7YBA Teacher

[Like all set liststhis one may change by those annoying SLT i.e. me; Mainly if you reply or tweet me anything forgotten.]

Some of the best things about being a teacher:

You get to work with some great pupils. those who want to learn are in the majority, they are keen to hear from you, your knowledge and keen for you to help them understand, to apply knowledge and yes sure to pass exams. In secondary there is a massive variety of ability and also of ages. There is a huge difference between a y7 and a Y9 and a Y11 pupil. That is a major challenge. At the heart of the job, good relationships with your pupils, and an opportunity to open their minds, challenge their minds and do much the same for yourself.

You get to work with some great teachers. People of wisdom about the school or about the job. Hey and you need to aim to be like that yourself one day. It is a profession full of intelligent and clever people, but the best are the witty ones! you will also get to work with great support staff, secretaries who understand you can’t speak to a parent just now, exams officers who sort your error, and ICT technicians who we call “superheroes”. Those many interactions are, in the best places full of witty banter.

You get to share your subject. That means you share your passion, enthusiasms and you learn about your subject. It is difficult to teach a topic without mastering in so whatever subject you love you get to love it more.

You get a specification or a curriculum to teach. You get some guidance from schemes of work ( which you can contribute to) and to try to fathom out the best way to deliver the objectives. Lots of colleagues will help you and also be willing to learn from you. You need to learn to make good use of resources

You get to be creative./ OK, so there are Powerpoints and worksheets but there are also activities and practicals and a massive host of ideas. Some are in your school, some on the internet and some in your head. You can also contribute to that wonderful pool of resources. Hey and you get to share your humour.

You have to look out for data. Yes, you have to mark books and assess work and get depressed about mock results. But mostly you use any data to help you engage with pupils and help them learn and improve. You do really assess for helping learning. In fact other data…forget it. You get to see the wood for the trees and the trees in the wood, individual pupils progressing and growing up, under your guidance.

You probably get a pastoral role. Looking after a tutor group is another twist to the wonders in the job. Checking they attend, they have the correct kit and uniform and do their homeowrk. It might sound a routine but there is nothing better than helping youngsters in your tutor group. They have bad days or bad things happen, they have birthdays and good things to celebrate – you can be involved. They get pleased with a report, they get disciplined, they need someone keeping an eye.There will be some pupils who your involvement, helps keep them engaged and helps see them achieve. No one forgets a good tutor. You’ll meet them later in life, you will.

Professional support. Well there is CPD and courses and INSET stuff but there are also subject associations, twitter, blogs, teachmeets. meeting colleagues in other schools hearing their moans snaffling their ideas.Though for some, nothing better than a conversation in the staffroom at the end of the day

You get a career. You can move into all sorts of areas. You might get interested in SEND pupils, or EAL, or gifted pupils. You might get interested in careers advising, pastoral work, running a dept or in assessment and examining, or writing books, or educational research or teacher training…the list goes on. Develop your interests

You get to do some extra curricular stuff. Maybe your own interest or a hobby well you can share it, even if it is a bit obscure, but it might also inspire someone at your school. The obvious, run a football team take the basketball, run the orchestra, organise the drama, help with the technical stuff. But there is also the yoyo club, the chess club, organising the charity fundraising…..nothing will go unnoticed, well it might be a Head or SLT ( it shouldnt) but it ont by the children neither their parents

You get to work as part of a team. As a subject teacher you are in a dept, others to chat to about your subject, about your class, about their progress. Stimulating, challenging and usually supportive. If you want you to can learn a lot from this group. But you are also in a pastoral team. Watch and learn how well some staff deal with those apparently difficult or vulnerable pupils

You get to work as an individual. Frankly when the classroom door closes despite observations or even cameras, you are the adult in charge of the learning. It’s your room, your timings, your decisions about following the plan or abandoning a bit. It’s where your reputaion is made and respect is created. You get to perform, to act, to entertain, to control, but most of all to teach, to inspire, to help children learn and progress and get a qualification and begin to become an autonomous, independent confident young person

Magic moments i got that, ive understood that, Ive got this right, I can do this. A smile a look a decision to do your subject in options or post 16 or even in HE. A parent thanking you, a pupil thanking you. A pupil achieving their dream. Lots of ‘little lights’ going on, and many ‘Oh Agh” moments.

You get support (usually). Support from colleagues from pupils, from parents and from your local community, the village the district, or if a faith school it might be a parish). Usually local people and businesses are supportive, they might employ your pupils or take them on work experience. Teachers get a good press ( try being a politician lawyer, estate agent or banker) we are trusted. Your view might actually count, in a classroom and community if not in whitehall.

You get paid. The pay isnt so bad ( unless you live in London and/or want a lavish lifestyle) the pension is OK but might be deteriorating. The holidays are good but maybe not quite as they appear from outside the profession. Despite any moans most teachers enjoy going back to work.

Hey there are drawbacks: you need stamina; despite all your effort a class gets you down; pupils can behave badly or sometime they behave well but just do not appreciate your effort (on the face of it). Leaders sometimes don’t help they interfere, then annoy, they rearrange things, they tell you off. Some parents…well perhaps the less said the better. Governments interfere..let’s say even less about that. Resources can be short in comparison to a neighbour school or another dept.

You will have avery busy days. Very intense and lots of interactions but you will never be bored. There are no two days the same, and frankly no two lessons the same.

It’s a great job, lots of us, old and young still #loveteaching

If you wish for a glimpse, take a look at the easy to read stories of life at a school (Trinity, mine)

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Trinity Lower courtyard

Thanks for all the tweets and messages and for version 1.1to the following

@Mando_Commando
@Ramtopsgrum
@Ngoalby

Friday Period 1 – Simple? Not really

Schools are not simple places

There is a cynical view amongst many teachers that there are many experts on education because “we all went to school once”. A particular and probably unfair criticism often made of Secretaries of State, after all they do get to visit schools, just maybe not enough and with a very specific view and not the view from the chalkface. I’m not sure it is true but there is an impression that some Governments and some politicians and maybe others think schools are simple places. Along the lines of:

  • Teachers prepare lessons (same year on year) deliver lessons (to a class) and mark the work produced.
  • Teachers teach to a specification or syllabus.
  • The children learn (or do not) and pass (or do not) exams.
  • The curriculum is clear
  • The best teaching methods are very well known and agreed
  • Assessment models are clear and effective ( oh hang on for all audiences: parents, employers, HE, schools themselves, teacher, Ofsted LA…)
  • The exams are clear ( well a bit too easy or hard here and there).
  • The governors will monitor.
  • Ofsted will double check and publicise but sum up the school in one or two words (Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement, Inadequate).
  • Parents will support the school because they chose this school for their children.
  • Government can fund (I am talking maintained sector) fairly both revenue and capital works. The end

In the heady days of Bakers national curriculum the government thought a grade could be given to a pupil each year from year 0 to year 11 on a scale from 0 to 10, simple. It would allow parents to see their children progress ( or bring pressure if they didn’t). Anyone can teach, some think, don’t waste time with QTS, in fact a recent idea is to bring in retired people to teach English and Maths. Is it such a simple job?

I’ve just taught a lesson, I did prepare it, despite 30+ years and even several times teaching this lesson it needed preparation. Could I make it better, is there a video an animation , something which helps with this difficult concept? What did my notes from last year say? Can I make the practical work this year? should I do a demo before letting them loose? I’ve also got student work to hand back which, unsurprisingly I’ve marked, and I will go through the common errors and have added a few comments for others who struggled a bit more (this is called feedback). I am looking to see I make enough challenge – push the brightest, stimulate the G&T, support the weaker ones, differentiate, I’ve made sure the pupil premium peeps are getting a fair (or maybe extra fair) deal, oh and looked after those middle of the road pupils who are more tortoise than hare. So after the lesson did the students learn? MMmmm well that depends, some are better Chemists than others, some enjoy my lessons and get it, some enjoy them and don’t and well there are others who hate the lesson but at least try. Some will show they got it in problems they do and in the tests and in their exams. Some I think have grasped concepts today, lose them tomorrow or at least the day before the exam! Some don’t do their work well at home. Learning,it just isn’t linear, it’s just not simple.

Then the learner: some of my students don’t have English as a first language, some have had a difficult time at home, some have recently faced bereavement, and some are distracted, not bad behaviour just stuff on their mind. Some are preoccupied by another subject which has an important test next lesson. Some didn’t understand last weeks build up, some were away ill ….it’s just not simple. I’m not making excuses, I’m in a real world of dealing with learners, learning.

Then there is me, I have already taught this lesson to a different group and whilst I do much the same it goes better. Why? Oh: it’s the morning, oh: it’s a nicer day no wind blowing, Oh: I was more upbeat and smiley as the previous occasion I had a very difficult issue on my mind. Oh I praised them a bit more, no in fact I got cross with them today. [Parents have you tried that spectrum of reactions? Being nice, being mean, being harsh, allowing it, disallowing it and all to see if behaviour might improve –it worked, it didn’t work. Oh it’s complicated being a parent.]

So we come to exam results and those arguments about performance related pay. Great my class did really well. What do you mean? Their progress? Compared to whom? Their achievement? Compared to whom? Their new love of Chemistry? In any case you shared the class. Look at the data – well there is plenty to look at..results, Alps, 4matrix, Raise, FFT..if ever twas true there are lies damned lies and performance data. Hang it this is a person. ( and that rant from someone who tries to use data)

Well that little lad John , he did well in my subject compared to his other grades. Yes but that was his KS3 teacher , no in fact his primary teacher, no in fact the Head of Year who helped him, no his Mum who was keen he did well in Chemistry or damn, it was all down to the private tutor they got for John. No it was his mate in another class who helped him. In fact John hated school but back in Y7 he was in your football team, and he got to like you and because you picked him and gave him a chance he will do anything for you. Pity the other 10 didn’t react like that, I wonder why….oh it’s not simple. Anyway he did meet his target, what target? My target, his FFT target, his DfE target, his EFA target his funding target, our dept target his own target, his families target…… STOP. Wait. He is a person and a complicated little person growing up in a very complex world. I hope someone is keeping an eye on that and not just making him into a simple data point, meeting a target. Is he happy , healthy, outward looking, optimistic, unselfish, knows his moral duty etc ? WHAT? You can’t measure that it’s not simple. Hey and that is one of the 25 in my class! SO shall we discuss the next child along?

So can we measure teachers performance, we have those teacher standards but if I judge myself I hit some targets on some days and ….well it’s a bit complex, some I do but only with help from other people. I have read about what schools are doing since Mike Cladingbowl’s Ofsted article on the use of observations. People seem to be considering lots of factors (as many have written in blogs recently) we can make some judgments about teachers via observations, reputations, results, children’s responses, colleagues response’s but I’d like a lot of evidence because I think it’s complex this teaching and learning. Now don’t misunderstand I’m not arguing against accountability, not at all, nor ambition, nor driving aspiration – I will always do that, I am not comp[lacent< I came into the job to make a difference but please, please, please it’s a complex job.

Schools are complex communities. They aren’t a business, we don’t have clients or customers and a product, we have people. People with all their ups and downs, their hopes and fears, their bad days and good days. We have teachers who are great but human and get ill, or inspiring, or now again we teachers also have a lot to manage in our lives and despite this  I am working hard trying to develop curiosity. We have children who want to learn and some who don’t, we have some who have chaotic lives at home and school presents a consistency and hope. We have some pupils who have very,very difficult times at home – if you are a teacher reading this you know some or many – and we probably only know the half of it. Some pupils need lot of help from EAL staff, SEND staff, pastoral staff, senior staff, tutors and teachers. This is what makes the job a challenge and frankly makes it enjoyable, we can bring hope. Some pupils need to be watched because of their behaviour; some mature and learn some don’t. Yes the learning is not simple. I got cross: my lesson got hijacked by a concert rehearsal, the concert was wonderful. I got cross: my lesson got cancelled because of (competitive sports day) the day was wonderful – some pupils I teach I didn’t know that side of them, they are brilliant, their peers cheer them. I got cross: my lesson got cancelled whilst they set up to raise money for CAFOD – they raised £400 –it makes a difference in the world. AND tomorrow in my lesson they’ll have their heads up in the air and they will actually learn better, I couldn’t achieve that alone in my class. Mmm this taking part, contributing, this extra curricular, this paired reading, this charity fundraising, the time spent prepping our form assembly, hang on where was all that in my training. Ah well schools they aren’t simple they are a community…..of people.

I wonder is it the age? Let’s sum up the complex in a tweet, let’s make the pupil be a data point x on a graph. Let’s sum up in a sound bite, move on. 140 characters, then next? Let’s do it because we can measure, and those we cannot measure let’s give in because that’s complex. Let’s sum up the 80,000 odd formal lessons and maybe another 10,000 extra curricular, outside of lesson hours as…..”good” Ohps sorry “requires improvement”. I agree with Sir MW we make a difference we can bring hope, it’s why I was and still am a teacher but it’s just not simple. There are sometimes simple things some schools need to do and common sense isn’t so common and such changes make a difference, just recognise jobs are often complex.

I am happy to be made accountable, but I resent the media (including some politicians and Ofsted) summing up my work in one word, or summing up our children like that. Most of the time, most of my teaching and most of our children are ……………..sorry it’s a complex world and Iv’e got lessons to prep, staff to support and a school (a complicated living organisation ) to try and look after. BUT if you wish to know about my school, give me an hour and read about us on our website. It’s a little glimpse into our little community of 1200 pupils, and 120 adults, it might not be simple but I reckon it’s great.

Links
Here is a great article from Tom Sherrington (@Headguruteacher) which takes my very basic points into a much more serious arena, and hits the right tone.

Some questions to consider
Q1 What accountability measure should be used for schools?

Q2 How do we reflect the complexity of the job to help policy makers think about Education sensibly?

Q3 When the job in the classroom feels over complicated what are the simple things which keep us going?

Q4 Here is an INSET bug – give four things which would simplify the job>

From someone in a Faith Community:

Deuteronomy 4:9
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Thessalonians 1:3
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope