I have been a teacher for 29 years, a Headteacher for 14 years and, at the age of 53, this much I know about the folly of valuing effort over outcomes.
What do we value most in teachers, effort or outcomes? I might be enveloped in a full-blown mid-life crisis, but I cannot see the point any more in doing anything at work which is not having a direct and weighty impact upon students’ learning. Listening to a Huntington School alumni, one Oliver Burkeman, on Radio 4 this week, I was reminded of Jo Facer’s brilliant blog on effective feedback and how, at Michaela School, there is a culture of doing what has most impact, not what the rest of the educational world expects. Consequently, Jo largely gave up marking and gives whole class feedback instead; her students learn more and she has her workload lightened.
In his new series, Burkeman is exploring how we have come to fetishise busyness. It is an enlightening listen. In preparation for our first day of the autumn term, I have prepared this short audio extract to play to my colleagues.
On Monday in my briefing to staff, I will exhort my colleagues to do what works. If they want to adopt whole class marking as policy, then do it – just rewrite the departmental marking policy accordingly. If they find a new way of working which improves outcomes, just crack on! I don’t mind if they go home early if they have the last period of the day free – I just want them to work as effectively as possible. Accountability is about outcomes, not how hard you work.
Don’t feel guilty if your workload eases, just make sure that the evidence says that what you are doing improves students’ learning – then we will all be happy…