Schools worker - teacher dialogue

Posted on November 03, 2011 by Amy Tolmie
Categories: Primary, Secondary, 16-19s,

From humble beginnings as a schools work intern, Tom Wade has journeyed from role to role in schools and finds himself currently as an RE teacher in Harpenden. Here Mr Wade writes some top tips that as schools workers, we NEED to read, absorb and form opinions on ourselves...what would you add?

"As an RE teacher (and a former schools worker!) it's really insightful to see both sides of the fence in terms of Christian schools workers coming in to take lessons. It's also interesting to see the perspective that both sides hold for the other – teachers talk about schools workers being lazy and rather lackadaisical while schools workers talk about teachers being bored and not caring about young people!

Hopefully though this can begin to change – through the only way possible – dialogue. I was recently chatting with some of my colleagues in our RE department (which just so happened to get the best RE GCSE results in the country last year fact fans!) and together we developed some tips that we've passed onto our local schools worker. There are a lot of things to think about here – but perhaps some of them could be useful for the work that you do. So sit tight, grab a coffee (after all, all you schools workers do is sit in coffee shops) and prepare for enlightenment straight from the staff room:

1. Talk to the teacher beforehand!

When observing lessons now, Ofsted are interested in how teachers treat the lesson in context of all the other information available to them. We're expected to know incredible amounts of data about each student in the class, their prior attainment, their reading ability, their SEN status, their predicted grades – all that information should inform the lesson that we deliver. When you go into a school to take a lesson, do you have any idea about the group you're about to see? Do you know where they are in their scheme of work (have you got a copy of their scheme of work?!) do you know what exam board they're with if it's a GCSE or A-level class? Do you know which students will need work differentiated for them because of a SEN status? Where does the lesson you're taking fit into the wider scheme of things?

This may sound like a lot, but a quick conversation with the teacher with some paperwork changing hands can revolutionise the lessons your teaching

2. Learning objectives

All of my lessons have to have learning objectives – I need to show how the learning of my students has progressed in my lesson. For my school this follows the following patter:
Know – What will everyone know by the end of the lesson?
Understand – What will everyone understand by the end of the lesson?
Be able to – What will students be able to complete/do/achieve by the end of your lesson.
Most schools will also operate an all/most/some policy – differentiate your tasks so that mixed ability classes can all get something out of your lessons.

3. Plan your lesson!

This sounds really basic, but try to use the lesson plan structure that the school has – they should have electronic copies you can have to edit.

4. Have quick paced activities

Keep things interesting, snappy and short. Ideally no activity should take longer than 15 minutes in a classroom.

5. Don't be afraid to get students to write things in their books

You can deliver the worlds most inspiring lesson, but especially for exam classes – if they don't have anything to show for it in their books they wont remember it. Don't be afraid to have 5 minute writing activities to consolidate knowledge. Also remember to link to the exam if you're doing a GCSE or A-level class – make them see the point of the exercise that you're doing.

6. Dress up – or dress down

Depending on your school you should have an idea of how to dress – even speak to the senior leadership to have an idea of what to do – but ideally smart is usually better. Jeans and a T-Shirt may look cool but can remove some of your authority.

7. Provide your own resources

If you're doing a cut and stick exercise, don't surprise the teacher by asking for resources 5 minutes into the lesson – this won't win you any favour!

8. Use technology – but don't rely on it fully

There is nothing worse than a lesson that starts with ten minutes of faffing around setting up technology, get in the class early to do this. Let technology enhance but not drive your lesson – remember you're in a school. Technology in schools is rubbish! The traditional board pen will always be your friend – have a back up if your Youtube video of a bear falling out of a tree doesn't work.

9. Work on your class discipline

Don't be a walkover. You can be fun and authoritative. Work on conflict management to ensure you stay in control – don't shout – you'll have nowhere to go after you've done that. Keep that for emergencies!

10. Be academic

Especially for exam classes, work on your language. Change the language you're using depending on the year that you're teaching. Read their text books, do wider reading, explain key words that you use, there is nothing worse than a student outsmarting you with a philosophical theory so come prepared! Look at denominational differences on ethical issues. But own up if you don't know.

And finally,

11. Be a Christian

You're a real life Christian in a classroom. How exciting! Leave room for questions and answers – give a justified personal opinion – be careful of statements such as 'all Christians believe,' watch out for tricky questions such as 'Is my Grandmother in hell?' But most of all – utilise the skills you have. Tailor the lesson around your strengths. Be who you are. Live out your values.

So there it is. A lot to think about. Feel free to disagree in the comments, but let's open the dialogue. How can teachers and schools workers live in harmony from now on? 11 tips to get you thinking – where do we go from here?"