When I first qualified I found myself compromising all the time. A student would ask if they could complete the task in a slightly different way, and I would allow them to. Before long whole sections of the lesson became ‘hear my suggestion.’ My classroom is now far more rigid, the task is the task- the scope for what students produce is rigid and the creativity occurs around that framework. It’s what Shaun Alison and Andy Tharby have describe as tight but lose, I like to think of it as the Stockholm town planning model. All the houses have to have a certain shape, window number etc. but outside of that the architects are free. The result is a coherent whole, the same is true in my classroom.
This change occurred because I noticed the flaws of compromise in the real world. Looking at a motorway it is easy to forget that we have a more environmentally friendly network, that is often considerably quicker. The reason has to be about personal choice, and to my mind a lack of commitment to ideology. If you care about the environment as a government it would seem logical to convert a vast majority of road networks to this end. Agriculture etcetera.
If we think our ideas are correct and we believe in ourselves as experts then we should stick to these rigidly. Yet, obviously we do compromise and in fact one recent moment I am very proud of involved a lot of compromise. A student who is a school refuser began to attend my lessons; building on my experience at an EBD school, I ignored his negative behaviour and praised his positive work. The other students in the class understood without me mentioning it. They seemed to appreciate that he was behaving in this lesson, and I’m aware this wasn’t the case elsewhere. The results have been excellent, the students behaviour improved beyond all expectations. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to challenge them in the way I do other students but that’s the next problem- this is just first base camp.
So compromise, no. Except sometimes. Perhaps exceptional students require exceptional approaches- and perhaps that’s why teaching is an art. Perhaps the end decision comes down to the greatest benefit of the group, how much time/effort/skill can you donate to the whole group and how much would be lost by adapting.