There are always things that one needs to focus on as any a practitioner and a professional. As teachers we are expected to juggle so many balls at the same time that it is inevitable that some of those balls will get dropped and we need to pick them up again later when things are less busy. In any one day we have to decide our attention between the number of classes we teach that day, the planning for the next day or two, the marking or the behaviour of the students. The list doesn’t get there, but added to that list somewhere is trying to keep your eye on the big picture, why you’re there, what you’re trying to achieve and how you want to improve.
Big picture wise, there are three things that I’m desperate to know more about but am struggling in the day-to-day running of a busy department and classroom that I just haven’t been able to get my head above the parapet to look into.
The first is accuracy of predictions. An annual bugbear of mine and of many heads of department across the education system at the end of the year when the results come in there is, almost inevitably now, a gap between my predictions and the reality. And you’d think I’d learn from the years before! Make sure that I don’t predict high or make students down from their end of year predictions but I don’t think it is as simple as that. I, like everyone else, have been standardised and successfully moderated. We’ve marked consistently throughout the course and students have a trend in a their marks so the predications made are robust. I want to know more about the process of making predictions. Is it right to predict on prior attainment alone? Is there a need to make comparisons between cohorts? Is there a way that could make one feel more confident about the predictions one makes so that between when they are made, in March, and the results, in August, one isn’t filled with doubt and worry about them?
My next big picture thing I wish I knew more about was new theatre practitioners, new ways of theatrical working and new theatre productions. I have a problem here – I have two small children. They are not the problem, of course, but as a professional with small children I have a finite amount of time. One thing that I feel I’ve sacrificed is trips to new theatre and learning about new theatre. Once upon a time, when I was a young teacher, I’d go to workshops and see theatre all the time. I considered my practice in the classroom reflected that and we’d do some really exciting and contemporary work. Now, like the way my taste in music has adjusted to a default setting of 1990’s, I feel my teaching practice has done the same. My thing practice revolves around the same work I’ve done for many years now – Blood Brothers almost always appears there somewhere, along with physical theatre (influenced by Berkoff, Brook and (at a push) Frantic Assembly) and TIE. I’m not saying these are not working or inspiring students, because they are, but I don’t know as much about new practitioners and new theatre as I would like.
Finally, the last thing that I would like to know about at the moment is something I’m sure is a familiar thing across most schools is retention between Key Stage 3 and 4. I’m not talking about how to sell our subject to the students, although any ideas are always welcome. I find that a constant battle. I’m also not talking politics and how to deal with the reduction in numbers thanks to detrimental combination of Progress 8 and the EBACC. But I’m talking about something far more simpler. It comes down to two things. Firstly, why is it that the students I start to talk to and approach an taking Drama tend to be the ones that don’t want to continue to do it or have chosen to do music or something else? Secondly, why when we finally get the list of students who opted to take the subject there are always a good quarter of them that you never expected or anticipated would be interrelated in taking the subject? (By the way, it if often the latter kind of student who ends up impressing me the most in the lessons!).