching and learning are still following models that were in place over thirty years ago.

Sure, there are whiteboards instead of blackboards – but students still copy reams of notes from the board. The textbooks may now be in full glossy colour with new information – but many of them are being used in the same ways they were used all those years ago. All the students are doing the same thing at the same time from the same textbook.

Teacher-centred learning, policing of uniforms and ‘out of bounds’ areas, a focus on the rules and processes for detentions, suspensions and expulsions.

In these classrooms and schools, how are students engaged, connected and encouraged to experience a love of learning? How do teachers retain the ‘fire in the belly’ – the passion for their craft – and avoid falling victim to the ‘don’t smile till Easter’ brigade?

Where is the 21st Century learning? Where are multi-age classrooms, multi-ability learning, problem-solving, students being involved in decision-making about their own learning, self-reflection and self-assessment? Where are the creative uses of the wonderful new technology that’s available?

TeacherIt’s certainly out there! In many schools there are individual teachers who are inspiring their students. Who are reflecting, dreaming, collaborating, implementing fresh and exciting inititiatives. And there are students who are fully engaged and encouraged to become the best they can be.

And there are whole schools around the world doing things differently to make a very real difference for both students and teachers.

For example,  there’s Thembaletu Primary School in George, about 450 km from Cape Town in Africa, which has 25 teachers, 983 students –  and only 20 computers!  Here the Principal is leading the way in the use of technology, changing classroom practice and changing the face of learning for both teachers and students.

There are schools like Sherbrooke Community School, in Melbourne, Australia, where curriculum is negotiated with the students, there’s a whole-school meeting every morning that’s chaired and minuted by students, and student learning becomes increasingly self-directed as they go through the school.

Or  Heathside School in the UK, where the “Imagine Heathside” project involved all those in the school community in co-creating a better future.

So here’s my plea to all those teachers who are energizing our schools …

Wherever you are, shout out. Please tell your stories, and encourage your students to tell theirs. The world needs to hear your voices!

And please don’t let the pressures or constraints of ‘the system’ get you down or burn you out. Know that the work you are doing is appreciated and is making a difference.

Your experience, your skills and your wisdom are sorely needed today – perhaps more than ever.

We need you.

Our children and our young people need you.


  1. Great post!

    Thought you’d like this project:

    And also, would love to see the same passionate plea to doctors :)

    • Thank you Natalie! A fascinating project indeed, and I’m also now following @futureatschool on Twitter. :)

      As for the plea to doctors, I know the call for more innovative, caring and inclusive practices is apt there too. Perhaps particularly among the ‘specialists’ who are wonderfully skilled and trained in medicine, but not always as good with their ‘people skills’? ;)

  2. A HUGE YES to your plea, Sue. Thanks for this call to action; I’ll help spread the call.

    • Thank you Jim… It will be wonderful if we get to hear a glorious chorus of those voices rising above the dross of outdated educational practices. :)

  3. i think your plea is an inspiration to all teachers who wants to make a difference. the world needs inspired teachers who are willing to help the student become a better person in the future and make a differnce to the world as well! thank you for inspiring me! :)

    • Hi Jele – thank you for that. I hope you’ll share your stories of success as widely as possible. As I said, we all need to hear them – and hear your voice! :)

  4. Sue,

    Your plea is very refreshing and something that teachers need to take the time to do – if only they had more of it. Why is it that teachers don’t have time to share their stories? As principals, we need to make these success stories a part of our routine. In our high school, we share these moments monthly at our faculty meetings. You have now inspired me to record these moments and send them out to the masses!

    Be well!

    • Thank you for your comment Dusty! And when you talk of ‘sending them out to the masses’ you’re now doing so on your blog … and I hope will be doing so in the upcoming Appreciative Inquiry online conference in November as well. As I said in my own post – we need you, and our children and young people need you. :)

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