Read loads of Teacher Fails posted on Staffrm over the last few days, many of which I can identify with. The burst pen which you then unwittingly use to colour your face or colour the whole pocket side of your shirt along with the inside of your best suit. The mismatching shoes. I even split my trousers once when interviewing for a middle management position. I got the job as it happens although this may have been the result of the interview panel showing pity on me, but I digress.
The recent discussions make me reflect on a particular teacher fail from my teaching career. The lesson in question was being specially delivered for a lesson observation. Note that this was during the period when lesson observations where generally considered the best method for assessing teaching ability and therefore held some importance.
I had planned to push the boat out a little with a Computing class and get them examining how we might handle arrays of data through actually jumping around in a giant array grid I had taped to the floor before they arrived.
The idea was sound. The learning should have been engaging.
I failed to consider a couple of things. The first thing was that I hadn’t had this particular class for long and therefore they hadn’t fully became used to my active teaching style instead being more used to a passive almost lecture style approach. I also failed to consider that a senior school leader sat at the back of the classroom with a clipboard was a significant variable impacting on the potential success of the lesson.
When it came time for the students to get “engaged” they didn’t. Their nervousness at departing from the norm in terms of both being active and also in terms of such energetic behavior in front of a senior staff member, overcame any enthusiasm and excitement that might have otherwise existed. Despite my best efforts to encourage the students and drum up some excitement the lesson ended up being flat. It failed to live up my expectations.
The lesson learned from this is that it is all well and good having the best intentions regarding an active and participatory lesson however we need to give some consideration to the current norms. If students are used to being sat passive it is unlikely they will be able to directly progress to a lesson filled with student directed activities and groupwork. This particular lesson served me very well when I moved to work in the UAE where initially at least I found students very reluctant to express personal beliefs, views and feelings. There however, having learned my lesson, I went about encouraging and developing this in a more gradual way of a period of time.
On reflection it wasn’t a lesson fail, more a case of Not Yet the lesson I have hoped it would be.