Accentuate the Positive

I recently started the postgraduate qualification for the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH).  I rather surprised myself by applying to get on the course as I have always been adamant that Headship wasn’t for me, and I was equally surprised to be accepted onto the course.  Very quickly though the surprise passed and the terror kicked in as the course reading list arrived and the dates for submissions were shared.  I was also starkly aware of the 20 years that had passed since graduation and how difficult I found it to get back into close reading and as for academic conventions of writing….

I often talk of the fear of  the Scooby Doo moment, where I am unmasked as a fraud and am heard to utter “I’d have got away with it too if it weren’t for those meddlin’ kids!”  What was interesting though as I met with the rest of the course cohort was that was a common thread.

Partly I’m sure this is to do with the constant evaluation and reflection we undertake as a profession, coupled with the sure knowledge that there is always more we could do if  only there was another couple of hours in the day.  I do wonder why we are so hard on ourselves.  Would we accept that level of negatively focussed reflection from our pupils or wouldn’t we be encouraging them to find their strengths and celebrating them.  Even when we do talk about our strengths they are rather dismissed with a self deprecating  “I’m all right at that I suppose”.  We use self evaluation a lot in school and we are honest with ourselves about identifying strengths and areas for development.  What we definitely do not do, is celebrate our strengths as much as we should.   Although we do try there is definitely more work we could do in this area and something I am considering as I broaden my reading into critical reflection.  I also undertook a 360 evaluation with a selection of staff and the findings were very interesting (which may have rather prompted the post about accentuating the positive!)

One of the things we are beginning to change to accentuate the positive is the way we approach classroom observations.  We currently have a minimum of three per year, two observations by SMT and one peer reflection visit.  We aim to keep three but change to one SMT visit and two peer reflection visits.   What we have been trying out this year is not to fill in a feedback form based on the teaching we saw in the lesson rather we focus on the learning of the children as the beginning of our conversation and it is the record of this conversation that completes the paper trail.  This has been giving us a much fuller understanding of the work in the classroom rather than simply a snapshot and I feel causes less stress for teachers being observed as, through the conversation, we can share a clearer picture of the work in the classroom.  For peer reflection visits we have already made changes to ensure that teachers are not asked to feedback to their colleagues rather they use their peer visit to reflect on their own practice and then use their personal evaluation blog to begin a discussion about the impact on their own practice.  I will maybe write a bit more about this as it extends throughout the year.

In order to free up time for effective peer reflection visits our illustrious head thought about some of the other things we do and thought about streamlining other areas of self evaluation.  We currently meet selections of children for what we call “a guid blether” and what we aim to do is streamline this blether with the peer reflection so that our illustrious head and myself can arrange times to go into class for the better with the children which would in turn release the teacher to  undertake a peer reflection visit without being constrained by non class contact timetables.  Some staff have already undertaken reflection visits with our inclusion teacher and found them to be very interesting and impactful.

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