I just allowed myself to indulge in a brief moment of geek envy, staring at my Twitter account and wondering why I only have 348 followers. The quantity of Twitter followers is obviously the best indication of how good a teacher you are, so it pains me to tell you that I must be decidedly average. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t started using follower counts as an integral part of the interview process yet. An egg avatar would be an instant rejection.
Being more serious, this led me to think about how actually do we measure the quality of a teacher? If you’re thinking “results”, or even “value added”, chances are you’re not working in a school! Whether you agree with the philosophy or not, getting grades is the name of the game in education at the moment. But is a teacher good because they get the grades, or do they get the grades because they are good? What if they don’t get the grades – does this always mean they are bad?
So what makes a teacher good? You can’t write down a tick box checklist. Even the Department for Education realises that their list of standards is no good:
“…more than a third of teachers did not feel the current standards provided a good definition of teacher competence and 41 per cent believed that professional standards did not make any difference to the way they taught”
Being highly knowledgeable is good, but being unable to explain that knowledge at an appropriate level for your learners is not. Being able to control behaviour in your classroom is good, terrifying students into being too scared to participate is not. Making awesome resources is really good, not being able to plan a lesson well enough in order to be able to use them is not. A lot of the knowledge and abilities that make up a good teacher are really difficult to quantify – it would be ridiculous to write things on my CV such as “I can silence a netball team with a hard stare” or “If something goes wrong I can come up with a backup plan without breaking a sweat” – but this is what I’ve been learning for the past 6 years. These are the skills that are invisible to people who don’t work in schools, coveted by PGCE students and often taken for granted by more experienced staff.
I find it really weird that schools are so fragmented, that there is sometimes not much interaction between schools in the same area, and the only way to assess the quality of a teacher is through a reference from the previous school or from an inspector observing a single lesson in isolation. As someone said on the Olympics this year, you’re only as good as your last race – so if you’ve got a headache on the OFSTED day does that mean the previous however many years of excellent lessons are forgotten? That’s a terrifying thought.
But then again, isn’t this rather similar to our examination system?