Secondary Teachers

What did the Secondary Teachers have to say…

…about marking and assessment?

“…it’s what I do within the system in which I exist, because obviously I need to function within that…”

“…it is very difficult when…kids say ‘is this a level 6? … Because that’s what they do, because they are drilled, and I am just saying, ‘Look, take a step back, is that your best work? YES, NO. If it’s not, what else could you do to improve it’. Because they are obsessed … they literally say is this a 6A, is this a 6B?”

“I don’t actually refer to levels that much at all, really, in my lessons as controversial as that might sound. …for the younger ones, year 6, year 7, I use colours, so I say, you know, green, yellow, red and, you know, the red is the hardest one to achieve. Green is the easiest one to achieve.”

“…when they started removing the numbers [from lesson observations] in the UK, a lot of teachers that I spoke to, who I worked with, said ‘I want a number. I want to know where I am … I need to know. Otherwise….’ … But surely what we are moving away from with the students is precisely that. The number. And we are just trying to work on formative feedback. … And their response was ‘ Nah – I want the number. I want to know where I stand. I need to know where I am on that pyramid and the only way I can improve is if I know that. One more step and I’ll be closer to the top or something….’”

“It’s because they are competitive.”

“We have to have something we can analyse. … Everything in education we’re competing against other countries, everything is a competition, so they want, the government or whoever, needs something to say the UK is this, Australia is this, it has to be something that is measured and numbers are measured, value is measured but words you can’t measure them to give that impact.”

“…grading, levelling. … I find it quite conscriptive and I find that it labels and sometimes it makes it feel like all we do is teach to the grade and all they do is teach for the grade, learn for the grade and parents all they care about is the grade and so on and that’s a model that’s essentially that’s wrong because in society we don’t get grades.”

“…if you had no financial constraints, of course, you’d have teachers teaching less hours and teachers teaching less kids. If I didn’t have 150 students, how much better could my marking be for the 50 that I’d have. You know, how much more exciting could my lessons be. My feedback. I could do entire lessons on feedback. You know, I wouldn’t have to write it in their books because I’d have the time and the capacity to talk to them about it and it would be different. But with the constraints you have you do your best with the constraints you have.”

…about the curriculum?

“…when I was back in the UK, it was just, you were just teaching kids to pass an exam and I remember being taught to pass an exam. Gaps – I’ve got so much gaps in my knowledge in every single subject because I was just taught to pass an exam, not taught to question things as much, or to have more of a holistic view of things or just to say right let’s just stop learning and have more of a look at what’s going on in Syria today, is there any …. That kind of thing, it was just like ‘We haven’t got time’. Like, I remember in my lessons ‘I haven’t got time for that, we need to get through this. Come on, we’ve got to … we’ve got an exam’.”

“It’s just the profound ignorance that comes from education.”

“Things go on in life, things go on in the family that’s not in the curriculum that’s way more important to talk about and to teach them about in that hour that something’s happened…. Say ‘Forget about that’ ‘Get your maths book out’ ‘We need to do equations’. We’re just so, the timetable is just so restricted….”

“Perhaps what I advocate …is a more flexible curriculum one that allows you to still teach your subject ‘cause I think that’s important and to have a line that you follow but that line necessarily shouldn’t have tall walls and boundaries.”

“My friend and I we both went through GCSEs and A levels together. I remember sitting next to her in art and we were choosing our degrees to do and I was like, ‘I’m going to do an art but I’m going to do business and maths as well, as like a backup’. She was like, ‘No, no, no, I’m gonna go for the straight art, I’m gonna go for the straight art and go for it’ and I was thinking ‘Hm, that’s a bit risky.’ But that was just my mindset and she did that and she’s always just done art, worked in a café, little things but me and my friends were saying ‘No, she needs to get her life in order’ but then you think ‘Why, why? Why am I conditioned to think that she has not got her life in order?’ …she works in a café, but, good for her, like, but the way I’ve been brought up through schools, through my dad, or whatever, is you need to get a good job, you need to… and it’s just been drilled, literally, in and why? Why can’t you just get a campervan and travel round the world and that be seen as equally as something to go for rather than university.”

…and about democratic education?

“I think in primary [a Montessori approach] has a lot of value. But I don’t – maybe I’m a bit old school in view of how secondary should be, because essentially secondary is the consolidation of knowledge to take it a step further to develop particular skills that you might need in a work environment and, for that, I think you need maybe some more structure and, although the idea of [a Sudbury method school] sounds great, I don’t know, how do you ensure that a child doesn’t spend all day flopped on a beanbag playing the latest violent Playstation game. … Because it allows students to measure themselves against others, measure their ideas, bounce – like a sounding board – bounce off each other and in each other’s sort of values as well, which is why I’m an advocate for schools and less so for learning at home in a small environment, … because in the work environment we are forced to be with other people, forced to understand each other and work with each other and school is a great learning environment. Not just the knowledge element but the emotional development.”

“…is there a chance that [Sudbury method schools] just creamed off the top percentage of the students who were already predisposed and had the inclination to be successful anyway, independently of where, which system they went through. [What about those who] would they have benefited from a more structured system with boundaries, which maybe wouldn’t have got them to university as open minded, free thinkers, problem solvers but at least it would have gotten them there and prepared them for a future of some sort.”

“…when I say future ready, I don’t necessarily mean future ready for a career, for a work life, but I mean future ready for relationships with people outside of the confines of childhood, because, within the confines of childhood, you’ve got parents who guide you or a guardian who guides you, and in the system in school you have teachers, you have mentors. When you leave school, all of that falls down and you are sort of on your own and I think school can equip you with tools, social tools, to deal with the world. …so I think equipping children with the ability to be with people and know how to be around them that is important and whether it is a traditional school system or a more liberal one I have no idea but I do think there needs to be some sort of system that will help.”

“…I really value the equality that there can be between teachers and students. So that’s something I would forward more. When I say ‘equality’ I don’t mean necessarily equal. There’s an age gap, there’s a knowledge gap, but an equality of, um, their point of view, the authority, perspective. I really value their perspective, their point of view, the fact that they are people as much as I am a person and I’m not a fan of top down teaching approaches, which you still see all the time, most of the time.”