Work smarter not harder

A big thank you to the Guardian.com that featured my blog post on episode two of the series about Teach First currently being shown on the BBC: It brought in around 1,000 extra views of this blog over four days, and make the target of 10,000 by the end of January into a feasible proposition.

Episode three of the series was aired last Thursday, and I caught up with it on the BBC i-player yesterday. The underlying themes of the episode seem to be the continuing discipline issues encountered by one of the trainees, and the interaction between teachers and pupils as they learnt about both motivation and setting boundaries. In doing so they also learnt about themselves. What was missing, I felt was any analysis of feedback to trainees making satisfactory or better progress. On the other hand, the one teacher causing concern said at one point she as being observed in half her lessons. How any preparation programme can afford such a high level of observation is a matter of no little wonder to me. What we didn’t see was the way the feedback from these observations was translated into action by both the school and the teacher. There was an interesting juxtaposition of one trainee teacher making a class enter the science lab several times because they didn’t do it to her satisfaction the first time and the trainee judged to have problems were there was no sense of what strategy she was using to gain control of the class.

As I expected, Caleb, and his opinions, featured in the episode along with the views of several other pupils, particularly about examinations. Perhaps too much time was spent on the slaughtering of the birds as a bonding exercise, and we didn’t really hear what the teacher though the outcome of that exercise had been after teaching the pupil again for several lessons. Also, did the RE teacher set to find an Arab looking Joseph (non-speaking) by his head of department really call another teacher Sir when he entered his tutor group to speak to a pupil? I will need to go back and re-check.

The new teachers spoke frankly to camera about their experiences, and the first year trainees were compared to a second year Teach First participant that the school wanted to keep even thought she expressed concern that the results for her Year 11 group would show a dip over the previous year: time will tell. One teacher that featured in episode two didn’t seem to appear this time, but there was no explanation as to why he didn’t feature.

The next episode will take the teachers into their second term when my advice to them would have been, work smarter not just harder. It assessment and preparation are taking over your life, look at how you can restore some normality, because it you aren’t teaching a full timetable think what it will be like when you are. So far, apart from assessed lessons, we have seen few interactions between the Teach First teachers and the bulk of the staff at the schools. Do they ever take part in department meetings or socialise outside of their group?

As a series about human interaction, and the feelings of young people, it makes interesting television, but whether I am not sure about what I have learnt about the Teach First method of preparing teaching that is different to other methods once they are in the classroom except that after a whole term of teaching the team are still being supportive of the teacher facing the most challenge. In this episode she received a warning about her progress from a University tutor. Next time, will she sink or swim in the new term?

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