Believe in Life After Levels!
Despite the new assessment regime being in action for a couple of years now (and the first round of 'the new SATs') many still struggle with the disappearance of beloved levels. In a strange way, they gave people a sense of safety. However, in order to put learning first, a life beyond levels needs to be embraced and taken full advantage of. Here's a rundown of my actions in a world where levels existed (some of this was the result of of me being an inexperienced teacher, but I strongly believe you will likely relate):
Simple. In a climate where we would be judged on an "average points score", if we pushed the uppers as far as they could go (moving further to the right on a grid with a similar design to below), their accelerated progress would make up for the lack of appropriate teaching the ones in the red still weren't making.
Genius! Although upon reflection, also an embarrassment. For those struggling to understand Life Without Levels, how about we swap images like above, for ones like this (for clarity, I haven't designed this because I think diagrams are a necessity. I'm hoping it could illustrate my ideals):
Within your year group, you focus on your designated programme of study.
You teach your programme of study to such a high standard that there is little way your learners can get it wrong.
As you teach, you spot those who find it difficult and you focus on them, while you supply those excelling within your standards with a variety of problem solving activities in which to apply the learning. Change the question, flip the approach, apply a real-life context. Constant revision.
Under no circumstances do you move them on to the next set of criteria, as this risks losing understanding for the sake of pace, leaving them insecure for the next teacher. It also means you're taking yourself away from the ones who need you the most.
Don't refer to it as 'holding them back' - grow up.
Assessment - you're looking for evidence to tell you, "To what degree are my learners able to..." and then you use this information to plan ahead, to delve deeper into the concept - which will bring me nicely onto the second point next time.
When I first committed to the #WeeklyBlogChallenge17, I was concerned about running out of inspiration. Yet, another week has gone by, and another series of thoughts have raced through my mind. As usual, @thatboycanteach was correct. I begin writing today, with an idea of what I want to say, but no idea how to say it.
We recently received our Staff Group photo, and my class also received theirs. Lining up in height order, some poor photographer attempting to position 31 small people (and myself), keeping all participants in order, until the first flash of the blinding bulb, soundtracked by the call of any word that uses the /ee/ sound, in the hope of a dazzling smile.
This time last year, I was recovering from an operation. I missed the photo. While I remember my class fondly, I'm irritated I don't have the picture, and I was saddened not to be part of the staff photo in my first year at a new school.
It sounds ridiculous, but I'm coming to believe that these images are more than just photos. When I look around my classroom, my staffroom or my school, I see more than people. They are becoming family. As much as we discuss our varied work lives with friends, it's only those inside the grounds that really understand. And for many, it's these people that we spend most of our time with!
We support each other, make each other laugh, be social and look after each other's well-being. The loss of one of our own, through whatever means, creates a lasting ripple-effect, thus signalling the strong connection we have as a group of beings, of all ages and all backgrounds. I will confidently say that it's this variety that makes our family so successful.
While I've always known I'm extremely lucky to work where I work, with the people I'm with, and the children and families I have, occurrences in recent history have further highlighted how fortunate I am.
A photo, a school-photo more specifically, is more than that.
It's a memory.
It's a list of faces that you'll recall.
It's a series of stories that will make you smile.
It's a group of people that have had an impact on you.
It's a reminder of those you loved, and some you may have lost, but will never forget.
It's a symbol of unity, strength and team work, moments of hardship and stress, culminating in a year of education or work that adds to the jigsaw of your life; a series of experiences that didn't make sense until the moment you needed them.