Many school leaders and governors are very concerned that, when the Ofsted Inspectors come, they will be looking for “Outstanding” lessons. Such schools are drawing up lists of “must-have” ingredients for lessons that teachers are issued with and treat as tick lists. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.
Over the holiday I took time to reflect on what is “inspiring and vibrant teaching” and came to the conclusion that my list is very different from Ofsted’s. In the great classrooms that I have seen over the years there is always a judicious balance of fun and fundamentals of learning. Enjoyment, humour and warm relationships abound, and so does an unequivocal focus on practicing basic and higher order skills. Aspirational teachers accept no less.
Excellent teachers create a climate for learning which engender confidence and motivations among the learners, There is no fear of failure because teacher and pupil alike support one another’s triumphs and disasters. Students have opportunities for risk taking and explorations of new knowledge and concepts to spot and encourage their potential.
When I ask students “what makes for effective learning”, they talks about teachers who love their subject and share that passion with students through rich tasks and activities. Pupils are infected by the enthusiasm of their teacher. They deeply respect the teacher who has a breath of knowledge that they themselves can, at their age, only dream of and aspire to. Think for a moment of the teachers you remember with affection from your own school days. These will be teachers who valued you as a person but also those whose scholarship and knowledge was never in doubt.
Memorable classrooms are vibrant spaces where teachers have given thought to learning prompts, keywords, photos, celebrating achievement and displaying high quality pupil’s work to which their peers can aspire.
When I wrote “Education at Upton Court is about inspirational teachers and aspirational pupils” for the website, this is exactly the kind of lesson I had in mind and the secret to our success.