I’m only as good as my last… [fill in the blank]

Sundays do not count towards the 40 days of lent, so I’m in my rights to give up my writing for the day, as it won’t contribute towards the #40daysofwriting I’ve taken up for Lent. However, I’ve decided to continue writing on Sundays, but make these posts less educationish and more reflective.

This one’s about identity.

I heard it commented this week how Jose Mourinho’s ‘stock had fallen’ in recent times. The ex-Chelsea and Real Madrid manager has won more than most and has an international reputation. Yet like all of us he’s only as good as his last game or his last season. And if it was failure, then it can’t be very good.

I feel the same.

I’m only as good as my last… [fill in the blank]. For most teachers the blank is filled in like this: [observed lesson].

For me, I feel this pressure too. I place much of my identity in what people say about my teaching. Especially observers. When I was observed in the school’s previous Ofsted in 2012, I was so delighted by the inspector’s judgement of ‘Outstanding’ that I wrote an extensive post about it. I was proud. I was successful. I was ‘outstanding’.

But this year, when my headteacher saw me teach in September he said my teaching required improvement. I had positioned myself with my back to some children. These children then went off task during the lesson so a significant group had not made progress. It was irrelevant that this was my first reading lesson in 5 years (I had been doing maths interventions during that period). Some children had not made progress during the lesson. I was disappointed. I was down on myself. I ‘required improvement’.

Two opposite experiences had occurred, each one with an effect on my identity. Because it has become clear to me that I place much of my self-worth in my competence at my job. But surely my identity is more than that.

At the top of my blog I label myself ‘educator and pub-theorist’ (the latter not because I spend all my time in a pub, but because most of my theories are worthy of being generated in such a place). On Twitter I have labelled myself as ‘frogphilp’, perhaps indicating a slight irreverence and lack of seriousness. I am a dad, a husband, a son. I am a gamer, a whisky drinker, a guitarist.

And yet for all these different aspects of my identity, the thing that knocks me back the most is having a bad observation.

I’ve been considering both the negative and positive factors on my identity over recent months in the light of the negative emotions brought about by the negative observation. I think that for me there are things that I can do that make me more vulnerable to a negative reaction like I had, but there are also things that I can do that protect me and make me more resilient to such reactions. But that’s a post for next Sunday.


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