“Don’t Look At Me!”

April 22, 2013 5 Comments
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Members of both the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT are picketing the entrance to the Littlehampton Academy today (April 17) ahead of further walkouts in the coming weeks.

The unions decided on the strike action after “months” of complaints over “excessive micro-management” and “bullying” .

Or ‘normal practice for private companies’, in other words. This apparently taking the form of performance management.

Speaking to The Argus, NUT representative Dave Thomas said that teachers were unable to do their jobs due to intensive classroom inspections.

He said: “We have been hearing for many weeks that staff have been subjected to excessive classroom inspections.

“It is impossible for them to do their job with someone constantly at the back of the room with a clipboard.”

Really? Why? Are they distracted by the noise of pen on paper? Are they intimidated by his ability to spell and punctuate correctly?

The unions suggest that three inspections per academic year is the maximum. However, Mr Thomas said that teachers at the academy were being inspected on a monthly if not weekly basis.

I think it’s the people paying you to perform a job who’ll decide how many inspections are needed, Mr Thomas…

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5 Responses to “Don’t Look At Me!”

  1. April 22, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Although I think striking is inappropriate for the profession, this particular issue does touch a nerve. For many teachers, the chief problem with observers inside the classroom is the way it affects the pupils.

    It can take many weeks to build up a relationship with a difficult class to the point where any effective learning will take place. A stranger in the room is a clear incentive to a certain type of pupil to ‘play to the gallery’ and disrupt the entire lesson, especially if he or she thinks it may get the teacher into trouble.

    (As an aside on that topic, although I agree there are many undesirable elements within the profession, I invite those who criticise teachers in general to consider any of the juvenile criminals who have graced Julia’s posts over the years – the teenage rapists, muggers, burglars, arsonists and vandals, not to mention the general feral ne’er-do-wells – and imagine what it must be like to stand alone in front of them and their grinning cohorts on a daily basis.)

    • ivan
      April 22, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Re your last point. That problem grew because of the change in how ‘children’ were viewed, now they are little gods that don’t have to submit to discipline. Yes, I am an ex-teacher that has taught in some tough schools. I once had a 14 year old come at me with a knife so I took it away from him and in the process broke his arm. No repercussions from that other than his father apologizing and the kids doing as they were told. Oh, and 4 of that class were the first to get GCE O level chemistry in the school. If it was today…

  2. Once observed
    April 22, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I once taught in a college, and I was a couple of times observed teaching. Usually the observation lasted about thirty minutes but the review of the last one of them was a strange event.

    In the review the observer spent an hour explaining where I had gone wrong (as I was employed on an hourly basis while teaching this hour was in my time and thus unpaid.) This observer was a teacher (of what standard I had no idea, but not very experienced from what I could tell) I was criticised for telling a student off for being late. I had, incidentally, warned all my students that lateness was not an option, but the criticism for me was that ‘the student looked shocked’ and the observer opined it would have been better to tell them at the end of the lesson rather than then and there. I countered with the argument that it was important issues were dealt with at once rather than let the kid stew for three hours — yes, it was a long morning — and so better to get it over with.

    However, the observer said I gave the impression of ‘appearing to know more than the students’ and thus came across ‘superior.’ Quite how I didn’t burst out laughing at this I will never know.

    The person observing me recommended I film myself to ‘improve my delivery’ as key advice. As I had already explained to this observer that I was finishing my contract in two more weeks and about to retire, it seemed a little pointless, but my observer ignored this information and insisted it would make me so much better to see how I appeared.

    The observer later sent me their written views on my ‘performance’ and I confess, as my teaching (and working) time was over I never read it; as I say I was two weeks off retiring. The observer by the way was a part-time teacher themselves, and must have been about 35 years younger than me without the experience of industry and people I had gained since I was 20.

    The students in this particular class had few skills but they got on okay with me, I dealt with issues as they arose and eventually walked away from it in one piece. But I had no faith in the person observing me. I did not know if they knew anything, I did not know why they had been chosen to do this, I had no idea if they understood what was going on.

    Teaching a bunch of disinterested teenagers isn’t easy. The reason for their being at college was primarily social (all their mates went and it was better than being at home all day, and they could sneak games in to play on the computers) and they were ‘paid’ with the EMA at the time so they had money to spend on new computer games so education wasn’t all that important. They were sure they would either get a job paying 30,000 a year when they left college, or the state would provide.

    But the problem for me in this observation was I had no idea if the observer knew anything. This person sat, they watched, they eventually had an opinion. If they were better than me then fine, but I saw nothing to suggest they could do what I could do.

    It wasn’t ‘bullying’ but it was a waste of time.

  3. john in cheshire
    April 22, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I think it would be useful to know why there are monthly classroom inspections. Sounds to me as though the Headmaster, or whoever has decided on such frequency, has identified a problem in the classrooms. What is that problem?

  4. Voice of Reason
    April 23, 2013 at 2:27 am

    My experience and readings suggest that the average evaluator believes in ‘checklists’. Those might be effective in manufacturing, but not generally in teaching.

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