Skip to main content

Outstanding or inspiring?

I gather that the latest standards for teachers in England include the word "inspiring". I wonder wherher the DOE missed a trick when they formulated their most recent definitions of what constitutes outstanding teaching, outstanding departments and outstanding schools. If you ever follow my posts you'll know that I, like many colleagues, have a problem with the misuse of the word outstanding and how it has slipped into schools' everyday vocabulary merely because Ofsted choose to use it. Maybe the word inspiring would be more apt to describe those extra special lessons we do sometimes.

If you'll permit me to be anecdotal, my son, who is now at university studying physics, went through secondary schooling encountering barely a couple of what he considered inspiring teachers. He was at a good school too. I consider this a pretty poor hit rate, and whilst I know that only a minority of teachers and lessons will be inspiring, we should be aiming for more. How could we do that?

Defining what is inspiring is not easy and what is inspiring for some may not be so for others. Teaching is not an exact science. I have observed lessons which I consider to be inspiring and the key factors may revolve around a genuine enthusiasm for the subject, good subject knowledge, a real commitment of the teacher to the class and the individual pupil, a good grasp of subject methodology and a certain personality type. Most lessons are not inspiring. They cannot be because we do not have enough time and energy to make them so. Nevertheless if we focused more closely on this word, rather than the word outstanding, maybe we would be more creative, take more risks, focus less on technicalities and the latest trends, let ourselves go a bit more and give our students a buzz. Sure, we have to know about AfL, questioning, "astute planning" (latest buzz word apparently), testing, starters, plenaries and the rest of it, but you can do all that stuff and still, alas, not be inspiring.

When I look back into the murky past of schooling, I think I recall a decent number of good teachers, but very few inspiring ones. At Ripon Grammar School, fortunately, I know a few.

Comments

  1. Much of what you say resonates with me. I am suspicious of superlatives used in the rhetoric, but i think "inspiring" is possibly one of the better choices of word. We inspire others sometimes just by doing what we do everyday, we don't have to be functioning at fever pitch every lesson. As you point out it is not possible to do so. It is also possible to be inspired as a result of a negative encounter too,inspired to find our own way and become more self reliant. I think that sort of inspiration helped me to become a teacher, I believed I could do better :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment, Teresa. I wonder whether we should also make a distinction between inspiring lessons and inspiring people. There are inspiring human beings who do not always do inspiring lessons. There are also less inspiring people who might do the occasional inspiring lesson.

    I agree that you an be inspired by a setback. Pupils can be. A critical comment can work well.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.

Attitudes16





An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at dolanguages.com, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’(http://pdcinmfl.com). The point i…