A Better Way

The call has been made and a whole community jump into action. Professionals continue to act normally in front of the children, but under this calm exterior the feeling of dread and darkness fills their hearts. The thought of the stress and anxiety the will follow makes grown adults verge on the edge of tears. The inspectors are coming.

discussionFirstly, let me set out by saying that I do not have an axe to grind with Ofsted, the Government’s school inspection organisation for England. Quite the contrary. Each time the inspectors have observed me teach I have been assessed as outstanding – the top grade. Yet, like most teachers, when the O-word is mentioned a feeling of dread and insecurity takes over. It shouldn’t be this way.

There is a better way. I understand that it is important to have external visitors visiting the school to improve that school and keep things fresh, but does the current system do this? I propose a more balance relationship with the inspectorate with allows a proper discussion about how to improve the educational opportunities and achievement in a school with ‘inspectors’ who are on the educational front-line. Two of the main criticisms of Ofsted is that they are unaccountable for the decisions they make and that they point out what is wrong about a school or lesson without in depth feedback of ways that they could be made better.

I envisage a system with elements of jury duty and the scientific peer review which selects a group of practising teachers from a range of other schools who form teams which go in and provide fresh eyes and help a school to improve as a ‘critical friend’. The visits could take place for one day per week for a number of weeks, so the teams could get a real feel for a school and so to not disrupt their own classes to much. I believe that teachers, pupils and the school community would much prefer to be helped to improve rather than judged. The teams would observe lessons, the management and the school as a whole and then help tailor CPD needs and offer suggested improvements the systems of the school.

I believe that a ‘report’ is still necessary for the community to know how a school is doing, but the focus needs to be on what will be put in place and development for the future. A ‘statement of intent’ if you will, which outlines areas seen as weaknesses and an outline of how the school intends to tackle them – Similar to a school improvement plan.

Schools deemed to have more need to improve would have more visits than schools deemed to be doing well.

I have never been to a school which didn’t want to improve and schools should continually look over their school wall to find innovative ways of doing things to provide better learning opportunities for their students. Hosting teachers from other schools to help identify areas to improve and create a dialogue between colleagues with similar issues is now becoming increasingly common and it provides some of the best opportunities to improve a school. Ofsted take note.

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Reach Out and Teach

The door closes and I am alone, but all eyes are on me. Walking to the front of the room with the excitement and anticipation of what is about to happen and what may occur. Ideas are swirling, plucked from a myriad of minds. The plan has been shaped by many, but I alone know what the result has been. Yet in a few seconds it will belong us and the possibilities are boundless. Then the thoughts are spoken, “Good morning class. The world has planned a great lesson for you.”

There is a seismic shift happening in education. It has been happening for years and it affects almost all educators. Yet many teachers are not engaging fully with the possibilities. Many educators share a great deal of their resources and ideas online. But these educators are far from the majority. Most educators squirrel away vast quantities of fanatic resources and lesson ideas, which languish on tiring laptops and on over stretched school servers until they are deleted by a mistimed mouse click or by a frustrated computer technician. Sorry to be confrontational – but how selfish! My class could have benefitted from that…

I’m sure that you have searched, downloaded, adapted and taught using many other educators’ ideas and materials. But how much do you contribution to the online collection yourself? There are a range of ways how other educators could benefit from the resources and ideas that you make anyway in your daily teaching practice.

Firstly, start at home… well… your second home… school. Do you share ideas and resources widely in your school? Is there a place to publicly display and share resources openly in your school? Perhaps your idea was designed with Year 6 in mind, but it may inspire your Year 1 colleague to produce a valuable lesson for their class.

ImageSharing in your school is a great beginning and a ethos of collaboration and team work is vital for schools. Yet there are millions of other educators from around the world who may benefit from your ideas.  Make your ideas and resources available online for all to find. There are many ways to do this. Many teachers choose to upload resources to a corporate resource sharing site, which is easy and a good start. But there are other ways.

Many educators choose to blog there resources and ideas as they make, design and think of them and upload documents and posts for other teachers to use and adapt. Setting this up in relativity simple and acts as a great searchable archive for you, your colleagues and others. Another option is to curate your ideas by uploading and sharing to sites like Pinterest where there is a huge and growing educational community of teachers sharing resources and ideas from across the web.

Many educators have begun using services like DropBox, Copy or Google Drive to keep their files accessible where ever they go. It is easy to make a folder public and every time you put a files into the folder on your computer, it automatically syncs to the web making it accessible to everyone. I have started a directory of these cloud resources on website at ictmagic.wikispaces.com/Resource+Bank

You may even wish to take things to the next step and write a book about your teaching ideas to appeal to the masses, like Ross Morrison McGillMark Anderson & many others.

However you choose to share, you may want to tell someone that they exist. A great place to do this is on Twitter where you can find thousands of educators from all over the world. Educators in the UK may like to check out the #UKedchat hashtag, follow @UKedchat and visit http://ukedchat.com for details about how to get involved. International educators should start from #EDchat. In both cases, groups of educators swap, share and discuss teaching ideas and resources which can help you in your class.

You may wish to meet up with other enthusiastic educators in your region to discuss would works for them in their class and share your experience and expertise. EDcamps and TeachMeets are a wonderful way to reach out to to other teachers and share ideas, resources and tips in an exciting and informal way. These are organised by a group of enthusiastic educators and usually anyone can share ideas to the group or simply listen to other teachers who face similar challenges to you.

However you choose to share and collaborate, whether it is with the teacher along the corridor or to thousands of educators on Twitter, the 21st century educator should no long be alone in the crafting and planning of learning experiences for their class. There are simply too many great ideas passing you by. You owe it to your class to find the best ideas and activities for them and you owe it to my class to share it once you have found it.

So thank you to all those educators who have reached out and helped teach the children in my class. I hope that I have played some small part in the learning of your children.