This post was written by Jon Tait @TeamTait.
Today, the challenge that all schools face is to keep on improving the standard of teaching in the classroom. After all, it is our core business. Headline figures, levels of progress, behaviour management – you can forget all of these unless you prioritise on the one fundamental building block that will impact on everything else – the quality of teaching that our young people receive every day. Once we begin to makes strides in improving this, only then will we see sustainable improvements in education. Too many schools get obsessed with intervention strategies year after year, trying to fix the fact that their students have been sold short over the past 24 months. This sticky plaster approach to raising achievement is unsustainable and as school leaders we must get to the root of these problems – we must continue to strive to improve the quality of teaching in our classrooms.
But how do we do this? Lots has been written about personalised CPD programmes, new pedagogy and the effect of such strategies, but these will only go so far if they are the responsibility of the school and not the teacher. What we really need is the intrinsic drive from every teacher to get better – because they want to and they see it as their duty to, not because they are told to. Then and only then, will we have the capacity to smash through the ceiling of professional development.
In schools where this is achieved, it should go hand in hand with the accountability of exam results and performance targets for each teacher. Teachers should be held accountable for their personal drive towards their own professional development. But more significantly, it should be prioritised before the performance data of the teacher. How can a teacher perform to the best of their ability if they are not adequately trained and kept up to date with the very latest techniques, skills and strategies. As we all know only too well, just because you have been trained once, doesn’t mean you are fit to teach forever without regular input and training. By focusing and prioritising more on what the teacher has done to improve themself, rather than just what the school decided was best for them, will we begin to develop the intrinsic drive to become better every day.
But here’s the problem – even if you agree that intrinsically motivated teachers in charge of their own professional development is the true way forward in developing first class teachers, which of us would be bold enough to hand over the reins to them? How do we know that they are working on their areas of priority and how can we demonstrate the impact of this work? Expensive technology has tried to be the answer to this conundrum through software, apps and cameras, but the best answer may have been at our fingertips for centuries.
The art of writing a diary has been with us for hundreds of years and has seen the reflections, thoughts, feelings, trials and tribulations of some of the most significant figures in history, documented for us to share. Not only has it enabled us to gain an insight into the minds and philosophies of these great people, but it has also helped them reflect on their achievements. Fast forward a few hundred years and people are still writing their feelings, but in the digital age they are now referred to as blogs.
My suggestion is simple – get every teacher to write a blog. Then get them to follow the blogs of the other teachers in their school and beyond. Their weekly or fortnightly entries should be a window to their classroom and their ongoing professional development. It should focus on new ideas they have read, seen or heard about; and how they have tried to implement them in their class. It should show examples and case studies of where they have trialled new strategies that haven’t quite worked and how they have gone away and tweaked it until it worked. The power of reflecting on your own practice and putting it on paper for the world to see can not, and should not be underestimated. Sitting down once per week and thinking deeply about your week at the chalk face and how this has made you a better teacher is of enormous value to the development of us all.
Reading other teachers blogs is just as important. Finding that it’s not just you that has been lying awake at night wondering what to do with your year 9’s, or the inspiration you take from reading a blog from a newly qualified member of staff who has given you a new idea that they brought with them from their recent training.
But with all this marking and preparation, we just haven’t got the time I hear you say! Teaching is so demanding now that it is all too easy to say we are too busy. All too easy to say we are too tired. And all too easy to say that we have better things to do with our time. But take a step back – what can be more important than our own self improvement and development as a teacher for our young people?
This post was written by Jon Tait @TeamTait.