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.
[wpvideo ZU4PEzYD]
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…

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This post has 6 Comments

    1. Not really. I am accountable to a number of people/organisations. 112 teachers and 70 support staff are accountable to me for their performance. All organisations have internal accountability systems. I just want one which measures what matters and is humane.

  1. Reblogged this on Nan's Farm-Inside Out and commented:
    Re-blogged this on Nansfarm.net and commented To my family, friends and colleagues who remain in Education. This is one of my favourite blog sites. At the start of the new term Please take the time to read and listen to John’s post today. Also very informative for those not in education. Sue W.

  2. While I was training, I met an outstanding practitioner in her second year of teaching who told me that she never worked weekends. She worked long hours during the week but ring-fenced her weekend time for family and friends. Having nearly worked myself into a breakdown during my training year, this came back to me in my NQT year and I resolved to give it a go.
    In 7 years of successful teaching I have only strayed from this rule once (for 1/2 a term when I started in a new role at a new school last year). It’s one of best pieces of advice that I was given that year. I often share it (slightly nervously) and colleagues are always disbelieving and sometimes disapproving. Some adopt it though, and almost immediately start enjoying their work more which usually makes for better teachers… I firmly believe that you reach a point where more hours make you less effective.
    I’ve just finished your Love over Fear book. It was utterly inspirational. The best thing to read ahead of a new year. Thank you.

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