I can’t think of any other job where you are watched at work as much as a teacher: even actors on a stage get dress rehearsals, and even surgeons get to consult with the patient before the deed. In teaching, not only are your lessons watched, but you have to write down everything that you are going to do, in as much detail to the nearest 5 minutes, to be scrutinised with a fine tooth comb by your managers.
New buildings are all designed with giant glass windows on the side of every classroom, to allow anybody in passing to see what you are doing in your lesson, like some kind of voyeuristic fishbowl. Similarly, teaching is something that is often videoed, for performance management reasons, which is probably the original act that spawned Teachers TV. Can you think of any other career that has it’s own TV channel?
Lesson observations are run like exams: to be graded and passed, at intervals throughout the year, for the rest of your career. The grading of them is highly subjective: despite there being a very long and involved grading criteria for lessons, they are easily manipulated, as so much of what is required is down to ‘impressions’, ‘sparkle’ and other such non-quantifiable terms. If someone observing you wants you to pass or fail, then that’s the lesson they are going to see.
Students are always involved in the performance management of a teacher, through seeking their feedback and opinion on the quality of lessons. Of course, student experiences and faith in the competency of their teacher are central, but far too much weight is given to, for example, a box ticked as ‘all most never’ next to the question, “Is your homework always marked in a timely manner?” by a hungover student first thing on a Friday morning. It ends up being just another stick to beat teachers with, and another way in which students are empowered to bully staff.
Then there are the results, and the statistics, which have got to be seen to be constantly improving, and any that aren’t, need to be explained away in written responses from teachers, and dealt with, usually by invoking competency procedures. Despite the fact that retention figures are low because there were 5 in the class, and 4 of them all caught syphilis after one night in the student bar on margarita night, it is still the teacher that is held accountable.
Performance management, and it’s excessive implementation and resulting pressures, has been enough in itself to push many teachers over the edge, in an already stressful career.
Read the full series
Read the full series