Showing posts from March, 2013

Improving Teachers

The title is ambiguous isn't it?  Either "teachers who are improving" or "making teachers improve". I really don't know yet where this post is going.  It is a response to a number of tweets and blog posts I have read recently, and to a speech last night by a retiring colleague.  All, in different ways, suggest that good teachers are good teachers and should be left alone to get on with their jobs. Here's an example of a blog post: " Evidence Based Teaching or Curing Stupidity ". The gist of this one seems to be that the author once took part some research which turned out to be rather pointless, and that the author thinks learning and teaching are too complex to be amenable to the distilling of transferable strategies through research. My colleague last night (a man for whom I have a huge amount of respect, and whom I count as a good friend) mocked the learning trios that have been operating in our school this year: colleagues engaging in

But you're English aren't you...

I am not quick to take offence, but this is something I find quite hurtful: when native born Scots presume to label me as English because I was born and grew up in England. I came to Scotland in 1983, and have lived here ever since. I lived through the poll tax (and am proud to say I didn't pay a penny until the legislation was repealed), protesting on the streets of Edinburgh with my fellow citizens. I have witnessed the growth of devolution, the birth pangs of the Scottish Parliament and the resurgence of the SNP. I have climbed, walked, paddled and snowboarded all across our beautiful, tranquil,  mournful landscape.  I have married, settled down and raised a wonderful son here. I have taught mathematics to thousands of Scottish children. I feel a profound connection to this land, its people, its history and its bright future. So please don't tell me I'm English.

More important things than teaching classes?

At tonight's parents' night, a parent congratulated me on my promotion, said it was a shame that I wouldn't be teaching their child any more,  and added "you're busy now with more important things than teaching classes". This comment took me by surprise, and I just chuckled, but on reflection I wish I had said something. There is nothing more important in school than teaching classes! I only applied for the post of Depute because I hoped and believed that I could contribute to improving the quality of learning and teaching in every classroom in the school. That is going to be quite a challenge, given the very high standard of learning and teaching at North Berwick High School, but I like a challenge.

Pupil Learning Team

Today I sat in on a pupil learning team meeting. l was blown away by the quality of the discussions, and by the fantastic job Lara Neri (Depute Head) did as chair of the group. They began by sharing great lessons they had experienced this week. They spoke eloquently and thoughtfully about their learning, and identified key factors such as choice, relevance, active participation and revisiting of prior learning. So much more than just "it was fun". They then discussed starter questions in maths. They confirmed that all maths teachers use starter questions, and identified two benefits: getting actively engaged in doing maths at the start of the lesson and having the opportunity to revisit prior learning, to consolidate their learning. I was delighted that they had picked up so clearly the purpose of starters. They also felt that starter activities sometimes went on too long; they reckoned about 10 minutes was long enough.  That exactly matches the advice in maths departmen