Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

From The @TES Blog: Teacher Development: The Balance Bike Approach

So far, I’ve successfully taught two of my three daughters to ride a two-wheeled pedal bike. While I learned to cycle the traditional way, by using stabilisers and then ditching them once I was a bit more confident, I've eschewed that for my own children and instead followed the current trend for balance bikes.

It really does work, reducing the complexity of the learning process. And it made me think: when we develop teachers’ skills, either during initial training or as part of ongoing professional development, should we use a balance bike approach, or should we bolt on stabilisers?

Allow me to flesh out the analogy...

Click here to read the whole article: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/how-a-balance-bike-approach-training-will-give-us-better-teachers

Friday, 16 March 2018

From The @thirdspacetweets Blog: What Every KS2 Teacher And Maths Lead Needs To Know About NEW KS1 Maths Assessment Frameworks

From The @thirdspacetweets Blog: What Every KS2 Teacher And Maths Lead Needs To Know About NEW KS1 Maths Assessment Frameworks
Valentine’s Day 14th February 2018 brought KS1 teachers not one but two lovely treats: the teacher assessment frameworks for the 2017/18 academic year and the same document for the 2018/19 academic year.

While there are no changes for the current cohort of Year 2, the current Year 1s will be teacher-assessed on a new and amended framework.

Of course, the biggest question on everyone’s lips is…are the changes to the KS1 assessment framework for Maths an improvement?

To find out more, read on here: https://thirdspacelearning.com/blog/new-ks1-assessment-frameworks-maths-insights-ks2/

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

From The @TES Blog: We Should Balance Out, Not Destroy, The Pipe Dreams Of Our Students

From The @TES Blog: We Should Balance Out, Not Destroy, The Pipe Dreams Of Our Students

“I left school at 14 and look at me now: I’m a millionaire!”

“I didn’t get anything higher than a C in my GCSEs but now I’m a celebrated author…”

“I’m rich and famous and I only got one O level!”

As predictable as testing season arriving in schools is the abundance of people telling our students that exam performance does not matter. There are even articles with titles like “These famous people prove you don’t need to do well at school to be highly successful!” and “10 Celebrities who are winning at life despite failing school!” to re-enforce the point...

Click here to read the full article: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/why-we-should-balance-out-not-destroy-pipe-dreams-our-students

Saturday, 27 January 2018

On The @TES Blog: Job Hunting: How Do You Know If You're Ready To Move Schools?

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/job-hunting-how-do-you-know-if-youre-ready-move-schools

Scouring job adverts, visiting prospective schools, completing application forms and enduring rounds of interviews is enough to put anyone off leaving the comfort of their current job. But there comes a time for most teachers when they consider moving to another school.

And if you are considering moving, then this is the point in the year when you will be weighing up your options and deciding if you are ready to make a leap before next September.

In an age of five-year plans, teachers can often feel the pressure to move on, but this way of thinking can lead you to make decisions for arbitrary reasons. Job hunting is a stressful process, so you want to wait until the time is "right" before throwing yourself into it. So, what are the signs that you really might be ready for a move?

Click here to read the 6 ways to tell you're ready for a move: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/job-hunting-how-do-you-know-if-youre-ready-move-schools

Sunday, 7 January 2018

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue: Oracy Games For The Classroom

Hello and welcome to another blog post on thatboycanteach.blogspot.com, the blog that has done for teachers 'what being hit repeatedly on the head with a large croquet mallet does for small frogs... or so I'm told'. You join me here today as I consider what teachers can learn from the long-running BBC Radio 4 panel game 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue'.

Whilst the chairman always introduces the teams as being given silly things to do, the entertainment is usually derived from witty and clever wordplay which demonstrate the competitors' mastery of the English language. Both the EEF's KS1 and KS2 literacy guidance reports have the development of pupils' speaking and listening skills (or oracy skills) as their first recommendation - in the KS2 document the emphasis is on developing pupils' language capability.

The KS2 guidance specifically mentions the benefit of collaborative approaches to improving oracy skills:
The impact of collaborative approaches on learning is consistently positive, but it does vary so it is important to get the detail right. Effective collaborative learning requires much more than just sitting pupils together and asking them to collaborate; structured approaches with well-designed tasks lead to the greatest learning gains. Effective collaboration does not happen automatically so pupils will need support and practice. Approaches that promote talk and interaction between learners tend to result in the best gains. The following should be considered when using a collaborative learning approach:
  • Tasks need to be designed carefully so that working together is effective and efficient, otherwise some pupils will try to work on their own. 
  • Competition between groups can be used to support pupils in working together more effectively within their group, though over-use of competition can focus learners on the competition rather than succeeding in their learning, so it must be used cautiously. 
  • It is particularly important to encourage lower achieving pupils to talk and articulate their thinking in collaborative tasks, as they may contribute less.
  •  Professional development may be needed to support the effective use of these strategies.
Now obviously the games that the participants play on ISIHAC aren't research-based but if we apply the principles above, and pay heed to the warnings too, we should be able to use some of them to promote a collaborative approach to improving oracy skills, and as a result improve reading and writing skills as well.

Without further ado, the games:

Ad-Lib Poetry: The teacher (or another child) reads or invents a line of poetry. Children than take it in turns to continue the poem, one line at a time. The focus could be on rhyming words, adjectives, synonyms or telling a story. This game does not have a strong competitive element.

Cheddar Gorge:  Children all start with 10 points. By taking it in turns to say a word each, children should aim not to be the one who completes a sentence. If the word they say finishes a complete and grammatically correct sentence they lose a point. The main tactic is to try to force the next person to complete the sentence. This game has a focus on correct grammar and syntax and might help children to assess whether or not a sentence has been completed. Teachers could record the sentences and model correct punctuation. As an extension to this children could be permitted to name a punctuation mark instead of giving  a word - this would allow for the inclusion of parenthesis and other clauses.

Compressed Works: Children give brief synopses of films and books whilst other children guess the title. Similar to this is Rewind where children explain the plot of a book or film as if everything happened in reverse order. This could be played in pairs, groups or as a whole class and gives children the opportunity to practise summarisation - an important and often difficult reading skill.

Letter Writing: Similar to Cheddar Gorge, children take it in turns to say a word, this time 'writing' as famous or historical person to another such person, usually about something they are known for. This can be played in teams with the two teams taking the roles of the two correspondents. Letter Writing could be a good game to use in history lessons or in response to the class novel with children taking on the role of the book's characters. This could be simplified for any style of writing so that children orally co-create a piece of work prior to recording it in writing. One tactic in this game is to add in conjunctions, adverbs and adjectives to prolong the sentences. Another variation is Historical Voicemail  where children suggest messages that might have been left on the answerphones and voicemails of historical figures.

Uxbridge English Dictionary: Children come up with new definitions of words based on the parts of the words. This is potentially difficult so this game might need some preparation in the form of teachers selecting words that would work well. This is a word play game which requires children to know meanings of other words, rather than the one they are redefining. A health warning exists here: it might be wise to supply true meanings as well so that children don't believe that their new definitions are correct.

What's the Question? Either the teacher or a child supplies an answer to a question. Children then have to make suggestions as to what the question could have been. Plausible or funny answers can be accepted. This game might get children thinking about cause and effect and is a great opportunity for them to ensure that their questions are succinct and linked well to the answer.

Word for Word: Children take it in turns to say a word. The aim is to say a word that has no association to the previous word. If another child can prove, however ingeniously, that the word a child say is associated with the previous word, then they gain a point. This game could develop children's vocabulary as they hear words that others know and by trying to find links children will think carefully about word meanings.

Click here to listen to examples of the show on the BBC iplayer (may not be suitable for children)

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Crowdsourced Advice: How To Find The Perfect School For You

Crowdsourced Advice: How To Find The Perfect School For You
When you looked round your school how did you know it was the one for you? 
What were the tell-tale signs that it was going to be a good place to work?

Those are the questions that I asked a whole host of teachers who love their current place of work. I wanted to find out from people how it felt looking round a school, and being interviewed there, which they subsequently went on to enjoy working at. In their answers there are resounding echoes and although I’ve roughly categorised them there is plenty of crossover in what they say.

So, here’s what to look for when you visit a school you’re thinking of applying to for a job:

A Warm Welcome

"A warm welcome from the staff and happy content-looking students." - @resayer

"As I walked through the doors, the office staff were laughing and joking then I got a really warm welcome. In my interview lesson, the TA offered me a brew first and couldn't do enough to help me then the kids just seemed lovely. Lots of smiles of encouragement from interviewers - overall just making the place seem as welcoming as possible. A 'we want you to do well' attitude rather than trying to catch me out, which is then exactly how it has turned out - a very supportive school." - @fandabbydoz

Just a Feeling

"It was the 'feeling' of the culture. It was how people talked about students and each other. Obviously supportive and genuinely caring." - @terryfish

"It was a feeling more than anything else. The way in which staff (both teaching and non-teaching) spoke with each other as well as how they interacted with the students. You can have the shiniest of buildings and equipment but if you don't have the basic positive human relationships as the main ethos of a school then it's not worth it!" - @SamlouJ

"It was a bit like buying a new house. It just felt right. Very much a family feel." - @diankenny

"It was the feel when I went to visit. It was welcoming and the staff were incredibly friendly. The head was off but it seemed calm and everything was running smoothly. I had a tour by a TA and it just felt very natural. Spent about twenty minutes over a break time chatting in the staff room! It was relaxed yet purposeful." - @kathrynmc77

First Impressions Count

"The first person I met was Amy, in the office. She was so friendly, acted like she was truly happy to help. Almost made me feel like we already knew each other. She's got a real skill and welcomes people to our school with such warmth." - @EmmaValerio82

"When I walked into the foyer there was an explosion of children's creative artwork everywhere, books listing the children's certificates of the week for every class, and an outside environment that celebrated childhood and showed how important play was in both key stages. It is a place where I can still enjoy my childhood as an adult. I'm allowed to. Now in my 7th year!" - @natsbailey1

The Headteacher

"The headteacher gave me her vision; it was clear and simple. I felt I knew what she wanted from teachers. Students were calmer than my previous place." - @Mr_Davies_Eng

"The principal was visible in the school which was a HUGE selling point - he visited classes daily, greeted families in the morning and afternoon and obviously had a lot of respect for and from the staff." - @kaz_phi

"I instantly clicked with the headteacher and I could see massive potential in the double RI school I was looking round. I could see that my experience of working in a school that had been in a similar place would be helpful. All the signs were pointing in the right direction. Best move I ever made." - @jessmann11

"For me it was my conversation with the Head. I'd had a really tough time in my previous school and he was very kind and understanding about it. It was also really apparent that we had very similar values, so I knew I could work for him." - @DaisyMay29

"Primarily it was the headteacher - she was definitely someone I knew I could work with. Hard to quantify, but there was definitely a good vibe and a happy ethos and the other staff seemed friendly. Also, it is in the town where I live, so was going to cut a horrid commute!" - @rcoultart

"I was convinced I didn't want to work there before - I wanted a 2 form entry school but when I visited, the head sold it to me. (Flora Barton). She was so enthusiastic, was clearly so passionate about her school, and the children responded to her really well. Our conversation was entirely based on teaching and learning. I remember going back to my previous school and telling my colleague how blown away I was by her, and that's when he told me he used to work with her too, and confirmed that she was great to work for." - @mrsbarlowteach

Behaviour Matters

"It was the students: positive and calm even at lunch. The older students, I noticed, also mingled well with the younger students." - @TJohns85

"450 children were sat in the school hall while the assistant head led assembly. There were no other adults in the room and year six were NOT mucking around! Then the orchestra played as part of the assembly and I was blown away. Also, the fact that it was a six form entry school and teachers shared planning. It was clear that there was an ethos of respect and sharing which would also ease workload." - @LCRteach

Happy, Friendly Staff

"Staff were smiling (always a good sign!), calm atmosphere (but purposeful - people were 'about' but always on their way to or from something and able to explain what and why), and HT was open and honest about positive and negatives of the school. Just a good 'vibe' for want of a better phrase." - @LCWatson01

"It had a sense of calm, instead of intensity. The staff looked healthy not bedraggled." - @natalee_paice

"Every single communication with every single person was polite and kind and good-humoured: not just between me and the Head, PA, Receptionist, HOD and kids giving me tour, but also between staff. For example, in staffroom when I was waiting for different parts of the interview - watching the relationships between staff as they came in and out of staffroom was really positive. Humour was evident throughout - not mocking, satirical humour but just people having fun with each other and ideas. Short answer: the school felt like it was about people and relationships and high aspirations... and it is." - @teacherwithbike

"Existing staff were friendly and welcoming. I've now been here 9 years and can honestly say that even though we have had lots of changes the staff are still as friendly and welcoming as they were then." - @magpie221

The People

"The way I knew I it was the right sort of school for me was more about the people. When I met who was to become my new HOD I could tell that we would get on and that she would give me space to teach the way I wanted. The two students who took me around the college on my first day were open and honest about the school, both its good points and things that weren't so good, for example the fact they have Saturday school but get longer holidays." - @HecticTeacher

"It was all about the staff for me. So positive and all team players. I'd actually seen them all on a night out at the local pub and said to my mate I'd like to work there. Then a job came up." - @MrHeadComputing

Great Atmosphere and Good Vibes

"For me, it was how open everyone was when I first met them. When I looked around, I was welcomed into classes with the head and children we super enthusiastic. There was a positive atmosphere from the first phone call and just good vibes. However, I did know what I was looking for. I wanted a school who were looking to improve and I wanted somewhere which had a strong link and attitude towards well-being and growth mindset. How lessons were taught were also very important to me; I didn't want too many restrictions and some ownership- which was clear I would be allowed. But the winning point was just how open and happy people looked." - @DanMorris90

"Well I was lucky and looked round on World Book Day when everyone was dressed up so it was good vibes anyway. But it was just little things like, on my interview day I was waiting in the staffroom and everyone would come in, speak to me, force me to eat the cake on the table! Everyone was laughing and getting along so well." - @MrTWC

"I'd left a very toxic environment in another school so I was very wary when I visited my new school. Atmosphere was very important. I've been teaching a long time and my antenna is finely tuned! Atmosphere was very positive. Staff are friendly and a good laugh. Head is open, direct and honest. I looked at their twitter feed too and was impressed with their work with parents too."- @weeannieg

"It was the atmosphere - it felt nice going around. The acting head showed me around and was very honest (it's a tough area and attainment is always an issue) but about the positives as well as the challenges - and my experience has proved that she was telling the truth. As I looked around I could see parts of the school practice or ethos that I identified with and felt comfortable with as well as aspects that were new or challenging but that I was excited by. Staff that we met were friendly and welcoming. I heard them laughing together as we walked around and it sounded a happy place to work (it was the Monday of SATs week as well so quite a stressful time!). I do believe first impressions are very powerful in affecting your decisions." - @KatyVaux

"The feel of the place did it for me. The physical building is shocking but the atmosphere was friendly, inviting and purposeful. The headteacher at the time, the staff and governors all made me feel welcome (both during my pre-visit and the interview day itself.) The conversations were around the children and the aspirations for them." - @bethben92

Reputation Precedes

"It probably started before I looked round as I knew of a couple of people who worked there so was able to find out through them what the head was like and how the school was developing (the head was very new and there were things that needed to be changed)." - @rach_b84

"Firstly I already knew the school by reputation and that they had a very low staff turnover - schools I'd worked in in the past had staff who were desperate to leave and that was reflected in their incredibly high turnover which I never think is a good sign!" - @helen25c

The Children

"Loved the ethos of the school, the children were very proud of their school. Really liked the head - he was old school and a true gentleman!" - @klsacker

"I started as a supply teacher so it just grew on me. One thing that struck me was that there were never any tearful or reluctant children being peeled off of parents. When I asked the children if they'd had a good summer holiday, they said they looked forward to coming back to school more." - @JMPNeale

"The impressions I got from both the head and the HoD were very positive (both left within seven months of my arrival!) and the pupils were honest in the Pupil Panel section which was endearing. I've been at interviews where I have withdrawn because things didn't feel right." - @dooranran

"I went round on a Friday afternoon and the students looked happy and engaged. The school was calm but had a bit of a buzz about it. 6th formers showed me around, I could go where I wanted but they were really proud of their school." - @mrsdenyer

"I had already seen the girls at the train station- very confident and lively girls that I knew I would mesh well with in the classroom. Super welcoming environment and the head teacher popped in to see me to say hi because she was off on a trip and couldn't interview me. Just a really relaxed environment which I knew I wanted." - @MrsHaggerNQT

"The first sign was that the older children were the people showing me around without an adult, their responses to questions and the way they spoke about the school and the staff. True honesty and a clear love for the school and those that worked with them." - @APLByrne

Fair Interview

"A very endearing aspect of the interview was that they gave us questions 15 mins before and encouraged us to bring notes in stating they didn't want to catch us out. Despite the challenges I've faced since joining I am really enjoying the freedom the school offers. We are getting a new Head soon too and I think with a few easy changes the school could be one of the best in Wales." - @davowillz

"At interview we were given the questions before the formal part to prepare answers to show our best. Never had it happen before (or since)." - @littlemrsj

Best Fit

"Many reasons: potential that matched my skill set and previous experience; ethos and culture - albeit untapped to some degree; students - I recognised them; Chair of Governors - felt I could work with him well. It felt like 'me' but also like I could really help lift it to what it could be - very exciting!" - @BarlowCaroline

"Just got a feel for the place, good vibe from the head, her philosophy seemed to align with mine. You've got to be on the same page as the head though I think, because they set the climate." - @MrClarkeY6

"Meeting the head, hearing her vision, realising I could help and recognising that she valued what I could do in the classroom. I had been through a horrible time before and she listened." - @BespokePeter

"The feeling I got from faculty, SLT and students was that my kind of approach would be welcomed and valued - a good fit. The school had academic aspirations but were secure enough in their school status that they would let me get there with my own approaches. Gut feeling was that this would be a good fit and turned out that I was right, even better actually." - @MrDeach27

"It felt calm and welcoming, staff and children I saw were smiling. As I went into interview, it felt relaxed like they knew what they were doing, questions were what I would have asked and showed we were a good fit." - @geordiecat2012

Strong Testimony

"The headteacher introduced me to other staff who pretty much all said that they were either proud to work at the school or that it was a great place to work." - @KateHalfpenny1

"I knew someone that worked there so they could give me an honest view of the school and that made a big difference!" - @LAShaw66

"I had a feel of community and support within the staff. Everyone had something positive to say (and you could tell it wasn't faked) I was encouraged to visit and watch classes." - @MissNP_

"One of my friends from my previous school was working in the department, and I was still in regular contact with her, so she gave me an honest appraisal of what the school was like. It was also an instinct thing if I'm honest. I liked the ethos, the students and the way it felt teaching my lesson (to a mixed ability tricky class) so I felt like I'd had a true picture of what it would be like." - @SusanSEnglish

"When I drove past on the way home from other places the car park wasn’t full very early/late. I didn't look round it during the day but the HOD met me after school and they were really friendly. People speak highly if it as a place to work and a middle leader there recommended the school to me. During my interview lots of what SLT were saying clicked with my ethos." - @JenJayneWilson

Monday, 18 December 2017

On The @TES Blog: Idealistic Leaders vs. Realistic Teachers




"Teachers must…", "Teachers need to…", "Teachers should…"

These are potentially my most used phrases when writing articles on education. Occasionally other groups will be on the receiving end of my strongly worded ‘advice’, but usually it’s teachers because teaching is what I know.

Recently, I have been pulled up on my use of these phrases – turns out teachers don’t like being told what to do. Now there’s a surprise.

My sharing comes from a desire to help others, never from a position of wanting to overburden and bludgeon teachers who are already striving to do their best. But I can see how it comes across sometimes and it got me thinking...

Click here to read more over on the TES blog

Monday, 13 November 2017

From The @TES Blog: Will Boys Be Boys?

Whilst I acknowledge biological differences between boys and girls, I also think we should judge them individually, rather than on their gender. Anything gender-specific that means they might underperform needs to be addressed, rather than pandered to. And, regardless of gender, all children should be subject to high expectations. Boys deserve to be expected to do well at school.

And when I refer to equal treatment I mean something along the lines of providing children with different opportunities to help them achieve the same outcomes. Some may refer to this as equity rather than equality.

Now, please read my piece for the TES: on how I think we need to treat boys in the classroom:

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/boys-will-be-boys-wont-they-only-if-we-let-them-be

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Poster: What To Say Instead of I Don't Know

This poster was born out of a discussion between staff members at my school during a CPD session I gave on questioning. It had a huge response on Twitter - it seems that English-speaking pupils the world over favour this phrase, and teachers would rather they answered in a more productive way. Here are a few prompts:


The poster and a Word document containing the text can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

@bbcTeaching Interview With @thatboycanteach

Ben at BBC Teaching (no, not THAT BBC) is interviewing a whole host of teachers this summer. Have a read of mine and then stick around to discover the stories of more inspiring teachers:

http://bbcteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/a-bbc-interview-with-that-boy-can-teach.html

Up next is Mr. Mystery himself 'That Boy Can Teach' or, as I like to call him, 'Batman'. I am one of the privileged few to have always known his secret identity, and was just about to sell him out to the papers when he removed his cloak of secrecy himself. Well, sort of.

Please introduce yourself, as vaguely as you like.


My real identity is out there and easy enough to find - I'll leave readers to sleuth that one out for themselves.

I've just completed my 11th year of teaching having done a 4 year teaching degree (with art) straight after 6th form. I've worked at three very different schools in the Bradford area - my current one is in a deprived city centre location where the majority of children have English as an additional language.

For the last 5 years I've taught in year 6 (in two schools) but have taught in all KS2 year groups (despite specialising in KS1 at uni).

I've been an assistant principal for the last three years leading the UKS2 phase and maths across the school. Next year I'll be leading LKS2 and mentoring NQTs and SCITT students and continuing with Maths for three days a week - the other two days I'll be working as Primary Lead Practitioner with the other primaries in our MAT on various projects.


What made you become a teacher?

http://bbcteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/a-bbc-interview-with-that-boy-can-teach.html

From the @TES Blog: 10 Tips For Successfully Leading a Subject


https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/10-tips-successfully-leading-a-subject

So you've been given a subject to lead. But where do you start? And how do you get everyone interested enough to teach your subject effectively in an already overcrowded primary timetable?

If you are leading on a non-core subject, the challenges can be particularly difficult to overcome. But by following these 10 steps, you will be better placed to make your subject shine.

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/10-tips-successfully-leading-a-subject

Monday, 31 July 2017

To My Excellent Year Five Teachers

To my excellent year five teachers,

Thank you so much for all your hard work this year - that sounds like such a standard, stock phrase but I really couldn't mean it more.

I couldn't have asked for a better year 5 team - you have been the perfect combination of high standards and nurture and as a result the children have been transformed under your care. You don't really need me to tell you of the amazing changes that have taken place, but by way of celebration I will:

In terms of behaviour, the group of children you've taught this year is unrecognisable. I always believed that together you would make a difference very quickly and you really did - but just because it happened so rapidly that doesn't mean we shouldn't be celebrating it now. I know that the management of their behaviour has been an ongoing task but since you make it look so easy, it can often go unnoticed!

Because of the much-improved conduct the attitude towards learning has sky-rocketed. You both have classes who are so dedicated to learning, who really care about their education. You have modelled to the cohort how important their time in the classroom is and ensured that it has been time well-spent. They are now characterised by being one of the hardest-working cohorts in the school.

As a result, the progress those children have made this year has been so pleasing to see. From very low starting points you have really worked with precision to make sure that individual needs are addressed and worked on. With diligence you have prioritised the education of each child, giving those children the best possible launchpad to their final year with us.

As a result of that grounding, I am confident that these children will write the next chapter in our success story when, next year, results day rolls around. But, as we are all very aware, although it might not always feel like it, it is not all about results, and actually, because of your teaching ('teaching' sounds very crude, because you've done so much more than just teach) these children are well-rounded human beings who appreciate life in so many ways. You have allowed them to be themselves, but have helped and encouraged them to be better versions of themselves.

As for you being members of my team, I couldn't be more grateful. It was one of my main aims this year to lead a team who were a real team - and we have been just that, and that is down to your commitment to our school, our children and your colleagues. It's not going to be easy to leave such a dedicated group of people, but I know that I'm leaving you together and that team spirit won't die with my leaving - I feel very confident of that.

In the summer I wrote a letter to myself which I only re-read lately; in the letter I wrote, aspirationally, that this year would be a year that I would always be proud of, and it has been - it's been a year we should all be proud of. We have achieved so much, but because we are always aiming higher, we don't always just stop to take stock of what we've accomplished. I hope this summer, and perhaps prompted by this letter, you will take time to reflect and congratulate yourselves on all the successes of this year.

Thank you, once again, although I know you don't do it for the accolades - you do it because you care for the children.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Book Review: 'Making Every Primary Lesson Count' by Jo Payne & Mel Scott

To write a book about effective classroom practice without once mentioning Ofsted, national testing or the Department for Education is no mean feat, and this book should be celebrated for that alone. After all, the goalposts imposed on us change so often, but good teaching will always be good teaching.

But, Making Every Primary Lesson Count deserves to be recognised for more than just that. This is a no-frills, plainly-written book (and I mean that VERY positively) containing what I'd call sensible advice about how to make the most of those few hours in a day when children are supposed to be engaged in learning.

As an experienced teacher I found myself nodding along - I recognised that much of the content reflected the way I have learnt to teach over the years, often in spite of the way I've been told to teach. I also made plenty of notes - this old dog is always willing to learn new tricks, and  as Jo and Mel share examples from their own practice, and that of others they've known, there is plenty for even the longest-toothed teacher to glean.

Next year, I'll be mentoring three NQTs and two SCITT trainees - I certainly read this with them in mind. In fact, the book is being delivered straight into the hands of one of those NQTs who will also be working in my team next year. I wish I'd had this as an NQT - I might not have had to spend 10 years trying to get my approach right if I had!

The book is just the right mix of summary of evidence from research, comment on what works from experience, and solid, tried-and-tested, practical ideas to use in the classroom - the sort you could take away and try the next day without any difficulty. It comes across as academic but accessible, which for the majority of the workforce, is absolutely perfectly pitched.

Making Every Primary Lesson Count has something for new and old teachers alike and is worthy of a place in your CPD library, whether that's your personal one, or your school's. This easy-read would not be a bad volume to spend the summer holidays reading - one chapter per week and come September you'd be ready to spin those plates once more, giving you the best shot at making the most of the children's time with you.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Can That Boy Teach?

It was my first year in post as assistant head. In reality I was a full time year 6 class teacher. The headteacher (well known in the area, if you catch my meaning) from the school next door (yes, we share a boundary wall with a three-form entry primary - we're two-form) observed me teaching (for whatever reason - local partnership review day or something). The lesson didn't set the world alight (I remember it being graded as 'Good' back when we did that sort of thing) but, as reported to me by the headteacher, as he closed my classroom door he uttered the words 'That Boy Can Teach'.

I suppose I can. It'd be a travesty if I'd got the position I'm in now without that being the case.

And what position am I in now? Well, I'm finishing my third year of being an assistant head (actually, now an assistant (vice) principal) with responsibilities for upper key stage two and whole school maths and year 6 teacher, but there are changes afoot. In September I'll be leading the year 3 and 4 phase, mentoring three NQTs and two Schools Direct students and leading a maths team. I'll also be working two days for the MAT that my school is part of - I'll be Lead Primary Practitioner working on various projects in three other primaries as well as working on the NQT, RQT and middle leaders programmes (and probably another, currently secret, aspect of the academy's work).

But I won't be teaching. Or at least, I won't have a regular teaching commitment.

My teaching commitment (roughly 70% timetable these last two years) has been my bread and butter - the thing which has garnered me respect and credibility; my team know that if I'm asking them to do something, then I'll be doing it too. Because I've been teaching, I've been able to represent the voice of the classroom teacher in SLT meetings - I was the one truly 'on the ground' so I knew the impact on teacher's lives of our requirements. It's also given me plenty of tweet and blog fodder.

And classroom teaching, day in, day out, is what has kept me going - I know this now I've stopped. I absolutely love it - you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone; absence makes the heart grow fonder. I savour the feeling of having achieved many things, all in the space of one morning. I thrive on the challenge of trying to teach children things, especially the process of creating and implementing more effective ways of teaching. I have, quite simply, enjoyed my 11 years as a teacher. And I'll miss it a lot.

So, can I teach? Or will I teach? Will I be able to somehow teach as part of my new roles? I hope so. I'll be looking for every opportunity to get in those classrooms to work with the children where the magic happens. I anticipate team teaching with my NQTs, teaching model lessons for my students, covering my team members to allow them to carry out other tasks. I'll no doubt want to do some interventions and definitely some 1:1s (so effective for improving writing I've found). Whilst none of that will compare to having my own class (oh, how sweet it felt as an NQT to finally have my own class instead of teaching someone else's) I am hoping that it will satisfy the need to teach children.

I've been told by a couple of wise heads now that my class will be the teams I work with. I've also been warned of the 'slow' nature of non-teaching work - how you have to adjust to working with longer term goals. I hope that I will manage these changes, as well as others that I'm sure I've not even thought of yet. And if it doesn't suit me, I'm sure there will be a classroom somewhere that'll have me back. But I hope to make a good go of my new roles, even if it means my Twitter/blog name might seem a bit irrelevant.

I'd love to hear from you if this transition from classroom teacher to non-classroom 'teacher' is something you've managed effectively. Please get in touch via the comments or on Twitter with your wise and wisdomous advice.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Using 100% Sheets (AKA Knowledge Organisers) In Primary


What are 100% Sheets?

Well, you may have heard of them by another name: Knowledge Organisers.

There are plenty of great blogs out there about knowledge organisers (see the links at the end) so I am only adding my paltry information to more in-depth pieces available to you. However, what I hope to do is present a very simple account of how 100% Sheets can be used.

So, why the name '100% Sheet'? 

Because basically children have to learn everything on it by heart - 100% of the contents of the sheet need to be known by each child.

What does one look like?

They vary in appearance but the ones I have made and used involve images as well as text. See some examples here: https://padlet.com/jack_helen12/czfxn9ft6n8o

What's the point of them?
  • They help children learn the key facts - this is the main point of 100% Sheets.
  • They give teachers an outline for a unit
  • They guide lesson content
  • They provide teachers with simple ways to explain ideas
  • They can be used to inspire homework
  • They aid assessment (along with the accompanying 'quizzes')
How are they used?

Here's a simple sequence:
  1. Provide children with 100% Sheet before the holiday
  2. Set a homework project based on the 100% Sheet, this should include learning the information by heart
  3. After the holiday, use the exact same phrases, words and diagrams from the 100% Sheet in lessons
  4. Base lessons on the content of the 100% Sheet - the lesson is an opportunity for you to expand on the knowledge, teach linked skills, carry out investigations, and even do supporting creative activities
  5. Conduct regular ‘quizzes’ based on the tests – children retake the test until they get 100% right. The first quiz can be given fairly soon after the holiday - this will give you a baseline of who has been learning the information and who hasn't.
What should I consider when creating 100% Sheets?

Ask yourself:
  • What are the objectives I need to cover in this unit?
  • What basic facts do children need to know in order to achieve the objectives?
Think about including:
  • Explanations
  • Word meanings
  • Diagrams
Ensure that:
  • the layout is not confusing
  • the information is carefully written in child-friendly, but challenging, language (I use lots of different web-based resources to help with this, for example, BBC Bitesize)
  • the amount of information is realistic - remember, they have to learn it all!
Why quiz?

Low stakes testing aids retrieval and using of memorised facts, whereas revising from a 100% Sheet only aids the acquisition and storage of facts. This is referred to as the 'testing effect' and it helps to embed learning in the memory.

The practice of taking the quizzes, self-marking and self-correcting them provides more opportunities for children to revisit the information that they need to know.

What should I consider when creating the quizzes?
  • Include different question types:
    • Multiple choice
    • Fill the gap
    • Choose the word
    • Join the word to its definition
    • Complete the sentence
  • Each time a test is taken, change the order of the multiple choice answers, for example (so they can’t just learn that it’s the second option)
  • Have a question for every aspect of the 100% sheet
What are the benefits?

  • Children learn important information off by heart
  • Many children come to lessons knowing key vocabulary, key facts and even complete concepts leaving teachers with more time to explore ideas more deeply, or to teach more creatively - the 100% Sheet covers the curriculum requirements so the teacher has 'time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the national curriculum specifications.' and so teachers can 'develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum.'  (The National Curriculum, page 6)
  • If carefully created, teachers have a good reference document to use for planning, teaching and assessment
Other blog posts about Knowledge Organisers:

Monday, 26 June 2017

From the @TES Blog: Primary and Secondary Teachers Need Each Other — And We Need To Start Viewing Each Other In A More Positive Light

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/primary-and-secondary-teachers-need-each-other-and-we-need-start

Transition time is fast approaching, and along with it the inevitable discussions about how we can make the move from primary to secondary school smoother for pupils.

Unfortunately, no amount of tutor visits or collaborative projects between key stage 2 and 3 teachers will really bridge the chasm that exists between these two stages.

Attempts to help children cross the threshold are important, and should be continued, but without a more joined-up approach in curriculum and assessment our efforts will never be able to ensure that the learning journey of each child is seamless. For that we need systemic change — something that may not be in our power to effect.

What we do have the power to change, though, is our view of each other.

Click here to read on

Friday, 23 June 2017

Relight My Fire: Advice For Teachers Who Need To Get Re-inspired

To be honest, I wasn't asking theoretically, or for a friend, when I tweeted this recently:


Thankfully, plenty of my Twitter friends had some great advice to share. As I'm sure loss of inspiration, a certain amount of boredom and sometimes even unfulfillment is a common experience amongst those who work in education, I thought I'd pool together the advice for future reference.

"Reflect, stay neutral and get curious. All of this helps come back to your WHY." - Jaz Ampaw-Farr @jazampawfarr (see the video she recorded inspired by my tweet: The Importance of Why)

"Remember WHY. Why is more important than what. Then go and look at the faces in front of you. See them older and happy. That's why." - IWilson‏ @linainiwos

Many find that inspiration comes from spending time with the children, and rightly so. As educators, the children are our 'why' so it stands to reason that in order to feel reinvigorated we should go to them:


"So much inspiration depends on the children. I think it must be harder to get mojo back if you're not in classroom. Take class and have fun!" - Janette de Voil‏ @Janetteww

"Go back to the basics. Spend time with the kids. Do the things you like to do with them. Find the positives." - Mister Unwin‏ @misterunwin

"Ignore adults for a while, have fun with the kids. Remember how enjoyable their company is, then teach them something (anything). Feels great!" - Kymberley‏ @open_door_teach

"Sit and talk to the children. Not just fleetingly but proper talk. They will inspire you." - Suzanna C‏ @sing0utsue

"Talk to children. Sit in the playground, watch, listen and then talk to them. Always inspires me to get on with it." - Simon Smith‏ @smithsmm

"If I’m having a dodgy time I always go and soak up the good vibes from the playground!" - Rebecca Stacey‏ @bekblayton

"Sit down and be in the moment with kids." - The Trainee Teacher‏ @TrainingToTeach

"Spend a day in reception - but... take your 'teacher head' off and just inhale the joy and energy and play, play, play." - Maeve‏ @MaeveBeg

"Being out of the class is tough so I go back into class; I also spend some time in Early Years! Watching and learning from others-inspiring!" - StJamesChurchPrim‏ @church_prim

"Work with children with special needs - always something to reflect on that will make you remember why!" - scatti1‏ @scatti1

Others advised doing something linked to the job that we know we will enjoy:


"Choose a topic to teach that YOU love not just one the kids will or that needs covering." - Emma‏ @HeyMissPrice

"Plan projects that excite you. A blog series, a club, a unit of work, a display. Anything that you can throw yourself into." - Sam Daunt‏ @samdaunt

But many respondents talked about other ways of feeling re-inspired. Whilst some identified Twitter as a means for regaining inspiration, others advised having a break from the potential overload that Twitter can generate:


"Twitter. And writing. And looking at old keepsakes from parents and children. And Twitter." Mr. Phillips‏ @Mr_P_Hillips

"Meeting other teachers, listening to inspirational workshops and even conversations on here [Twitter] have reignited my passion. I think you take it with a pinch of salt but reading blogs like yours and others and seeing #whatItaughttoday makes me miss classroom teaching." - Lisa C‏ @Elsie2110

"Take a Twitter break. It's good for you. I'm looking forward to turning my Twitter off over the summer. I put a special Twitter break avi up. What I find it does is it reinforces the physical IRL relationships I have. The other thing is the significant number of mood hoovers on the edu-Twittersphere. I am constantly inspired by my children and my partner." Mark Anderson‏ @ICTEvangelist (Mark went on to write a whole blog post about this idea: https://ictevangelist.com/have-a-break-have-a-twitter-break/)

Rebecca Stacey sums that contrast up well:

"Spend time in class with inspirational teachers. Read. Use Twitter wisely." - Rebecca Stacey‏ @bekblayton

Many teachers recommend stepping out of the comfort zone and trying something new:


"New challenge outside of your comfort zone." - Joe O'Reilly‏ @Edu_Wellbeing

"Take risks. Ignore the curriculum. Turn a drinking game into a classroom one. Think about experiences you want for your pupils first." Parky_teaches‏ @Parky_teaches

"Try to carve out enough time to study something new. Often gives a new frame of reference to defamiliarise what may feel stale. Self care. Varies from person to person. My recharging usually comes from new knowledge but there are are different roads." - Diane Leedham‏ @DiLeed

"Refocus your attention onto a new pedagogical idea or project to trial and then implement or roll out." - Steven Fox‏ @SteveFoxAST

"What worked for me was moving age groups, working with new people and a new HT who didn't micro-manage." - Just Teaching‏ @RunningToLearn

Sometimes, its not even a risk or a challenge that is needed, only a change:


"Change the way you do things. Just mix it up a bit." - Kat Schofield‏ @PearlOchreRose

"Swap year groups, move school, change subject lead, take a risk, take a student, visit other schools, go on residential... Be a grape not a raisin! Grapes are engorged, juicy, sweet - full of ideas. Raisins are dried up, shrivelled, hard. We start as grapes and if we are not careful we end up as raisins." - Kate Aspin‏ @etaknipsa

"Do something completely different in school, dump an afternoon you'd planned and do big art work, plan topic on the wall using marker pens then do something like that at home like let the kids choose everything for a day. Don't over think it." - Dorastar1‏ @Dorastar1

Many turn to books, conferences and personal learning to revitalise their teaching mojo:


"For me, continuous learning, being a student again, e.g. doing my MEd." - Dr Vincent Lien‏ @fratribus

"I found the #NAHTConf really got me re-fired up. As does #TMSussex & reading edu-books. I hear there's a new one out for primary teachers..." - Jo Payne‏ @MrsPTeach (Jo, alongside Mel Scott, has just had published her book 'Making Every Primary Lesson Count')

"I have been in a slump since January and going to a wellbeing conference the other day reinspired me. It was obviously the right content. But also the right time. Sometimes life can combine with school and make one or the other challenging. I think sometimes a slump ends when it ends but we can try to speed it up. It took me being surrounded by people and ideas."  - Mr Wiltshire‏ @secretsforabuck

"I've been listening to a lot of the TED talks on Youtube. Some are absolutely brilliant. Lots are not about teaching but still relevant!" - James Heeley‏ @lhpHeeley

"Attending inspiring courses/CPD, which fill you with ideas, that you just can't wait to try out in class!" - Mr Mclugash‏ @MrMclugash

"Twitter, Conferences and Teachmeets, reading books. Trawling the internet for ideas I can adapt. Talking to other Teachers." - The Hectic Teacher‏ @HecticTeacher

Then there's Nancy Gedge's (@nancygedge) suggestion: "Take a break." It might seem counter-intuitive to stop when we should be seeking to remotivate ourselves but it is very possible that an overload of work (including using Twitter, reading blogs and books and going to conferences) is what leads to a lack of inspiration. Some more ideas which expand on Nancy's straight-talking comment:


"Attempt to switch off from all the logistical stuff during holidays, but still spend time recharging the creativity and imagination. I don't honestly switch off in the holidays; I feel I 'switch back' to the reasons I wanted to do it in the first place." - Jonny Walker‏ @jonnywalker_edu

"Lots of the time it's less inspiration required and more feeling burned out. Making time for myself is key. That can be as simple as putting leave-in conditioner on my hair & watching Netflix all of Sunday, or going out with friends/family/boyfriend. Nice to recharge. If it's genuine lack of inspiration, talking to other teachers helps. At school or Twitter etc. Sharing ideas and triumphs is important." - Arithma-ticks‏ @Arithmaticks

"Can I respond with a rhetorical question: what fills your tank? Do more of that! Different for each of us. Tank not being filled = imbalance." - Anita Devi | FRSA‏ @Butterflycolour

"Spend time with those who inspire you and motivate you to be better than you ever thought possible. Relax. Refocus. Go again." - Charlotte Briggs‏ @missb_teach

Focusing on the positive difference that we have the potential to make in the lives of others, and indeed the impact we have already had, was one of m particular favourite responses to my question:


"Take a step back, look at the positives you're making in 30 lives. Failing that I look through my teachers memory box!" - Alex‏ @MrCYear5

"Think about the children, the difference you have made and continue to make and the impact it has." - Nicole Moore (Anand)‏ @MooreNixie8

"Look back at some of the things that have gone well, and look to the future and know I have to make a difference for them." - Beckie‏ @beckie_edu

Connecting with other professionals in different ways seems also to be a popular activity to get inspiration, an understandably so:


"Visit other schools." - Katharine Elwis‏ @KElwis

"Great colleagues re-energise me. Their enthusiasm, drive and willingness to take risks curbs any complacency in me." - Lee Card‏ @eduCardtion

"Go and visit other schools!" - Dan Nixon‏ @pruman21

"I go and observe colleagues teaching. Seeing their enthusiasm in the classroom usually brings back my "mojo"!" - Jess @jrmdola

"Team teaching with other colleagues, collaborative planning sessions, Observe colleagues and letting my students lead the learning." - Bethan Schofield @1Bethanlouise

"Observe others teaching, that ALWAYS inspires me. We'll all work with some amazing professionals but are too busy to see this sometimes." - Laura Jackson‏ @MrsJacksonMusic

There were many more replies to this Twitter thread, and more replies keep being added. To read everything, and to keep up-to-date with it, here is the link: https://twitter.com/thatboycanteach/status/877262764905041921

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Being A Writing Teacher: 6 Reasons Why Teachers Should Write


"No one would say 'I can't read', so why do people say 'I can't do maths'?" We've probably all heard that frustration expressed before, and it's a point worth making. But, where primary school teachers are concerned, it doesn't make a difference if they say they can't, they have to anyway. As in, they will teach concepts by modelling them and will solve problems at least in order to work out what the right answers are. They can do maths despite what they say.

But this isn't about maths. This is about writing. And what you will never hear is 'I can't write.' And that's not because they can write and they do write. It's because they think they can't write, know they don't write, and are perhaps are bit ashamed of that. And I'm not even talking about writing for pleasure in their own time, I'm talking about modelling writing in the classroom. I know that there are teachers out there who will avoid writing if they can help it.

It's understandable - good writers are revered, and rightly so. Writing has become the preserve of a select few - those who have truly mastered our language and appear to effortlessly produce flowing prose. Writing isn't for everyone... except for every single child in the education system! We expect them to write, yet many of us teachers have opted out of being writers, having done our time during our own schooling. 

I've said before that teachers should all be readers and actually that's an easy pill to swallow compared to this: all teachers should be writers. Primary teachers should at least be able to write at the level expected of the most able writers in the school. This of course means that secondary teachers should be even more proficient.

How can we teach children to write well if we don't write at all? Even if you are fairly confident in modelling writing in class, ask yourself how good it really is. If you only ever write for those few minutes every now and then in class, are you really honing your skills? Would you benefit from writing for pleasure a little more? This is as much a challenge to myself as it is to anyone who may be reading this - I do not claim to be an expert writer and I know I could do better.

These thoughts have been whirring round my head for some time now, at least since the beginning of the year when I encouraged people to join the #WeeklyBlogChallenge. In fact, on further reflection, I've been acutely aware of the need for teachers to be writers since giving some training where, actually, I think I encountered some fairly reluctant writers.

The benefits of striving to be a proficient writer are, as you can imagine, many fold. I'd suggest six main benefits, though:

1) You will understand the pressure that children feel when you present them with a cold task, or even a task that they are well-prepared for. And when you've experienced that feeling of having a mind as blank as the page in front of you, then your writing lessons will get a whole lot better. If you are someone experienced in seeking inspiration, then you will become a teacher who is better at providing helpful stimuli.

2) Your modelled writing will inspire the children: sometimes all they need is a few words from a good example of writing to get them going. For this reason, many resources (such as the excellent Pobble 365 website) provide exemplar paragraphs and openers, but there is power in the children experiencing the writing created in front of them...

3) The act of modelling writing will inspire the children. I've noticed many times that when a teacher joins in an activity, be it Art, PE or an assault course on residential, that children respond more enthusiastically too. I know not of the pedagogical reasons behind this, only that it is what I've observed to be true.

4) You will feel more confident to share your writing. If you write regularly, even if progress is slow-going, words, sentences and paragraphs will come more naturally to you. If this is the case then you will feel far better prepared to stand up and 'perform' a piece of writing. You'll also find it easier to complete shared pieces of writing as you will know how to weave the pupils' words and ideas into a great piece of text.

5) You will be able to model the editing and revising process more realistically. Children at the top of the primary age range are expected to choose words for meaning and to understand the impact that the chosen words might have on the reader. Often, teachers model editing and revision as an exercise in word swapping, but with very little purpose. Someone with a little more  experience of writing will more naturally model a process where choices are made for a reason, and they will be able to verbalise those reasons too. 

6) You will give more effective feedback to the children about their writing. No matter how your policy dictates you provide feedback, it remains that someone with more experience as a writer is better placed to identify strengths and weaknesses in another's work. Based on your own experience of writing, you will be able to work out exactly what it is a child needs to do next to improve their written work.

The act of writing is an act of creativity, and there are many other benefits to self that being creative brings. There is a sense of great achievement to be had from writing something, whether that's something that helps one to explore one's own thoughts, feelings or ideas, or something that can be shared with others. And achievement is enjoyable: if you begin to enjoy the creative process of writing then this will no doubt translate into an enthusiasm for teaching writing - and enthusiasm is infectious. 

Here's the challenge, teachers: become a writer and begin to infect your pupils with a love of producing the written word. Will you accept?

Read the Arvon/University of Exeter/Open University research 'Teachers as Writers' here: http://www.teachersaswriters.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Arvon-Teachers-as-Writers.pdf

Saturday, 6 May 2017

10 Things I Still Do Today That I Learned As A Lazy NQT

I was a lazy NQT - that's for sure. And whilst there were negative aspects to that there were definite positives too. I eased myself into teaching, churning out a steady run of 'Satisfactory' lessons in my first year. I was really well supported by a motivated, organised and inspirational teacher and if she was long-suffering she didn't let it show. It was only after a good few years of teaching that I began to be a bit more ambitious and hard-working. By then though, I'd actually embedded a way of working, derived from laziness, that seems to have stuck.

So, what long-lasting lessons did I learn from my initial laziness?

1) Weekends Aren't For Working - the summer before beginning my NQT year I got together with my now wife and she still had two years remaining at Birmingham Uni. Many-a Friday saw me rocket out of school to sit in traffic on the M6 and the M5 (oh, that terrible junction). Many-a late Sunday night saw me blasting back up, windows down, music blaring to keep myself awake. When I wasn't doing that, she was visiting me. There was no time for weekend working -  a nice habit to get into.

2) Things Can Be Done More Efficiently - laziness will always tempt one to make shortcuts. The real skill is finding not shortcuts but the most direct routes. I learned that not everything needs laminating, not every wheel need reinventing and that, importantly, one can always spend more time on preparation, often unnecessarily and with no improved impact on learning.

3) Being Organised Makes All The Difference - as mentioned my mentor and year group partner was hyper-organised and, although she was a bit over the top (separate drawers for each day's resources, all prepared a week in advance and ready to go), I learned how this approach certainly led to a life of comparative ease. I could go away for my weekends knowing that on Monday morning, everything would be there and ready. It took me a while to become this organised independently but that first year was when I saw its importance.

4) Life Goes On After A Bad Observation - as mentioned I had a few not great observations which, after much more positive ones at uni (and the one that got me the job which convinced a panel who had already decided 'no men' that I was the man for the job), came as a bit of a surprise. I wanted to improve, of course I did, and even though I was prone to laziness its not like I did no work at all. Thankfully, for whatever reason, I was able to go easy on myself and didn't expect myself to be Outstanding right away. This paved the way for a pragmatic outlook on observations: if something goes wrong, it's just an opportunity to learn and improve. 

5) It's OK To Leave Work Before 5pm - perhaps I was working in a school where that was acceptable, although I'm sure sometimes it was frowned upon, but my lazy attitude meant that I didn't really care what others thought. If I couldn't think of anything that needed doing. Imminently then I wouldn't hang around. These days I often make tracks knowing that I'll set up shop again later at home - going early now means getting to spend time with my young family before bedtime.

6) Maintain Non-School Related Hobbies and Interests - in my NQT year I was not only in love with my future wife, I was also pretty in to rollerblading and many aspects of making music, particularly DJing. These were interests I shared with my best friend (who isn't a teacher) and we spent many a weekday evening pursuing these hobbies. With commitments like that that I wanted to keep I was motivated to keep evenings free of work too. Inspired by this, I recently took up rollerblading again and promised myself that I would allow myself regular mid-week skatepark visits - so far, so good.

7) Kids Can Actually Just Get On With Their Work - perhaps I shouldn't admit this, but sometimes in class I got quite bored of constantly sitting with a child or group of children. But because of this I soon realised that it was actually quite important for children to be able to work independently at times and that they didn't always need hand-holding. These days I often expect this independence of the children although I ensure that I'm not idle whilst they're working.

8) Strong Relationships With Colleagues Benefit Everyone - some of my time in school was spent socialising, especially in the morning before school began. I have this very morning spent time with two colleagues from my NQT year (now happily married) and it's good friendships like these that I think enabled us to work together so productively - we enjoyed it so much that the work didn't seem a drag at all. These friendships were also nurtured by many out-of-school social occasions. Although relationship dynamics in my current role as a leader are a little different, I believe there's a great deal of camaraderie (and banter) that, far from being a distraction, means our time spent working collaboratively is highly productive.

9) PPA Time Is A Time To Work Very Hard - I'm not claiming that my NQT year was easy (perhaps the worst moment was almost being stabbed by a pupil - I was not at my best when I arrived in Birmngham that day!) - I did work hard when it was needed. And waste a moment of PPA time I did not. That was the time to really knuckle down, work together and get stuff done; the motivation was of course knowing that the more that was done in school, the less I would have to do later - I also just knew I wouldn't be able to do it at the weekends. Even now, my team and I, in a friendly environment where we often will break out and chat about other things, get our heads down together and get the majority of the week's preparation done.

10) Being A Teacher Isn't A Competition - although I'm massively competitive with some things, as a lazy NQT I felt no inclination do outdo other teachers in any of the usual ways: amount of time spent at work, number of books taken home, inches of classroom wall covered and so on. Teaching was my job and I would do what I needed to do to keep it, not what was needed to score points against my colleagues or to martyr myself in the sight of others. It was also something to be enjoyed and I didn't need competition to be able to be fulfilled in my role.

I hope that these days I'm not seen as lazy and that I'm known as someone who works hard and gets stuff done. But I also hope that I'm seen to have a work/life balance and good levels of wellbeing. I know I'm far from perfect but if anything, I would like to be living proof that one can do a good job without breaking oneself. And whilst many of my (what I like to think of as) efficient ways may be born of initial laziness, I no longer consider myself as a lazy person - just someone who has learned from the upsides of having once been one.

And then, after writing all of this, I begin to doubt myself and worry about how it does look to others. But teaching does that to you - have to ignore the constant feelings of guilt...


Thursday, 4 May 2017

Year 6 Teachers, You've Got This! Your 5-Step Game Plan for SATs Week 2017


The latest in my series of blog posts for Third Space Learning focuses on SATs week itself. The focus is on teacher and pupil wellbeing and provides 5 steps to take to ensure year 6 teachers and pupils aren't too frazzled by the end of it.

So, the time has come. SATs week 2017 is upon us. On Monday morning, after months (hopefully years) of preparation, the nation's Year 6 children will sit down to the first of 2017's Key Stage 2 National Assessments.

Year 6 teachers across the land will be pacing halls and classrooms, catching glimpses of questions and hoping beyond hope that the primary school children in their classes will do their very best.

And I assume you're probably one of those teachers, or a supportive Head or SLT member.

You'll be feeling a heady mix of excitement and nervousness while anticipating the children’s chance to show off all they've learned. You might also be wondering what on earth the test-writers have come up with this time.

Click here to read on over at the Third Space Learning blog: http://thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/year-6-teachers-you-ve-got-this-your-5-step-game-plan-for-2017-ks2-sats