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Joan Sallis Answers your questions

Governors still assist with staff appointments but as a parent governor I don't really know how to participate. I couldn't ask any technical questions or subject-related ones. What is our role?

You don't necessarily ask any questions but should always as a minimum participate in the discussion at the end which results in a decision. For the rest you must ask what is the convention in your school.

It is better if you do play some part in the questioning in agreement with the head and any other staff taking part. Most commonly there is a discussion beforehand resulting in a list of questions to be asked and who asks them. You may find one is assigned to you. But if you are asked what questions you yourself would like to put to the candidates it doesn't have to depend on any knowledge of the subject or the craft of teaching. Choose some general question which will draw out the candidate and reveal something about their attitude to the job. Something like "Has there been any lesson you have given which you were very proud of? What made it a good lesson?" or "What is there about your chosen subject which appealed to you when you chose it?" or "What do you think is the secret of holding the children's attention for the duration of the lesson?" I'm sure you can think of a number of non-technical questions which will produce revealing answers.

Following a rather critical inspection we have all been asked to observe the occasional lesson and record our impressions. I will be very interested to listen to a lesson but can you tell me what sort of things to look for?

The first thing to notice is what techniques the teacher uses to get the class settled and in a listening mode. From that point there should be clear evidence of a lesson plan being followed. First there will probably be some introductory statement about the subject matter which will really arouse interest from the outset and at this point it's good to say very briefly what the aim of this lesson is.

The difficult part is sustaining this interest and there are a number of factors in this. Most obvious is dealing with any early signs of inattention or disruption, and that could include moving a few students around. Avoiding monotony in voice and pace plays a part. A variety of techniques, questions and illustrations to impart information are vital and so is class participation.

There should be plenty of illustrative materials and objects, suitable examples of every point made, and questions to check that points have been understood. It's especially important that the teacher frequently summarises points, so that every bit of information gets underlined and fitted into the total plan, usually with key statements written on the board andor in books.

There should be a good variety of activities for the students: their participation at frequent intervals maintains attention and so, where appropriate, does the showinghandling of objects or pictures which illustrate the subject. Good lessons end where planned to end, with a summary of content plus guidance on any homework.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0171 782 32023205, or see www.tes.co.uk governorsask_ the_expert where answers to submitted questions will appear

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