“How often do we hear or even get the opportunity to participate in a regular, focussed dialogue around teaching and learning? the ‘glue’ that holds all the component parts together.”
Over the last 12 years I’ve seen and been part of initiatives that have started at pace and then fizzled out over time. Not only can this be frustrating, but these become unnecessary distractions in education and potentially a time sponge for teachers. This can all too often take a teachers’ eye off the ball, where the ‘ball’ is the core business of teaching and learning. Last year we re-shaped teaching and learning at our school with a focus very much on quality first teaching. From time to time (and sometimes more frequently) in schools far and wide, we hear school leaders discussing behaviour, data and curriculum, banging the drum of the three big things and rightly so, but how often do we hear or even get the opportunity to participate in a regular, focussed dialogue around teaching and learning? the ‘glue’ that holds all these component parts together.
A school can have fantastic behaviour management strategies and systems, an immaculate curriculum model, providing a comprehensive education for all its students supported with a data tracking and analysis system that’s out of this world, but without quality being consistently delivered in the classroom what does all this amount to? In my opinion a large proportion of time and effort could be lost chasing mis-directed intervention, attending endless meetings discussing and analysing data (that may not be improving) and following up sanctions on low-level disruption due to the fact that there are inconsistencies in staff applying policy across the school, in fact one could argue that the latter may not be a significant issue if teaching is engaging, exciting and challenging.
“We all need to be a team player and collectively sweat the small stuff”
“Have you read your schools reward policy? More importantly, do you consistently apply it within your lessons?”
So, down to core business and although quality first teaching and learning is underpinned and driven by a fundamental understanding of pedagogy leading to student outcomes, we also need to be consistent in everything we do. And that doesn’t mean operating in silos, but instead all singing from the same ‘song sheet’. We all need to be a team player and collectively ‘sweat the small stuff’, this mind set is explored in a great blog from Ross McGill (aka @Teachertoolkit) and I recommend reading it here. In a nutshell, this is about knowing, living and breathing your schools routines and policies, but most importantly being consistent in applying them. The following, in no particular order, is a list intended to be used as an aide memoir, made up of key questions to ask yourself in a bid to keep your eye on the ‘core business’ ball:
- Class data/individual student information, class photo list/hand over notes from previous teacher(s) along with student work – do I have these? How will I use this to plan effectively for progress?
- Seating plans, is there a school policy on this? Do I fix a seating plan for the year or have various scenarios pre-planned according to content/learning activities? I recommend class charts as a great tool to quickly deploy this.
- Is there a meet and great policy? Do you meet all classes at the classroom door? Do they line up with equipment ready for you? Do they just drift in, in dribs and drabs?
- Learning objectives: is there a whole school policy on how and where learning objectives should be presented? Or do you have autonomy to deliver them as you wish? You may find my recent blog Pitching Learning to the Top useful
- Rewards – have you read your schools reward policy? More importantly, do you consistently apply it within your lessons, creating an aspirational culture to be the best you can be?
- Behaviour policy – when was the last time you read your schools behaviour policy? Again, if the situation occurs, do you use it consistently and fairly?
- Displays – keep them updated, keep them fresh and inspirational. There’s nothing worse than an outdated, ‘tatty’ learning environment.
- Marking/feedback – what does your school policy say? And remember not every piece needs to be marked, in fact, know what to mark and what not to mark, this blog may help: Marking – Effective, Developmental & Time Saving
Keep your eye on the ‘core business’ ball. I’d like to hear any additions you may have for this list.