Stop. Change. Introduce. Day 5 #Teacher5aday

Question: With the new curriculum changes & increased accountability measures what will you stop doing, change, or introduce for your own well-being?

Amy Jeetley has posed this question in a post for today’s #Teacher5adayslowchat.

Stop – Marking work that’s littered with silly mistakes or incomplete.

I dread to think how much marking time is taken up by staff up and down the country writing ‘remember your capital letters’, ‘underline your date and title’ etc. That’s a lot of effort reminding pupils to do things they’ve been taught at primary. Those are also the books that take the longest to mark and for little impact because, let’s be honest, pupils KNOW they should use capital letters for names and a beautifully written reminder is probably just white noise. For this reason (unless there’s a real reason which needs addressing in another way e.g. SEN, literacy) the work is getting sent back to be proof read/completed to a decent standard/getting done again* before I’ll mark it.

(* delete as appropriate)

I’m also just taking time to embed habits that I’ve already talked about here.

Change -The way I set homework.

This week I read a suggestion on Twitter of pupils writing the homework title at the top of a page and then leaving two pages before starting the lesson work. I’m going to trial that next year to reduce the amount of time I spend flicking through books checking homework.

Introduce – One evening a week set aside specifically for university study: that can’t be swallowed up by a school work to-do list

Obviously, it takes up a significant proportion of my non-work time, but I quite like the idea of leaving work at 3:30 on a set day, sitting in a coffee shop indulging some reading for an hour before going home and getting a solid few hours writing done.

Progress over time: Why there may be still a place for ‘well done’

In a time when Ofsted no longer grade individual lessons and there’s a move towards demonstrating ‘progress over time’, a new focus for observation, scrutiny and inspection has been identified: marking.

The major problem with this focus on marking is that – like when ‘Ofsted wants to see…’ was the be all and end all of lesson planning leading to VAK learning styles, thinking hats and brain gym (because we all know that without moving around the brain won’t get enough oxygen)  – marking risks becoming a tick-box, ‘prove we’re doing our job’ exercise where the primary people involved (student and teacher) aren’t the primary audience for the feedback being given.

A positive message for all teachers from Ofsted. Any marking policy that’s justified by ‘Ofsted want to see…’ is misleading. (Click to enlarge)

It’s worth pointing out that Ofsted do not have a particular expectation with marking, they don’t have a set expectation about the frequency or detail of marking in exercise books, nor do they want to see ‘excessive written dialogue’ with students. This should be an announcement that makes teachers cheer, but it doesn’t because the general message of Ofsted appears to have been corrupted and manipulated into another stick to hit teachers with – namely that in order to show progress over time, your marking has to be excessively detailed with little tricks to show students are acting on feedback.

There are a number of problems with this approach:

  1. It assumes that the only way that meaningful feedback can be given is written
  2. If (1) is true, then all verbal feedback must be recorded with verbal feedback stamps (see @TeacherToolkit’s brilliant post about this here)
  3. That the only way to show student progress is if their response is close to the feedback given
  4. It risks creating a ridiculous culture of marking martyrdom where the ‘brilliant marking’ is usually the most detailed, most tick-boxy because it looks pretty on a page, thus having a negative impact on work-life balance and staff well being.

Then I’ll explain why I’d like to rediscover a sincere ‘well done’.

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