Pedagoo Hampshire 2016


Rachel Britt and Amy Harvey are sharing a workshop session next Saturday. Do join us 🙂
Title: ‘What if the Hokey Cokey IS what it’s all about?’
Rachel Britt @feliz77 is a secondary teacher of MFL who enjoys experimenting with creative ideas in the classroom particularly with BYOD.

She says: I will share how just one key question from an amazing individual has inspired me to step outside my comfort zone both personally and professionally over the past year. I will share some of the challenges I have set myself and my classes linked to the 5 #teacher5aday areas of #connect #exercise #learn #notice and #volunteer and how they have had a really positive impact.

Amy Harvey, @ms_jamdangory, is a primary school deputy head and KS2 teacher. She too loves trying new ideas, and falling back on the old favourites.

She says: Having taught for nearly 20 years in various places around the world, I am settled in my first deputy head role in rural Norfolk. I have a busy life juggling three children single-handedly, my job and my NPQH coursework, and have come to the conclusion that I am not the person to reinvent the wheel. This session is to share some useful sites, apps and tips that make my day to day work/life balance, well, more balanced.

Joining forces for this Pedagoo workshop, having never met before, Rachel and Amy are hoping at least one person will come and join them, though at least we have each other to share with! An opportunity too to share across primary and secondary!

They hope you can put some ideas ‘in’, take some new ideas ‘out’ and use them to ‘shake [your teaching] all about’!

Finding the balance

I have completed my first week as deputy. Phew! 

It was a particularly busy week as there were extra meetings with governors  to sort out interview questions for the headteacher interviews and a very long staff meeting (apparently normal!) 

Added to this my own class, getting to know them has been vital for me this week. I have actually rewritten my timetable five times, five!! But I think I’m getting there.  I have a feel for the kids’ needs, there are lots, and how we can run our week smoothly. My teaching assistants have been incredibly supportive and I feel like we have a little team already!

I have helped solve a communication problem between teachers and midday supervisors, for which I was thanked by one of the MSAs which touched me deeply. I have booked in performance management for the TAs this week, this will give me a chance to get to know them better. I have been described as ‘really strict’ by an older class who found it difficult to walk sensibly from assembly. Oh well.

I have provided chocolate.

Obviously my week involved much much more than this, the introductions of new behaviour systems (class dojo) in my class, talking about growth mindset with the idea of FAILing being positive and teaching the children about peer critique and feedback using Austin’s butterfly as an example, then having the pupils create astonishingly good stamps of the queen for her 90th birthday. 

I have returned home each night to my three sons who have sorted themselves out, got on with homework, washing, cooking whatever and I have felt both blessed and exhausted. They have been incredible with their support of me, and now they’ve seen that I am out of the door almost as they wake and back pretty late, they know we need to be a team. My vow is to make it home early at least once a week, I owe them that.

So Friday night’s glass (or two) of Prosecco was needed and earned I felt, giving me a slight fuzz on Saturday as I began working my way through my list of jobs.Then the familiar thump of post landing on the doormat was heard. A parcel? Inside, this –  

 
I am thrilled and honoured to receive this signed copy from Mary. She is someone I truly admire and turn to with my leadership questions. Receiving the book gave me a jolt to get a wriggle on so that I could delve into the pages. Unlike John Thomsett, I haven’t quite been able to read it in one sitting but:

It would be doable to read in one go, it’s immensely readable, with short chapters that engage you with examples of real practice.

The theme of high challenge, low threat is explained from many angles. The focus is always on how leaders can represent this in human ways, but with rigour. ‘It is important that it is one big thing at a time, that we are prepared to go in deep to discover the gems, sifting out from the coal dust and irrelevance to distil this element of improvement.’

Mary talks from the heart, she is herself, I can hear her. The word human crops up again and again. Leaders who put human before professional, who distinguish the work from the human, they can create a ‘bank balance of goodwill..which can be..drawn on for tough conversations.’

Change is a constant in my life and the life of my new school, where we are appointing a new head for September. I know how important change management is and Mary has a chapter devoted to it. ‘Effective leaders are comfortable with the uncertainty of change.’ She talks about how good leaders distil the key elements of change to make it work in their setting, particularly recent curriculum changes. ‘Fewer things in greater depth’ is a mantra of Mary’s and one that if considered makes changes transition smoothly. ‘There is a paradox in going slow in order to achieve more.’ But whether in terms of curriculum or any other aspect of change, allowing change to happen little by little with everyone on board allows it to become embedded and natural practise.

Throughout the book there are tips and examples that are already working their way into my psyche. There are moments for me where I have thought, yes, I do that, I think! And there are post it tabs running the length of the pages for me to refer back to. I could keep reviewing all the way through but I just don’t have time and need to crack on with my NPQH project. So buy the book yourself, if you are a leader, aspiring leader or even at the beginning of your career, there is something in there for everyone. And I am not lending mine out!

Thank you Mary for timing my parcel just right so I could sit back and reflect this week.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

‘And now the end is near, and so I face my final curtain. My friend, I’ll say it clear, I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve travelled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.’

There really are no other lyrics that can express my feelings as I approach the last two days at my school. And yes, I am not facing my actual ‘final curtain’ even though two people have told me this week that I’ve had a good life (!), however, it is quite the end of an era for me.

I joined my current school just over 9 years ago, with my older two children having started in the September in years R and 1 and my youngest having just turned one. My husband at the time was the deputy head. It was quite a family affair.

I lived on little sleep in those first few months, as my baby woke early, very early and I worked late into the night, trying to be the best teacher I could be, as well as the best Mum I could be.

In that first year I met one of my closest friends, who was my TA. She has been a rock for me, and I for her and we are bound by an unspoken devotion to our friendship now and forever. We had a great class, and I had the opportunity to direct an amazing production of Joseph with the KS2 kids and the Year 6 teacher. She and I bashed heads occasionally, but over the years have developed a strong affection for each other made deeper by our respect for each other’s hard work.

In my second year I became SENCO, a role that I loved and respected. I developed amazingly strong relationships with the children and parents in that special group and learnt from them every day. I met other amazing SENCOs in the area and developed my understanding of the role as I did it. I like to hope I was pretty good at it, and made every opportunity to get the importance of how we include children with special needs in our classrooms out to anyone who would listen, finding ways of using iPads and other technologies to support them when all of this was new to primary schools in our area. This was a sad year as my TA lost her mother to that most horrid of diseases, pancreatic cancer, it drew us closer but it was a desperately sad time for her and her family.

In third year I was fortunate enough to gain another TA who has also become an extremely close friend, a bedrock of support and love to me. We had a great year culminating in our ‘premiere performance’ on Teachers’ TV – what a laugh we had!

Then I was asked to move up to Year 6, I begged my TA to come with me, a bit apprehensive about the Maths to be honest, I didn’t want to let them down. Actually, I think it made me a much better teacher and I met one of my classes again. OK so we didn’t get the great SATs results from years gone by, but they kicked-ass in every sporting event they took part in, and even now I hear from their parents what a great team we were.

The end of this, first year in Year 6 brought devastation to my life. I discovered some horrible truths in my marriage and decided to leave. My friends and family rallied round, two letting me stay at different points while I sorted my life out.
I cried all the time, in class, in the loos, in the staffroom. I still had to work with my now ex-husband, and it was hard. It was hard not seeing my children every night. It was especially hard at weekends and I rotated the people I rang to sob down the phone too so they wouldn’t get fed up of me. I put everything into my job and my kids, those same kids and TA who had been on Teachers’ TV were now back with me in Year 6. We became the ‘Dream Team’. We rocked. They were with me, and somehow knew when to be gentle and when to be strong. I let them down, many times, but they were my sanity. Girls

Time heals. It does. And though the next few years were hard, I became stronger and got myself out there. I spread my professional wings on Twitter and took risks, going out to meet people I had only chatted to ‘virtually’, driving in the dark November night in the middle of Dorking forest to spend the weekend with a bunch of people I had never met, with no phone signal – crazy? yup, but leading me to realise the world of teachers, as passionate as me was out there.

Since then my teaching has improved, my creativity has soared and my opportunities have multiplied. I have had the chance to write in a published book, organise two teach-meets, a weekend for SLT, speak at a Womened event and this weekend be involved in the organisation of one of the most talked-about events so far this year. As well as getting to know some of the most fascinating and inspirational people in British education today.

And all the time my school and the people in it have supported me. Let me push through madcap ideas. Told me when to hold back and when to fly. My friends are my colleagues and now I am heading for pastures new.

It has been a few years in the pipeline and I have tried before and failed, but just as we say to the kids, keep going, the time will come, you will ace it one day soon, I did. And now I have found a school whose head and governors see in me perhaps a glimmer of what my current school do. I have something to offer, and I do like to share!

So with just two days left how do I feel? Emotional, drained, sad, lost, and a tiny bit happy. I am ready for this new venture, but I wouldn’t have been without some extremely special people in my life. Thank you, you know who you are. You have been with me through highs and lows, thick and thin, ups and downs. You will always have me as a devoted friend, any time, any place. So when you need me, just call. This is for you. Love you loads x Lean on Me

Thinking differently

  Home after a pretty amazing day yesterday, the culmination of months of planning, it is time to quietly reflect on yesterday’s TedXNorwichEd event.

Seven months ago I was asked to join one man in his crazy idea to put on an independent TedX event. Sarah and I, probably just as bonkers, said yes, why not, let’s just do it. A big fan of Ted.com, I wasn’t that familiar with TedX events, but a little research and I knew, if we could pull it off, it was going to be an amazing day for educators in East Anglia and all over the country.

Our premise was to get people to think differently about education. We invited people, anyone, to apply to speak and had nearly 50 applications. It was a tough call to narrow it down to 25, which may even have been too many, but at least we know we have a bank of interested speakers for next time. The organisation of deadlines, rules and communication was key to our success and the man behind the plan really was quite incredible in the hours of time he put in. By Christmas we had our speakers. It was real.

We needed partners, this was tough, but in the end we managed to just do it. Huge thanks to all the partners, in particular Eos and ATL without whom there really would not have been an event.

A million direct Twitter messages, tens of thousands of emails, a hundred hangouts, and a few face to face meets, and we had it all together. The day loomed. 

Friday night had the amazing volunteers reshaping the big auditorium into a cabaret style venue. Astonishing what a few tablecloths can do to lift a place. Goody bags filled in a conveyor belt fashion. Balloons pumped, carpets vacuumed. The volunteers worked their socks off all evening to bring our dream to life, and made the event run so smoothly on the day.

As the speakers started to arrive, apprehension and nerves etched on their faces, we realised there was nothing more we could really do, it was time to let the event do the talking. 

The talks ran all day, interspersed with a little poetry and a dance (performed brilliantly by Sarah’s daughter, Nadia’s who even got teach Jon Briggs a little move!) delicious food from the social enterprise The Feed, based in Norwich. Jon Briggs, voice of Siri, kindly hosted the day, and boy was he good, his skill of connecting everything together with warmth and humour is outstanding, and I believe he really enjoyed his time with us.

We were trending throughout the day, up there with the cricket and another brilliant ed event #primaryrocks. And the talks were praised, debated, deplored and celebrated. They are still being debated now, as I type. This was never supposed to be event for everyone to pat themselves on the back at how great we are. It was intended to provoke, spark debate, make people think differently. And now via yammer and Twitter the conversation and debate will continue.

I was incredibly impressed with all of the talks, the speakers worked so hard to encapsulate the ideas they felt were worth sharing into their very strict time frame, that takes time, preparation and dedication.

I am extremely proud to have been part of this event, and the work we all put in as a team. Thanks must go to the amazing volunteers, the venue, the caterers, the partners, the photographer and video recorders, the sketcher, the brilliant host, the inspirational speakers and of course the rest of our little organising team, three of whom have been holding down full-time SLT teaching roles whilst doing it.  

 

  

The aliens have landed.

Or more realistically, were dug up!

Half term Friday was spent digging a ‘spaceship’ into our school building site, testing out sounds and interviewing builders in preparation for our STEAM week.

Some time before Christmas, the new Science co-ordinator and I put our heads together to come up with a way of focusing on the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) subjects at our school. The spaceship crash has been done successfully in other schools before so we decided to go with this tried and tested story for our first attempt.

As our school is having a massive new build done, we thought we would enlist the help of our friendly builders. They agreed to open up a section of the digging for us to place the ‘spaceship’ in and even agreed to be filmed, having unearthed this craft during their excavations. How awesome! The fabulous DJ from our local radio station organised a podcast of a fake news report for us to play in the Monday morning as the kids came into school. A friendly, local am dram actor came in as the scientist for our assembly and explained to the kids what had happened, showed the interview (with BBC logo!) with the builder, Giovanni Fink (brilliantly, his real name!)  And the week had started!

We had planned the week very carefully, with each teacher taking one aspect of STEAM to lead their sessions. The children were divided into 9 groups, mixed from Reception to Year 6, all with a TA attached. Each teacher would teach three groups three times, developing their sessions to a final exhibition at the end of the week.

The children bought into the whole week brilliantly, the lessons were exciting and from circuits to costumes, from sweets to rocket launching, from music to creating traps there was constant learning going on, including for the staff. 

The SMSC this week provided was as important as any STEAM learning, the patience and kindness of the older ones, the co-operation of those in the middle years, and the focus of the younger children all came to the fore. It was an astonishing display of human spirit.

For me, the discussion and the writing of my little year ones, was remarkable. Children who were barely writing a sentences were filling pages with their experiences through daily diary writing.

All the staff saw the benefits of the week, and although it would be impossible to bring that surprise wow factor too often, I  do think working in vertical groups once a term on art projects, drama days, maths days etc is a must and not difficult to organise!

Needless to see, the aliens had their spaceship fixed and have safely got on their way. 

    
  Parents loved it too!!

 

#Nurture15/16

  
There it goes, 2015. Time certainly flies. Having looked back at my #nurture14/15 I see growth and change, as it should be. I didn’t get the headship that I interviewed for almost a year ago, but it was a worthwhile experience which led me to apply for NPQH and get on the next cohort. I organised the second TeachMeetWestNorfolk, which was a great success one sunny day in July, I do appreciate these amazing teachers who give up their weekends for their own professional development.

In late August I was approached to help organise a TedX event in Norwich. This is coming to fruition in March and I am both honoured and excited to be a part of it. 

I have started eating clean and doing more exercise, results yet to be where I want them but half a stone and 15 inches down with added biceps is a good start!

I got back into something I love with two of my favourite people (two of my three boys) – theatre. My youngest played the part of Pugsley (quite biasedly he was magnificent) and my eldest and I had fun being dead ancestors in the chorus of the Addams family.  I am looking forward to my eldest playing the part of Javert (Russell Crowe) in Les Mis in April.

 2015 was very tough for personal reasons but things have improved for my family and I feel blessed we are all healthy.

So to 2016:

1) be a better, calmer person, especially at home where the stresses of the day seem to emerge. Recognise that being a mum of three boys between 10-15 has its challenges and that is normal and I’m doing an ok job, because they are the lights of my life and are pretty amazing young men actually.

2) enjoy the extra things I choose to do. Especially the TedX event, which I believe is going to me awesome.

3) feel fitter and stronger and healthier by having more willpower to do what I know is right for the health of me and for my children. Stick to it and love the changes. I know I can.

4) accept that some inevitable changes are the right ones and long term will make me a better person.

5) kick the ass out of my studying and read, read, read. One day it will make me a great head. I believe that.

Looking forward to a happy 2016 and wish everyone who reads this a blessed and happy new year too.

A dame and an inspector 

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a conference led by Dame Alison Peacock and Mary Myatt, two highly respected educationalists. I had eyed up this day back in June and not only persuaded my Head to let me attend, but also to come along himself with the deputy. Firstly I am so pleased they did, I think sharing these experiences with the SLT team helps you forge ahead as a team. It was a beautiful setting, at Sprowston Manor, and it was full of Norfolk’s finest, including some talent pool colleagues of mine from a couple of years ago, so sharing what we have all experienced was good too.

Dame Alison led the two morning sessions, sharing with us the values and visions of her now well-renown school in Wroxham. The back story of her evacuee-father tasting mushrooms for the first time that he had picked himself with his ‘foster’ family, and his reminiscing of that throughout her life, gave some insight into how experiences people have as children impact their lives, have led her to develop this solid and frankly, sensible vision. ‘Offer opportunities, keep the door open.’

The core principles they live by are – Trust, Co-agency and Inclusion. It seems so obvious, and actually much of what she spoke of rang true to my colleagues and me, affirming the stuff we do ourselves. But the passion with which she spoke reignited the whole room. The children that we watched from Wroxham, warmed our souls and inspired us to put dialogue back in the driving seat of learning. 

Growth mindset was discussed, including her recent Radio 4 appearance with the queen of Gm, Carol Dweck. GM has become the most recent popular thing to do in schools, it feels a bit like thinking hats or some other ‘trendy teaching tool’. Sadly there seem to be many out there who think whacking a GM display up will help children develop a mindset of ‘not yet’ and ‘what if’, but like anything it needs to be taught, entrusted and shared by excellent communication between the children and the staff, and as Dame Alison pointed out, totally modelled by the staff. We need the children to see that we can all become better learners. ‘Every child is on a trajectory to learn’ at Wroxham, and I think this should say, every person! Interestingly during the day I had two conversations that made me think of GM in staff. One was with a head who clearly believed everything they do is perfect, hmm fixed mindset I thought to myself, then I thought – don’t think I’d like to work with you! The other was a head who talked about her staff who she was struggling with because they believe what they do is excellent, no matter how many ways she, the head, tries to tell them other routes might be better, this time I did not envy her difficult conversations!

Dame Alison and her colleagues challenge themselves all the time by giving children genuine choice. The ideas and anecdotes were funny, heart-warming and inspiring to watch. It made us think about our own settings and what our children would say if videoed in similar circumstances. It made me think of the importance of the assessment discussions we use at my school for foundation subjects, and how my role as curriculum leader is to make sure the staff using them are asking the right kind of questions to inspire the children to be really open about their learning. Another point on my to-do list. But as a team on the way home, we also thought about the fact that we don’t need to mimic what Wroxham do, we do great stuff, we just need to look deeper into it. Our school has its own unique qualities and we can celebrate them as well as learning from others. I had been thinking about my class and how I want to develop the Fail/Sail approach with them, and how wonderful Austen’s butterfly by Ron Berger has been as a inspiration for my classes in the past, and Dame Alison and later, Mary Myatt both made me revisit that. One of the Wroxham school videos had a Year 1 child say, ‘I might need a low challenge so I can discover it a bit more.’ That is absolutely the core of what I want my children to believe in their learning with me.

All this linked purposefully with the assessment commission report she didn’t share with us, because she couldn’t. But the heart of the report is positive, a full breadth of curriculum that needs to be well-taught. The children should be thinking, ‘what if, what about this, what next’ and reflect alongside the teachers in a deep and meaningful way that embeds the learning. Yes! This is the positivity of the new curriculum, and I wish people would see it and stop worrying so much about crow-barring an hour of this and that into a timetable every week, as Dame Alison said, ‘seize the opportunity to do something different.’

The wonderful and inspiring Mary Myatt gave us a great follow up to the morning’s work, linking in with much of what had been said about modelling and talking, alongside accountability for the new national curriculum  and the updated Ofsted framework. ‘Discourage the pursuit of outstanding, consistently good practice leads to outstanding over time.’ A visit from the inspectors should not be a tick box exercise, but an affirmation of the quality of the information we can share with them. As teachers we should ‘honour the child’ Mary said. ‘I love her,’ I whispered to my colleagues. What difference do we make to a child’s life? It’s not all about graphs and numbers, data is in so many formats and pupil and parent voice is hugely significant. ‘Values must be interpreted in the way we live them out.’ And you only need to speak to a child about their experiences to understand the values inherent in your school. Marking is not necessary on every piece of work, she said. We know this, we, in our school, spend valuable time on marking to provide feedback so the children can reflect and improve during DIRT time. I did hear a head whisper near me, ‘no, every piece of work needs a tick at least.’ And do you know what, I guess everyone is entitled to their own policy and beliefs, if it works for you. I hope they’re bearing in mind workload for their staff though!

I took many ideas away from the day, pupil led report writing, some new ideas for how we might set up our next step targets, areas I would like to lead on in staff meetings. The huge importance of professional development for teachers – this but gave me a buzz because Mary mentioned the cpd stuff I have been doing personally. I’m delighted that I have introduced mini TeachMeets in staff meetings, a staff book club about educational work, and lesson study type observations to develop staff dialogue, as well as local TeachMeets and hopefully something new and exciting in Norfolk next year, which I will share when it is confirmed! 

Sheli Blackburn has also blogged about her experience of the day here so enjoy hers, and for more information on Mary’s work and some brilliant SMSC resources look here. For a good look at Wroxham’s work and some of their brilliant videos look here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, please feel free to comment.