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If at first you don’t succeed – Headmaster’s blog – Wednesday 6th January 2016 – Ballard School

January 6, 2016

If at first you don’t succeed…
I am writing at the start of a new calendar year but as far as the academic year is concerned we are already a long way through it, not least for our GCSE candidates. They are about to sit ‘mock’ exams in the first ten days of this new term and this experience will hopefully help the pupils learn from their errors to date and work hard to fill gaps in their understanding and knowledge ahead of the summer public exams. Meanwhile, younger year groups come back to the Spring Term with advice to follow from reports and encouragements and challenges from the November school tests to consider (assuming they have been ‘listening’!).
It may seem that schools are all about pupils working hard, doing tests and then learning from their mistakes to do better the next time. Clearly there is a lot of truth in this (although at Ballard we do seek to widen the educational experience beyond the classroom) but I’d like to think that staff have a lot to learn as well. Over the course of a year most teachers and a number of non-teaching staff go off on courses (or have in-house training) as part of CPD – continuous professional development. Some teachers will do ‘exchanges’ with colleagues in other settings as part of this training (an English colleague has this experience this term) and some will take on additional study in the evenings, at weekends and in holidays to gain additional qualifications. Staff regularly make mistakes – I know that I do – and this may well be in ‘run of the mill’ situations such as lessons. It was interesting to see a recent article in the Guardian consider just such a scenario.


2015.12.15 BB storytime 5
The Guardian’s Secret Teacher looks at the insecurity that can come with teaching and the feeling of failure that can follow a lesson that did not go as well as the teacher had hoped. The anonymous professional says that it is how staff respond to such events that will help them grow as teachers, saying bad days should be embraced as a means to reflect on what could have gone better and what could be changed. They conclude that low points are felt by staff who care about the quality of their students’ education and take pride in what they do.
My staff at Ballard have regular appraisals or performance reviews. There is a formal structure for this with an appraiser outside one’s own academic department but much of the review is done by other departmental colleagues and also by myself regularly doing lesson observations and having appraisal interviews. The start of a New Year in a school is thus not just for pupils to consider their progress but it’s also a time for their adult teachers and other staff to do the same, too. If at first we don’t succeed with one classroom approach then bear with us as we try another!
Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

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