Any lesson that is taught requires preparation, planning, resourcing, differentiating, targeting, assessing, etc. You do not just walk into a classroom and make an educational experience happen, there is a lot of hidden work done (outside of, say, 1265 hours) which makes all of this happen. The extent to which all of this ‘hidden work’ is done has become paramount with the growing requirement of accountability and yet there has not been the slightest investment in the production of those lessons in terms of structural time. Teachers need to do all this work outside of the school working day. And it is a lot of work; and I would argue that if done properly takes as much time to process a lesson as it does to teach it. Every time a pressure-point is introduced – reporting, marking, any sort of deadline – there is no investment by the school to ‘pay’ for it: it is the requirement of each professional (because they are professionals) to meet the pressure. When the pressure is met – and it usually is – at best there is a glib recognition of the work this must have involved … and then we’re on to the next pressure point.
When teaching 22 high-quality learning experiences a week, the discussion over one’s one guaranteed free period is truly risible. In order to be anywhere near fair, a teacher should teach 12 lessons per week and be guaranteed 12 free hours to do this. The pressure of teachers is not essentially that of ‘paperwork/administration’, it is the fact that they are not given any time-support to do their job expected at such a high standard.
The effect of no structural time-investment in teaching is that the production of teaching takes on a ‘needs must’-flavour. There is little possibility of something like the image of the ambulance driver taking the elderly woman from her front door to the ambulance – with human care! – in teaching. There is little possibility of working/speaking/communicating/organising/assessing etc in a way which is communal in school rather than organisational. There is every possibility of the image of the defined/closed-round/self-contained/self-sufficient individual/department/management in squares.
However the main issue – it becomes clearer, year after year – is not the mere fact of the pressure which tells on the school at all levels, but the lack of structural concern that the school/we give ourselves while trying to meet those pressures. We do not give thought to – and there is no structure within the school to give support in – our professional/emotional/creative/functional welfare. We just demand and are demanded of; and the very thing that is being demanded of us – our teaching – is drained and desperate because of it.
We do not nurture creativity in teaching because it is too expensive, we do not teach in dialogue because it is too time consuming, we work coping rather than creating.
There is no structural investment in teaching which has reduced teaching to a compartmentalised and exhausting process.
Nowhere is this more invidious than when OFSTED criteria are used to measure teaching. The criteria – in their very nature – are there to measure a performance: there is a deliverer and there are receivers. The effect of this is to have a measure, a value, a judgement of your teaching which is pre-emptively business-flavoured and performance-related and which does not accord with the reasons you are teaching in the first place. The inspection does not obtain a true picture of what is really done in teaching at all. There is a lot which is important besides what will be seen in one lesson. That a judgement of a teacher’s work will be made despite all else that is done cheapens the effort and the push and the sacrifice which is committed to the job week after week.
This faulty philosophy of managing education has had various effects on the job of teaching. It has resulted in larger classes, less security of free lessons and less free lessons, teachers being obliged to take on responsibility posts for less remuneration, responsibility posts, especially middle management posts, having to take on considerable additions to their brief – inclusion of pupils with extreme learning difficulties within generally mixed ability classes, the empowering of parents with a voice but with little check on their ignorant use of this power etc. Much of this has resulted from putting schools on a financial-basis for which they need to hold themselves accountable and this affects the flavour with which educational decisions are made. Likewise accountability has been insultingly slapped across teachers faces making them have to respond to pupils, parents and society on a servantile basis rather than on the basis of benevolently providing a service. It means that all levels of teaching cannot be done as well: slapped together, hastily thought about, hastily assessed, stressed, not able to fully appreciate or implement the syllabuses/courses, management decisions, discipline rules etc, enough to be fully effective within them. The ‘art’ of a teacher is that she is in control-enough of what they are doing to be able then to see the particular need of a pupil and respond to it, that there is enough investment in the resource of time to allow them to respond, to be able to sit and reflect on the pupil or the tutee enough to be creative and pro-active in teaching/tutoring the child. The squeeze on time of the teacher, the value of what the teacher can do when given the time to do it, the demands on teachers growing more and more and the resultant inability to do any of it well as a consequence, all of this is significant to the effective, and nurturing, delivery of education.
Because teachers have been seen as a means of production they have had to endure numerous drives to increase productivity. We are now meant to teach a uniform National Curriculum and have learnt not to trust the natural communicative dialogue which is teaching. We are meant to situate our teaching within a broad and minutely-referenced planning scheme. We are meant to differentiate our teaching in order to meet the needs of all pupils. We are required to assess pupils’ work at all levels with specific mark schemes which meet the curriculum and allow for progression and equal opportunity. We are meant to report to parents more specifically and more often. We are meant to mark pupils’ work recognising not only achievement but also setting targets for further development. We are meant to report to parents with an annual report and also ever-more specific monitoring procedures. We are meant to confer with parents as tutors, but also be available for consultation as subject teachers as well. We are meant to include all pupils in our teaching even though this creates not only a very wide ability band but also a very wide emotional/motivational band as well. And all of this increased “productivity” has been achieved without paying a single penny for it. Teachers have been required to improve their productivity (and been assessed in so doing) without any investment. They have neither been paid for increased production nor have they been paid with time to prepare. A teacher in this school is required to teach 22 planned, differentiated, assessable, reported-on, targeted, marked, monitored, inclusive, equal-opportunity hour-long lessons per week. This is so much more than simply being in the classroom with a group of young people, this is high-quality performance. That teacher might also have a responsibility point to organise a whole area of the curriculum. This teacher will be given only 3 hours to prepare and process these 22 hours quite apart from the management responsibility; one of those three hours will be used to cover absent teachers. Very inevitably the teacher will have to do the work in unpaid time and this will be seen (if it is recognised at all) as a mark of the teacher’s professionalism if she does so. But she will not be paid for it and she will not be structurally supported in her performance at all with appropriate time or conditions.
This is why teachers and departments and managers have ended up ‘boxed’ (defined/closed-round/self-contained/self-sufficient/individual departments and management levels, in squares that ‘communicate’ with each other only in meetings, through paper and now with voice-mail and e-mail). This is why teachers distrust inspection (and even professional development). This is why teachers learn to trust what they individually can do rather than invest in a department or school scheme which will often be seen not to work. This is why teachers are overloaded with work because they do it all themselves and are given no time to do it in. They are tired of re-inventing the wheel again and again because the system keeps trying to regenerate in an effort to enhance the delivery of teaching. They will nevertheless take on the ever-more complicating work which management lays on them – because all those demands need to be covered and because teachers are professional.
The highest skill in teaching should be … teaching: the whole purpose of the college in the first place is to teach and therefore the aim should be … teaching. Teaching, and the support of teaching, should be the principle focus of the college and should therefore rightfully be the recipient of most of the college resources. Teachers come into teaching and teach, not because they are paid to do so, so much, but because they value giving to others in the various ways in which teachers give. The whole notion of a profession is that it is a job which is motivated by principle rather than by salary-only; if you in any way de-value those principles you take the life out of the profession, you reduce the job to mere task and you devitalise the whole institution of education. By making teachers – the primary and almost sole resource of education – responsible for the financial stability of the institution is a management focus which will destroy itself; you can’t sacrifice – or hold ransom – the prime resource of an institution in order to enhance that institution’s performance.
Concomitantly, pupils would seem to becoming alert to teachers not being in full control of class/course/politics/situation; they are naturally playing it as much as they can especially where this is more gainful for a pupil’s self-esteem than the skill of self-discipline. This manifests as taking longer in the class to settle, cheeking back any reprimand or denying that they were involved and claiming victimisation in the long run (non-ownership of consequences of behaviour because we cannot always make it stick), persistent undermining of uniform, the loss of classroom culture, pupils seeing the climate of pushing where you can from yr.7 on, abuse of school property, break-time tendency to be seen as “own time” and the nascent development of an ill-defined sense of “rights”, a sense of pupils demanding attention to their individual feelings as paramount over the feelings of the group, deterioration of teacher-class relationship, pupils are less willing even to consider trusting teachers and will as much challenge them.
professionalism & teaching craft & workload wormhole: Now, let’s think this through, shall we? The clunkish philosophy driving today’s education.