How can teachers support one another without doing more work?
Teaching in your classroom will only ever be as effective as the teaching taking place in the room next door to you. I can think of countless times where the teaching and learning outside of my four walls made an impact back in my classroom.
Consider this scenario …
Imagine a bottle of undiluted orange squash. The level of concentrated juice poured into a glass before adding the water matters. Well, that all depends on how weak or strong you prefer the flavour of the drink, right?
In this case, you are the adult and a child is asking you for the drink. What would you do? Well, I assume you would probably listen to them and make a judgement call on whether or not they were asking for the drink to be too strong, rather than if it were too weak? Too much-undiluted squash and there is potential for the drink to contain too much sugar and become over-powering. The result? The drink is unenjoyable and a waste of food – then poured down the sink!
What about if a request was to have less undiluted orange and more water? What would you do? Would you advise the child to drink it ‘if that’s how you like it’, or advise them on getting the right balance of water and orange concentrate? I guess this all depends on our taste-preferences and our wisdom, but in this case, let’s keep it simple and allow me to remind you. You are the adult. They are the child and your wisdom matters. I would hope that you would advocate a good level of water and orange concentration to find the right balance of flavour to quench the child’s thirst, without wasting the juice or providing them with too much sugar.
In the classroom
Now, let’s take the above scenario with someone else’s child.
Assuming all dietary requests are acceptable, would your advice change?
What if 30 students now asked you for a drink of squash? What would you do to balance the large jugs of orange juice, or individual cups to ensure all children received the same level of water and concentrated orange?
Okay. Now, let’s take it further.
We will assume that your dose is ‘just the right amount’ to ensure that teaching and learning can continue as planned. Just the right consistency to ensure students make progress; your resources aren’t wasted and that when the students leave your care, they are in a good position to continue around the school and/or at home …
However, the teacher next door decides to ‘up the concentration level’ of orange juice (for whatever reason). The result, the students behaviour changes and/or they arrive at your classroom with an entirely different set of expectations.
The students ‘now’ expect the same level of concentrated juice from you as the teacher provided next door. Their behaviours are different to what you are accustomed to. They have different expectations and this is now impacting on what you can do in the classroom. Your resources are limited. The boundaries have moved and worse, the students use the other teacher’s decision-making against you.
How would you respond?
Do you ‘up the levels of concentration’ in the juice, knowing that it may do some damage longer term, or go with an initial change and let the next teacher deal with the consequences?
Would you hold the line? And how?
If you said ‘No’, what would you say to the kids?
Hold the line! Don’t adjust the dose …
I hope that you said ‘No, and would choose to hold the line.’ This isn’t easy to do for new teachers, and more experienced teachers must ensure they do not adjust the boundaries of their classrooms simply because it may feel easier for them if things go wrong, they can get the kids back in line very quickly. This isn’t so easy to do for some teachers.
One broken ‘kink in the chain’ is enough for whole-school policies to fall apart.
In schools who prioritise whole-school teaching and learning, everyone holds the line. Not only that, every teacher (new and experienced) will thank you for it. For those one or two teachers who provide a slight difference in approaches – which may be detrimental to whole-school consistency – this is an issue for middle and senior school leaders to address.
If it’s happening in your year team or department, what are you going to do about it?
If you are in a leadership position within your school, it is important to embed a simple, evidence-based teaching and learning policy that can reduce teacher workload and maximise student progress. A concise list of straightforward strategies to help teachers implement in every classroom will provide a degree of consistency our children need in all of our classrooms.