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.



Friday, 10 July 2015

Becoming A Mama - Before You, My Whole Life Was Acapella



It has taken quite some time for me to actually put this into words, and a lot more courage to post it.  There is so much difference in opinion when it comes to motherhood and work that I was worried about writing about it.  But I have done this because it is important to me.  I want to explore this new area of my life and writing about it is how I feel I can do that best.  So here goes...


So this year I became a mama.

If I'm honest, I never saw myself becoming a mama, but I am and it is just beyond wonderful.  She has come into my world and changed everything.  The love I feel for her is unlike any I thought was possible.  She amazes me every day.  I feel truly honoured to have her in my life.

My hopes and dreams for her are vast and wide reaching.  I want her to be powerful, creative, individual, confident, thoughtful, caring, adventurous, loving, grounded, open minded, determined, inquisitive, self aware and happy.  I want her to have moral purpose. I want her to see the world.  I want her to have wonderful friends.  I want her to know who she is and to be herself.  I want her to be brave.  I want her to have the job, or jobs, that make her happy and challenge her at the same time.  I want her to find love in life.  I want her to have a positive impact in the world.  I want her to fight for what is right.  I want her to do everything that she dreams of and more.

I can't wait to meet the little person she is becoming and the young person she will develop into.

Coming to the end of my time at home with her has made me very reflective about the new phase I am about to embark upon in my life as a mother and as a school leader.  Friends have asked how I feel about going back to work and whether it is making me feel sad.  I almost feel bad saying that it doesn't... but thats the truth.  I have loved my time with my beautiful baby, every minute.  I will forever treasure the memories I have of this period of my life.  I have a deep respect for all the mothers out there who choose to stay at home with their babies but I just feel my path is to be a working mama.  I want to show my daughter that you can be a great mama and also be a great career woman too.  That is important for me as the mother of a daughter.  I am ready.  She is a strong, confident and secure little lady already and I am proud of that; we did that!  For me it is right to go back to work and do that work really well.

What I do know for sure is that all those things I want for my daughter I also want for my students.  I hope Tilly is in a school where her teachers feel the same about her.

I have always been in awe of those teachers and leaders I worked with who were parents and did the crazy job that we do.  I remember asking one colleague a few years back how on earth she managed both and she said to me "You just do it.  And you know what... in a way it makes your job easier, better even."  I didn't know what she meant until now.  Now, now I get it.  Now that I have a child myself, I feel like what I am doing as a job is even more important to get right.  I feel more motivated to do my job better, to make my school better and improve the life chances of the students I work with. Knowing that my daughter will grow up in a world where the students that I teach will be the ones in charge; the politicians, the journalists, the managers, the teachers and the judges.  Knowing that they will shape the world my daughter will live in makes me want to be even better as a teacher and leader.  It makes me want to help other teachers and leaders become better even more than I did before.  I want my daughter to grow up in a city, in a country, where those people in charge are well educated, grounded and good people.  Now I know I only play a small part in that as a teacher and leader in my school, but I want to know that I have done all I possibly can to help the world be a better place to live in.  I want to do my small bit well - for Tilly.

I now have a whole new perspective and motivation when it comes to work and I am excited about this new phase in my life.   I have a duty to my daughter to get this right.  So here I go.  I am a mama and I am a career woman.  This is the new me.


Wish me luck.



Sunday, 5 July 2015

How to Survive an Ofsted Inspection - Review - #UKEdChat



I have been overwhelmed with the positive reviews my book has received so far. Below is the review that appeared on www.ukedchat.com




The review can be found here - http://ukedchat.com/2015/06/05/ukedmag-how-to-survive-an-ofsted-inspection-by-msfindlater/

Follow tweets about the book on the hashtag #SurviveOfsted

Buy the book here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survive-Ofsted-Inspection-Sarah-Findlater/dp/1472911067

Friday, 3 July 2015

How to Survive and Ofsted Inspection - Review - Schools Week



I have been overwhelmed with the positive reviews my book has received so far. Below is the review that appeared in the Schools Week.





The review can be seen here - http://schoolsweek.co.uk/reviews/how-to-survive-an-ofsted-inspection/

Follow tweets about the book on the hashtag #SurviveOfsted

Buy the book here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survive-Ofsted-Inspection-Sarah-Findlater/dp/1472911067

Thursday, 2 July 2015

How to Survive an Ofsted Inspection - Chapter 3 - Seating



A sneaky peak at the content of my book "How to Survive an Ofsted Inspection". 

Enjoy :-)


Follow tweets about the book on the hashtag #SurviveOfsted

Buy the book here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survive-Ofsted-Inspection-Sarah-Findlater/dp/1472911067




Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Friday, 13 March 2015

I am everyone...


This advert made me think about the fact that I am the teacher I am today because of every student and teacher I have ever worked with.  The teachers who have had a positive impact upon me thus far in my career burn bright in my mind and I am eternally thankful to every one of them.  They are all so very different and I gained such very different things from each one.  Some I want to share and others I will keep just for us.

I gave thanks to the educators that have had impact upon me in my book How To Survive and Ofsted Inspection because their advice, they way they were with the students and their ways of dealing with issues came to me while I was writing.



So, to you lovely people I say thank you.

Peg, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your calm and warm demeanour. You made me feel like I could share anything with you.  But you also had a quiet fierceness about you that made me question myself in all the right ways.  You made me a better leader.  Thank you.

Brian, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your amazing way with the most challenging of students.  Seeing you melt the heart of the outwardly coldest of students was simply mind blowing to me as a young teacher.  You made me think about and approach the young people I work with differently. Thank you.

Emma, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your innovation in the classroom.  I remember being in your room as a young teacher and wanting to be a student in the class myself and forget my pile of marking and heaps of planning to do at the other end of the corridor.  You made me a more adventurous teacher.  Thank you.

Rhys, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your warm and honest approach to students.  I felt you had a real love for the students and brought out the fun side of them so easily.  You made me able to bond with my students better as a teacher.  Thank you.

Ben, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is that you were such a great learner.  When you started with us you were so willing to take advice and better your practice.  You made massive leaps in your first year because of this approach and I was a little in awe. You helped me seek out advice from more experienced staff more and really reflect and act upon it. Thank you.

Marvin, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is the importance of relationships. You were such role model to so many students.  You had a real presence about you that I could never emulate but your approach and your open and honest love for students while keeping clear and firm boundaries; that i could take.  You made me able to be not just a teacher but a... guardian I suppose to my students.

Nita, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is how your personality came through in your teaching.  When I was in your classroom I really felt that your personality shone through.  Your students really got a feel for who you were,  your beliefs and your passions.  You made me want to be even more myself in the classroom.  Thank you.

Becky, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your insatiable drive. You worked harder and better than any new teacher I have ever come across.  You were the teacher at the end of your first year that I was after three, or even four years.  You made me want to work harder and faster as a leader and teacher.  And I thought I already did!  Thank you.

Sophia, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your originality in the classroom.  I never knew what to expect when I watched you teach and I was always pleasantly surprised.  You were always looking for different ways to approach things in the classroom.  You made me want to always think of new ways to approach old subject matter.  Thank you.

Donna, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your sense of fun in the classroom.  I remember watching you make your too-cool-for-school Y10 class chant and clap along with you like they didn't care what anyone thought of them.  You made me loosen up in the classroom and just have a little fun a little more.  Thank you.

Leona, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your no-nonsense approach to problems that arose.  You never minced your words and you got the job done, and quickly.  You made me hone my prioritisation skills and made me want to get my jobs done effectively and use my time well.  Thank you.

Mark, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your presence.  You had a calm and pressing presence.  Students and staff were always calm and focused when you were talking with them.  You made me be much more self aware.  You allowed me the calm focus to look at my professional self honestly. Thank you.

Tom, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your warm manner and open door. You were always available and so happy to chat things over that needed sorting.  You made me relax and approach problems from a new perspective because of that.  Thank you.

Jack, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your passion for your team and the subjects you were leading.  You really listened to the team you were working with and wanted to make a difference.  And you did.  You made me want to always fight for what I believe in.  Thank you.

Nicola, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your deep empathy for our more vulnerable students.  You were so loved by those very needy students and they were lucky to have you in your role.  You made me remember how important it is for us to take the time for those students and let them know how much we care.  Thank you.

Faye, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your drive and determination to do things well right form the outset.  I feel so privileged when I have a chance to work with new teachers with such talent as I saw in you.  You made me re-appreciate working with young teachers and excited about the future of the profession. Thank you.

Roisin, you taught me many, many things.  One thing that stays with me is your ability to student-whisper.  You had a wonderful knack of tackling an escalating situation with a challenging student and have them smiling and calm in a matter of minutes.  I could rave about you of ages but I won't embarrass you.  Just know that you are great.  Thank you.

Rob, you taught me many things.  One thing that stays with me is your ability to create a happy community around you.  Students and staff warm to you so quickly.  You made me think about my ability to set the tone with staff and students.  Thank you.

I am so, so lucky to have worked with so many wonderful teachers over the years.

Here's to many more :-)