A camera in every classroom? Be warned

30th November 2007 at 00:00

A student paid me a compliment once. As plaudits go it was pretty lame, but he meant well. "The thing I notice about your class," he said, "is that you come along knowing what you're going to teach us."

"Don't all your teachers do that?" I countered.

He then proceeded to tell me a tale of educational horror about the sixth form where he had just spent two unsuccessful years. It seemed that half the staff would turn up and announce "What are we going to do today, then?"

Believe it or not, most teachers are not like that. In fact most of us plan every lesson, many of them extremely carefully. We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't.

It is fair to say, though, that - observations and inspections aside - most teachers don't draw up an official lesson plan for most classes. There are good reasons for this. As well as a minute by minute breakdown of how the time will be used, the standard lesson plan requires you to make explicit much of the stuff you normally carry in your head. This includes assessments of individual students and their capabilities, as well as a detailed analysis of your aims and objectives. Not to mention your prayers for the outcome!

Essentially they are documents for other people's use. To manufacture one for every class would be a huge waste of teachers' time - yet another piece of paper to further divert them from their real job.

To hear, then, that some secondary schools are starting to require their teachers to submit plans in advance for every lesson they teach is not good news. What starts in schools has a nasty habit of filtering through to colleges a year or two down the line. Expecting a blow-by-blow account of every class in advance would be "cruel and unusual punishment". Not only that, it restricts spontaneity, encourages timidity and takes no account of what comes back from the students.

It is also a mechanism by which managers can gain greater control over teachers in the classroom. Once that is established, what next? Why not go the whole hog and have a CCTV camera in every teaching room? Fat controllers could then watch a bank of screens to detect any deviations from the plans as filed.

I can just hear the announcement: "Jones, stop telling jokes and get back to objective 21a. You're two minutes behind schedule and there are still eight target boxes on your list!"

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