For the past few years, I’ve been a teacher by day, and a builder by night (and weekends). You see, my husband and I have built our own house.
In this process, we got to choose where all the electrics would go. One evening my husband and I sat down with the plans and colour coded the different plugs, lights, areal and switches. We gave these plans to an electrician, and then he put them in place. The outcome was that the lights, plugs and sockets worked. Outcome achieved.
Of course, we researched our electrician before hiring him: we spoke to previous customers. At no point (as non-electricians) did we ask for pictures of his wiring work. Neither did we ask him to explain in writing where he had put things and why. He was a professional, experienced and had a great track record. We trusted his judgement as a trained tradesman and that was it.
Why is it so different in teaching?
On Friday I was walking around my classroom checking pupils’ progress and I noticed one of them had written God (in terms of Christianity) with a lowercase ‘g’. She had done so in a pencil so I sat down with her, rubbed out the ‘g’ and asked if she knew why I had done it. She asked: “Is it because it is a name?” I said yes and we discussed further that this might change if it were a different religion and she put in a capital with her pencil. Fingers crossed, she’ll recall this for next lesson, a good example of live marking. But, of course, there’s no evidence that this took place.
What if this was the case for all my books? What if there was no written marking, no green pen, no WWW or EBI? Would it matter to those who came in and looked? I’m not sure anymore.
Sometimes I get the feeling that simply sitting down talking, and well, teaching, pupils just isn’t enough. Surely it should be.
Just like with the electrician above, if the outcome is what is needed surely the only evidence you need is me. I can tell you about my pupils, I can tell you what I have done, how they’ve progressed in my subject. When you want to know about my class, just ask.
I could write it on a lesson plan, a seating plan, in marking but guess what’s quicker? Asking me.
I get that it takes longer to go around and ask everyone if they know their pupils and checking they’ve made a difference. But imagine what it could do for teachers’ sense of professionalism if the four following changes were made:
It was made clear that the SLT don’t expect to see lots of marking, but instead lots of lines through the work and rubbing out.
Staff are spoken to after an observation before it’s written up. Allowing them to explain the lesson opens a dialogue and ensures that any important parts weren’t missed.
Allow evidence to be kept in a teacher’s head. It’s a waste of time to ask a teacher to write something out, and the time could be better spent. If they can’t prove it, then suggest writing it might be a good strategy for that individual (not a policy for all).
Trust the outcomes and trust the teacher. They're the professional after all.
At my old school, no one ever used to trust that I had all my wires in place, even if it was clear that the light switched on. I am lucky now, I work in a school that treats me as a professional.
I just wish that it was the same for everyone and that all schools trusted their teachers. If the outcomes are constantly good, if the pupils are happy and doing well, let it be.
Allow the teacher to be the evidence of a job well done.
The writer is a teacher in the UK