How to play the inspection game - and win

10th June 2005 at 01:00
The Adult Learning Inspectorate is in this week and this is the last session I am teaching during the eligible period. It's a three-hour session, so I have a horrible feeling that an inspector will drop in.

I only found out a couple of days ago that the computers in this venue are being rewired for broadband today, so I would have to re-invent my lesson, but I've done it. We are more than two hours in, so I am surely safe now.

After my restless night, I am starting to wilt. The students too are flagging from the constant attentions of a hyper-active teacher, when the door opens. There are just 45 minutes left. She has arrived just in the nick of time to complete her minimum observation. What she does not know yet, but will shortly discover, is that several of the students are about to depart early to pick up their children. I pray she is family-friendly or will try to be nice about it, at least, since she herself has left it rather late. But we don't expect overt displays of common humanity from inspectors, do we? They just have to tick the boxes.

It's been a good morning, so in a way it's a pity she didn't get here earlier. Still, I know what she is looking for and I have only about 40 minutes to make sure she sees it. All the good intentions in the world count for nothing unless the results are displayed before her very eyes.

One thing I have to do is act out the splendid differentiation I have written into my lesson plan.

She's come in the middle of a discussion about a maths problem. They are all wading in, which is good (I think), but it's time for the early leavers to depart. I start the rest off with some maths games. I set up the learners with major difficulties, playing a simple game on one table.

Then I head up the room to a couple of ladies who are really quite capable and happily playing a more complicated game. They are only feet away from the inspector and easily within earshot.

I watch them for a moment, and know that watching is not going to be good enough. Help. How can I make a purposeful intervention which will show I know my stuff?

Then Margery puts one of her number tiles into a less-than-best position on the board.

"Tell me why you made that decision," I say. When she explains, I suggest how she might take a more strategic view. Suddenly she spots a fabulous opportunity a bit further across the board, which will treble her score.

She delightedly grabs it, and the competition between the players ignites.

The game is over. The inspector sidles up to Margery and says: "You seemed to be enjoying that."

Margery is a great choice for her to talk to, so I back off and leave her to it. As I drift away, I hear the inspector beaming: "And you were challenged there, too." I know that "challenge" is the buzzword. "Gotcha!"

I say to myself.

And indeed, I am home and dry: the ALIfeedback is excellent.

Bless you, Margery, for failing to realise that, when the inspectors are in, every move must be played strategically.

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