There is a regular mantra that is bandied about, that “anyone can teach”, and it has been in the back of my mind throughout, trying to differentiate between teaching and being a teacher. Reflecting on a blog where I explored the teaching standards, entitled 24652, I separated out the personal aspects of being a teacher from the longer term, making subtle changes to ongoing plans.
This is the 24652 dynamic. Know your children, plan effectively (over time), engage with their learning, tweak to needs, check if they understand; know them better, new baseline.
Teachers are judged on their children’s progress and outcomes (2). To know and understand he needs of children starts from a generalised understanding which is coloured in through experience within classrooms, working with real children. This can also vary significantly between contexts, where the demographic mix of the class and the community creates a different dynamic. Year groups differ, so a teacher who only teaches a narrow range of ages will not fully understand the needs of a different range. At an extreme, Secondary colleagues may not understand Primaries and vice versa, but this can also be an issue within a Primary school, if the Infants and Juniors are ideologically separate.
Being ordered and organised, being able to plan (4), over time is an important aspect of being a teacher, creating medium term plans, based on a good understanding of the starting needs, but also adapting these to the developing needs as they manifest themselves, as they will, while the children are working on challenge within their tasks.
To me, the most significant parts of the teaching standards are probably standards 6 and 5, which, although articulated as “Assessment (6) and “Adaptation (5)”, which can be effected between lessons at a generalised level, “did they “get it”, what do I do next?”, but which, if interpreted as the teacher “thinking on their feet, looking for prompt signs of learner discomfort” (6), leads to an engagement with any issues arising, coaching and support, or in more extreme cases, in-lesson adaptation to individual needs (5).
We are at the stage of a school year where teachers are meeting new classes. While Primary teachers will be getting to know their children quite well, in relation to other classes they have had, Secondary colleagues my only have seen some classes a couple of times, so the individuals who haven’t made themselves obvious may still be names, rather than people. It is in the nature of interactions; the more frequent they are, the better you get to know the person(alities). Some colleagues will have moved schools and be aware of the nuanced differences between their new experience and their previous school(s). It can be a shock to be seen as an outstanding teacher in one context, only to find yourself challenged in another. The context can be a significant factor, whether it enables you to pursue teaching over the longer term. ITE students often find the second practice more challenging if they have had the first in an “easier/nicer” school, especially if they are carrying the “high” grade potential with them.
Which leads on to the “Teachest”. These are the teachers who have taught for a while, have had experience across a wide age range, in different contexts, which enable them to cope with change, occasional difficult children (or colleagues), and who can, at the drop of a hat, magic up a very solid, or even a very good lesson, when covering for another colleague. They have sought, filtered and adapted the best of their experiences to provide a nuanced “performance”, probably make teaching look easy, but also, at times, be unable to explain every aspect of their actions, because teaching is them, they are intuitive, but due to practicing their art/craft with embedded and ongoing reflection.
In other words, they put all eight teacher standards into practice with ease, day in, day out.
It is this last descriptor to which I’d hope all teachers aspire. To develop to this phase, though, teachers need to pass through the other two, the “teach” and the teacher, with the teacher phase being the essential good stage, which is required of all teachers.
The “teachest” comes over time, but also the interrogation of experience as a self-development tool.
The skill of self-evaluation is the significant skill which can be shared with developing teachers. Focusing on the processes of development, rather than just passing on simple tips and hints, enables the developer to reflect on their own practice, so that tips and hints can be explored within a development dynamic. A pack of tips and hints does not make a teacher, without reflection.
To some extent, teachers and “teachests” grow themselves, by regularly reflecting on the new and occasionally “sloughing off” aspects of the old, so that they can move forward with greater ease.
Perhaps the best teachers are a bit “crabby”…