The first week of the new term is over; far too many New Year resolutions have already bitten the dust and the end of your career in teaching is one week closer. There’s no time to waste; this is urgent. If you only focussed on improving one thing professionally this year and abandoning or reducing one thing, to create time, what would they be?
Good ideas and positive exhortations only get you so far; if you were to focus on one thing to do more of and one thing to do less of, to make you a much better teacher or leader, what would they be? Too often we create “capture all lists” that leave nothing out; will never actually get done and waste more time creating that we can ill afford to lose. We want to be the best we can be but someone once powerfully said to me, “Leave perfection to God, Stephen, you’re called to just do the best you can.” It was a profound and deeply liberating statement.
Whilst I’ll spin numerous plates this year the one that will be my absolute focus will be our new approach to data and feedback in the class room (Data & Feedback Informed Teaching & Learning) as it affects every pupil, every teacher and every learner. It is potentially the most powerful piece of thinking and work we have collectively done. It has started well but there is a need to develop, streamline and improve what we are doing; my biggest concern is about the sustainability of this for teachers over the long term.
From your long, long list what is the one thing you are going to focus on for the next twelve months? How will you plan its improvement into the daily & weekly rhythm of your professional life? What would happen if you didn’t improve this particular aspect of your practice; is it really that crucial?
The do less is even easier for me; workload is the issue I intend to nail. I’ve had various casual conversations with staff about what we could do less of to me met with very few ideas, in fact almost none. This isn’t because we can’t improve people’s work life balance or are anywhere near getting it right; I’m now convinced it’s because I have gone about it the wrong way. Whilst big open questions can sometimes be useful they are overwhelming or too general. It’s down to brass tacks on this one; people sometimes need real examples to focus on. Our Behaviour Policy, which also includes monitoring of attendance, has various steps and stages in it. A far more productive approach to identifying ways to reduce workload may be to ask a group of teachers and support staff to make it more efficient; that is, equally as effective but requiring less work. What could go? What could be computerised? What could be simplified? Next would be to ask what other policies, processes, systems or activities occupy a lot of your time as a teacher; cue a bit more discussion and further reductions to workload.
What are you spending a lot of time doing with very little impact on pupils’ learning in the class room? If you are a leader, what are you requiring other people to do which has too few benefits for the time invested? What could you do less of or abandon all together?
It’s time to act.
#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.