What really bugs teachers?

The answer is simple. Having their time taken doing tasks that are essentially pointless or very much on the sidelines of them doing their job as quality educators.

This blog is prompted by a meeting of a few teachers-who-blog in Birmingham.

I always enjoy talking to teachers – one of whom put my conversation with him as a gentle interrogation. Those who know me in real life may well recognise this description. I think it is me trying to be really clear and get to understand precisely what is being said. But I may have to think a little about the abruptness of the questioning process.

This is in no way a scientific survey. It is crap as evidence so it would be really simple to dismiss it as a piece of nonsense. I’d just want to add that in my work over 5 years with over 500 outstanding teachers in London, Bristol, York, South Wales, Mansfield and Sheffield, the story is remarkably similar.

Is it really the most important thing in a school trying to move from good to outstanding to check children’s books, disrupting lessons in the process, for the percentage of dates underlined? Not as part of a sampling of work generally but as a specific activity? Will sorting that move the school to the level it aspires to? Does the school know how this makes their teachers feel? Perhaps they should sample staff views. They might not be too keen on the responses, though.

Teachers know that monitoring must happen. I do not get any feeling they they object per se. What these bright, dedicated and hard working graduates want is to be valued and to have the things of value monitored. They do not want some distant proxy such as whether the dates are underlined or not to form a significant part of the monitoring. They recognise that it takes SLT time which could be used so much more effectively. This type of highly specific monitoring strikes me as an attempt at control which is both crude and negative.

How about an insistence that children write things that went well in the lesson and how it could have been a better lesson, frequently, and have the teacher write a comment on each of these. Sounds like it might be some use but is a lot of work. But how about if these many pages are filed away and never again seen? Not quite as useful. We have probably done away with make work tasks for children but this growing pile of paper feels like make work for teachers. I wonder if anyone in such schools has ever costed this. Teachers are paid well and have long holidays; we know that! Lets say a teacher costs £50000 per year (including on costs) and their contract time is 1250 hours. That means each hour of work we get the teacher to do costs £40. It would be useful to think about whether the activity the teacher does is educational value for money.

What somewhat pointless activities are you engaging your teachers in?

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