Be Better – My reflection

This post started as a comment on Chris Betcher’s blog post “Be better”.  As I began to write, I realised I had a lot to say so it’s ended up as a post here on Teacher Technologies.  Please read Chris’ post and the comments he received for some context.

Having come from England, what Chris is describing is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to come to terms with as an Expat Teacher. In England every teacher is observed by measurable, national standards, at least once a year and are graded accordingly. The school they work in keeps a record of the grades they have been given and the measures they have taken to assist those who are struggling and to share the best practice of those who excel. The information they gather is used to differentiate in the same way we do in the classroom. Stronger teachers work with weaker ones (etc) to help improve practice.

Every 3 years schools are then inspected by an independent, national body to ensure that they are working at a nationally approved and measured standard. The grades they have given to teachers are checked and moderated and the whole school is inspected. As a result of this and our National Curriculum, the whole country is able to work together to improve standards by sharing and networking.The curriculum is not restrictive (as is the popular misconception of the Aussies I speak to) It has developed since 1989 so that its focus is skills not content and teachers have the freedom to be creative, innovative and inspiring with what they are given.

Unfortunately, the system I’ve entered here doesn’t measure its teachers or its schools. It doesn’t have a national standard that is assessed so that we can measure our progress. (although the NPSfT are an important step) To be honest, when I left England, I thought that, that would be great – OFSTED (the inspection team) can be a very stressful experience. However, 2 years on, I find it daunting and I have to say upsetting that there are teachers who feel they are entitled to say.. “but i’m retiring in X years so I’m not going to learn that”, that there are teachers around who are not engaging kids but giving them text books and telling them to turn to page 145…almost every lesson. And… even more sadly… that there are amazing teachers out there who do teach in an inspirational way who are never given the opportunity to be assessed against any standard and be recognised as the excellent practitioners they are.

When I lived and worked in England I hated the inspection system and the observations… now I understand how they made me the teacher I am today. They made me check what I was doing, strive to improve, learn new things, take risks, experiment and have fun learning.

Kynan, if you’re looking for a standard to measure teachers by then perhaps you should have a look at how the UK do it? It’s not perfect but it’s consistent, measured and pretty fair. It means that, as a teacher, you know how you measure up to every person in your profession. Although, there are obviously no ranked lists that we can access and judge, we do know whether we were deemed as satisfactory, good or outstanding.

We don’t have ‘Teacher Registration Boards’ but we do have probation years (NQT years) – and if you don’t pass them… you have to go back to uni and study again… We do have procedures for placing poorly performing teachers (measured by the national system) in situations where they can get support and help and, if nothing changes, they can be asked to leave (although it’s not easy to get to that point).

It’s not perfect but it’s pretty much what Chris describes here and… to be honest… i miss it. That four corners episode actually made me feel a bit sad that what we were seeing there isn’t common place in all schools. They’re doing a great job and I’d love to work in any one of the schools featured. No matter what their budget (there were a lot of tweets about how Knox were doing what they did because they were loaded – In my opinion that’s RUBBISH), they are inspiring teachers to be reflective practitioners, to continue to learn and want to achieve. If a school can’t do that for their staff, how well placed are they to do it for their students?

In my view it is about leadership, management and expectation. As teachers, we know that if you raise expectations, students usually meet them…. Do we expect the same thing of ourselves?

If you’re curious about what happens in an observation or you’d like to see an observation sheet from the UK then you might like to look at this blog post I wrote.

Comments

  • Chris Betcher
    Reply

    Hey Selena,

    Thanks for writing this thoughtful and considered post in response to the one I wrote. I feel the same way… it amazes me that there are so few checks and balances in our system. In the past 5 years at my current school I’ve never had anyone sit down with me to look at what I’m doing, assess whether I’m doing a good job, or offer assistance or suggestions on how to do it better. I’ve raised it a few times with the Powers That Be, just to make sure I wasn’t missing something important, but no, those processes are simply not in place (although thankfully that’s changing as of this year). My previous school of 5 years also had no such evaluations in place either. The school I was at for 9 years before that also had nothing in place. Nor did the school before that, or the school before that, or the school I taught at on exchange… That covers nearly 25 years of teaching in the public, catholic and independent sectors, in two countries, and never have I had anyone step into my classroom to look at what I was doing or whether I was doing it well, or offer suggestions on doing it better.

    For Richard (commenter on the original post) to say that incompetent teachers are a myth and don’t exist is just ridiculous. He suggest that the answer is professional development and training.  That would be fine if those teachers (and let’s be clear, it’s a very small percentage of the them) were at all interested in improving, but there are some I’ve met who simply are not.  It’s not that they don’t get training or have access to PD… they simply believe that the way they’ve always done things is the best way and they are content to repeat it unquestioningly year after year. They find new processes, research and technologies emerge, but none of these things have any effect on what they do, because they create a level of discomfort and resistance to change.  And if no one ever evaluates their performance or offers feedback on how to teach better, then why should they change?

    The question is not whether all teachers are perfect at their job… let’s be honest, none of us are perfect. The problem is that some of them are simply not interested in learning and improving and changing and getting better at what they do, or thinking critically and reflectively about their own abilities. 

    Whenever I say things like this I get accused of “teacher bashing”. Rubbish.  Calling for greater accountability and professionalism is not teacher bashing.  It’s simply stating that I’ve observed a very small minority of our profession who do not seem to be as concerned with improving and growing as they should be. I am well aware that there are many caring, thoughtful, reflective educators out there who are deeply aware of the need to learn and grow, and clearly I’m not directing any of this criticism towards them.

  • Chris Betcher
    Reply

    Hey Selena,

    Thanks for writing this thoughtful and considered post in response to the one I wrote. I feel the same way… it amazes me that there are so few checks and balances in our system. In the past 5 years at my current school I’ve never had anyone sit down with me to look at what I’m doing, assess whether I’m doing a good job, or offer assistance or suggestions on how to do it better. I’ve raised it a few times with the Powers That Be, just to make sure I wasn’t missing something important, but no, those processes are simply not in place (although thankfully that’s changing as of this year). My previous school of 5 years also had no such evaluations in place either. The school I was at for 9 years before that also had nothing in place. Nor did the school before that, or the school before that, or the school I taught at on exchange… That covers nearly 25 years of teaching in the public, catholic and independent sectors, in two countries, and never have I had anyone step into my classroom to look at what I was doing or whether I was doing it well, or offer suggestions on doing it better.

    For Richard (commenter on the original post) to say that incompetent teachers are a myth and don’t exist is just ridiculous. He suggest that the answer is professional development and training.  That would be fine if those teachers (and let’s be clear, it’s a very small percentage of the them) were at all interested in improving, but there are some I’ve met who simply are not.  It’s not that they don’t get training or have access to PD… they simply believe that the way they’ve always done things is the best way and they are content to repeat it unquestioningly year after year. They find new processes, research and technologies emerge, but none of these things have any effect on what they do, because they create a level of discomfort and resistance to change.  And if no one ever evaluates their performance or offers feedback on how to teach better, then why should they change?

    The question is not whether all teachers are perfect at their job… let’s be honest, none of us are perfect. The problem is that some of them are simply not interested in learning and improving and changing and getting better at what they do, or thinking critically and reflectively about their own abilities. 

    Whenever I say things like this I get accused of “teacher bashing”. Rubbish.  Calling for greater accountability and professionalism is not teacher bashing.  It’s simply stating that I’ve observed a very small minority of our profession who do not seem to be as concerned with improving and growing as they should be. I am well aware that there are many caring, thoughtful, reflective educators out there who are deeply aware of the need to learn and grow, and clearly I’m not directing any of this criticism towards them.

  • Selena Woodward
    Reply

    This is a test comment.  One poster (Richard) said he was having trouble commenting.  If you find you’re in the same boat please let me know using the contact form.  The last thing we want is for you not to be able to have your voice heard! 🙂

  • Selena Woodward
    Reply

    This is a test comment.  One poster (Richard) said he was having trouble commenting.  If you find you’re in the same boat please let me know using the contact form.  The last thing we want is for you not to be able to have your voice heard! 🙂