Monday, 28 September 2020

Tonight Matthew, I'm Going To Be... A Gallerist

It's a fairly well accepted concept that a teacher is so many more things than a teacher - that a teacher puts on many different hats even during the course of one day. I think the same is true for school leaders too.

For a part of today I found myself acting as a gallerist, or a curator.

We have, as many primary schools probably do, many, many display boards around school. Too many, perhaps. And what happens to display boards when teaching staff are getting on with teaching and doing the important stuff? The content sometimes gets a bit old. That or teachers have to spend time out of class, or out of hours, putting up displays - something that, in my opinion, really should be minimised if we care about our children and staff at all.

So there I was double-sided taping the large art prints I'd order to black paper, gluing the accompanying information I'd collated and trimming it as perfectly as I possibly could. I was in 'the studio' overlooking 'the heartspace' off which many of our classrooms are situated. I could see and hear school going on all around me - I noticed this because I suppose I was desperate to legitimise the time spent gluing and cutting and stapling. I could almost feel the calm, purposefulness of what was going on through each of those doorways and in all honesty I wondered if what I was doing was worthwhile.

Afterall, I'm a deputy head - shouldn't I be doing something else? Did these Eric Ravilious, Georgia O'Keefe and Jacob Lawrence prints really need backing and putting up by me? Yes, I told myself, they did - because this is one of the many problems of being a perfectionist: you learn very quickly that there are some things you just have to do yourself. And yes, because for all intents and purposes, I am the art lead in the school and it is my job to educate staff and children in matters relating to the arts. 

And actually, yes, because I have to balance out some of the other less desirable things I have to do with things that are actually enjoyable - this for my own mental wellbeing. Besides, what was I actually thinking about all that time? Well, many confidential things that can't be repeated on my blog: I was providing myself with time and space to think through the issues of the day - the things that were on my mind over the weekend, the difficult conversations that need to be had, the logistical problems that need working through. 

On the outside I was cutting and sticking, on the inside I was doing what I'm really paid to do: lead.

If I were to go from one high pressure situation to another, never allowing myself down time doing jobs that seem a little more menial, would I really be properly ready for the next meeting, the next time someone brings a problem to me or the next time I have to deal with a behaviour issue? I think not.

So, some thinking got done - hopefully preparing me for the future - and some nice (I think) displays were created in the process.

Yeah, I'm OK with being a gallerist.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Questions To Guide Teacher Reflection


As part of the researchEDHome 2020 CPD series, David Weston, CEO of Teacher Development Trust, presented under the heading 'Schools that unleash teachers' expertise and how to lead them' - that's the video embedded above.

As he spoke, outlining for the first 20 minutes what it is that expert teachers do, I began to jot down some questions that a teacher, or a coach working alongside a teacher, might ask to prompt reflection on their practice.

I imagine these being used post-lesson, either by a teacher wishing to reflect on their own, or by a coach and a teacher - it could be that the coach has seen the lesson, but that might not be necessary. 

Where lesson observations are concerned, David Weston made it clear that many of the things that make an expert teacher an expert cannot really be seen by an observer. Later on he pointed out that SLTs often try to glean information from lesson observations (as well as book and data scrutiny) which they can then use to direct CPD - a fairly ineffective practice. Although he only touched on this, there was the suggestion that far more information about teaching and learning can be gained from a discussion-based approach to pedagogical coaching - this information can then inform CPD planning.

So, the questions that I began to jot down became perhaps more pertinent: these questions (not an exhaustive list by any means, but based on the effective practices of an expert teacher) could be used to develop how well teachers reflect on their own practice in order to gain insight and develop perception. In turn, via coaches, school leaders then might be able to gain a better insight into teaching and learning in their schools, allowing them to provide more pertinent CPD opportunities.

The purpose of using questions such as these would be to gradually develop independence: teachers might begin to naturally reflect on such questions before, during and after teaching, removing the need for such a set of questions to be asked in any structured way.

I've loosely grouped the questions - in this way, discussions might be guided by coaches, or self-guided, towards a particular aspect of the lesson. It might be useful to use some of the whole session reflection questions to begin with, before moving onto specifics. Obviously, when reflecting on a lesson no one would attempt to answer all the questions below - they just represent the broad range of reflection points that expert teachers think about subconsciously as they work.

Reflecting on the whole session: 

What were the main things you noticed happening during the session? Did you notice anything that wasn’t happening? Should it have been? What was the story of that session? What did you notice about the whole session? What was the main focus of the session? Does that match to the intended focus? Which parts of the session had the most impact? What was the cause of the successes in that session? What was the cause of any lack of success in that session? How were you feeling during the session? Did your feelings change? How did you deal with your change in feelings? 

Reflecting on specific identified incidents: 

When have you come across a similar situation? What did you do then? Reflecting on outcomes: What did you see that showed you they were learning? Which was the most effective part of that session? How much of the time did you spend doing the most effective things? Which parts of the session had the most impact? What was the cause of the successes in that session? What was the cause of any lack of success in that session? 

Reflecting on behaviour: 

What happened before that behaviour issue? Were there any signs that it was going to happen? How could it have been tackled earlier? Were children complying? Did this mean they were learning? 

Reflecting on questioning: 

What was your questioning like in that session? How and why did you adapt your questioning? What was the impact? 

Reflecting on differing needs: 

What variations in understanding did you notice? Which individuals did you notice? What do you know about them already? What did you do to address differing needs? 

Reflecting on responsiveness: 

At which points did you go off-script? Why did you do it? Did it help? Did you have to give extra explanations? What made you do that and did it help? How did you adapt the session as you went along? 

Reflecting on sequencing: 

How did that session link to prior and future learning? Where did that session fit in the sequence of learning? What did the children already know that helped? What didn’t they know that would have helped?