The Secret DOS

The Little Emperor Strikes Back

In development

I’m ploughing my way through the PDRs that I have to do (Performance and Development Reviews). Our company expects staff to engage in a PDR every year. A meeting is held at which targets are set, then teachers spend time working on their targets before a final meeting towards the end of the year when the progress made is assessed. A commin enough routine, but I notice that I am using words like ploughing through and have to.

They are hugely time-consuming. As well as the meetings themselves, time is required for typing up the notes of the meeting and even just trying to shoehorn the meetings into the rest of the job takes time. There have been varying levels of evidence that the time I spend preparing for the meetings is matched by the time spent by the teachers preparing for them. I sometimes wonder whether or not trying to create a more developmental atmosphere in the staffroom might not be too much of a Sisyphean task. If this blog had any readers, perhaps they would offer their perspectives?

There has been a desert of teacher development over the last few years for one reason or another. In my darkest moments, I wonder if the desertification started with my appointment to the post, but I like to think (but have no evidence to help me demonstrate) that I have been proactive in pushing the development side. But years of reliance upon a casualised workforce which is paid – at least from their perspective- to come in, teach, leave and which does not have the opportunity to form as a team has had an effect.

There is development going on – some people are pursuing postgraduate qualifications- but it is limited. We have always paid for people to go to IATEFL – the surprise is that nobody ever takes up the offer. We subscribe to journals that go unread. A number of developmental sessions are available through both internal and external sources, but the vast majority show no interest.

I read recently that this is typical of organisations where development is regarded as a secondary part of the main job. There was an implicit criticism of the workplace rather than the non-developing teachers. That encouraged me to change the focus of my despair and frustration. My target now is to create an environment where development is seen as a primary responsibility of the job. It is my hop that if I pull this off, competition for the developmental opportunities will be fierce and that if you want to find a teacher out of class, the library will be the second place you look after the staffroom.


22 Feb 2012 - Posted by | Rants and ramblings


  1. I think it is all about the contracts. PT teachers are only paid to teach, not for prep, meetings and training.So, they won’t gain financially and they’ll also lose money because they could be working elsewhere. They also may not see the point as if it doesn’t bring in more money/work why bother?

    Some schools/companies expect PT teachers to work like FT but without paying for the extras. My friends used to get dragged in to every meeting, she didn’t get paid, had to cover travel and wasted half a day every week. But, yes, it made her look good and kept her in work. There lies the problem with PT work ie you have to stay on the good side of your employer.

    Re: Journals

    Maybe you have the wrong ones or maybe they aren’t useful or attractive. Have you tried lesson sharing? Get senior teachers to scavenge journals and blogs for great lessons and stick them on the board, same with websites etc. a PTer may not have time to read a journal. Ours used to sit on the desk doing nothing. You also need ones at the right level and practical.


    Can your staff take a week off, pay for a hotel, transport and ditch their other work just to attend some seminars? For the right people it’s great and if you cover the costs then even better.

    In-house training

    Stick up a list and ask what people want, then offer paid 30 min sessions or online modules people can anywhere.


    See if Cambridge are offering free exam training for teachers. Offer free places or ask Cambridge to do it at your school.

    It may all be that you are offering out-of-date development. Your teachers may be on Twitter/FB and blogging or watching webinars. If so get into those and guide teachers to great materials.

    Comment by phil3wade | 22 Feb 2012 | Reply

    • Some great ideas, Phil. I think that the contracts are primarily at fault. If we expect people to behave like professionals, we need to treat them like professionals. The Daniel Pink video seems to bear this out – give people the conditions in which they can afford to develop and then sit back and reap the rewards. I can only hope that by the time my kids are old enough, this new way of managing people will have embeeded itself more deeply in the managerial psyche. That said, I suspect that the more atavistic desire to hoard wealth will militate successfully against it. We may pay lip service to the concepts of self-actualisation and such things, but the Sex Pistols were right when they said it was all about the filthy lucre.

      Am going to take your advice about the scouring of journals. Inspired and grateful for your removal of my blinkers.

      Regrettably, the payment of development sessions is not within my power. Not many things are.

      I am a staunch advocate of blogs etc. My teachers are, for the most part, just emerging from the 80s, technologically speaking. This is a challenge that I would like to embrace. I think that teacher development and Web 2.0/3.0 are good examples of symbiosis!

      Thanks a million for your input. Much valued.

      Comment by mledirecteur | 22 Feb 2012 | Reply

  2. The comments “Some schools/companies expect PT teachers to work like FT but without paying for the extras” and “If we expect people to behave like professionals, we need to treat them like professionals” both struck chords with me, having been a casual part-timer for much of my teaching career… not that it ever stopped me from furthering my own professional development, but I know many teachers who feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that they are expected to do as it is, and can’t face the idea of taking anything else on as they are psychologically and physically exhausted.

    IME some companies do expect part-timers to juggle unrealistic workloads, and it is worth checking if the resistance to TD isn’t down to the fact that teachers view it as more unpaid work that they are being asked to do in their own time ( i.e. a bit of an imposition), rather than something that is for their own benefit.

    You say that developmental sessions are available, but are the sessions offered as a result of consultation, and seen as being useful/and or interesting by the teachers you are aiming to target? If they aren’t, then there isn’t likely to be much take-up, I’m afraid. Teacher development needs to be driven by what teachers feel they want and need in the way of development; not the organisation’s perception of the direction that they would like to see their teachers develop in. I’m very much in favour of teacher development, but there have been times in my career where people have tried to coerce me into undergoing training that I didn’t feel was useful or necessary, which I declined to sign up for.

    In your shoes, I would look at what teachers are being asked to do already to see if there is anything that isn’t strictly necessary, which can be cut to make way for paid time that can be spent pursuing professional development. If it isn’t in your power to authorise paid development, then you need to persuade the person who can make it so that it isn’t likely to happen unless you do… because that is the reality, I’m afraid.

    Looking at saving time from a management perspective, I’d start by cutting down on face to face meetings (IME, meetings are usually a massive waste of time all round, and rarely achieve anything that can’t be done via email) and devise a form for automating recordings of TD discussions and decisions.

    Hope this helps, and good for you that you are taking steps to encourage your teachers to undertake further development. Best of luck with it!

    Comment by Sue Lyon-Jones | 22 Feb 2012 | Reply

    • I read this post and comments ages ago and meant to comment then but didn’t. Now, browsing blogs I’m following I remembered I had just wanted to say that for me, meetings can be very useful. Properly run, meetings are a great way to get people together, sharing what they’re doing, getting advice, finding solutions and new ways of doing things. Bringing people together allows everyone to get a better idea of the wider picture and often creates conditions for new ideas and projects to be thought up and started (or co-constructed, even!).

      I completely agree with Sue that meetings where the main purpose is information giving or box checking can be a frustrating waste of time, but I do think that planning/sharing meetings can be really valuable (and much more informative!).


      Comment by Carol Goodey | 01 May 2012 | Reply

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