I only have one pair of hands!

How many times have I heard that phrase?  “I only have one pair of hands!” My mother used to say it to me all the time. My head would ring with it and I would wait in anticipation for the comment when I asked her to perform some menial task for me, which my sense of entitlement as a teenager governed my belief that she was on this planet for the very purpose of performing menial tasks for me – and occasionally my brother!

Well… now I find myself dealing with tens of teenagers, hundreds in a week, and more and more now I’m feeling that those words should be on a loop pedal usually reserved for musicians like KT Tunstall and Ed Sheerin – playing quietly in the background as the hours of my day pass along. The problem is: its not the kids in the room that I’d be saying those words to.

More and more now, I feel that we, as classroom practitioners, are being asked to do more “stuff” in lessons. Yep, its a busy old gig, is teaching. However, at a seemingly exponential rate, it feels like I’m being asked to just keep adding to the “must do” list when I deliver a lesson. By implication, does this mean that before this, I actually had the time to do this extra “stuff?

When I first started teaching, I thought, wow, teachers do a lot!! Bearing in mind that this was not so long ago… we had to prepare our lessons to a good standard, produce the resources needed, add in some differentiated materials and extension activities, take the register, hand out equipment, collect homework, do some AfL stuff such as some peer marking or self-assessment… ok, I get it… this is what we did, and I think I did it pretty well. We also had time in lessons to get the kids reflecting on their learning… sometimes, just thinking about what something meant to them. I’d even go as far as saying, at times, I found the time to inspire and motivate the kids to engage with and enjoy the topics we covered.

So what about now. It seems that we have become so obsessed with the idea of changing things that now the very bread and butter of what we do is transforming into something unrecognisable to me – and often unmanageable. So what are the expectations of today? Well, now we create “marking dialogues” with the kids. Fine. I get it… and based on John Hattie’s research, it seems a pretty good way of improving standards. But it takes a long time to get right. Now there’s no money for SEND, so I find myself with no TA support in lessons where some kids simply cannot read. They need one to one support and that person is now me… as I’m teaching another 22 kids in the same room.  This means not just creating extra resources for them, but it takes time out of the lesson, In addition, we have brought in new devices like SPaG mats to improve their literacy. And we have introduced the use of extra media devices like Twin Space and Edmodo – even Twitter and YouTube are being used more regularly. Now I’m no dinosaur… I’m a real supporter of dragging schools into the 21st century and I’m lucky to have a HoD that often takes the lead in the school with new tech. My biggest issue is time – and the number of hands I have.

At times, I feel like I simply do not have the time to implement all that I’m being asked in the classroom. I feel like I just don’t have enough hands to do all the things being asked of me. I’m finding a lot of things we’re doing is more about creating evidence to say to OFSTED, “Hey, look, over here, I’m a good teacher” instead of just being a good teacher! Maybe I don’t manage my time well… maybe that’s the problem. But I do know this… today I feel like a worse teacher than I did two years ago. That doesn’t sit well with me.

Maybe I need more hands…?

Where does the time go?

I liked this blog because its presents some interesting points in a fun way. I agree that time needs to be used effectively… the only problem I have with time is that it is finite (unless I am able to speed up to almost the speed of light, which I can’t) which means out perceptions on the passage of time are secondary to how much time we have left. Eight weeks is eight weeks… help… panic… but maybe the panic is more about us than them! Great post… liked the reference to Floyd!

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They say time flies when you’re having fun. I’m not convinced. I think time just flies.

Here we all are again, limbering up for the exam season. Another year, counting down our lessons or days left until the examinations, trying to inject some sense of urgency into our pupils while walking the fine line between giving necessary support, keeping everyone motivated or positive yet applying enough pressure for pupils to take responsibility.

As teachers, during term time our lives are dominated by timetables and routines that are indifferently monitored by the school bell or stroke of the clock hand, mechanically reminding everyone to move on to the next thing. The build up to the exams always makes me think about time…..probably because there never seems to be enough hours in the day and that it seems to be moving at an incredible pace. It seems Earth increased its rotation.

I…

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A Real Teacher? Ask them…

I had a wonderful moment in my classroom last week… one of those times that money can’t buy and you get a real sense of what this whole thing is all about.

Earlier on this year we had a wonderful trainee teacher in the school. He was a really nice bloke who fit in well with the staff and his department… and by all accounts, a fantastic teacher. Ask my son… he came home regularly buzzing on his lessons and informed me that he was one of the best teachers in the school, in his opinion.

Well… last week the trainee in the spotlight got the chance for a job interview for a permanent position at our school. I was routing for him… personally, I thought that our Senior Team would have a screw loose not to appoint him, but you never know!

So I bumped into him in our staff room about 15 minutes after his interview and he was still waiting for the verdict. I said, “Pop into my classroom and let me know…” Then I started teaching my wonderful Year 11 History class – one of the best set of students I’ve ever had! 20 minutes into my lesson, he popped his head through the door with a big smile and a raised thumb with the words, “Got it.”

At that moment, my year 11 class erupted with cheers and loud applause. I turned to him, he was clearly a little overwhelmed, and said, “So you teach this lot as well?”

He looked around the room, thanked the class humbly and said, “Yes, I do.” And with that, he was gone – hopefully for a well deserved celebration.

We live in a world now where we are judged every step of the way. We produce reams of paperwork to justify our existence, collect evidence to show those in power that we are not the wishy-washy, holiday-enjoying, 6-hour-day, unprofessionals that the media and some from the Government would lead many to believe. Our biggest critics often come from the ranks of our society that know nothing about what we do, really, but claim their expertise on our profession. Well, guess what? I had just witnessed a judgement from the real experts. And they were not cheering because this person was an easy ride, or let them get away with what they wanted to do. This applause came from a bunch of experts who had experienced the changes in the English education system first hand; that had experienced a wide array of teachers – good and not so good. They were in the twilight of their academic lives in secondary education and they knew a great teacher when they saw one and made it clear with their applause because they’d run through a wall for this teacher. This teacher inspired and interested each and every pupil and squeezed every ounce of ability out of them. This person was a teacher. There are more like this person. I should know, I work with them. The kids should know – they applaud them! Maybe we need to celebrate them more because for me, it was a great moment worthy of sharing.