Secret Teacher: stop micro-managing teachers and give them time to think
At Secret Teacher’s school there’s no escape from wall-to-wall development plans, meeting agendas and teaching tips – not even in the toilet
Everywhere The Secret Teacher turns, there’s another notice. Micro management in this school has become overwhelming. Photograph: http://www.alamy.com
The school I work at is a great school. There is fantastic teaching and learning going on and we have all raised our game. My teaching is better than it has ever been. We are accountable for the success of our students as we have never been before and this can only be a good thing. However, it is a job not my life.
The day begins. In case you might enjoy gradually waking up, taking some quiet time for yourself, thinking about the day to come or, who knows, possibly even talking to and enjoying the company of your colleagues before the daily morning meeting starts, a rolling PowerPoint is displayed for us all to read as a starter activity. Every teacher recognises this as the way to control disillusioned students: occupy their every minute in case they take a breath, look around and realise the pointlessness of it all.
You teach your lessons and let your head be filled with what it should be. The subject you love so much that you knew a job teaching it would be fantastic; the energy and humour of young people, those lovely light bulb moments when something clicks, the unpredictability of it all, a kid thinking they can’t do something and then succeeding and the brilliant questions or observations that make your heart sing.
You go to the staffroom looking forward to a chat and a good laugh with some of the great staff you are lucky to work with. Here you will find lists of looked after students, lists of FSM (free school meals) students, lists of students who are not making progress in maths, lists of students who are not making enough progress in English and, hell, even lists of looked after free school meals students who have the audacity to not be making enough progress in maths and English. Some teachers struggle to even recognise who these students are it is so long since they have attended school. You daren’t look up above seat height. I feel like a police officer being pursued by a never ending ID parade.
And then you go to a meeting. Meetings are controlled by the minute. Bloated agendas groan with weight. Interjections are waved away and questions have to be asked after the meeting has ended. Heartbeats quicken. Blood pressure rises. People inwardly and, sometimes, outwardly weep. You tune out and desperately try to catch on to the coat tails of the day’s successes. They seem like a distant dream.
You open your emails. People send you Twitter links in case you find yourself at a loss as what to do that coming evening other than possibly talking to your own family.
Even the toilet isn’t safe. Teaching tips, newsletters and development plans are stuck to the inside door of each cubicle. Visiting teachers from other schools express incredulity and send each other in to have a look and laugh at it but none of us dare challenge it. We’re too busy looking at the floor or adding blinkers to our Christmas list.
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