It's a pretty much universally accepted fact that there's too much paperwork in teaching. There's this belief amongst managers, inspectors and government bodies that, if something's written down on paper, it is automatically a positive thing. And, if said piece of paper exists, someone will actually find the time to read it, follow it, deal with it, review it, update it.
In my books I've constantly railed against the idea that the 'best' or most 'outstanding' lesson is always the one that was written out in triplicate ahead of time. As most teachers will attest, the best lessons are often those where you deviate from your carefully planned out lesson, in response to something a child has said or done. That beautifully planned lesson is no use at all to you, if you can't adapt it during the heat and motion of the average lesson. Just as that 100 booklet of policies is not worth the paper it's written on, if no one actually reads it or follows it.
When I run training sessions I will often ask for a show of hands, as to how many teachers have actually read the school behaviour policy. Because let's be frank, you can't expect them to apply it, if they haven't actually read what it says. And do you know what? In the average school, about a third of the hands go up in the air. In some instances, it's hardly surprising that they haven't read it, because it runs to 20 or 30 pages or more.
Hot on the heels of excessive policy making and over long planning documents comes the current obsession with evidence. More and more, teachers are asked to collect (usually paper based) bits of evidence to prove what progress their students are making. In other words, we don't trust teachers to use their professionalism, to know, understand and adapt for each child as an individual. We need to see the evidence that the child has achieved this point or that point on the scale.
My vote is for a return to an instinctive feel for 'where your kids are at', for lessons that are scribbled on the back of a fag packet moments before the lesson begins, for teaching inspired by the kids in front of you and maybe a really cool resource, rather than a long list of 'success criteria' and 'learning outcomes'.
Better stop there, before I start railing against the acronyms and abbreviations which blight our noble profession. Because that's material for another post entirely ...
Elephants in the Classroom
You know that saying, about there being an 'elephant in the room': something everyone knows is there, but no one wants to mention? In teaching, there isn't just one elephant in the classroom, there's a whole herd of them, rampaging through the room. In this blog I plan to turn a spotlight on some of the unspoken and sometimes unpalatable truths about our noble profession (and the good stuff too). Because if we can't be honest about what makes a good learning experience, an effective school, or a good teacher, and equally what makes a bad one, then everyone loses.