Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reflective Practice

I need to talk about appraisal and the need for us to get rid of those classroom observations, those goals, those attestation sheets, those books we write in and all other associated nonsense that we have been using for donkeys ages. 
Why is every teacher Guilty before being proven innocent every year? 
What about those guys who have been teaching 20 years and you as a principal know they are very competent but wish they could look to "get better".
ERO visit schools and principals bleat and moan about the process, claiming "its a snapshot" "they missed this" "they missed that" and all of those assumptions are true. Principals who bleat the loudest need to first look at the way they appraise their teachers before taking the whip to ERO.
If your school organises visits, writes up what they saw, writes recommendations, uses senior managers in a hierarchical structure to observe and more, then arent they "doing and ERO" on your teachers. The very same people they bleat too about ERO.

The simple answer is that appraisal is not easy, and I am yet to come across a school that has a brilliant system. We need to do something that will address all the issues, tick all the boxes and make a difference.
There needs to be a balance of several things.
Trust, belief, value.
Firstly what is this crap that teachers need to be attested too every year, so does this mean that you are competent one year and not the next year. How can Principals who use a checklist on an observation really determine your Professional Standards and attest to them. You know they are coming. You have marked your kids books. You have planned the model lesson. The only way to know how you are going is to work with you over a period of time and to see you operate many many times, at all times of the day, prepared and not prepared, hot or cold, wet or dry, there is nothing to hide when we have trust.

As well as trust staff need to know that the hierarchical system isn't the go, isn't fair, isn't sensible, and isn't productive. When this discussion is had, it is time to look to something that we believe in. As teachers we are all different with our ways of dealing with issues and problems but generally a teacher is intelligent and quite opinionated. Therefore any replacement to the ERO model must have an underlying belief from everyone that it's right.

There is nothing worse than an observation from some lemon who offers feedback. You either nod away and take the suggestions or you uncomfortably challenge but remembering you are in a hierarchy. The outcomes of an appraisal need to be valuable, for both parties and they should address needs. 

Conversations are everything but how are they set up to address everything above.
We are working together on a system of reflective practice, having observations that are non judgmental, unplanned, and as pairs or groups. The value comes in the conversation with the observers, the observee is just a vehicle for discussion. Teachers are able to observe pedagogy and discuss pedagogy in a controlled, non judgmental way. How many staff-rooms around the place have those conversations. 
How do I justify the Attestation. Easy - Trust in staff - Belief in what we are doing- gaining Value through the process.

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