I was at the VATE conference today and I heard you speak about your take on the effect of teachers on student learning. I must admit, I sat down at a round table not quite knowing what to expect, even though I had heard plenty about you and even skimmed through a paper or two. I thought that I would take the time to write you a letter, to say what I could not articulate at the time, to try to recreate those minutes that seemed to pass me by in a haze of gesticulating fingers, violently red skin, and strident masculinity, and to tell you what I think about it all, because I know that you're there, waiting, listening, thinking.
Before I go on, I should pause to tell you that you shocked me. Oh, I knew beforehand that you existed- I had seen your voice in newspapers, policy documents and some research publications- but it was quite a different experience to see you in the flesh, so to speak, to hear your confident, vociferous voice. A pumpkin, rather than a pimple. And only a few metres away! You shocked me, because I suddenly had to face the fact that you were 'real' and not just a theoretical position that I can't imagine ever wanting to claim. You were no longer simply rhetoric, yet in a strange way, that's all you were.
As I drove home afterwards, the question that I wanted to put to you began to take shape in my mind. I'm like that, you see, I tend to like to process things, before responding to them. Sometimes, that can be unfortunate, and to my detriment, but most of the time it feels like the right course of action. Anyway,
you spoke about visiting schools for research purposes-
I conjured up an image of you
getting your hands dirty,
amongst the fray,
part of the action,
in your face,
a piece of the furniture,
a white (or angry red) elephant.
You said that you speak to the students,
because they tell you how it is,
what it's really like,
airing the dirty laundry,
the true reality.
You don't speak to the teachers, because they
paint a rosy picture
ignore the white elephant
try to shove postmodernism through your navel
(and many other crevices, I'm sure- a painful business)
and, last but not least,
TELL YOU WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR.
It made me wonder, Dr Rowe, whether you thought the teachers at the VATE forum TOLD YOU WHAT YOU WANTED TO HEAR. Oops, I've left out the question mark. I guess I'm not expecting an answer, but feel free to give one if you're out there somewhere in WWW land.
I'll let you speak.