5 ways my teaching will change because of today’s GCSE results.

Despite having now completed my fourth year as a teacher, today’s GCSE results were my first batch. Unfortunately, they weren’t great. In fact, they were rather embarrassing. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

I could list many reasons why my two Year 11 History classes didn’t do as well as they were predicted – or as well in History as they did in other subjects. But I’m not a whinger. Instead, here’s the ways I’m going to prevent the same thing happening again:

1. Spend some time ‘off the bandwagon’ before implementation

I was guilty of using my GCSE class as guinea pigs; we tried a whole host of Web 2.0-related stuff. I should have focused on stuff I knew inside-out instead of being intent on being an early adopter. There needs to be a sound pedagogical reason for using a tool, rather than just finding it ‘cool’.

In every other sphere of my life I try not to be an early adopter. For example, I usually wait for the second revision of products, for others to work out the quirks and foibles. Perhaps I need to do that more when teaching, too.

2. Treat students as teenagers, not adults

I tend to have a fairly laid-back approach in the classroom. I’m interested in stories and tend to go off at tangents. I assume that students have an interest in doing well and so perhaps I wasn’t strict enough with those who didn’t hand in practice exam questions during the revision period. I’m fairly certain it was those students who just missed out on C grades…

3. Get parents more involved

In my first, less successful school, I phoned home often – and not just to ask parents to discipline their children. I’d phone home and let parents know how fantastically their child was doing in my lesson. Cue extra effort in my lessons. I haven’t done that nearly as much at my current school.

Parents obviously have a massive influence on the life of young people and help shape their values and beliefs. I need to call on the power they hold a lot more often than I do now.

4. Be more positive

I smile a lot. In fact, people comment on it. But there’s more to being positive than just appearing happy. I know that I’m overly sarcastic and can take the mick a bit too much. I just find it hard to big people up in a non-sarcastic way. Too much Monty Python and Eddie Izzard, perhaps.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to, as John Johnston commented on a previous post, adhere to a policy of ‘unconditional positive regard’ within my classroom.

5. Feel less guilty about detentions for not doing homework

I don’t like homework set for the sake of it. I’m fine with project work done at home and students doing extra research out of interest, but homework for the sake of just trying to get knowledge into heads seems to me a waste of time in this day and age.

But when students get to GCSE level unfortunately they have to fill their heads full of some knowledge that they’ll probably only ever use for the exam. In this scenario, then, I’m going to feel a lot less guilty about insisting they complete knowledge-based homework.

What lessons have YOU learned recently?

And finally, just to make me feel better: “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.” (Oscar Wilde) – also read this. Thanks goes to @theokk for both. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  1. I think iwht anything we can look at the what ifs. For me greater parental involvement and putting together easier intervention systems. I am also going to be tougher on entry into the exam. Under achieving students who fail to attend may no longer be entered.

  2. I think iwht anything we can look at the what ifs. For me greater parental involvement and putting together easier intervention systems. I am also going to be tougher on entry into the exam. Under achieving students who fail to attend may no longer be entered.

  3. I urge you to take a look at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html where Ben Zander talks about the growth of individuals. I think you’re being too hard on yourself, Doug. What is it that we are actually doing, is it putting kids through a exam machine or is it empowering them as humans. I think you want to do the second but your institutional mind wants the first!! Somethng to consider. Ben starts his class, in high school, by telling them they all have a A already, from that point he says they now have to earn it. He calles it the Art of Possibility, as opposed to the downwards spiral we often get on failure, failure, failure! Anyway….choose life!

  4. Hi Doug, hope you’re enjoying a relaxed holiday, I’m getting ready for a trip to spain to visit a friend…very exciting!!

    I have a gig in Bawtry on Sat the 27th of sept with the swing band…would you and your wife like to come???

    It should be good fun. If you would like tickets, call my father on 01302 770992

    Anyway, enjoy the remaining hols. Jon.

  5. Hi Doug, hope you're enjoying a relaxed holiday, I'm getting ready for a trip to spain to visit a friend…very exciting!!I have a gig in Bawtry on Sat the 27th of sept with the swing band…would you and your wife like to come???It should be good fun. If you would like tickets, call my father on 01302 770992Anyway, enjoy the remaining hols. Jon.

  6. I urge you to take a look at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/benjamin_zan… where Ben Zander talks about the growth of individuals. I think you're being too hard on yourself, Doug. What is it that we are actually doing, is it putting kids through a exam machine or is it empowering them as humans. I think you want to do the second but your institutional mind wants the first!! Somethng to consider. Ben starts his class, in high school, by telling them they all have a A already, from that point he says they now have to earn it. He calles it the Art of Possibility, as opposed to the downwards spiral we often get on failure, failure, failure! Anyway….choose life!

  7. Thanks Tim! I've cheered up a bit since yesterday, but thanks for the link.I love TED stuff, so I'll be sure to check it out. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Hi Doug

    I teach IGCSE at a small private school overseas and I’m always thinking about my results.

    Your 1 & 2 particularly resonate with me. I found your blog because you teach with technology and I try to to as well but I think that a core skill for (I)GCSE success is hand written essay/long response answers written under time pressure. So I practice that with past papers and let them grade it with a mark scheme – I take the mark scheme back !

    Your

  9. Hi DougI teach IGCSE at a small private school overseas and I'm always thinking about my results.Your 1 & 2 particularly resonate with me. I found your blog because you teach with technology and I try to to as well but I think that a core skill for (I)GCSE success is hand written essay/long response answers written under time pressure. So I practice that with past papers and let them grade it with a mark scheme – I take the mark scheme back !Your

  10. Hey Doug,

    I know exactly how you feel- I had precisely the same scenario with my A level results this year. On one level the group did feel inspired to keep learning long-term, but on the other…

    Keep up the great work, though, both on the school and blog front.

    With thanks,

    Chris

  11. Thanks Chris – good to know I'm appreciated by at least one group ofpeople… :-)

  12. Hey Doug,I know exactly how you feel- I had precisely the same scenario with my A level results this year. On one level the group did feel inspired to keep learning long-term, but on the other…Keep up the great work, though, both on the school and blog front.With thanks,Chris

  13. Wow! We sound a lot alike. I need to make the exact same changes. This is my second year teaching and I was giggling to myself as I read this post. In addition, I need to do a better job pacing. I wonder how many years it takes to get this down pat.

  14. I don't think *anyone* 'gets it down pat' – every class is different… :-)

  15. Wow! We sound a lot alike. I need to make the exact same changes. This is my second year teaching and I was giggling to myself as I read this post. In addition, I need to do a better job pacing. I wonder how many years it takes to get this down pat.

  16. I’ve been teaching for 3 years now, and have gone from the ‘beating myself up every lesson’ stage, through the ‘enjoying some lessons’, and now, once in a while, I think I can sometimes get through to a few of the children – I teach at a middle school, so I don’t have to focus the pupils at the end of the year for public exams, which I know is a huge pressure, but I, too, tend to be less prescriptive about the detail – as long as they get the point of my lesson. But, remember though, that while the marks are important, you may find that your pupils leave your classes with more than just a score, many of the teachers at my school push the kids for excellent results, but the kids have no joy or respect or pleasure in the subject. by the sound of it, you have kept, and increaded the pupils’ interest in history, which is something that won’t be measured in exams, but will be stored up and develop over time. I like this quote, and think of it whenever I wish that I had taken a class differently(which is regularly):

    โ€œTeachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task.โ€ Haim Ginott from Thinkexist.com.

  17. I've been teaching for 3 years now, and have gone from the 'beating myself up every lesson' stage, through the 'enjoying some lessons', and now, once in a while, I think I can sometimes get through to a few of the children – I teach at a middle school, so I don't have to focus the pupils at the end of the year for public exams, which I know is a huge pressure, but I, too, tend to be less prescriptive about the detail – as long as they get the point of my lesson. But, remember though, that while the marks are important, you may find that your pupils leave your classes with more than just a score, many of the teachers at my school push the kids for excellent results, but the kids have no joy or respect or pleasure in the subject. by the sound of it, you have kept, and increaded the pupils' interest in history, which is something that won't be measured in exams, but will be stored up and develop over time. I like this quote, and think of it whenever I wish that I had taken a class differently(which is regularly):“Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task.” Haim Ginott from Thinkexist.com.

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