Monthly Archives: January 2016

Seven Reasons Why I Hate Graded Observations

This week is the dreaded observations week in the English and Maths department. Everyone hates observation week. Here’s why.

1. It’s so stressful! We find out on Monday morning that we will be observed at some point during the following week. This means we are in a state of anxiety for at least a week and possibly two weeks. I teach about twenty lessons a week and I could be observed in any of them. My anxiety levels rise just before the start of each lesson and then I relax again when it becomes clear that it won’t be this lesson.

2. It literally gives me nightmares; a few nights ago I dreamt I was in a huge open plan classroom with teachers and students all over the room, tucked away in corners and behind curtains, and I didn’t know who I was supposed to be teaching or what I was supposed to be teaching them.

3. It’s so subjective. We don’t know who is going to observe us until they turn up at the classroom door. It could be a subject leader or head of department from any department in the college. Although in theory they are all using the same criteria, there is bound to be subjectivity. Will they even know what an outstanding maths lesson looks like?

4. The outcome affects our pay. If I don’t get a grade 1 or 2, I won’t go up a point on the pay scale this year. That seems unfair when I might be observed with a lovely, compliant, enthusiastic class or it might be a group of unruly reluctant learners. (Thankfully I taught my big group of boisterous rugby boys today and I wasn’t observed!)

5. It wastes so much paper. Normally my lesson plans are kept digitally, but in observation week they must be printed out to give to the observer along with a scheme of work, class profiles and other paperwork.

6. It wastes so much time. Teachers spend hours writing lesson plans in minute detail, remembering to indicate where they have embedded English, maths, Equality & Diversity and now also British Values.

7. It does nothing to improve learning or teaching. Even a bad teacher can pull it out of the bag for one week and then go back to teaching badly the following week. And good teachers teach well whether or not they are observed once a year. There are better ways of improving teaching than stressing teachers out for a week.

So wish me luck. It is Tuesday evening now and I haven’t been observed yet but it will happen at some point over the next three days.

Ten Things You Can Relate to if You are Married to an Albanian Man

  1. Your husband’s dream is to own a car wash. (If he doesn’t already own one.)
  2. Instead of trying on trousers, when you go clothes shopping together, he will put his forearm in the waist of the trousers to measure them. If it fits snugly then he knows the  trousers will fit him.
  3. If you go to visit your in-laws in Albania, don’t be surprised to find a dead goat in the bathroom. It means you are an honoured guest and they are preparing a special meal for you.Flag_of_Albania_svg
  4. Whenever you go and visit his Albanian friends, you will be offered a drink on a silver tray, with a dish of chocolates. Every Albanian wife has to own a silver tray.
  5. There has to be bread and salad on the table at every meal, otherwise it’s not a proper meal.albanian-map
  6. Your husband seems to have thousands of cousins, aunts and uncles but you are never sure exactly how they are related to him because the definitions of these words are so much more complicated than they are in English.
  7. Your mother-in-law will perform strange rituals involving matches and water if your baby is ill or wakes in the night.
  8. If he shakes his head he means yes and if he nods he means no.
  9. If you are offered a cup of coffee in someone’s house you are expected to say no several times, even if you want one. The host will continue to offer until you say yes. Likewise, if you offer your Albanian guests a coffee and they refuse, don’t take them at their word. You are expected to keep on offering until they accept.
  10. Above all, if you are lucky enough to be married to an Albanian, you will be accepted as part of the family and will always be shown great hospitality and warmth.keep-calm-and-marry-an-albanian



Three Things to do with Panettone

P1090281 (2).JPGI love panettone and I always buy one at Christmas. We often get given one or more too, so we are sometimes left with it after New Year. Although it is hard to believe, we sometimes get a bit fed up with eating panettone so I like to use it in recipes too. Here are three ideas.

  1. Use it in trifle. There are many ways of making trifle. Some use jelly; some scorn those who use jelly and prefer to use just fruit juice. Others (myself included) like to slosh in large quantities of sherry, although I’m usually cooking for my children and my teetotal husband so I can’t always do this. There are debates on what kind of cake to use for the base but it cannot be denied that panettone makes a delicious trifle base.
  2. Eggy bread. Some people call this French toast but I have always called it eggy bread. Whisk up an egg, a good splash of milk or cream, and some sugar. You can add some cinnamon too if you like it. Cut a slice of panettone and dip it in the egg mixture. Make sure it stays in the mixture long enough to soak up lots of eggy stuff on both sides and give it a good prodding with a fork to help the absorption process. You will probably find that one egg will do one or two slices. Then carefully place the slice in a pan of hot oil or butter and fry it on both sides. Sprinkle it with sugar and serve it with cream.
  3. Bread and Butter Pudding. Cut some slices of panettone, butter them on both sides, and put them in an ovenproof dish. Beat together a carton of cream, 200ml whole milk, 50g of Demerara sugar and 3 eggs. You can add spices such as cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg too, as well as dried fruit. Pour the mixture over the panettone. Dot some butter on top and sprinkle with Demarara sugar. Bake at 180 degrees for about 35-40 minutes. Serve with cream or ice cream.