Reflections on being the taught, not the teacher

I went on a course yesterday and since I have been wound up about how a lot of the other (English) teachers acted. It was a cramped room and I think that maybe the exam board booking the course or the conference centre should have thought about how they accommodated so many people. However, it wasn’t their fault that the delegates didn’t turn their phones off, talked about social events throughout the whole session or turned up late. 

Training courses can be dry and dull sometimes, and exam standardisation meetings are a good example of this. But they are useful. They help us shape what we deliver and can be very important come exam times. The thing that frustrated me the most was that all of the teachers in the room wouldn’t have accepted the kind of behaviour displayed from their own classes. It was rude. I assume that most of the teachers in the room were sent on the course by their head of department and it was a free course, but free training is free training. 

The other interesting thing was the way that a number of teachers challenged the chief examiner on the marks. The outcome of the meeting is for the board to show us what is expected to gain X mark. However, these teachers were trying to contradict what was being put before them. For example, the chief examiner (i.e. the person who wrote the mark scheme) would say that piece A was a 16 (out of 20), this would then be challenged by someone saying that they felt it only deserved a 14 and that, ultimately, the chief examiner was wrong. To me this is bizarre behaviour for two reasons: 1) they wrote the mark scheme and therefore define what gets what and 2) invariably the examiner was making it easier to get the mark than the teaching, meaning that the students get higher marks. Why would you want to challenge this? I think in some ways this, and the general behaviour comes down to the fact that teacher spend most of their working lives as dictators running their own regimes. We may collaborate in some instances but mostly we operate within our own spheres. 

Recently I have been attending some classes of an evening (NCT) and have found it really refreshing to be a student for once. The lessons each week are really well structured, following a general structure of starter-multiple activities-plenary. Being in the sessions is not only interesting because of what I am learning but also the way it has shown me what it is like to be taught instead of being the teacher. I think sometimes we as teachers forget how to wear the shoe on the other foot.