Reflect, Review, Repeat

As we near the end of the summer term and with exams nearly over, attention has turned to staff appraisals. Unlike previous schools that I have worked in, where these are completed twice a year (at the beginning and around now), my current school requires us to complete these each term, with five in total.

The senior management feel that these regular appraisals with a nickname of RAG (for red, amber, green) provides us with meaningful reflection, where our performance (for instance in terms of examination results) and personal conduct is scrutinised each term and then colour-coded with a few comments thrown in for extra padding.

But I wonder, aside from the additional paperwork that this fairly repetitive task creates for me as a Head of Department as well as for my peers, are these RAGs actually worth the paper that they are written on*?

This is a tricky question to answer in relation to teaching and education generally. The role is incredibly varied and although we receive a lot of instructions and directions from sources above us, with the idea of us obviously following these, on a day-to-day basis we generally have a large amount of autonomy, primarily in our classroom.

But this question came to my mind for a number of reasons recently, firstly because I am currently in the process of writing up appraisal reports for my team as well as receiving my own, and also when I hit publish on my previous post it forced me to reflect on some of the reasons why I am happy about stepping down from a management role.

In my current school’s system, in theory, nobody should receive a ‘red’ unless something serious has happened as staff should have been made aware of any concerns before it got to the stage of having it included on their appraisal. And conversely, no one should be awarded a ‘green’ unless they have done something exceptionally good.

But this is where the water gets murky for my current school’s appraisal system, as some of the categories on which we are judged are suspect at best and in situations just bizarre; with things like ‘Behaviour as a role model’, ‘Appearance’ and ‘School ambassador’ included in the document alongside ‘Task completion’, ‘Attendance’ and ‘Relationships’.

In my first year, I was awarded amber for my ‘Appearance’ and I was fairly surprised. I have always thought that I dressed appropriately, comfortable and professional yet keeping within my own personal style. By my final appraisal and after receiving amber for the entire year, I queried this, how does one go about getting a green for appearance?

My line manager’s response was that he couldn’t give me many greens as it was only my first year and that ‘I needed something to work towards’. So I need to work towards wearing more professional clothes? But ultimately this told me that the rationale for the amber was less to do with my actual appearance and more to do with management not wanting the form to look too green, i.e., too positive!

Another example relates to a box entitled ‘Job fit’ where the same colour-coding system is used to establish whether you are effective as a worker, a manager and as a leader. The same line manager said that he felt that I was a good manager but ‘he couldn’t see me as a leader’. Again, I queried this, how would he identify a leader in an organisation? I was provided with a vague response about a leader having that special magical ingredient that sets them apart from just being a manager. His comment did make some sense, but in all honesty if that’s the case, I don’t see any of the management at the school as being leaders either.

Sigh…

In my current role, I have been required to issue a small number of reds on a couple of colleague’s RAGs. My line manager insists that these kinds of details are recorded on their appraisals and that it is discussed during our termly meetings. Sure, if something serious has happened then (if appropriate) immediate action may be required but in many incidences, the issues are rare and sometimes out of my colleague’s control (i.e., it’s not necessarily that they weren’t at fault, but other factors and other people were also involved).

It feels more like reflection just for the sake of reflection, without any clear guidance on genuine suggestions for improvements. The box can be ticked. Move on.

So it comes probably as no surprise but obviously with great sadness (!) that one of the aspects of my current role that I am not going to miss is related to what I feel is more like a pointless administrative task, which doesn’t actually provide sufficient support either to myself or to members of my team about their performance. I don’t know what to suggest as an alternative, but I know that colour-coding the negatives and positives doesn’t cut it.

* The short answer is no.

THE COMPARISON GAME

It’s that time of year again.

Study leave for examination students.

During this summer term I have been in the fortunate position of having a lighter teaching timetable and so it has meant that I have been able to get on with some planning for my new position that begins this summer, as well as have a general tidy up of existing planning and resources. Due to my management position also, I have been required to organise relevant documentation in order to pass onto ‘the new me’, so apart from a few slightly extended lunches since we returned to work after the Easter break I have been productive with my gained time.

However, not everyone in my school is happy with a section of the teaching body getting ‘all this free time’ with the majority of grumbles coming from the primary section. Unlike the schools, I worked at in the UK where primary and secondary schools are predominately separate in terms of geography, in the two international schools I have worked in so far their primary and secondary schools have been located on the same site.

A close friend made these familiar-sounding grumbles recently where, during dinner with a group after work, she proceeded to compare her working hours as a primary teacher to that of an ‘average secondary teacher’. I tried to maintain a cool and calm exterior whilst she berated the ‘average secondary teacher’, arguing that our work was easy in comparison, particularly at this time of year. Perhaps understandably I felt myself become defensive in response to some of her remarks. Of course whilst there will always be some teachers who kick back during this time, they are in the minority. It is in fact during this time when most secondary teachers are catching up on planning and resourcing for new courses or updating what currently exists, and that’s if they don’t still have a heavy teaching timetable (for instance with KS3) or, if they are working in a school that doesn’t offer their students study leave.

But at the time I didn’t say any of this out loud at the time, as we would have ended up going around in circles as well as probably ending the evening by falling out. Plus, I have heard it all before, from her in particular and when I have tried to provide some balance it has fallen on deaf ears. It’s like comparing apples and oranges I reminded myself and that there are some comparison games that are simply pointless in playing.

But what would be nice is that rather than working against one another and seeing ourselves in a perpetual state of competition over our hours, our tasks and even our status within teaching, couldn’t we try and be a little bit more supportive?

TAKING A CHANCE: INTERNATIONAL TEACHING

As part of a new series of posts looking at teaching in an international context, including some of its most wonderful aspects as well as some of the things that I wished that I had known in advance, I thought that I would begin by writing a post about some of my reasons for leaving the UK to teach abroad in the first place.

Ten years ago this June, I participated in a graduation ceremony confirming the completion of my teacher training. I was finally leaving what had felt like a relatively safe and fulfilling bubble of academia and heading out into the big, wide world of full-time employment.

And now looking back over my career to date, I realise that I have not only jumped over what feels like a hurdle (or should that be a shitload of hurdles) of getting to the infamous five-year mark of employment in teaching, where it is estimated that approximately 50% of new teachers will have left the profession, but I have also added five more.

But the fact is that for at least for me, if I had remained in the UK to teach, I don’t believe that I would still be teaching at least in a secondary school context.

There was most definitely not one single factor that led to my decision to leave the UK, but five years ago I was presented with a choice: stay or go (as in move abroad to live and work). The latter primarily instigated by my then partner who had already moved to Spain for a teaching role. The romantic in me would say that I moved for love, although I have subsequently realised love is not necessarily the best reason to move jobs let alone countries.

Prior to the move abroad, I had been working at a city secondary school, which reported generally strong examination results and had good connections to parents and the local community. All of which were part of the lure for me apply for the job in the first place. My immediate team were also incredibly supportive, something that I had been craving having left my previous position partly due to an absence of this at the departmental level. However, after less than a year of working at what was my second teaching position in the UK, I realised that I didn’t quite ‘fit’ within the school itself. My previous school had been considerably smaller in size and therefore on a day-to-day basis I would regularly see familiar faces, those of students and staff alike, and it felt like a warm and close-knit community. But in my second position, I often felt lost and there were times when I didn’t know who to turn to for advice. Plus, I realised that I simply wanted to work in a school with a smaller student intake.

Finding a school that ‘fits’ is much like a romantic relationship, you can go in thinking of what you desire in a partner; such as a steady job, good hair, own teeth, wants marriage and so on, but you end up falling in love with someone who doesn’t fit any of that criteria. And the same can be said for a school, sometimes the things that you think you want, just don’t work in reality.

Another significant factor that could be said to have influenced my decision to leave the school itself was related to the behaviour of the students. There were times when I found it really tough, to the point where I absolutely dreaded going into work. For some lessons, it felt more like crowd control than anything else, as I couldn’t say any real learning took place for some of the students. I issued warnings, handed out detentions, contacted home, and fortunately the team I worked with were always willing to have some of most badly behaved sat in the back of their class with some work to do. There were, of course, times when I would skip stages of the ‘behaviour management process’ when I was tired and/or stressed, but I followed school policy mostly to the letter.

Things came to a head with one particular class towards the end of the academic year that contained a number of ‘characters’, to put it politely. I taught them for a double (two hours) on Monday after lunch and they were all over the place in terms of academic ability. There were two students in particular who appeared to go out of their way to disturb the class and learning in any way that they could each week. And, after months of using various strategies to manage their behaviour, I cracked.

I had contacted a member of the management team to remove one of the students, who, in this specific lesson was the catalyst for most of the disruption. He had continually refused to follow my instruction of waiting outside for a ‘time out’. But whilst the member of management delivered a grave speech to the entire group about the importance of the learning that should have been taking place, I began to cry. I didn’t break down completely but it was certainly enough for the front few rows to notice the tears.

It perhaps should be left to a future post to provide my own opinion about the effectiveness of certain behaviour management strategies for some students and even my own failings in this regard, but as you can imagine I was embarrassed by the incident and also by what appeared to me was that I simply wasn’t up to the job, at least in that school. In effect, I had lost all confidence in my ability to teach. It was only upon moving on that I realised that I wasn’t completely rubbish at teaching and in a different environment I could thrive.

So when I was presented with an opportunity to leave and move to my first international teaching position in Spain, I jumped at the chance. My partner was already working at the school and so he provided a backdoor opportunity to meet and receive an interview with one of the headteachers, a convenient break certainly.

In the next instalment… Sun, Sangria and Salary Woes

A NEW OPPORTUNITY

A few weeks ago I signed myself up for the ‘Blogging Fundamentals’ course, part of WordPress University. I was really excited from the off as I was hoping to spend time working on my writing muscles and also engage with fellow bloggers.

I have a tendency to be pretty hard on myself when it comes to ‘getting shit done’, believing that there is always more that I could be doing. But I have been trying to stick to my commitment, that is, of posting at least once a week.

That was until this past week or so because work happened… Well, to be more specific, a new job happened.

As I mentioned in some of my earlier posts I have been torn for some time between whether to remain in teaching or not (I am talking at least five years). It is the only profession I have known apart from stints of working in various retail outlets and then a waitress when I was a student, and I can’t leave out the two years doing a newspaper round in the neighbourhood in which I grew up. But in the past few years I have been toying with the idea of leaving to do something different, either still within the field of education or breaking away entirely.

The idea of toying of leaving was very nearly going to become my reality when, after some months I was unable to find another teaching job. I work in the international circuit having left the UK five years ago and, unlike three years ago when I first moved to SE Asia, this time it was going to be much more difficult. In the first instance, my search area was restricted due to a move to be with my partner and also because the teaching market where he is based is incredibly competitive. Most, but certainly not all, international schools have many of their positions filled by Christmas with some advertising as early as September/October for the following academic year. By March, I was resigned to the fact that I would be moving without a job and would be living off some of my savings for an indefinite period of time.

But then a job came up and despite some mixed feelings about applying for it; primarily due to the resigned feeling and wondering whether I still want to teach, I put in an application. And things went from there.

I had an interview and received an offer a little over a week ago.

And the best thing? I am really excited about it!

TAKING THE TIME TO LISTEN

It is Friday afternoon and lessons for the week have just finished; students are heading home along with some of my colleagues. I don’t like to hang around too late on a Friday either, but I have set of test papers to mark that I would prefer to do from the relative comforts of a quiet classroom rather than in the real comforts of home. Besides, I have already allocated some of my Sunday to prepping for the following week, the test papers would just add to that load.

Then my door opens.

It is a colleague whose classroom is adjacent to mine coming in for a chat. But when I say ‘chat’ as that would presume that that there were two people involved in the conversation, it’s more like being spoken at about his day.

I put my pen and the exam paper down and listen to his frustrations; the students who haven’t quite registered that their final exams are in a few months time, the ones who have failed to hand in homework, and the ones who promised that they would turn up for the revision classes but didn’t. I listen and attempt to offer support and advice where I can, we are colleagues and part of the same team. I am also the Head of Department.

After he has left, I settle back into marking the papers. It’s a significant pile and I really don’t want to have to take them all home this weekend. Last weekend was spent proof-reading student subject reports for the department, I could barely see straight after I had finished.

Then my door opens.

It’s another member of the team, she’s relatively new and still working her way around the school and its quirks. I try to give her as much time as I can as I have heard on the teacher grapevine that she has already thrown around some flippant remarks about leaving before the end of the academic year due to the ‘unreasonable workload’. Much like a few minutes before, I am blasted with information and updates on her day. I sit and listen patiently with a set smile on my face, but in the back of my mind I am thinking about those unmarked test papers, about the data that it will then probably take another 30 minutes or so to input onto the school system, the emails I need to reply to, and the fact that I haven’t had chance all day to go the office to photocopy my resources for Monday.

After she leaves something strikes me as I am trying to get my head back into marking mode, I very rarely get asked about how I am by members of the team. Perhaps they think that I am fine because of the persona that I carry off (very successfully, if I say so myself) day to day. None of them is aware of the challenges I sometimes have just to get up in a morning and get to work, but then, why should they need to know? Or perhaps the reason I don’t get asked is because I am a member of management and there is a ‘them and us’ mindset to it. Sometimes people just need to vent and I do feel that part of my role is to cushion some of the blows or at least act as a sponge.

In this time-pressed profession, I would love to sit down and have more conversations with my team and other colleagues, perhaps about things going outside of the classroom and outside of the school. But I don’t see that happening in the near future, particularly as exam season approaches.

I admit my management style may have contributed towards this situation. Despite the seemingly constant curriculum changes and ever evolving school diktats, I try to manage with a democratic approach inasmuch as I can; concerns are discussed openly in meetings and if an issue affects someone directly, I will do my best to help. They are an amazingly hard-working bunch whose support I value every single day.

But it would be nice sometimes for one of them to ask how I am and pause for an answer.

A ‘CAREER GIRL?’

Each week at work like the rest of the teaching faculty, I am required to do two playground duties, one of which takes place in the morning before lessons begin. It’s a fairly uneventful and unexciting responsibility (unlike some of my experiences when I was working in the UK), where I wander around for twenty minutes, chat to students, give them a teacher glare if they are even thinking about doing something off the school-rules-book and perhaps catch up with a few colleagues.

The vast majority of the time nothing actually happens. That was until this Wednesday when a colleague who works in the higher echelons of the school hierarchy stopped to say hello. Although in fact, his greeting consisted of “Have you got a job yet?”

This is a fairly standard question I get asked nowadays, after all, I handed in my notice to my current employers some months ago. In the time since I have had one interview (although I have only applied for two jobs due to my location restrictions) and was unsuccessful in that case. I usually reply with a smile and “Nope, nothing at the moment” or something to a similar effect. But this time, whether it was frustration, defensiveness, general annoyance, the fact that it was a Wednesday or all of the above, I changed tact. Instead, I replied with “Does that have to be the first question I get asked?”

So that prompted a surprised reaction for both of us, he hadn’t been expected that response, even his facial expressions and body language spoke volumes as he arched his back and glanced around. And I was surprised at myself for saying what I have been thinking for some time actually out loud.

“I am worried about you,” he said leaning in. “A career girl like you, not having another job yet. I thought you’d have one by now.”

I didn’t want to share with him that I am seriously considering taking a break from teaching, I don’t believe that it is any of his business. Plus at this point, I was annoyed by his line of questioning and the patronising manner in which he approached the subject.

It’s interesting because as I read back over what I have written so far, there is a part of me that is muttering away: Stop being so defensive! He was only asking out of concern, why make a mountain out of a molehill? I will concede that perhaps the reason for his initial query was out of genuine interest and concern, but I am curious, would a man be told that they are a ‘career boy’ for the same reasons I was? I find it unlikely.

For whatever the justifications for his concern and his perceived label of me, I have unearthed a few positives from the encounter. Firstly, when I next get asked: “Have you got a job yet?” I will try and steer the conversation in a different direction, one hopefully that doesn’t entail an analysis of my career to date. Secondly and more significantly, I have also reassessed a number of things, particularly in relation to how I label myself.

Am I a ‘career girl/woman/person?’

I wouldn’t define myself in this way as there is an implication that I originally set out in teaching to achieve what I have (particularly in terms of having a management position), or that I indeed want to continue climbing the career ladder if I were to stay teaching. In actual fact, the latter does not fill me with much motivation in the slightest! So I guess I’d like to thank my colleague for helping reaffirm this for me.

THE FUTURE PLACE OF EDUCATION

Six years ago I taught in a school that was undergoing a steady transformation, not in an ideological or pedagogical sense, but rather in its physical appearance (although you could argue that in some symbolic ways the areas are linked). The original buildings dated from the 1960s and by 2010 they were in dire need of an update for a student population of over 2000 and by general modern education standards. Aside from the general tired feeling associated with most of the rooms; many had leaky roofs, windows that you couldn’t shut, broken furniture that never seemed to get replaced despite requests, and these were the rooms that weren’t overly that bad…

… because then there were the temporary classrooms/portacabins.

Whilst the rest of the school was receiving a deep clean and facelift, the portacabins were deemed ‘fit for purpose’ by the school’s management and so were not going to be disposed of until the main building work had been completed. And around a third of my teaching took place in these.

The portacabins were simply depressing. I hated having to teach in them and I am sure that the students picked up on this despite my forced smile to the contrary. During the winter wetter months, sidelining the fact that the steps leading up to the cabins would often freeze over and therefore be a health hazard in themselves, the rooms were bitterly cold. The heating units regularly broke, resulting in both myself, colleagues and students having to wear coats in lessons (a big no-no in terms of the school uniform policy), and in some cases, I would also teach wearing gloves (an even bigger no-no). Conversely, during the warmer months, the classrooms heated up like greenhouses even with the windows and doors wide open. And you can probably imagine what a sweltering room smells like with the added potency or should I say the pungency of a bunch of teenagers!

Unfortunately, the state of crappy classrooms is nothing new. My own experiences were almost a mirror image of those I describe above but took place 20 years earlier. So I read with interest and dismay last week in the British press about the state of many school buildings that are “crumbling into disrepair” whilst money is being diverted into other projects such as the free school program. Money that is being invested into shiny new buildings or to convert brownfield sites to accommodate students, whilst existing local authorities and schools struggle to plug those leaky roofs and move students out of temporary classrooms.

I know my own experiences are only anecdotal and a building does not necessarily make an education, but it can help. It can encourage students to feel positive about their learning if the environment has some semblance of being cared for and valued, and it can allow teachers to focus on actually teaching, instead of adjusting the thermostat or their coat every few minutes.

References

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?

When I was at school and university, I was asked on a number of occasions by careers guidance counsellors: “What do you want to be when you’re older?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years time?”

Whilst some of my peers were able to provide a concrete plan of their values, goals and dreams, I often found myself unable to answer. Well, provide an answer that the counsellor at the time wanted to hear.

I didn’t know.

The result of this uncertainty and confusion about my life led me to generally provide a monosyllabic response, to which I would be handed a heavy tome containing details of possible careers to review in my own time. This was before the days of internet searches for information. Even my UCAS application was in paper form.

I wasn’t trying to be impertinent with what were well-meaning counsellors, but I genuinely had no clue what I wanted to do. Even my subject choices at A-Level and for my undergraduate degree were things I didn’t give enough thought to. In hindsight, I can see that particularly for my degree, I was more concerned with what others thought was best for me or what I thought others would think was best for me, rather than considering if it would be something I would enjoy or matched what I valued at the time. Wonderful friends and the other opportunities of studying for my degree aside, I still to this day regret my degree choice.

As I got older, the pressure of having a clear plan became ever more significant. When I was nearing graduation I knew that I would need something to do, something to be aiming for. My parents, although amazing, weren’t simply going to fund me whilst I still evaluated my future.

So I turned to teaching.

I am wincing slightly as I write that, as though teaching is a safe and easy option as it most certainly isn’t! However, having family members who were teachers and growing up in an environment that placed a high level of importance on the value of education, I wondered if it could be a career option for me.

So I set myself the goal of becoming a teacher. And a year or so later, I graduated and was preparing for my first teaching position.

Of course I have made it sound terribly simplistic and I am clearly choosing to ignore and/or repress some of the challenges that I experienced on the way (like the student in one placement school who would constantly comment on my figure or the teacher who wouldn’t support me when I complained about said student for instance). I wanted to give up, many times and despite my feelings about my role and the education system now, I am glad that I persevered. I have largely loved teaching the subjects that I teach, enjoyed the camaraderie of the teaching staff and I have worked with some truly remarkable young people who I will never forget.

To that end, having received some positive feedback from the school where I interviewed a few weeks ago it made me realise that whatever happens next in my career or even in five years, whether I remain in education or not, I will always have a bucketload of experience and stories to share. 

READY FOR INSPECTION?

For the first half of next week, it is inspection time at the school where I work. It has been six months in the making; lessons and accompanying resources are planned (for the most part), data has been analysed to death, middle management (like myself) have been ‘coached’ to understand how example questions could be asked, assemblies have been given to the entire student body to remind them of their role and responsibilities as school ambassadors, and there have been overnight appearances of new health and safety symbols, including new fire hydrants.

With the way that this week has gone, I thought that I would need to spend some or at least a portion of today doing some more bits. However, it has worked out that I am for the most part organised and there really isn’t much more I could do (without re-planning everything and that isn’t going to happen).

During the hustle of the past few months, and in particular the few short weeks since returning to work following the Christmas break, I haven’t paused for long to take a breath. But something happened yesterday afternoon that has stuck with me.

I was sat in my classroom checking through some of the finer details for some lesson materials when my immediate boss walked in, to check how I was feeling and if I was ready for the following week. I was, just about. He laughed and said that he was confident in my work and had no concerns. A relatively quick conversation ensued where he shared some of the details for the following week and I asked him how he was. Similar to me it transpired, a little anxious but he had also reached a point where he couldn’t do much more without going crazy. He left and I got back to my work, but something was different. A bubble of something, a feeling that I hadn’t experienced in some time had formed inside of me, I felt appreciated. And I took that away with me when I left for the day.

During the late 1940s, B. F. Skinner developed the work of behavioural psychologists arguing that existing models were too simplistic in explaining human behaviour. He developed what became known as operant conditioning and he believed that observable consequences can have an impact on behaviour. Simply put, some sort of positive reinforcement such as the example with my boss complimenting my work, provided me with a reward, an intrinsic one, but a reward nonetheless. The sense of appreciation that I felt motivated me and I left work with a smile on my face and I genuinely feel a little more positive about the upcoming inspection.

Skinner also believed negative reinforcement can also impact on behaviour and this works by the removal of a negative reinforcer. For example, I have a phobia of spiders, not so much the tiny money spiders, but anything remotely bigger than this. Even thinking about them now is causing me some mild anxiety… so rather than focus on this, I will get to my point! If I find myself in the presence of a spider then I do my darndest to either remove myself or more likely remove the offending spider… yep, I kill them if I have to. Now, diminishing spider populations aside as a result of my violent behaviour, the removal of the negative reinforcer (the spider) removes the unpleasant experience for me and therefore I feel better.

Finally, Skinner argued that human behaviour can be influenced by punishment. I imagine that we are all familiar with this, certainly in the context of education. If we do something bad, we may receive an admonishment from a teacher and perhaps in more ‘serious’ cases some other form of punishment, so that we are less likely to repeat the behaviour. Skinner concluded that it is possible to gradually change behaviour through a delicate balance of reward and punishment, as this amusing clip from The Big Bang Theory shows.

However, Skinner also conducted his research on non-human animals (rats and pigeons), including delivering electric shocks to encourage certain types of behaviour. Suffice to say, humans might respond a little differently under similar circumstances.

But I guess where I am going with this post is that that simple and relatively quick conversation with my superior made me feel valued. That the hard graft that I have been putting in along with my colleagues was worth it. I just wish that it didn’t take an inspection for the management to finally recognise some of this.

AN INSPECTOR CALLS

I am getting ready for an inspection.

Okay, that just sounds wrong… the school where I work is due for an inspection and we have been informed that it is going to take place in a little over a week.

When teaching internationally, the regulations around formal school inspections are different to that of working in the UK, in that you get a different amount of advance warning to make your preparations. And I mean, a considerable amount of advance warning… I am talking at least six months if you work in many schools internationally! A little different to the minimum two days notice provided by Ofsted*. Shortly before the school finished for the summer break, management were very kind to drop the ‘I-bomb’ on us.

Of course, receiving this much notice for an inspection has its blessings, in that it gives you ample opportunity to get your stuff in order. But when it has come down to it, it’s actually rather difficult to plan lessons months or even weeks in advance. Even on a day-to-day basis things crop up: a ‘surprise’ school event may tear away half your students, you may end up having a fantastic debate that you don’t want to put on hold so the lesson has to roll over to the next day, or perhaps more realistically, you have so much to content to deliver that you end up either rushing or missing out chunks of information so you have to go back to it another time anyway.

Conversely, this much notice sent some of the management at my school into a spin and when the new school year started back in August the teaching faculty were swiftly issued with additional tasks to add to the already bulging workload. These additional tasks have so far included: gathering more data for our classes (as if we don’t provide enough), providing sample lesson plans and schemes of work together with resources to be scrutinised (I actually hate this word) and an ‘enhanced’ data review for each department/year group in the school – for some staff this took up to three to four drafts to complete, each edit taking at least a further hour or more. It’s significant to note here that in my two previous years at the school these reports came back with no feedback/complaints giving me the impression that, either no-one had read them previously or that management simply wants us to add copious amounts of information just for the inspection.

And the additional list of tasks goes on.

It’s been five years since I last experienced a school inspection, so you could argue now it’s my time. During my first, I managed to avoid nearly all detection from the inspection team with only brief contact made when one happened to pass through the library (where I was doing some work at the time) as they were on their way to the bathroom. My second experience couldn’t have been more different. I did receive one lesson observation and in truly stressed teacher fashion, instead of upping my game, I panicked, pretty much nearly forgetting what I was meant to be teaching and the kid’s names along with it. The feedback didn’t go as well as hoped.

At the moment I am feeling a little more prepared, but that could be the six months notice talking. There is still a lot more to do and I fear that next week will be filled with some more of those ‘additional’ tasks alongside my actual teaching.

*Ofsted: stands for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills and they are the UK’s centre for school inspections.