Imagine (Always) Not Being Good Enough

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Are you good enough to be a teacher?

Imagine this scenario: you have a scheduled observation with your line manager and you have been teaching for over 10 years. The next 60 minutes of your life determines your pay rise, your job security, immediate workload and your mental health.

The above scenario is very common in our English state schools, where, regardless of how long you have been teaching, schools have squeezed down teacher observation into a 30 or 60 minute summary of everything you can do. Sometimes these observations are evaluated in simple checklists, detailed observation forms (On my travels I’ve seen some of these documents exceed four or five pages long) to simple ‘What went well?’ and ‘Even better if …’ statements.

With the rise of the Chartered College of Teaching and a divided country in terms of politics, there is an increasing ‘cry’ from the teaching community to be trusted and perceived as ‘professionals’ to resolve education issues. A system in which school leaders and teachers can hold ourselves to account.

The dichotomy here is that the above is what we choose to do to one another in the name of accountability and performance. We set ourselves up to de-professionalise one another.

You are not good enough …

Imagine constantly being told you must be better than you were before. Teachers have come to accept this as the modus operandi. They have a never-ending to-do list and are under relentless pressure for this lesson to be better than the last and this year’s examination results to be stronger than ever before, even if their classes are already meeting or exceeding expectations.

I remember my wife consistently achieving a 95% grade C or above appraisal target. Each year she was set a target of 100% and failed to achieve a pay rise in her eight years as a middle leader. Of course, I am biased, but she genuinely was one of the best teachers I have ever worked with. The system had just simply ran out of ways to reward and motivate her to teach better.

What advice would you give an ‘Outstanding’ teacher?

So, what advice would you give an ‘Outstanding’ teacher? Or a teacher who receives fantastic exam results year-on-year? Our education system needs to do better than evaluating another teacher in 60-minute observations or limiting their professional development motivations to a small pay rise which equates to no more than 50 or £75 per month (after taxes).

What if school set appraisal targets for all teachers? Where appraisal targets and performance were based on ‘collective teacher efficacy‘ to ensure everyone was working towards the same goal. What if, instead of grading a teacher’s performance, or ticking through a checklist with our ‘head down’ on a clipboard, we all held our heads up high and actually observed what was taking place in the lesson. What if this was conducted with professional conversation before, during and after?

It is possible … There are schools already doing these things.

How good are you at ‘observing’?

Only last week, I was challenged by observational research I conducted at Cambridge as part of my doctoral research. For over 20 years I have been observing teachers and I thought I knew almost anything and everything there is about reliable and unreliable classroom observations. Little did I know that there is a whole world of academic processes ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered – equally throwing up lots of reliable and unreliable methodologies.

For a bit of fun and ‘soon to be featuring’ in my coaching training sessions, watch the video below and leave a comment below.

How good are you at ‘observing’ a scenario?

(Video credit: DoTheTest)

It is not too late for you to stop bad practice. Get in touch if you are interested in removing the ‘silly things’ we do to one another in order to increase teacher effectiveness; read page 170.

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of being most influential in the field of education. He remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing resources and ideas online as @TeacherToolkit, he has built this website (c2008) which has been described as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the UK Blog Awards (2018). Read more...

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