Same old song – reprise

Morning spent placating Computer Science team about directive to spend some of their hard-pressed curriculum time on checking whether all students can successfully log in to <insert name of online learning technology here>. Unable to supply convincing answer as to why this needs to take place or what to do when members of the Computer Science team discover that <insert name of random student here> has lost little card with login details and/or Technical Issues Arise. Suggest shrug of shoulders may be most appropriate response and resist temptation to suggest sending <insert name of random student here> to offices of aforesaid colleagues so excited about implementing <insert name of online learning technology here> as whole school system despite no whole school hardware capacity being in place.

Upside of whole sorry situation is that I have been listening again to the sounds of The Creation.

“Why must we carry on always singing the same old song?”

“Why must we carry on always singing the same old song?” So sang The Creation back in the 1960s (and may I add than whilst I may be advancing in years I am not yet quite advanced enough to remember if from that time). The words are ringing in my ears now mainly as a result of extended email exchange over the weekend around the use of <insert name of online learning technology here>.

Having identified an opportunity for using <insert name of online learning technology here> to support students with persistent absence and other school-refusing tendencies (a use which, I hasten to add, I fully support), some of my esteemed colleagues decided that every student in the school would benefit from also knowing about <insert name of online learning technology here>. Assemblies were hurriedly arranged and aforesaid colleagues displayed slides of how wonderful <insert name of online learning technology here> could be. Little cards were distributed to all students with login details and everyone (well, aforesaid colleagues at least) emerged delighted with the potential of <insert name of online learning technology here> to Raise School Attainment.

Here’s the thing though: as a school we do not have the hardware capacity to effectively embed <insert name of online learning technology here> as a part of the day to day learning habits of our students or our staff. There is no whole school strategic plan to leverage the potential of <insert name of online learning technology here> and there is no whole school strategic plan for this because we do not have the whole school hardware capacity…

Yet despite there being no whole school strategic plan for the implementation and use of <insert name of online learning technology here> the same aforesaid colleagues have suggested our Computer Science team surrender some of their already hard-pressed curriculum time to, and I quote, “check that all year 7, 8, 9 and 10 can successfully log in to <insert name of online learning technology here>”. Own contribution to email exchange around this solely based on the question “WHY?”, when there will be limited (if any) opportunities for vast majority of these students to ever login to <insert name of online learning technology here> during school hours (this driven by, you guessed it, fact that school lacks whole school hardware resources for this ever to happen).

Personal sense of frustration amplified by fact that implementation of <insert name of online learning technology here> failed to gain traction when introduced nearly two decades ago in school before being dropped in favour of <insert name of alternative online learning technology here> and subsequently by <insert name of yet another alternative online learning technology here>. All initiatives failed to have significant impact exactly because investment in whole school hardware resources failed to keep pace with need. Which led/leads to failure of staff to commit to effectively using technologies (and let’s face it, why would one invest energy and time in learning something one has limited/no opportunity to use in one’s day-to-day teaching habits?) and so on in a vicious cycle of wasted investment.

Entirely willing to admit this is just another example of Creeping Cynicism, but also suggest that Personal Experience of attempts to implement systems such as <insert name of online learning technology here> Might Just Be Relevant.

(Another) First Day Back

Back to work today and so somewhat reluctantly switch on The Twitter to see what delights I may have missed. First thing to catch attention is list of ‘9 teaching ideas to bin in 2018’. After a New Year’s Day spent gleefully dismantling evidence of The Festive Season and sending numerous pieces of card to the recycling, find self fully in tune with notion of putting anything in bin and so settle in for quick and hopefully informative checklist of activities to avoid for the year ahead (not so naive as to suggest sending these ideas to landfill, however, since Experience Has Told Me that these ideas will once more return to fashionability in a few years).

To my surprise, find self agreeing with several of the items on the list. Pleased to see not alone in distaste for schools displaying OFSTED grading signs on every available wall (previously assumed this feeling driven by jealousy of never working at a so-called Outstanding school). Gladdened too by suggestion that ‘Progressive vs Traditional’ actually little more than a false battle manufactured by people caring more about their Follower Numbers on The Twitter (mine remain resolutely in double figures) than what is actually happening in their classrooms. Notion that schools ought to rely on support networks of other local schools to engage in some kind of peer-review system also raises cheer in times of general darkness and bleakness.

More confused, it must be said, by multiple suggestions in list that schools ought to dodge any notions of staff accountability or monitoring. Culture of School Leaders not looking in students’ books or watching colleagues teaching may work in idealised environment where every individual Works To A High Standard but not wholly convinced this is Living In The Real World. Willing to concede this is Cynicism At Work, or at very least the January Blues.

Determined too not to sound like someone who thinks that Lessons Can Be Learned From The Private Sector, and feel need to stress clearly that I am fully in favour of a solution-focused supportive approach to teacher development and improvement (also make no apologies for using word ‘improvement’, since this is un-arguably relevant in some cases – self by no means excepted). But if not work/book scrutiny, and if not lesson observations (agree these should not be graded, however) then what?

Book look / work scrutiny by far most useful method of EQ/QA I routinely experience in role as school leader. When used in conjunction with Student Voice (talking to the students with their book in front of them and asking them to tell you about it is immensely informative) it is an invaluable measure of whether they are making progress in that class (and yes, better than any Data Analysis – so find self wholeheartedly agreeing on proposal to consign Data Drops to the educational trash can of 2018).

Book look / work scrutiny / Talking To Students also invaluable to see whether students are getting feedback on their work. To this extent find self standing up and applauding suggestion that ‘Marking By Frequency And Colour’ be deposited firmly in recycling centre, to be replaced by policies for feedback. Admit to being confused to apparent abhorrence of notion of ‘policy’ in list, however. Certain that suggestion of “sharing expectations” is essentially same as distributing a policy, since what is a policy but a set of expectations?

Rack brains to think of something else to add to list of of things to send to the educational refuse collectors for 2018 but can only think of Teachers Writing Blogs About Teaching For Sole Purpose Of Self-Promotion. Decide this entirely in spirit of Celebrating Contradictions and subsequently rest brain. First Day Back is always so exhausting after all.