At this time of year, the main preoccupation of teachers may well be reports. It’s definitely true for primary school teachers who still adhere to the full report on every single subject. Two sides of A4 or more multiplied by at least thirty.
During the last year of my attempts at education and guidance for my year six class,the report was becoming little more than a numbers exercise to be completed three times a year based on test results and formal teacher assessment. Children would be given targets so you were constantly having to refer back to previous reports. This was truly the dullest thing ever. Talk about the dumbing down of the art of pedagogue.
Are teachers who have spent a whole year encouraging and developing children’s skills and social personalities going to live or die by sets of figures and menial targets? Some may argue that new formats release the teacher to teach more. I would argue that the teacher, a generally intelligent individual, will learn to manipulate raw materials of their new assessment models in order to show progress. So the real transparency of their skills as evaluators will once more become clouded in the poisoned gas of statistics.
No offence to the good people at the ONS but statistics come after lies and damned lies. The teacher will be further denied the opportunity to report on their pupils as people. The classroom is a real hotch potch of personalities.
Most children want to do well and will show genuine progress which is a good thing. The teacher will see it in all aspects of their school life. But what about the deviants? I’m not talking about the children who seem to attract and follow trouble creating mini worlds of merry hell for all the staff. I’m talking about those who demonstrate quiet defiance.
What about their figures? Do they do their best in dull repetitive test? That’ll be a loud emphatic no. They just don’t see the point.
But with senior management becoming ever watchful of the figures, these children are often singled out for “booster classes”. That’s a small group of children being given extra “help” in a core subject, usually when the rest of the class are doing art or something else nice. Why don’t all the teachers just say to these children:
“Look, we’re making you do this because your stupid and don’t deserve to do nice things with the rest of the class.” Brutal isn’t it?
Now matter how the teacher dresses it up, the child will think that they are failing; that he or she is genuinely stupid.
Some children will always struggle with primary maths. Oh the hours I’ve spent finding a million and one ways of describing basic formulae and applying it to mathematical processes. A lot of maths is based on deconstruction, calculation and reconstruction. It’s a complex affair because it takes basic concepts and dresses them up in a cloak of cerebral mystery. Concrete foundations of knowledge slip into the ether causing confusion and bewilderment.
As a teacher, I had to persist in drumming this in to the poor souls because management were strutting around with Steve shaped baseball bats as they looked over their own shoulders for the even bigger baseball bats of school improvers and OFSTED.
It was paramount for me to explain to these children that they would get every chance to improve their understanding at secondary school where the pressures of key stage three ease off on the basics.
I’m not surprised. While things might click into place in maths, the pressures of self image and social status enters into the fray. There is always an element of this in all stages of school life but it certainly becomes more acute for new teenagers.
As for reports, it’s been close sometimes. I’d have to warn parents about the ink still being wet. For each report you have to consider the audience. It’s no good being all fancy with rhetoric for a family who’ll genuinely struggle to read it. (I won’t go into the reasons.)
On the other hand, some parents like to be entertained by little witticisms and observations. But rest assured, groups of parents will compare reports to see if the teacher is just turning out the same bland generic mumbo-jumbo. What a game this has been. At least the use of IT negates the possibility of having to re-write complete reports because of spelling and grammatical errors. Or in my case, a great big beer stain on the half dozen I was finishing off in The Huntsman at Eridge.
But even IT can leave you stumped. There was one teacher who completely erased the second page of all her class’s reports.
Tears in the computer room on a Friday afternoon. I couldn’t laugh. The previous year I misplaced one particular boy’s somewhere in the cyberspace of our local area network. I had to sit down and re-write it on a Friday afternoon because they were going out that day. Did I emit my traditional whoop on finishing a classful of reports? In front of my class? Whilst they were working?
Too right I did.
Thank-you for reading.