WEEK THREE – scaling the peaks, plumbing the depths

No great news with 8X3 this week, so this is going to be a more reflective post than usual. They’re in the routine, and although it’s resource-heavy (and make no mistake, resource-heavy it is), it actually seems to be working well for them. Now if only we worked at a place with enough photocopiers…

I interview for two jobs on Wednesday and Thursday, which necessitates setting cover, none of which creates anything that’s really worth marking. That’s a shame, but that’s life.

I do get one of the jobs, though.

What is especially striking is the contrast with my other classes – especially my other middle set. I’ve marked 8X3’s books every lesson, and they’re in a routine of responding to DIRT comments now too. They can see the link between completing the tasks they’ve been set and their making progress, because they can remember when I set those tasks. They are positive, engaged and mostly pleasant in a way that they weren’t before.

My Year 7 middle set have their books marked once a week, and are a markedly different kettle of fish, despite actually being a generally more pleasant class. Many of them are stagnating; they are either not making progress or are going through the motions. They are often making the same mistakes over and over again and producing inferior work.  I would do the same with them as with my 8s were it not for time; I have rewritten my whole Year 8 scheme of work to make this work for me. I simply don’t have time to do that for Year 7 during term time.

Would I go back to the old way of doing things? I suppose I already have. If I was totally committed to this, I’d have taken it up with my Year 7s already – but I need to sleep, and I need space to get it right, and I want to go home at a sensible time rather than working until 9pm every night. Perhaps that makes me a failure as a teacher, but I think it just makes me human.

I’ve planned almost every lesson I’ve taught in the past two years from scratch. That’s largely because the ones on the system haven’t been up to scratch, but it’s also because I’m a traditionalist and some of my colleagues are progressives, and often we think about things in fundamentally different ways. That’s also meant marking has always been an area of weakness, even though my planning is pretty damn good these days – I just don’t have time. I hope that changes in my new school, but I don’t know that it will. Can I sustain this? I just don’t know. I’d like to.

If I was a Head of Department, I’d never formalise “mark every book every day” in a marking policy, as it would kill my teachers. I shared it in a meeting today, and I dread that happening in the name of “good practice”. That said, having tried it myself, it seems resolutely sensible, both for planning and for feedback. So for the moment, I’m going to work as hard as I can to stick with it as my KS3 strategy to the end of the year, and I’m certainly taking it to my new place too. I’ll keep you posted.

WEEK THREE – scaling the peaks, plumbing the depths

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