(Another) First Day Back

Back to work today and so somewhat reluctantly switch on The Twitter to see what delights I may have missed. First thing to catch attention is list of ‘9 teaching ideas to bin in 2018’. After a New Year’s Day spent gleefully dismantling evidence of The Festive Season and sending numerous pieces of card to the recycling, find self fully in tune with notion of putting anything in bin and so settle in for quick and hopefully informative checklist of activities to avoid for the year ahead (not so naive as to suggest sending these ideas to landfill, however, since Experience Has Told Me that these ideas will once more return to fashionability in a few years).

To my surprise, find self agreeing with several of the items on the list. Pleased to see not alone in distaste for schools displaying OFSTED grading signs on every available wall (previously assumed this feeling driven by jealousy of never working at a so-called Outstanding school). Gladdened too by suggestion that ‘Progressive vs Traditional’ actually little more than a false battle manufactured by people caring more about their Follower Numbers on The Twitter (mine remain resolutely in double figures) than what is actually happening in their classrooms. Notion that schools ought to rely on support networks of other local schools to engage in some kind of peer-review system also raises cheer in times of general darkness and bleakness.

More confused, it must be said, by multiple suggestions in list that schools ought to dodge any notions of staff accountability or monitoring. Culture of School Leaders not looking in students’ books or watching colleagues teaching may work in idealised environment where every individual Works To A High Standard but not wholly convinced this is Living In The Real World. Willing to concede this is Cynicism At Work, or at very least the January Blues.

Determined too not to sound like someone who thinks that Lessons Can Be Learned From The Private Sector, and feel need to stress clearly that I am fully in favour of a solution-focused supportive approach to teacher development and improvement (also make no apologies for using word ‘improvement’, since this is un-arguably relevant in some cases – self by no means excepted). But if not work/book scrutiny, and if not lesson observations (agree these should not be graded, however) then what?

Book look / work scrutiny by far most useful method of EQ/QA I routinely experience in role as school leader. When used in conjunction with Student Voice (talking to the students with their book in front of them and asking them to tell you about it is immensely informative) it is an invaluable measure of whether they are making progress in that class (and yes, better than any Data Analysis – so find self wholeheartedly agreeing on proposal to consign Data Drops to the educational trash can of 2018).

Book look / work scrutiny / Talking To Students also invaluable to see whether students are getting feedback on their work. To this extent find self standing up and applauding suggestion that ‘Marking By Frequency And Colour’ be deposited firmly in recycling centre, to be replaced by policies for feedback. Admit to being confused to apparent abhorrence of notion of ‘policy’ in list, however. Certain that suggestion of “sharing expectations” is essentially same as distributing a policy, since what is a policy but a set of expectations?

Rack brains to think of something else to add to list of of things to send to the educational refuse collectors for 2018 but can only think of Teachers Writing Blogs About Teaching For Sole Purpose Of Self-Promotion. Decide this entirely in spirit of Celebrating Contradictions and subsequently rest brain. First Day Back is always so exhausting after all.

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