The long and winding road

15th October 2004 at 01:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

If you're on induction, you should have been observed at least once by now.

The rule is that the first observation should happen within your first four weeks in the classroom so that you get some useful feedback. Lots of new teachers have said how reassuring this has been.

The value, however, depends on how well an observation is planned, executed and discussed afterwards. Mandi on The TES new teacher forum is upset: "I got an unsatisfactory rating on my first one." Those who observe new teachers should not use Ofsted gradings like this, unless the observation is part of pre-inspection monitoring. It's unhelpful, unnecessary and may even be inaccurate - is the observer a trained inspector?

Mandi is worried about the consequences. The only impact should be positive, in that the school should be putting in more targeted support to enable her to succeed. She was told her grading came because a small number of pupils were off task and didn't produce good enough work. It's amazing that at this stage in her career only a small number of pupils didn't work hard enough!

This sort of experience will knock any teacher's confidence, which is a crazy thing to do - you can't teach without lots of it. It's much better for the observer to talk about strengths, successes, small improvements, and areas for development. Obviously, there are going to be many things new teachers could improve on, but there should be discussion about what to prioritise.

Your mentor or whoever's responsible will find it useful to know how you feel about their comments. Let them know if you're not happy. It's easy to give offence so make any criticisms carefully, placing them in context:

"What really helped me develop after the last observation was... What was less useful was... " Ask if you can be observed more than every half-term so that you can see progress - and help you even more. Think about what you'd like the observer to look out for. This will show that you're a reflective practitioner who wants to improve. But remember, the journey to becoming a really good teacher is a long one. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Sara Bubb is co-author with Peter Earley of Managing Teacher Workload, Paul Chapman Publishing, pound;17.99

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