Inspections are like first dates.

first-dateIt is time for an open, more honest conversation.

We all agree that everything cannot be changed at once. We all agree that, in principle, development plans are good, and change should be planned and managed. Where this falls apart, is during an inspection, when priorities are asked for, and development plans are explained… and then there are also questions about everything else. So, in fact, everything is under development…

We all agree that change comes slowly, and for change to be real it needs to be focussed, and tested, and evaluated. Carefully. So, why is there an expectation that every co-ordinator is busy developing, all the time?

The honest conversation we need to have is about the third question. Ask teachers about what needs fixed. Ask teachers about what they’re fixing. But ask teachers about what they’re not touching at all, at least not right at the moment.

Trying to do everything at once has effects.

Firstly, trying to do too much at once limits the depth of the changes. Too often we’re a mile wide and an inch deep.

Secondly, the teaching profession is exhausted. The job has become wider in its scope. It’s physical, and mental, and it should be, it’s a doing and thinking job, but it’s deeper than that. In some ways it’s spiritual, in that it’s about the spirit you do the job in. When you constantly have a never-ending ‘to do’ list, your default setting is that you feel bad because you think you never get anything done.

Yeah, some of that is our fault because we dwell on the scarcity and not on the accomplishments, but the reality is, there isn’t a lot of time to celebrate achievement! Having just finished a couple of decades in the classroom, I can say I never worked with a sense of being on top of my game, or a feeling that everything was under control. Somewhere lurking in the depths of my soul is the feeling that I got to leave before anyone discovered all the things I hadn’t done! Deep down I’m thinking, “Well, I got away with it!”

Thirdly, we’ve got better at playing the inspection game. Any inspection is a snap shot; three well-rehearsed, best behaviour days in the life of a school. We all know that nothing is normal. We all know we’re putting our best selves out there. But these are our first date selves; anybody with a healthy sense of realism should know that all of this activity can’t possibly be happening with any real depth.

An inspection isn’t without worth. I’m not opposed to inspections, but what I’m concerned about is that we’ve got good at creating and presenting information, in a Tinder-esque kind of way.

Perhaps inspections need to be more about long term relationship where trust develops. The conversation could potentially be more honest and real, with greater meaning, leading to deeper change and lasting, meaningful improvements. Whatever it becomes, we’ve got to get away from the current awkward first date experience, where one party has far too many questions about the other’s previous experience! (And the other party is getting increasingly better at putting on their best fake smile and saying everything that they think the other party wants to hear.)

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