Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Longest Day

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Longest Day

Article excerpt

A planned observation is probably the least accurate representation of teaching competency. Observations are sold to us as a means of identifying what professional development is required to make us even better at this teaching business. When they go well, we are kings of the world. When they go wrong, we're told not to worry, it's the lesson that is being graded, not the teacher. Then we're bundled down a corridor where people in suits smile while they hiss words like "capability procedures".

Obviously, we need to have some sort of process to determine teaching skill and ensure that learners are getting access to the best education. However, an hour-long planned performance with an audience member taking notes is just that: a performance. We know the rules of getting a reasonable grade and we try our best to follow them. But a real lesson goes from outstanding to "get your coat" and back again in the space of 10 minutes.

I have been observed many times and it never fails to keep me awake with worry. So when I got the email putting me on notice of another inspection, I cancelled everything I had scheduled for the afternoon and evening the day before in order to plan my lesson meticulously.

I woke up 24 hours before Observation Day to find the patio door hanging off its frame and a chunk of the casing missing from the outside. It looked as though someone had tried to force it open. It was only after calling the police that I thought about the implications of being home alone with my young son and the threat of an intruder. …

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