As I type this I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to post it. I really haven’t got much of a clue about what I am doing. This blogging stuff is spanking brand new to me. I need a teacher really. Somebody who knows what the typical mistakes are, someone who can pre-empt the most common errors before they occur, someone who can save me masses of time.
See, because if I don’t have a teacher, I’m just kind of floundering. I’m motivated. I really do want to do a blog. I really want to tell the world what I think (I’m not expecting you to care too much…but I like to say my bit regardless!)
Point is, I want to succeed, I really do. But, after a little while, it’s really kind of disheartening. The progress is slow, I feel a bit thick…I hate blogging! It’s crap anyway! It’s boring and it’s gay!
So there you go! Discovery Learning in a nutshell! I’m drowning, not waving. All I really need is a proper teacher, who will show me what to do. Of course, I have to listen to the teacher. I can’t interrupt him constantly, I can’t ignore him and draw up my arm or sit and draw willies on the mini-whiteboard or kick the person in front of me or lounge across the desk. I have to show a bit of humility and a bit of patience.
It seems to me, and I could be wrong (You know I don’t believe that, don’t you?) that too many of us are almost afraid to teach. That doesn’t make sense does it? A teacher afraid to, what’s the word, just teach. Just talk to kids, tell them stuff.
Why are teachers afraid to teach? Lots of teachers will cite the Ofsted bogeyman. “I’m not allowed to teach! I’ve been told. I’ve got to facilitate. If I speak for more than 10% of the lesson I am a bad, bad teacher.” (Note to self: If at any point find self being “didactic” must go home and flagellate.)
I don’t know if teachers fully believe that, but it’s certainly something I hear a lot. Ready to be offended? I think the Inspector bogeyman can become a bit of an excuse. (Hackles rise across the blogosphere!!) I’ll try to explain. Sitting up straight? Nothing in your hands? Eyes on me? Back row as well please. Cheers. Here goes…
I meet a lot of teachers who do some stuff in classrooms that simply doesn’t work. That’s normal isn’t it? Teaching, it’s got to be a bit experimental, everything’s not going to run super smoothly all the time. I’ve got no probs with people trying stuff, finding it flops and then re-thinking what they’ve done. It’s quite a nice bit of the job really. Experiment with your best class first, see how it goes, move on from there.
But, there are lots of teachers making the same mistakes again and again, for years. Often they’ll tell me “But I’ve got to teach like that. I’ve been told.”
So when lesson after lesson starts in a messy, raucous unstructured way, when time and again group work is little more than a placatory filler before the equally messy lesson ending, they just accept. They say to themselves and others: “Nothing I can do about it. I’ve been told to teach like that.”
To be fair, teachers are told some utter nonsense about what constitutes good teaching. They’re often told this nonsense by “expert” Educational Consultants; they’re often told this nonsense by their SLT. There is MASSIVE pressure to perform in observations, to second guess the observer. The Head likes drama, so today I’ll include that, the Deputy likes group work so today I’ll do that, the Assistant Head likes origami so today I’ll…fritter away the minutes, not remotely focusing on what the kids need but instead focussing upon what will make the observer happy.
It’s all deeply offensive stuff really, teachers in observations, desperately trying to hide who they really are and, instead, shapeshift their way to “outstanding”.
But what about the rest of the time? When nobody’s watching? It’s just you and the kids. Okay, so you do some pretty lame teaching to appease the fashion police come observation time, but when it’s just you and the kids, what’s the excuse for repeating the same mistakes over and over?
There aren’t any excuses are there? Not really. Not for repeating the same mistakes again and again. You’ve heard of “learned helplessness” right? I’m going to suggest that it’s very prevalent in teachers. We’ve got to fight it!
We’ve got to trust in our ability to find a solution, perhaps not the perfect solution, but something better than simply making the same mistakes repeatedly.
If the written starters and the group work and the discovery learning and the trips to the ICT room aren’t working for you – don’t do it! Do something else. Something you genuinely believe in. But don’t keep on flogging a dead horse.
There are some strategies that are just daft! No matter what you’ve been told. There are other strategies that aren’t right for you, yet or maybe ever. Accept that. Don’t do what you’ve been told is “good practice”. Do what you believe in. But first, really, really think about it. Think about what your vision for your perfect classroom is.
How would you like the kids to come in? To sit down? To do oral Q&A? To read, write, listen, speak? To pass books out? To explain their lack of homework or lateness? To put their chairs away? To file into and out of your room? To talk to you in the corridor?
We need to know what we, as individuals, believe in. I can’t control anybody else. I can only control me. “All staff MUST be consistent!” It’s never going to happen. Let’s not allow that to hold us back though. Let’s focus on our personal consistency. If I know what I believe in, my vision for my classroom, I can work on MY personal consistency. Alright, the corridors are like down town Beirut, the SLT are headless chickens, the general expectations around school are through the floor, but I can still work on my vision, on my behaviour, my habits, my personal consistency.
So when it’s all kicking off, when kids rampage through the corridors at break time, when crazed diktats come raining down from on high, when you feel like you’re the only sane person left in the universe, you can always go back to your personal vision of what you believe the nuts & bolts of effective teaching to be.
So there you have it! All the world’s problems sorted! Know what you believe in, be what you believe in. And if something doesn’t work, do something else. What you afraid of? Close door and teach like nobody’s watching…I dare you!