Teacher Learning Communities

    First official meeting tonight. Problems with dates and previous commitments meant it was not a full meeting nor were some people able to stay for whole 75 minutes. That said, it was very useful and the group are full of enthusiasm and hope to start observing each other shortly. We’ve got Personal Action Plans to do for AifL by Friday to get us thinking about a couple of techniques we should be trying and also what we should be avoiding.

    We discussed techniques we use. I spoke of my lollipop sticks whereby the kids’ names are on sticks and drawn at random to answer questions – no more YAVA (You Ask Volunteers Answer) as the same kids always stick their mitts up. Now they sit in eager anticipation watching to see if their name appears, at the same time frantically trying to think of an answer! Other staff told the group about using a ‘Class Reporter’. One kid was told at the beginning that they will have to make a report at the end on what the class has learned. Good for getting the quieter ones to pay attention!

    Hot seating was another old favourite – I adapt this slightly by having my experts take the parts in Macbeth for example and fight their corners to such questions as ‘Why are you so ugly you old witch?’ Reply: ‘I ‘m holding a mirror in front of my face!’ or ‘Banquo was your best mate – why did you have him topped?’ ‘well I saw that Peter Mandelson on the TV and thought – hmm THAT’s how he got to be so powerful. By making sure his enemies were either in his tent or buried underneath it”

    Peer marking by traffic lights – this was peer teaching as well as those with green marks sat with the kids with red marks and they helped each other. Also the ambers sat together as often we find one will have half or part of the answer and the other will have the missing bit! Two ambers work together and produce an answer that gets them both green lines. Other staff have two groups – one get grades, the others don’t and the grade-less group do better as they strive to improve.

    Other good points: an agenda with timings and a clock so we didn’t sit around “chewing the fat” but got cracking.  Names drawn at random to start discussions so everyone got a shot and was encouraged to contribute rather than sit and listen. So lots of good discussion, ideas being thrown back and forth and with digestive choccie biscuits and coffee; it was all good!

    I don’t really understand why some teachers express unhappiness at being observed; perhaps it is because I’m only a newbie (4 years altogether) and still remember the 6 observations in a year when I was a probationer. But in most occupations people are observed or checked regularly. If a pilot has to do a check flight every six months why can’t teachers? When I was a soldier I had to do a fitness test every 6 months, annual NBC and gasmask test,a  yomp with heavy pack for 8 miles, annual shooting, signals and first aid tests which I had to pass just to keep my current pay scale and so on. Doctors get regular checks why not teachers?

    We are human after all, and we DO slip into bad habits such as giving away too much  (prompting) when trying to get our kids to answer questions, which I found myself doing for example. Regular annual observations by SLT or people from outwith your own subject or department are good for you and good for them as they might even pick up good practice in return! I pinched several ideas (with permission) this term alone from watching other teachers.


    To see other teachers in action is also good for the soul of SLTs and others who don’t spend as much time in the classroom as they would like to.

    To paraphrase some bloke not unrelated to Confucius: If you don’t like change you’ll like obsolescence even less

    TLCs are great for pushing people to think about how to improve their practice and to share the good stuff with each other. Some schools have been doing this sort of thing for eons; others have lurked in their own departments not wanting to get involved with other subjects. Well under CfE and all the new things coming we have to improve and ensure we are performing as best we can and that our kids get the benefits so that Scotland also gains in the rapidly changing world we face.

    I tell you what, it is exciting being in teaching/education/Scotland just now!

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