The same but different

As a mentor of an NQT, I was looking to support her with her lesson.  She observed me teaching a lesson with my year 8 group and she delivered a very similar lesson to her year 7 group.

Although this was initially designed to be me team-teaching/ coaching to help improve her practice, I quickly realised that I was picking up tips on how to improve my own teaching.  There were lots of moments where a different spin illuminated an aspect of the lesson that was lacking in my own lesson.

For example, part of my starter activity involved pupils placing post-it notes with their answers on the board.  I then sorted these post-it notes into an order on the board, describing what I was doing and why.  She asked two pupils to sort them and explain why.  It was a tweak that brought that bit more to the lesson. The questioning in the class was also much better than in my lesson.  Pupils were required to  think for longer, to discuss and to feedback.   Actually, I probably don’t mean ‘better’ here,  rather it was different to how I approached it.  I am definitely a teacher who is reflective, but I still have certain entrenched methods which have served me well- but they are not the only  methods.

So many different factors affected the delivery of the same lesson too: the time of day, the room, the make-up of the class so much so that a lesson which was, essentially, exactly the same as mine was in fact quite different.

The less formal approach to this ensured that the experience was different to the norm.  I have undertaken many observations in my time and I know that once you place a judgement on a whole lesson, you then place absolutes on what is good and what is not.  If I had gone into this lesson and judged it, the process would have been nowhere near as revelatory.  I would have been ticking, and notetaking, and checking to see if certain boxes were ticked.   My feedback would have been centred around what would have made it a better lesson observation and not necessarily what would have made it a better lesson. For example, pupils were incredibly engaged with their writing.  The teacher let them continue and scrapped a plenary at the end.  I knew that the start of the next lesson will perform a similar function so I didn’t think anyone needed to panic.

Before I meander off on any number of tangents, I’ll bring the topic back to the initial idea.  In the next few weeks I will be creating more opportunities for this kind of paired experience and will be encouraging teachers to plan and teach lessons together.  I will also make time  to observe my colleagues and learn as much as I can.