Wednesday, 7 May 2008


Yesterday one of my lessons was observed by the headteacher – part of a yearly appraisal of my performance, a system called performance management.

Great title. Every lesson is a managed performance. An observed lesson is just the same, but more so.

You always prepare hard for one of these – write up a detailed lesson plan rather than keeping the ideas thrown around in your head. We have lesson objectives, learning intentions, criteria for success, learning outcomes, introduction, plenary, resources, key vocabulary… whoa, I haven't finished yet – cross-curricular links, differentiating for high and low achievers, and links to the national curriculum. Phew – I might as well play Who Wants to be a Jargonaire?

This lesson was less straightforward than most. The subject: PSHE and Citizenship. The letters stand for Personal, Social, Health and Emotional education. I'm the coordinator. The job seems incredibly huge and never-ending: start looking into one area and you have three more to consider before you can blink. Training days are fascinating but you never feel as if you return 'trained' – just with a longer 'to-do' list.

Yet teaching about life is absolutely fascinating, because I'm teaching people about people, rather than about rivers, or long multiplication, or clauses, or… the other building blocks of education.

My lesson, planned in detail, ran away with itself. The preliminary discussion threw up a comment from one boy which I was supposed to extract, after all the various carefully planned activities to draw the pupils out and develop their thinking, in the plenary at the end of the lesson. I felt like a sailing boat in uncertain winds – constantly adjusting my sails, changing tack, altering course while still trying to keep everything safe and dry.

But life is messy. I can try to manage a lesson carefully, but, as long as we all stay afloat, we're bound to be thrown around and get wet.

The bell went before we had even begun to scratch the surface of our topic: embarrassment. Now how embarrassing is that, as a teacher, to teach to the bell without drawing the lesson to a satisfactory conclusion, making sure that the pupils know what they have learnt from the discussions and activities?

It didn't matter. Chaotic though the lesson seemed to be, I knew it was good. The children's eyes had been opened, their hearts touched, their thoughts spurred awake. That's teaching.

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