Fake Teacher: Then and Now – Letter No.3

Dear Head,

Many of us have been discussing why we are not enjoying teaching quite as much as we used to.

We used to mark with the nearest pen we could find.

Suddenly, we all had to use the same colour pen. Then, we were all bought the same pen so the books all looked the same. Now we use green and pink highlighters to show the children what they did well and what they need to do to improve. It’s a great way to prove your impact apparently.

We used to tick good words or sentences as we read work and if necessary, add a comment. A simple marking code used to be sufficient.

The children used to use pencil or pen and edit with the same pencil or pen.

Now, children write in pen or pencil and if they want to improve their work, they have to find a purple polishing pen. The children asked us, ‘Why are we using purple pens?’ We told them it was a good way to prove the teacher has had an impact on the work and shows very clearly to Ofsted that the children have had opportunities to re-draft.

We used to know how the lesson went and who needed support the next day. We would see the gaps and plan appropriately.

Now, we have to give next steps and targets every five minutes and allow children to respond to that advice. Some schools have dedicated time in the day for children to respond to the written feedback given (outside of normal lesson time).

I was put on a coaching program recently because the Head said my class had made excellent progress. I was confused. He said although the children had made excellent progress, I hadn’t made it clear in their books the impact I was having! Not enough two stars and a wish apparently. I needed to make it clear what verbal feedback I was giving and to make more use of think pink and great green to highlight the impact I was having.

We used to write “Well done” or “Excellent work today,” and knew exactly what they had to learn the next day to improve. We didn’t need to constantly tell them what they hadn’t done.

“Well done” is frowned upon is some schools now. We now have to write next steps or prove we know how to move their learning forward by writing targets and advice in their books. We feel guilty only writing congratulatory comments. 

Of course we marked pieces that needed marking but only when they needed marking. Now, we are told we have to ‘deep mark’ once a week. No one really knows what this even looks like. It has become part of our book scrutiny checklist.

The children in Key Stage 2 would always write a title.

That would be it. A title. Three words maximum. It would take thirty seconds to do and it was a good opportunity to remind them how to write titles, how to use correct capital letters and how to use a ruler to underline. Of course, the title didn’t tell the whole picture but then the title didn’t need to prove to an observer what the children were learning about. In most cases, it was bloody obvious. 

We shared the learning objective in the lesson and always discussed what was required to make it a good piece of writing (success criteria).

Now we have success criteria and toolkits that have to be placed in books. They don’t need to be in books. I think they just reassure you and Ofsted that we have good subject knowledge. It is something you look for during book scrutiny.

Now, you insist we type up lengthy learning objective stickers. But it almost tells children too much straight away. There is no discovery. They are not for the children. They are to make the books look nice and prove to Ofsted how good our lessons are. It just adds to our workload. 

Some schools ask the children to write the learning objective. But they are still too long and some argue that it is a waste of valuable learning time. 

We miss very short titles! Common sense please.

Our planning would have a learning objective on with a few bullet points as to how the lesson might go.

Now, we have to write out a success criteria, write down the questions we will ask the children, make it clear who our SEN and Pupil Premium children are, write down what resources we need, how we will support the more able, give instructions for our teaching assistants, write down what group our teaching assistants will teach and other such nonsense. It’s like being a student again.

To make it worse, we never look at this plan during the week. It gets saved on the server and re-written the following year. We have suggested several times that we should only plan the first lesson in detail as we have no idea how the week we pan out. And after that, we write out the rest of the week as we go. But you still insist that we type up weekly plans, “What if you are sick one day?” Grrr.

We used to enjoy discussing work with the children.

Now you expect us to record everything the children say. You even have comment slips that we have to carry around with us in case a child says something interesting. It’s because we need to collect evidence for everything as we can’t be trusted. 

For example, my children tried to count in multiples of 100. I ticked off who could do it. Excited, because so many could already do it, you told me to individually film them and upload it to our data program as good evidence. I am the evidence. They could do it!

I told you about Child A last week who clearly explained why the author had used particular words to express an emotion. You told me to write down everything he said as proof. Now, when I am teaching reading, I spend my time writing down what pupils are saying rather than actively listening to them. We used to have a tick list to say if pupils could discuss authors’ use of language. I would put a tick next to Child A’s name. Easy. I am the evidence. They did it!

After children had edited the work we had marked, children would publish it. The work would then be put up on the wall as a way to motivate children and boost their self-esteem.

Now you are lucky if you see any published work on the wall as we have to prove our impact by continually updating working walls. 

They are raw displays that prove how much learning is taking place. If Ofsted come in, it will be clear how focused we are and prove we have good subject knowledge. Children don’t really look at them and it’s a pain in the rear trying to keep them up to date.

If you are lucky, you might have completed working walls for a few days before they are striped naked again ready for the following unit of work. Give us exciting static displays and children’s work on the wall any day.

We would have lovely conversations with our classes about how they felt about their learning.

We would know who was struggling in class and support as necessary. Children would tell us when they got stuck. Now you want me to find time every lesson for children to write a sentence about how they felt about their learning to prove they  have ‘pupil voice.’ 

They write Ofsted friendly comments like ‘perfect level for me’ or ‘this was a good challenge’ etc. They are not allowed to write ‘this work was fun’ or ‘easy’ (meaning they enjoyed it).

We now have to have red, orange and green coloured pencils on the tables for children to draw faces about how they felt about their learning. We already know of course, but I have to allow time for this in the lesson. 

Often, they choose the wrong colour for many complicated reasons to do with self-esteem or over confidence. In some schools, the children place their book in a tray which are labelled “I get this, I need help or More challenge please.” But we already know how they got on because we are good at our jobs. 

We used to know who needed to be pushed or supported the next lesson.

Now you want us to use exit passes.

Children have participated in the lesson and produced work in their books. As they leave, you want them to answer another written question as a way of assessing their learning. But I already know. You insist that exit passes are brilliant for practical work so you can also assess their learning. But you also insist that children need to learn in a ‘concrete’ manner (practical) first before moving onto ‘pictorial’ work before finally moving on to ‘abstract’ work. So by giving them an ‘abstract’ question after a practical concrete lessons is flawed.

It seems like another fad. But it is now part of your book scrutiny checklist so we better do it. Workload.

It was always assumed if you were the teacher of a class, you had taught the lesson.

Now, you insist we have to initial every piece of work the pupil completes. So that’s 30 pupils x 4 lessons a day on average. That’s 120 times we have to initial work. Imagine receiving 120 books on your desk to initial every day? How about… if the supply teacher takes a lesson, they initial the work? Easy.

We were allowed to put up the displays we wanted to.

Now we have a list of  displays you expect to see in every classroom. It’s very boring. We pay lip service to it but because we don’t have real ownership, we don’t put as much effort into them anymore.

We used to be trusted.

Now we are micro-managed with non-negotiables, book scrutiny checklists and learning walks.

 

Kind Regards,

Fake Teacher

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3 thoughts on “Fake Teacher: Then and Now – Letter No.3

  1. Great Blog showing how miserable teaching has become. I think Amanda Spielman should read it and be forced to comment on each point you make in front of the House Commons Education Committee. However, she is probably too busy thinking up new tick lists for teachers on how they can reduce their own workload. Maybe Alison Peacock of the Chartered College of Teaching could help sort this out, except she still has no idea what the Chartered College of Teaching is for.
    I think you are spot on in your analysis. Pity the teacher professional associations seem only interested in keeping their heads down rather than giving any leadership to the people who pay their salaries.

    Like

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