A week in lessons


Lesson 1

The lesson started with a brief rundown of the learning objectives and, for a second, the children seemed engaged. The teacher attempted to positively engage with a disruptive child; this ended with the child and teacher tussling over a metre stick. Thankfully the teacher won and order was restored. Clear expectations were given and the children listened well to the instructions. As the children worked, the teacher wandered around seeing who was doing what. There were no targeted questions and all children were carrying out the task with little difficulty…this could be because there was no challenge. A mini-plenary was attempted but, as the worksheet had not been replicated on the interactive whiteboard and the visualiser was broken, the children had to strain their eyes to see the teacher modelling the next step on his own worksheet at the front of the class. Still, the children seemed to understand. The final stage of the lesson was not successful as the resources had not arrived, meaning the whole class had to share two silver pens. The lesson ended with the teacher saying that he would finish it off for them as there wouldn’t be time to revisit the activity later on.

Lesson 2

The main input fell flat because the image on the interactive whiteboard was too small and then became too blurry when the teacher enlarged it. However, the teacher soldiered on and the children seemed happy to go along with it. The main activity was completed successfully with the children regularly being stopped in order for the teacher to highlight examples of good work and learning attitudes. The final section of the lesson would, after the lesson, give the impression that the children had independently created a mnemonic that supported their knowledge of planets but, in reality, this was teacher-driven and all the mnemonics were harder to remember than the nine planets in the first place. The lesson ended earlier than the teacher expected and there was no extension activity planned. The teacher read a story about a lighthouse keeper that had no link to the lesson or any prior learning. All were engaged by the story, except for one pupil who repeatedly called out that he hated the teacher and the story.

Lesson 3

The lesson began with an ambitious starter activity. This comprised of a large-scale whole class activity involving a roll of toilet paper. The activity was meant to take place in the school hall but the teacher had not checked the rota and it was in use. Not to be deterred, the teacher made the decision to take the lesson outside. Five minutes later, thirty children were battling against the wind, desperately trying to hold down a roll of toilet paper that stretched the entire length of the playground. The teacher then tried to illustrate the position of the planets using sheets of toilet roll as a scale; however, as more and more of the toilet paper blew up from the ground, this became impossible, and the teacher made the decision to take the lesson back inside. Back within the safety of the classroom, and with no more toilet roll, the children worked in groups to create a planet map using black sugar paper (that the teacher had stolen from the art cupboard) and a metre stick. The plenary was surprisingly successful and prompted lots of interesting questions. Nobody seemed to mind that a third of the lesson time had been wasted.

Lesson 4

This lesson started well and it seemed as though all the steps had been thought through. However, it soon became apparent that the two resources the children were meant to use did not fully match, making it impossible to complete the activity. The teacher improvised and adjusted the purpose of the lesson. The children didn’t seem to mind and also didn’t seem to notice. As the lesson went on, it became more apparent that the lesson was based on the children’s ability to complete tasks on time rather than acquiring knowledge. The teacher made sure that at the end of the lesson this was revealed as the true purpose of the lesson. After the lesson, as the teacher was assembling the children’s work for a display, it dawned on the teacher that an opportunity had been missed and that the lesson would have a more nuanced purpose had one adaption been made.

Lesson 5

The introduction was clear and the lesson, backed up by decent resources, had a purpose. The lesson was differentiated and the teacher supported some key pupils. At regular times the teacher paused the lesson to explore how different pupils were choosing to approach the work. At times children became stuck but, through prompts and re-direction, the children were able to work their way through the problems. The lesson ended with the children’s effort and work contributing to the completion of a shared class goal. It was rather tedious to sit and watch the children go up, one at a time, to complete this goal, but they seemed to like it. Just before the plenary, the lesson was interrupted, as the teacher had forgotten that the morning session was ending early that day to accommodate Mothers’ Day Lunch.

Lesson Feedback

I enjoyed teaching every year group this week (except for Year 6, and not because of SATs before you roll your eyes, but due to my scheduling; their time will come, don’t worry) and I like to think that the children found it mildly entertaining. I put it down to conditioning over time that I was unable to stop the observer in me picking apart every detail of my lessons. However, a level of reflection is the life-blood of teaching. Not to needlessly dwell on what didn’t go right in every lesson, nor to bask in self-congratulation, but to continually ask of yourself: how can I make sure I am effective?

So much went wrong this week. Re-read my experience and take your pick. But it’s all about context. These were stand-alone lessons. I would have been kidding myself if I had thought I was going to waltz in and deliver outstanding lessons and I would be deluded if, afterwards, I claimed I had. I didn’t learn anything about teaching or myself as a teacher during the week but I gained experience. Experience that allows me to talk to teachers with one more grain of understanding.

Not of teaching. Any faults that I happened to make this week would still be faults I would expect to see improved in anybody’s teaching. And if you think I can’t pull you up on mistakes just because I once happened to make them too then you’re a fool. If you recognise ineffectiveness, you do something about it; that’s a minimum expectation for a teacher. This week I forgot about having to walk through one’s resources before taking them to the front of a class. By the end of the week I’d addressed this. I would expect any teacher to do the same; just as I would expect any teacher, who finds themselves outside with bits of loo roll flapping around the playground, to stop the lesson and start again.

The experience I gained was of children. I have conversations with teachers about children all the time. But I never really get to experience their ‘class’. Observations help, but until you’re the one ‘in charge’ you don’t know how it feels. Only when it’s your lesson that is being pushed and pulled in thirty different directions can you really talk to the teacher, with empathy, and discuss things that did or didn’t work. The benefits go beyond just giving teachers advice too. Opportunities to engage with parents because you also ‘know’ what the issues are, having experienced them first hand, are extremely valuable and supportive to teachers.

It’s a small gesture and it won’t change the world. But it helps keep you connected. It also, in my case, keeps you grounded and certainly makes you appreciate the fact that we don’t judge individual lessons anymore.







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