This is a re-blog post originally posted by Caroline Spalding and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
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On a good day I’d say that, after eight and a half years at the chalk face, I might finally be getting the hang off this teaching malarkey. The horror shows are fewer and further between and I’ve come to recognise and celebrate those light bulb moments when they come about. But, if you want the credentials, I’ve been formally observed twice by Ofsted and my (ahem) ‘teaching across time’ on both occasions has been graded ‘Outstanding’. Sod it, every PM observation I’ve ever had has been graded a 1 too.*
And yet, my school ‘Requires improvement’ and I’m sick and tired of this meaning people automatically assume that I need to be paired up with a teacher in an ‘Outstanding’ school in a Teaching Alliance or other network to learn from the teachers who work there.
No. What me and the other teachers in my school need is more time to share our own good practice from within and get better together. We do not need the local private school ‘doing their bit’, thanks Tristram. We need less pressure, more PPA/CPD time, praise and encouragement, some sort of work/life balance, and space from the relentless judgements and pressure that Ofsted bring to make true strides forward for our students.**
But it’s so easy for us to fall into the trap too; too easily we learn to think of ourselves as sub-standard. Tired teachers who are continually under the cosh from the media or Inspectors don’t have the poop to speak up for themselves and shout, ‘Hang on a second, Mr. I’m actually blinking good at what I do’. Perhaps as a consequence of this, I think there’s a perception amongst some at my school that the ‘Outstanding’ judgement in observation (sorry Mr Moyse we still grade at our place) is some unattainable measure that requires props, bells and whistles to secure (which is clearly rubbish). I think on occasion less experienced observers might even be tempted to hold it back, despite seeing students that are engaged, inspired and – fundamentally – learning.
It’s perhaps no surprise that a government who’ve demonstrated their belief in grammar schools is now seemingly creating a two-tier mentality amongst teachers: us and them; the haves and have nots; RI and ‘Outstanding’. Is a ‘Requires Improvement’ school the new secondary modern? Do the entitled grow in confidence because they’re told they’re inherently able and academic and encouraged? C’mon teachers, let’s not buy into this false dichotomy.
So how do we fight this? It’s apposite that the answer was tweeted to me at 9.40pm on a Sunday night by our brilliant Deputy Head of Maths @mr_g_walton. It’s positivity. It’s recognising our own hard work, commitment and talent. It’s celebrating one another’s teaching and shouting about the good practice we see. It’s the good practice blog started by one of our Senior Lead Practitioners. It’s our school website that lists the amazing things our students do on a daily basis – not just on the two days in two years the Inspectors choose to swing by. It’s working with other brilliant teachers without knowing the grading attributed to their school by Ofsted. And not caring about it either.
*Btw I do know this is a horribly arrogant way to start a blog, sorry, but it seemed necessary to make my subsequent point! And, for the record, external judgements are absolutely not how I would choose to judge my own teaching: I do that via the achievements of my student… and the occasional ‘thank you’ card.
** Note: this is not the same as saying that our fantastic and hardworking SLT don’t provide time for this. Improving teaching and learning is at the core of every Inset and staff meeting. My comment is aimed at those external forces that make a presumption about the CPD needs of my school without having any understanding of it.
***There were supposed to be two more sections to this post, but I’m going to pause here and leave them for Round 2. Coming to a blog near you soon:
Don’t you dare judge my students and their achievements by my school’s Ofsted report alone.
Don’t you dare judge my school, its aspirations and the learning that takes place within it, solely by a number assigned to it on a piece of paper.
Caroline Spalding works in an utterly brilliant school in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Working towards her NPQSL, she also likes music, cats and things from Japan. Follow her via Twitter.