Sonja Weed ~ OUTSTANDING ~ Thinking out of the box

| April 20, 2013 | 8 Comments 

We had an OFSTED inspection and I was being observed doing literacy by the inspector and by the head. The premise was that a mysterious parcel arrived in the classroom marked “do not open” “top secret” “danger”. Oh the FUN we had passing it round, shaking it, smelling it – trying to decide WHAT it could be. At this point, the head and inspector were NOT in the room.

The kids were climbing the walls when we decided to open up the box, in which was a threat from some spies who had been watching us (CIA – a letter written with an official Whitehouse letterhead).

They had heard that the teacher (AKA – me) had stumbled upon a secret plant testing facility (the previous day’s lesson, which included some great video as stimulus) and unless the children wrote some detailed descriptions of the plants there would be serious consequences…

So usual vocab a-la Tim Rylands style illicitation ensues (head and inspector now arrive) and the kids wrote the most AMAZING descriptions. So, the rest of the lesson ran really well.

I knew it was OUtstanding, support staff knew it was outstanding, my head said it was EASILY Outstanding but the OFSTED man said it was Good, with elements of Outstanding.

The reason? The fact that I didn’t use ICT as the stimulus instead of the box – he said it should have come as an email or a text.

No matter what we argued, he wouldn’t have it!! The WHOLE lesson, all the resources etc etc came out of that box. The whole reason the kids wanted to write was because of the BOX -an email just would NOT have done it!

So my point is (sorry for rambling on!) that somewhere, the function of ICT got lost in translation. Somewhere, people are forgetting that it doesn’t HAVE to be in every lesson, sometimes slate and chalk do just as well.

I know you agree, I just wanted to give you a real life example 🙂

Thank you for sending this thoughtful, thought provoking, post Sonja. We were blessed to work alongside you, back in your days at Diocesan and Payne Smith School, in Canterbury, and we have followed your amazing exploits in imaginative, creative, powerful, use of technology. Folk might like to read your post about some of the things that flowed from your Myst III:Exile based project.

It is even more remarkable, then, to find that someone who values, (as you said, in the same way as we do) the remarkable things that can come from a cross between analog and digital experiences, got utterly misunderstood by someone who should be open to quality learning in ANY form.

Well done you, and we would like to wish you all the best in your new venture, and pastures new, and The Whitstable Cake Company. The world of education has lost a remarkable teacher, and learner…

The analog, and digital, world has gained a remarkable mind, mum, and inspirer. Go for it! 😀

Category: 2) Useful n Interesting, 4) Well Done!

Comments (8)

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  1. Pie Corbett says:

    The function of ofsted is to consider whether the progress was good and whether the standards are good enough. This is done through triangulation – evidence from the taught session, what can be seen in the children’s books/discussion with children and from the data. If the data shows ‘outstanding’ progress and high standards then whatever happens in the lesson, the teaching mud by definition be outstanding. If you have outstanding progress then the teaching has to be outstanding….. Of course for someone to say that a lesson is not good enough because you used a real object rather than an email is barking mad. Indeed, schools where their are no real life experiences would deeply worry me in terms of child development. We must always argue on the basis of what the evidence is in the books – focus them on the quality of the writing and the progress being made….. There is something about boxes (see Noel Edmonds programme) that always intrigues children. You’ll have to ‘park’ the experience as it seems that you have other more important things to be thinking about!!!! Thanks for waving the flag of creativity and the imagination.

  2. Tim says:

    Thank you Pie
    Sonja really is an outstanding individual, as well as teacher
    Your comment is a valuable insight in to the process of what Ofsted should keep as their focus
    For a judgement to be made on the basis of analog/digital really is a tragic misconception of the power of quality teaching, and learning isn’t it
    As Hughie Green might say… “Open the box!” ~ there are some remarkable gems, and mysteries, within
    Thank you

  3. Debbie Light says:

    This is just so ridiculous that you really can’t waste another minute thinking about it. Last year we were inspected (got Outstanding) but a brilliant teacher was graded Good because he partially covered the learning objective with students’ postit notes. This made the inspector say ‘I’m not sure some of the students knew the objectjve during the plenary because you covered it and they couldn’t read it’…

  4. Tim says:

    Thank you Debbie – agree entirely ~ Ridiculous
    It is such a shame that, at the the time, our minds are so full that I, for one, couldn’t come back with “Well, we’re going to come back and find out who can recall what was underneath the post-its, as the beginning of our next lesson”.
    I love the post-it idea, and hope that your colleague wasn’t too deflated by the reaction
    I love the element that Mr Walker, my walking stick with holes, is one of the best warm up, conversation starters, and there is not a single thing digital about him.
    Thank you for your thoughts Debbie

  5. Anne Bufton-McCoy says:

    Enough to make you weep. Just remember that the kids made fantastic progress That’s why we do it. Not to please Ofsted. You are a fabulous teacher. Wish you worked at my school!

  6. Tim says:

    Thank you Anne
    We know that Sonja would make an excellent addition to any school team, and will undoubtedly value your thoughtful feedback

  7. Sonja Weed says:

    Hi all,

    thanks for some lovely feedback and thoughts on this. I just wanted to address what Pie said about the books. What I didn’t say was that the inspector did not look at a single one of my books before making this judgement. Not one. And the points progress of the class was as it should have been. My head argued with him for a considerable time about the grading and, as sad as it is, it was “downgraded” to a GOOD purely on the basis of the lack of ICT (I did some research on him after he left (you have to love t’internet) and he is/was some ICT specialist/buff.

    This was a few years ago now and I haven’t taught for 2 years but this still irks me!!

    All the best x

  8. Tim says:

    Hey there you!
    The world of teaching misses you
    Great to hear you are happy and your cakes look amazing!
    Well done and THANK YOU
    Tim and Sarah

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