Half time report

(Before launching properly into this blog, I make the following admission/apology: There are numerous ideas referenced in this blog post that I have taken from the musings and ramblings of other teacher bloggers. Due to the length of time it has taken to compose this blog I have lost many of the original sources and am unable to detail here which idea has been lifted from which blogger. A glimpse of the people I follow on Twitter, however, will provide greater illumination.)

Unlike many teachers, I am just starting my half term holiday, and as we are now half way through the year, I thought it might be a good idea to reflect on the year so far. As a result, this post may well be long and disjointed, as there are lots of ideas swirling around my mind (a by-product, I guess, of blogging so sporadically; one of my aims from now on will be to blog less, more frequently). 

This past half term has seen me suffering a post-OFSTED hangover of epic proportions. I haven’t got going at all since the New Year, and have found myself experiencing what I believe I saw a blogger refer to as a ‘teaching dip’. As we have moved towards half term, however, catching up with the many far superior blogs I read, along with forthcoming developments within my school, have left me thinking that all is far from lost, and that there are reasons for optimism. The second half fightback begins here!

1) OFSTED and implications

This has been the hot topic of the last few days following a round table meeting of high profile bloggers and Mike Cladingbowl. The news that inspectors should not be grading individual lessons is clearly a positive, and will prevent OFSTED-chasing (of which I may have been guilty) in favour of sustained progress over time (something with I know @TeacherToolkit for one has been highlighting for months). As plenty of others have noted, attention now turns to how schools conduct observations internally, and whether they use grades in lesson observations AND for the purposes of PRP. 

But what are the implications for me for the rest of the year? Well, as Kev Lister highlighted a week or so ago, it’s a case of being outstandingly good. Sustained progress over time is what will win the day, not a one-off flashy lesson designed to impress (not that I have ever really been one to put on a show for ANY observation). At the end of the day, we should all remember: it’s not about us, it’s about the students.

2) Clarity

I read a blog from Katie Ashford (@katiesarahlou) around Christmas on the subject of ‘the three Cs of behaviour management’. I believe two of them apply not only to that area, but to all areas of teaching – clarity and consistency. I have already alluded to consistency above – it’s repeated successes/gains that will make a difference. But I also believe that clarity is hugely important, too, and this is one of my key focuses for the rest of the year, particuarly:

  • clarity of expectation (both in terms of work and behaviour)
  • clarity of instruction
  • clarity of planning

In the first respect I am helped by the fact that my school is relaunching its BfL expectations, something with which I have been directly involved via taking part in assemblies clarifying expectations to students. My classes can have no excuse after half term for not knowing what is expected of them at all stages of the school day but particularly in lessons; similarly, I can have no excuses for failing to ensure they are meeting those expectations (and raising them over time).

3) Tweaks

I have come to the realisation, albeit belatedly, that it’s not the big things that make the difference, it’s the little things. RAG123 worked really well with my year 9s and 11s, and so after half term I’m going to extend this to my year 7s. This will, I have no doubt, inspire them onto greater achivements, as the curriculum they have followed has been messy this year so far. Greater clarity from here on in will only help them.

4) Successes

It would be easy to get the impression that it has all been doom and gloom for me lately, but this is far from the truth. There have been a number of high points:

  • my department SLT link has begun team teaching with me the year 11 group I have had since year 9. He has been extremely impressed with where they are at this point
  • I delivered my Martin Luther King assembly to year 10 which received its best reception ever from both students and staff (including our Principal and a number of other SLT)
  • my behaviour management has improved hugely, thanks in no small part to my school sending me to hear Bill Rogers speaking – this has been acknowledged by members of SLT who have remained hugely supportive of me and means I am far less emotional when dealing with students, and feel much more in control than ever before 
  • my work life balance has improved – I have even been able to do some non-work related reading in the evenings and at weekends, and increase my running/gym activity

5) The future

So I have made huge strides this year, and with the constantly changing landscape within school, more hard work is necessary before July. I am focused on the achievements of my students, rather than myself, and will make this a reality by consistently planning for progress over time, with clear aims and outcomes. I must become more of a carrot teacher and less of a stick teacher to secure further improvement. And at all times, I will remember that the most important thing that happens in any class is the learning, not the teaching. It’s not about me, it’s about them.

 

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