Category Archives: Secondary

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.

 

What Kids are Reading and Why we Commissioned the High/Low Series by Hannah Rolls (Commissioning Editor for Fiction & Poetry at Bloomsbury Education)

I’m always interested to hear more about what books children are reading so I was excited to see the recent release of the 2017 ‘What Kids Are Reading’ report: perfect reading matter for a reading geek like me!

The report looks at the reading habits of over 800,000 primary and secondary school children over the last year and is fascinating to those of us who spend our days trying to figure out how to get children as addicted to books as we are.

One of the things in the report that makes me particularly sad is the list of the most read books by struggling readers. These are children who are reading well below the expected level for their age, but I can’t believe that 9-11 year old children are excited to be reading The Gruffalo (the second most read book by struggling readers in year 5 and the third most read by struggling readers in year 6).  Obviously Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s masterpiece is a modern classic but these are children whose classmates have moved on to Roald Dahl, David Walliams and the Wimpy Kid series.

One of the things I’ve been working on here at Bloomsbury education over the last 18 months or so is improving what we have available for struggling readers so that (I hope) children can find something age appropriate to read, with just the right level of challenge.

The books in our new Bloomsbury High Low series have a higher interest age than their reading age – making them perfect for struggling readers, those with dyslexia and those with English as an additional language. Both the reading age and the interest age are printed on the back next to the barcode to make it really easy to tell who a book is for.

We’ve used tinted paper and a font from a list suggested by the British Dyslexia Association to try and make things a bit easier for children with Irlen syndrome or dyslexia. And we’ve worked with literacy experts from the charity Catch Up to make sure the text is perfectly tailored to suit the needs of struggling readers.

Most importantly, we’ve worked with brilliant authors and illustrators to make these books as engaging as possible – I really hope all children will find something they can get excited about here.

For more information on the Bloomsbury High/Low series and the brilliant new titles please visit http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/education/series/high-low-fiction/

 

100 Ideas for Dyslexia

Shannon Green and Gavin Reid explore the thinking behind splitting the best-selling 100 Ideas on Dyslexia into two books for Primary and Secondary teachers: 

We have been involved in dyslexia and teaching for many years and between us we have experience across the full age range.  For us, it was natural that the popular 100 Ideas book on Dyslexia should be separated into 2 books: 100 Ideas for primary and 100 for secondary.  Both sectors offer significant challenges in meeting the social, emotional and educational needs of young people with dyslexia.  Although some of the strategies are generic across the age range, such as ‘mind maps’ and ‘mnemonics’ and paired and reciprocal reading, there are many other approaches and strategies that are specific to each of the sectors.  It was natural therefore to create this division.

We have introduced a new section in the Primary book on nursery and early years. There is no doubt this is a crucial area as getting it right at this stage can pave the way for more successful interventions later on and a happier outcome for all – children, parents and teachers.

There are specific challenges inherent in secondary school, which often have an achievement and examination focus.  The nature of secondary schools can be off putting for the young person with dyslexia and therefore we have included a section on self-esteem and motivation.  We have also focused on effective learning, which includes strategies that can be used across the whole curriculum. This includes becoming an independent learner and also ideas on study skills, note-taking and revision strategies as well as time management.

Having said that, we also appreciate that secondary schools are very much subject orientated and we have included strategies for English, History, Geography, Maths, Music, Drama and Art, General Science, Biology, Additional language learning, Physical Education and Food Technology and Textiles.    We hope that these ideas will provide insights into how to deal with dyslexia at secondary school while also acting as a springboard to both develop their own ideas and to disseminate information on dyslexia across the whole school.

We have endeavored to incorporate explanations and a rationale for the ideas in this book as we appreciate that the book will be used by experienced practitioners and subject teachers who may have less knowledge of dyslexia.

From our experience, a ‘dip in’ and accessible book is always welcomed by the busy teacher and we hope that will be the case with these two new 100 Ideas books.  We are extremely grateful for the positive feedback we have received in person and through emails from teachers who have found the previous editions of 100 Ideas extremely useful.

Ultimately this helps the teacher, the parents and of course the student him/herself and can make the sometimes challenging ‘educational track’ more accessible and more pleasurable for young people with dyslexia.

 

“It truly is the best job in the world.” The Teacher Toolkit launch.

Teacher Toolkit launch partyTo celebrate the publication of Ross Morrison McGill’s brilliant new book, Teacher Toolkit, we hosted a launch at Bloomsbury HQ in Bedford Square!

Ross is the most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK (@TeacherToolkit), with a staggering 112,000 + followers. Teacher Toolkit is his second book to publish with Bloomsbury, and as you can imagine has been highly anticipated by his dedicated army of followers!

Launch party Friends, family, colleagues, teachers, authors, journalists, publishers, and competition winners all assembled to raise a glass to Teacher Toolkit. The room buzzed with the sound of educational professionals sharing ideas, stories, and ambitions. Among them was Ty Goddard, founder of The Education Foundation. Addressing the launch attendees in a moving and empowering speech about the shocking dropout rate in the teaching profession, he spoke passionately about the issue and said:

“This book is part of a growing movement of British teachers; it comes from the movement and is part of the movement. It is about how you survive teaching; top tips; practical; really honest, frank and passionate.”

A recent YouGov poll reported that 53% of teachers are considering leaving the profession in the next two years which means that keeping new teachers in the profession has never been more important!* This is the central aim of Teacher Toolkit and therefore, as the title suggests, it is packed full of teaching ideas and advice, that will help to reduce their workload with handy tips about all aspects of day to day teaching, but will also make them laugh!

Speaking about his own journey from the classroom to publication, Ross summarised what his book aims to achieve:

“This book is for every teacher who has been bullied; those forced to take redundancy and for the thousands of teachers who leave the profession within the first 5 years. Hopefully, it will entice teachers who have left the classroom, back into the profession, and to encourage others who have just started out, to stay in the classroom. It truly is the best job in the world.”

Next, thank yous were said, gifts were given, wine flowed, conversation continued, and Ross was presented with an enormous cake edition of the book!
Teacher Toolkit book coverScreenshot 2015-10-08 16.24.21 Screenshot 2015-10-08 16.24.55
As the guests began to trickle out, juggling numerous copies of the book (purchased for themselves, friends, family and co-workers), there was a wonderful feeling of solidarity – of teachers supporting teachers. Certainly, the evening demonstrated that Teacher Toolkit is a resilient, intelligent, innovative, collaborative, and aspirational book – so let’s tell everyone about it!

In the infamous Action Jackson’s words:

“This book is the book that is going to revolutionise the minds of our teachers, showing them that they can fulfill their mission of inspiring our kids to dream big and never give up.”  Action Jackson, Youth Success coach and founder of The Fix-up Team

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Progress in dyslexia awareness. Dr. Gavin Reid

portrait_gavin_reidAs it is Dyslexia Awareness Week it is good to reflect on the progress that has taken place in this area. Successive campaigning over a long number of years by groups such as the BDA, Dyslexia Action and the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre has resulted in dyslexia having a voice at all levels – in government, local education authorities and at school level. Some years ago dyslexia was seen very much as a specialism in the UK and therefore intervention was in the hands of a few highly trained and skilled professionals.

Since then there has been a widespread movement towards creating more awareness of dyslexia at all levels. As a result, a greater number of schools now acknowledge that dyslexia is a whole school issue and therefore it has an impact upon staff development.

From my own perspective as a trainer and an author I find that I am now frequently asked to do presentations on dyslexia to the whole staff in a school. Additionally, I find that the attendees at presentations that are organised by regional groups tend to be more diverse than before, demonstrating that clearly more and more professionals from different sectors of education are becoming more aware and more involved in dyslexia. The BDA are also accrediting increasing amounts of quality professional courses in dyslexia.

It is for that reason that books such as 100+ Ideas for Supporting Children with Dyslexia have been successful. Teachers now have a greater awareness of dyslexia, and a clearer understanding of the needs of children with dyslexia. The book provides them with strategies that they can slot into their every day teaching, and they now have the knowledge and understanding to appreciate the rationale behind the ideas.

We (Shannon Green and myself) have taken this further in the new editions of our book, which will be available in a primary version and a secondary version. We feel that these sectors do have different needs and in the secondary edition we have focused on specific approaches for different subjects, as well as general cross-curricular suggestions.
100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Dyslexia100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Dyslexia cover
These books have been very successful and the development of the awareness of dyslexia has certainly helped to pave the way for books such as ours which teachers can pick up, understand the rationale behind the ideas and implement straight away in the classroom. We are eagerly anticipating the publication of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Dyslexia and 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Dyslexia next year.

Teacher Toolkit is one week away! Holly Gardner

Teacher Toolkit author pictureToday it is one week until Ross Morrison McGill’s second book publishes. The office is buzzing with excitement that tomorrow we will see the finished product for the first time and fizzing with energy as we finalise the details for the launch next week on publication day.

It’s all very exciting!

We are very proud that the most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK has written a book for us. Ross is an absolute star and his new book is not going to disappoint. As well as being packed full of ideas and anecdotes, the page layout is quirky and original and very different to anything we have done before… Have a look in our book sample to see for yourself!

You will see it includes a brand new-look #5MinMarkingPlan and there is a new-look version of the hugely popular #5MinLessonPlan in there too. And there is also a brand new, never seen before 5 minute plan that we know is going to go down a treat – you’ll have to wait until you get your copy to see what it is though!

You may have noticed we have been having a bit of fun on Vine this week as well, recreating one of the many fabulous illustrations that the book is filled with created by the talented Polly Norton. Try and guess which one we are re-creating here:

Yes – our Vitruvian Teacher gets everywhere – watch out for him in more videos as we continue the countdown to publication! Look at him here – this is his one week till publication day dance!

Teacher Toolkit animation

Also this week on our Twitter account we revealed our competition to win a pair of tickets to the book launch next Thursday. All you have to do is follow and retweet us! If you haven’t done it already and you want to come and visit us at Bloomsbury HQ to raise a glass to Ross and get a free signed copy of his book AS WELL as to meet the man himself – get retweeting now!

As we countdown the last seven days until you can get your hands on a copy of Teacher Toolkit we will be sharing more exclusive content and videos, but for now I am going to leave you with our beautiful interactive cover illustrated by Jean Jullien. Scroll over the cover to find the six links, including an exclusive video from the brilliant @Actionjackson.