Mr Patel does it again.

roofing safety

I arrived home Friday night tired out from one of those weeks: high stress, high expectation, PRESSURE!  Teachers everywhere will know what I mean when I say  ‘graded observations.’  We all hate them (people who say they enjoy them are just lying quite frankly, or a bit sadistic) but it has to be done and when it’s over, it’s never that bad…hopefully anyway.

The reason these reviews are stressful is because they are up close and personal and deeply intimate in a way that few other professionals experience in quite the same way, although I accept there are other forms of appraisal that might be equally, if not more taxing (teachers don’t have the monopoly on stress or hard work, I know).  However,  every movement you make, every word you utter is closely monitored by clip boarded individuals,  and there are thirty variables sitting there wide eyed before you: anything could happen!

No matter how long you’ve taught, you just can’t help feeling some anxiety at the unpredictability of it all. Yet what will always save your bacon is everything you as a teacher have done up until that time, all the systems you’ve put in place, all the habits you’ve engendered in yourself and the children, in essence your pedagogy. Those good or outstanding observations are not luck. As a teachers we need to understand what good teaching means, we need to understand how children learn and learn well. Sometimes this is intuitive; sometimes we’ve had to go away and think about it, to have studied it and talked about it, but things needs to have been in place long before that observation day.

So I sat down after my latest turn at being watched, content in the knowledge that once again my class had successfully investigated a problem for our fictitious  friend Mr Patel. Mr Patel pops up a lot in our science lessons. He’d just bought a barn, a barn without a roof no less! What kind of roof tiles should he use he wondered? Having previously explained and demonstrated to the children what permeable/ impermeable meant, it was hard to hold them back with all the advice they had for Mr P. When I showed them a range of equipment, I was told by a seven year old exactly how to test each of our six rocks for permeability and thus how to advise our roofless friend on the right kind of roof tile! Moreover, I was then told exactly what our enquiry question should be in order to solve Mr P’s conundrum. I breathed a sigh of relief and heard the words, ‘there is a God,’ in my head. I was dreading this part most. One of the hardest things in science is to get children to ask a question, harder still, the right question. And harder than all this is the children arriving at a sound, as well as safe and sensible way to investigate the question. Science can so easily turn into a messy bun fight! But the children were nothing short of outstanding themselves in their keenness, as well as their thoughtfulness . Part of this is because children are naturally curious and natural problem solvers too, if given the chance!

Part of me hopes this triumph was because I’ve taught science in this ‘enquiry orientated’ way for a while  so  the children are in the habit of thinking scientifically (sadly it’s often  talked out of them by seven).  I’ll never really know, but for me it was a triumph…and for Mr Patel too. And thank God the watchers  have left…for a while anyway!

One thought on “Mr Patel does it again.

  1. patrickjdainley

    Copied to you, Beth in case this does not find its way into the comments on your blog (which I can never seem to get into – or most blogs!) but teachers really should not have to put up with this and if they had the self-respect and organisation of the medical profession, for instance, would not do so. See news item in yesterday’s Guardian: ‘GPs “will revolt” over private treatment: Family doctors will desert the new NHS bodies that take control of health spending from next month if ministers do not rethink plans to force them use private firms to treat patients, a GP leader has warned. ‘Dr.Michael Dixon, interim president of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said GPs were so angry that they would stop running the 212 new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that will become key bodies in the NHS in April. ‘The Department of Health’s apparent insistence that they open a wide range of health services to competition was a make-or-break test of the freedom that ministers promised CCGs, Dixon said. “Unless the commissioner is king the whole system is going to fall down. And worse still, the clinicians will walk and feel the whole thing has been a complete waste of time,” he told the medical website Pulse.’ The fact that teachers do not have the professional responsibility to similar reject policies which they know equally well are bad for their pupils and students is the product of a long history but the teacher training they were subjected to at the hands of the TT/DA, passed on by ‘educationists’ in university Depts of Eduction who never should have accepted this central state reduction of education to competence-based training under the cover of a lot of flim-flam about ‘reflective practice’, cannot be absolved of responsibility for contributing to it. Perhaps however, it is not too late for teachers and their trainers to regain the initiative and their claim to professionalism by rejecting the latest and ever more outrageously anti-educational impositions of a government attempting to impose a ‘Great Reversal’ on institutionalised learning at all levels. One example of this which maybe you could deal with in your blog sometime (altho I know you are a science person but since when was primary (or any) teaching so separated off from other areas of knowledge?) is the new history curriculum about to be imposed on schools which will predictably relegate primary schools to the stone age since you are at the beginning of ‘the time line’! (Also makes a prejudicial connection between ‘primitive’/’stone age savagery’ etc and early childhood that – like so much else in Gove’s proposals and practice – we thought we had left behind!) Best, Patrick

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