What happens when you get ‘The Call’ from the Big O?

I am finally getting around to writing about my first OFSTED experience. The first and main thing you will be pleased to hear is that it’s actually not that bad. Honestly, it’s really not. And in a weird, strange way, I kind of enjoyed the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased we’re only subjected to inspections every three years, but I survived my first OFSTED and it wasn’t too bad.

Our school had been ‘over due’ an inspection for over 12 months, so our school was already in OFSTED mode. We were constantly waiting for ‘The call’. We were having constant reminders and emails and memos where it got to the point where everyone was actually wishing for OFSED as the pressure from waiting was getting too much. ‘When OFSTED come… OFSTED will be looking for…we’ve put this in place for OFSTED….OFSTED will want to see…’ The build up was actually much worse than the actual inspection.

We eventually did get The Call  on a random Tuesday at 12.15pm. I was happily eating my lunch in the staff room and as sod’s law would have it, was talking to a work colleague about how my baby had been up all night and so I would be leaving at 4pm dead on the dot as I was exhausted. Suddenly the door opened. I thought someone had died on the premises as the Head suddenly came into the staff room at 12.45pm with the assistant Head and other SLT members, followed by other members of staff who had eaten their lunch and then left previously. ‘What’s going on?’ I asked. The year 6 teacher next to me whispered that we’d had the call and mouthed the word ‘OFSTED’ and I just remember saying ‘Oh, you’re joking?!’

The Head was very positive, calm and collected and gave a good prep talk. ‘We all knew this was coming…’ She then said that school would be open until 9pm and everyone knew that no one was going home anytime soon after 3.15pm.

There was a buzz around school. Widened eyes, shaking of the heads, stressed out faces, laughing. A text message was sent out immediately to the parents and so they were aware of the situation by the time we let the children go at sometime. Then it was preparation time. Luckily, I knew what I was teaching for maths and I decided to jazz up my literacy lesson. I was fairly certain that I would only be observed in literacy and definitely in my afternoon phonics group as our year 1 phonics results test last year was shocking. I rang my mum and told her that I wouldn’t be coming home to pick up the baby as we had OFSTED the next day. I actually laugh when I think about that now- talk about priorities! I was more concerned about OFSTED than actually seeing my own child. (I’m so glad I’m out of mainstream and can put my family first again). I was also very lucky that I could do that. My mum didn’t even bat an eyelid, she just said good luck and to let her know how it goes. (Thank you mum!).

Anyway, once the children had gone it was a great atmosphere in school. Everyone came together and there was a real Dunkirk spirit about the place. My TA was an absolute star, she stayed until 4.30pm checking the displays and helping tidy up the classroom. She apologised profusely that she had to go, but she too has young children and she had to go and pick them up. I then concentrated on getting everything ready for the lessons the next day so that I could just come in and not worry about anything. I stuck worksheets in every books, made sure the books were in the correct groups for the tables, made sure the were layer out correctly and good to go. A huge tip I would say to anyone who is due and OFSTED, is to keep up to date with your marking- this was the most time consuming thing for me, marking books that I had fallen behind with.

Around 7pm is where I got a little disheartened. It was silly really, but I suddenly felt, dare I say it?, a little lonely. As I had explained in a previous post, my work bffs were not in school; one had left to go to a different school at the end of our NQT year and my other one was luckily for her, on maternity leave. My school is very cliquey and I could hear other staff members making plans to go and get a Nandos take away, others were driving to McDondalds, others were chatting behind closed doors and I just remember looking down the empty corridors and feeling a little lonely. I was starving and had mentioned to a few members of the staff that I would come to get dinner with them, but they had obviously gone without me (cue violin music lol). Anyway, I was looking at the displays when I suddenly heard ‘right, what do we need to do next then?’ My amazing TA was back! She was changed in sports clothes and ready for action. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I nearly cried for joy. She had returned as soon as she had put the children to bed- she’s a star, and I’m pleased that we’re still in touch. It was a great morale boost and I spent the next hour and a half chatting, discussing the plans for tomorrow, going through the lessons.

I eventually left work around 8.40pm, my TA, bless her, was still there fixing up displays. I passed the Head’s office and she was sat at the back of her room eating a McDonald’s with the assistant Head.

I drove home, thankful that I had managed to set up everything for the next day, thankful that I had parents who would look after my baby over night and thankful that I had handed my notice in, as I felt like the pressure was off me.

 

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Starting the new year after a good lesson observation!

Jumping woman silhouette

It finally happened. After a dreadful, stressful NQT year. A failed final observation and the morale of a depressed goldfish, I finally got a ‘good’ lesson observation just before we broke up for the Christmas half term. And even now, it feels bloody great.

I think teacher’s morale, outlook on their job and general well being could be improved dramatically by just a few simple positive words of praise and encouragement. I do not understand why SLT members in school feel it is productive to belittle and constantly criticise other teachers in schools, then get confused when said teachers don’t suddenly pull out ‘outstanding’ lessons with the high energy and jazz hands of a West End Performer. Simple fact. You will get more out of teachers if we are shown a appreciation, praise and constructive criticism.

Anyway, back to my lesson observation. The school is way overdue an OFSTED visit. We were due one in April 2014, never happened. We were determined we would be visited in the summer term, like the school behind us. Never happened. ‘It will be in Autumn term’ subject leaders were saying. We thought it would be the third week in September. Never happened. In fact, the call never came at all last term, and at 1.30pm on the last Wednesday of the week we all breathed a sign of relief.

Mangement are feeling the pressure, as unannounced and without, the second to last week of term we were all told that we would be getting observed. Lesson observations were to take place for everyone in the school that week. Either the Headmistress or Deputy head would be observing us. I was nervous to say the least, especially as I still have my own personal stuff going on and had a hospital appointment straight before the observation. But the main reasons for my concern were; One, the headmistress had only ever seen me teach for 15mins during my lesson observation at my interview, two she knew all about my struggles last year and three, she is the person that deals with my appraisal/ performance related pay. I was more than nervous.

However, it went fantastic. It was a writing lesson, which is always difficult with younger children, but there was no major criticism; behaviour was in place, children used talk partners, there was role play to help them with their writing, work was differentiated and I effectively used my TA. To say I felt on cloud 9 was an understatement. I was elated, I felt the weight of my last observation lifting, in the space of 10minutes of feedback I felt my confidence in myself growing. I was happy. I had job satisfaction and even though I’m dreading the alarm going off at 6.30am on Monday, I am looking forward to going back to work. I want to go back. My confidence is returning and I no longer feel like I made a mistake becoming a teacher.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all teachers could just have 10mins a day being praised by their management? What a wonderful, yet unrealistic, thought.