Category Archives: Continuous Professional Development

You’re Not Alone

If I had to summarise my book, How to Survive in Teaching Without Imploding, Exploding or Walking Away, it would be with these three words: “you’re not alone”. Whether you’re nearing retirement after three or more decades or are a few years in and ready for a change of context; whether you’re a leader working to balance teaching with leadership or a parent negotiating the tricky landscape of parenting and teaching: you’re not alone.

Representing the voices of almost 4,000 teachers, trainees, former teachers and educational professionals, How to Survive provided both a comfort blanket and a source of nightmares during my year of writing. From it, I can promise that you’re not alone if you have:

  • Collapsed into giggles at the umpteenth filthy Shakespeare joke and been openly disapproved of by teenagers.
  • Sobbed in the store cupboard after your showcase lesson went to pot.
  • Spent ten extra minutes in a toilet cubicle during the school day just to enjoy some SILENCE.
  • Walked away from the job but never for a moment stopped loving working with children in the classroom.
  • Been surprised to the point of tears by a touching goodbye card from a student whose life you never imagined you’d touch.
  • Evacuated the classroom due to an unwelcome rodent visitor.
  • Evacuated the classroom due to toxic flatulence from a student.
  • Progressed from wild excitement at being offered a job to crippling depression when it wasn’t what you’d hoped it would be.
  • Taken five years out of teaching and decided to give it another go – and love it now.
  • Thrown caution to the wind and sung and danced in appalling glory on the school stage.
  • Just reached your half-century and want to give teaching a go for the first time.
  • Used the words: ‘I see more of you than my own family!’ to your students in exasperation and exhaustion.
  • Mourned as a community the death of a student or former student.
  • Been turned down for an interview for a job you knew and felt was yours, and your professional purpose twisted on its axis.
  • Then stood up and brushed yourself off and embraced new teaching opportunities.
  • Taken students outside London and watched them swim in the sea for the first time.
  • Hugged a teacher at the news they’re pregnant and hugged another after the loss of their baby… in the same week.
  • Never got tired of ‘Vater’ and ‘Grossvater’.
  • Trailed toilet paper along the corridor; worn your dress inside out; pulled out a tampon instead of a board pen; overslept and driven at law-breaking speeds; set yourself alight; hurled yourself into the middle of a fight; forgotten to check the French film before showing it to Year 9…

You’re definitely not alone in these.

You’re also not alone in the following situations either. But they can make teaching feel like the loneliest job in the world:

  • If you’ve been forced to enact policies and procedures which defy your very reason for being in the job.
  • If you’ve lost weight dramatically or turned to anti-depressants and alcohol.
  • If you’ve broken down, physically and emotionally and had to step away for weeks or months at a time.
  • If you’ve been handed a cardboard box, signed a document which says you’ll never discuss what’s happened, and left your school forever in the middle of a working week – without a chance to say goodbye.
  • If you’ve sobbed in front of a class because you just can’t cope.
  • If, after 20 years service, you’ve been told you’re being made redundant and that the pay you’ll get is dependent on you keeping silent about the process.
  • If your family and friends tell you you’ve lost your passion for the job (and indeed life), and you’re too stubborn to admit it.
  • If you’re suspended from work for weeks at a time after an allegation from a student that nobody will discuss with you.
  • If you’ve been forced to go through a miscarriage at work because your boss refused you time off.
  • If you’ve lost your Mum and the only call you get from school is from HR to check you’re off work for valid reasons.

Our job can feel like the best job in the world. It can also feel like the worst.

Four more words? “There is always hope.” So many of the teachers who were kind and generous and brave enough to share their stories are now flourishing. Some have walked away for reasons that are entirely valid and make me steam with fury. Others have stayed on and excelled. Others still have changed schools. I can tell you from my own experience that changing context can feel a lot like a change of career.

I’m proud to call myself a writer, but I’m even prouder to call myself a teacher. I’m still teaching full time. I’m still experiencing the giggles and the moments of blind stress and the exhaustion that has me sleeping like a teenager at weekends. I’m walking (or stumbling, or racing) the walk with the rest of us. And it’s worth every moment.

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Above all of those, I’m a wife and a mother, and I want the best teachers for my own children. If you’re considering teaching and you love working with young people and are prepared for a steep learning curve, go for it! If you’ve left and are considering coming back, trust me when I say there are good places and good people out there.

If young people represent one thing, it is fresh starts, optimism and determination. And hope. Where there are children, there is hope.

 

Dr Emma Kell’s book How to Survive in Teaching is out now! Follow Emma on Twitter: @thosethatcan.

 

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Top Tips for Living Well and Teaching Well

I’m an English teacher and, put simply, I believe I have the best job in the world. I cannot believe I get paid for what I do. Does that mean the job is easy? Of course not.

I began working in schools in 2009; I’ve been teaching for 8 years. I’ve worked in 3 very different schools and in that time have held many different roles: teaching assistant; behaviour manager; teacher of English; teacher of law, second in English; head of house; lead practitioner; extended SLT, and I’m currently Director of Learning, English at a state school in London. Through experience I can tell you that all of these roles present their own challenges yet provide wonderful job satisfaction. One thing they all have in common is that your job is never done; there will always be something else to do, and if you let it, it can quite easily take all of your time. And I used to let them do just that. I would regularly clock up 65 hours of work a week. Obviously, this wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle so I decided to make some changes which I think may be of use to others.

Prevent work emails coming through your phone. This one decision helped enormously. It meant that I wasn’t tempted to contact colleagues, or worse still, parents, in the evenings. Your working hours should be the only time when emails are being read and sent. I’m happy to report this is now the case for me.

Leave your work at work. I very rarely work at home. Instead, I prepare my working week at work. It means that the minute I leave the school gates, I am free to spend my time as I wish.

Have a mini-weekend. The aim with this is to leave work as early as possible once a week and spend your time doing something you love: go out for dinner, exercise, go to the theatre. Whatever it is you enjoy doing, just do it. You’ll feel refreshed the next day for it.

Prepare your weekly lunches. This has had a huge impact on my diet. I eat so much healthier than I ever have and it doesn’t take long to prepare it all.

Say no if you want to. This is a tough one, but it’s important to realise that if you want to feel like you are doing a job well, you can’t take on everything at once. If you feel like more and more work is being added to your main role, ask if something can be taken away before you accept another task. Take control of your workload and be okay with saying no.

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Make light work of planning. Reuse old lessons. Tweak what you can. Yes, there may have been lots of changes recently, but there’s no need to start from scratch. Work collaboratively with colleagues. Share what you can. There are so many online sharing drives out there; I am indebted to the likes of Freya O’Dell (@fod3) and the #TeamEnglish community who regularly share their resources. I’m still not brave enough to share my own resources, but I’m building up to it!

If you haven’t already done so, stop the madness that is marking. Challenge school leaders who are insisting on a marking policy that has little impact on student progress yet significantly impacts teacher time. Use live marking/feedback. Share whole class feedback. Have mocks externally marked (I’m planning this one for next year).

I’m currently working in a school that considers the wellbeing of its staff important and I’ve never been happier as a teacher. That’s partly due to the wonderful staff and students I work with but also down to an understanding on my part that, as much as I love it, it’s just a job. I go home happy to have made a difference however big or small, but know that there is a life outside of the school gates that is also pretty awesome. And because of that, I’m a better teacher than I’ve ever been.

If you’re struggling with your own workload, maybe it’s time to reflect on what you could change to make things better? It’s worth noting that if it’s the school that’s making you unhappy, leave. Not all schools are the same. Great schools do exist. I work at one.

These are just a few of my tips aimed at making teaching a truly sustainable profession. For more help and guidance, Live Well, Teach Well has over 90 practical ideas to help you maintain a healthy work-life balance and stay positive and focused throughout the school year.

 

Abbie Mann’s debut book is out now!

 

The Liberation of Learning

We all have a view about what education should be like – and we know what it looks like in reality. In the currently dominant model of education, the focus is on learning prescribed syllabus content, determined by what can be easily assessed by written examination, namely, factual recall, divorced from much consideration of relevance or interest and driven by a remorseless concern for successful examination results. The watchwords of traditional education are rigour, knowledge, examined assessment and opposition to student control over the learning process.

This is, of course, not the only way to think about education. By way of contrast, the educational progressive favours independent learning, arguing with Dewey that the centre of gravity must be nearer the child: their interests, concerns and questions matter when we are determining what is to be learned. Progressivism draws on simple but often neglected insights into the learning process, such that students learn better if they are interested in what they are studying, are able to make significant choices about the learning process and the form in which they exhibit their knowledge, and have time to develop a deep understanding rather than simply memorising facts for short term recall.

Progressive education embraces the realms of the unknown, the imaginative, the evaluative and the creative. Learning is connected much more directly to life itself. It is an active process of inquiry and exploration, involving the individual construction of meaning within the domains of study. Skillful exploration of such domains is often not susceptible to assessment by means of a written examination, not least because the choice of question lies with the student. It can however be assessed, and rigorously so, by means of extended projects, a form of assessment which is for many purposes more valid than an examination, not least because students have many skills other than those which lead to success in short, sharp written tests.

Amongst these polarized views of education, where should we stand? For some years now, I have believed that we need a new movement of educational liberation. The processes of teaching and learning have been shackled by an approach which values only what can be measured and which sees only examinations as a valid form of assessment. Education, which should be about the examination of life, is reduced to a life of examination. As for teaching, since the goal is to succeed in the next round of tests, the dominant method is that of direct instruction. ‘Tell us what we need to know’, the student insists, taking for granted that the ‘need to know’ is determined by what is on the test, and that the best way of learning is for the teacher to provide the ‘right answers’ (meaning, once again, those to be written in the exam).

The effect of this process of the reduction of education to test preparation is to lock education into a matrix which is stifling, uninspiring, ineffectual (much of what is learned for tests is thereafter forgotten), psychologically damaging, pedagogically shallow, economically misguided (for the workplace needs creative critical thinkers, not well-trained sheep) and destructive of the roots of liberal democracy.

Despite the ubiquity of this scheme, it is not difficult to describe a better alternative, and some of us have dedicated much of our professional lives to building it. My book, Bloomsbury CPD Library: Independent Learning, offers a practical guide to independent learning, representing the fruits of a quest to find a new way ahead, whilst recognising the inevitable need, as things stand, to work within a framework where a traditional conception of the curriculum remains dominant.

What is manifestly the case is that we need more radical measures to find a way ahead and to give progressive educational methods space to feed into the educational mix. In my book, I review some of the research evidence which shows clearly that the best education combines the core insight of a traditional approach (some things need to be taught directly) with the insight of progressivism (deep learning begins with the learner’s own questions). We need what I would call ‘directed independence’: a process in which we teach students the skills and knowledge they need in order to be able to go on to learn for themselves.

This approach requires space and time for open discussion and debate in the classroom and for students to be able to work on extended projects of their own choosing. In my experience, and the experience of many teachers, it is when we give students freedom to choose and think for themselves, within a carefully structured learning environment, that they do their very best work. Currently, though, this type of rich, deep learning is confined to small pockets and the margins of the syllabus. It should be at the heart.

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Dr John Taylor is Assistant Head (Director of Learning, Teaching and Innovation) at Cranleigh School and is responsible for the development of independent learning across the three schools in the Cranleigh Foundation.

Bloomsbury CPD Library: Independent Learning is out now.

 

June O’Sullivan’s Top Tips for Successful Leadership

Honesty and Integrity…Confidence…Inspiration…Commitment…Passion… Communication…Decision Making Capabilities… Accountability… Delegation and Empowerment…Vision…Courage…Passion…Emotional Intelligence… Resilience… Persuasion…Curiosity…

Leadership is constantly in the news. Mostly for the wrong reasons as we see example after example of weak leadership. Weak leadership is dangerous; it causes businesses to fail, organisations to collapse and for those working with children— especially poor children— it leads to failing education standards. But hey, it’s easy to criticize from the safety of an armchair. The reality is that leadership’s tough.

I have enduring admiration for good leaders, that’s because I spend my entire working hours trying to be one. Like most leaders, I have a lasting vision.  Mine was to create the best social enterprise childcare model where all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, could thrive and succeed. I think it’s wrong that children from poorer families can’t easily access great childcare, especially when so much research demonstrates the correlation between good leadership in nurseries and schools and good outcomes for children.

Of course, a leader with a vision needs a team of people to support that vision. Great leaders make great nurseries and I am blessed with a team of staff and nursery managers who similarly believe in providing the best childcare. They want to make a difference and do something great every day, which is a continual challenge.

Let’s look at a day in the life of a nursery manager. Wake up to a text from two staff from the early shift telling you they both have diarrhoea and vomiting. Rush to the nursery so you can recruit an agency staff member to remain in ratio. Redeploy the team so that babies are not disrupted by the change of staff. At 8am, busy working parents arrive. One mum’s upset because of a difficulty at home and wants to talk, another has an issue with the fees. A child slips up and hurts his head. Two staff members need to reflect on their attitude to each other. The student tells you that her tutor has announced she is visiting later and she forgot to tell you. This is all before you’ve had a cup of tea.

You end the day with a staff meeting where you want to help the team reflect on the quality of their teaching. You’ve been observing and think they could differentiate and extend more. You’re keen to develop a new piece of action research because you want to measure the benefit of playing music during the day.

How do you manage all this with calm and confidence? I designed a model that summaries all the areas Early Years leaders need to be able to juggle.  It’s quite an ask given that nursery managers are often undervalued and their abilities underrated by the public.

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Most leaders are not superheroes, just ordinary people doing extraordinary things because of their great commitment. High management goes hand-in-hand with tremendous responsibility and power which needs to be respected and wielded with care and thoughtfulness. Good leaders buzz with emotional intelligence; they can read people in order to respond with sensitivity and humanity. They care about their staff, which includes having those frank conversations to pull staff into line. Performance management can be considered negative but it’s the framework that gives staff members clarity and a manageable set of expectations that help them recognize, articulate and ultimately achieve their next step.

Leaders need to get things done. I love the completer finisher staff who like to see things through within that SMART target. It’s marvellous to see change occur, no matter how small, like a new display or a whole refresh of the baby room. The joy’s in the sharing, praising, celebrating and evaluating what has been achieved. Even if it’s a fish supper at the Staff Meeting. The progress should always be documented, whether it’s face-to-face with parents, posted on Facebook, written in a newsletter or uploaded to YouTube.

Here are my top ten traits of strong leadership (in no particular order):

  Strong Leadership Consequences of Weak Leadership
1 Visionary with a sense of purpose and ambition You are lost and out of your depth and the business will fail
2 Credible and knowledgeable (a pedagogical leader) Nobody respects you and you will lose in the marketplace
3 Committed and passionate, caring for the staff and purpose Staff will neither follow you nor show loyalty
4 Brave and risk-taking Cowardliness leads to an unwillingness to face problems and a lack of innovation
5 Curious; keen to learn and support others to learn Disinterested staff and poor retention and loyalty. Risks business profitability and success
6 Persuasive, challenging and motivating Unconvincing so staff won’t follow
7 Great communicator Risk of poor organisation culture and brand damage
8 Decisive Doddering about so lack of trust and direction
9 Humble and humane Arrogant and unpopular so no leeway when things go awry
10 Emotionally intelligent; understanding yourself and your motivations Detached and distant so performance and retention likely to be poor

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In my book Successful Leadership in the Early Years, I developed a  practical questionnaire to assess the quality of individual leadership. It might be worth having a look and completing it alone or with staff to review your leadership.

 

June O’Sullivan MBE is chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation and a regular media commentator. Her upcoming books 50 Fantastic Ideas for Nursery Gardens and 50 Fantastic Ideas for Engaging Dads will be out in July and September this year.

 

100 Ideas: Tutor Time

Molly Potter, author of 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Tutor Time, gives tips on how to make tutor time engaging and constructive:

Enduring Tutor Time

My own school memories of my tutors at secondary school left me with the impression that tutor time was just something the teachers had to endure. We shuffled in, the register was taken, messages were issued and then off we trundled to ‘real’ lessons.  Very, very occasionally something interesting happened like the time our tutor helped us understand and discuss a particularly tragic news story or the time we were asked to make a welcome poster for exchange students. Anything slightly out of the ordinary stuck with me – which shows there wasn’t a lot going on. Still, that was certainly a while ago now.

Ideas for activities and tackling issues 

The role and responsibilities of a form tutor varies considerably from school to school. However, the time slot for registration usually allows some space for an activity instigated by the tutor to make it that little bit more interesting and start the students’ day or week off well. That, in the main, is what my latest book provides form tutors with.

Aside from a few organisational tips on how to run the registration session (like ideas for giving out messages in an unusual but easy-for-you way) and some ideas to support you in a pastoral care role (like how to address persistent lateness), 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Tutor Time  provides form tutors with:

  • a variety of fun ‘community building’ activities, (an example is provided below)
  • suggests many issues you could discuss and how to cover them (e.g. teen issues, attitudes and values and media) and
  • has ideas for a variety of thinking, creative and general knowledge activities and challenges you could give students.

The book also usefully provides teachers with several engaging active learning techniques that could be used to open up discussion on a variety of topics. (An example of one of these techniques is also provided below).

The activities in the book generally require little or no preparation so efforts to spice up tutor time will be minimal on your part. So for negligible input, your students will hopefully start to look forward even more to your tutor time.

 

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Example of a community building activity

Negotiate

  • Ask every student in the class to think what their favourite flavour crisp is.
  • Ask students to find a partner and share this information with him or her.
  • Next, tell students that they need to decide which flavour they could both eat if they had to agree on just one flavour. For example – if one student chose cheese and onion and the other chose prawn cocktail, they need to agree which one of those flavours would be most palatable to both of them.
  • Having agreed the flavour, they need to join another pair of pupils to make a four, share their flavours and again agree on which flavour would be palatable to all of them.
  • Continue until the class is split into just two groups.

Finally see if the group can agree on one final flavour!

 

Example of an active learning technique

Four words

To use the four words technique:

  • Get students into groups of four and give each group two piece of scrap paper.
  • Give students the topic or question you wish them to discuss (see examples below) and ask them to write what they consider to be the four most important or significant things about this topic. This can rarely be done without a considerable amount of discussion.
  • Once the group has agreed upon the four things, ask pupils to duplicate their list.
  • Next, ask each group of four students to form two pairs and separate from the other pair they have just worked with and go and form a four with another pair. Each group will now have a list of potentially eight things that they believe are important about this issue.
  • Ask the newly formed groups to knock their current lists back down to four again. This creates further discussion- often with new ideas thrown into the pot.
  • Ask a spokesperson from each group to feedback their ‘answers’.

 

The kind of topics you could ask students to discuss include:

  • happiness
  • being attractive
  • friendship
  • Preventing bullying
  • Good parenting

 

What is a good career?

  • Preventing prejudice
  • Feeling good about yourself

How to survive your first 5 years of teaching

Ross Morrison McGill, aka @TeacherToolkit believes that becoming a teacher is one of the best decisions you will ever make, but after more than two decades in the classroom, he knows that it is not an easy journey!

Packed with countless anecdotes, from disastrous observations to marking in the broom cupboard, TE@CHER TOOLKIT is a compendium of teaching strategies and advice, which aims to motivate, comfort, amuse and above all reduce the workload of a new teacher.

The Vitruvian teacher is RESILIENT, INTELLIGENT, INNOVATIVE, COLLABORATIVE and ASPIRATIONAL. Start working towards VITRUVIAN today!

Check out an extract from TE@CHER TOOLKIT by clicking the link below and join the conversation! #VitruvianTeaching

READ EXTRACT FROM TE@CHER TOOLKIT

9781472910844 Teacher Toolkit

Attending and presenting at Bloomsbury TeachMeet – 14th April 2016

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Alongside Twitter, TeachMeets have become the most important development in CPD for teachers so far in the 21st century. I have been to a number of these events and found them always great fun providing a brilliant platform to meet educators and to share ideas which can be applied almost immediately in lessons. Bloomsbury Publishers held their first TeachMeet and I was more than happy to attend and support the event with a 5 minute presentation called Active Revision Strategies – Quick Wins for Maximum Progress. Much of this was taken from my book 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers – Revision with the aim of sharing some effective ideas which could be applied in lessons immediately and with limited preparation. Although, I most definitely over prepared for this (having a few more ideas in the back pocket) I thoroughly enjoyed giving the presentation in such a positive atmosphere.

I found…

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Launching our new CPD Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources and more information can be found on the series website.

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