This post is a result of Twitter discussions.
Whenever I consider which is more important I always think of a specific teacher I used to teach with. This post will outline her teaching.
I will call her Miss M.
She taught a subject that was and is 100% coursework (my views on that in another post!).
If you walked past her classroom you would see the following: she would be sat at her desk at the front, usually on her computer, usually drinking a cup of tea. Occasionally she would ‘bark’ at the students things like ‘get on with your work!’ Or ‘it’s your grade not mine, I’ve already got my qualifications!’.
In five years I NEVER ever saw her standing in front of her class to describe or explain a thing. I never ever saw anything other than students sat at their computer, looking forward and typing. There was no group work, no ‘think-pair-share’, no videos, no kinaesthetic activities, no visual activities, no starter, no plenary, NO ACTIVITIES! They walked in, sat down, turned on their computer and started their work. They did this until the bell and then they packed away. This happened (as far as I can tell) every single lesson. For every single student.
All the students had was the criteria for each level I.e what they had to do to get there and possibly a text book.
Her room had nothing on the walls except a couple of compulsory whole school posters. It was uninspiring. The front white board never had anything written on it from her classes. No learning objectives.Nothing.
I never saw her standing or kneeling with a student explaining anything, it was always a ‘get on with your work’ order.
There were times where I walked past and she wouldn’t be in her room. She was in the staff room making a tea. She didn’t need to even be in the room. The students just got on with it. She was proud to tell a story of how once, there was an external inspection at school. The students didn’t realise that she wasn’t there that day, so they’d gone in and started their work. The inspector came in, talked to them about their work and observed what they were doing. The lesson got a ‘good’. A ‘good’ without any teacher in the room!
Her relationships with the students was a love/hate one. You would often see her in the corridor say very directly to a student ‘ you owe me work. Sort it out!’. She was very direct and very sarcastic to the students. She didn’t really communicate ‘with’ them, more ‘at’ them. But they loved her. I once had a year 10/11 tutor group. When I reviewed her subject with a student they would either say ‘Miss M is a great teacher’ or something more about hate but then followed by ‘great teacher’.
When giving regular updates on grades the piece of paper in front of me would say ‘U’ and effort ‘poor’ for the most lovely student. She played it mean to keep them keen! And for some reason they didn’t really care. As far as I’m aware, no parent ever complained about this systems of giving grades.
Many students went on to study her subject at university and I would hear them come back to tell her how great her lessons were and how much they’d learnt. They had been inspired by her.
Out of lessons she generally kept herself to herself. She would be the first out of the door. If you tried to discuss education with her she had no interest whatsoever. She would actually laugh at people who discussed things like AfL or differentiation. She was usually absent on whole school INSET days and didn’t attend the compulsory CPD after school. If you looked around the room in staff meeting she often wouldn’t be there.
I know she marked at least one a year, because she used to sit in the staff room when all coursework was due, huffing and puffing bout the pile she had to mark.
So was she a quality teacher? Her results would say so! I think for all the years I knew her, her classes got 100% A*-C.
And therein lies my problem. If results are outstanding, is the quality of teaching, by definition, also outstanding?
Have I described above, an outstanding teacher?
In part 2 I will discuss my thoughts and what this might mean for teaching.