Will You Stick or Twist In The Classroom?

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Stick or Twist Teacher Attrition


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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What can schools do to reduce teachers leaving the classroom?

Teachers rarely have time to reflect because their working environment gets in the way of classroom reflection i.e. cognitive overload. With between 5 and 10 percent of (451,000 state school teachers) leaving the classroom each year, when will it be your turn to ‘stick or twist’ from the profession?

How does your school support its teachers?

From 1993 to 2017, there were at least four times I considered leaving the classroom. Teacher workforce data suggests I had around a 40 percent chance of remaining in teaching and yet, I was never the same teacher throughout those 25 years. This doesn’t mean I looked around for the latest resources or adapted the latest gimmick to suit my classroom. What mattered the most, was that I used what little time I had, to reflect and evaluate on my classroom work.

Often this would happen after students had gone home, but as the years evolved, more non-contact time offered as training sessions allowed me to question whether to ‘stick or twist’ with any approach. Each of the five schools I worked in supported this ‘reflection’ in different ways, but external forces were often significant factors for myself and other colleagues wanting to stick or twist. I firmly believe, that if ‘classroom dialogue’ becomes a regular feature in your school, it may just be enough for your school to stop losing some of its teachers.

To support schools for the year ahead, consider the following questions (as an individual teacher) in staff meetings or teacher training sessions to help improve teacher cognition.

Teaching, subject knowledge and assessment

  1. Is your feedback consistently high quality and constructive?
  2. Do you ask key questions in order to assess understanding and deepen learning? Do students get thinking time and oral rehearsal/cognitive support?
  3. Is literacy assessed regularly and do students respond/ correct their mistakes?
  4. Are there effective alternatives to hands-up?
  5. Is understanding checked systematically and effectively in order to anticipate interventions?
  6. Can students explain how what they are doing links to what they are expected to learn?
  7. Do students make connections between subjects?
  8. Are your students inspired? How do you know?
  9. Do the students work harder than you? How can you make this a habit?
  10. Do you create smart transitions between tasks? How does this influence behaviour?

Curriculum, character and resilience

  1. Do you build upon student resilience, confidence and engagement?
  2. Do you build independence of thought and behaviour?
  3. Are your classroom objectives rigorous? Do they challenge students?
  4. Do students consistently show good levels of engagement?
  5. Do you plan for the needs of groups of learners in your class?
  6. Do students demonstrate high levels of courtesy, collaboration and cooperation?
  7. Is praise genuine and purposeful? Do you link feedback to precise methodology?
  8. Is your approach to behaviour management consistent and systematic?
  9. What would students say about your classroom?
  10. Does your school provide opportunities for you to teach ‘off piste’?

It is my conclusion, that every school and school leader must create opportunities for teachers to have some downtime for reflection – to help reduce teacher burnout – regardless of league table status. The research says this is harder to achieve in a challenging school with an Ofsted label around your neck but is something all schools must do.

Students are complicated individuals and as our teaching evolves, reflection cannot be something to do after working hours! Try Speed Dating CPD as a simple mechanism for bringing teachers together for discussion.

Before choosing to stick or twist for the rest of the year, ask yourself this: Does your school offer the time for you to regularly discuss some of the questions above in teams and as a group of staff? Only then will you know if the school in which you work, is the right place for you to thrive.

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