Quality feat

Karl Menninger

Strawberry Secret, Fruit and Nut Fantasy, Orange Cream Escape, Enchanted Toffee, Noisette Supreme, Hazelnut Surprise, Fudge Delight... do we know what these are? Names of race horses? Of musical bands? Recipe titles? Those with a sweet tooth might recognise them — they are some of the 14 names of the different chocolates to be found in a ‘Quality Street’ box, 14 tantalising flavours bringing wonderful pleasure. Rightly are they called ‘Quality’; each chocolate is different but guarantees quality.

The guarantee of quality is what schools are called to provide in the education that is offered, in all its various shapes, colours and flavours. The Association of Trust Schools’ vision proclaims member schools offer “high quality … education”; member schools themselves are required to commit to quality assurance. So, what is this high-quality education that is to be offered? We may not disguise them in such fancy and tantalising titles as the chocolate box but they are still as tasty and as refreshing as the chocolates themselves.

The first quality of high quality education is quality itself. It is not quantity but quality that is being offered. It is not defined by results, be they academic or sporting; those are just the colourful glossy wrappings in which we find the real education. It will be evidenced by the ability of youngsters to master the skills of critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, all of which produce character. It is found in the depth, meaning, relevance and significance of all that is taught. All the more reason we should heed the words of Karl Menninger: “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” The teacher’s quality of life will shine through powerfully.

Teaching with the second quality, authority, can be seen as teaching that is done with confidence, conviction, firmness, sureness, certainty, power, right and influence. Such a teacher knows what he is talking about; makes sense through simple, easy, clear, right explanations and speaks with firmness. Wisdom is the next quality we should offer — not knowledge, intelligence or understanding but the practical outworking of such in each different situation. Putting the “each” back into “teach” brings about the next quality, Individuality, meaning we develop characters, not clones. Allied to this is inspiration, which incorporates a desire to learn and an involvement in the learning. Following on from that is the next quality of passion, which speaks of energy, enthusiasm, verve, excitement. Learning becomes infectious through the belief, confidence, excitement and joy felt from the teacher.

Positivity is another vital quality for quality education. There can be no condemnation of pupils. Linked to that is the very necessary quality of humanity, of being far more concerned about people as opposed to programmes. Humility is an essential quality, whereby the education is all about the children, not the teacher or the school. Simplicity proves to be a valuable quality, as it shows clear understanding — after all, as Einstein is quoted as saying: “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Versatility is an essential quality for it applies different approaches for different situations and different children. Integrity is a hallmark of quality education for it ensures the right things are taught right, not using hypocrisy, showmanship, pettiness or arrogance. Vitality brings the subject to life with life — absolutely essential! Finding new and fresh and appropriate ways to communicate points clearly will underline the importance of the quality of creativity.

Forrest Gump’s mother’s favourite saying in the classic film  Forrest Gump was: “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you will get.” That is often what we may find in our classes; we do not know what children we will receive. However, we should be glad of what we are given and use what we are given, as everything in the box is quality. Furthermore, we need to ensure that we use all the qualities mentioned in this article for real quality to be seen in our schools, not least as they all are quality and we are to ensure we keep that brand of quality in our schools.

Providing quality is certainly quite a feat, but it is right up our street! It is also what parents want. It is no secret, no fantasy, no surprise — simply delight! Let us make sure we offer them all around freely!

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. 
  • email: [email protected]
  • website: www.atschisz

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