M.E.A.N.I.N.G.F.U.L. Education

1) M is for Meaning (Growing the whole person in body, mind & meaning)
To value the growth of the whole person, including their Body, their Mind, and their Meaning, that is whatever is meaningful to them. This might include, people, ethical values, some kind of spirit or religion, or anything else. It also includes skills in mindfulness, empathy & emotional intelligence, as tools for each person to build awareness of what is meaningful to them and others. What and how they learn should also be meaningful to them. And in the same way the parents, teachers and other staff in the school must also be valued as whole people.

2) E is for Everyone’s a Teacher (and a learner!)
It is well known amongst teachers, that teaching hugely deepens your understanding. To quote Einatein, “If you can’t explain it clearly enough, you don’t understand it well enough.” We have in our learners, multitudes of potential teachers, who could hugely reduce “teacher,” student ratios, allowing lots of one to one teaching (with added benefit to folks who often feel introverted and prefer very small groups), with all the deeper learning that comes to the person teaching.

3) A is for A-Z or Maps of Learning for Everyone (MOLEs)
There is no reason to have schemes of work that only teachers see, written in unhelpfully academic language. The learners often experience jumps in topic as chaotic, meaningless and confusing. Let’s make clear maps of each subject, bringing out the most important links, and allowing both students and teachers to know where in the subject they are learning, and where and why they are going next. At a management level, having national maps of the curriculum, that are kept long term, and not changed for political reasons, will allow much more time for managers to organise sharing excellent ideas (within departments, schools, nationally and internationally), that lead to better lessons and relationships.

4) N is for No More Tests (learning must take priority over measuring – AfL not judgement)
Let’s end the over-testing culture, it has become such a dominant force in schools that it’s become a significant block to meaningful learning. Most people, students, parents and teachers know this, and it needs to change. Also needed is an acknowledgement of the increase in young people’s mental health problems and the significant place the testing culture and general academic pressure has had on this. There is also a huge problem with teachers spending¬† hours on unhelpful written assessment of book work which should be spent planning, relationship building, and resting (see 7, the 3 goals).

5) I is for Inclusion & Cooperatation (building equality & reducing competition)
Competition within classrooms, increases anxiety, and produces a focus on memory, and appearing you know “more,” rather than deepening understanding. It has a negative effect on students relationships with one another, and makes it harder for them to be kind, honest and generous. Competing between schools, we lose huge potential to share resources and ideas and massively increase efficiency. This would leave teachers and learning leaders more time to rest and be on best form for sharing learning – especially at middle management level. Teaching is itself a highly collaborative act, it is inherently cooperative

6) N is for Not Until I’m Ready (starting things at the right age)
Despite the clear fun that young children have learning through play, we still force feed them reading, writing and arithmetic before they are ready. Starting big new concepts should be age appropriate and based on research, More speed less haste! Lets not try to rush all the knowledge “into” them before it is helpful. Most young people are put off algebra before their brains are ready for it! Waiting 2 more years would increase learning AND motivation. More good long term research is needed here (rather than just politicians personal preferences).

7) G is for the 3 Goals of a Teacher (teach, love & rest)
The 3 main priorities for teachers should be: plan and deliver meaningful lessons; develop meaningful relationships with learners; and rest well. In other words, teach, love & rest. Meaningful lessons are way more important than admin, and the best way to manage behaviour. Meaningful relationships model what we all want in our lives, meaningful connections with other human beings, and make working with behaviour issues more respectful and collaborative. Resting well brings a work life balance that is modelled for the students, and gives the best possible chances of teachers having the energy to share good lessons and build good relationships.

8) F is for Fun, Games & Playfulness (enjoyment in all things)
Fun is, well… FUN! Playfulness is an essential part of enjoying life and learning, and making things into a (cooperative) game adds a lot of fun. This should be a priority in education, as elsewhere in life. This is particularly important before the age of 8 where everything should be done through play, but also in life long learning from ages 8 to 108 (why let the children have all the fun).

9) U is for Understanding Meanings, not just Memorising (building on the what and how, by asking WHY?)
Years of the testing culture has lead to prioritising memorisation of what’s needed for the next test or exam to show improvement. We need education to be about understanding increasingly more complex principles and processes as learning develops, for people to continue evolving more and more meaningful subject and life models.

10) L is for Long Term National Planning (the biggest efficiency change education can make)
Politicians with often very little subject knowledge, regularly make sweeping changes to subject curriculum content and structure, creating vast amounts of pointless work for teachers and preventing them planning meaningful lessons, developing meaningful human relationships with their learners, and getting the rest they need to deliver engaging and enjoyable lessons, that also nurture those relationships. We propose a long term education office with long term power of curriculum decisions.