The Wheel of Teaching: How do you score?

Written by: Peter Radford | Published:

The Wheel of Teaching sets out eight aspects of your teaching life that are crucial to your wellbeing and job satisfaction. Drawing on the advice in his new book Love Teaching Keep Teaching, Peter Radford explains


Life has often been likened to a wheel. Life goes well when the different components (the spokes) are strong. The same is true of teaching. When we ignore key aspects, the whole thing implodes.

Below are eight components on my “wheel of teaching”. Have a go at scoring each aspect of your teaching life, where the rim of the wheel represents 10 (the best it could possibly be) and the hub represents 0 (the worst it could possibly be). Pop an X on each spoke to illustrate where you are right now.


The Wheel of Teaching


1, Planning and delivering great lessons

If we do not feel like we are doing this well, then our self-confidence and sense of purpose is likely to plummet. Nobody wants to be rubbish at

what they do. But there is an assumption here that is wrong: there is no such thing as “planning and delivering a great lesson”. Teaching is not like delivering a speech or making a cake. It is not a functional task. Teaching is personal and transactional. If you are going to achieve balance in this area, embrace a very simple question by which to self-evaluate: Did I succeed in helping my students to grow today?

  • To what extent are you measuring yourself as a teacher by perceptions and assumptions about others rather than simply seeking to develop your own practice?
  • Do you think you are helping your students to grow each day?


2, Excellent teacher–learner relationships

If you do not have a great relationship with your students, then you are unlikely to teach great lessons. But, more importantly for you, you will not actually enjoy teaching.

  • How do you make your students feel? Is your classroom a place of warmth and friendliness?
  • How much on a scale of one to 10 do you care about your students?


3, Providing quality feedback to students

We know that quality feedback is one of the top influencers of student achievement. Yet marking is still the most hated activity for many teachers – because the bar always seems to be too high in terms of what is expected of you and what you can reasonably sustain. Consider the following:

Feedback for redrafting only: There is no point marking and providing feedback on anything unless you are going to insist on it being acted on and therefore ensure that it translates into progress.

You decide: You, the professional, decide how much individualised feedback is necessary and reasonable to achieve progress. Be bold about your decision.

Feedback for progress only: An assessed piece of work that is not fed back on and responded to by redrafting is a pointless exercise. Make all assessment formative.

Feedback in bulk: Whole-class or group feedback is just as valid as individualised feedback in many circumstances. Writing the same piece of feedback 20 times is a waste of your time.

Communicate your policy: Managing expectations is vital – students need to know to only expect feedback for the purpose of improving their work.

Set your own bar: Do not set assignments that you know you cannot adequately feedback on.

  • Do you believe in the efficacy of the feedback you are giving? Which of your feedback activities makes the biggest difference?
  • Are you blindly complying with a policy that you disagree with or has limited impact? Could you raise this with your line manager/senior leadership?


4, Administrative/organisational tasks

Admin is an unavoidable and integral part of the job. Problems arise when it is not acknowledged as such. That said, we can all manage our time a bit better in this area. Consider the following:

Control your trigger finger: Make up your mind that emails do not have to be responded to immediately. Put it on your list and focus on your priority admin tasks.

Prioritise your admin tasks: This is easier said than done. Try using the following method for prioritising your work.

  • Now tasks: Related to safeguarding and student wellbeing.
  • Today tasks: Related to effective teaching and learning and student progress that must be done urgently.
  • This week tasks: Related to school or department policy, educational visits, protocol, etc.
  • Periodical tasks: Fall at certain times in the school year, such as classroom displays, report-writing or rehearsals.

The key point is to stop having one list. It is not a list, it is a noose. It will strangle you and starve you of the air you need to do your job.

  • Are you controlling your inbox or is it controlling you?
  • Look at your lists and rank them by importance – have you got your priorities right?


5, Career and professional development

Human beings are programmed for development. St Thomas Aquinas notably identified this as “natural” and it became the third of his five primary precepts for what makes humans flourish. When we stop learning, growing and becoming, we run contrary to our nature as human beings. It also undermines our mental health and wellbeing. You need a clear plan of CPD. You need to feel like you have moved on this year.

  • Do you feel you are still becoming a better teacher? How much effort and attention have you put into developing your craft recently?
  • What is your vision for where you want to be one year, three years and five years from now?


6, Staff relationships/working collaboratively

We are social animals. Our need for a sense of belonging has long been acknowledged as one of our core needs as human beings. We thrive and flourish best when we work in harmony with others. The faculty office and staffroom should be central to the design of any school building because staff connection and communication are central factors to the organisation and smooth running of any given school day.

  • Could you make greater effort to mix with others in faculty areas rather than stay in your classroom?
  • Is your team collaborative and helpful or fragmented and dysfunctional? Could you do something to start bringing people together?


7 Innovative and creative input

Your right brain – the creative, imaginative, intuitive part – is quite possibly starved of stimulation. When you feel like your job and worth is reduced to grunt work, you lose interest and motivation. When you are simply taking orders and routinely performing tasks that do not provide stretch, you fall far short of your potential productivity. To maintain balance and wellbeing you need to be creating.

  • When did you last do some blue-sky thinking about the way you deliver a certain topic in the classroom?
  • Do you feel you have a say within your team into how things are run and planned? If not, tell your line manager that you would welcome this.


8, Involvement in school outside the classroom

What, besides your subject area, are you passionate about? Find a way to invest yourself in this in your school community. When I look back at the highlights of my teaching career, many have been when I was involved in an activity that I was not expected or employed to do.

These make school exciting for three reasons. First, you have the opportunity to give your time to something you are passionate about. Second, students see you in a different light and you can build great relationships with them. Third, you get to work with different staff and develop a sense of team.

  • When were you last involved in an out-of-classroom activity, trip or group? How did you feel about your work at that time?
  • What do you get excited about? Could you share this passion with students or staff at your school?


Conclusion

Now look back at your wheel of teaching – which spokes need some urgent attention and what are you going to do about them?


  • Peter Radford is the author of Love Teaching Keep Teaching, founder of Beyond This and an educational trainer with 20 years’ experience in youth work and school leadership.

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