Thursday 8 November 2012

Learning by example

This week, I have been privileged enough to see 6 of my colleagues as part of our whole school review.

I love watching other people teach because I nearly always learn something when I do so.

I watched a maths lesson where students simultaneously learnt how to solve equations and how to count  in Swahili. I watched an Computing lesson where students collaboratively had prepared their own lessons at home using Prezis  and then used these to teach their peers a variety of concepts. I observed my first ever PE lesson and saw a teacher skilfully develop the physical skills of all students via judicious use of peer demonstration and questioning. In the same lesson, I also heard students evaluate their own performance using precise technical language.  I saw high levels of pupil engagement and a thirst for knowledge.  I saw pupils learn.

Across these lessons, I noticed an interesting thing.  Learning is obvious, practical or theoretical, year 7 or year 11, group work or teacher led. When you are in a space where people are developing in their understanding in a significant way it is clear and palpable. You can hear it, you can see it, you can feel it.

In many of the lessons I saw I was also able to make parallels with my own classes and consider how I could use the best bits to improve my personal teaching practice.  Some of you reading this may have deduced that I have a responsibility of some type if I was involved in so many observations, and I saw those as part of my responsibility. In this case you'd be right.

However, I got into the habit of watching others teach during my first year of teaching and I found it so powerful that I have made a point of doing it ever since.  I am a maths teacher but along side my own subject, for my own CPD, away from any responsibilities I may have gained with time, I have  observed colleagues who teach a range of subjects including Citizenship, English, Science and I have learnt something form each and every one of them.

In teaching there is never enough time, outside of lessons we are all too busy with data entry, marking, phoning parents, planning, breaking up fights, telling students to do up their top buttons, the list is endless. However I always make time to observe colleagues that I respect teach- irrespective of how heavy my timetable was- why? Because I learn more from that than going on a course, I learn more from that than reading a book and I learn more from that than being told what to do. These colleagues teach in my environment with my students and are always generous with their time and resources.  Over 8 years I have yet to have a teacher refuse when I have asked to observe them in a personal capacity for my own CPD, this is irrespective of whether or not my role has been more senior than the person I was observing.

So who do I ask? Anybody, that I can lean from. I ask to see teachers that my students are alway talking about, I see teachers who other colleagues that I respect mention, as a result I've observed NQTs as well as more experienced teachers and I've seen senior leaders and classroom teachers with no responsibilities. Learning is learning , who ever it is delivered by.

So what have I learnt? My now standard practice of asking students to evaluate the lesson so far and come up with the lesson objectives themselves was an adaptation from that citizenship lesson that I mentioned.  My questioning abilities were significantly developed after working a collaboration with a French  teacher and I'm currently in the early stages of working with a History teacher @MsHowardCHS regarding how I can adapt her very effective use of scaffolding to help students in maths better answer longer problem solving questions that are now a regular feature of GCSE exams which many of our pupils find difficult.

You'll notice that I haven't used he words outstanding or good during his post at all. That is deliberate, I feel that these words have become loaded in teaching because of OFSTED and when I observe m colleagues in a personal capacity, I don't even give them any thought. I look at what the teacher does, why, and the effect it has on learning after the lesson i usually thank the person and let them know verbally what I learnt and how it will impact me, it's one of the most powerful CPD and its free and easily accessible.

So if you want to improve your teaching or just get a fresh perspective, I urge you to arrange to see a colleague. It'll be one of the most enjoyable uses of your non- contact periods and 30-60min of your time once or twice a year, well spent.

Before you are wondering, yes I've had numerous colleagues come and see me too but you'd have to ask them whether they got anything out of it or not!

Sent from my iPad

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