Category Archives: Teachers

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.

 

Igniting Dylan’s Writing

Dylan doesn’t like writing. His teacher makes him write and then he has to go back and correct mistakes. So, he tries to write as little as possible. He can’t wait to be “finished”. And she makes him “do spellings”. This is difficult for Dylan because he doesn’t talk or read much at home, so he doesn’t encounter as many words as his peers. He doesn’t know what half the words mean, anyway. His latest piece of writing is about 18th Century smugglers, whatever that means. There’s a smuggler museum in his home town of Hastings but Dylan has never been. In fact, he’s never been to the beach, even though it’s only 3 miles away. So, his writing about smugglers lacks context and understanding. Dylan is like many pupils, who associate writing with failure, doing corrections and feeling pretty miserable about themselves.

Dylan is burdened with all sorts of labels at his school, but perhaps the best label would be that he is an able pupil who, at this stage, hasn’t had the same opportunities as his label-free friends. In my experience as a teacher, consultant, headteacher and writing moderator, there are plenty of Dylans out there. If we’re not careful, their experience of writing in the formative years will restrict their progress and overall prospects. Which is inexcusable – because the Dylans of the world have the same potential as anyone in their class.

What does Dylan need? He needs his teacher to look at things a different way. Rather than getting Dylan to launch headlong into writing and then take a soul-destroying look back at things he’s done wrong, the teacher needs to deliver teaching sequences which support Dylan to build up a piece of writing, layer upon layer, with the skills of writing, reading, spelling, talking and listening embedded within. Dylan, like any pupil, needs to make mistakes (or how will he learn anything new?) but he needs to make them as part of a journey through word-level activities, into reading tasks, through drafting “messy” writing by exploring different writing choices, into edited and polished writing – which he can review proudly.

I’ve been working with Dylans for many years and have used my experience to create a sequence containing all the key ingredients for brilliant writing – the WRITER sequence. My new book – Igniting Children’s Writing contains 50 tried-and-tested activities, organised into the sequence, to get pupils thinking brilliantly about their writing.

Take Dylan’s Smugglers piece. Imagine if, over a couple of weeks, he experienced the following sequence:

Work on Words: Dylan gets to read paintings of smugglers, explore maps and talk about the history of smuggling in Hastings. He doesn’t realise it, but by talking about what smugglers wore, their dastardly deeds and where they did them, Dylan is practising all sorts of grammar and encountering new vocabulary. He might even get to go to the Smuggler Museum – and see the sea! The words he’s encountering are displayed on the wall, so he’s already learning to spell them correctly.

Read as a Writer: The class starts to read Moonfleet. Key passages are studied closely and Dylan gets to use different reading skills, such as skimming and scanning for key information and terminology, or thinking about what he learns from the characters based on the things they say and how they speak. He loves the quizzes that the teacher sets after they listen to a scene from the audiobook.

Investigate Writing Choices Together: Dylan hates grammar worksheets (These still have their place, of course – the bin) but now he’s working with pairs and groups to think about the grammar choices a good writer makes. He joins in with some shared writing to practise some of the grammar, which he helps to present to the class.

Try-Out individual Choices: The teacher catches Dylan reading the next chapter of Moonfleet before school. He’s had a good few days and feels ready to draft out his only piece of writing: he’s decided to write a “drop in” scene, featuring an encounter with the ghost of Colonel John “Blackbeard” Mohune. Dylan is hooked by the story of the King’s diamond, which, legend has it, was stolen by Blackbeard. Dylan uses a thinking map to plan his scene and includes key words and phrases. He’s thought of topic sentences of each of his paragraphs. He writes a draft – a first attempt. He’s given the ghost “a burnished, gold locket, which contains the hurriedly-scrawled location of the diamond”. He likes that.

Edit, Perform and Publish: Dylan can’t be finished yet, because everyone in the class has only produced a draft. His partner and the teacher give Dylan some feedback and he’s ready to edit and improve. He tries writing some of his sentences differently. He changes some words. He takes other words out completely because they’re not needed. Because the class is putting together a Smuggler Writing Collection, he makes some final changes and “writes up” in his best handwriting, within the Smuggler border he’s drawn in Art – with maps and lockets and the ghost of Blackbeard.

Review Key Learning: Although he won’t admit it, Dylan is pleased with his writing and he’s asked to review what helped him to write well. He decides that using the Spellzone display, and planning the paragraphs, were the most helpful.

Dylan still says he doesn’t like writing, but secretly, he’s starting to feel the buzz of success and creative pride. He hopes that Mum will see his writing on Parents’ Evening. And he can’t wait to see where that Ghost has hidden the diamond.9781472951588 (1).jpg

Mark McCaughan is an experienced senior leader and local authority consultant. He has taken on whole-school, subject and pastoral leadership throughout three ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted inspections and is currently supporting schools where performance was low in the Reading SATs and using the activities provided in Igniting Children’s Writing to great effect.

Mark loves supporting schools to get pupils thinking brilliantly and can be contacted at mark@mcmlearning.co.uk.

Leaf Angles and Soggy Wellies: How to Take Lessons Outside

Imagine the scene—your Head comes in, looking harassed. The Government has ordered that all pupils should spend a minimum of 10% of their curriculum time outdoors, and PE is not to be included in this calculation.

What would be your first thought? That you don’t have enough space? What could you do with them? What would happen to the learning? What about rain?

As the Curriculum Enrichment Leader of a small Primary Academy Trust in west London, this is a long term aim of ours. All three schools are in built-up areas, and we have worked hard to begin developing our outdoor spaces to make them more curriculum-friendly.

All the evidence points to children spending less and less time outside, with 74% of children spending less than an hour playing outside each day. This contrasts with UN guidelines that prisoners have the right to one hour’s outdoor exercise each day as a minimum.

So why are we such advocates of outdoor learning? Being outside brings a multitude of benefits— children are able to concentrate for longer, ask more questions, and are more engaged with their learning when outdoors. We are working hard to bring more of the curriculum outside— Art, Maths, English, Science and Geography all leap comfortably into outdoor spaces, be it creating poetry under the canopy of a sycamore, to digging under the ground to test the acidity of the soil. Behaviour improves and different characters emerge. In one session recently, one child kept exclaiming “oh, I’ve never done this before” so often it became a catchphrase.

For some schools, shelter from the weather is a priority. Although the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” is generally true, children can cope with about sixty minutes of wet weather before starting to struggle. Children should, at the very least, be armed with coats to stave off wet or windy weather, and teachers can ask for a Welly Collection from parents— paired with beefy bulldog clips for hanging soggy gear.

If you have no outside shelters (either manmade or natural), buy a gazebo sail and find the funds to have three posts put up— these work perfectly. You could even look on websites like Freegle for actual windsails (we got four this way).

The first approach to taking more lessons outside starts with a good look at the timetable for the week. Look at the lessons which absolutely have to be taught indoors, and cross them off. Next, consider the lessons which would be enhanced by using outdoor spaces, although often just a change of scene can reinvigorate a class, make your outdooring more than simply this. Finding isosceles triangles in nature is ridiculously more interesting than a worksheet and greater depth can easily occur with protractors. Collecting and measuring leaf angles will position the memory far more successfully than the lesson you would carry out inside a classroom.

Try it, just for a week. Find two lessons which would zing by happening outside, then make the leap. You won’t look back.

 

Stephen Lockyer is the Curriculum Enrichment Leader of the Lumen Learning Trust in outer west London, where new staff are issued with fleeces as part of their welcome package.

He has written three books for Bloomsbury, which are available here, and his other books can be found here. His latest title, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Interventions, is out now.

   100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Outstanding Teaching   100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Interventions

 

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

The ingredients of a brilliant revision programme

John Mitchell, author of 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Revision, explains the influences and ingredients of a revision programme at the heart of his book

Revision Word Cloud
Revision Word Cloud

‘How do I write the thing?’

The offer is made. The offer is accepted. Excitement! Then the excitement fades and the thought enters your head – ‘How am I going to write it!’ This is what happened to me when I was first asked to write 100 Ideas for Secondary School Teachers: Revision for Bloomsbury  in February 2014. I had to decide on a starting point for my research from which I could structure the book and the 100 ideas around. The inspiration would be what Andy Griffith and Mark Burns would later call their own book – Teaching Backwards – start from the outcome and consider what you want to see from your own students at the end of revision. The best way to find this out, I felt, was to ask my own students. I am lucky that I work with a strong student body who engage in discussing teaching methods and ideas and are articulate in expressing what they want to see in a revision programme. After a number of discussions with a variety of students from different Key Stages and of different abilities, it was clear that there were three common factors students wanted to see in a revision programme. These factors were:

  • Engaging and active revision tasks – how can we revise in class?
  • Equipping students with revision skills – such as stress management and time management.
  • Independence – how can I revise on my own?

I decided that these three factors would inform every section on my book and give teachers a toolkit of easy to implement ideas that would help them develop their students’ revision skills as well as, more importantly, in my view, develop their students as effective independent learners both in school and beyond it.

Revision targets
Revision Targets

 

Engaging and active revision tasks – How can we revise in class?

One common point that emerged from talking with students about revision was what they perceived as an overemphasis on the text book and making notes. Of course, making notes is an important part of the revision process but should be part of a wider diet of revision activities within the classroom. We are all guilty as teachers of sometimes relying on the text book in a sequence of lessons as this is the ‘safe option’ – especially when we are tired and have little energy to invest in constructing outstanding lessons with sparkling resources. Also, it is the safe bet if we are teaching a second subject or content we are unfamiliar with.

However, it does not have to be like this. There are so many activities out there on the internet or in the ever-growing variety of books on teaching activities which are ideal in a revision context. Active tasks must be at the heart of an all-inclusive revision programme which engage and reinforce knowledge giving students the confidence that ‘they know it!’ These activities must be varied and include games, larger main lesson tasks and a variety of note making tasks from which students can choose which style suits them the best. Writing a collection of such ideas was at the heart of my thinking as well as that the vast majority of these ideas must be easy to implement with readers being able to dip in and out of the book and select an idea that they could include in a lesson the very next day. Underneath this the ideas must have real substance too and that a real impact upon students’ progress rather than the ‘bells and whistles’ ideas which look great but may lack meaningful impact upon student development.

Visual Hex exercise book
Visual Hex Exercise Book

Equipping students with revision skills – such as stress management and time management

Revision at any level can cause stress. Whether students are preparing for an internal assessment with the only objective being to check and demonstrate progress or for a public examination which can decide what life-changing options are open to students depending on the results – revision can highlight the need to assist in the development of important life skills, such as time management and stress management. Because I wanted the book to touch on every area of an effective revision programme, it was important not to neglect this potentially decisive and critical area of preparing students for assessments and examinations.

Therefore, the book contains a number of easy to implement ideas that can guide teachers in preparing a holistic revision programme, which equips students with the skills to cope with the stresses and strains of the revision period. In doing this, I felt, that this would give the book a wider appeal and not just for subject teachers. More often than not, subject teachers do not have the time to deal with the wider revision skills that are required, instead this falls to the form tutor or PSHE department. When I was writing this book, I was fortunate to be a form tutor for a group of young people preparing for their GCSEs and as a tutor, I was frequently asked to lead sessions on revision skills. More often than not, I found the resources provided to lead such sessions perhaps lacked depth and were less than engaging. Part of my research was to improve these resources and use them with my students, who would then feedback and discuss. Therefore, my book would have something in it for any teacher involved in helping students to revision skills in a wider context.

Bingo revision
Bingo Revision

Independence – How can I revise on my own?

At the end of the day, students are going to be on their own in that examination room. Teachers will not be there holding their hand, guiding them and giving timely advice on what to do. The end product of any revision programme is to develop a young person with the confidence to be independent and less reliant on the teacher. This is difficult and scary for a young person, stepping back as a teacher can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially in times of high stress, like the exam season, when students can need you the most. Therefore, any revision programme must foster students’ independence and the ability for students to conduct revision on their own outside the classroom without direct intervention from the teacher.

A few of the ideas in the book tackle this issue head on. It is an important one for teachers and students to work together on. Indeed, the philosophy of one of my key influences in writing this book, Jim Smith, is for students to become so independent in lessons that you become a ‘Lazy Teacher’. Therefore, many of the ideas which relate to revision games and resources can be easily made by students who can make a whole series of revision aids – whether they are resources for revision card games, visual hexagons or revision totem poles – outside the classroom. This means that a crucial part of a revision programme must be to train your students in making these revision aids which they can bring into lessons and use and share as part of the revision process. You know you have cracked it when near the end of the revision programme and the exams are looming, you are not needed as a teacher and instead become a facilitator while your students are actively revising independently, making more resources, playing revision games and working collaboratively – there is nothing better than the sound of a revision buzz in your classroom!

9781472913753 Revision

While this article focuses upon the influences and the ingredients of a revision programme which make up the heart of my book – 100 Ideas for Secondary School Teachers: Revision – a second article which details how the book was written can be found on my blog.

Summer relaxation tips from the Bloomsbury Education team (includes cake, gin, dancing and…biscuits!)

So, you’ve made it through the school year, you’re still standing, and you’re planning on returning to the classroom in the autumn (at least we presume you are if you’re reading this blog). Well done!

At Bloomsbury Education we know how hard teachers work, and so we’ve put our heads together to share nine tips that we use that we hope will help you relax this summer.

1376334_10100750573741613_1317165519_n1. Emily K – Cycling
One of my favourite ways to relax is to cycle. I love planning routes in the countryside (I lie, my husband plans them) and going out with friends. You have to get the balance right though. It might be fun to pretend you’re a pro cyclist and throw in a challenging hill or two, but there absolutely must be either a pub lunch or coffee and cake involved. Exploring new and beautiful places and catching up with friends is a great way to switch off.

IMG_25772. Helen – Gardening (and gin)

For me, it’s a spot of gardening accompanied by a delicious gin and tonic made with elderflower cordial! Add the cordial to the gin, pop in some ice and mint, and then top up with tonic. Perfect for that end of day, relaxing in the garden moment…

3. The Music Team (A.K.A. Rachel, Flora, Milly and Philippa) – Listen to some classical music

The summer is Proms season; so get involved with the world’s largest classical music festival. Whether or not you can make an event at London’s Royal Albert Hall, you can listen on the wireless or watch on TV. From Bollywood and Bhangra to Sondheim and Schoenberg, there will be something to transport you away from the day to day. Our music team picks include: The John Wilson Orchestra performing Frank Sinatra; Evelyn Glennie alongside pianist Philip Smith; Bryn Terfel in Fiddler on the Roof, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo under John Eliot Gardiner. Enjoy!

228548_10151046309988722_1220889285_n4. Emily L – Climbing
How about trying a new sport or going a bit out of your comfort zone – I go climbing at an indoor bouldering centre. It’s a good way to switch off, it’s surprisingly energising and it’s good exercise. Plus it’s a good way to take out your energy in a friendly competition with the other climbers/willing housemates.

5. Holly – Dancing
One thing that I do when I want to relax is YouTube music video dance routines and learn them! It is a great bit of exercise, you get a real feeling of achievement when you have learnt it, and you are concentrating so hard on learning the steps that you forget about any work worries you may have previously been fretting about.

My favourite is Beyoncé Single Ladies:

Make sure you close your sitting room curtains before making a start if you get stage fright!

fox6. Rhiannon – Painting
I relax by painting as many woodland creatures as I can – painting pictures of them, as opposed to running after squirrels with a paintbrush.

Turn on some chilled music, put on some slacks and get creative! And if you need to vent your frustration, grab a huge sheet of canvas, go outside on a sunny day and flick paint EVERYWHERE. Cathartic. (And your neighbour’s fence definitely needed brightening up.)

Claire running7. Claire – Running
One thing that relaxes me without failure is running! There’s nothing like ‘pounding the pavement’ to empty the head and unwind. Dodging through the sea of the London workers crossing Waterloo Bridge can be a bit stressful, but it just gives you a reason to run even faster. AND you get to eat cake afterwards and not feel guilty. It’s a win-win situation.

Warning, running in the rain can make your face look like this. BUT you do get to buy some pretty amazing shoes!

8. Hannah – Baking
One thing I like to do when I need to relax is a spot of baking. Here is a recipe for old-fashioned ginger biscuits.

• 1 lb / 450 g plain flour
• 5 oz / 140 g butter
• 8 oz / 225 g black treacle
• 8 oz / 225 g sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 2 oz chopped crystallised or stem ginger
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / gas mark 4. Sieve the flour, ground ginger, and bicarbonate of soda together. Rub the fat into the flour, and then mix in the sugar. Add the treacle, stem or crystallised ginger, and the egg and mix everything together.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and blob desert spoon sized lumps of mixture onto it. Bake for 10 -15 mins, and dig in!

FullSizeRender9. Isobel – Reading
We’re all bookworms here (as you’d expect those working at a publishing house to be), therefore my ‘tip’ to help you relax is READ A BOOK, or two or three…

Immersing yourself in a good book is a fantastic way to switch off. You’re temporarily transported to another world, and consumed with the lives of the characters, which is a great way to forget about the stress of your own.

If you’re in need of some suggestions, I have just finished Stephan Kelman’s thought-provoking second novel, Man on Fire, and Ali Smith’s weird, but wonderfully witty How to Be Both. These two novels are completely different, but both fab! I am about to begin Harper Lee’s globally anticipated Go Set A Watchman, and am hoping (praying) that it will live up to the magnificence of To Kill a Mockingbird. (If that’s even possible – I will report at a later date…)

So there you have it, nine wonderful suggestions to help you wind down this summer, and surface refreshed and raring to go when September rolls around. Enjoy!