In this guest blog post, Dan Sabato, Teacher of History and Politics at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, explores the question of how we rationalise the teaching and learning decisions we make.
The big question seems to be ‘Why?’ With time at an absolute premium, schools are being forced to revisit this most difficult of questions. Consequently, the nuts and bolts of a teacher’s daily activity are being cast under the spotlight: ‘Why do we observe lessons?’ ‘Why do we use data?’ ‘Why do we provide feedback?’ With more concerted attempts to reduce teacher workload, this question of ‘why’ has never been more significant. Additionally, teachers are faced with new questions; perhaps the most revolutionary of which being ‘Why should we use iPads and mobile technology in the classroom?’ Alongside the challenges of exam restructuring and curriculum changes, this is yet another aspect of school life that requires both time and effort. The ‘Why?’ question – in explaining the rationale behind the things we are expected to do – is a challenge for school leaders across the country; one that I would argue has been avoided for too long.
As a future leader and Assistant Head, I have been provided with an opportunity to tackle many of the issues mentioned above – data, Teaching and Learning, mobile technology – will all fall under the remit of Academic pupil experience. However, in preparing for this new post I have taken the time to reflect on my journey into leadership. I believe I have experienced a great deal in the short time I have been involved in the profession and I continue to challenge myself in order to be the best teacher and learner that I can be. It seems obvious, that I would strive to continue developing, but I have found that this is not the case for all.
For right or for wrong, this is the way in which our world works, so why should teachers avoid a similar ideal? I accept that as teachers we are pushed and pulled in all sorts of, often conflicting, directions, and it must surely come as no surprise that recent articles have suggested that a surprisingly high number of young teachers and NQTs do not complete their initial years in the profession. Outside of the headlines, however, it is clear that many NQTs do more than simply survive their first year; they excel in post, not only in the classroom but through whole school projects and initiatives. New teachers enter the profession with energy, dynamism and a willingness to learn. As a future school leader, I believe it is my duty to harness the positivity and energy that new teachers bring into the profession, in order to maintain and develop an effective learning culture across the school.
All teachers must value themselves as learners, striving to be better in their own practice in order to continue developing as professionals. At the recent TLA Berkhamsted Conference, Mark Steed, Principal of Berkhamsted School, said that year on year he aimed to be better at his job. I fully concur with this idea that teachers should strive to be better. We expect this of our students therefore I would argue that we should expect this from ourselves. The barriers to a community where this is possible are clear and obvious. The support and structure of the school must be both focused and collaborative, and changes to lesson observation, feedback and book scrutiny may need adapting. These are issues that clearly need time and effort, but I would argue that if we are to better ourselves as professionals, these are conversations that cannot be avoided. That said if we are to have these conversations, it has to start with ‘Why?’
From September 2015, Dan Sabato will be Assistant Head – Pupil Experience (Academic) at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls.