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Pride, Masks & Auto-Pilot Teaching!

3 November 2020

It’s the start of what promises to be a highly unpredictable half-term, so let’s start with the positives!

Despite everything, the proportion of you who would leave teaching if you could find a suitable paid job is lower than ever.

Yes, things are difficult – particularly for headteachers who now seem to be responsible for track and trace/social welfare – but they are also still the group who feel the best paid and best rewarded by the work they do.

What to do about summer exams?

Now, after that positivity, onto problems! For secondary teachers, GCSE and A level exams is a huge worry for many of their classes. But what’s the answer? Well, primary teachers think we should use teacher assessment, but many secondary teachers recognise that it isn’t as simple as that.

Maths and science teachers are still clinging onto exams as the fairest reflection of student ability in their subject. However, ‘ability’… that’s a tricky word… are we going to assess what students are able to do in 2021, or what they might have been able to do had schools not been disrupted?

Fixing the examination problem is particularly tricky because we moved to a linear examination system a few years ago. Is the pandemic causing a rethink? The numbers of teachers in favour of modular versus linear approaches are still pretty balanced, but linear exams are indeed falling in popularity in light of our current difficulties.

Maybe none of this matters too much… Most teachers didn’t even select getting good examination grades as one of the most important positive outcomes for the students they teach! Instead skills for life, self-confidence, and respect were the key things teachers wanted their pupils to leave school with.

Are you wearing masks?

We’ve been banging on about mask wearing for a long time on Teacher Tapp, partly thanks to Harry Fletcher Wood‘s one-man crusade on the issue! The good news is that teacher opinion on masks is finally starting to shift now that we all understand a lot more about aerosol transmission. We’ll be finding out more about how much you are wearing them over the next week.

Teachers more likely to be left-handed

Men are more likely to be left-handed in the population overall, and it is no different in teaching: 15% of our sample of male teachers are left-handed versus 10% of female teachers. However, both of these left-hander figures are higher than estimates for the UK population where 8.6% of women and 10.6% of men are left-handed. Moreover, the odds-ratio of male-female left-handedness is greater in teaching (at 1.55) compared to 1.23 for the population.

All this suggests that left-handers are more likely to become teachers overall, and that male left-handers are the most disproportionately recruited into teaching. Why? We don’t know! Handedness is co-determined by genetics, biological and environmental factors and is associated with various health and economics life outcomes.

Within teaching, female left-handers don’t seem to be more or less likely to make it to headship, compared to right-handers. However, male left-handers do seem less likely to attain headship!

Auto-pilot and how you got into published research!

Last year, we asked you lots of strange questions about whether you can get students settled at the start of the lesson, or whether you can manage low-level disruption by using routines without having to think too much. It was part of a study, led by teacher Mike Hobbiss, about whether habit formation by teachers limited their capacity to change their practice later on in their career.

Doing things on auto-pilot is an essential part of performing complex and repetitive tasks. Most of you do it whilst driving. And whilst few of you regularly get through teaching a whole lesson without having to think too much (!), there are small bits of the job that are very amenable to habit formation.

These questions were just for fun – we don’t expect you or want you to aspire to teach on auto-pilot! But in line with last year’s questions, more experienced teachers tended to be a bit more likely to say they occasionally teach on auto-pilot. (We’re astonished there are so many NQTs who say the same!)

We’re delighted to say that the data we collected last year has now been published – congratulations to Mike who is now back teaching full-time and answering Teacher Tapp questions every day. We hope he is an inspiration to those of you who’d like to try your hand at research one day.

Time for tips