Returning from the Christmas break felt great; two short half-terms, the days are becoming longer and brighter...
However, it has caught me by surprise how busy this term is. Chatting with colleagues, everyone seems agreed that while the term is a short one, it is the busiest too. Having said this, so far I have not found this term to be as demanding as the last. I now know the school after a term settling in, I know my pupils and my way around (and where to find the plain paper, the glue sticks when your own stash runs out).
The busy nature of the term has come about because of data, progress and evidencing. It is also due to both my year 10 and 11s sitting mocks – and in our 6th form they are sitting mini-mocks and then mocks as well.
With mock season upon us, it creates different work including planning revision sessions, marking sample questions, creating model answers, as well as the mock marking itself.
Last week I attended a professional learning session on moderation – one of the most valuable sessions I have been to so far. As a department, our pupils have sat the same papers which allowed us to mark them independently before benchmarking across the team.
In conclusion it seems that I am a very generous marker! I have been reassured it is because I am a keen NQT and I am told that it is quite common for younger teachers to award generously. The majority of my assessments were accordingly reduced in marks/grades.
Personally, I think it is down to two reasons: first, I marked the mock papers with the attitude that I wanted it to be motivational for pupils, so they could see how well they had done and thus making them enthusiastic and excited in their achievements.
Second, I think I was generous as understanding the exam board mark scheme is a struggle in itself. For example, being clear on what qualifies as “reference to theory or research” or whether this answer “demonstrates breadth and/or depth” is not always evident.
Other reasons for being so busy include that I have so far attended parents’ evenings for years 7, 8, 9 and 11, often only a week apart, so the time-management aspect of maintaining progress and attainment in my mark book to accurately inform parents has taken some organisation.
Likewise, the evenings themselves take time away from planning and marking. Having said this, I do feel parents’ evening is an amazing opportunity to triangulate feedback with parents and children, and because of this several pupils have seen a marked improvement in engagement and behaviour.
It has been busy because progress checks are due for the spring data collection too, which sits well with parents’ evening preparations, but again creates work in accurately grading/levelling pupils’ work. I have found it beneficial with several classes to give them the marking criteria for them to self-assess their attainment for me to then review and make a judgement. Pupils seem to positively engage in the process of checking their own achievements and this promotes stretch and challenge for those with keen aspirations.
Finally, it is busy because reports are due to be written for pupils – both academic and tutor responsibilities (demonstrating my more holistic understanding of pupils). Attainment, attitude, collaborative and independent working all summarised into a paragraph. I enjoy writing reports and take the opportunity to formally celebrate what skills and talents have been demonstrated. I also try to sensitively provide development areas for progress to continue.
All in all, the “to-do” list is extremely long. I wonder if this is the nature of teaching, always plenty to do and the skill is actually in managing the priorities.
I am intrigued to know what I will make of the summer term...
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.