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Learning walks and work scrutiny - is it the same everywhere?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by roseangel, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. This is one of the reasons I got out. I was so fed up with every little thing being scrutinised and new initiatives constantly being brought in. It didn't benefit anyone but seriously impacted on my stress levels. So now I do supply teaching and enjoy life so much more. As long as I get enough work but that's another story.
  2. Ruthie66

    Ruthie66 New commenter

    don't be silly Rory - that would mean treating us like experienced professional people who take some pride in our work and want to do the best for the kids we teach rather than the lazy, feckless idiots who just roll into school at 9 go home at 3.30, take the pay packet and benefit from 13 weeks holiday a year which they obviously think we are.
  3. Oh, how I am smiling now :)
  4. FollyFairy

    FollyFairy Occasional commenter

    Loving this quote! thanks for making me smile, as it is SOOO true of how we are treated... they treat us like children, rather than professionals, yet when we step over the line, we considered unprofessional!
  5. I used to work in a school like this and agree it's incredibly stressful. I don't believe it necessarily leads to improved progress - and probably says more about the head's own insecurity than anything else.
    However I now teach in a school where I am treated as a professional. Of course there is monitoring - rightly so, but it is appropriate. I do have to hand in lesson plans for literacy and Maths each week, and a medium term plan for other subjects.Subject co-ordinators monitor and sometimes observe - but all within reason. We're a small school and we're given a pretty free rein in the classroom. I love the freedom of being able to decide what to do, based solely on my assessment of the children.

  6. Rory

    Rory New commenter

    Glad I'm not the only one then! Though most days I feel like a voice in the wilderness .. I've worked in outstanding schools prior to this one (recently judged good) and was never hounded for QA evidence like I am now. Can't decide if it's the LEA I work in - or SLT CV building! Staff just quietly moan about it all but nothing changes... we all just accept it like dummies - when it clearly doesn't really help the kids that much and ultimately drives down staff morale.....
  7. ianj6

    ianj6 New commenter

    I agree with Rory, been teaching 14 years, and it's getting ridiculous with the QA it is becoming detrimental to the children. For example I'm about to go to a meeting on how to enter data onto a computer sysytem so it can be QAd and will miss running my after school rugby club for my lovely Year 7s.
    There are so many signs on my wall about all the things that have got to be in my lesson, key words, assessment critieria , afl buzz words etc that I've run out of room to put up notices about clubs and events for the children.
    Learning walks and book trawls are weekly, and totally disrupt the flow of teaching because the lessons that OFSTED want to see are different often to what needs to happen, ie sometimes the children NEED to sit on their backsides and learn some grammar/spellings etc and not be doing some fantastic lesson, if a learning walk showed kids sitting down learning there'd be hell to pay. I had a book trawl this week the day before an observation, the book trawl was on the group about to be observed, so they couldn't get howmeork that they needed. Books often go missing in the trawls so kids lose their work and we're trawled so often by so many different people that we are given conflicting guidance.

    Oh and lesson plan forms that take 2 hours to fill in!!

    If an OFSTED inspector can't walk into my room and make a decision within 5 mins on whether effective learning is happening or not on a regular basis then I question their validity. Bring on NO NOTICE inspections, and secret inspectors, because at the moment the bureacracy is killing it for everyone and children should enjoy their learning.
  8. Rory

    Rory New commenter

    Too true... I'm trying to remember when exactly the focus switched from ACTUAL learning to 'you have done this in this way because'.... it's a real mess. Time for a revolution.. yeah right.
  9. I'm an NQT and it is exactly like this in my school. I'm terrified enough that I'm doing something wrong, but rather than feeling that I can ask, it is all being pointed out after a learning walk.
    Oh and mine always seem to take place just when the children are putting their books away/coming to sit on the carpet/finding a pen etc!! It seems to stress everyone out and is not valid of the learning that goes on.
  10. Rory

    Rory New commenter

    And it doesn't make you a better teacher either. Hang on in there lucywag; it wasn't always like this. Sat through many a discussion about kids responding to praise.. funny how that doesn't seem to equate to adults.... not in my school anyhow.
  11. You're right - bit of praise really does go a long way. Either we're all big kids really or there is a lot to be learned from this!!
    Thank you for being nice to me - makes a difference on a rainy day marking books and planning for next week!
  12. Rory

    Rory New commenter

    No problem! Nice to hear from people who share the same views.
  13. By the way, what is a "learning walk" and where did this phrase come from?
    We don't have "learning walks" but my head does drop into my classroom unannounced all the time. I've just realized that it's not the drop-ins that are scary - it's how the learning is perceived by those who evaluate. What I mean is this: I'm not at all bothered by my current head's drop-ins. This is because she understands what goes on in a classroom and I always have a chance to explain what the children are doing. She is usually complimentary and leaves with a smile on her face.
    However in my previous school, just the thought of the head coming into my class sent me into a panic. The TAs felt the same. I felt immense pressure to get the children to be quiet instantly and was so intimidated I could hardly think what to say. She never smiled and would sometimes leave with a command for me to see her later! I'd spend the rest of the day worrying about it!

  14. Definitely sounds like a 'learning walk!'
  15. Would have to agree with all of the comments here! At my last school whenever the head would drop into my classroom it was awful and I would be so worried that I was doing something wrong when I clearly wasn't, but it was the heads attitude. Now in my school I really don't care when the head drops in because they let me teach and do what I need to do
  16. I am an NQT and I am feeling totally overwhelmed and my NQT year so far has not been what I expected to be. This school is nothing like my placement schools and I feel like my every move is being scrutinised.
    So far this half term we have had learning walks on 3 occassions, workbook scrutiny a handful of times and also planning scrutiny! This is across the whole department and in addition to the checks I have due to being an NQT such as observaions, planning checks, lesson plan checks etc etc. It is making me feel a bit better to know that this school is not the only one which operates in this way!
    I am finding it so hard to operate in the way the school/HOD wants me too because I am not used to any of these things. Every single lesson must have an AF/APP criteria attached to the learning objective and levelled APP success criteria (in pupil speak and explicitly relevant to the lesson). This is taking up so much of my planning time and I feel like I am always falling behind.
    I have to follow the (rubbish) scheme of work to the letter and not deviate from it at all - even though I have argued I only do this when it is in the pupils best interest. As a result I get into a right panic when lesson planning because I'm always scared about being told off (again).
    Personally I feel that these fads are detrimental to the pupils. I have no flexibility at all and because I have to do things in a certain way I have no confidence in myself and my teaching ability which definitely shows to the pupils. I am already sereiously considering leaving teaching after a year due to all of this.
  17. FollyFairy

    FollyFairy Occasional commenter

    Crazychemist, a couple of things - NQT years are nearly always the hardest year of teaching; you will put under an enormous amount of pressure but it does get easier, so don't give up. However, I think it is a shame that you do not seem to be receiving more support from your mentor - can you talk to her/him? As an ex-HOD I think it is a shame that you are not being allowed to deviate from the SOW - I always saw my SOW as suggestions of activities etc - I wanted the members of my team to use their own initiative and teaching style etc as long as they kept to the main theme/aim of the lesson e.g. 'How Harold lost the Battle of Hastings'... I personally think that your present school does not sound like the school for you, especially as you feel so restricted (teaching is going more like this sadly :( ) I suggest you start looking around, subtly, see what is out there and apply. You can always say on your application that you want more experience of xyz that you believe new school name will give... good luck!
  18. Zadok1

    Zadok1 New commenter

    I'm pretty sure that learning walks were invented to circumvent the regulations surrounding performance management. Why the unions in schools are not challenging these tactics I do not know.

    In one of my previous schools they would tell us that they were going to be checking on the start and end of lessons and did give a list of criteria they were looking for. To be honest I felt that there were no problems with the criteria they set out and just carried on as normal. I warned the students that someone might pop in at some point during the week and that they should just carry on as usual.. I found it to be okay. But if they're not telling you exactly what they're looking at then they are way out of line.

    In my last place I had a head who started asking for a work sample at the drop of the hat, one time she asked if I had copies of all my lesson plans for the previous term as I entered the staff room after the end of the working day on the last day of term.. I just said, 'no, not on me' and went home. Another time the same person sent an email on a Friday afternoon telling us that she would be observing lessons on the next Monday... I emailed back that would be fine but could she tell me what the focus of the observation would be and could I please have the written feedback from my previous lesson observation before the next... never happened!

    I suggest people get out the performance management guidelines and look up what they are and are not allowed to be doing... for example there is no situation where an unannounced lesson observation is appropriate, nor are they allowed to observe you more than 3 hours in any year without your agreement... unless they find particular fault in your teaching and then the focus of what should be improved should be very clear and support should be given.

    In a different school they had what they called 'responsible teachers' who were on duty to support behaviour each lesson (you can imagine the jokes about the rest of us being irresponsible etc). They had a list of hot spots where difficult classes were being taught and would make their way around school during their lesson on duty and be available to support staff as and when needed. I had a difficult Y11 during one period when the head teacher was being a responsible teacher... I often noticed him outside my door and sometimes he would slip in and take a seat. The first couple of times he did it I stopped the lesson and asked if he needed something and he would just ask me to carry on. I got used to him popping in and sometimes included him in discussions etc. I didn't really mind him being there and he did occasionally send emails telling me how interesting he found the lesson or praising the resources I was using.
    What I'm saying is that it's all about the tone of what's being done... if you are comfortable in your own ability then let them see that you are... if they're just splitting hairs to make themselves look like they're 'doing something' ... then get the unions involved!
  19. ThereAreBunniesInMyHead

    ThereAreBunniesInMyHead Occasional commenter

    Unfortunately it seems to be in every school all the time now. We had our learning walks a few weeks ago and they seemed to be impressed with the one class they saw who all happened to be working on Photoshop independently on the computers and it all looked snazzy etc.. But god forbid they happened to come in to one of my other lessons where the students were just sat working normally at desks.. it wouldnt be "whizzy" enough (wanted to use another W word there but dont think TES will let me! lol!).. We had a meeting last week where we were told that from now one, the SMT at our school wanted the students to engage all 5 of their senses in at least 50% of their lessons (including smell and taste!!!!)... ER, I teach MEDIA.. how do I engage their sense of smell and taste?!!!!!
    Part of my Year 12's exam involves them having to watch a 5 minute unseen before clip from a TV drama. It gets screened in the examination 4 times and during that time they have to write notes and then go straight into writing a timed essay about representation in the clip. This week we were doing our first ever full "practise" where I did it in exam conditions, them sitting there in silence, watching the clip 4 times and then writing in silence and a member of the SMT came in for a few minutes on a "walk".. I was told afterwards that the lesson wasnt "interactive enough", the students needed to do more "peer and self assessment" and that if they were working in silence, how could I assess what level they were working at!! So GOD knows what I'm supposed to do if I'm not allowed to recreate exam conditions for them once in a while..
    I also have a Year 8 class who I only see once every two weeks. Because of a school trip they missed one weeks lesson so since the start of term in September I have seen the class of 30 kids once. I was then asked to set them all Target Grades and Working Grades. I asked for more time in order to get to know them and at least have one more lesson with them but was told I should know already what level they are working at! I dont even know who they are yet after one lesson!

  20. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    You ask, as part of your CPD, to observe SMT delivering one of your media lessons fulfilling all their criteria (and I suggest you ask for a full lesson plan, differentiation, notes on each pupil , target grades, plts etc) so that you can learn from their expertise.
    When you have observed the first lesson, request more observations because it clearly takes several repetions before any one learns (sorry internalises/embeds/takes ownership of) anything. Next you ask to sit with member of SMT to plan your next lesson (note: not a general over view but proper planning etc) this will take a minimum of 90 mins for an hours lesson.

    [ When I have asked for this the response has been (at best) to observe them teaching their own subject so I point out that if they are not able to teach MY subject they have no ability to judge my teaching of it]

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