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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Perspective in Reflective Practice

I had an abysmal last lesson.

It's true there was not much in it that went well.

Items were thrown, very little work seemed to get done, some students felt like a law unto themselves and I felt like an inadequate teacher.

Two years ago it would have made me cry and question what I was doing in teaching.

Last year it would have made me question what I was doing in teaching.

This year it made me take a deep breath. Work out why it failed - lack of energy from me due to being at open evening last night, presence of a student who is not there very often and acts like a catalyst to poor behaviour in others, other 'high level' students, and a task being too open ended and requiring independent work from 'weak' students (so probably not suitably differentiated).

Then after the briefest period of moping I clicked into gear and went to speak to people. I spoke to a member of my department who had the same year group last lesson - her group were hard core for her too. I went to speak to my second in department about moving that group out of a lab for a few lessons in order to give them a more confined area to work in while they focused on some theory. I spoke to the year head about the 'catalyst' student. He pointed out that student had been similar in other subjects - I logged his behaviour on SIMS and put a science report in place (which the key stage coordinator has agreed to mediate on).

I flicked through some of the work that did get done, and thought about the positive behaviour of the students who attempted the tasks I set. I will admit this didn't really lift my spirits too high. 

Two years ago I would have left school as soon as I could, a year ago I would have thrown myself on the floor then left. This year I saw some of my tutor group - who were being rewarded for 100% attendance/good behaviour last year with a 'pizza and movie night' and ended up eating lots of pizza and watching Kung Fu Panda with them in the lecture theatre.

It reminded me that my year 9's and 8's who I had also taught today were pretty awesome for me (as normal). That my tutor group are awesome. That my other classes are also very enjoyable to teach, and normally my year 10 group who I had just had are - although hard work - fairly enjoyable to teach.

All of that reminded me that I am not an inadequate teacher, I just had a bad lesson, something that when I started teaching never seemed to be an option when evaluating my performance.

So is there a moral to this? Is there anything to learn? Well yes and yes. One bad lesson doesn't a bad teacher make (also true the other way with 'outstandings' and some AST's I have known) and that with experience this is more believable than when you are an NQT. It also shows that while it is good to be a reflective practitioner often the reflective side is on the things that didn't work. Or the things you could have done instead. When actually it should have equal weighting with the things you do well, the moments of good learning you have seen and the times when it has felt good to be doing your job. So take a deep breath and put some perspective on a bad lesson, there is probably a reason for it that doesn't boil down to 'I'm a s**t teacher!'

After all there are enough politicians, parents and ignorant people out there trying to drag us down. Make sure that you are not one of them as well!

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