A few weeks ago on Facebook, this came up in my ‘On This Day’ feed:
I knew it was around the anniversary of this particular incident and I’m surprised that I’ve not written about it before. There are a few episodes that I consider to have broken me as a teacher and this was one of them, one of the final nails in the coffin.
But first, some context…
This was in the days of graded observations, which apparently are no longer a thing. I can’t remember the exact reasons why but following a couple of wobbly observations, the school offered some support / observation opportunities from a partner school, with the view of us learning from their good & outstanding practise. Fair enough (although at this point my confidence was already pretty low). So, a teacher came in and produced a very good, well structured lesson for my class. Afterwards, we discussed it, how her techniques could be implemented and we planned a sequence of lessons for the following week, during which I would be observed by my SLT and a teacher from the partner school.
The class were writing non-fiction reports about nocturnal animals and during the week, the class had researched different animals and written bullet point plans. In the observation lesson the kids were using their plans to produce their own non-fiction reports. Wishing to show willing and improve my teaching practise, I expended a lot of energy and effort implementing the other teacher’s advice and techniques (since this was held up as the model of good/outstanding teaching) and the class did me proud. Kids who, before this week, had never seen a bullet point, used them to plan and then write a decent non-fiction report.
I knew it wasn’t going to be ‘outstanding’ but I was fairly certain – and the TA agreed – that it was good. I was feeling confident at the end of the day when I went for my feedback only to be told that the lesson ‘required improvement’. Maybe I was too crestfallen and defeated to argue my case but what got me the most was the feedback that
We didn’t understand what was happening in that lesson…and we didn’t expect the children to produce the work they did from what we saw.
Just re-read that: “…we didn’t expect the children to produce the work they did from what we saw.” Excuse me, but who cares what you expected? The kids did produce the work from what they saw, they clearly understood what was happening in the lesson and they were 5 & 6 years old. Why should your expectations, rather than their outcomes, be the grounds on which you pass career-defining judgement upon me?
So what happened next?
I know I can be over-sensitive but I think that was the point I really gave up and thought, despite all my best efforts, advice, feedback or seemingly evidence of good learning, I clearly do not have it in me to be even a satisfactory teacher. A few weeks after that I handed in my resignation. I plodded through the motions for the next half term, until I was due my final observation, during my final week at school. Maybe my heart wasn’t in it, maybe I was feeling additionally nervous and stressed but by my own admission, I produced a slightly shit one. My nerves were evident, I forgot key bits, it was a shaky lesson and the kids work was a bit crap. The example below is by the same child at the work above. As you can see, she really hasn’t tried and it’s far from her best.
The observation grading? Well, you can probably guess: ‘good’.
Maybe the school were trying to let me leave on a positive, maybe they wanted to show that their CPD had demonstrably improved a wobbly teacher. I don’t know. All I do know is that it made me believe that I have not got a clue how to plan and deliver a decent lesson. If engaged children producing good work that actively shows progress is less effective than a lesson where children produce half-hearted pieces of work while the nervous teacher can’t get his words out properly (but does put on a wizard’s hat), then I admit defeat. You broke me.
My colleagues told me I shouldn’t let it get to me, that I’m a good teacher and I should find another school but the passion, withering though it was, really died that day.