How has teaching changed during your time as a teacher?
I started teaching 16 years ago, completing a PGCE at Middlesex University in August 2000. I spent lots of my college time in the library, reading books about the various teaching requirements required to be good. In that year, I also purchased my first computer at home as I needed to type up my dissertation. How times have changed, or have they?
I remember trying to focus on one thing at a time and soon learnt that life as a teacher would train me to do be able to do multiple things at once. I started teaching when classrooms still had chalkboard and had very few computers. I remember ‘the realisation that I was really a teacher’, when I was writing my lesson outline on a roller chalkboard! We did not use computers, we wrote the day’s lessons on the board and rolled the board around to protect the content, ready for the next day. Then wipe boards were introduced, followed by the Interactive Whiteboards and today, we now have huge television screens.
In the past 16 years, I have only experienced one OfSTED inspection and this was in my first term of teaching. Lucky me! Back then, OfSTED used to give advanced warning of their visits and spend several days in the school. Today, you hear the day before and they only stay for 1 or 2 days depending on the nature of your school. In ‘my OfSTED in 2002’, I spent hours planning the week’s lessons – the senior leadership team spent 3 weeks stressing everyone out with to-do’s! I remember feeling like, bring it on. I wanted to show off as I was still used to having another member of staff in the classroom and actually enjoyed showing what I was doing.
The first lesson they came to I remember like it was yesterday. It was a graphics lesson, a scheme of work that my head of department had created. She was outstanding at creating resources and my students enjoyed showing them off too. They did me proud. The inspector gave me feedback straight away, told me that he “did not need look at my planning; if you planned on the back of a match box, I’d be satisfied.” The next lesson did not go as well as the inspector asked one student “what fabric [she] were using?” and she went blank. They told me to work on and the feedback helped me to recognise what I needed to do to improve my teaching. So, fairly easy for my first – and now last inspection.
Leadership and Management
I left my first school after 6 years and took a job as a head of design and technology somewhere else. My predecessor school had another inspection the year after I left and my new school had just had an inspection the year before – another stroke of luck! Three years later, I was on maternity leave for the next OfSTED visit. I went into my department with bags of treats for my team to help them through the stress.
Today, the ‘O word’ is never mentioned until it is really happening. It causes so much unnecessary stress. I have known amazing teachers to be signed off sick for weeks, leave teaching altogether, suffering from exhaustion or depression straight after an inspection. I have seen outstanding teachers receive unsatisfactory feedback. I remember a friend of mine stayed up all night the night before, and then was so exhausted on the day, subsequently did really badly on the day.
I have had to change a few times in my career. When I started out as a middle leader at a new school, I had to be a manager and leader of eight staff, responsible for behaviour and curriculum within the department. It was a huge learning curve. It was an opportunity to start again. I soon learnt that you have to be yourself. I used the ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy and it worked for the best part of the following years. I realised that you need to be one key thing as a manager: a people person, placing relationships are the heart of every thing you do. You have to lead by example. Be supportive, consistent, organised and reliable. You also have to work 12-hour days, every day!
I suspect these aspects of teaching are exactly what school leaders faced 5, 10 and 15 years ago when I first started.