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‘Outstanding’ – Simple but not easy!

I lay on my sofa a couple of minutes ago staring mindlessly at the TV set and allowing the sounds and images to wash over me. My body and mind are in a state of sheer exhaustion and all I can think about is having the luxury of sleeping late this Friday and Saturday morning – my first free weekend in 3 weeks!

Among all the Arab soap operas and rehashed talent hunts that seem to dominate my screen these days I landed on a programme that immediately grabbed my attention and struck a chord with me.

The programme was the pilot episode of ‘The Inspectors’ a show in which inspectors visit restaurants in the U.S.A to warn people about the hazards of eating out. Normally, I wouldn’t have any interest in hearing them dismiss the modern-day blessings of fast food and free home delivery. However, the reason for my keen attention to the hosts prowling and prying was that I am currently going through inspection week at my school and in spite of the differences; it really is quite the same.

Though the inspectors have only been around for two days, in reality the inspection began three weeks ago, the minute our Principal announced to us that they’d be coming!

Long hours, stress, working weekends and severe sleep deprivation notwithstanding, we were ready for them and waited for them to arrive.  Anyone who knows me well will know, I’m more skeptical than most people but even I see the real benefit of school inspections.

Neither the frenzy that seems to engulf the teaching community in the lead up to inspections nor all the documentation, paper work and overflowing evidence files could ever match what a teacher does in a classroom. Inspections are stressful, and that’s putting it mildly. But nobody can argue the fact that they make us better teachers. Even if it means pulling out every single trick we’ve learned and packing it into every single lesson for one entire week.

Is there any such thing as the perfect lesson or the perfect teacher? Probably not. But what matters most is when teachers show up, well prepared, well planned and consistently reminding themselves and the children in their rooms of the high expectations they have and the conviction with which they know that the children will meet and sometimes even surpass those expectations. There will be children who fall behind, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Teachers are always there to make sure that they catch up eventually!

Outstanding teaching doesn’t come from charismatic delivery alone. It takes planning, study, knowing the children (this is so crucial) and lots and lots of heart!

Yes the inspectors will make us bottle our best practices and package and advertise them well but that alone will never work. It doesn’t work. The only thing, in my opinion, that can guarantee outstanding teaching and learning is a thorough knowledge of your lesson and an excellent relationship with your class. If you know what they know you almost can’t help but make them make progress. Sounds simple, right? It is. But it’s definitely not easy.

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