On not filling buckets


“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” – Plutarch

In 2007 we moved from Surrey from Sussex. I had thought I would find another teaching post easily enough, but over a hundred applications later, I learned otherwise.

I felt bereft. I had seen teaching as my vocation, my contribution to our future. I had a few sessions of supply and tutoring – but it wasn’t enough. The only helpful attitude I could find was to take another tack. I had always wanted to write – so I did my MA.  Still, I missed the children dreadfully.

I did not miss the pointless paperwork. I did not miss the pressure to teach to test. And now, sadly, I am glad I’m completely out of it.

Those of you who take an interest in education will know too well the Mr Gradgrind attitude that appears to be taking over – pouring pointless ‘facts’ into young minds. You will know the counter-productive anxiety it causes under which many of our children struggle to learn. This is not what any teacher with a heart intends.

I have at least one hopeful thought about what I can do in response. I want so much to go into schools and blow on the embers of the children’s imaginations through story. To give them space to create without Learning Objectives, SPaG or Assessments. To praise the free spirit they bring to their work and show them their own unique approach is valued.

As the Yorkshireman who taught Princess Elizabeth Tudor pointed out nearly six centuries ago:

Young children were sooner allured by love, than driven by beating, to attain good learning.

Roger Ascham


But first, I’d better get that book published!

4 thoughts on “On not filling buckets

  1. I’m a teacher as well as author, and agree that fire kindling so much better than bucket filling. Good luck with your ember blowing! (We met once at SCBWI mass launch party – hello!)

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