Thursday, 13 January 2011

A metaphorical flesh wound

As part of the general pre-Ofsted preparations, my teaching was 'observed' this week by two senior members of staff.

It was – by my standards – a reasonably normal lesson. I explained the task to the students, gauged their understanding by using Socratic questioning, and then let them loose to get on with it whilst I went around helping and advising where such intervention was required. It was not my best ever lesson ... but neither was it my worst. The problem is that – in the eyes of the observers – it was merely 'Satisfactory'.

Now to those of you who are not involved in the UK education system, this might not sound too bad ... but nowadays 'Satisfactory' is no longer good enough. In my case, the grading was largely due to there being too much 'teacher-led' content, and not enough 'student-led learning'. As a result, I will be observed again next week, and will have to show that I have taken on board the feedback I have been given.

To carry forward the metaphor I used in yesterday's blog entry, I have received a flesh wound during training. It is painful and unpleasant, but will need treatment before I can take part in the 'big show' … unless, of course, the ‘big show’ kicks off before my treatment is finished. If this happens, I somehow think that I will be there – in the frontline – with my colleagues. Metaphor over … for the moment.

16 comments:

  1. Reminds me of my cadet days when I wrestled with the concept that we should all be above average. (....ahh excuse me?)

    The same philosophy seems to pervade business as well, satisfactory is not satisfactory (so why call it satisfactory?)

    So is having those who don't know what they are talking about (students) leading the way, supposed to prepare the students for a life in politics?

    -Ross

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  2. I feel so sorry for you. Seriously I do. My wife’s a teacher so I know what your going through. Her first school (her NQT year) was in 'Special measures' when she joined. She was inspected twice while she was there and I've never known her so stressed.
    She moved to another school only to have that one inspected the year she joined. So in 4 years of teaching she has been inspected three times (not counting all the internal inspections). She's seen good teachers reduced to tears by a 'satisfactory' result, and shed a few of her own too. This is no way to treat hard working and dedicated professionals.

    I've never understood why the inspection regime needs to be so adversarial and counterproductive. Unfortunately it seems teachers are a soft target when government education policy fails to deliver on the rhetoric. "Our policies have failed therefore it must be down to poor teaching standards..."

    I hope your inspection (when it finally happens) goes ok. Your clearly a dedicated individual and it would be a tragedy if that dedication was stamped out by the system supposedly designed to improve standards.

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  3. 'I am hurt but I am not slain.

    I'll lay me down and bleed awhile,

    Then I'll rise and fight again.'

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  4. You want to try the german school system...the system is..there doesn´t seem to be a system.
    Cheers
    Paul

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  5. "student led teaching' I had to laugh, then cry. This same "stuff' was in vogue, 2 years ago, when I taught Science outside Boston, Mass. You had supervisors, experts that hadn't been in a classroom for 20 years, telling you what's what.
    Reminds me of the "Red Tabs" in WWI sending the boys out into the mincing machine of trench warfare.
    Well, just play the game and we'll say a pray for your "survival".
    Good luck!
    Don

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  6. Ross Mac,

    I suspect that the reason why expressions like 'everyone has got to be above average' and 'satisfactory is not good enough' may be due to the poor quality of teachers of Maths and English in the schools our politicians went to. :^)

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. My thoughts are with you during this vile time educationally speaking.
    "Oh brave new world..." as they indeed say!

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  8. BigLee,

    The reason why Ofsted has a reputation for being so adversarial goes back to its founder, Chris Woodhead. He made all sorts of statements about how bad the quality of teachers and teaching was, and made his 'reputation' by setting up an organisation that was designed to eradicate the problem.

    His tenure was marked with all sorts of dubious decisions – for example, in 1997 he overruled a unanimous decision by a team of Ofsted inspectors (and a further HMI inspection) and put Islington Green School into special measures – and there was tremendous relief amongst all the teachers that I know when he resigned … the day before a Judicial Review was about to reveal yet another serious Ofsted blunder.

    Since then the regime of inspection has changed … but not the paranoia that surrounds the inspection process. Frankly, inspections are – in my opinion – a farce. Schools and local authorities connive to put on the best ‘show’ possible … and the Inspectors seem happy to play along with it. I know enough about the inspection process to be able to say that, if I was an Ofsted inspector, I could find enough evidence in even the best school in the country to put its future in some doubt because it is impossible to not to make some mistakes in procedure, however minor it might be. Look hard enough and you will find fault. Find fault and a school can soon be under a ‘Notice to Improve’ … and ‘Special Measures’ can easily follow. It takes years for a school to develop a good reputation … and a two-day Inspection to lose it.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Conrad Kinch,

    Very apposite words.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Paul's Bods,

    It sounds great. Where do I sign up to join?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Brigadier Dundas,

    I have been teaching so long that I can remember this ‘idea’ the first and second times it came around.

    It is a great way to learn … some things … but not everything! The other downside is that it takes so long for some students to learn … and some of them never do!

    Some years ago I was the only teacher on a national advisory body, and the subject of ‘teaching and learning’ came up. I listened to the great a good pontificate about the topic, but took exception when a very senior Civil Servant said that he thought that ‘teaching and learning’ was the same thing. At that point I felt compelled to disagree. Every eye in the room turned towards me, and I was asked why I disagreed.

    I asked the Civil Servant ‘Have you ever tried to teach someone to drive a car?’

    ‘Yes’, was the reply.

    I then asked, ‘Did they learn?’

    After a long pause, the Civil Servant looked me straight in the eye and said ‘Point taken’, and the discussion moved on to something less contentious.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. Tradgardmastare,

    Many thanks for your support and kind thoughts. Some day I hope that a politician will have the foresight (and guts) to say - and mean - something along the lines of:

    'Investment in education is a long-term commitment that will not show a return for twenty, thirty or even forty years. Let us not just think about improving the exam results whilst we are in office; lets us think about the future society we will be building by making sure that the education our children receive prepares them to have happy, productive, and fulfilled lives.'

    Of course it will never happen; there are not votes in it.

    Rant over.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Good Grief, Bob! You still in the shaping-young-minds-for-the-future game? I seem to recall you as being somewhat less than thrilled with things back when we last spoke around the turn of the century. (aside: don't you just love saying that? Sounds all Victorian and stuff :-) ) And you've stuck with it all these years?

    To quote the Bard of the Barrack Rooms, "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din"

    Keep a healthy sense of the absurd and remember "Illegitimi non carborundum" and you'll get through.

    Nothing but best wishes
    Chris Johnston
    (formerly our man in Olistan)

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  14. Hi Bob,

    Seriously?! The guys last name was "Woodhead"? Hummm...says it all doesn't it.
    Hang in there.

    Martin

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  15. Dr Vesuvious (AKA Chris),

    Yes! I am still fighting what I think is the good fight ... and still railing against the range of stupidity that seems to pervade the UK education system.

    The one thing that keeps me going is the students ... most of them are decent people who actually want to learn and who want to have a better life. It may sometimes take time to win them over, but once they are, they will do their best for you if you do your best for them.

    Thanks for your good wishes,

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. Martin,

    His name was ‘Woodhead’ … and he lived up to it!

    All the best,

    Bob

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