Once upon a time in the not to distant past I strived to be an outstanding teacher. I wanted to be the inspirational educator students told their future kids about. Okay, I was young and naive back then but it was where I aimed to be.
After 13 years in the job I now know that, according to Ofsted criteria, I will never be outstanding and for the following reasons:
1. I don’t care about QMA (Quality Mark Assesment) sheets being completed in their books. I have taught them, marked their books, marked their tests, returned their tests with feedback and spoke to kids individually about their results. I have congratulated the students who have done well whilst trying to encourage and support the students who have been disappointed. Now having recorded their scores in my planner and inputted them on the computer I am now told if a separate sheet isn’t also filled in to be stuck in students book (bearing in mind they already have the original tests in their books with the score) I am to be deemed inadequate! (I hate that word!)
2. I like students to feel happy and safe in my classroom. I have always prided myself on making my lessons somewhere students feel comfortable and I fully appreciate not all kids are going to love my subject but I want them to feel they will be supported whilst in my room. On my most recent lesson observation this is now considered a negative, students should be pushed/challenged and they can’t do this whilst being “comfortable.” I very much disagree!
3. I want to know my students and build a relationship with them. If we spend 5 minutes of lesson time talking about what they watched last night or what they’re planning to do at the weekend, so what? In my experience, getting to know your students ultimately leads to better lessons and better learning.
4. I will always put the child before their target! I care more about the child as an individual than I do about their grade target. When hearing a member of our SLT talk about a student going through a particularly difficult time at home I couldn’t believe it. Their thoughts weren’t, “oh, that poor girl, what can we do to support her”, but “well, she won’t get her target grade now, will she?”. I will do everything I can to help a student achieve their full potential but this doesn’t always tie in with what their target grade is, often based on tests they sat in primary schools several years previously!
5. I would rather spend my time planning lessons than ticking and flicking their books. Don’t get me wrong, books need to be marked but a disproportionate amount of time is being spent marking (because it is something that Ofsted can check) rather than planning great lessons. Members of my department are marking every night of the week until 10/11pm just to keep to our SLT schedule because that is all we are judged on. A member of SLT could walk in on a lesson you’ve spent 2 hours planning, but if you’re books aren’t up to date, you are yet again deemed to be inadequate.
6. I don’t believe that students should have to show progress in 30 minutes. I care about students progressing, whether that takes 30 minutes or 3 hours! I know my class better than anyone and to have someone come in and make a judgement within 30 minutes about how much they have progressed is largely insulting. Ask me about my class and I will answer any question you have (see point 3), I can tell you about the progress of every one of my students, but if you can’t show that to a stranger in 30 minutes, yet again, you are inadequate!
Education is no longer about the children, but about targets. And whilst it continues to be this way we do them a disservice. Kids are not pieces of data on a spreadsheet to be manipulated to make the schools look good. They’re not daft, they know which members of staff genuinely care about them and who don’t, and I know who they respond to better.
There gets a point when you can only do so much before saying enough is enough. I have a family and they come first. Whilst I still value spending quality time with my own family, whilst I still want to know what my pupils are getting for a Christmas, whilst I will still spend my last lesson before the holidays doing a quiz (which my classes remember far more than one of my “proper” lessons) an Ofsted outstanding teacher I am not?
So for the foreseeable future I will never be outstanding and to be honest I’ve given up trying.