I’ve been thinking about Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare this week.
During my years as a teacher I have so often had conversations with parents or colleagues about an individual pupil’s progress. As organisations, schools have a tendency to micro-analyse progress and us parents can be even worse, with an almost forensic focus on the latest test score or place in a race. And, though it is sometimes right to look at the finer detail, it seems to me that it is the big picture that holds the most value.
My own children were late readers. They were also late writers and struggled with maths. We were concerned parents who sought to explore every possible explanation for this. The girls were in booster groups, intervention groups, went to specialist tutors and we were panicked when we saw only miniscule progress. Yet our children’s teachers went out of their way to reassure us at every step that things were progressing in the classroom and that it would all come good if they kept on working steadily in class.
Fast forward eight or ten years and Eve is now the proud owner of an impressive haul of high grade GCSEs. She enjoys being a part of the debating team at her school and is now studying Classics, English and History at A level. Charlotte has still to sit her GCSEs but the predictions are looking promising and her teachers no longer talk about a child who is working hard to catch up but one who is academically flying. It would seem that their teachers had a point...it will all come good in the end with steady hard work in the classroom.
And this brings me to the Tortoise and the Hare. They say slow and steady wins the race. In my experience in education, this has certainly been the case. Where progress is built upon small, steady, incremental steps rather than mad rushes to the finish line, the end result has generally been more solid, more substantial and more sustainable.
It should be noted that not only does the Tortoise win the race, it also lives a happy and prosperous life munching salad leaves to the age of 80. Meanwhile, the poor Hare not only comes second but also, tragically, spends it’s existence rushing about and only lives to the age of five.
John F Gilmour