Thoughts and reflections on teaching and leading

These past 12 months have really highlighted how strong (or not) a school’s culture, norms, routines and standards are. Our return in March to face to face learning has been overwhelmingly positive, with students and staff on the whole enthused about being back in their classrooms. But how successfully students have returned to learning has been variable, and has once again highlighted in my mind the importance of routines and high expectations in the classroom and across the whole school. A recent conversation about ‘disruption-free lessons’ got me pondering about the fluid boundary between ‘managing students’ behaviour’ and ‘engaging students in the lesson’. I asked whether in these ‘disruption-free lessons’ teachers would still utilise the important strategies that we know (or that I assume we know) good teachers use to keep their students engaged in the learning – things like front-loading instructions, being seen looking, narrating the positives, praising hard…

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We are on the eve of returning to physical, face-to-face schooling for all students again, for the first time in nearly three months (if you discount the single day on 4th Jan). It somehow feels like the first day of term, and at the same time last week felt like the end of term (the past 8 weeks of online learning have been some experience, but relaxing they have not been). So I have found myself this weekend thinking back on these last couple of months. This second period of (partial) school closures has been, for most, more demanding than the first last year. Many more teachers have either pre-recorded lessons, or taught live online lessons. We have had to learn at an accelerated rate how to do this, we have developed new skills and worked out how to use online programmes we didn’t even know existed before. So, as…

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As far as remote learning is concerned, this current national lock down is different to the first in one critical way – many more schools are delivering live, synchronous online lessons to their students. Gavin Williamson has decreed that these are the best way to deliver remote learning.  How many live lessons are delivered can vary greatly, with some schools doing the entire timetable live, others collapsing year groups into 1 or 2 groups for live lessons and some delivering a few live lessons, supplemented by additional work on whichever online learning platform the school is using (we use Google Classroom). But one thing this time round remains just as challenging as in the first lockdown: getting an accurate picture of how many of our students are genuinely, actively engaging in the learning. The trouble we have now is that the increase in live lessons, and their accompanying registers, can give some a…

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