Monday, 6 March 2017

Living the Good Life, not the Outstanding one!

An interesting reflection on my own practice tonight, inspired a lot by my brother and how we discussed what I did day to day. I spoke to him about my reflections on my own competency within Maths teaching and how I can teach students about different concepts day-to-day. I don't know what I am aiming to achieve, I was already rated as Good in a recent observation and that is what it says on the tin, good.

Prior to this observation, I worked hard to try and show myself that I can be "Outstanding", what does it mean to be Outstanding. I would say that every person in my department is the definition of Outstanding. We start with the support that we provide our students, conversations about student behaviour and how to counteract the ideas that are floating around about Outstanding teaching practice. I believe that we are too eager to get to Outstanding within the department as a measure of how effective we are as teachers. This is simply not reflective of what we do day-to-day.

My own practice I believe is good, is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Do I think that I am the best maths teacher ever, definitely not, I know of amazing people through the Twittersphere (follow @feguidebook for more examples) who dedicate many "love hours" to their own professional practice. As I reflect on my own practice in Mathematics teaching, I don't believe that Outstanding should be the benchmark for success when it can be arguably seen as a way to drag teachers into stress, competition and nervousness.

Another good day, another goal to achieve (Image courtesy of

Is there a competitive element to the observations that we have? I don't believe there is, but I can see the need for teachers to feel that they are competent at delivery of their subject. As I learn more about the teaching environment, I learn about the way that everyone I work with is Outstanding in their own right, the reality is that we don't actually want to be Outstanding, we just want to be good at what we do. So that's what we should aim for, especially as a new teacher.

I have always been good, I have never been Outstanding within my own practice, told many times of the good things I do within my classroom but never given the sacred title of delivering an Outstanding lesson, and in this way I am relieved. I don't become complacent within my own practice and I reflect actively on how I can work towards my students best interests. The biggest thing I learnt from the last few months of reflection is to never aim for Outstanding, as this could lead to a pitfall of over-working, a change in work-life balances and a shift in my attitude towards the profession I care so deeply about.

Are you living the good life? (Image courtesy of

A teaching observation is a snapshot of what we deliver across the board, Outstanding is hard, and for those teachers who are able to achieve this without much deliberation I salute you, that doesn't mean I am envious of the title, it just means that we may have different methods on how we deliver to our students. I refuse to accept that Jonny in my class learns best through one method than another from a brief visit in my classroom by an observer. I also refuse to believe that I could be working harder to let my students show I am "aspirational" in my practice. We are only human, with human emotions, and yes believe it or not, we can be stressed too. The best thing to teach your students, is the value of being healthy, happy and enjoying what you do day-to-day. There is no greater value than the value of personal and mental health which should be placed in higher regard considering our students nature towards their own learning.

So what are my tips for today, simple. Don't aim for outstanding, aim for good. Your managers may say you are "un-aspirational" or "underachieving" but this is a much bigger issue then just being good at your job, this is about your work-life balance. I do not plan lessons every night, I don't work at the weekends, and I certainly don't spend time panicking about the state of my classroom. There are some things that are more important in teaching than Outstanding. How about we put more emphasis on being effective within the time you have and change the standard of teaching as a profession. Why don't we place emphasis on staff wellbeing, student interests and keeping what we do a lovely and supportive environment. That's what we all want, to be valued in what we do.

Like I said, don't worry about Outstanding, good is good. Nobody should ever tell you that you are different for wanting to be good, I may not ever be Outstanding, but I will value time in my life over work time to keep me in the job that I love every single day, without any undue stress. Nearly two years into my profession and I am still learning new things every day, I don't ever want to stop learning and competing for my students learning, that's what we should be focussed on, not on overloading ourselves with heavy marking and workloads, which I have seen drive excellent people away from education entirely. I leave you with this, nobody knows your students like you, and nobody will know your dedication to your craft. Don't let a grade dictate how you feel about what you enjoy to do.

Have an enjoyable week teachers!

- Matt
(Twitter: @feguidebook)