VIGNETTES SERIES 3
Vignettes 11 – 13
VIGNETTE 11 SCHOOL APPRAISAL
Educators are quite constantly involved with processes relating to testing, measurement and evaluation. This is done in different ways by people directly and indirectly connected with schools. While most factors of measurement relate to academics, there are other things to be considered when evaluating schools.
Over time priorities and processes have changed. These days within the NT a detailed visit by senior colleagues including a group of the principal’s peers and senior management staff is the way appraisals are undertaken. The process lasts several days. Examination includes conversations with some school staff members.
The Northern Territory Education Department has been concerned about the performance of its schools since taking over responsibility for education in 1978. Various models have been followed.
One of the very best was called the “Internal/external School Appraisal Model”. This involved members of the school staff and members of community working in groups to analyse the various aspects of school function. Teaching performance, staff relationships, student welfare, school appearance, communications and all other factors were examined. Each panel included staff and community members. A facilitator was appointed for each group.
Groups had the ability to glean information from a number of options. Included what questionnaires, interviews, and of course the self-awareness of that particular aspect of school function built within the group. Toward the end of the process each group presented in turn to the whole school staff and also members of community who cared to attend those sessions. From the report grew recommendations for future consideration. Each group also indicated things that were being done well and should be continued.
After presenting, each group report and recommendations to the forum of staff and community. Some revisions were then made and a priority put on the recommendations.
When all groups had presented and the final report from the “internal process” developed, this then went to an external panel which considered the report. This panel had the opportunity to order the recommendations as a whole.
This was a very elongated process. However he enabled all staff and those with a keen steak and interest in the school to have input. Importantly the report was owned by school staff and community members.
I applied this model at Nhulunbuy Primary School when first becoming principal. I gained, it was used it Karama Primary School in 1987. Of all the methodologies used over time to help centre school action in the right directions this approach was by far and away the most effective.
When people within an organisation own what they do including developing the context of futures direction the whole process is validated by ownership.
Although it may never happen I would certainly recommend a return to the past when it comes to appraising a school and its place within the community.
VIGNETTE 12 ‘KNOWING’ YOUR CLASSROOM
It is all too easy bees days for teachers to become disassociated from the classroom teaching space and somewhat “distant” from pupils in terms of the seating within. This has come about in part because of our preoccupation with computer and with the requirement that we are forever developing data to input, indicating student progress.
Unfortunately it can happen that teachers very rarely leave their tables because of attachment to this device. Communication with students across the classroom is by voice.
I believe that in terms of location it is important for teachers to be aware of the physical essence of the children and where those students sitting.
As a person who sometimes works at schools level with teachers on practice I follow the rule of drawing a map and over a period of time showing how, where, and when teachers have moved around the classroom to contact students the desk level. This can be done into Waze. The first is to have a photograph of the classroom as it’s set up but without students at desks. On the face of that “blank” draw a line that tracks the route followed by teachers around the classroom over a period of say 20 minutes. The other method more simply is to draw an outline of the classroom including desk locations. In the same way track the teacher for a point in time indicating direction of movement by occasional arrows across the track path.
Student teachers always appreciate that feedback, for a chosen just where they’ve been how they’ve moved, which students have been contacted the most, which the least and so on. It also shows students in terms of the movement toward a teacher rather than allowing the teacher to circulate.
It is very important for teachers to spend time with each student and this is best done by getting away from the teachers table, leaving the computer mobile’s, then moving around talking to students and seeing how their work at an individual or group level within classrooms is progressing.
The other great thing about this methodology is that it helps teachers to get to know students, to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses and to better understand the way they relate to each other with in the classroom. This awareness is very important and sadly often overlooked.
VIGNETTE. 13. LOOMING
This vignette in part is a follow-on from Vignette 12. When moving around classrooms and relating to children at desk level, it is important not to “Loom”. Looming is to stand above the child looking down at the child causing the child was down there to look up at you the teacher. This place is the child at some disadvantage when it comes to communication with the teacher. It may also give the impression that the teacher is much more important as a person than the students because of the hype differential.
As well, students often have developing voices and the further away you are the less chance there is of catching for the child is saying. Misunderstandings can happen.
It is far better for teachers moving around classrooms to bend down, Neil, or Steve when talking to children so that they looking at each other more or less from the same level. My experiences that this builds the quality of contact between teacher and student. One of the advantages is that it enhances I contact and enables teacher and student to talk to each other with lowered and therefore more conversational voices.
To get down and work closely with students also builds confidence in relationships particularly from the Charles viewpoint towards his or her teacher. It overcomes the perception that can be held by children at the teacher is above all and somewhat remote as a person from them as pupils.
Try it! It works.