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…?