This phrase can be commonly heard these days when visiting schools, which is slightly understandable, given the changes that have been wrought over the past five years. Change that is rapid and widespread creates an insecurity, so that, when one aspect is implemented, this can sometimes remain unchanged as the next development is addressed.
I am happy to accept that elements such as subject development changed little over the bulk of my career. I have written in many blogs my experience of implementing the original National Curriculum that our school audit showed a 95% correspondence between current and desired practice. This was the case largely until 2014. Different incarnations of the curriculum required slight tweaks, rather than wholesale change. Security in curriculum is key to considerations of coverage.
Wheels have changed over time, from wooden wheels with metal rims, through solid rubber tyres and metal wheels, to lightweight metals, aerodynamic in design with tyres of different widths and grip. They are, essentially, the same thing, in that they fit on some kind of axle or spindle and enable movement of an object with greater ease. It can be argued that the progress made in wheel technology improve it’s utility.
Perhaps the analogy with teaching is that there is a basic wheel as a start point, with refinement over time.
A novice rider requires additional support, three wheels or stabilisers on the two-wheel bike. Fitness and stamina will determine the speed and distance that can be covered, at every stage of confidence.
Time and space to practice, to build stamina and confidence helps the growth. Being able to travel further and faster gives some confidence to try a little more, which, in turn, builds additional strength and stamina.
Moving from riding on the flat to hills demands an understanding or at least an awareness of gearing, one of the many improvements in design. A fit, strong rider, with a good bike and gear use can attempt more difficult terrain. This is often then done independently of coaching, as the rider “tests” themselves, reflecting afterwards on what they have achieved, creating their own plans for their next efforts.
These riders even have different bikes for different stages, with different wheels designed by specialist engineers to take maximum advantage.
If teaching was as easy as riding a bike, moving from class to class and from school to school would be very straight-forward. Anyone who teaches different classes or has moved schools will understand that they are similar, but rarely the same, so there’s a period of acclimatisation; getting to know a wide range of things about the situation.
Consider this list of questions/comments. These are baseline questions that any new teacher might reasonably ask, to orientate and organise themselves.
- How is the day organised in your class, year, key stage, school?
- What happens at the start of the day, after play, after lunch, at the end of the day?
- What happens when children change lessons/ tasks?
- How are task and lesson transition managed?
- How does the teacher take the register?
- How is the classroom organised? Are there zones or areas: Art Area, ICT Area, Book Corner etc?
- What is the BM policy and what rewards and sanctions are there in the class and school?
- Classroom routines?
- How are adult helpers used in the classroom?
- What do the children use to write with? What do they write in and on?
- Do the children have targets, how do they know what they are?
- How does the teacher give feedback to the children on their work? Orally, written?
- What resources are there in the classroom?
- Where do children keep their own books and other items?
- How are book bags and lunch boxes organised?
- How is the cloakroom organised?
- What make of Interactive White Board is used?
- How are ICT resources used in the school?
- What happens at: Play Time, Lunchtime, and Assembly?
- How is the playground organized?
- What displays are in the classroom, school?
- How are displays used?
- Are there common resources? How are they organised/used?
- Does each class have common resources?
- How are children with additional educational needs catered for?
- What evidence is there for Rights, Respect and Responsibility Education
- How is children’s awareness of cultural diversity raised?
- What management/ curriculum roles are there in the school?
- How are parents and carers involved in their children’s education?
- Where do parents gather in the morning and afternoon?
- How is information communicated to parents?
- How does the school ensure the children are safe?
- How does the teacher plan?
- How does the school plan?
- What sort of planning format do the teachers use?
- How is homework used?
- What happens in any after school clubs, breakfast clubs, and lunchtime clubs?
Security and confidence allow independent exploration and self-directed practice.
Making sure that there’s a full array of bikes and spares available and coaching at every stage would seem to be more and more necessary.
In a collegiate school every teacher is a coach in their area of expertise and someone, hopefully everyone really should know how to fix a puncture, adjust the brakes and generally oil the wheels. Teaching is a team game.
In many ways, teachers never really reinvent wheels. Rather, they refine their appraoches through coaching dialogue with experienced peers, eventually play their part in coaching and supporting novices from their early experiences through to them becoming secure and experts using inevitable technological advance to their advantage.
In so doing, they learn to ride a little better and independently add to their stamina.