Second Year Teaching

Take the time to jot down what went well in one lesson every week, or every day if you can. Get colleagues to observe you as often as possible, and return the favour. Reflecting on your teaching is the only way to improve it.
One of the things I’ve found hardest about being a second-year teacher is the lack of observed lessons I’ve had. Some might find that surprising, given how stressful an observed lesson can be to plan and deliver, but it’s only now that they’ve become so infrequent that I’ve realised how valuable they are.
During both PGCE year and NQT year I was getting so much feedback about my teaching it was hard to act on it because there was so much to consider. When planning each lesson I was drawing on several pieces of advice from each of four or five different teachers, some of which was entirely conflicting. The challenge was in selecting one or two targets to focus on for each lesson. This was much more the case during my PGCE, but it felt similar on my NQT year given how quickly observations by line mangers/senior leaders/mentors seemed to come around.

This year has provided a new challenge: going long periods of time without any feedback and thus relatively little guidance about my teaching. I still reflect on my practice but now it’s a solo experience, and something I have to remind myself to do as often as possible.

Any teacher that thinks back on a lesson they just taught is sure to be able to identify a couple of simple ways to improve it next time, but the important and difficult bit is taking the time to write it down (and to read it again when it matters). I personally find that Evernote is a brilliant tool for this – I write a quick ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’ on my phone on the commute home.
Even more importantly, a few teachers and I have formed a set of ‘coaching trios’ in our department. Every half term or so we observe one other teacher’s lesson and help them reflect on how to improve. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Every time I’ve been ‘coached’ by a colleague in this way I’ve had incredibly relevant advice, and also been given an opportunity to be proud of all the little things I get right. Everyone needs a little praise!
Without reflecting on your practice, with or without someone to talk to about it, you might not take the time to acknowledge what you achieve every day, and on the other hand may end up making the same mistakes every lesson. The trap of second-year teaching.
  1. I’d recommend finding out more about coaching, done well this can help you to really move forward, particularly as you have some like minded buddies to peer coach. Sounds to me that with your reflective attitude you will continue to improve as a teacher, and be the envy of your colleagues. I like your suggestion of using Evernote, and the productive use of the commute.

  2. Having people observe you informally is so useful. I hate observations now because they are all about getting a grade and the feedback is never about what you do well only about justifying the grade given.

    Have you heard of “lesson study”. I believe that is where you discuss the lesson before and predict what will happen together then see if what you think is happening is what happens. This helps to check your reflections are accurate I would think. I have never done it though. 😦

    I also like the Evernote idea. It will help to have a record for the next time I teach a topic. I will be thinking about how to use that idea – thanks a lot.

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