50firsts2012and13

A review of 50 first experiences


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First 30 – got a ‘1’

28 February – I thought long and hard whether to include this, for a number of factors, but as it’s a personal ambition, and a first, I decided I would.

During the DTELLS (Diploma in Teaching English in the Lifelong Learning Sector) we had a session on what it took to get an Outstanding (1) grade in teaching. We talked about how unrealistic it was to be consistently outstanding, and the importance of recognising Mazlov’s Hierarchy of Needs alongside planning and preparation (sorry, Sam, if I’m misremembering this). It took three years, I think, before I got my planning time down from an average of three times the length of the lesson itself. But lesson observations have always been a different story. I could easily put a week into planning an observed lesson, and still have it fall short, because with all that planning I usually forgot to factor in something crucial; for example a) that several or all of my students might be having a bad day (Mazlov), or b) that the technology in the classroom I was depending on might not work (or more likely, I wouldn’t understand it); or c) that the complicated, and paper-intensive, nature of these resources meant that they were inevitably very teacher-centred, thus exacerbating (a); or d)that I might be having a bad day (Mazlov again).

And then, one observation I got something right because my learners put on such a performance (okay, I know some of them were showing off) that I was given a Good (2) grade. I was ecstatic. Did this stop me worrying? Add your own ideas – do bears, etc – because this February I lost my nerve completely during my graded observation, was so hung up on getting the (learning) tasks done and out of the way, and keeping to my lesson plan timings, that I missed the fact that the learners didn’t in fact understand the tasks at all. Result: an unsatisfactory Satisfactory (3). And thanks to dear Mr Gove’s new rulings, I was scheduled for a re-observation. I knew it was poor, and luckily, and with loads of support from my lovely manager and colleagues, I got back my confidence for the re-observation. And the result was the long-awaited Outstanding (1) grade.

I suppose I should reflect on what this has taught me. I know that most of my colleagues (all?) find observations extremely stressful, and I think that luck, confidence, the right people being in the right mood at the right time, play so big a part. Maybe one day those at the top will realise this and change the system. But for a little while, until the next observation, which would you believe it is only a week away, the next time I come away from a lesson feeling I can’t do anything right, I’m going to console myself that just once, someone said I was outstanding.

Marks: 8/10 – mainly because after wanting it for so long, it was actually a bit of an anti-climax in the end (so ungrateful!)