Hours of precious life slipping by

Teaching brings more than its fair share of elation and revelation. A lesson that runs exactly as planned, a lesson that is utterly unlike the one you planned, the first day of term, the last day of term. It all adds up to to the uniquely special job called teaching.

Low on the list of revelatory moments, however, is the weekly staff meeting.

Few things can match the sheer drabness, the pointlessness of the hour spent watching, blinking, half-yawning while handouts are scattered and slides flip endlessly across a screen. Hours of precious life slipping by.

How strange that a profession whose sole purpose is to educate can get things so wrong, so often. All that we know about good learning can stop the moment the staff meeting begins.

Too often staff meetings are structured around transmission and compliance – a given expert, often with credentials unknown, telling the assembled audience what to do and how to do it, complete with the assertion that it’s ‘what Ofsted are looking for’.

The end result is a classroom full of people keeping schtum, able to generate little more than an occasional nod and an overly enthusiastic ‘thank you’ in the mad rush for the door and the relative bliss of a pile of unmarked books.

Enough is enough. Today, this very evening, we ripped up the plan. No expert, no Powerpoint, no handouts, no Ofsted. Instead, we gave space and time. Teacher talked to teacher about what they did in their classroom, what was working and what was not. Invites to observe were given and received with enthusiasm. Plans were hatched to test out new ideas. Resources were shared and books were recommended.

The hour was up. No-one moved. For once, the weekly staff meeting was a revelation.

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