*To steal a phrase from David Didau
This past week has been the busiest week of the year: A Level marks & moderation to send off; A Level data to go to head of sixth form; GCSE sample to send off; observation with the head & head of PE; meetings; illnesses (my migraine & 2 of my team); the AS Lit exam. I’m tired again just writing it all out and I didn’t include my day job of teaching and running the department!
But, somehow through all this, I still had to teach all my classes, including 4 exam classes, to my usual standard. This week really made me understand how much of our teaching is invisible. My students, my trainee and my observers only see the end product of a lot of thought, work and, at times, stress.
If I’m being completely honest, there was the odd lesson that was planned in my head as I was driving in to work that morning and I’m lucky that I have enough experience to draw on to do that occasionally. However, it’s not always possible to do this.
To teach a lesson where learning takes place for each student, you need to have planned your lesson knowing where all the starting points are for all your students and where their end goal is (and if they’re likely to achieve it without a bit of extra help / differentiation) as well as resource it.
And this is the invisible part of our teaching. Our students are often totally unaware of everything we have done to prepare for that hour of their lives. Their lack of understanding can sometimes come across as ingratitude which never goes down well with a tired and stressed teacher.
Perhaps the worse problem is that even though our SLT have been through it before, but the longer they’re at the top the longer it is since they’ve been on a full time table and the world of education is changing so fast now. This often makes teachers feel aggrieved by the demands of SLT, feeling that they are just unreasonable requests from leaders who don’t truly understand.
I’ve seen teachers kill themselves frantically marking books because the book scrutiny doesn’t fit in with their making schedule and they don’t want their knuckles rapped. But then they moan about the mark load and marking policy imposed by SLT; the same SLT who think you’re coping because of the book scrutiny you “passed”. This is why I stopped doing this and didn’t get my knuckles rapped when I explained I marked books fortnightly and Y10 had just handed theirs in ready for marking.
I think the problem of invisible teaching goes beyond SLT though. This problem stretches out to parents and politicians too. So few of the parents know what we really do and can assume we only work 8-3 term times only so offer little sympathy when we don’t reply to them straight away. But worse than that the people in charge don’t really know what we do. Nicky Morgan can visit as many schools as she wants, but unless she shadows a teacher, from the primary and secondary sector, for at least a week, she’ll never really understand. This means she can never truly understand the results of the work load survey and if that’s the case, how can she fix it?
Ideally, we should only complete our planning, preparation and assessment in our PPA time and show that it’s not possible. But how could we do that and not let our students’ education suffer? This dilemma will always be an issue and prevent us from taking successful action to do something to ease the workload and create teachers who have the time and energy to plan, prepare and deliver high quality lessons to every class every day.
Sadly, I think, at least for now, teaching will always be invisible. It really shouldn’t be; a good teacher works bloody hard and this should be recognised by everyone involved in education to prevent it from driving out passionate and highly skilled teachers from our profession.