Dear Fake Headteacher,

Another round of lesson observations and members of staff who have been at your school for several years, have perfected their lessons for you. They have endured many lesson feedback meetings with you and now know exactly how to please you.

However, your philosophy isn’t exclusive to good teaching. It’s not the only way. Just because a teacher doesn’t teach how you expect, it doesn’t mean they are inadequate teachers.

My advice to any colleague who is starting a new school is this:

See the Head on day one. Ask them to tell you what they want to see in your lessons. Ask them, “Do you like plenaries? Whole class inputs? Use of lolly sticks for questioning? Mixed ability groups etc.” Ask them what particular things they like to see in your lesson. What are they fans of? What don’t they like?

Also, speak to the teachers who have been there a while. Ask them the same questions. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with the Head’s ideas. Learn them. Master them. Get good lesson feedback and stay under the radar. Then do what you do naturally? Surely it doesn’t matter how you teach? Yes. It does matter apparently.

My experience in my last four schools has been very different:

School 1:

  • The Head wanted to see whole class inputs for ten minutes and a plenary for ten minutes – every lesson
  • The children had to be in ability groups and moved once every half term if needed.
  • You were expected to ‘butterfly’ teach and not to sit with a group
  • The learning objective had to be shared in the first minute
  • Children had to use whiteboards on the carpet to brainstorm ideas
  • Mark how you want to – you were trusted – praise a lot

If you did these things you would almost guarantee a good / outstanding lesson. I did. Yeah!

School 2:

I had cracked what a good lesson was! Well, that’s what I thought! I failed my first observation based on what I had been told in my first school. I was devastated. It turns out the Head at this school preferred:

  • No learning objective shared at the start as it told them too much straight away
  • No plenaries. Instead, several mini plenaries throughout the lesson
  • Sit with one group and concentrate on pushing their learning forward. Absolutely no ‘butterfly teaching’
  • Group them by ability and provide evidence that children move groups throughout the week
  • Children to sit on chairs at all times – no carpet time as children get too distracted?
  • Mark how you want to as long as you use our simple marking code

It took me a while to re-program my style of teaching but I mastered it and eventually I was consistently getting good observations.

School 3: Academy

I arrived as a ‘good’ teacher and knew how to teach to a high standard. I was looking forward to my lesson observations because I knew what to do to impress the Head. I failed my first two lesson observations! It turns out my new Head had very different ideas to my previous two Heads.

  • No whole class input because it didn’t cater to all needs
  • No introduction – straight into group teaching
  • Teacher to stay with one ability group for first 15 minutes, TA to another, one group working independently
  • Three different learning objectives for each lesson for each ability group
  • No plenaries at all
  • No time to praise – just write targets
  • Children to stay in seats at all times so observer can track progress of each group (no drama, moving around to different activities etc.)
  • After you teach a group, move to the independent group and TA support class
  • Use coloured cups so you can see who needs help (green, orange, red)
  • Follow the 2 page book scrutiny checklist in order to mark correctly and for books to look uniform across the whole school.

Bloody hell. I hated this. This made no sense to me at all. I argued that most of what they wanted to see was not for the children. I was put on a coaching program for 2 weeks where I watched an average teacher deliver the ‘perfect’ lesson. When I still couldn’t quite master this new style during my next observation, I was threatened with capabilities. I left at Easter. Very stressed and very confused. Still, I found a new job!

School 4:

By now, I had lost my identify as a teacher along with any confidence I once had. Who 

2017-19 Full blogs are now archived in the book ‘How Do You Think the Lesson Went?’