I read a tweet recently from @tes which stated ‘What advice would you give your younger professional self?’ and having taught now for 13 years it got me thinking about how far I have come and what advice I would give those just starting out…
It took me a number of years before I can truly say I had mastered the craft, I remember my PGCE days, teaching in inner city Birmingham and my first formal lesson observation. The fact that *Glen was watching made it considerably more nerve-wracking, Glen was my mentor and oozed charisma out of every pore, he was an amazing History teacher and had the kids eating out of the palm of his hands, I was never going to be a match and half way through said lesson observation, I mouthed the word ‘HELP’ to him. He immediately leapt from his chair and rescued me.. and the lesson! It was tough to experience failure, though the only real failure is the one from which we learn nothing..I passed my placement and the disappointment of falling at the first hurdle was soon forgotten.
Fortunately my lesson observations improved as the years passed, a solid good with outstanding features, I thought perhaps the coveted ‘outstanding’ could only be achieved by teachers that were born with some mystical quality (people like Glen) and although it bugged me, I went about my daily business, being the best I thought I could be, but then something changed….
An encounter with an Ofsted inspector 4 years ago taught me more in one evening about outstanding learning than I had ever learnt in the previous 8 or 9 years. It is following his advice that has meant I have now been rated as outstanding in formal lesson observations consistently now for the past few years..
So what did he teach me? I best put it into context first. My school in Coventry, in the UK, was part of a Teaching and Learning Partnership of 5 schools. Some of our twilight external CPD events were shared. One event was the ‘Lesson Observation for Real’. A teacher would teach a lesson in front of a live audience of 150 or so teachers from across the partnership and a Lead Ofsted inspector. When the lesson had finished the inspector would then, with audience contributions, feedback live to the teacher.
It was September, Ana, the AHT for Teaching and Learning at my school stopped me as I was walking along the corridor. She said ‘I have something to ask you and you can say no…’ (immediate alarm bells) ‘Will you teach a lesson in November, in front of a live audience?’ She said I’m asking you because you’re confident and an excellent teacher. (Great SLT tactics) and before I knew it I had put my professional self on the line, ready to have my lesson dissected by 150 baying onlookers….
To cut an already long story short, the lesson was graded as outstanding, my first! It is what I learnt from Mr Ofsted’s feedback though that has impacted most on my teaching ever since. For the first time I began to look at my lessons through the eyes of an inspector or observer…
Mr O said he judged a lesson based on 3 factors, if you get these right then outstanding learning is more than likely taking place:
• Distance travelled?
Numbers = Almost all actively engaged
Zoe Elder on engagement ‘Ask not what you EXPECT of me, but what you EXPECT of yourself’
Distance travelled= Progress
Many great bloggers have written at length on the issue of progress and probably more eloquently than I could, so I include some links to their posts below (If you have written on progress and I’ve missed you out let me know and I will include you here)
Depth= Deep learning
Encouraging our students to be interdependent, read this on
positive co-operative learning
Whenever I plan a lesson I have the above 3 things in my mind NUMBERS..DISTANCE..DEPTH. What activities am I going to include that ensure engagement, progress and higher order thinking. Mr O also talked of common shortcomings..
My advice if you are just starting out, put as much into your own professional learning as you do to your students. Read books, attend every INSET, use Twitter and learn from your more experienced colleagues and remember….
NUMBERS, DISTANCE, DEPTH!