The book group: CPD for the future

the-wallImage: @jasonramasami

The world of Twitter and edu-blogging can feel far removed from the reality of my day job. There seems a metaphorical Berlin Wall wedged between the two. I have been blogging for over a year now, yet only a handful of my colleagues read my posts. With the pace of modern teacher life it is hardly surprising. Keeping up to date with our own planning and marking is enough in itself. Sometimes I feel I am leading a double-life as a blogger and a teacher. Writing these words is ultimately something I do for myself, audience or no audience.

I do, however, genuinely believe that there are great gains to be had from reading about teaching, whether in the form of blogs, ‘edubooks’ or research papers. I have written before about the importance of nurturing the cerebral life of schools, of finding time for talking and thinking about teaching and learning, and it seems such a missed opportunity that after eight years in the classroom it is only recently that I have begun to investigate my own practice with more rigour.

So what has stood in the way in the past? It has, I think, been the reductive totalitarianism of the Ofsted-driven description of what makes for effective teaching. There has always a great distance between what I have intuitively found to work in my classroom and what has been decreed as best practice. A few years ago, I remember a teacher declaring that, “If the learning objective does not contain the phrase ‘to be able to’ then your lesson cannot be ‘outstanding’.”

I have never forgotten this. I thought it was nonsense at the time and I still do now.

But things have changed. At the end of last academic year my school ditched lesson grading and all its associated absurdities. We have developed a ‘tight but loose’ definition of teaching and learning built around the principles of challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, questioning and feedback. As a ‘research leader’ this year, one of my roles has been to introduce a whole-staff ‘EduBook club’ as a way to bring fresh teaching ideas and robust outside evidence into the school. Each teacher and TA has chosen a book which they will discuss during INSET days in groups lead not by members of SLT, but by ordinary classroom practitioners.

Last Friday, I hosted the group reading Graham Nuthall’s The Hidden Lives of Learners. Our group, consisting of classroom teachers, NQTs, subject leaders and teaching assistants, discussed the introduction and the first two chapters, using our reading as a springboard for a broader reflection on our own experiences in the classroom. We considered how teaching methods and learning are fundamentally different things. We considered how orthodoxies of ‘effective teaching’ are often decided by fashion as much as anything else. We considered how the style of teaching and the personality of the teacher are of lesser importance than the effectiveness of the learning (a big phew! for a dullard like me.) We considered the importance of warm, kind classroom atmospheres but also the hard truth that these do not necessarily lead to good learning. We considered how students dumbfound us: they seem to know both more and less than we think they do! (Nuthall’s research has shown that students, on average, tend to know just short of fifty per cent of lesson content already.)

We talked about more, too, and I am certain that each group member took away quite different thoughts and ideas. The wonderful thing is that the book encouraged us to talk about teaching in an open and honest way, far beyond the limitations of the lesson grades and tick-box descriptors that have been the norm over the past decade or, in other words, the span of my teaching career. In our discussion, drama teacher David Hall talked about how sincerity is a vital quality in teaching. It is vital to good CPD too.

Of course, thinking and talking about teaching alone are not enough in themselves. They must lead eventually to changes in classroom practice and, crucially, student learning. However, the fact that teachers are being given the time and the trust to investigate and engage with wider evidence and ideas fills me with genuine optimism for the future of our profession.

The wall is beginning to crumble.

Related posts

Creating a research-rich climate: our first steps

Talking about teaching in a world without lesson grades

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Talking about teaching in a world without lesson grades

post-grade-feedback1Images: @jasonramasami

Teaching is a lonely profession. Outsiders rarely understand this. On any given day, I might communicate with over a hundred children, adapting my register and tone according to the needs of the class, the child and the situation as best I can. Yet, for many of us, communication with our colleagues can become little more than a passing word in a noisy corridor. Days or even weeks can gently slip by with little more than a cheery “Morning!” or a half-hearted “Good weekend?” As much as I enjoy teaching, I am always in role in the classroom, even if this has become more natural and relaxed over the years. I wonder if in our drive to improve the educational chances of our students, we might have forgotten the very human need for adult conversation.

The equation we work by is simple but probably wrong: hard work equals better educational outcomes. Doing seems to take precedence over thinking. Talking about teaching seems even more frivolous. How can we justify sitting down for a chat when there is a pile of mock exams eagerly awaiting our inspection? I wonder, though, whether the chance to stop, think, discuss and, dare I suggest, laugh about our practice with our closest colleagues is shamefully undervalued in our profession. Discussions about teaching can feel all too formal and rushed. They can also create an honesty problem. The fear of being ‘found out’ if we admit our weaknesses looms large.

Nothing, however, is worse than the forced feedback discussion that takes place after a graded lesson observation. However good the relationship between the observer and the observed teacher might be, however beautifully the lesson might have gone, the lesson grade – that arbitrary numeral from 1 to 4 – taints every moment of that most awkward of meetings. However much we might dress it up with ‘successes’ and ‘areas for improvement’, the purpose of the meeting becomes to feed back the grade. That grade forces an uneven dynamic: the observer becomes a judge and not a support; the teacher must succumb to the observer’s ‘superior wisdom’. Even though both are privy to the lesson, one view is unavoidably valorised over the other. The grade itself is obviously codswallop. How we can bottle the hugely complex social and cognitive dynamics that constitute a lesson, or part of one, into a comparable single digit is beyond me.

This gross crudity destroys the opportunity for the feedback session to become the vital meeting it should be. Two professionals have shared an experience in the classroom, albeit from opposing vantage points, bringing different experiences, beliefs and biases into the mix. What better catalyst for a rich discussion on the values, theory and pedagogy that underpin successful teaching?

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Roll on this week and roll on my first non-graded lesson observation. My school has thankfully taken the plunge and introduced a feedback-only system. Before the lesson I had spoken to Kate Bloomfield, my Head of Department, about my experimentations with ‘gallery critique’ and that I wanted her view on how effective she felt it was. In my planning, I made a few adjustment to the way I run these lessons by sharpening up the focus of feedback and giving students the opportunity to ‘magpie’ ideas from one another.

In the feedback meeting our discussion was wide-ranging. Kate praised the structure of the lesson and the effort of the students. Kate pointed out that the quantity of writing students had to read might have been over-ambitious for some. Might it have been more effective if those students who struggle with reading were asked to read shorter sections? This was a salient point which brought ideas about working memory to mind. We discussed the videoing of lessons such as this using IRIS technology and the benefits of having a bank of ‘good practice in English’ videos. We began to roughly plan some ideas on this for next year. I shared my reflection that it had been pointless to ask students to write feedback on each other’s spelling and punctuation; teaching them to proofread as part of the gallery critique process could be much more effective. Kate discussed how she would teach a similar lesson next week. My final action was to email her my lesson PowerPoint.

In short, we had a relaxed and interesting discussion, from which we both took something. We were able to talk and think about teaching and learning as two professionals in a meaningful way that would directly feed-forward into our future practice. More important than the planning, the lesson and the feedback was the fact that we had a genuine chance to put everything to one side to talk about teaching.

The end of lesson grades has given birth to something much more exciting. Time for discussion is limited in our profession; let us make sure that the fleeting chances we do find are not dogged by meaningless accountability measures.

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Related post: Hiding our Hearts of Darknesss: another voice against graded lesson observation

Investigating the threads: classroom craft or research?

investigating-threads

Image: @jasonramasami

A few months ago the laws of classroom physics conspired to place me in an awkward position, the kind of position that, I dearly hope, might only occur once in a career. At the moment I passed her chair, a tall year 8 girl with very long hair leant back so far that her hair, somehow, became attached to my trouser button. For at least a minute, amid desperate joint appeals for scissors, we tugged this way and that in a humiliating pantomime.

Thankfully the scissors were delivered swiftly (to remove the button, not the hair!). Even more thankfully, the button was on the back pocket of my trousers, not the front. Peace was resumed once again.

The number of variables and permutations we experience every day in our classrooms is tremendous. This student has had a sleepless night due to a family row; that student is desperate for the toilet but too shy to say. This day is too hot to concentrate; that day is too windy to think straight. This teacher is concerned about her very sick elderly mother; that teacher is still distraught at having received a ‘requires improvement’ judgement yesterday.

Unexpected episodes can derail our most thoughtfully planned lessons. Conversely, poorly-conceived lessons can turn out better than expected if fewer variables are working against us. In the hair scenario above, despite my careful attention to the known variables in the room, most potential learning was swamped by the memory that this was the lesson that ‘Sir got tied up in Emily’s hair’. I too have long forgotten the content of the lesson. Thankfully, such extremes are few and far between!

Classrooms are incredibly complex worlds. The depth of craft and nuance required by great teachers, who build up knowledge year by year the hard way, is extraordinary. So many potentials co-exist that it is no wonder that many ordinary teachers question the insights offered by educational research. What’s the point of trying to isolate causal effect when there are countless causes and even more effects occurring in my classroom every minute? Why apply empirical findings from elsewhere when no-one else knows my students like I do?

I understand these arguments. Indeed, at times, I have argued them myself. However, despite these caveats I think there is a strong case to be made for engagement with research in all its forms. Put simply, there are some things that work, and some things that don’t work (although these might have differing effects depending on teacher and subject). The evidence for this is simple and can be found in my own classroom: over the years, I have managed to improve the impact I have on my students, yet I am not completely clear as to why. I would like to work out the patterns – the threads amidst the chaos – that have made the most difference. And I would also like to know the converse: in spite of the biases I might irrationally cling to, what has made the least difference?

To help me address these questions, this year I have looked towards educational research. When I have had the time, I have read blogs, educational books and even a few research papers. I have started writing this blog too. The benefits of this approach have been striking: a new-found awareness of what I am doing and a resurrection of enthusiasm for the profession. A wider engagement with research has helped me identify what I have done well in the past and has given me ripe fruit for further investigation. It might be an illusion, but I feel closer to those threads of meaning than I did before.

Huge debate rages around the implementation of educational research. Some research seems infuriatingly contradictory. The more I read, the less I seem to know. I am acutely aware that my personal reading and understanding only represents the tip of he iceberg.

My concern is that research findings can too often be presented as a panacea for the perceived faults in our system. Introduce the findings of this particular cognitive scientist or educational powerhouse and the streets of learning will be paved in gold.

It is imperative that we root out the most robust findings, those studies that have been replicated in a variety of educational settings. At times we will need to take risks too, so that we test out findings from other fields such as cognitive science, because the findings seem too good an opportunity to be missed.

What we must remember, however, is that any implementation of a strategy gleaned from research is a leap of faith. We cannot assume that it will be successful in our classroom contexts immediately or perhaps at all. We must not convince ourselves that our initial implementations are the most suitable nor that they will meaningfully improve what we have built through years of craft. It is also very easy to lose the nuances of research findings in the translation.

Take the finding from cognitive scientists such as Professor Robert Bjork that learning should be interleaved and spaced rather than massed (i.e. learning sequences should follow an abcabcabcabc pattern rather than the traditional aaaabbbbccc pattern). I find this research extremely persuasive as it chimes with my own reflections about why my students do not retain knowledge very well. However, this leads to myriad questions. Which produces the most successful outcomes: the interleaving of topics, assessment objectives, types of task or all three? In English, would teaching a range of texts and topics in unison militate against the love of reading we want to engender? What would the costs of this system be in terms of the efficiency of teacher planning and organisation?

It is incumbent upon us to test and trial research findings in our own contexts, to handle them cautiously and with a sceptical eye. As such, we must research the research so that it works successfully for us. Unthinking top-down diktats, research-informed or not, are dangerous in that they limit our capacity for critical thinking.

Nevertheless, an education system that works on informed, tested hunches must be in a stronger position than one that relies solely on the intuitive hunch. (Read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow if you have any doubt that we should treat our intuitions with healthy caution.) In the choice between acceptance or rejection of research findings, the latter appears the poorer option.

I take a wide-angled view of research. Engaging in research, to me, is about deepening our thinking and increasing our autonomy. The more we read, the more we think, the more likely we are to have the confidence to question received wisdom. The idea that the perfect ‘Ofsted-style’ lesson is the paragon of teaching excellence, for example.

Our own research, from reading research papers to observing successful colleagues, should provide the catalyst for thinking about and investigating our practice. Be that as it may, the classroom is so richly complex that we will always need to fall back on our craft and intuition. Experience is so vital when dealing with the complex and, at times, downright bizarre world we inhabit every day. Yet as long as we keep our wits about us, research findings might help us identify and hone the threads of our craft in ways we once considered impossible. If our students learn better than they once did as a result of our engagement in research, then the debates become redundant.

It is up to our leaders to provide the time and opportunity to make this possible for all.

Becoming an excellent teacher: can we rewrite the myth of Sisyphus?

Sisyphus

One of the most unexpected things about starting a blog is how many new opportunities it offers to you. For most of my career I have hidden behind my classroom door – or, more recently, my computer screen – quietly getting on with my day-to-day business. So it was an honour and a surprise to be asked to present a key-note speech at the NQT Meet at the Sir Robert Woodard Academy this evening.

Being a novice public speaker, I wrote the whole thing out first before I practised it to death. Here it is in all its 2,000 word glory (a bit long for a blog post, I know). It draws on much I have read in other blogs over the past few months as well as the ideas of Albert Camus. I hope it is of some use to you.

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I have been given a difficult task, no an impossible one – describing what it means to be an excellent teacher. Please let me start with a confession. I don’t consider myself to be an excellent teacher, just one who is interested in the idea of what excellence in teaching might be and how we might reach such dizzying heights.

So, to start, I’d like to take you on back eight years to my NQT year…

Charles Dickens wrote ‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.’ My NQT year could be summed up in the same way. Some memories come to mind immediately:

  • First, my wonderful Y10 top set, the kind of class who would let you get away with your mistakes – and there were many. I could probably name all those students even now.
  • I distinctly recall a fantastic piece of writing from one girl. I still have a copy somewhere. A dystopian tale set in a bleak black-and-white future. I can recite some of it to this day
  • Then there was the Y9 class who tormented me. I even remember punching a desk in rage (it was painful and rather pathetic – particularly as it did not make a sound). One girl in particular haunted me day and night; she made my life hell. I recently saw her from a distance in a local pub; it all came rushing back.
  • And last of all, my assiduous attempt to collate all my resources and planning on to CD ROMs. Ha, I thought, rubbing my novice hands together in glee, I will never need to plan again…

Oh, how wrong I was!

Before we move on, I’d like to remind you of – or introduce you to – the Greek tale of Sisyphus. As punishment from the gods, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a boulder to the top of a mountain. Once he reached the top, the boulder would roll back down again. For eternity, Sisyphus would roll that boulder to the top, only for it to roll down again and again and again. Futile labour, therefore, was a hideous punishment. It is too easy for us, as teachers, to go home in the evenings feeling like Sisyphus, feeling that our students have learnt little and that we could be teaching them in a more effective way.

How can we avoid our careers becoming like this? Could we realistically balance the rock on the mountain-top and in doing so become excellent teachers?

The first place we must look for help is our colleagues, our fellow ‘Sisyphi’ if you will. If others are finding strategies to balance the rock at the top, and have ways of sharing this with us, then we should learn from them. I think there are two ways we learn from our colleagues, the ‘hard way’ and the ‘soft way’.

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The hard way is unavoidable; it is part of the CPD package provided by our schools. It can be useful and necessary. More importantly, I’d like to talk about the soft way – it’s much more exciting. However, there are plenty of softer ways we can take the bull by the horns and do it for ourselves: observing colleagues, attending Teach Meets, videoing ourselves in action, reading blogs and educational literature and perhaps joining Twitter amongst other things.

For me, the last one on the list, awareness, has been so key – and it’s easy too. Listen and watch carefully the teachers around you admire as they go about their daily business. How do they talk to students? How do they diffuse situations? How do they subtly assert themselves? Reflect and then consider how you can adjust, adapt and reconfigure the way you do the small things. Watch and learn, as they say. It’s simple, powerful and adds no time at all.

There is another place we can look for help in balancing Sisyphus’ rock. There are those who stand to one side observing, measuring, quantifying and computing. These are the educational researchers. They have some very interesting things to tell us about the excellent teacher, yet there often ignored in modern schools because of our unhealthy obsession with what we think Ofsted want.

Have a look here at the six characteristics of a great teacher from a student’s point of view, taken from John Corrigan’s Group 8 Education student voice research. (Via John Tomsett’s excellent blog).

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Pretty obvious, and thankfully no mention of ‘differentiated learning objectives’ either. Maybe the possibility of balancing the rock is simpler than we imagine? Now take this synthesis of studies taken from Hattie and Yates’s wonderful Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn.

Expert teacher

Again, really useful, but also pretty self-evident and as we might expect. Yet how easy is it to get there?

Ultimately, I think, we are the masters of our own fate. If we are to improve and strive to be the best we can, we must take the lion’s share of the responsibility into our own hands. It is a well-repeated fact that after two or three years of teaching, most of us plateau – we reach a stage where we have overcome the initial difficulties and we make little meaningful improvement. You will need to face up to this yourselves.

One of the main ways to combat this is what is known as ‘deliberate practice’. Research agrees that to become an expert in a field we must practice it for 10,000 hours, or put another way, 3 to 4 hours a day over a 10 year period. However, this is not as easy as it seems. We need to identify areas for improvement just out of reach, strive to upgrade our performance, monitor our progress and revise accordingly. In other words, if we are struggling in class with our questioning or our explanations, for instance, we must consciously focus on as we are teaching, not just through our reflections. This is not as easy as it sounds. Through repeated practice we can embed unwanted skills as well as desirable skills, hence why our practice must be tightly and relentlessly focused on improvement.

You may have wondered why I am using Sisyphus and his boulder as an allusion today. In fact, it is part of my personal deliberate practice – to improve the way I explain myself in lessons by using stories and allusions to help students remember what I have told them. Even pronouncing Sisyphus correctly, as you might have noticed, has been a stretch!

Another way is, of course, through the reflective process. For me, thinking back over what has happened in the classroom and then adapting and modifying my approach is vital. There is no shame in teaching a bad lesson; it is how it informs future lessons that matters.

Last of all is ‘awareness’ again, this time in terms of what is happening around us. I have yet to meet the teacher who can perfectly predict how every event in the classroom will play out – over time we do gain a kind of sixth-sight built up from experience, but it can never be perfect. Teaching happens in the moment and we must be alive to the unscripted nature of the classroom and be prepared to act. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

This year I have set up a blog to record some of my reflections; I find it has made a huge difference by making my reflections sharper. It is also an exciting way to connect with teachers in this country and beyond. I know that I am no expert, but I would like to leave you with five tips. As with all advice, you will need to make them work for you, in your classroom, with your students – who are possibly very different from mine.

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Consider the use of time. Is the strategy I am planning to use worth the effort I am putting in? It is probably apocryphal but it is said that we spend more hours of our lives on the toilet than we do at school. If we are going to make time in the classroom count, we need to become more focussed. Our children only have once chance at school; we only have one life. A balance must be struck so that we work reasonable hours on useful tasks that genuinely make a difference.

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Put the long-term first, rather than the short term. I’ve spent too long in my career chasing that elusive ‘outstanding’ lesson judgement. Trust me, they are barely worth the paper they are written on. It’s easy to get kids to perform on the day, but very hard to get them to learn in the long term. Think of the weeks, months and years ahead.

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We are often told that great lessons must contain a pick’n’mix of the following: carefully worded learning objectives, individualised learning for each student, an engaging learning ‘hook’, 15 different tasks, a competitive element, books full of red teacher feedback, carousel tasks, group work, pair work, the teacher dressed up as Mary Poppins…(although you won’t find many ‘spoonfuls of sugar’ in my classroom!). You could find these in a fine lesson, I am sure, but equally you could find them all in an awful lesson. To my mind, even though it is essential to understand and employ a wide range of teaching strategies, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Never forget that sometimes we can be just as effective by simply telling students what we need them to learn. My hunch is that subject content is often more important than how we deliver it.

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I know I have said it before but the reflection process is so vital. I often say to my classes: ‘thinking is working’. It is so true for us too. What those not in education do not realise is that our minds never switch off. Sometimes it feels almost impossible to turn our minds from ‘teacherly’ thoughts and as such reflection is both our greatest friend and our worst enemy.

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Learn to love failure. There is no such thing as perfection in this job. Have a look at the statement above from Dylan Wiliam, the esteemed education writer.

Teaching is tough and rewarding, both intellectual and creative. We need to daily combine – on a Monday morning too – the determination of the marathon runner with the artistry of Van Gogh. This really is the toughest profession in the world.

So, let’s consider the original question: can we ever overcome Sisyphus’ plight? The answer is… probably not. Yet, for me, even though a truly excellent teacher can set the rock in place for hours at a time, it will not – and should not – stay put. When it does eventually come thundering down, we ascend the mountain the next time a little bit wiser than we did before. And that is the fun of the job.

My final words are simple. Let’s celebrate both our successes and our failures. Perfection is impossible, but doing a great job is not.

Enjoy Easter and the enjoy the rest of your careers.

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If you have got here and you are still reading, I am sure you would love this post from Shaun Allison about a truly great teacherMr Clarke.

In celebration of failure

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“Every teacher fails on a daily basis. If you are not failing you are just not paying attention because we fail all the time.”

Dylan Wiliam

When I first heard the quote above from Dylan Wiliam it was as if I had been finally set free. I have spent the majority of my career searching for my teaching Shangri-La: the ultimate lesson, the ultimate scheme-of-work, the ultimate piece of work, the ultimate questioning sequence… Funnily enough it has only been this academic year, the year that I have stepped up my search for perfection, that I have come to accept that in this profession the perfect is an illusion, a mirage in the desert. The quest will continue – it must – but in the comfort that the treasure trove will never be located. And how could it be? It never existed in the first place.

I have been beguiled in the past few months by the theory that expertise takes roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice – practice, that is, primarily focused on improvement. For teachers, this is about mindful, effortful concentration on the development of our daily practice so that our skill becomes automatic. It is pretty obvious that we will become better teachers by following this path. Yet it cannot be the full answer. A violinist can become an expert – deliberately practice a note enough times and you will, I am sure, master that note. Teaching is more complex. However skilfully we teach our lessons, the children in front of us will never respond with the consistency of musical instruments. Some will stay in tune, others will not. There is no such thing as success and failure in this job: every moment is tinged with both. We can become experts but we cannot master this profession.

If our lesson planning is not too rigid, we can respond to the unanticipated during lessons and redirect students as necessary – see my post on responsive differentiation. However, these decisions are taken in the spur of the moment. Perhaps the best way to genuinely respond to our students is through a process of critical reflection that feeds-forward into the planning of the next lesson or sequence of lessons. This reflection will be based on a wide range of factors including assessment. It is not humanly possible to mark every student’s book every lesson but there are many ways to ‘take the temperature’ during and after a lesson – if I know a class, I tend to find checking a few books across the ability range is usually a pretty accurate method.

Frustratingly, although the detailed knowledge we have built up of our students helps us to predict their response with some degree of prescience, we can never be sure how our plans will play out. That’s why I have never understood how you can fully plan a lesson before you have taught the lesson prior to it. It is natural that we should have fixed and clear long-term goals for our students. However, to successfully steer our students towards these goals our weekly and termly plans must have in-built flexibility.

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Take a lesson I taught this week for example. My Y8s were writing a poem inspired by Imtiaz Dharker’s Blessing. The idea was that we would model together the start of an example and, with a scaffold I had given them, they would write their own. Some could use the scaffold as a support, others were expected to borrow from Dharker’s techniques to create something a little more original. My job would be to sit at the computer writing my own version which I would stop to show the whole class intermittently so that it would a) act as an exemplar to prompt their own thinking and b) enable me to model my meta-cognitive thinking.

It sounds great written down, but, quite frankly, it did not work for all. The scaffold I had provided made the task too hard for some, and my lack of circulation meant that I was not able to ‘take the temperature’ and respond as I normally would. The lesson was flawed.

Today was take-two; I went back to the drawing board. I freed myself up so that I was able to intervene with individuals and I modified the scaffold. The results were much better, but still not quite where I had hoped. But then, when are our hopes ever fully fulfilled?

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The above example illustrates why my self-critical nature is very useful to me. I struggle to understand how the micro-planning of units of work weeks in advance, or, even worse, expecting all the teachers in a department to work from a pre-designated plan can lead to genuine success.

For me, reflection is the most valuable thing I do. However, I am aware that as with everything in this profession it has its limitations. I am aware that reflection relies on the impossible: the objectivity of our intuition. I am also aware that learning is invisible and defies an easy definition. Who is to say that those who struggled on the Blessing task learnt less than those who produced a lovely completed poem? I only have their written performance to inform my reflective process.

Be that as it may, thinking backwards and thinking forwards are such a vital part of our job. Inherently it is an individual, independent process. Yes, discussion and collaboration with our colleagues play an important role. (I love the fact that my school has introduced coaching to provide a whole-school structure that enables us to verbalise these internal processes.) Nevertheless, it remains true that the teacher occupies a solitary, lonely position – only we are privy to our hour-by-hour experiences in the classroom.

We must train ourselves not to respond in an emotionally negative way to our shortcomings otherwise our frustration will wear us down. Instead, we must learn to celebrate our failures and help our colleagues to feel confident in doing the same.

Watch Dylan Wiliam’s talk here: