Spare me the dreaded 'walk'

8th April 2011 at 01:00
Anonymous views from education's front line

This week: a primary teacher in Hampshire

Does your headteacher do a "learning walk"? Mine does. Rather than a proper observation, he likes to take these learning walks every half-term.

If you haven't experienced one before, it's basically the headteacher walking in to your classroom accompanied by the deputy head and a clipboard. It's unofficial. It's informal. But it still feels just like an observation.

They tell you to act normally and assure you they are not looking at the teaching, but rather the general environment.

What does that even mean? Maybe they are looking to see if I have put the right paper into the right bins. Maybe they are looking to see if I switch my monitor off when I'm not using it. Maybe I need to make sure everything is really tidy, just in case.

So, for the informal, relaxed learning walk you spend hours making sure your displays are correct. You can't have too many empty walls because the children need them for their learning. But you can't have them all full because then there is no working wall.

The children need some space to be creative, should they need to be. So now you have the right number of displays, but are they of the right type? Is there a good mixture between children's work and useful vocabulary? You need to make sure that what is on the walls isn't too old, and take that Victorian display from before Christmas down and put a nice new one up in its place. Displays done, you can relax a bit.

Now for the rest of the room. You quickly get children to sharpen pencils, tidy their tables and make sure they know where the learning objective is. You always have it up on the board, of course, but today you need to remind them, just in case. You spend the first half an hour of the day reminding the children of the rules, telling them that there are four legs on a chair and to drink from their water bottle properly.

Then they arrive. He doesn't knock, of course, because it's his school and he can just come in. He wanders in and sits with a child. THAT child, always THAT child. He does it on purpose, I'm sure he does. He looks at the displays for a bit, makes some notes, confers with the deputy - and then they are gone. In and out in five minutes.

You panic. Is that good? Had they seen enough and wanted to get out as quickly as they could, or were they happy and quickly moving on to their next victim?

You have to wait until the next staff meeting and then there is no specific feedback, just that they were happy. After the panic, it hardly seemed worth it in the end.

To tell us what terrifies you or to share the unscripted events that have happened in your classroom, email

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