Ugh! I dislike this woman intensely. Not only is she possessed of the effervescent charm and prepossessing looks of Roald Dahl's Grandma in George's Marvellous Medicine, but, she's also intensely duplicitous, eminently selfish and, in a word, like most of her colleagues in the Senior Leadership Team, incompetent. She really is 'The Bastard with a Smile', unashamedly content to ruin the careers and destroy the lives of her perceived adversaries whilst cordially asking after the welfare of their families. Smugly grinning, she enters my classroom, parks herself at the back and opens my class file. Her long, sinister-looking digits sift through my records, spiky nose protruding ominously, almost touching the file's metal rings.
Why the fuck is she smirking? I wonder. You watch, she'll just sit there for the entire observation and, on the odd occasion, summon a pupil to interrogate. Lazy mare!
I scan the room. Shit! There is one, two, no three kids off task. That's it, I concede, no 'outstanding' judgment for me, not that that was ever a remote possibility with Grandma, aka 'The Bastard', observing my lesson. Dan is even on his bloody phone - surely my coup de grace. I quietly ask him to hand it over and, with barely a squeak of protest, and much to my pleasant surprise, he proceeds to do so. But it's too late; the damage has been done; I'm already condemned to an 'unsatisfactory', perhaps a 'requires improvement' if I'm lucky. (Our SLT insists on using the old grading system, even though the latest guidelines deem it unnecessary.) The dreaded capability beckons, I characteristically catastrophize.
Lesson observations have become occupational hazards to fear, and not simply because of Grandma's warped sadism. They ask the impossible. We are expected to engage every single child - even the ones determined to resist learning at all costs - for every single second of every single lesson. If a pupil happens to momentarily look out of the window - perhaps daydreaming about the impending weekend or distracted by a gull voraciously gobbling up scraps of food discarded during the preceding break - they're disengaged and, of course, as must be the case, the hapless teacher is to blame. If a pupil enters a class and surreptitiously begins to text a friend, it is, yet again, seen as the teacher's fault. He should be engrossed in an inspirational starter activity by now, after all. Does this sound remotely realistic or fair to you? More to the point, though, what message does it send to the kids?
They are being encouraged by an inspectorate supposedly there to inculcate values and raise educational standards to blame their teachers for their own failings. If we're off task, it's our teacher's fault, they insist; he bores us; in Ofsted-speak - something many are fully conversant with - he hasn't sufficiently engaged us. Indeed, I wouldn't be on my phone if I were suitably interested in the task. So what's the result?
In short, lower standards as pupils, cruelly encouraged to search for excuses, look to divest themselves of any responsibility for their own learning. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can ever be their fault. Teachers, meanwhile, fearful of the inspectorate's iron fist, devise tasks that can only be described as amusing rather than academically productive. So the children are engaged but, ultimately, making little to no progress. In other words, the methods encouraged are inversely related to the outcomes sought.
And let's be under no illusions, whatever Michael Wilshaw says to the contrary, Ofsted still favours progressive teaching methods. An obsession with engaging all can only be satisfied by differentiated tasks that hold the attention of each and every individual pupil - an approach in many ways unsuited to traditional, more didactic, methods which require a huge amount of concentration, thus effort, on the part of the pupils (an expectation that can only be met through a relentless focus on hard work and discipline - a focus that Ofsted loathes with every fibre of its leftist, bureaucratic being).
Not only is differentiated learning for the birds - how has one teacher got the time to plan for, let alone the ability to cater for, the myriad needs of thirty pupils in one classroom, especially if it's of mixed ability? -, its over-emphasis also offers a way out for children of the more, shall we say, languid variety, an excuse to be used when they don't fancy doing the work. For all intents and purposes, by relentlessly blaming the teacher, the kids are discouraged from trying.
To compound the detrimental impact, moreover, we - the teachers - become frustrated and surly, palpably aware that we're being asked to do the impossible. We are thus exhausted, consumed with stress-inducing self-doubt and, as a depressing consequence, unconscionably resentful. No wonder so many of us leave the profession!
This fog of confusion is sweet music to the scraggly ears of Grandma. She will always find something to justify a downgrade. If you're amusing them (sorry, I meant engaging them), their progress/data will be poor. If you're actually teaching them, though, some will inevitably be disengaged, even if, ultimately, as a class, they make more progress. Either way, Grandma will have something to satisfy her lurid desire to spit poison.
Of course, having said that, in my school we're at a particular disadvantage. If the school leadership is poor - which it is - and discipline non-existent - which, again, it is - even traditional teaching will not be rewarded with good progress. It will indeed be impossible to execute without unbearable levels of pupil resistance. In the words of Fraser, either way, and much to Grandma's sordid delight, 'We're doomed!'