In a bit of a stew

A customer walks into a cafe, sits down, expects soup. They always have soup here. There is no description given of the soup. The soup here is usually OK, and anyway, they’re used to it. A chef makes the soup based on their previous experience of making soup here, and hopes it suits the customer and the boss. It usually does. A new chef starts at this cafe. The customer is expecting their soup, the boss is expecting things to go well. What are the chances – even though they’ve been making soup for years – that the soup in the new chef’s head will match the soup the customer expects and the soup the boss approves of?

A teacher moving schools faces exactly this uncertainty. Changing jobs and changing schools means changing expectations, often without awareness of what these are until after the decisions and commitments have been made. ‘What do you mean, you don’t like pasta in minestrone? There’s always pasts in our minestrone.’ Fair enough if you ordered minestrone but not so great if you thought you’d be getting creamy mushroom. 

The parallel in teaching is to start from scratch, stepping into the unknown of a new school, new classes, unfamiliar texts or topics to teach and a new culture to learn, each of these ingredients unknown in advance, with different chefs’ methods undisclosed until you’re judged on how well you’ve guessed them by both the ‘customers’ and the bosses?

For a teacher with years of experience behind them, the ingredients for all the soups are available, the methods are known, but they won’t all work together in one pot and you don’t know anyone’s order or preferences.

Assuming there was a cupboard big enough to store the baggage of your career so far, what would you take forward with you, and what would you discard?

The soup in your head at this stage might be simmering some of the following – 

Planning by exam mark scheme statements or assessment objectives 

Planning by curriculum coverage

Planning with differentiated objectives

Planning with a central question

Planning with a main Blooms-derives objective 

Planning with WALTs and WILFs

Planning with a simple title

Planned, differentiated questions

Individual questions, pair questions, group questions 

3 part lessons…

4 part lessons…

6 part lessons…

3 part lessons, differentiated 3 ways each

4 part lessons, differentiated 4 ways with self- peer- and teacher- assessment

Mini-plenaries, ‘pace’ and progress checks at 20 minute intervals

Models, scaffolds, visualisers, WAGOLLs and WABOLLs

3 pen marking

Whole class marking


Hands up

No hands up

SLANTs and 54321s

You might get to see a fellow chef at their work, maybe taste their dishes. You might get some quick customer feedback. You might get some knowing looks or disparaging glances or comments, ‘Oh, you do it like that, do you?’ You might manage to give everyone exactly what they want, even though they didn’t tell you or you didn’t explain what you could offer. Of course you might also make someone ill. Or they really might not like what you have. 

But there’s still a chance that your soup is the best soup in the world for someone out there.