WHAT A PERFORMANCE!

It is really difficult not to show off when your teaching is being observed.  The stakes are high and if you, like me, consider teaching an art form, you are metaphorically laying your soul out for someone to scrutinise.  Of course you want to show yourself in the best possible light.  Of course you want everything to go right…who wouldn’t?  We may do a little extra if we know our classrooms will be visited – it’s natural. Some may teach completely differently to normal when being observed. How can you separate blatant performance from reality?  Does it really matter?

This blog is about showing off unnecessarily (or necessarily for some!)  Putting on a show lesson – a one off.  In other words….NOT typical!

The kids know when their teachers are doing it.  They’re not daft.  The monotony suddenly gives way like a ray of light through the football marked window.  Resources suddenly appear on lots of different coloured sheets, there is a flashy presentation to match.  Those pupils that struggle are suddenly helped with some scaffolding and keywords sheets.  Absolutely EVERYTHING is announced by the teacher as if they are narrating the lesson as well as teaching it.  The coloured worksheets are loudly and unashamedly put down in front of the pupils.  You have never heard so many ‘WOW – that’s excellent,’ or ‘you’re making amazing progress’ (for underlining a title) or ‘let’s just flip back and check the objectives.’  You notice it’s ALL teacher….are the pupils as excited? Are they giving as much as the teacher, or is there an imbalance?  Every time you go to a pupil to speak, the teacher is suddenly there directing the conversation you were about to have, until you manage to break free and a pupil says to you ‘we never normally have lessons like this.’

Technically, everything this lesson should contain in terms of ingredients was right there loud, proud and totally in your face.  You notice though, that the pupils are not giving 100%.  They passively get through the lesson doing as the teacher asks, but not much else.  The pupils arrived to the lesson in dribs and drabs.  The T.A stares vacantly out of the window.  When students ‘get it’ they are given more of the same – even the pupils who understood it 5 minutes into the lesson.  Mysteriously, all the pupils are working on sheets – not an exercise book in sight.  As the teacher patrols the room, they stamp random pupil work with a smiling green frog that says ‘well done!’

OK – that example is totally fictitious and possibly a bit cynical but a couple of years ago, a teacher may have been able to get away with a bit of a performance in a lesson and be held up as a good example of teaching and learning.  Not any more.  It’s great to show off and vital when you want to show the best of your practice and share great ideas and pedagogy with others, but…..who are you showing off to?  What are you putting a performance on for?  What is the purpose? Why?

Teaching with passion and enthusiasm and enjoying what you do consistently can not be faked.  Neither can progress over time and ensuring good rules, routines and relationships are set up from the beginning.   Progress is a process.  It can be seen and is a pleasure and privilege to observe.  When the teacher asks questions, pupils answer confidently or feel challenged but supported.  The learners ask questions too.  The pupils know when it’s time to apply their knowledge.  They take pride in their work.  Learning and teaching is not binary….it cannot be switched on and off.  The relationships and expectations are constant – by observing, you are witnessing a very small part of a long journey.  You know it, the teacher knows it and the pupils know it.  When you see great teaching, you have no choice but to encourage the teacher to ‘show off’ their great teaching for the benefit of others.  Whether you are charismatic or quietly confident in what you do – solid, consistent typical teaching and the impact on learning can be seen without exaggerating teaching strategies, making different coloured worksheets or ensuring you have ‘included’ everything in the lesson like a tick box exercise or a recipe list.  It’s much deeper than that.  Get the basics absolutely spot on first before adding the frills.

I was looking into the psychology of showing off and there are many different reasons for it, and I’m sure we can all think of people we may have met that fit into each category – where would you place yourself?! – here are a couple of examples:

  • Those that show off to mask something about themselves or their performance
  • Those that think they are wonderful and HAVE to let everyone know about their talents
  • Those that genuinely are not showing off but seem like they are because they are so good

Putting on a performance can skew the whole school picture of teaching and learning if you are not really examining typical teaching or daily practice.  This can be avoided by following the steps below:

1) Think about the pre-conditions needed to secure progress over time – these should be great, staple habits in every classroom
  • Student engagement – attitude to learning
  • Recap, refocus and intervention – this includes written and verbal feedback
  • Effective explanation and modelling
  • Student application of knowledge
  • Appropriate pitch and differentiation
  • Questioning to check understanding
2) Have well organised lesson observations that serve only the improvement of teaching and learning
3) Do NOT grade the teaching – instead focus on strengths to share and improvements to master
4) Be thorough – to determine the true quality of teaching look at the teaching, the pupils’ work and the data
5) Ensure feedback to staff is a dialogue – be honest, suggest improvements – sometimes the dialogue might be tough but worth it

I have blogged about lesson evaluation here – click the link below:

https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/evaluating-teaching/

6) Develop a no-nonsense approach to improving DAILY teaching – dig in, involve everyone!
7) Organise and encourage learning walks, open door events and informal peer-peer observations

I have blogged about our TEACHWEEK event here – click the link below:

https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/teachweek/

8) TRUST AND BE TRUSTED!

Finally, my absolute belief in the fact that adopting great habits gives rise to excellent daily practice was written about here https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/thats-just-typical/ and is my most re-blogged and viewed.  I really am passionate that we should monitor the the quality of teaching and learning to develop, share and improve it, not to point score and prove ourselves.  Be genuine – aim for great daily practice, keep planning fresh – know when it’s time to pull all the stops out WITHOUT having to put on a big performance!  Aim to be the teacher who delivers amazing lessons where the pupils say….’yeah – it’s normally like this in this lesson – that’s why we love it!

Self-awareness, Teams, Trust and Johari

The phrase ‘team work’ often gets banded around in many environments but what does it actually mean?  I think the concept of team runs much deeper than a group of people working together towards a common goal.  Team work is complex, intricate and within the team, relationships, behaviours and individual strengths should be well balanced and complementary for maximum impact.

In this short blog post, I want to briefly examine self awareness, team, trust and how they link together.

I am really fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be part of many teams since being a youngster and throughout my life and career.  Whether it was swimming, athletics or being part of a choir or orchestra, my understanding of team was not from reading about it but actually being a part of it, like many people in leadership positions.

To be part of an effective team, you have to be extremely self-aware.  You must know your strengths, limitations and your impact on others.  As a young person, I didn’t really think about the concept of team much – we just did it.  As an adult, mum, leader and professional I have become increasingly interested in ‘team.’  Especially more recently.  We all rely on teams, we are all part of at least one team!  Team work has been cheesed-up quite a lot – I am not blogging about McTeam today.  Team work and self-awareness  should be taken really seriously.

But these most visible leadership abilities build not just on empathy, but also on managing ourselves and sensing how what we do affects others.” 
― 
Daniel GolemanFocus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Know yourself – know others.

In your team(s) is everyone open?  If so, your team is probably really effective.  Professional, respectful and mutual trust exists amongst the team members.  They feel confident to ask questions, give opinions, solve issues and accomplish much together under a common vision or goal.    When I first started exploring the concept of team seriously, I came across the Johari Window.  Many of you will have used this, or discussed it in some form.  It’s really useful in a team context.

It’s nothing new at all, in fact, it has been used extensively in educational leadership, but I thought it was a great model/tool to help develop trust and with the help of feedback from colleagues, learn loads about yourself and others and develop team functionality.   The model was developed in 1955  by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (hence the name Johari).

johari good image

The model (pictured above) is divided into four segments.

Segment 1 – The Open area – this is what is known to you and others about yourself

Segment 2 – The Blind area – represents what is unknown to you but known to others

Segment 3 – The Hidden area – this is what you know about yourself but is not known by others

Segment 4 – The Unknown area – not known by you and not know by others

The aim of any group should be to develop the open area of the team and all within the team.   The open area is the space where good communication and co-operation occurs.  The size of the open area can be maximised horizontally by pushing and extending  into the blind space.  This can be achieved by actively seeking, listening to and acting on feedback.  This could be particularly useful when becoming a member of an existing and established team.

The open can also be extended downwards into the hidden area in a process of telling and disclosure.  It is totally natural to keep some things private – common sense, but in the hidden area there may be relevant sensitivities, fears, insecurities, hidden agendas, manipulative intentions.  Where it is work related – it is better out in the open.  Reducing the size of the hidden area reduces potential for misunderstanding and poor communication.

The most exciting area to me is the unknown!  These might be skills that have not been used or developed yet, behaviours, capabilities that can be beneficial.  The unknown area is all about self and team discovery.   The unknown may be really deep feelings or facets of personality that influence behaviour.

The Johari model represents and illustrates perfectly (IMHO) the need to share, listen and develop.  I think this should be the crux of any team.   People with large open areas generally are very ‘free,’ easy to talk to and communicate very well.   The actual goal of the Johari model was to open the channels of communication to develop team trust.

The single most important aspect of ‘team’ is trust.  The Johari model, or whatever model it is that a school uses to develop and build self and team awareness is utterly pointless without high trust.

Leaders should be trustworthy, and this worthiness is an important virtue.  Without trust leaders lose credibility.  This loss poses difficulties to leaders as they seek to call people to respond to their responsibilities.  The painful alternative is to be punitive, seeking to control people through manipulation or coercion.  But trust is a virtue in other ways too.  The building of trust is an organisational quality…Once embedded in the culture of the school, trust works to liberate people to be their best, to give others their best, and to take risks.’ (Sergiovanni 2005 p90)

If a team knows the strengths of each of its members based on trust and thoughtful, sensitive, constructive feedback, leadership at all stages will flourish.   Covey (2006 p19) believes that ‘when trust is high, the dividend you receive is like a performance multiplier…..high trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation….’   I agree with Covey and love his concept of ‘performance multiplier.’  But it all starts with opening up.  The first step to trust is to trust!  The best indicator of trust in a school is whether leadership is devolved and shared across the school regardless of a persons’ age, status or role.  A further indicator is the success of the teams within the organisation.  Is the development of relationships on the same level as having impact with a task, and does the team regularly ask ‘How are we doing?’ and ‘How can we improve?’

A deeper understanding of ourselves through effective feedback, communication and sense of team will develop into a high trust environment.  This will enhance leadership within yourself and others and contribute to securing effective teaching and learning.

What an Inspirational Week!

Last week was so busy but really enjoyable!  I organised a ‘TEACHWEEK’ at school.  This involved an ‘open door event’ where staff signed up to visit colleagues’ classrooms to observe good practice, a teaching and learning market place, form activities and a series of assemblies.  The main aim of this week was to encourage a whole school dialogue about improving teaching and learning, to provide opportunities for staff to lead CPD and to launch and introduce the main concepts of adopting a ‘growth mindset’ during assemblies and form activities.  If you missed last week’s blog, you can check it out here…..

https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/teachweek/

and the assembly is here……

https://prezi.com/ceqobbcyl3dt/nobody-is-born-clever/

I was a little overwhelmed by the positive reactions of staff to the open door event.  I wanted to improve the view of being observed and observing others, as for some, it had become quite a negative experience.  Therefore, it was great to hear conversations about what worked in the lessons seen…even for specific children.  It meant that staff were really valuing, evaluating and reflecting on the practice that they had directly observed. Every time I heard ‘I’m going to try that,’ or ‘he’s really good for you…how do you do it?’ or ‘I’ve never observed a lesson since my NQT year, it was great to do again,’ and finally ‘wish we could do this more often,’  It made me smile.  I hope we can build on this momentum, with the aim to be habitually in and out of each others lessons for CPD purposes and developing the use of IRIS within school.  We have so much to be proud of, but equally and realistically, much to improve……hasn’t everyone?!

Moreover, the marketplace we held was awesome!  We had some amazing CPD sessions delivered by staff who really put their very best practice out there for everyone to use and develop.  A few of the sessions were extremely creative!  The afternoon provided learning, laughter and  inspiration.  I got a few positive comments on the assembly and resources too from staff and pupils! One teacher said that during the assembly, a pupil she had battled with about ‘attitude’ had the grace to look over to her with a guilty look and acknowledge that he’d been a pain! Result!  Some staff have requested a copy of the image I used in the assembly to put up in their classroom…a lovely idea!  We are all on the ladder somewhere!

steps to success

I implore anyone who is reading (has anyone got this far?!) especially if you feel like your school has lost it’s way a little bit with data, data, data at the very top of the agenda dictating everything, to organise some kind of week/fortnight in their school that promotes teaching and learning and puts it truly back at the forefront where it should be.  Teaching and Learning, coupled to USEFUL data should be the driving force of every decision, every plan, every day, for every person in a school.  Not that I’m biased……but without great teaching and learning, you won’t get the great data.

We’re working on feedback now….have been for a couple of weeks!

In the week preceeding our TEACHWEEK – all the staff were consulted on feedback to pupils.  We have come up together, with a list of bullet points that we consider non-negotiable when it comes to giving quality feedback to pupils and how to signpost progress in pupils’ work more consistently.  What we have suggested as a body of staff seems like common sense, but when provided in a framework makes it more objective.  Expectations are spelled out in black and white, yet the framework is flexible enough for vital departmental idiosyncrasy.  The outcomes for this huge piece of work we have done on feedback and marking is ‘pick up any book, folder or portfolio and see development of learning.’  Equally, the pupils need to be addressing and deepening their learning as a result of the feedback.  Staff were further consulted about the framework at our marketplace and it was accordingly adapted.  We will revisit this at our staff CPD afternoon on Tuesday for some final consultation and tweaks ready to launch formally before Easter.  There has been so much consultation because it is important that we get it right for everyone – especially the children, but of course, it is a ‘work in progress’ and is subject to evaluation and review at any point.  My prezi for the original session launching the development of feedback and marking in school can be found here…..

https://prezi.com/kxuaz6cjckhk/feedback-getting-it-right/

….and I will be blogging about how we do feedback with all the documents and resources very soon!