“Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter” so says Carol Bishop Heaps and she’s right.
In teaching, October brings us the bittersweet duo of performance reviews and the setting of performance management objectives. If your results in the summer have been on or above your targets, you can sit back, put your feet up and wallow in the glow of success, they bring the perfect opportunity to boast about your performance and let everyone know what a brilliant teacher you are.
Of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with the kids, it is all about you, your brilliant teaching, your targeted interventions, your innovative techniques, yep all about you. I joke, of course!
For others though performance reviews can be daunting, frightening experiences, your results may not be as good as you wanted, the students not achieving their potential, you feel as though the eyes of the SLT are firmly placed upon you.
"Every successful teacher knows that brilliant results are a combination of a cohort wanting to learn, supportive parents, a good culture of learning in school and of course your brilliant teaching, you deserve the plaudits they are well earnt."
In the same way, teachers shouldn’t take all the plaudits for success so the blame for under-performance cannot be laid at the door of a single teacher and it is unfair to do so. You may have had a cohort not wanting to learn, unsupportive parents and a poor school culture, you could be the best teacher in the world but if any of these are in place the whole thing can fall down.
However, the very nature of performance reviews suggests it is just you against the data, so here are my top tips to turn the meeting into a positive.
a). Own the data, do not hide behind excuses, yes Wahid’s mother may have died just before the exam, or Jennifer had a serious illness in March, but these are anomalies and do not explain the big picture. Give yourself a full MOT, what did you do which went well, what areas could be developed? Which modules were successful, which less so? This demonstrates that you are on top of the information and that you have the potential to turn things around.
b). Put together an action plan of improvement with SMART targets, which are both measurable and achievable, what can you put in place which can demonstrate progress now, by the end of next week, in three weeks time and by Christmas, then sit with your line manager and mark them with red, amber and green. Over time you will build up evidence of your achievements and help to keep you organised.
c). Network, reach out to others inside and outside of school, what techniques worked for them, what would they have done differently?
Teaching itself can be a very lonely occupation, but none more so when you feel the spotlight is solely on you, reach out and spark up October, as Yeats writes,
“The trees are in their autumn beauty, The woodland paths are dry, Under the October twilight the water Mirrors a still sky”.
About our Community Expert
Career Development Lead
Richard is a history Teacher by Training and for the last few years been head of sixth form. His specialism is leadership and career development in the classroom.