part 4 – from good teaching to great teaching



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I am deliberately avoiding calling this “Good to Outstanding”. Ofsted can do what they wish but I want to see great teaching and learning and do very often. We teachers always try and produce good lessons and positive learning but we have bad days, pupils have bad days; whole school stuff disrupts, SLT disrupt! However we can consider moving from good to great with a sustainable manageable approach, bringing inspiration, inspiration, inspiration – that get’s pupils learning by definition! Here are my top ten:

 

1 Great teachers know their subject inside out

Not only do they have good knowledge of their specifications, they have a wide grasp of their subject. They understand it very well, they can apply ideas and synthesise them. This is not about pedagogy (yet) it’s about wisdom in the subject. It’s about keeping up to date, reading, identifying interesting stuff in the news or other media. It’s about maintaining a network of contacts to follow the latest developments. It might even be about visiting places of interest like museums or going to lectures, of picking up podcasts. It might even mean rereading text books. Always try to find time to read and expose yourself to new stuff in your subject.

 

imagesCA5QXQ852 Knowing the tough topics and lessons

It takes time to suss out what pupils find hard and of course it varies by ability and age but this is the next critical aspect to make a sustainable difference. What topics pupils find hard and challenging ; what skills they need that prove difficult to develop. Its about knowing the best introductions to topics, the best conclusions, the most effective assessments ( formal or informal) that help build confidence and show the teacher what needs to be done next. Our big duty as teachers of KS4 and KS5 exams is to ensure our pupils know what they have to do to achieve a given grade and then teach them to those standards. Be absolutely clear what they must do to get that A* or that E whatever is appropriate. Phrases like “they need to work harder” or “just understand more” are probably correct but of little value to the pupil who is willing and works hard. However knowing what they need to know and do, we work backwards to build that into the day to day week by week lesson plans. I’m not keen on lots of past papers and exam practice I’m very keen on my students understanding my subject. This is a big challenge when we all face new specs but hang it we all face that – so look out for blogs, read exam boards support stuff and  well much won’t change – if pupils find equilibrium difficult now in the GCSE spec, they probably will next year with the new spec.
3 Maintain enthusiasm, humour and jazz

imagePupils love a teacher who knows their stuff, they enjoy the relevant anecdote or story telling and they like a touch of humour. (Great teachers do not grow old they just lose their class) They like to try and distract you and …you know it. You have taught for a good while now, so you know what works, what goes down well and you should milk it for all it’s worth. Hone and refine the skills – you should feel like the conductor of the orchestra.

4 Know your pupils inside out

G0414677Some of the older pupils you taught when younger or came across in your football team or orchestra, maybe even had a run in as a head of year. You might well have taught an older sibling. So you understand the dynamics of the family and you know how they are likely to respond and for those you don’t know so well, you know your school community better. You also know how to handle the reactions. If you have to call home about homework there are after all only a few responses from parents: “thank you for telling us/so what/we don’t have any issues from other staff it must be you”. So you know what to say in response, you know who else to mention on the SLT if necessary. Exploit this to raise standards, to flush out more work and better quality work. All that investment in the craft of the classroom over recent years should after all bear fruit. It really isnt a blank canvas. You should know the G&T the SEND and more-so you should know what works and what doesn’t, so take it in your stride.

5 Systems

You know all ISS_Flight_Control_Room_2006of the school systems such as those for behaviour management and discipline those for reporting problems and those for reporting achievements and awards and merits etc. You know when reports are due and mocks or tests come along BUT by now you should be able to work a system which suits you and your subject. No whole school assessment system can suit every subject, so where do you need to branch out? When do you need your own mock, when do you need an extra assessment. You also know the rhythm of school and seasons, for example it’s not a good idea to leave a really difficult 3 week topic to mid winter; you know when illness is at its worst and can sort out work around it. You have a sense of the need for a really really outstanding lesson to lift spirits ( yours and theirs). You know what to do about ill pupils, about those who get stuck ( see me after the lesson? – not really going to work is it; what does work?). So within this class this group add a layer of your own systems to supplement the schools

6 Confidence and Resilience image

You can be confident in the classroom, a confident teacher, a confident behaviour manager, a confident leader. Ooze that confidence to your pupils and ooze it so much that your pupils pick it up. They need more confidence and resilience, make sure you pass that on to. How? Well by inspiring their progress and pointing out how far they have come -as much as the distance they still have to go. Help develop them as independent learners; it wont be easy and it definitely wont be less work but it will likely be a greater impact on their state of mind. Tell them -this topic is tricky and tell them when they’ve got it and of course when they have not got it. They need to go into your exam full knowing a) this subject is tricky b) I have to work hard but I have worked hard and c) I have been well prepared and can perform. It’s no different to the big football game or England vs Australia for the world cup ….oh hang on.

Then there is resilience, the ability to cope with stuff thrown at you and designed to throw you. You cope quite well with that, have a think how you do so, think what wisdom has brought you to the point of coping better now than the last time you faced that issue. You need to bottle this, not least for yourself ( see end of post) but also to start to work out how to pass this on to those pupils who need to develop it all too.

7 Activities and resources

You have plenty now, as above you know what works and what is still weak. Look ahead if that Powerpoint didn’t work last year it needs a tweak. That lesson which was rather boring and lost the pupils, does it need something extra. SOmetimes though, be frank the topic is boring the lesson can be boring and this bit of learning is boring that’s how it is but you should know this now.You alos know the subtle bits, you know sometimes that some content isn’t covered so well and needed more time but it’s now time for revision. OK you are the wise professional balance the time carefully for the pupils. When they say ” have we finished the spec yet?” reply confidently “not quite yet but we will and more importantly how do you feel your understanding of the spec is going?”

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8 Talk, converse, chat, discuss…..

I have taught for 34 years but I still love chatting Chemistry to my colleagues. Still asking what I might do to improve. Still observing an NQT or a student and thinking that is clever. Still talking about classes. I recently had a Y13 who were very quiet and so I spent much time with a colleague discussing what we might try to do, even discussed them with other subject staff. Talk to SENCO, talk to HoYr talk to parents and most important talk to the pupils. Check you spend as much time talking children and subjects as you do moaning about me (the head/SLT) or the government or the weather. However do have a moan. we all need that.

9 Data, pupils or surprises

imageYou must know by now there is a lot of data for you. FFT (new)  Sims, prior knowledge and especially exam board performance data on question level etc etc Use it but not without care or discrimination.  Your own analysis of previous pupils performance tells you a lot – do they do better on exams or coursework; this bit of this unit is really challenging. When you check how your pupils performed on Q3 of paper 1 last year that was to inform you as to what to do this year – the same or different. Yes maximise those marginal gains. Data should show no surprises. I had a conversation the other day ” We were disappointed not to get more A*”. Should some pupils have got A*? Did they get A* in other subjects? Were their various targets A*? If the answer was their prior performance  predicted no A*, like everyone be the optimist and sure “aim high” we all need that. However stop beating yourself up, be realistic, be of sober judgment, sure aspire, we heads love all that but the job needs to be sustainable and enjoyable as well as all the inflicted pressures – try not to add to that yourself or on your colleagues. However more important then being level 5b or blue ladder 6 or smiley face yellow is “you know this, understand that can do the other and NOW to improve you need to do this….” Knowing pupils not knowing data is critical. Data should avoid surprises – I had no idea she was that good/bad/struggling etc

10 Inspire, Reward and Challenge……and honesty

You teach a great subject, yes? You teach generally great pupils yes? You know how the classroom heart beats yes? Good, good, now capitalise on all that inspire them, praise them and when they slip challenge them or when they get it challenge them even further. Oh and you make a few mistakes, the odd idea doesn’t work – you are big enough now to admit it, share it and sort it, not under the table but on the table.

other responsibilities

My last point isn’t advice but challenge. My guess is you also have responsibilities three

1 Family – don’t neglect your rightful duties to families not just children but parents and grandparents too and friends who need you. It’s a challenge

2 Other responsibilities in school . After 4/5 years you might well have other responsibilities: pastoral as a heads of year or academic as a subject lead or other jobs like student mentor etc etc. You need to fulfil these duties swiftly, clearly and deftly but the key difference you make is as a classroom teacher and that is in the day to day in the classroom.

3 Yourself. I’ve seen too many people who end up burnt out, or cynical or the poorer in the job. It’s never simple to say why but make sure you look after yourself. Personally this is the one I find hardest. Getting to the gym, taking enough time off, reading for pleasure etc etc check out the #teacher5aday and enjoyreading what others are thinking about and doing and check yourself. Why not get a critical friend to help you? My previous head often emailed me at 10pm saying get off that **** computer and talk to the family.

imageAND be uplifted to be a GREAT teacher isnt even rocket science you can do it and be the great teacher you can be.

 

 

 

part 2 – from Teacher trainee to NQT*

untitledL PlatesCongratulations and welcome to the profession. You’ve chosen a great job and hopefully you already know a good bit about your new school. There is a clue in the initials about this journey “new”.

First the Good news

You passed your PGCE, schools direct, teach first training with flying colours but you are not quite the finished article, in fact even after 36 years I never felt I was the finished article, this is teaching and learning and we never ever get there! However you do now know how a classroom works, you have been observed and met required standards. In fact you might feel you survived – no one rioted, discipline wasn’t as bad an issue as you thought it might be and deep down you did experience the sheer delight of pupils learning in your classroom. You have had interviews and got a job and now you get paid too.

Now the challengeL Plates

1 Responsibilities

Last year another teacher taught a class, and you “borrowed” them for a term or less. now you have them for a whole year or if Y10/Y12 maybe two years. You are responsible for their progress, achievement, and to an extent their behaviour and ambitions. You have to report stuff to your head of dept, to a head of year and to parents…….oh and also to …….pupils.

2. You are the star not the extradownload

Sometime last year, you were an ” extra pair of hands” for example with a tutor group. You are now in charge and……on your own, at least in the classroom, but certainly not in the school. So start acting like the Star not the extra.

3 Welcome to Houston – Systems

Your mentor or class teachISS_Flight_Control_Room_2006er helped out with questions that you had or issues that arose. Now you have to find them in other ways. There should still be a mentor and there should be a senior leader in charge of NQTs. Speak to them often. There should be a programme of support, get along, take notes listen, learn act. However systems can be complicated and schools have a habit of socialising them such that experienced teachers just seem to “know” what to do. So don’t be afraid to ask even the simplest of questions, however you might need to put aside time to get to grips with say ICT systems for management information, for reporting, for taking registers. Just ask, ask, ask. Pay attention at all those sessions on child protection, health and safety, data protection dealing with…. the school knows what it is doing training you, make sure you learn.

4 Basics of preparation and practice

Teacher plannerDuring teaching placement you had time in school to prepare lessons and maybe try out the odd activity such as a practical. You will wonder how to fit that in but preparation is the key. You do have a few lessons from last year under your belt but these are different children – your children and now you have more classes and (see above) more responsibility. As quickly as possible find out where dept resources, schemes of work etc reside, how to access them and work with experienced teachers on planning. As for practicing those activities, well that’s after school now methinks. Remember this will get easier but take a deep breath just now.

5 Marking and feedback – you just knew they would be here

Oh for the luxury of teaching practice with maybe 1 set of workbooks to mark each evening, now it seimageems non stop. You must work out a sustainable way for marking and feeding back. Guess what, that is just like the rest of us, so again ask, ask, ask. Don’t think you can spend 4/5 mins on every book for every class. BUT do not get behind, if you letting it slip, talk to your mentor. What is the school policy, mark every week, what do they mean by mark, and what are they marking? A lot of judgment rests on the quality of what is in a pupil’s book – mentors will look, other assessors, in due time Ofsted but perhaps more importantly parents and children. You can have a big impact here. Personally I am not a  scary kind of teacher but I get good behaviour in part by what I put in books, odd comments about the written work but odd comments about behaviour, contribution: ” well done today Ash, loved your answers, keep it up – though I think the homework could have had more detail” and reinforce that verbally. Just occasionally you are sat at home, finished prep for tomorrow and a bit overwhelmed with marking – then stop, get to bed and turn into school refreshed and be on top of classes, far better than everything marked but you tearful by lunch through lack of sleep.

6 Background disruption – please No

If your classes experience this, which some almost certainly will do, then do not despair, but please please please do not ignore. You are not rubbish but you need to tackle the pupils and the situations. Discuss strategies, get ideas and maybe watch the group with more experienced staff and tease out what they do and therefore what you need to learn. You are after all an NQT and the ‘new’ gives it away you have stuff to learn.

7. Workload

I do sometime say to our NQT pace yourself through the day. Maybe get a class to read silently for a while, maybe have a very straightforward activity. As a Chemist I wanted every lesson to be fairly spectacular and soon learned I would probably not be surviving the year. You can’t do a lesson like you prepared for your PGCE tutor to watch for every lesson. So learn to pace yourself but get a great lesson in every few days to ensure you remind yourself what a great job it is and that you can do it.

8. Extra curricular

I thin0913-23k these activities are vital ( see this post) but you are an NQT with lots of years ahead of you and so only do what you can manage. At one interview I was asked by the chair of governors if I would help on a ski trip and an overseas trip. I really wanted the job and as this next sentence came out my mouth I thought I was kissing good-bye to the job but I said: “It seems to me the school needs  lessons well prepared, classes well taught, work marked and pupils prepared for public exams, and the labs tidied up to be interesting learning environments; as we have just had a baby I can’t see me getting away for skiing but once the day-to-day is sorted of course I will do my bit.” In all honesty I got up ready tp  leave but I did get the job and the deputy said that was exactly right for the school. Do something , maybe the odd bus or dinner duty, show willing, maybe something you really wanted to do as you were thinking of teaching like playing your flute in the orchestra but just dip your toes in. No one will thank you for taking the football team but not marking books or forgetting to order equipment until late.

9 Other wonderful people in a school

I’ve mentioned staff but now learn to love the support staff, people who photocopy for you, caretakers, ICT wizards, office staff who will always try to help, if appropriate lab technicians too. They will have seen a lot of new teachers like you, and whilst not necessarily knowing how you are doing they do know the pitfalls and if you can pass the time of day with them, appreciate them you will get lots of support just where you need it.


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10 Rhythm

Schools have their own diary or calendar and it brings a rhythm to the school. of course this is based around holidays ( half terms, start of year etc) , seasons (winter/exams) and then parents’ evenings and reporting. You need to try to watch out for this. Many an NQT overlooked or wasn’t told that “next week we need the assessment data completing, so hope you have done the test”. You haven’t or there is a work audit due and the work you needed to do for that will hijack  something else you had planned. Try to read beyond the dates and look over each year group and identify when the pressure points will be and work with others to minimise those pressures

11 Standards

I’ve never been sure about the “don’t smile until Christmas” malarkey but you must set out from the word go your expectations. You must keep to rules, you must in a sense do as the “collective wisdom “ suggests – otherwise there is trouble around the corner. So set high expectations of behaviour, of work ethic in your classroom, of standards of work, of standards of dress – including your own. Pupils actually like all that and will conform, they like to know where the lines are but they will try and cross them – someone will definitely not do homework so what will you do, exactly what will you do when that happens? You may not know but please don;’t say “Someone not doing homework, well that really was a massive surprise!”

12 Feedback and Self confidence

Get lots, the more the merrier. before you plan tomorrow reflect on today. My NQT notes I reread for this post and I discovered my plans were more brief than my reflections and I remember what a great resource that proved in my second and third year – ah yes, that didn’t quite work; ah no, that practical didn’t really illustrate the learning objective etc. However the most valuable is that from staff observing you AND you finding some time to observe them. These aspects should steadily build your confidence and help you grow into the role and you will see next year looks possible and manageable and you know what you can do better. You will make it through and be even better next year.

New teachers bring bags of enthusiasm and new ideas and new ways of doing things, we really love people like you – if you can learn some of the traditions in your school to get the best out of children and marry the two you will be just fine – but exhausted.

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There is a lot of advice on blogs and in the TES and if on twitter via @Ukedchat animaged #NQTChat . The TES supplement  “new teachers” published September 18th is a good read too. Meanwhile make sure you join a teacher union they often have lots of very useful stuff for NQTs.  Here is a good article from the Guardian too.

Some blogs

From @theheadsoffice 

and @lisa7pettifer

and @teachaholicblog

Some books|

Making every lesson count: six principles to support great teaching and learning by  Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby

Classroom behaviour: a practical guide to effective teaching,behaviour management and colleague support by Bill Rogers

Teaching in UK Secondary Schools – a PGCE, School Direct and NQT Starter Guide for that Long Road Ahead  by Hari Indran

Teaching in UK Secondary Schools: Being Organised from September through till Christmas: by Hari Indran

There  is a very good guide from the NUT

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Sunday period 3 – Plans off the shelf? No – planning is critical.

My short blogpost on planning started from some major frustration with a TES article  in October 2014 reporting Lord Nash (Schools minister) comments about teacher planning. This and a twitter conversation with colleagues (Thank you I’ve tried to cover your points) out there who know the job. I need to come clean I am an SLT member, I like to see evidence of planning and not a template lesson plan, but we are not a school in measures so that may be necessarily different. I still teach and I can well remember teaching full timetables, even though not so much now and in the immortal words of Mr Tom Bennett “I have a fat wallet and light timetable”.
fail to planSo my thoughts:

Credit to the deputy in my teaching practice school in rural Oxfordshire along time ago “every hour of teaching John will need an hour of prep and an hour of reflection/marking”. That was aimed at a PGCE, maybe to an NQT but it is not sustainable, some planning time can be reduced from an hour per lesson over a period of time methinks. Even the oft hated Oftsed stopped checking lesson plans ( often perfectly presented etc) but want to see evidence of planning. But here is my analysis:

 

Planning long term
The first task with any class is to plan the year. Think about each term and the purpose, the aims and the build up to say a public exam. For most of my career I’ve taught GCSE, AS and A Level groups so this bit of planning threads aspects such as: coursework demands (when will the students have learnt the skills we test?) alongside standard assessments and exams and any reporting cycle (nothing worse than writing a report and finding out in an assessment the next week how wrong I was). Think through the rough division of the specification or units or topics. and Then also think of the state of our pupils, (not too much compromise) – Chemistry coursework started the week before Christmas is likely to be poorer but if we have four groups how do we fit them in? These are the discussions to have with HoD. This is also where we all produce, contribute to, work on and improve schemes of work; even in production the discussions can be a huge help to understanding the T&L of a course.

goal without a planPlanning mid term

So knowing it is these topics to cover this half term and these assessments to fit in, just check how far we got in the last chunk of time. For example the summer often catches us out, we restart the AS students and they are not well motivated (sometimes neither are we) so the autumn term needs to take account of such. Even now I still read over the topics, refreshed from a textbook and check for any shiny new ideas maybe from twitter, maybe from blogs. Chemistry is a great subject to teach and there are lots of ideas out there but the core lesson cannot have too many stories, just a bit of spice in the meal. So this “planning aspect” is about subject knowledge, and it needs building and learning by the teacher, hang it that was the stuff we wanted to teach so it should not be a chore. It’s the reading and the thinking how I might get this over and get it learnt and get it understood that is such a great part of the job. (and worth noting in all my years the content has changed at all levels and the assessment model at all levels and very often, so what I do now is far removed from what Terry Alsop taught me back in the 1980’s in my PGCE. Thankfully the principles held me in good stead.)

Planning short termarchitectural

Well that’s the weeks work. I still have a planner and think what I’m doing for the week. Science teachers need to order their kit for experiments and whilst we can be kind and buy chocolates for lab technicians, we know they need a fair notice. ( see blogpost unsung heroes). It’s now getting quite detailed, the odd powerpoint, video, website links I’m using, narrative from a text and a think about what questions I might ask and even what might be written on the boards. Oh and don’t forget homework!Certainly any worksheets for practicals or other activities need checking printing or ordering. Oh and here I might check my resource bank and colleagues shared resources and have a chat with colleagues. This is where we should not reinvent the wheel! I really like this and miss it now I teach less. I used to find it difficult to use other people’s worksheets and likewise I do with other people’s powerpoints but they are a starter. In fact this stuff all evolves. I grab last years lesson(s) and last years resources and adapt. In my first three or four years of teaching I did a long review every lesson and my reflections were one of the most helpful parts of my work.

Planning the lesson
Take the deep breath and have a think where we got to last time, check out the short term plan, adapt anything from my marking , heck they really didn’t understand that part. When I was a Head of Year and stuff hijacked me and even now as SLT when stuff in school happens this step can get lost in the fog of school. After all these years I know my stuff well and can cope and manage, it won’t be outstanding but it will be pretty good. There is a vitally important point to this part, we make the lesson work for the class, for the time of day, for certain individuals. We do this to help with behaviour, with progress and ultimately with attainment. Teacher’s know how important planning is to maintain and raise standards of behaviour and understanding – watch me try and teach French if you want to see how awful it can be. ( I make a good fist of it c’est la vie). This needs saying in response to the original article. So obvious really there is not much point me teaching how to do calculations in Chemistry if we can’t balance an equation. In a threatened new world where I am given lesson 256 today and tomorrow must deliver 257 it will come unwound in a hugely serious way. attainment will suffer and behaviour will deteriorate. Teacher plannerQuite often I’ve been lucky enough to have two Y10 or two Y12 classes, less prep -well sort of, the long the mid and the short but not the lesson. It remains a mystery that I can teach exactly the same and one group get it and one don’t, hey ho that is what we love about the challenge of the job. It’s what I think absorbs all the extra time too as the teacher pleased with all that work gets reminded – Ah but it still might not work for Robert, yes what can I do with Robert? so there is a final challenging jigsaw, are we doing enough for “every child matters?” G&T, pupil premium, SEND, girls, boys, middle of the road, quiet pupils? BUT we cannot kill ourselves with work, even I say to the NQT, sometimes you won’t be able to do an all singing all dancing lesson, it’s not a problem, just do some now and again to remind yourself why you came into the job.

Off the shelf plans, will they cut down planning? No. Will they save time for us all? No – and anyway much of this is done…..at home! DO I want offf the shelf plans? No its the creative bity of the job and if you offer me some they pop into a box called possible resourcves, I still need to do the planning. Or follow the logic and then read this post by Martin Robinson

I still think this basic, preparing a lesson is vital for the successful outcome and it’s a good reminder to try and protect each other from other stuff to make sure we prep well, we enjoy prep and our pupils benefit. One last small point though, pupil behaviour needs to be good, nothing more soul destroying than all that prep and an inability to deliver cause of poor behaviour or low level disruption. That’s for another post.

Here is a helpful link to @teachertoolkit clever 5 minute teacher plan if you have others, let me know.


Some questions to think about

Q1 How does preparation evolve in a teacher career from student teacher, NQT, the early years, middle leader etc?
Q2 What evidence should we see from colleagues, what evidence of planning without an endless stream of paperwork and extra work which does not directly benefit pupil progress?


and for those in church schools

Isaiah 28:29
All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.

Isaiah 32:8
But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.

Proverbs 15:22
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Psalm 94:11

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile.

8YBA Head of Department

imageAfter while in the profession  (a while being a three years methinks) many teachers will seriously be considering where their career is heading. It is easy to forget even a new TLR is a small % of a teacher’s pay but it’s not so much the money it’s the status and the next rung of a ladder. So if you are thinking about being a Head of a Department here are some reasons why you definitely should do so :

 

You are going to be helping others, not just the NQT or PGCE students but your own colleagues. In fact all of them young and old; enthusiastic and grumbly (and sometimes both) nothing better than helping though.likewise children, you might be HoD but you will be helping children, your classes and other classes.

You might be able to pick and choose the courses for your curriculum subject. You are too sensible to change everything all at once but in the nature of education, changes will come and instead of being told what to do, you can do the telling. But you won’t make any quick decision, you’ll do the research, the thinking and the presenting of options and then consult, listen and get to a decision you are confident about and as for colleagues, for the most will agree with you and then run alongside you. Don’t contemplate the alternative.

You will have a few new challenges, the awkward member of staff, the supply teacher needing work and needing to find their way around your Dept. Oh and you’ve been teaching long enough to know it happens on the day you already have a lot on – welcome to the world of HoD.

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You will have a budget and you don’t want it overspent as a shiny new HoD but you want to hear those pupils saying ” that helped us to learn using ….” in your lessons and you want it to make a difference to staff and hear they are pleased. Oh and the odd parent who will pass praise too.

imageYou will have to learn to use data. You might be good with your own data but you move on now from concern about the data for your classes to the data for the subject, and teasing out what that data and other stuff means. This opportunity, like others will need a mentor and coach and someone senior to help. A new and closer relationship which can be a great spur in your career.

 

You will probably be doing appraisals and certainly observations and expected to support and challenge in a professional way. this is a great way to help maintain and raise standards. But also something of a warning here, with responsiblity comes accountability. So think how you will use all the tools ( data, observations, work scrutiny, your educational nowse and your own methodology etc) to hold yourself and then others to that account. Do it in the nicest way, because you will know the staff (soon) and who (a) does the job and worries or (b) who doesnt do the job and seems not to care. You might have to sort a colleague through a difficult patch personal or professional, whatever the crisis your school needs those children taught, your input is invaluable.

You might well feel the need for some added training, you have probably learnt what not to do from some people but knowing what to do isn’t easy. Pick your CPD carefully and plan with a senior colleague over a few years, you can’t expect to be the finished HoD at the end of the first term. Spot or seek those other great middle leaders and get some coaching from them.

You get to do some innovative things, but check out which will work, do your research, do some pilots or trials and in this you’ll learn the art of delegation, but do not use that phrase “it will be good for your career”! Teachers know when they are being dumped on, treat them as intelligent beings, not as daft pupils. In fact learning to treat colleagues properly is a vital and lifegiving aspect of this new job.

You’ll get some surprises – make sure they are not critical by checking your  systems. Entered for the right exams, studying the right spec, doing the correct texts. Yes, you will need to start “checking up” on colleagues maybe an unexpected call from a parent for good or for ill. You will also need to expand your own repertoire – you might not have taught SEND pupils or the whole Y13 course, or spoken with governors.

You will get some “influence” which is , in fact, all that leaders really have. So lets say some new idea comes along ( and can be from lots of places DfE, government, TES, a book, a blog, SLT etc) will you embrace it fully? will you ignore it fully? Assuming it’s not statutory, how will you work out what to do with this apparently clever initiative?

you get to lead meetings! Ha, you recall how you have moaned about those meetings full of business, or boringly wasting time? well you are in charge now. You want them to be focussed, upbeat, short? Great that’s your call but “stuff” has to be done – after school meetings, INSET time, twilights. Of course with a boot on other foot, you now also attend meetings. My advice: watch and learn. ( check my blogpost wednesday period 6)

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One tiny warning if you move schools as a HoD I think it’s one of the most tricky moves in education, expectations will be high and it’s a whole new school with new systems and new children. Plan to be gentle on yourself, take as much time as you can to learn about the children and show you can teach, then bring on the HoD stuff.

I think it’s a great role in school, the start of a wider influence (Middle leader) and learning to manage and lead a team. You become a role model, you’ll probably attend middle leader meetings and in time be expected to contribute, to the direction of travel for your school, appointing colleagues, working with governors, solving problems and maybe defending your subject and considering wider school issues you had never considered.  You might get a bit more money, a new title and a small corner for an office. Oh and you’ll soon see why senior leaders think of middle leaders as the engine room of the school.Go for it.

Further reading:

Instutute of Education London on middle leaders

Teaching leaders on Why middle leadership?

The Guardian Making the most of idlle leaders to drive change in school

National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML)

Sec-Ed Three keys to middle leadership

From Professional development: leadership for learning for middle leaders

Wednesday Period 4 – Data rich, information poor

Schools are data rich, but are we information poor? How do we balance the data, the numbers and dealing with real live children and helping them learn. Is data more of a dark art than a scientific methodology?

This is a dangerous blogpost because some people love data, and some hate data. I think politicians love us to have data. FFT Raiseonline, LAT and PANDA. Then there is the data we put into sims or other IMS systems for collecting school data, and I’m not even getting to life with or without levels. Then we have analytical tools such as 4matrix and ALPS. Hey and that’s just my school.

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There are other layers too – most teachers collect data, most departments collect data. I used to dread my HoD checking my mark book in case I had to explain all my codes ( late work due to illness and absence; late work due to lazy etc) then there were my inconsistencies such as a blob meaning I was worried about that pupil on that topic, then the gaps where I forgot for a few weeks to keep a register – nothing anarchic just had so much to do in lesson counted heads asked where X and Y were and cracked on. Whatever mess my mark book was in it was a data tool, it recorded data, in a limited way it analysed data.

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It could have been better, but it served my purpose I knew pretty well who progressed, who didn’t and my predictions were usually correct. I played a few games, telling some they were likely to get a D knowing my conversation would galvanise them into work for a C – others needed cajoling and constant encouragement but hey they made it. My classroom has always been all about relationships, me knowing them, them understanding my expectations, me knowing Chemistry and them learning it, with my help. My data telling me who was getting along OK and who wasn’t. Data, plus thinking, plus conversations plus educational nowse.

Now we are in an overwhelming data dominant world. If you ask me as an SLT member how X is getting on, well we can check attendance and compare it to others in classes/year/school/nation with all manner of codes and % stats. Shall we look at behaviour or achievement data across my lessons, across the year group the whole school. Progress data or attainment? Or marks, mine or my dept or what I consider my critical marks such as assessments and tests? Dealing with data for parents and pupils is a whole different blogpost.

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I recall back in the day we had an analysis of SATs called anSAT and a local subject adviser asked me to check out some new ( expensive software). It analysed skills and knowledge in the subject in huge detail for each pupil. He showed us ‘Petunia’ ( not her real name) she had a whole A4 chart showing lots of bars, her marks now apparently converted from her responses to show her understanding of topics compared to the class, the year, the nation probably the universe. It showed she really got this topic and really was lost on that one. The head of subject was getting very excited, he loved numbers. “So are you keen?” said the advisor. “One question” I said, “yes”said the advisor. “No, not to you but to the head of subject – thinking about Mrs Ordinaryteacher ( not her real name) who teaches your subject, if we went in her class could she tell you that information about Petunia?”- “yes, more or less, maybe not linked to the year group but to the class and to the national and to their targets etc”. So why bombard her with so much overwhelming data and with that data the added worry piled on a deeply conscientious outstanding teacher?

Data has immense power and value-we can pick out patterns and themes maybe a topic no one has really understood, maybe an area we need to make new resources. We can and should help each other with it, but not get obsessed by it. I am a teacher, I like creating resources and helping learners, much better than tiring over data and worrying I haven’t missed anything. You see the job is an art not a science. Let the good teacher get on and teach, ensure they have enough data but do not overwhelm them.

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In the 90’s I met a fairly senior History examiner whilst I was attending award meetings for A Level chemistry, I said to him that our award was challenging and complex but reasonably objective, how did he feel about the accuracy of History? Oh, he replied, we are good, I am confident, when we award a C grade for example it really is a C grade, or maybe a B or a D but it’s definitely around there. I often think just how scarey is our dependence on data and results with their massive consequences for pupils, and teachers and schools. Is it time to say exams are more of an art than a science and just plan (and judge) on that basis? Use data to help identify issues but tackling the issues is the challenge. SLT we need to make sure our teachers have enough of the right info.

no teacher ever

Well back after August it’s that hugely time consuming job – ploughing through results data and soon revisiting FFT etc Oh and then the surprise of an update, or the governors data dashboard showing something a bit different to what something else suggests. It’s back to pouring over Raise and remind myself which colour is which because in ALPs the colours are different. One of my favourites 4matrix with another upgrade and new tricks (check out their video intro) but giving me the feeling there is so much more hidden away-help you’ve intimidated me. I know that data analysis which is demanded by so many accountability measures is crucial to the job, and I know SLT need to know the data but really a we need to know our school and what information the data reveals and then make good decisions about our school.

All of this can suck out our time, and energy and then when I talk with colleagues and we discuss data there are further complexities. I hugely appreciate the contribution of data managers but occasionally I just need to check we have a balance. In all honesty I could spend all day doing data but the pupils will not benefit as much as they might if I sat and taught them or even listened to them or just took a bit of genuine interest in them to lift their self confidence and to encourage them to learn. Right that’s it shutting down my computer to go amd watch the year 9 boys football team.

imageSome questions to think about
Q1 What data is the critical crucial data needed by the teacher in the classroom to maintain and raise standards?
Q2 How do we ensure we do not overwhelm class teachers with data but that we so point out patterns and themes which need addressing?
Q3 Are we too driven by data, or is it the magicians wand to point out what has to be changed, kept the same, or transformed?
Q4 Those who want to get on with teaching and leave the data other than a mark book behind are being naive-discuss!

Q5 just how much of FFT Raise ALPS Panda does any given role need to understand?
There is an even more vexing question – just how good is the data. Have a read of this blog by @Jack_Marwood

Not much for us in church schools on data in the BIble but some on how we approach the job!

Matthew 22: 16

They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.”

Psalm 119:66
Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Ezekiel 34:12

As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

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

Monday period 5 – A simple and profound lesson to learn

If you are hoping for inspiration for teaching your Monday period 5 jump to the end. My Monday period 5 is my worst lesson. If you are an ex pupil reading this, I do apologise, I can explain. If you are a present student get off this blog and back to the work I set you. When preparing for my week, sorting assemblies, pastoral work for the teams I lead and critical admin or UCAS ref then marking and lesson prep etc invariably there was not enough time. I am a professional, so usually got Monday 1 and 2 and even 3 or 4 sorted but 5…it got left, drafted but left. After all I am SLT I have non contact and so that lesson could be polished in my free. What free? Why have I never ever learnt that my free on Monday got hijacked, maybe cover, maybe someone needing to talk – a sixth former wishing to quit, drop a subject, change subject, or a teacher…… with bothers, with worries….but I never learnt and end up with my meagre prep and the 10 m walk to the lab as I get to Monday period 5. Apologies all round. Thanks timetabler this year first ever no class Monday 5.

BUT one thing got me through, it was always on my mind, or in my mind, in fact in my soul and it goes back to my very first school and the end of my first year of teaching. However I recall it today because it is the school holiday.

Yesterday I arrived in Eastbourne or as my Dad would have said the seaside. As I took an evening stroll, I thought of my Dad and many happy seaside weeks as a kid and one profound ritual. As soon as we arrived we had to go to the beach. Whatever time of day, whatever needed doing, before any bag was unpacked, we all had to go to the beach and paddle in the sea. Just paddle in the brine, Dad thought it was good for us but it was a significant moment it meant the holiday had really started. I did that here in 2014 after arriving and I thought of my Dad, and his ritual is now mine and the holiday has started. Then as I strolled the sea front I though of other significant moments and rituals and I remembered a profound moment that still inspires me the teacher.

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Back in the early 1980’s I had just completed my NQT year, woop woop. I had survived, I could teach, pupils could learn and most pupils even behaved themselves, some enjoyed my lessons, and I quite enjoyed the job. More importantly I learnt from great staff. Many of us might think the pressure of change under Gove or other recent SoS is worse than any other teacher has had to face. I am no Historian but the people who I was learning from were awesome staff. Some had started work just after the war – so stop and think of the changes from 1940’s to 1980’s not just in Education (qualifications, comprehensivisation, secondary moderns, the 11+, ROSLA, graduate teaching, corporal punishment, expansion of primaries, free milk (ohps) etc etc) but think how a grey 1950’s society transmogrified into swinging 60’s and these were the people managing pupils, teaching and learning throughout. I learnt so much. Miss D my Head of house who kept order, not just pupils but staff. Mr H in charge of special needs pupils: every single special needs youngster stood out, their manners, their impeccable behaviour, their progress, their employability, their reliability and willingness to help out even me and I didn’t even teach them. Mr L, another Head of house, formidable – he would never have needed a ‘cane’ that would be an affront but no one ever refused to change when he spoke to them, teacher pupil, even SLT! None of these were PGCE graduates all were wonderful teachers who got the best of results (in the full sense of the word). In my tutor group parents would ring me , the NQT and ask me to get their children dropped several sets just to have Miss D teach them (she never taught O Level!) I wanted to be a teacher to make a difference, to help young people learn my subject and to help them aspire, aim high, and there in my school these wise sages were doing that day in day out, and I was privileged to live with them and learn a few tricks from them.

So my profound moment – the start of the summer term and endless invigilation, no lesson prep, no marking but walking the lanes of exam desks. My HoD and I had been busy deciding what to teach and how to teach ( sorry present generation, this was what the job used to be like) and he asked me a favour. Would I go to the Curriculum meeting for him, he was unable to attend – he had OK’d it but this was the meeting options were given out, we needed the list of those choosing (opting for) Chemistry. I went along scared, rightly so as the pastoral giants took their seats ( hey and they were their seats) and the departmental academics arrived, then deputies and the Head. Top of the agenda the lists: “take them away. let me know any major issues” said the deputy politely. Just a few minutes of silence and nodding heads as the lists were checked, a few sighs of relief from me as most had chosen a Science (only Maths and English were compulsory and that a school thing I recall). But then the moment I’ll never forget. The Head of PE Mr K was clearly sighing, tutting and not happy. The Heads of House never missed a detail.
“Whats up Tony?”
“Oh nothing really”.
“No go on what is it?” Mr L didnt understand ‘nothing really’.
“Well” said Mr K “you all know we are offering CSE PE for the first time and we have worked hard on the resources and curr plans but I look down this list and it’s ..well it’s just depressing.”
“Why is that?” came a curious response from the Head of House.
“Well, if you want an example, we have Jim Jarwood and he …….can’t even swim.”

So as I watched carefully for the reaction, I passed sympathy to Mr K. My HoD and I wouldn’t like anyone pitching in for Chemistry who hadn’t shown some competence in Y9, and someone cack handed, dangerous or unable to sit still.. so what was the reaction:

“Tony” said a smiling Head of House rather cutting the atmosphere
“Yes Bill”
“You’re a bloody PE teacher Tony, teach the lad to bloody well swim.
Next item…….”

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I can’t remember anything else of the meeting but that moment struck into my soul, like my Dad’s holiday ritual. So whenever I am a bit uncertain about my lesson, or facing a cover in French I just remember those words. “Mr Dexter you’re a teacher, teach them.”

Some questions to ponder;

Q1 We often reflect on our lessons and pedagogy but what are the profound moments in schools which have influenced you?

Q2 We might feel the political agenda hinders or even prevents the ambitions we had about being a teacher, does it really?

Q3 The school machine is oiled by the quality of relationships, which people do you seek out for sage advice, and wisdom? Oh and one day will others find you doing that for them?

For those like me working in a church school

Ephesians 1:16
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

James 3:13
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Daniel 1:20
In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

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