Stop, start, continue: 50 years in teaching

This post is inspired by Stop, Start, Continue: Conceptual Understanding Meets Applied Problem Solving a blog post on Edutopia via @DavidBHawley.

Calling all politicians, inspectors and managers

I think David Hawley’s start, stop, continue proposals should be adapted for those who would regulate, inspect and manage teachers. How can we create the conditions that will inspire a generation of new teachers? Is it possible to train to teach at the age of 21 and teach until the age of 71? Does the promise of teaching for 50 years brighten the eyes and lighten the hearts of new graduates? Is 50 years in teaching a dream come true?

What should we stop doing?

Stop promoting simple routine solutions.

Stop talking about teaching as if the answers are simple and already exist. Facilitate an inquiry-based approach to developing teaching. See teaching as a problem solving activity with each teacher’s situation contingent and complex; tap into the wisdom and experience of teachers.

Stop taking the urgency pills.

We need to slow down the rate of legislation and administrative reforms. We need to let teachers lead classroom-based developments. Worthwhile reform takes time and takes the full complexity of teachers’ situations into consideration. Education requires long-term, coherent and focussed system-wide attention to achieve improvement.

Stop talking.

How much listening time is spent thinking about what to say next? It’s time to listen to experienced and capable teachers and pause to think about what they are saying. What would happen if we reduced the talk of politicians, inspectors and managers by 50 percent? We have two ears and one mouth.

What Should We Start Doing?

Start with what teachers care about; release the passion.

If teachers were allowed to do the things that really mattered to them in their schools and their communities, the potential released would be immense. Teachers’ passionate desire to help children to love learning is frustrated in the face of over-monitored progress. New curriculum, assessment and accountability systems must remove this frustration and put the means to help children back into the hands of teachers.

Start taking notice of what we already know about developing people.

There is clear evidence from the early twentieth century that emotion and commitment go hand in hand with learning and personal development; human intellect and human emotion are a unified process. It follows that a full spectrum of emotions is already part of the landscape and that all emotions should be admissible.

Start creating audiences for teachers beyond regulators, inspectors and managers.

Teachers spend many hours finding solutions to teaching challenges, solving problems or trying out new approaches. When they were children, teachers went to school but they have learned a lot more about teaching since then. They see problems that regulators, inspectors and managers cannot see  for to see a problem is to see something hidden. Set up public lessons where teachers can reveal the problems they are solving.

What Should We Continue Doing?

Continue to support the claim for professional freedom.

We must collaborate, communicate, and think critically and creatively to articulate what teachers know. Inspection and supervision must improve to contribute to this.

‘Any systems of inspection or supervision should be designed to encourage and help teachers in the performance of their professional tasks and should be such as not to diminish the freedom, initiative and responsibility of teachers.’ UNESCO (1966)

Continue to facilitate teachers to connect with each other globally.

There are teachers all over the world with a common purpose to inspire the next generation. Teachers are a global community already collaborating. But we need more opportunities like the Project IMPULS at Tokyo Gakugei University, bringing teachers together to discuss their common cause.

Continue believing in the potential of every teacher.

We must support the call for reasonable workloads in teaching for a future in which teachers can invest in their own well-being along with the well-being of their students. Working conditions for teachers should be such as will best promote effective learning and enable teachers to concentrate on their professional tasks.


Cowley, R. 2012. Quality, Passion and Ingenuity. In Reviewing the Maths Curriculum. Pages 19-21. Westminster Education Forum. February 2012. [Available here March 2012]

Durrant, J. and G. Holden (2005). Teachers Leading Change: Doing Research for School Improvement, SAGE Publications

Hawley, D.B.(2015). Stop, Start, Continue: Conceptual Understanding Meets Applied Problem Solving. Edutopia

Holzman, L.(2013). Vygotsky—Closing the Cognition-Emotion Gap

Huffpost Education (2013). Best Education In The World: Finland, South Korea Top Country Rankings, U.S. Rated Average

Malott, C. (2010). Policy and Research in Education: A Critical Pedagogy for Educational Leadership, Peter Lang

Polanyi, M. and A. Sen (2009). The Tacit Dimension, University of Chicago Press

UNESCO (1966). Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers


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