I saw some truly excellent teaching whilst training with Teach First, and had some brilliant tutors. Some of the very best where when I as a participant or as an observer felt comfortable with the pace of the lesson, and felt that the activities were really meaningful.
Which led me to reflect on how activities can feel to pupils:
- Do they have time to get on with the activity?
- Am I disrupting the whole class repeatedly?
- Are they writing how they really want to write or performing to success criteria set by me or someone else?
Some of these points were quite subtle – for instance even when the pace was great, and the activity useful, sometimes I found that I wasn’t producing outputs that were meaningful to me, because I knew that the teacher was looking for a specific type of ‘answer’ i.e. they were defining the success criteria, not me.
A good example of someone else setting success criteria is our reflective diary entries – Teach First structure these so that you are directed to answer specific questions each week. Great to get you thinking about different aspects of pedagogy or professionalism, but often I found myself wanting to reflect on something different – and there was no space for this. In the end I would often write a ‘tick box’ reflection for Teach First, and then write a meaningful reflection myself in a separate entry.
In terms of my own teaching, then, I need to consider how I can plan activities that feel well-paced and meaningful to students. But I’m realising how hard this is to do – the way an activity feels is dependent on so many different factors. In turn this means that perhaps the best way for me to check how activities feel is to ask students themselves regularly.