Hodder History Expert Blog

Change ahead!
By Tony Fox
22 Oct
Back in September 2010 I was writing a set of blogs to launch the Hodder History Nest. A lot has changed for me since then, both personally and professionally and in this first blog for the new History Nest I wanted to muse on change, how it affects us and how we teach about it. As History teachers we do spend a lot of time considering change and continuity, and those of us with GCSE classes working through a development study will have these two concepts firmly at the forefront of our minds during our planning.

Heraclitus of Ephesus is credited with coining the phrase Change is the only constant’, and boy have we seen some constant changes recently. The farcical ‘consultation’ began the chaotic ever shifting, ever changing disruption to the History curriculum, just as we began to plan for the culmination of our students’ History education (preparing many for their GCSEs), the press presented us with a vision of Hell, entitled the History National Curriculum. We were given just a few weeks of ‘consultation’ on this backward looking and jingoistic mess, an intense period that changed many people’s opinions.

It was the poor KS2 teachers who faced the biggest change. Gone was the broad and balanced curriculum, and gone too was the concept of professional consultation. Educationalists, it seemed, no longer had a role in shaping the education of students, it felt as if our educational system was being  taken on a major detour. We were facing a new and shocking redirection. Once it was accepted , by the majority, that this Govian discharge was unworkable, things calmed down a bit. I remember subsequent months as a feeling of constant limbo: I knew changes were afoot, but could not find out where and to what extent.

In my teaching I try to show students that change can take many forms. We talk about growth, how change is an organic process, linking this to their knowledge of nature. I also see change as a shift, an adjustment, where changes can be subtle and slight, but can also have a huge impact. 

This summer gave me an even more personal experience of change and with it the opportunity to review my own thinking, I was forced into changing my working practices, mainly because our ‘spare bedroom’ (named ‘daddy’s office’) had to be packed up and moved to a small computer table in the corner of another room. Out went 25 years worth of History Magazines, out went my PGCE notes and all the worksheets I had carefully collected over the years. In fact we had a ‘year zero’ moment.

To my surprise I can honestly say that this has been a very positive event. I have experienced rejuvenation in my lesson planning, and a rebirth of enthusiasm. And my first instinct now is to link the lessons and activities together, to create a continuity of experience, rather than try to fit in my favorite activity or topic. I would not say that I have seen a huge transformation, but rather, I have felt a freshness in my approach. I have embraced this change, as it has allowed me to rethink a number of things.

That is not saying I am happy with change for change’s sake. I feel that the pace and extent of change being forced upon schools is destructive. I have, however, become a little more fatalistic: being told you are having twins may have something to do with it, but I have always had this tendency. I am coming around to the idea that I can no longer influence changes to the extent I once believed was possible in my youth, but I can still use changes to benefit myself and my pupils; to see change as an opportunity to adjust my thinking, whilst maintaining my core principles and ideas.

One thing Mr Gove has taught me this summer is that, for me, fighting against change is not always possible, but using the enemy’s efforts to aid my own development can have a positive impact.
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