1. This has been a week of realisations.

    From the realisation that my time in this sprawling metropolis is diminishing faster than I’d previously thought but for all of the right reasons, to the realisation that adherence to the behaviour policy is not a sign of weakness.

    I’ve realised that while my school is allowing me to develop as a teacher in the way in which I wish, my aspirations for leadership have had their wings clipped by the comfort in which those in loftier positions are presently ensconced. 

    I’ve realised that “we” (by which I mean the school) are quite happy in our good-ness, “we” are only paying lip service to anything else.  I think it’s totally right that we’re not being driven by the O word’s sometimes flighty judgements, but I also think it’s wrong for us to rest on our laurels until such time as another visit looms, inciting, as it does, a frantic scurrying to achieve all those things we’d said we were going to do at the last reckoning.

    I’ve realised that I am but a cog in a large wheel and am, ultimately, expendable.  I seek approval for the ideas I bring, grazed from the twittersphere, from those with whom I work directly: sometimes they fly, sometimes they don’t.  Articles that pique my interest I print out and place on the staffroom table just to provoke discussion.  Consultation documents likewise.  Sometimes I feel like this lizard; sometimes I feel like the fly.

    The important thing is that I have realised and so can now relax, rather than confront being consumed by a lion.

  2. A difficulty rating of 6

    Over the course of the last ten days, the way in which I perceive my role on the SMT has made like an Olympic gymnast and performed the display to end all displays. Forgive the muddled metaphors but I’ve gone Spinal Tap on Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10’s and have hit an 11.

    How? Why? You may well ask. No fear; I wouldn’t leave you on such an unsatisfactory cliffhanger.

    So, where to begin?

    Back in September, my fellow newby phase leaders and I were packed off on a leadership course with a man purporting to be an expert in the subject.

    We cogitated, pondered and mulled our way in and around the finer points of leading while considering a project with which to do just that over the coming months. We thought about what it would look like with a Grand Designsesque concept board cobbled together from the chopped up remnants of a thousand Cosmos and presented our ideas to our eager colleagues from other schools. We thought through the 9 steps to success (why 9?) and returned to our work places, brimming over with aspirations, swelling with pride at the thought of the transformational interventions and their effects on our schools.

    He-hem.

    Peer observation was my goal. Peer observation born not of criticism but of collaboration. Not of evaluation but of collegiality.

    I sought the head and other SMT members approval and began to gather my thoughts and ideas for the next stage in my plan and then …

    It dawned on me, as I read in preparation for the draft proposal for my masters dissertation, as I grazed on the cranial crumbs of the twitterati, that here I was, readying myself to do exactly what I find so annoying about being a teacher: top down foisting of new initiatives that do little more than contribute to your already cumbersome burden.

    Now, I’m a big believer in the power of collaboration. I enjoy watching other people doing what they do. I enjoy seeing them teach and I enjoy being watched. It keeps me on my toes, it reassures me that I’m doing something right and I also get to benefit from what they pick up on in class. I enjoy sharing ideas and resources, discussing things that I’ve read about and collaborating across year groups in the name of deeper learning. This twitter thing is, from a collaborative perspective, a god send, irrespective of said deity’s gender, limb count, benevolence, capitalisation or otherwise.

    I know that not everyone is quite so enamoured by observations but surely they must be open to collaboration.

    And hence the somersaulting. Having set off down a path of “I am right(eousness)” I now realise that I’m very definitely not.

    Having decided that I was going to find out what it was that people wanted from peer observations, I’m now intent on establishing what people’s attitudes and perceptions are towards being observed. I’m now trying to establish what we as a school could do to foster collegiality and collaboration between year groups and phases.

    Teachmeets are the next logical step and if there’s anyone in or around Merton who is interested then please do get in touch. Equally, what is your attitude to being observed? What could your SMT do to encourage collegiality and collaboration? Do you do it already, if so, any tips?

    And, dismount.

  3. Putting the ‘Senior’ in SLT

    Prior to embarking on this educational road, I’d spent my time in a pseudo-constructive manner, convincing myself, or at least trying to convince myself that a money focused, wealth driven career was one for which I was destined.

    The pursuit of wealth saw me taking roles with increasing and varying amounts of responsibility and required that I recognised in my superiors and colleagues, greater experience and understanding of our collective, capitalist environment. I approached team meetings with an open mind but also with ideas to share; I knew which side my bread was buttered and duly noted that meritocratic progression involved recognition by more experienced leaders of future merit as much as previously demonstrated aptitude, but also that length of service was no measure of leadership potential.

    Part way through my first post-NQT year, I applied for and landed a leadership role. Looking around my fellow SLT members, I am the only one who has had a career (actually careers) outside the poster-paint daubed walls of the primary school and sitting in SLT meetings is an often perplexing experience.  Ideas are often conceived and planned in the diminishing space between the heads of the head and the deputy and I fear that, one day, not long from now, they will merge into a "Mosquito Moment" (thanks @kevbartle) manufacturing monster, leading by diktat and making whole school decisions over a bowl of cornflakes* and a cup of tepid brown water purporting to be coffee.

    No one, as @Kevbartle states, becomes a member of SLT for the wrong reasons; we all want the best for the children in our care and we want all of those with whom we work to care as passionately about ensuring that as we do. We all care enough about our respective schools to want to make them as good as they can be.

    Or do we?

    At the recent London Festival of Education, there was much harumphing and guffawing when a certain MP dared imply that there were schools out there (and I assume, by extension, teachers) that are not good enough.  I’m not sure those of us eager enough to attend a Saturday festival of that one’s particular, elbow-patched hue are the people he was talking about.  For me, a mere fledgling in the world of education, I was buzzing throughout; buzzing from being surrounded by boat rockers galore, all intent on sorting out this profession of ours, challenging the status quo and wresting back some control of what we do.

    And then I went back to school.

    SLT meetings and discussions as to how to jump through an Ofsted hoop, how important it is to ensure that the beast that is the "21st century fetish of target setting" (paraphrased!) is satiated and no end of other wiffle.  I felt like Sam Beckett, “trapped in the past […] driven by an unknown force to change history for the better.”  Trapped within the tail munching maxim that is “this is the way we’ve always done it, so why change?”

    Perhaps I’m showing the green shoots of prevernal naivety for hoping that leadership would actually mean leading and not just being lead by people upon whom the mantle was thrust.  Then again, maybe I just need to get back in my box.

    Or move.

    * other breakfast cereals are available

  4. Question Avalanche

    We all know and appreciate that questioning is a critical aspect in the promotion of learning for the developing minds of the children with whom we work.  From the comfort blanket that is Think Pair Share to bouncing questions back to the class, there can be little doubt that it is through questioning that learning begins to break the glassy surface of “knowing” in order to plumb the depths of “understanding”.

    Over the past few days we have lured our charges into a splendid yarn involving a message in a bottle written by a shipwrecked stranger who seems hesitant in revealing why he ended up where he did.  (Thank you @Hywel_Roberts) The children, with a fair amount of prompting, began to propose the higher level questions for which we strive but …

    There was, upon reflection, something missing.

    Questions were being asked that probed the stranger and made him reveal things but there was a very obvious shortcoming, namely that the children were so intent on asking the questions they’d prepared that they didn’t listen to the answers.

    Next time we’re going to have one person in role and another as the controller, pausing the character so that the children can come up with questions based on the character’s response and so on. 

    Trickle through questioning.  A question avalanche.  Any thoughts?

    P.S. Interestingly, when I set about writing the paragraph above, “teacher” stood in place of the word “person”.  Is it interesting?  Not particularly.

  5. It’s what I am.

    Were I not a teacher and one who feels it is indeed what I am, not simply what I do, I would certainly be asking myself who in their right mind would ever want to be one.  Barely a day passes, or at least that has been the case recently, when someone from the massed extra-professional ranks has not had a dig at us and our type.

    The people purportedly in control of the reins of our progeny’s intellectual development do, at times, seem hell bent on steering this particular analogy into an increasingly dark and trackless forest where the soundtrack turns to a minor key.  Everyone except the maniacal driver seems to know that “there be monsters in them thar woods,” yet he carries on whipping the now bloody corpse of this over-flogged metaphor until … well, who knows when.

    The thing that gives me strength, however, and provides me with the drive to continue is the fact that out there, with their feet firmly rooted in reality, are the countless twittering legions whose ideas, inspiration and common sense, remind us all to see beyond the headlines and the positivist quest for a magic bullet: People and educators who understand that no two classrooms are the same and that all we can do, in spite of the barrage of criticism, is continue doing what we do, or rather, being what we are.

    I’m relatively new to the world of teaching and the politics therein - national and local.  Were it not for the people who I follow on Twitter and elsewhere, I might think I was the only one who wasn’t threatening to drown in negativity.  It’s clear that I’m not and if I needed the strength to continue then I’d draw it from that. 

    As it happens there are 29 children who provide me with enough positivity to last a lifetime; I only hope that I can provide enough for them.

  6. Observational.wi.el.lo

    What is it that people dislike about being observed?

    Why don’t people like colleagues, with whom they are friendly, watching them do what they do on a daily basis? 

    Do they have something to hide?  Are they ashamed of what they do or of their colleagues’ professional perceptions of them being shattered?

    Over the course of the next year, while rolling out a system of peer observation designed to benefit the observer as opposed to critiquing the observed, I hope to begin to understand why people have such hang ups. The way I see it is that such an approach is effectively reflective CPD, but then I’ve never had any issue with people observing me and actually welcome any feedback.

    The hope is that by identifying and sharing our own good practice, particularly in newer pedagogic approaches, but equally in the tried and tested practices of yore, that we might improve the quality of teaching and learning throughout the school.

    Will this theoretically non-threatening approach have any affect on my colleague’s perception of being observed or will the reticence remain?

    Only time will tell.

  7. The other part of the student debt crisis is all of the debt that students aren’t taking on because they’re not going to college. College grads still earn more, work longer, and are employed at higher rates than everybody else. Their investment — that is, their debt — benefits the country at large in the form of a more-skilled workforce, higher productivity, higher GDP, more taxes, and so on. Newspapers can’t report on this part of the student debt crisis, because there is no headline statistic to report on. You can’t put a number on how much money some promising inner-city student is giving up in lifetime earnings by not attending college or how much it’s taking away from federal income taxes through 2030. But just because those statistics are invisible don’t mean they’re not real.

    — Derek Thompson, on America’s trillion-dollar student debt crisis. (via theatlantic)

    An interesting view on student debt. A side, I feel, that should be more widely broadcast.

  8. To have discovered a quarter of the answer to his question by his own effort is of more value to the child than to hear it all, half-understood, from another.

    — Freidrich Froebel

  9. I love what this is proposing and I couldn’t agree more.

    Thank you to @fullonlearning for sharing this.

  10. Witter: Any long-term suggestions on solving the global economic crisis?
    Jools Holland: Yes, think small.

    — A Murdochian Broadsheet Who Shall Not Be Named and can’t be linked because you’ve got to pay.  Rhymes with Monday Crimes.