Amongst all the reflection and positive vibes kicking around at this time of year there must come a point when I take stock of the real issue. As a teacher, the only question I need to ask myself is, ‘Am I better than I was this time last year?’ It’s all very well being complemented for my Blog – or not – and the Twitter followers mounting up makes me feel valued. Sort of. However, the whole point of this was as a means of improving as a classroom teacher and unless I can evaluate that accurately how can I say that this year has been a success?
How much time have I wasted on useless CPD this year? Countless hours of meaningless psychobabble, certainly. I’ve lead working groups which, due to time constraints, never really lead anywhere. I’ve been ushered into halls to watch huge boxes being ticked. But I’ve also started a Masters. I’ve also read heaps of books on Education. I’ve also attended some inspirational Pedagoo events and the odd Teachmeet. But how much of this alters my practice? It may make me feel good about myself, give me the perception of being more knowledgeable but does it help the pupils in my class on a day-to-day basis?
It can be a difficult question to answer, can’t it? Exam results are good. Attainment seems to be high. However, what about those gaps in knowledge which I know are there and cannot always plug due to my own gaps in knowledge. What if every single minute of our Professional Development started at that point and was directed specifically at pupil weaknesses? My class might have difficulties with create writing or reading comprehension or whatever. Or the department has these issues or even the whole school. It might be something the exam results highlight in S5 (year12?). What if we focused purely on that thing for the whole year, for EVERY pupil? It might seem obvious but I’ve a fair idea that that rarely happens.
I’ve written before about the rage I feel looking back at the Development time I’ve wasted. Probably hundred of hours taken away to meet someone else’s agenda. If ever there was a New Year’s Resolution for me as a teacher it will be to ensure that that does not happen any more. It has been twelve years since the McCrone Agreement in Scotland ensured an entitlement of thirty five hours supported Professional Development but what seemed like a good idea at the time has proven to be a disaster for teacher development. Ticking off the hours, perhaps completing all thirty five by October, is possible but the impact is something which is often forgotten. Meaningful CPD needs to be top of the pile again.
Exactly three years after starting this blog, it is clear that it does wonderful things for the ego. I feel more confident in expressing my opinions and the fear of even having an opinion is long gone. But if I’m to live up to the title of my blog I need to focus more on the reason we are all doing this job. The needs of my pupils, the gaps in knowledge they have, the real purpose of teaching is what I should be focusing on more than anything. Reflection only really works if it is for yourself. Perhaps I need to remember that more in 2014.