Get the Teaching Right

Get the teaching right and everything else feels easier.

This little mantra has echoed through my thoughts consistently throughout the last eleven years as a teacher. Seeing students enjoy the lessons that I have planned and seeing them learn and develop has, and always will be, the best thing about the job. When it’s going well in the classroom I feel everything else can be done. And it generally gets done. The marking, programmes of study, reports, action plans, data entry…

Get the teaching right

Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed settling into my new role as the Vice Principal at a newly converted academy. Immediately obvious was the fact that this was going to be a steep and speedy learning curve. Decisions that I was used to seeing being made by more experienced and knowledgeable colleagues in my previous school were now down to me. What will the curriculum look like next year? How will we include “modern British values” in the curriculum? Do we need to include modern British values in the curriculum? How do I start to write a three year development plan for a school from which 65% of students left without qualifications in English and maths? In addition to trying to offer some semblance of a strategic roadmap to answer these questions I, of course, had to teach. Because that’s what I am: teacher. Teacher first. VP second.

Get the teaching right …

This is what I found myself keeping in mind over the last few weeks. I’ve always felt that having credibility in the classroom meant staff took you seriously. Teaching has a “show us yer medals” attitude that often permeates football. Just ask David Moyes. Much of the reporting of Moyes’ time in charge at Manchester United focused on the fact he’d never won anything before therefore he couldn’t possibly know how to win anything. He hadn’t proved anything. He couldn’t ‘show ’em his medals’. Teaching is similar in the sense you need to prove you can teach, that you know your stuff, earned your classroom medals, so to speak, if you are to be taken seriously as a senior leader. That’s why the first three weeks in my new post has seen me spend as much time preparing lessons, assessing exercise books, sharing resources and sharing lesson plans as considering the strategic direction of the school. But then comes the actual teaching…

Get the teaching right…

Students aren’t really bothered about hierarchy in the same way staff are. School staff can be surprisingly rigid and place value in the formal hierarchy of the school. The formal teaching hierarchy in a school goes something like this: Teaching assistants, NQTs, teachers, heads of department, assistant head teachers, deputy head teachers (Vice principals),head teachers (principals). As in many workplaces, the ways staff interact with each other can be very dependent on where you fit into that hierarchy. Students couldn’t care less. So this last three weeks has seen this newly appointed VP floundering in the classroom with a group of ruthless Year 11s! A new teacher is a new teacher. There to be teased, mocked, tested. Boundaries pushed, challenged and broken.

I’ve loved it.

It was back to the implementation of routines, rituals expectations, systems that I relied far more heavily on in the early years of my time in the classroom: be at the classroom before the students arrive, books and resources out on the table, meet them at the door, smile, show them you are happy to see them, spare pens, spare books…Basic stuff. Vital stuff.

So as week four approaches I’m set to continue dedicate myself to getting my teaching right. Getting it right in the class with the students is what counts. Whether your an NQT or VP this is what will always count.

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