I have been meaning to go to one for ages, but you know, pressures of work, young family, tiredness, football on the telly that night…..
So I was pleased with myself and high on anticipation as I drove along the M27 to the 2nd ever TMPompey, held 100 yards from HMS Victory at Action Stations. There were over a 100 there and quite a few 2 and 7 minute presentations lined up. I was wary of all these keen young teachers (maybe I should be SLT or a “stuck in my way” kinda teacher at this stage of my career) with their new snazzy ideas, because I recall when I first joined twitter and made the mistake of thinking I should be trying every new idea and philosophy going. I just ended up tired and didn’t see anything through (apart from there is still a dose of SOLO in my lesson). Would tonight be the same?
Well no. There was no superiority going down. There didn’t seem to be any hierarchy. The order of presentations was decided by one of those random name generators I have never got round to using in class and so there wasn’t a support-and-headline act type feel to the evening.
No one mentioned the ‘O’ word. This was simply teachers sharing stuff they were enthusiastic about and would recommend for others. People spoke and showed. the aim was collaboration and sharing; not trying to outdo and compete with others. This, more than the ideas themselves, is what I found refreshing and rewarding about the session. Too often we have allowed ourselves to over-worry about getting a higher % of A* to C passes than last year, than the rest of the department, than that other department, than the school across town. Teaching shouldn’t work like that. Learning isn’t measurable, it is too ‘messy’ (description stolen from Tait Coles) and comparisons and tables and competitions are meaningless anyway.
This approach and philosophy is what i would love to see more of. Where good practice is shared, not to gain more outstanding lesson observations and tick the boxes on your appraisal form about pass rates, but instead because a good idea shared develops exponential powers over a good idea withheld. Maybe next time I might even find one of mine I could pass around…….
This week I am planning for my GCSE pupils should make a short video of their work to present to the rest of the group on tourism in Kenya. I haven’t done this before; I feel pleased I am doing it, but I think most teachers have been allowing their pupils to learn like this for quite a while.
I always feel that other people are using newer technology in their teaching, other classes are learning with more appropriate ICT, other schools have quicker PCs or netbooks or tablets and other teachers are going to more useful CPD and meetings than I or my classes ever manage. Because I spend a lot of time on twitter, where there are naturally a higher proportion of IT savvy teachers per square mile than elsewhere in the world, this feeling can sometimes be overwhelming.
Our school, like all the others over the country, is short of cash. When I take my class into an IT room there are 20 machines with at least one or two that need some repair or another. The children therefore don’t have a machine each. Also there is not enough space in the room so they are almost sat on top of each other. When I unlock the door (having arrived 5 minutes after my class as i have had to traipse over from my last lesson) there is a rush for the best seat and the least slow PC. The slower, weaker, less popular pupils end up in the chairs with the wobbly legs furthest from a computer. It then takes 5 minutes for the teacher laptop to warm up and for me to get the presentation up on the IWB. Meanwhile I have to work out which of the pupil computers is the one today on which the mouse isn’t working. Finally, after silencing the group and getting Emily off her emails we are all ready to go; 16% of the lesson has gone. I do tell my pupils to save their work regularly in case connection is lost, but they don’t always and then at the end of the lesson disaster can strike. That excellent site I found at home is blocked at school.
So when I read your blog or listen to your speech telling me how easily you got your pupils into the school grounds with their tablets or collaborating on some online app or site I feel that I am going wrong or missing out.
When I hear the secretary of state for education saying that IT teaching is boring, but that there is no money left for school to buy new equipment or time and finance available to let me have CPD to find out about new technologies I wonder how I am supposed to keep up to speed.
Anyone got any ideas?
At tea last night, over jam on toast my daughter, 8 asked her elder brother what he liked most and what he disliked most about school. He said he liked “games and PE and maths because you don’t have to do any writing in those lessons except of course the learning objectives.”
“do you have to write a learning objective every lesson?” I joined in
And my year 3 daughter confirmed she had to the same as well. “But sometimes they let you write LO instead of learning objectives.”
So my children know exactly what they are going to be learning. They can measure their success or not at achieving it. They know where the lesson is heading.
In the lessons I teach to my KS3 and KS4 classes I want my pupils to know what I am trying to help them learn. I want them to know how it links to the last lesson and where they should be by the end of the hour. But I also want them to enjoy the learning, to develop a taste for investigation, for enquiry and for the PROCESS of finding out. If the lesson structure is all about the goal at the end of it and whether you are red or amber or green in achieving it, then where is the emphasis on “HOW” going to come in?
My SLT also want me to teach ‘objective led’ lessons just like it looks like the SLT are asking my children’s teachers to do. Teachers are supposed ‘light the fires’ of our learners. How can we balance these two strands? How can we open up our lessons so the pupils can take some control over the learning yet still fit in with the demands of curriculum and SLT ? How can the lesson both allow the students to experiment with finding out and know what they have to achieve in order to pass exams?