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Observations (are they worth it?)

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Dan404, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. I would think as a head you're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. At the end of the day observations are a means of demonstrating that teaching is what it is in each class. A formal procedure has to be carried out a) to justify it to OFSTED, b) in case any disciplinary procedures need to take place c) as a record of your own professional development. I'd like to think that if and hopefully when the time comes for me to become a head I too would adopt an 'informal' drop in approach to know what teaching is like, because it works both ways, you know what's going on and actually carried out in the right way it can be seen as supportive. The truth is however that informality doesn't stick too well with teacher judgements, prof development and disciplinaries.

    I was observed this morning and last week Eng and Maths respectively, too be honest I felt like saying at the end of today's obs "I hope you've learnt something from watching me!" but I knew the head was there to tick the box so that she could report back to govs and other interested parties that yes, teaching in my class was at least good.

    Observation is like so many things in Education, a process, a game, a box we have to tick, admittedly it's an annoying one, stressful too, but it is what it is and I can't see it ever changing. For the record, did I prepare for it for hours? Not really, more than my average lesson, but I taught what I had planned for the week anyway. It wasn't Outstanding, but for me as other posters have quite rightly said, Outstanding lessons every time is something I can't and won't even try to achieve. I'm just proud of being a good teacher and the children do learn something most of the time and in my mind that's job done!
  2. I would dare to say I even have inadequate lessons- according to the Ofsted criteria of what children have learned- I suspect any Ofsted inspector would be shocked at how little my class learnt in the 20 minutes it took to line up and have their photograhs taken, and then we came back, got settled, had more children taken out for photographs with their siblings, etc etc.... Then obviously we are spending time every day going over songs for the Christms play. Some times we even do things like listening to a story or playing a game that has NO SPECIFIC LEARNING INTENTION... what a terrible teacher I must be!

    I like your idea for observations btw, long thought there has to be a better way....

  3. tiffster

    tiffster New commenter

    I've always found the grading irritating and meaningless. "Satisfactory" seems to have become a byword for just scraping a passing grade round our way... stupid. All lessons will have their strong points and their weak points, all of which could be usefully discussed following an observation - but really, I think there should be just two grades. Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. Either the lesson did the job or it didn't. By all means tell someone that they did something brilliantly, if they did - but those slightly boring pedestrian lessons which are sometimes needed to drum home a key concept or practice a skill should be recognised as being no less intrinsically valuable than the whizzy inspiring "outstanding" lessons with all the whistles and bells.
  4. What is irritating is that the lingo has got into job applications now. You needn't bother applying for any jobs nowadays unless you are an outstanding teacher. I recently saw a part-time temporary position demanding that you be outstanding!
  5. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    No learning intention!! Is that allowed? You mean you listened to a story, played a game or finished off some work? How dare you!!! Don't you know every lesson needs a learning objective, success criteria, talk partners, plenary and a mini plenary? Next thing you'll be telling me some children have been colouring in!!!
  6. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    I saw a school advert which wanted you to bring along lesson observations to prove you were outstanding. Not the kind of school I would want to work at.
  7. dc521

    dc521 New commenter

    As an aside, I have to say that Becktonboy's blog on lesson observations is ... well, a bloody good read.
    I see the place for my work as a teacher being 'checked' on by head. I even accept and welcome people in to watch my lessons. Where I get slightly tratty is when people clearly have a fixed idea on what they want to see when the focus should be on the children!
  8. My issue about observations is the part on our SM proforma, "85% of ch'n make better than expected progress in the lesson. . . ." to be awarded outstanding. Better. Than. Expected. ????
    So, you deliver a lesson with something ready for the ch'n to extend their learning in line or beyond the objective. 85% of the ch'n successfully accomplish that extra work and ask for the next thing. You weren't expecting it. . . . (so you can't have it ready - otherwise you WERE expecting it) and you have the time to do something new and unexpected AND show that 85% of the group have "learnt" it? How exactly?
    And that's outstanding? Really?
  9. The words 'gutted' above fired my motor into life. I am sure you work your guts out with kids every day; you wouldn't be writing on here if you weren't one of those crazy kind of teachers who cares.
    Isn't a problem here that in a way 'observations' are the opposite of professionalism. The process infantilises us as it produces judgements on which we are dependent for a whole range of postive views regarding a work which is carried out largely in solitary and over a much longer wavelength than the individual lesson.
    They seek neatness / input and output/ they do not make anew, they do not make a mess/ they cannot see the breakage/ that heralds the wreckage of the old/ they see the few and not the many/ set targets, pin and prune/ imagination pared to branch and root/ and yes- they overcut.
    What of the garden then observed?/ calibrated, calulated, value-added, numerated, graded/ normalised, paralysed and petrified/ denied with no redress; the stress/ on quanitfying has no range to find excess.
    What come in, outcomes?/ and of the transformation in between,/what might have been,/ could they care less.
    A professional surely reviews themselves in process and is very conscious of their good, bad and indifferent days, whats more in acknowledging this they give children access to the demands of being a professional- the penuries and the satisfactions.
    Being so solitary it IS good to have a whole range of constructive dialoges regarding why, what and how we do what we do. INSET course, conferences, visits and other professional development experiences gave us the sense that we could be proactive, resourceful, committed discoverers of new ideas that suited each of us in our age and stage of development.
    Now is it not that the self-organised professional learner that we should be has been replaced by a small child who seeks approbation from often very elementary, unsophisticated, whimsical and often capricious parent figures momentarily deluded by fashionable parenting trends? Parent figures who however insist on their authority and wield it like young gun shooting stars - whether heads of dept, deputies, heads or sips, or even OFSTED and none of whom bear out over time the long-view.
    There is pseudo-science about observations which pretends precision, impartial objectivity and as a cure-all for ills when it is anything but and when it is as much politics and coloured water.
    The fault does not lie with us, blind / and stumbling we carry their burdens/ one hand behind our backs. There is a fault/ that is no fault of blame but break of heart/ and head, separation of blood from brain,/ rupture of sense by science of a kind.

  10. padavid10

    padavid10 New commenter

    I like the moral strength above and personally try to teach a lesson that is as close to real as possible every time I am observed. However when the lesson observed carries weight with perception amongst SMT and your apparent ability to do your job, which in turn has an impact on likelihood to be promoted or have some career progression etc... surely only a fool wouldn't make sure that everything was slightly more precise and managed than usual.
  11. fiona_t

    fiona_t New commenter

    I don't think it's the actual observation that's the bad idea - I just think it's the way the feedback is given that has to be handled very carefully.

    I moved jobs after three years at a great school and observations there had always been a positive experience. I then moved to another school where the observations were brutal. On the criteria I did well but the feedback was given in such a way that I left feeling like the worst teacher in the world. This can have a massive effect on your teaching confidence and it took me a long time to feel anything like back to 'normal'.

    I think the idea is necessary, as someone has to monitor what goes on in classrooms, but you have be very aware of how to give feedback. When I have to observe others now I am constantly aware of the effect it can have if you do it in the wrong way.
  12. On being found satisfactory i went home and cried and felt really down for days, then just ordinarily **** for ages. On being found outstanding I simply felt relieved and got on with the rest of the week. [​IMG]

  13. Hmm I edited my post and then it got lost in cyber space:(
    What i was trying to say was....
    I'm sure I go from unsatisfactory to outstanding every day. And I'm absolutely sure I spend more time being satisfactory than outstanding.
    I know we need to be accountable and demonstrate that we can do our job. I also think that if you are in a school that wants to be judged outstanding then you have to be able to show that you can be outstanding. I just think the current system is setting people up to fail especially because of the amount of stress most people feel.
    What do people think of the idea of planning the lesson with the person who would be observing? That way if it's ***** then you're both responsible! But also, the person being observed would be supported and would probably receive some coaching / prof dev of subject knoweldge or pedagogy. I think this way would mean more sharing of good practise (in both directions) and would build teams rather than divide them.

    * by **** of course I mean satisfactory [​IMG]
  14. I have just looked at an ofsted inspection grid that was linked today in a TES email.
    Aparently, if there are any easily distracted students in my class who are showing a lack of motivation... I can't be anything but unsatisfactory.
    What a cheery thought.

  15. padavid10

    padavid10 New commenter

    <font size="3">I can't help but think that this
    leads to an increasingly difficult chance of getting graded well in difficult
    schools. OFSTED themselves admit that a disproportionate number of schools in
    poor socioeconomic backgrounds get graded unsatisfactory. Perhaps that&rsquo;s because we&rsquo;re using the same
    measure for chalk and cheese.</font>


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