Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Outstanding Performance: How would Ofsted Rate our Favourite Fictional Teachers? By Zofia Niemtus

Michelle Pfeiffer as Louanne Johnson in Dangerous Minds

Literature, film and television have given us a broad spectrum of teachers, from the angelic (Matilda’s Miss Honey) to the eccentric (School of Rock’s Dewey Finn) and the straight up terrifying (The Demon Headmaster).
We’ve seen these characters take on wild classes, concoct dastardly schemes and whizz through surprisingly light marking workloads. But how would they fare in an Ofsted inspection? We measured four favourites against the latest framework to find out:

Severus Snape, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter series

A gifted student in his own schooldays, Snape returned to his alma mater to teach potions, before taking up the ever-tricky defence against the dark arts post and latterly, the role of headmaster.
  • Truly exceptional subject knowledge, particularly in potions. He once told his pupils: “I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even put a stopper in death – if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.” This clearly creates a culture of high expectations.
  • Scores well for developing students’ “employment skills so they are prepared for the next stage of their education, employment self-employment or training”. Former pupils Fred and George Weasley even used their subject-specific knowledge to open their own small business, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
  • Effectively teaches young people “how to keep themselves safe from relevant risks, including extremism”. This is a considerable challenge for all Hogwarts teachers – not least the head of Slytherin – but the significant number of students who rejected the lure of He Who Must Not Be Named – and the many who joined Dumbledore’s Army – suggest success.
Areas for improvement
  • Not the most inclusive classroom atmosphere. Snape does succeed, eventually, in “developing self-confidence, self-awareness and an understanding of how to be a successful learner” but he could consider using a more positive approach to behaviour management.
  • Fails to treat all pupils equally; his numerous heated interactions with a student named Harry Potter suggest difficulty in separating personal issues from school life.

John Keating, Welton Academy, Dead Poets’ Society

The archetypal inspirational, unorthodox teacher-guru. Employed to teach English, but providing just as many lessons on challenging authority, fresh perspectives and seizing the day.
  • Unbeatable levels of engagement, both in class and out (particularly in the student-led establishment of an extra-curricular poetry society).
  • Clearly enables students to “take pride in achievement, supported by a positive culture” – if anything, a little more constructive criticism would probably prove useful for many.
  • Able to identify learners who “require additional support to make progress and achieve well”, (although objectives appear to be based on mastering the concept ofcarpe diem, rather than a recognised curriculum).
Areas for improvement
  • Demonstrates a disrespectful and highly inappropriate attitude to school property by instructing students to rip out the introductions to their textbooks.
  • Although innovative approaches to active learning are encouraged, standing on deskspresents a significant health and safety risk.

Edna Krabappel, Springfield elementary school, The Simpsons

Springfield Elementary’s put-upon fourth-grade teacher. She smokes, laughs in students’ faces and has had an affair with school leader Seymour Skinner. Often voices her professional dissatisfaction, but keeps coming back (even after getting sacked for being drunk at work).
  • Consistently handles difficult behaviour in an unflappable manner (although could consider replacing her trademark “ha!” with something more constructive).
  • Seems to care about her students and often invests time and energy to go the extra mile, particularly for Bart Simpson.
Areas for improvement
  • Lessons contain very little age-appropriate learning, often deviating towards the difficulties of being a single woman of a certain age, rather than, say, literacy or numeracy.
  • Some concerns about helping “learners understand how to improve as a result of useful feedback” – students’ work is usually handed back with only a summative grade, circled in red. Would benefit from using the two-stars-and-a-wish method.
  • Could improve engagement with parents and carers. The behaviour of the aforementioned pupil, for example, may be helped by holding a parent meeting to discuss next steps (the current method of completing lines on the blackboard seems to be having little impact).

Louanne Johnson, Carlmont high school, Dangerous Mind

A Troops to Teachers candidate, fresh from a career in the marines. Ostensibly an English teacher, but with a sideline in life lessons and Bob Dylan lyrics.
  • Students progress well – within a few lessons she takes them from not knowing what a noun is to pontificating on drug metaphors.
  • Ms Johnson’s numerous emotive “stay in school” speeches suggest a keen awareness of offering “choices about the next stage of education, employment, self-employment or training” (although less effective on the “impartial” front).
  • Special mention must go to her miraculous behaviour management technique, in which a leather jacket and a brief karate demonstration are able to move her class from disengaged “little bastards” (her words) to have them hanging off her every word.
Areas for improvement
  • The habit of raining down chocolate bars as rewards raises an issue with regard to developing students’ “knowledge of how to keep themselves healthy, emotionally and physically”.
  • There are questions over the validity of abandoning prescribed schemes of work to teach a semester-long unit on “Who said it: Bob Dylan or Dylan Thomas?”

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