The Pencils Come First

Are you fully focused in a lesson?

I once watched a TV documentary about Justin and Bee Rowlatt who travelled to Nuremberg and adopted the German lifestyle in an attempt to find out what makes Germans so successful.

Justin got a job in a pencil factory and when he came to using his mobile phone at work then he was quickly reminded that his full attention should be on the pencils and nowhere else. He was reprimanded and told “you need to care for your work and not for yourself.”

It might sound pretty obvious and completely reasonable that when we are at work our minds should be focused on what we are doing but they aren’t.

I worked in an office for a number of years and was more than a bit surprised by how many people were constantly using their mobile phones throughout the working day. What they should have been doing was the job they were tasked with but hundreds of hours were lost to people sending messages, reading non-work websites and making personal phone calls. Not only that but office workers chat and they chat a lot and very little about work either. The lack of focus and inattention was incredible.

Schools aren’t as bad as offices or factories for that lack of focus but there are opportunities to get distracted.

I’ve visited various classrooms to find classroom teachers doing ‘other things’, sometimes surreptitiously and sometimes for the whole world to see.

Teachers are allowed to sit at their desks. That’s not been banned yet but the teacher desk can be a distraction because this is where the mobile phone lives. Mobiles are a distraction for teachers and sometimes too much of one.

In her brilliant book The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide, Julia G. Thompson reminds us that “the focus should be on your students” and asks us to consider the following questions:

  • Do you grade papers in class?
  • Dy you leave your mobile phone on while your are supervising students?
  • Do you check your email in class?
  • Are you distracted during class by your family responsibilities?
  • Are you distracted by routine paperwork chores?
  • Do you work on extracurricular activities while you are in class?
  • Do you confer with other teachers during your class time?
  • Do you conduct personal business during class?

Julia Thompson asks us to consider whether we are thinking of our pencils and giving them our full attention or whether there are things that are acting as obstacles and getting in the way?

Do you think you get distracted? Is there any harm in teachers using their phones during a lesson? Would you do that if Ofsted were in your class?

Do we all need to sharpen our attention?

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