It keeps happening to me. I wasn’t aware of it before but I am now. Last week, I noticed it on four occasions on the train.  I was the only one.  It’s weird how I didn’t see it previously, as if the model I was running of the world had been fixed from years ago: no-one on the train wears a suit any more.  

It seems clear that the working environment has changed but I didn’t notice. People commute to work in casual dress, and a full suit and tie is a requirement for a diminishing number of professions, many of whom don’t take the train anyway and they often work from home, especially on a day of the week ending in a “y”. 

Wolff, et al (2016) make a similar observation of how teachers become patterned in their ways of seeing: 

“To manage the complexity of the environment in a way that allows teachers to teachrequires being selective about what is seen and what is ignored. Early in teachers’ careers, ways of seeing become fixed: trapped in a pattern of attending to only a specific selection of classroom elements, automatically filtering out others.  If teachers do not see the aspects of the classroom that matter, then lasting change is unlikely.”

The point they make is that to change something, we must be aware of it. But we often aren’t because, over time, we have a fixed set of ideas despite what has changed around us.

At CST, when we are training teachers, we aren’t pouring water into an empty jug. Teachers, even brand new ones, have preconceived ideas of what works, even if only through their limited experience of being taught as students.

To train teachers well, we need to make them see aspects of practice that they may be blind to, and to unpick preconceived ideas. We have to use best evidence, and be prepared for surprise and disbelief.  

Next time you’re on the train in the rush hour, see if I am right. And next time you’re in the classroom, be aware that you too might be missing something.

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