Robbie Campbell discusses his first experience participating in Instructional Rounds at Archbishop Sentamu Academy
Having been a part of the Instructional Rounds at the end of the Winter term, several people approached me with the hope that I would unveil the cloud of mystery that surrounds it. Through this article, I aim to quell any myths, but also share the positivity that bred from the Instructional Rounds, in order to encourage more people to get involved. Comments like, ‘It is judgmental though really…isn’t it?’ And, ‘did you see any shockers?’ Only support the need for this article.
The day started at 9 where I ran upstairs up collect my suit jacket, feeling that I should look more professional. My hopes of feeling professional were dashed when I was compared to the trendsetting and fashion icon member of SLT, who also happened to be wearing non-matching jacket and trousers. The rules of Instructional Rounds were explained with an emphasis that the process was non-judgmental. We were only allowed to describe what we saw or heard and under no circumstances use judging language, especially steering clear of the word ‘good’.
We could all appreciate the vast amount work everyone had put in to preparing lessons and books. So much so, that we felt awkward observing having all been on the receiving end of the process. However, by the end of the morning, Anthony’s team took a commanding lead, 17 classrooms to 10. Throughout the teaching term we can feel that everything is against us, pupils not behaving, too much marking and generally feeling more tired than we thought possible. However, when we need it, from somewhere, we have a ‘moment’ where we feel that our sacrifice is worth it. Usually in the form of a pupil achieving something that they didn’t think possible or a hilarious moment when you get the chance to laugh with them. For me, Instruction Rounds was my ‘moment’ of the term. Going into other people’s classrooms really was an uplifting experience. We were able to see the whole educational experience of a pupil and escape the four walls of our classrooms where I often feel a bit trapped.
It was so interesting to see the way different subjects interpret the word ‘feedback’. From verbal coaching in PE and modelling in dance, to interim feedback in Art leading to second drafts, re-doing calculations in Maths, correcting spellings in English and extended questions in Humanities, the Academy was a buzz of teacher – pupil conversation.
Then came the time when we were require to discuss what we saw. If I was prepared to hear some juicy stories, then I was to be disappointed. Instead, we discussed the detailed workings of anonymous classrooms in the professional non-judgmental manner proposed at the start of the day. This gave Lee the moment he had dreamt of, getting one over on Linda. Seeing her squirm as she tried to describe one classroom without using the word ‘good,’ only to say it anyway, gave Lee the opportunity to say, ‘you can’t say that’ in the cheeky manner which only Lee could replicate. And yet he was right, we were discussing the intervention and how we could tell it had an impact for the pupil, we were not Ofsted.
This lead to us establishing key achievements and successes along with whole school areas for improvement. Rather than repeat these which Anthony will share, I would like to offer my own personal highlights. It was wonderful to see pupils in a new light. Seeing pupils I associate with laziness and disruption in Science, engage and feel passionate about learning in History gave me a sense that the pupil actually did have chances to succeed and that I should not give up on them in Science. I saw incredible relationships not just in one class, but academy-wide and between staff and students and the students themselves. There was a sense that actually, whilst we all make each others lives harder than it needs to be, there is a mutual undercurrent of respect, even if it is sometimes hidden.
So whilst I and the other staff conducting Instructional Rounds had a very positive experience, it would, I imagine have been a very nerve racking experience for the staff we visited. However, Instructional Rounds showed a glimmer of what the school could be like as we move away from judgement and more towards peer to peer support. Teachers from other departments being able to sit down and discuss education; what works or doesn’t, share ideas, try new ideas, ask for others to evaluate their ideas and learn how other staff do things, all without the feeling of being judged. The openness and trust required to have a open door policy is one thing, but reciprocating that trust by all working together without judgement is another. Now that would certainly benefit the pupils.
So if you haven’t guessed by now, I am a fan of Instructional Rounds, and if you don’t believe me, then sign up next time and see for yourself. The worst that can happen is that you have a day off teaching.