Friday, 20 May 2016

Year 11 - Go Forth and be Awesome

As the exam season kicks into full swing I wanted to dedicate a blog post to the students who are going though this life changing experience right now.

I teach three year 11 classes this year (yes three!) so I really feel a deep connection with what they are all going though at the moment.  I am privileged enough to work with some really quite exceptional young people this year that I really do believe will be game-changers in whatever they decide to do when they leave us.  They make me so proud. Ok, enough gushing.

One of my Year 11's said today in class "This week is full on man." and you know what... they are right.  This short period in their life really is full on.  Year 11, this one is for you.


Students, here are my top tips to get you through this tough old time....

Revision:
It is an absolute necessity that you revise regularly and that that revision makes a difference to how you feel about and approach you exams.
  1. Breaks - Give yourself regular breaks when you are revising.
  2. Space - You need to find a quiet space to revise.  If you don't have it at home there are other places - the school or local library is a great option.
  3. Avoid procrastination - Make sure you set your revision area up with everything you need so you don't have any excuse to keep getting up and distracting yourself.
  4. Tough topics - If there is a topic you are dreading coming up in the exam then revise it first.  Deal with the difficult stuff so it does not weigh on your mind and distract you from the other stuff.
  5. Get revision right - If you are using the internet, rather than resources your teacher has provided, then please make sure you are using a reliable website and that you are revising the correct exam board and paper.  Sounds obvious but you would be surprised how often students have revised the wrong topics!
Rest and Recuperation:
It is so important to look after yourself during the exam period.  If you burn out then you are no good for anything and exams will be so much harder for you.
  1. Sleep - Make sure you get enough sleep each night so that you are well rested enough to to be on top form in the day when you are revising or taking your exams.
  2. Diet - You need to eat a balanced and healthy diet during this exam period.  If you do not give your body and brain the right fuel then it will not be able to cope well with the pressure that come with exams.  Cut back on junk and sweets and get a well balanced meal three time a day.
  3. Exercise - Exercise  is vital to keep you brain and body healthy and ready for anything.  Make sure that you keep moving during exam season.  This time involves a lot of sitting in exams halls and revision lessons so walk rather than get the bus or go for a job in the morning or evening a few times a week to boost your energy levels.
  4. Do what makes you happy - If you feel the pressure is all getting to much for you then use some techniques to manage the stress.  Exercise, take a bath, sing, laugh, meditate, dance or listen to music.  Do what makes you happy to relieve the stress.
Support:
  1. Friends - Make sure that you spend time with friends that are encouraging and supportive of you doing well.   Let's be honest, not all of them are.  This time is your time and if necessary you need to just have time alone if you have friends who you love dearly but that will hold you back right now.  This time will pass and they will still be there.  Choose wisely.
  2. Family - When tensions are high we often take things out on those closest to us.  Make sure that you are not doing this to your family.  They want you to do well and they are behind you.  Make sure you show your appreciation of their support.
  3. Teachers - Us teachers really do care a great deal about you lot you know.  It came sometimes seem like teachers are always on at you and never let things go.  But deep down you know that we only do this because we care - admit it!  We do a tough old job and we do it because we want to make a difference and help young people like you really be your best.  Make sure you ask if you need help because that is what we are here for. 
Exams:

  • Fuel - Make sure you are eating well in the morning or lead up to the exams.  If your body and brain are running on empty you are not going to be at your best game in the exam. 
  • Nerves - It is not a bad thing to have some nervous energy.  If you feel nervous then breathe deeply and channel that energy into drive to do well in the exam.  If you are the unfortunate few that really suffer with terrible exam nerves then tell a teacher and see if there is anything the school can do to make you exam period less horrid.
  • PMA - Positive mental attitude.  Go in to your exam with a can-do attitude.  There is nothing more you can do at that stage so go in all guns blazing and do all that you can. You can do no more.  Think positively.

Your Future:

Once you have battled through this short time in your life and achieved good grade due to that hard work... the world is you oyster.  You can be anything and do anything you like.  You can find the thing you love and you can go for it, knowing that you have a good set of qualifications behind you to make it all possible.  How exciting is that?  Thins if your time.  Go forth and be awesome.









Thursday, 19 May 2016

Marking and Feedback - Strategies for Success



Here is my presentation for #TMBloomsbury on Marking and Feedback - Strategies for Success.




The video can also be viewed on my You Tube channel here.  

Enjoy.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Bloomsbury CPD Library - Marking and Feedback #BloomsCPD

This is a guest blog post I wrote for Bloomsbury Education Blog last month.  Read the original piece here.  




Series editor and author of Marking and Feedback, Sarah Findlater, explains how designing a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme can be daunting…but whether you are looking to better your own practice or coach your colleagues, the Bloomsbury CPD Library is here to help!

This series is such a exciting project for me to be involved in. When we were sitting down as a team to plan out what the books would look like and how they would work it was clear to me that this was going to be something quite special.  The books in this series are written by teachers for teachers. Everything in them is designed to be practical and help teachers reflect and to improve their practice.

The teaching and learning titles in the series are split into two sections. Section one takes you through the essentials of the topic and gives you tools to improve and reflect upon your own practice. There is all that you need to secure your knowledge in the teaching and learning area and feel confident that you have fully developed your knowledge and practice. The second section is designed to help you train others. Whether that is your departmental team, a group of teachers across different areas or on a whole school level.  This section provides pick up and use now CPD plans and resources and guidance. There are free electronic resources that you can download and adapt for your CPD sessions. Such a time saver!

The first book to be released in the series is Marking and Feedback.  The train yourself section in this book takes you through assessing your own marking and feedback practices and secures your knowledge on the topic.  I take you through all the different types of marking out there.  Then I explore all the big theories and ideas in terms of marking and feedback and give you practical ways you can apply these in your everyday practice.  I then show you a practical and research based approach to cyclical marking and feedback and how it can be used for impact in the classroom. There are a number of self-reflection tools that allow you to deeply analyse your own practice. After all it is essential to know yourself in order to guide others.

The second section of the book guides you through best approaches to planning and running your own CPD. It also provides you with pick up and use now fully resourced and detailed plans for CPD sessions on marking and feedback. There are full plans and resources covering full day training, extended twilight sessions, action research sessions and a full term’s worth of weekly after school training sessions. All plans have downloadable, editable power points and supporting resources on the website to go with the plans – so you really can just pick it up and use it if you so wish, or you can adapt it for your setting very easily.

CPD is so important and we have too little time in schools to do it well.  This resource really will support you to get more out of your in school CPD provision as it does a lot of the research and ground work for you.



Marking and Feedback by Sarah Findlater and Middle Leadership by Paul K. Ainsworth are now available to purchase on www.bloomsbury.com . Use #BloomsCPD @BloomsburyEd


 


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Insights into Teaching

I contributed to this article about getting into teaching on Totaljobs.com and thought I would share here.


Read the full article here.
Insights into teaching

Hero_teaching

Totaljobs spoke to seven teachers across the UK to find out what it’s really like to teach. From academies to comprehensive schools, trainees to assistant head teachers, we interviewed teachers in a wide range of positions and schools. We asked it all: the good as well as the bad, in order to provide a comprehensive report of the teaching profession.

Why should I consider becoming a teacher?

We asked teachers what they loved most about their job and why jobseekers should consider it as an option. One of the most cited reasons teachers enjoy teaching is the pupils themselves.
Assistant principal at Harris Academy in Peckham Sarah Findlater explains why she loves working with kids: “They are never boring and always make me see things in new ways. Those light bulb moments in the classroom where students really get something are just magical. Plus, kids are hilarious”.

Tom Starkey, supply English teacher in various schools, agrees: “The kids make me laugh. It’s as simple as that. You have to act the hard case at points but I spend a lot of my time smiling”. Sebastian Burrows, deputy head of humanities and subject leader for geography at Milton Keynes Academy, revels in helping his pupils grow: “I enjoy helping students achieve; academically of course, but also in less measurable aspects such as gaining the confidence to speak in front of others”.

Sebastian points out another important factor in his love of being a teacher – the perks: “As facetious as it sounds, the holidays and pension are amazing”. Tom also approves: “On a more pragmatic level (which strangely doesn’t get talked about much), teaching is an incredibly steady job with a comparatively decent rate of pay. I’ve been a teacher for 12 years – I’ve never been made redundant, I’ve been able to pay the mortgage and I’ve never had to worry that if something did happen, I wouldn’t be able to find work fairly quickly”.

Career progression is also an advantage of teaching, as many teachers go on to more senior positions within schools. Phil Stock, assistant head teacher at Greenshaw High School, tells us his story: “My first job was as an NQT in a school in Surrey. In my second year I assumed responsibility for A Level Literature and set up a new Critical Thinking A level course.

After three years, I moved to another school as second in department. I took on some pastoral responsibility as head of years 12 and 13. I left after four years to take up the role of head of English at my current school in Sutton. After three years as head of department, I became director of English, associate assistant head teacher and then just over two years ago, assistant head teacher”.

As well as being a steady and ambitious job, teaching is often described as rewarding. As Jo Morgan, teacher and lead practitioner of mathematics at Glyn School Epsom, puts it: “I feel like I’m doing something meaningful and important. I get a feeling of satisfaction every time a lesson goes well. I have the opportunity to be creative. I am intellectually challenged”.

Phil Stock on teaching

In fact, many choose to become teachers after having gone down the corporate route. Phil tells us his story: “I worked for nearly six years in the insurance industry before deciding that I would be happier doing something else. With the encouragement of my friends and family, I decided to go to university and study an English literature degree, with a view to taking a PGCE after that and becoming a qualified teacher”. Sarah experienced a similar revelation: “I spent some time on a sabbatical from my advertising job as a teaching assistant and loved every minute of it. Never looked back”.

Jo never expected she would be leaving her successful banking career: “One day my company offered me the opportunity to give a presentation at an Inner London school about careers in banking. When the day came, I nervously delivered my careers talk to a classroom of scary-looking boys. They initially came across as grumpy and disinterested, but after my talk they came out with the most amazing questions.

I was blown away. They were imaginative, insightful, ambitious… It was a life-changing moment. Afterwards I felt a buzz of adrenaline, a huge sense of satisfaction from successfully engaging and interacting with these teenagers. I wanted more”.

Do I have what it takes to become a teacher?

When we asked what skills teachers need most in order to excel, patience was certainly a recurring answer. Tom says it best: “Patience. Lots of it. Massive, huge great dollops of the stuff.”
James Sansom, design and technology teacher at Loxford School of Science and Technology, explains the importance of resilience. “You need to be resilient. Never take anything personally more often than not the students never mean it”. Sebastian agrees, stating that teachers need an “impenetrable façade”.

Tom is of the opinion that no teacher skills sets are and should be alike: “I don’t think there is a distinct set of skills to become a great teacher. I think that’s one of the advantages of the job – you bring your own strengths to it”.

One personality trait teachers do agree is essential is an undying love for your subject. “I became a teacher of Drama as I wanted to pass on my love and passion for the subject”, says Verity Balcombe, trainee teacher at Finchley Catholic High School. Tom became a teacher for similar reasons: “My subject’s English. I love English. I love language, poetry, words. I wanted to see if I could get other people to love it too”.

Overall, most interviewees insisted that teachers need to enter the profession because of their passion for the job. It is certainly a case of ‘when you know, you know’. As Sarah puts it, “Make sure you are getting into the job for the right reasons – to improve the life chances of young people. As long as it is all about the students then you will never grow tired of the job”.

Jo started teaching as she felt it was the right thing to do: “My social conscience nagged at me – I wanted to do something meaningful with my life”. Verity joined the profession for similar reasons, citing a remarkable teacher in her youth as her inspiration: “I wanted to feel like I was making a difference. It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to teach and to help students grow. You always remember that one teacher in school who inspired you and helped you to develop your skills and interests and I one day hope to be that teacher for many students”.

Sarah Findlater on teaching width=

How can I get into teaching?

The teachers we interviewed had taken different routes into teaching. The most popular option was a PGCE degree. Jo shares her experience: “I did my PGCE course at King’s College London. The course involved some university-based training, two academic assignments and two school placements. My first placement was at a girls’ grammar school and my second placement was at a mixed comprehensive school. During the school placements I gained experience teaching lessons and I was assessed against a series of teaching standards”.

The Teach First programme offers another path into teaching. James is certainly an advocate: “Teach First is an intense teacher training programme that has a 6 week training course, at the end of which you are parachuted into a school.

I did not possess outstanding GCSE or A Level results but did have a wealth of life and work experience which really put me ahead of the pack. I applied for the Teach First programme due to not being able to afford to support myself on the traditional PGCE programme. Teach First afforded a salary and paying for my qualifications. It was excellent for me as it allowed me to jump into the deep end and deal with the day-to-day running of the job instantly”.

Verity opted for a third option: “I am now currently on a SCITT course. It is an immersive programme and you spend most of the year in one school, apart from a 6 week placement. It is a great way to train because you work on the job, the students see you as a permanent member of staff and you get a lot of responsibilities which will inevitably prepare you for your future career”.

Many teachers recommend trying out a teaching assistant position before starting any degrees, in order to be sure of your decision. Tom shares his story: “I was a teaching assistant before I became a teacher. I think that helped me to get the lay of the land and it meant that I could see, first-hand, what was going on in schools. It really helped make my mind up about whether I wanted to be a teacher or not. Then it was pretty straightforward – degree, teacher training and before I knew it, I was stood in-front of a class”.



What are the downsides to being a teacher?

Many teachers mention marking as an unavoidable but frustrating part of teaching. When asked what he dislikes about his job, James says, “Marking pressures, as students now have to respond to feedback which takes more time and I can’t plan my lessons to the highest of standards”. Sebastian clearly agrees: “Marking is incredibly boring”.
Scrutiny is also inescapable as a teacher. “In teaching your work is subject to constant scrutiny – it takes a bit of getting used to. I am often held accountable for things that are outside my control,” explains Jo. Sometimes, the constant inspections can be extremely difficult to deal with, as in James’ case: “The biggest challenge I have faced to date was dealing with HMI Ofsted when I had feedback on a year 8 lesson which left me contemplating whether this was the right career choice for me. I felt like I was cut to the ground and every part of my lesson was dismantled”.

Alongside marking and scrutiny, pupils’ bad behaviour is often a source of distress for teachers. “If you find yourself in a place that doesn’t have their act together regarding behaviour, it can be a mighty struggle and even make you doubt the validity of what you’re doing,” says Tom.
Without a doubt, the most cited downside to being a teacher is the incredibly heavy workload. “Time is the hardest thing, and I imagine that any other teacher would agree. There is enormous pressure to do an awful lot in a small amount of time,” says Sebastian. Jo adds, “If it weren’t for school holidays the workload would be totally unsustainable”.

In fact, teachers insist that the only way to deal with the workload is to choose to switch off at the end of the working day… which is easier said than done. “Now I am at the point where I am happy to leave work at work and not strive for perfection with everything, because that simply isn’t sustainable”, says Sebastian. Tom agrees, “Teaching is one of those professions where it’s very easy for it to become all-consuming. But you have to go out of your way to keep something for yourself or you risk burning out”.

Jo Morgan on teaching

How are teachers perceived in the UK?

Regrettably, many teachers agree there is a general trend of under-appreciation towards teachers in the UK. “There is an overwhelming feeling of non-appreciation, mostly from the students, which can really wear you down,” says Sebastian. James agrees, “On the surface it comes across as easy to teach. As the old saying goes, ‘those who can’t do, teach’”.

The hours and long holidays in particular are often a reason for the disrespect. However, Verity busts the myth: “A lot of people say that teaching is easy as ‘you get so many holidays and work 9-3’. The reality is I haven’t worked harder in my life. I am in my training year and most days I start at 7 a.m. and work until 9 p.m.”. James confirms her statement: “If you add up all the hours I do a week and multiply throughout the year, it turns out I get 3 and half weeks holiday a year”.

Fortunately it seems that this negative perception is mainly prevalent in the media, and most people do appreciate the profession. As Tom puts it, “It sometimes seems like certain sections of the media and certain politicians do their best to put to try and put the profession down. But when I’ve actually talked to people about teachers and the teaching profession, more often than not, there is an abundance of support and respect for what we do”.

So is it really worth it?

Overall these interviews taught us that there may be just as many downsides to teaching as there are upsides. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 73% of newly qualified teachers have considered quitting. However, all seven teachers totaljobs interviewed firmly agreed that their passion for the job and the children completely outweighed the pressures and negative perception.

“Teaching is hard work, but it is an extremely rewarding job and I love it,” says Verity. Sarah agrees entirely: “It is a tough job, there is no getting away from that. It can be hard work and relentless at times, but it is so worth it”.

As for Jo, she would not trade it for any other job: “Ten years ago I would never have pictured myself as a maths teacher but now, I wouldn’t change it for the world”.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Bloomsbury CPD Library - Marking and Feedback Book - First Review

So, my first book review for the second book is here.  And you know what... it is pretty darn good! 9.7 out of 10.. I'll have that!

This is the first of the Bloomsbury CPD Library.  My book on marking and feedback and is available now.    The first half of the book runs through the key ideas and thinking around the topic of making and feedback and aims to be an aid to train yourself in the area of marking and feedback.  The second half outlines a number of ideas about how best to train others.  This book is great for an individual teacher trying to improve their practice in marking and feedback, a Head of Department who wants to train their team, someone training a wider group of teachers and leaders on the topic of making and feedback or a CPD lead in any school.

And don't forget, there are pick up and use CPD session s in the second half that have free, editable electronic resources to use in your training session.

The website of the whole series is underway and will have even more free goodies for all who buy the book so watch this space...



"Designing a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme can be daunting. Whether you are looking to better your own practice or coach your colleagues, it can be hard to know where to start. But don’t worry; the Bloomsbury CPD Library is here to help! Divided into two unique sections, Teach Yourself and Train Others, this book is perfect for individual teachers, middle leaders, and those looking to introduce whole-school CPD training programmes.
The first book, Marking and Feedbackfocuses on a crucial part of every teachers’ daily routine, but is also a core focus area for CPD, which is closely assessed by Ofsted. This book will help you to examine what level you are currently attaining, highlighting your strengths and weaknesses, and will enable you to assess specific areas where you could improve your practice.
It begins with an overview of the main marking and feedback approaches so that you can really get to grips with the theory behind different methods, before moving on to practical ideas that you can use in the classroom. In addition to these short-term strategies, the book contains suggested evaluation techniques and questionnaires to support long-term development and progression of practice.

What we think?
Marking and feedback are integral parts of what it means to be a teacher. Our students cannot develop without the guiding hand of a teacher, and this should not be taken lightly by any professional. Even those of us who have been marking and offering feedback during our careers, can learn something from other to develop and improve what we offer our student. The face of marking and feedback will look different from school to school, from phase to phase, from country to country, but what Sarah Findlater offers in this book is a valuable reminder and insight into ways to ensure that students are offered valued feedback, without necessarily eating up all your time at school or at home.
Sarah offers gems of advice supporting you to put ideas into action, exploring the types of marking and feedback, as well as fantastic chapter ‘takeaways’, which are a valuable snappy reminders and tips of improving marking. This is not done solely on an individual basis, but the book progresses to offer colleagues reflective training about their marking behaviours, with great ideas for staff training and development.
You know that we don’t like to mention the inspectors (they get too much undue attention 😁), as we think the marking should be done for the pupils, and not to impress the school managers or inspectors, and the long term plan should be developed in school (with reference to this book) will certainly help you make strides in ensuring that it is the pupils who benefit the most from your marking and feedback."




Saturday, 30 January 2016

What is school for?



So I have been asked to be on the panel for a debate this weekend - A first for me.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a great fan of public speaking; in fact I have struggled with nerves greatly in the past.  People are always surprised when I say this and I have had comments like "but you teach all day - that is just like public speaking."  Well let me assure you that, for me, it absolutely is not the same thing!  Anyway, I refuse to allow this to hold me back in life so I continue to push myself to speak publically as often as possible.  A wise woman once said to me to just speak from the heart and everything will flow - so this is what I try and do.  I digress...  The debate is about whether schools should aim to prepare students for work or life.  What is school really for?

I am struggling with this question if I am honest.  I know the easy answer is both and I am going to go for that easy answer.   I feel that if we prepare students for a working life that they love and have a passion for that is based in an excellent education then we are preparing them for a happier life. We spend so much time at work as adults and life can be very bleak if we don't enjoy it and have no way of changing that.  We need to enable our student to be able to choose a job they love and to change it if or when they choose.  I don't think that is too much of an ask.

Curriculum and Qualifications:
Schools should give young people exactly what they need to be successful and happy in life and that does involve having the ability to choose what they do for a job.  This in turn means that our students deserve to leave us with a good set of qualifications that will open doors which ever direction they choose to go in.  The curriculum we offer our students will determine their future possible options in life.  We have a duty to ensure we are never limiting any of our students.  In my personal view, every student should absolutely study an academic curriculum until they leave us at secondary as well as vocational if they so choose.  We need to ensure that they all have the core academic knowledge and skills that will allow them to sensibly choose the right path for their future. They are too young when they choose their GCSE options at 13 to decide for their entire pathway for life so it is our duty to ensure they do not limit their future options at this point.  I don't know about you but I changed a huge amount between the ages of 13 and 18 and I am so glad it was simply an expectation for me to take an academic route as I'm not wholly sure I would have taken it otherwise!  

I know there will be some who say that some students simply cannot manage the academic route.  While I recognise that there may be some extreme circumstances where this is the case these are few and far between.  I say to them that it is our job to create the climate in which those students can succeed and that is the end of it.  Shame on us if we limit them at that young age.  We need to know our students inside out so we know exactly what we need to do to enable them to be successful.  We need to reconsider the way subjects are delivered and bring them into the 21st century.  We need to reconsider the way subjects are examined and bring them into the 21st century. We need to invest heavily and improve our careers educations in schools so that students really are able to start thinking about who they are and what they might want to go on to do when they leave us.  I feel that all students need to have a core base of the same academic knowledge, skills and qualifications.  So yes we need to reconsider how we do that to make it work because in so many schools at the moment it is not working.  And this is not just down to the school itself - it is the system in which we are forced to work.  Suffice to say we need to change our approach to make things work in our school for all of our students.  We have a duty to make it work for them. 

When they leave us students should all be in the position to have the option of going to university if they choose to.  If, once they leave us, a student has a great set of qualifications under their belt and they choose not to go on to university but pursue a different route - good for them.  I would want them to know the real benefits of a university course, for sure, but is that the only route to success in life and work?  No. There are multiple examples out there of non-university educated highly successful people.  The point is, they would always have the option of going to university if they so chose at some point in their life even if it is not as soon as they leave secondary school - because they have those qualifications under their belt!  It is about having the choice.

Teachers:
In order to create a school in which all our students can prosper it is vital that we employ the right people in our classrooms and that we train them appropriately and frequently.  We need to invest more funds into education.  We need to give teachers more time to plan and prepare good quality lessons and mark the huge amount of work that is produced when good quality lesson are taught.  Our teachers are completely overworked and expected to do what is very often an impossible job.  This already means we loose good teachers and we discourage others from entering the profession and this will only get worse as time goes on if we don't make a change.   We need to give teachers better quality accredited, recognised, regular and on-going CPD.  We need to reward our very best teachers and use them wisely; training them to train the next generation of teachers.  

Our school leaders and headteachers need to have the absolute belief that our students can succeed and if they are not yet all doing so then we have not got it right yet.  Yet is the key word here.  It is vital that all senior leaders and headteachers continue to analyse what they are doing and revise it until we get it right for the students in our school. If the senior leadership team don't believe that the students can be successful under the right circumstances then there is no hope.  This needs a separate blog post really so I will leave it at that for now.

Schools should also be a place where young people explore and develop a sense of self, form opinions and consider their place in the world.  We are all there to provide an academic education for our students - that is what we trained to do.  As for whether it is a teacher's job to build and shape character and moral purpose in our students - of course.  For me this is a non-negotiable.  Our young people look to us for example as they grow and develop.  We have the privilege of spending precious time with our students when they are at one of the most pivotal points in their young lives.  We absolutely have a duty to champion kindness, honest, compassion, resilience, empathy, understanding love, responsibility and acceptance.  We absolutely have a duty to challenge prejudice every single time it rears its ugly head in the national press, the playground or the classroom.   It is a sad truth that for some of our students school is the only place they will get this guidance.   If a teacher does not believe that it is their job to do this then I don't want my child in their classroom and therefore I most definitely don't want them working in my school with my students.  No it is not only the job of teachers to play a part in shaping students character - That is a community effort.  That is everyones job - all of us adults all of the time - because they are our future.

My beliefs:
It is a challenging subject matter and I am no more an expert than any other senior leaders out there.  What I do know is that what I have said here is from my heart.  It is what I want for my child and it is my hope that we will be able to move towards this in every school in the future.

We must enable our students to find their passions through our curriculum

We must ensure our curriculum offering never limits our students in their future life.

We must have a good quality, nation-wide careers provision from an early age.  

We must insist that our teachers see building character as an important part of their job.

We must  create the environment in schools whereby all of our students can be successful. 

We must give our teachers the time they need to do their job well.

We must provide our teachers with good quality, accredited, ongoing recognised CPD.


We must support our senior leaders and Headteachers be the very best they can be and insist that they wholeheartedly believe their students can be successful and know that their jobs is to find how we do that - no excuses.



Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Reflections and Hopes - 2015-2016 - Part 2 - Hopes for 2016


The year ahead...

Who knows what the future holds?  I know all too well that even if you know some of what is ahead of you in the future you never really know what it will be like until you get there!  Nonetheless here are my hopes for 2016.  Better late than never.

Year 11 English Class
I have a lovely bunch of students in my Year 11 English class this year.  They have a lot to say and they say it loudly that is for sure!  They don't always put full effort in but when they do it is something special... a little magic in he room.  They remind me of me when I was young :-)  I think that some of them think I am a little tough on them at times... maybe I am.  But it is only because I want them to succeed so badly.  I know I wish that I had been pushed (in a caring way) more when I was at school.  They have the potential to do so well but they are not quite there yet.  It is my mission to make sure that they realise their potential and get the grades they dream of.  It will be hard work, no doubt, but it is so possible.  These guys can be amazing if they focus.  I want to see them fist pump when they get their results in the summer :-).

Year 11 Media Classes
Is it good to be back teaching Media after a year away from it.  I have two classes of Media Year 11 students and after a term long slog reworking their coursework from last year we are at last getting creative and on a fresh topic.  It has been so lovely to see them get excited about creating their pieces this last couple of weeks and I am genuinely looking forward to their final products.

Stepping Up
I am ready to step up to the next level in my career and I hope that this is the year for me to do that.  We shall see.

Books
My second book is out soon.  Exciting.  I am really looking forward to doing some editing work this year.  After two books I am looking forward to looking at other people's hard work and advising them where I can.

Blogging
I am committing to blogging more this year.  Writing two books in the last two years has meant that blogging has had to take a back burner.  I miss it to be honest.



So 2016, let's see what you have in store...

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Reflections and Hopes - 2015-2016 - Part 1 - Reflections on 2015



So, it has been two years since I wrote one of these posts.   This year has been amazing (and challenging) and I am so looking forward to next year as I can just feel it will be a good one.  I am writing about my reflections on this year first.  Hopes for next year will follow soon.

Reflections on 2015

Becoming a Mama - So I am now a mama and this has been an immense experience.  It has opened up a part of myself that I had no idea existed and allowed me to experience the most unselfish love there is.  Such an honour.  I made the decision to go back to work and be a mama too and it has been absolutely the right decision for me.  I have always been so passionate about teaching and Tilly has made me even more aware of how important a job I have in being a part of shaping the future that she will grow up into.  How lucky am I that I now have two jobs I cherish.

Beginning Teachers - One of my responsibilities is the CPD and the support of NQTs and beginning teachers.  I have mentored individual beginning teachers in the past but working with a whole group of them has been a great experience.  I did a PGCE whereas they are all Teach First or Schools Direct participants coming in to teaching   I loved my PGCE at the Institute of Education but the variety of ways into teaching now really does allow the best from all walks of life to enter into teaching successfully.  There is not a one size fits all when it comes to starting out and continuing to be a successful teacher.  They are the most honest, passionate and interesting bunch I could hope to work with and they make me excited about the future of teaching. 

Book Number One – My very first book, all of my own, was published by Bloomsbury this year; How to Survive an Ofsted Inspection.  Writing this was a wonderful experience and I feel so lucky to have been asked to write the book.  I know the Ofsted criteria seems to change like the days of the week at times recently but I am completely happy that my advice and guidance in this book applies regardless of all those changes.  My heart is in this book and I adored writing it.    


Book Number Two – While on maternity leave I wrote my second book and this was a whole different kettle of fish.  I have written the first of a CPD library for Bloomsbury and it is all about Marking and Feedback.  The process of fully focusing in on one element of teaching for an entire book was enlightening.  I loved researching, I so enjoyed the deep reflection I went through in the process of writing the book.  I am also excited to have been asked to be the series editor for the entire series.  I remember when my editor spoke to me about the initial idea of the series and I knew it could be amazing.  The discussions and planning sessions we have had since have been really quite fascinating to be involved in.  We have some amazing books on their way soon.  Watch this space!    

Whole School Events – Another one of my (many) responsibilities this year is the organisation and overseeing of whole school events.  I have so enjoyed this as the year has gone on.  Even though it does mean staying in work later that is probably right with a little one (thank goodness for a loving daddy at home with my monkey – a modern man my mother would say :-) Good daddy I say) I can genuinely say I have felt excited about this role.  My highlight was the organisation of the first ever musical concert the Academy has ever hosted.  It was so special to see our students performing such wonderful, eclectic and emotional pieces of music.  The audience were shedding tears, dancing in their seats and applauding until their hands stung.   It was simply spectacular.  It was a wonderful event to organise and even better to watch!  Students excelling outside of the classroom are a testament to all that we do with them in the classroom I think.

Teaching and Learning Takeover – I ran a workshop on questioning entitled “marvellous questions of monumental learning.” Love a little alliteration me. I was honoured and, if I’m honest, slightly horrified to discover that I was presenting in the main lecture hall when I arrived for the day.  It is the second time I have been a part of this event and it really is a wonderful day.  I am so pleased I could be involved this year.

Sharing my Blog in the Classroom – So I took the leap and shared one of my blog posts with my Year 11 students as part of the prep for their iGCSE. (They need to know what a blog is and how to decipher / write in that style for their exam.)  I shared with them my Building Beautiful Cathedrals  blog where I discuss my experiences of meeting ex-students a few years down the line and how proud it makes me and what a wonderful job we have in being a part of the history of the adults of the future. I was bloody nervous!  Students are always so brutally honest, as we all know, so I was waiting for the pointing out of typos and the rolling of eyes at certain parts etc… but they were a little quiet when we read the blog.  There was a silence in the room and they then got on with the analysis task I set them quietly. (not at all like my class if you know them! :-)  After the lesson, throughout the course of that day, three of my students came to see me and talk about what I had written.  They were all so lovely and warm and it made me so happy to have shared it with them.  I am so glad I let my students be the critic of me as I think it makes me a better teacher (and writer for that matter) because I am open to their thoughts.

Colleagues – I have the privilege of working with some truly great people, professionally and personally, at my current school and I just want to take the time to thank them for making me the teacher and leader that I am.

Students – There are so many lovely students I could mention this year so I will have to choose wisely.  To the student in my house (you know who you are) who performed so beautifully at the Winter Concert, I shed a tear when you sang and you have a truly special talent – use it wisely.  To the student who has grown so much in the last two years and matured into a respectful and wonderful young man, I salute you for your resilience in tough circumstances – you will go far.   To the student who always wants to know if they are top of the class in the assessment we have, you are amazing even when you are not top of the league table because of who you are and how you behave – and that means a lot coming from the competitive me!   As always, I could go on but really need a full blog post for this! 

Future Leaders - I have, at last, able to begin my exciting journey with Future Leaders this Summer.  The training I received over the two week intensive course and training days so far have really have absolutely helped me have a great year so far.  I am very much looking forward to the continuation of the course as the year goes on.  

What a year. Happy holidays everyone.