In the first half term I focussed on the following areas
1. Re-establishing classroom practice
Having won teaching awards and gaining outstanding assessments I was quite arrogant about how easy it would be to get back into the classroom. There were three problems I had failed to consider.
Firstly, there are an enormous number of techniques used by teachers to enable classroom teaching to work. Most of these are unstated and seen as unimportant so most I never even realised I had them, let alone being aware I had forgotten them. Simple things such as organising homework so that it is handed in during lessons directly before a break so that you can reduce the time taken to chase up missing work. Having to re-aquire all of these has slowed me down considerably.
Secondly, for the last 12 years I have worked exclusively in environments in which all learners had access to the internet whenever they needed it. A classroom without the internet and without textbooks yet with sizeable knowledge based content, requires much more resource to be provided by the teacher. These resources tend to need to be stand alone and so there is a level of dependency of students which I had forgotten about. This is the reality of most school children the world over so it is excellent that I am being reminded of this but the techniques required for personalisation in this environment are entirely different and requiring rapid development of solutions on my part.
Thirdly, the impact of 8 years of a target led education system in the UK has undoubtedly led to less opportunity for trial and error learning or creative expression and discovery by students and much more emphasis on teaching to the test. The criteria OFSTED inspections use are similarly promoting a view of education that is very teacher led and deterministic. The underlying skill set of students is correspondingly lower. The new OFSTED framework in the UK talks about inspectors leaving a class as soon as they see learning but then they describe this in terms of engagement. The notion that learning is so in the hands of the teacher that it can be switched on and off at their will is clearly problematic as is the confusion between engagement and learning. Is pac man learning or engaging or both?
Having realised these issues I have spent much more time grappling with finding the middle ground between the requirement to impose knowledge and the need to unlock creative potential. Yes – I’m back to differentiated worksheets and being a knowledge fountain.
2. Determining the core aims of the school
On my first day I collected the views of all staff in terms of what they felt were the three most essential areas the school should be focussed on (see the core aims task) described elsewhere on this site.
3. Starting the process of recognising progression in student leadership
4. Introducing the futures debate regarding technology