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Belligerent Optimism: Rae Snape on Education, Innovation & Being A Flamingo Of Hope

Words by Smiley Team

Smiley Movement are delighted to announce Rae Snape as our first-ever Smiley Talks Education Ambassador. Rae wears many hats as a Head Teacher, National Leader of Education and self-proclaimed Flamingo of Hope.

We caught up with her ahead of our Big Education Action Plan Event, which she is hosting later in the week   to talk all things education, innnovation and belligerent optimism. 

What does Education meant to you?

"For me, education is life. I think there's a lot of a view that education is restricted to school. But I think education is learning that takes takes place everywhere. It takes place in the home, it takes place in the park space in the supermarket. It's I think living and learning are one in the same thing.

"So I'm very passionate myself about learning. And in its many forms, and I'm passionate about learning about learning, because I think education helps to helps you to see the world it helps you to shape your world. It helps you to, to enjoy life. I think that's the that's the true essence of education.

"Education gives the best benefits financially, socially, academically, that's what a rounded education does for a person."

Do you feel that schooling as it currently stands reflect what education can do?

"I think we're very limited. Or rather, I think there are limits on education because of the testing system. And I do think that if we remove the testing system as it is, we would have new freedoms for teachers and young people to be co constructors of a really great education system that isn't bound by these particular end points, fixed endpoints fixed outcome points that define what is taught. So I think this is this would have a substantial impact.

"If we eliminated the testing system, I am not adverse in any way, shape, or form to accountability is something that I believe in.I think children have a right and are entitled to be able to be literate and numerate and know about the humanities and to be creative and have great social skills.

"But I think that type of testing tests, things that aren't easily testable. And so we've got this whole set of data, which only tests the things that are easy to measure, which are not the only things that are important."

Tell me more about the importance of collaboration in education...

"I think ink a true education allows young people to see beyond themselves, and empowers them to be sociable to form great relationships. But for the more so to have a sense that their identity and be shaped by the choices that they make, and the legacy they leave behind is shaped by the choices that they make.

"So that sense of voice choice and agency is really important. And collaboration is fundamental, within 21st century pedagogy, because it's through collaboration, that we get great creativity and critical ideas and critical thinking. And it just helps us to innovate. So that's one of the benefits is through collaboration, you get innovation question."

Can you tell me a little bit about innovation and how that impacts education?

Goldie Hawn Foundation do a wonderful programme called "MindTap, which is looking at positive psychology, basic neuroscience and mindfulness, three things. Schools are finding that using this framework they are empowering their children to be able to regulate, and to co regulate. And if you have those skills, and you understand how the brain works, then you're more receptive to learning.

"Another great innovation that I learned about is actually very, very old, at 40 years old. And it comes from the work of Paulo Freire looking at schools as learning communities, where you set up dialogic literary gatherings and children, read the same text, and then discuss and debate the ideas in the book. And that's not a very expensive innovation.

"One might argue, does innovation always have to be a new thing? Or is it the way that it's implemented within the school? And something as simple as reading a book together and sharing ideas together, builds that strong sense of harmony and coexistence."

"Innovation is not necessarily new things, it's about making sure that they're within your pedagogy in your practice. And another lovely innovation is our school or children spend time in nature, because that does incredible things for children's well being and their resilience."

And finally, I have heard you call yourself a flamingo of hope. What does that mean?

'I was really aware in 2016 that it was not easy for schools, it wasn't easy for teachers, especially with the policy creep on the education system going at pace. And it's a very challenging working environment for teachers to be in.

"On the flip side, schools need teachers, society needs teachers, and teachers need teachers, if they are parents themselves. I became aware that if teachers were just talking about how miserable they were, how difficult their job was - while all of this remains true - it's not going to encourage people into the profession and it's also not going to keep people within the profession.

"If we are just being miserable, and it becomes a it becomes a sort of a drain on the the workforce. When teachers start to talk about how miserable their job is, more teachers join the bandwagon to discuss it. I'm not saying that it's not valid, I'm not saying that there's not challenges around workload and the entirely the the emotional drain on people.

"But it became becomes a bit like lemmings and they all follow each other. So I thought that is like lemmings of doom would balance out lemmings of doom. It would have to be a flamingo of hope. So we can either be lemmings of doom or we can be a flamingo of hope.

"Professor Teresa Cremin from the United Kingdom Literacy Association told me that flamingos come together in a flamboyance and they are one of the very few creatures who are able to withstand toxic environments and toxic lakes, and able to huddle together, and they support each other and they weren't very creatively. And when they come together, and this beautiful dance, you see them creating this lovely love heart. So there's something very relational, something very positive, something very optimistic about the motif."


Rae will be hosting our event The Big Education Action Plan later this week. Head on over to our talks page to register your place for free.  

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs