Half term report (or simply: breathe!)

As I alluded to previously, Christmas 2014 saw me change jobs after 4 and a half years. Having reached the end of 6 hectic weeks, I thought it might be a good time to document my experience, thoughts and fears, not least because hopefully putting my thoughts down in print will allow me to mentally declutter!

  • Change is difficult at any time, but especially part way through the year – I guess this is obvious, but even now I still don’t think I am fully ‘there’. I was so comfortable at my old school – too comfortable, in fact, which was one of my reasons for leaving – and the first week in particular was a huge shock to the system. In fact, it became a simple case of survival at times. But a rough plan of what I was doing, and supportive colleagues who helped me bed in quickly, got me through to the weekend, where I could regroup.
  • Schools which appear quite similar can be very different in practice – both my old and new schools serve predominantly white, working class intakes from ex-mining communities. But that is pretty much where the similarities end. The ethos of my new school, the behaviour management systems, and the aspirations are all very different (in a good way). I know this was a great move for me. I can’t wait for that day when I finally feel like I’ve arrived and am fully comfortable in the post.
  • Expectations on all levels need raising  – both in terms of behaviour and in work ethic, it’s clear standards for some of my students were a little low. My year 8 class admitted earlier in the week that the previous teacher was soft on them in terms of the BM system in place – which all staff are required to follow religiously. I feel like I’ve made some progress here, although there is still a way to go.
  • I have a large/scary amount of control over my class AND my environment – the freedom I have is something I have found difficult to cope with at times, and has led to me having crises of confidence on many occasions. We have no scheme of work at all, so I decide what to teach and for how long. This can be quite a daunting prospect, although I also recognise the huge opportunity it provides. Similarly, the fact I now have my own room is a great opportunity for me to impress my values and expectations on students – it had been my aim to get a display put up this week, but the replacement of windows and the associated removal of asbestos prevents this from happening.
  • I just need to focus on the process and not worry (too much) about the outcomes: like George Michael, I gotta have faith – in my running, I’m all about the process – running consistently, through all weathers and good and bad runs alike, will deliver the outcomes I want. Similarly, I need to be confident in my methods and strategies of teaching, and know that if I am producing the goods day in, day out, students will make the desired progress.

Although half term hasn’t really started yet, I’m looking forward greatly to the second half of the spring term. I feel in a much happier place, and feel this is the time to start kicking on and making big inroads on student progress. I look forward to catching up with old blogs to inspire me as ever!

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Teacher goals (or a plea for help)

I have on my office wall a sheet of A4 paper with my goals on for the year. At the end of last year I typed them out and stuck the sheet on my wall, so that I felt I had some purpose to my life. Anyone who knows me would guess quite clearly that these were my goals: there are running related goals, financial goals, and even a goal relating to my ongoing research of my family tree lineage. 

And there, at the top of the list, is my one and only teaching goal: “To become an outstanding teacher”.

Now, this was written, as I say, before the New Year, when I was a slave to the grade. In the intervening period, much has changed with regard to lesson grading (i.e. it has effectively been killed off). I have reconciled myself with the fact that I will NOT be observed as outstanding, because such a conclusion of my teaching, and of my students’ learning, is not possible from a single lesson observation. 

But the goal has remained, and the fact it hasn’t yet been removed is partly due to the fact I don’t know what to replace it with. Because I don’t think teaching is as clear cut as the other areas of my life I have mentioned.

My other goals have pretty clear measurement. I can see how much I have in my savings account. I can see how fast I can run a 10k, or a half marathon. I can see my family tree building before my eyes. 

Yet in my day job, the one thing for which I am paid, and to which I dedicate the majority of my waking hours, I can’t think of a single goal that I can easily measure which I can solely and easily control. Indeed, in the ‘to be measured by’ column of my goal setting sheet, my teaching goal simply contained the word ‘observation’. That’s no good at all! Even before the shift in thinking, it was never going to be good enough. Now, it is certainly redundant.

With my other goals, I have a plan. I know, for example, that training two or three times a week will bring me closer towards my 10k goal. I may not reach it until my last opportunity for the year in September (indeed, I may not reach it at all), but I have already seen progress this year in bringing my time down by almost two minutes. I know, too, that I am reaching my savings target, because I can see the balance of my savings account increasing month after month. 

But I am really struggling to put together a goal for my teaching in the same vein. I know that writing this at this time of year is probably not the best time, and that teacher goals are perhaps best set in September, but I want to pick the collective brains that read this to ask:

  • are teacher goals possible?
  • what examples are you aware of/have you worked towards in the past?
  • how are/were the measured?

I would be really grateful for feedback, either left here or directly on Twitter.

Thanks in advance!