The reality check


Here’s a thought: most of what teachers do will have some small effect on learning, lots will have no effect but waste their time and some things they do (or could do) will have a deeply significant effect on learning.

We are now at a point in education where we can continue doing lots of these things that waste valuable time or we can take hold of our profession, drop the plethora of things that ‘we’ve always done’ and instead create great waves of learning that will last and last.

Step One:

Stop doing things that are meant to show you’re doing your job, but have no connection with helping children learn. This is not to say that some pen pushing parts of teaching will help indirectly with learning, like tracking levels, recording achievements, planning interventions etc etc, but only if they are used to impact learning. 

While it might seem obvious to use things one does, teachers spend a lot of time doing things that they will never ever return to. This is because they don’t need these things in the first place, they’re just told that one day they might, or they  fear that if caught without these things done they’ll be shown to be a terrible teacher. Well, just doing things for the sake of it, without linking them to long or short term learning outcomes,  is suffocating teaching. 

These include:

Marking work that will never be used or responded to (better to mark less and use that for improvement than mark a load of stuff that’ll just be filed away)

Annotating paper plans that will never be looked at again (if you respond to learners in real-time as you teach, why mark it in your plans? Do you need your plans to tell you who didn’t get it anyway? Do you need them to tell you who you’re going to target the next day? Really? Will you look at those plans next year, no they’ll just gather dust and you’ll use what’s saved digitally.

Setting targets that will never be read or used (if the kids never look at them and you never look at them, who will?Make target setting visible and easy for all to tick off and learn from).

Writing  evaluations that will never be reflected upon (if you’re not going to use them to change practice for better learning outcomes then bin them.)

Gathering evidence that will never be used to prove anything (if it’s going into a dusty folder just in case OFSTED call, then you’re wasting all that learning that could be shared, celebrated and enjoyed by the children themselves. Stick it all in a big, big book that everyone can see all the time, why not?)

In effect, mark, plan, set targets and evaluate when you can see how it will affect and cause learning.

A fanatic loses sight of the target, but puts in twice the effort. We need to take the fanatics out of education and as quickly as possible.

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