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:


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:



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!

Where does the time go?

They say time flies when you’re having fun. I’m not convinced. I think time just flies.

Here we all are again, limbering up for the exam season. Another year, counting down our lessons or days left until the examinations, trying to inject some sense of urgency into our pupils while walking the fine line between giving necessary support, keeping everyone motivated or positive yet applying enough pressure for pupils to take responsibility.

As teachers, during term time our lives are dominated by timetables and routines that are indifferently monitored by the school bell or stroke of the clock hand, mechanically reminding everyone to move on to the next thing. The build up to the exams always makes me think about time…..probably because there never seems to be enough hours in the day and that it seems to be moving at an incredible pace. It seems Earth increased its rotation.

I have noticed over the years that younger people (it’s all relative remember) have a different perspective of time. I remember having a ‘loads of time’ attitude as a teenager. Nothing ever really mattered until it really DID matter. I recall my parents and teachers saying, ‘only eight weeks from the exam!’ And me genuinely thinking ‘WOW – that’s ages!’ It never crossed my mind that the exams, whether it be GCSE or A level were a culmination of YEARS in the education system. I thought prep for exams was something that happened a couple of months beforehand. So I really try to make my pupils see the importance and relevance of every lesson – even if it’s the first of the course!
Nowadays I am stunned at the passage of time whether I’m having fun or not. They say it heals all, it can be killed, we try to save it and make it but time is a mystery to me and the differences in perception of time are even more of an enigma.

So, where does time go? One article I was recently reading indicated that our brains measure time relative to the memories we create over a certain period. The more memories made, the faster time seems to travel. I’m not sure about this theory. You would think young adults make many memories over the course of a short period of time, therefore their perception of ‘8 weeks until the exams’ would be more realistic. I read another article and it speculated that for middle aged people, day to day time is perceived as ‘normal’ whatever that means, but weeks, months and years go far too quickly. Now even though I’m not middle aged YET, I get that! Weeks just hurtle by. As do years…….16 years since the last proper eclipse! I had just completed first year of Uni. Scary.

So as the seconds tick, as each bell rings how are you actually using your precious time? Our lives and the time we get are miniscule in the grand scheme of things. We shouldn’t really be thinking about our time or even worse, the lack of it in school, but instead thinking about the time our pupils have. It is such a short period and we need to use it so effectively to teach, inspire, and help children and young adults to make the best possible use of time! It should never ever be wasted.

One of my favourite Floyd songs is ‘Time.’ Here are some lyrics……have a listen if you get chance too!



Let’s make sure that all our children hear the starting gun and know precisely when to run. Let’s ensure we are teaching them to be the pilots of their time.


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…..


and the assembly is here……


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…..


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


At Christmas I was reading some research by Viviane Robinson.  This was conducted in 2009 but I consider it very relevant.  It is about ‘School Leadership and Student Outcomes’ and what works best.  It explores the effect size of leadership initiatives and actions and their impact on student outcomes.  Put simply, an effect size of 0.2 is weak and an effect size of 0.6 or over is an initiative or intervention that is deemed to have significant impact (similar methodology to Hattie.)   As Hattie says ‘It’s not what works because 90% of all interventions are positive….it’s what works BEST.’  Robinson’s work tries to establish leadership foci that have most impact on student outcomes.  In the summary of the best Evidence Synthesis (Summary – School Leadership and Student Outcomes) it clearly states that ‘A strong message from the study was the link between student success and the active participation of school leaders in professional development and learning with their staff.’   In other words……ENGAGE, TALK, SHARE, LEAD, COLLABORATE, IMPROVE.

To encourage active participation and leadership of learning at my school between teachers OR leaders (I would argue they are the same) we are having a ‘TEACHWEEK.’  The main objective of the week is to build up trust and teamwork but mainly to ignite the whole teaching and learning DIALOGUE.  I want us to create a buzz and get everyone participating in improving and developing their practice and committing whole-heartedly to their own professional development.


come on in

Running throughout the week, we have a wonderful team of great staff that have volunteered to ‘open’ their classroom doors to any member of staff that would like to visit when they are free.  It includes senior leaders being observed too!  This was advertised to staff on a timetable pinned up in the library so teachers could select the lessons they would wish to visit.  As a result we have 17 peer observations occurring during the week.  I’m sure there will be more to follow.  I really want to develop informal observations.  I think it was @teachertoolkit that tweeted ‘the best way to improve teaching is to observe and to be observed’ …so true!  I’m sure that staff will find visiting other classrooms beneficial and see how teachers inspire, engage and motivate their students to achieve.  Hopefully there will be lots of cross-pollination between departments.  Equally, those great teachers who have opened their classroom doors are being given the opportunity to lead the way and demonstrate why they are so successful in their classrooms!  Those that have observed can share the strengths seen at their faculty meetings with their departments – another opportunity for teaching and learning leadership.


mattie stepanek

I have to thank @headguruteacher for the inspiration for this – though I think maybe his marketplace sessions run a little differently??

All staff were invited to submit a session they would like to lead during our CPD afternoon on Tuesday.  Nine staff volunteered really useful and informative micro-CPD sessions of twenty minutes on all things teaching and learning – from entrepreneurship to using google effectively, to building students’ confidence for communication.  As with the open door event, the timetable was pinned up in the library and teachers, T.As and pastoral staff chose the sessions they wanted to attend.  It has all been organised now and over 30 CPD sessions will be running throughout the afternoon!   I will be tweeting about this on Tuesday with everything going on from my school account @DVHSTeachLearn.  It looks really good and again, provides opportunities for staff to lead on what they are passionate about.


Throughout the week, pupils will be engaged in teaching and learning activities during form time.  As a school we have not really embraced the ‘growth mindset’ philosophy yet – so it’s time to get the ball rolling, and TEACHWEEK provides the perfect opportunity! We will initially be focusing more on teaching the children about resilience, grit, how the brain works and the qualities of having a growth mindset using some tweaked/adapted resources from the centre for confidence and well being. (http://www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/) – @CfCWB THANK YOU very, very much!


I will be doing the assemblies for the week – my first as Assistant Principal…EEK!  I know I will enjoy it though!  Must remember to read my blog post on how to avoid getting nervous!  https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/getting-on-my-nerves/

I want to promote great attitude to learning as well as developing teaching.   @chrishildrew thanks for the inspiration ‘attitude determines altitude’.  Here’s my prezi link – can be used during form time or in an assembly.    https://prezi.com/ceqobbcyl3dt/nobody-is-born-clever/ Thanks @khanacademy for the video I’m using.

So, they are the main events for the week!  Just about to settle down and put the finishing touches in.  I’m sure it’s going to be really busy, but I hope we will all have a great time and learn loads!  I hope this is the spring of the ‘active participation’ that Viviane Robinson talks about in her study.  The impact is yet to be seen…….watch this space!

What’s your Motivation? #loveteaching

Not many perks in teaching.  We get a debatable salary for the amount of work we do, especially considering the importance of our job.  We have had no pay rise for years (like most of the world, it has to be said) in fact, we have had an effective pay cut. Our pensions have been raided with most of us having to teach until we’re relics before we can retire comfortably.  The work load is sometimes unbearable.  We get mostly bad press.  We are messed around left, right and centre by politicians and exam boards, measured from every angle imaginable (to what effect?!) and pitched against one another in the league tables.   I know everyone who is not a teacher comments on the holidays, but realistically, let’s face it, we work, we mark papers, we plan ahead…do we REALLY ever switch off and forget it for a while?

Yet still, we have SPIRIT – something pushes us on, something inspires us to keep going.

Hope I’ve grabbed your attention?!

Despite all of the above, and the fact that most of the time, it is a thankless profession I couldn’t think of a better job to do.   I implore ANYONE who is critical (or not) of schools, teachers and teaching to try it – get involved and see how it all works.  I was asked recently what motivates me.  I found it a really difficult question to answer as it’s so deep rooted and totally embedded into my psyche.

I love the people I work with.  Pupils and staff.  So many characters, so colourful, so much going on, the camaraderie, the hustle and bustle.  If you have planned your day down to the last detail….it could all take a completely different direction the minute you get into work!   I love the occasional spontaneity or unexpected – because it means that EVERY day is different. I am able to use my initiative properly and often have to think on my feet.

I love getting results (not just grades!) – helping others to achieve their goals.  Seeing the ‘light bulb’ moments in the classroom, to hearing from previous pupils who have done really well for themselves and are achieving their goals.  If I was a banker, my value would be in how much money I had made, but to add value to someone’s life in whatever small and wonderful way is a better pay-off than anything…..it’s the best experience in the world.  As a teacher, you get the chance to make a real difference.  You get given the chance to make memories and have a real legacy.

I enjoy being part of a team that understands how being a teacher feels.  I love all the skills you learn that are a natural part of the job, from ICT to dealing with tight budgets and time management.  I love to improve and develop – I think that is natural in many teachers.

Most of all, I love smiles – and you certainly get plenty of those as a teacher.   ALL teachers that read this know, when a pupil says ‘thanks miss’ or ‘thanks sir’ on the way out of your room – you’re a winner!  We are under masses of pressure at the moment (actually most of the time!) and that is why we ALL need to respect, support and celebrate our profession for the jewel that it SHOULD and CAN be!  Well done teachers everywhere!  

What do you love about your job?  What motivates you?  How can you help motivate others?  I think we should say what we love about our profession, using #loveteaching

work of heart

Evaluating Teaching

The first round of lesson observations, using my new system of ‘no grades’ was conducted in December, and having completed the analysis, I am actually quite pleased by how it has gone.  It was brave to ‘go for it’ and ditch the grades…..my school is in serious weaknesses and I wasn’t even SLT back then in December!  Previously, it has been ‘all about the grade ’bout the grade -no trouble  (that was reference to a song by the way if you momentarily didn’t know what I was talking about!) and before you had even discussed what was brilliant or needed improvement about a teachers lesson in their feedback…they wanted to know what number they were, me included when I was observed!  The grading system worked OK if you were a 1 or a 2……especially if you were consciously competent and knew WHY you were good, but it works less well, if you are NTI or worse.  A meaningless number for an individual member of staff is NOT going to help their practice no matter what!  Therefore I questioned the impact of giving lesson ‘grades’ on pupil progress, which is ultimately what we want to improve.  I was also a little concerned about ‘one-off’ showy lessons being performed, graded and the whole teaching and learning of the school being judged on this.

My first work on this started about 8 months ago.  I was doing lots of reading and research about ‘typicality’ and ‘daily practice’ and realised that if we were to improve teaching and learning, it’s what teachers do, day-in day-out that is going to make a difference.  I started thinking about how we could evaluate that and after much thought, I came up with six pre-conditions for progress’ that great teachers instil in their classrooms in abundance on a daily basis.  Things that you can’t really switch on and off for a lesson observation.  These six conditions are as follows:

  • Student Engagement
  • Appropriate Pitch and Differentiation
  • Effective Explanation and Modelling
  • Questioning to Check Understanding
  • Recap, Refocus and Intervention
  • Student Application to Demonstrate Learning

CPD with all staff defined each of these ‘pre-conditions’ and how they linked to progress in a lesson.  We spent some time together on questioning, student engagement and will be spending time this year on Recap, Refocus and Intervention – which is largely feedback, verbal and non-verbal.

I then looked at how PROGRESS DATA correlated with existing teaching and learning data….there was NO correlation at all.  You would think that good and outstanding teachers would achieve good and outstanding results. There was a huge gap between teaching grades and pupil outcomes. I also presented this to staff, so that everyone was clear.  We were saying our teaching was ok, but actually our results were not suggesting our teaching was OK at all!  Moral of the story – WHAT WE DO IN OUR CLASSROOMS HAS A DIRECT IMPACT ON THE SUCCESS OF OUR PUPILS!!  So I knew, that in the evaluation of teaching and learning we had to take account of data.  After each data capture, staff now receive a print out of their class results.   Staff make this data available during any observations and are encouraged to scribble any contextual information on the sheet – for example ‘attends revision each Wednesday.’  It takes 2 minutes and is a record of how each teacher has intervened.  It also identifies PP children so any gaps can be seen immediately.  As new data comes in, for each data capture, you should be able to track the progress over time and the impact of the teaching on the learning.

I then thought about pupil work, and during an observation (or any time) it is possible to look at the quality, sequence and progress in books/folders etc.  You can also see the effectiveness of feedback.  Looking at work and talking to the pupils about it gives a really clear indication of progress over time and opportunity for gathering some pupil voice.

So my three strands for judging the quality of teaching and learning are:

PROGRESS IN THE LESSON (using the six pre-conditions for progress)



When these three vital aspects of teaching are RAG rated and triangulated it gives a good indication of the typical practice but MOST importantly, gives a really good and thorough focus for feedback.  Teachers are recognising and talking about how these three areas are all interdependent.  It is LESS about the ‘number’ now, and much, much more about the open and honest conversations that have to take place in order to move forward.  For each strand, Red is defined as ‘does not support progress,’ Yellow is ‘with some areas for development,’ and Green is ‘demonstrating significant strength.’  SLT and middle leaders will be able to discuss progress from three different angles with data to justify evaluations.  Using this system we can also show progress over time for the teaching and learning in school too!  BONUS!

To test the quality of the system (and because I’m a bit of a geek anyway), I pivoted the difference in progress data from HT to FT against the RAG rating for the preconditions for progress.  The hypothesis being that if a teacher had ‘significant strength’ in their lesson observation, they would make the most pupil progress – it was a clear relationship apart from one anomaly! The greens were clumped at one side and the reds at the other.

No system is perfect, and there are some tweaks and adjustments I need to make – it is a work in progress that will develop as our needs change as a school.  This work has taken months – from staff CPD sessions to actually getting it out there to middle leaders, to ensuring that we are as consistent as can be when observing and giving feedback – the feedback from staff has been positive, and I look forward to working further on this reflective and informative system to ensure real, significant and robust developments in teaching and learning.