A combination of the ResearchEd sessions by Laura McInerney and Jo Facer got me thinking this weekend, and the thoughts stuck with me until work today when I had the chance to chat to colleagues about what I'd heard.
As Laura discussed, teachers in general are perfectionists. We seek approval and so we want to get things right and keep everyone happy. In doing this we create more work for ourselves and, as Jo discussed, overcomplicate our jobs.
I took my ResearchEd notes in today to share with my department over lunch and these two talks provoked some interesting conversations. We discussed how we should be simplifying our planning and our teaching, boiling it down to the necessary, Weighing up the impact of the resource against the effort it would take us to create it. Jo mentioned that at Michaela they don't teach with powerpoint, an issue that divided my department somewhat today. Some teachers said that they don't often use powerpoint, certainly not for entire lessons, more often to display a text or some other activity. Other members of the department do everything by powerpoint, to the point where they even have the answers to the activities ready and waiting on the next slide.
I will admit to using a powerpoint as my plan in the past, knowing that if I had the whole lesson mapped out on the slides I wouldn't miss anything. I'm not a fan of this anymore and this is what I want to change. I'm not convinced that the time I spend carefully putting the titles, objectives and instructions on a powerpoint is really worth the time I'm dedicating to it, in addition to writing the lesson up in my planner as I'm required to. But what has lead us to do this? I came to the conclusion with the NQT in our department that it's the way we are trained. I was mentored by a lady who used to have everything on powerpoint, they were great, everything was there with bells and whistles on. I was under the impression that this is what was expected of me. In my previous school I had colleagues that did exactly the same thing, it just seemed to be the norm. I'd not really stopped to think about whether it was really worth it.
I'm going to take a new approach from now, and I think the NQT that I am mentoring intends to try the same thing too, which will be really good for us to try together. We're simplifying. Powerpoint slides only where necessary. Less bells and whistles where they aren't needed. Have the confidence to plan a lesson and know where it's headed without the slides there to guide us. I was so glad when we talked about it that we mostly all agreed that simplicity was the way forward. It seems somewhat in contrast to all of our push to get students engaged in languages, but I don't think it is. I think it's time we started thinking in a different way.
Simplicity is the aim, now let's see where it takes us...
This week our teaching and learning mission was to focus on avoiding the so-what effect. The department all approached this differently: asking year 7 why learning numbers was useful, explaining to year 11 why their learning for that lesson was necessary for their GCSE and discussing why languages were relevant to students' own lives.
This week, the mission is to use a song as part of a learning activity. I have given suggestions as to the sorts of things staff might do. Many are already familiar with using gap fills in songs to practice certain points of grammar, but this may be the only way they would use a song. Songs can be used with year 7 to practice pronunciation, with older years as a writing stimulus to write the next verse, to aid with new GCSE skills like translation, as a listening comprehension with multiple choice questions and to be performed off by heart. I'm sure there are many ways that songs can be exploited across different topics and year groups. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the department come up with, let me know if you try something different too!
I've been to ResearchEd every year since my NQT year and I've got more and more out of it every time. This year was the first year that I didn't feel totally out of my depth and that I could start to fit in as a 'proper teacher'. I've been thinking lots recently about what I want to do, where I want to end up and although I had some ideas I think today has given me some more.
I went to seven sessions today, some of which I will mention in the course of this blog, they were:
I also got myself a copy of The Confident Teacher by Alex Quigley which I started reading on the train home, so that deserves a mention too.