Monday, 30 December 2013

#Nurture 1314

Nurture 1314 is  proving a popular venture amongst teacher tweeters and bloggers this holiday. I took part in last years project and my full thoughts can be found here:

Below is the summary of my aims for 2013- not all educational- and outcomes. I promise not to mark against my learning objectives! 

Thirteen for '13

1. Twitter: You don't have to be on Twitter to get the best of out being a teacher- but it helps!! Twitter exchanges with other teachers have been awesome, and in some cases ORRsome! To meet 40 or more other tweachers at #SLTcamp was a highlight of the year and an experience which has supercharged my desire to bring initiative to the whole school environment. 

2. Michael Gove:. Still there! Possibly only for another 18 months though.

3. Wine: France and Turkey sold amazing value wine! Are you listening Tesco? 

4. 20 books: If I include books I read for school I met this target. Must try harder!

5. My writing: As yet not published but I have had positive responses to my writing blog and a promise to have a play based on my sitcom script performed at the local theatre! WOW!!

6. Football silverware: Andy and Steve- you will appreciate that supporting our clubs is a calling, an endeavour, a labour of love- and very occasional success. Thank heavens I'm not a Palace fan!

7. Untruthful people: Let's just say that they have to be lucky every day!

8. Cooking a new recipe at least twice a month and share it with my Twitter friends: Done! And beyond! See below!

9. Greater financial sense: What is it with teenagers?

10. My garden: enough courgettes to put my wife off them for years!Tomatoes hit by cold weather in early part of year. Disappointing harvest!

11. Common sense  in education:  The feckless Twigg is history. Hunt writes good History! Only time will tell! Foot out of mouth will be a good start!

12. DV: Sadly as teachers we have to see the signs of this. The suffering that Nigella Lawson has had to put up with, including the smear campaign since she was brutally and publicly assaulted, can only however expose what some men are like!

13. Being in a happier place: People who know me will know that my wife was brutally cut down from her Headship- without so much as an OFSTED call- just the victim of one year of  results- after a few months of thinking she would never work again, she has now worked in three schools in senior positions. And after many years of trying and almost giving up hope I secured a DHT position in a school I wanted to work in, with a Head I am very happy to work with and  which offers the challenges that make this job worthwhile! 

Fourteen for '14

Begins with the professional, ends with the personal. 

1. Twitter: really is the most amazing tool for connecting people. Teachers in particular. I have had better CPD through Twitter (not just SLT Camp) than I have for years. The notion of Teach Meets doesn't yet exist in my LEA, but I hope to lead this initiative this coming year.

2. The Death of Ego: See also Twitter/SLT Camp. It was one of the requirements of SLT Camp to leave ego at home. Didn't that work so well? Teachers often work in an environment where they feel constantly under pressure and criticised. Look at any staff and it is a mix of NQTs, young single people, those with more life experience and some with their own children. Just like any workplace. The best team, and there is no 'I'in team, works with everyone playing to their strengths and those strengths add to a collective whole. There is no room for the whingers, complainers and the 'me-me-me' brigade. Recognise your own weaknesses, act and build on them and be part of a team that put children first,children second, but never last!

3. The New Curriculum: Despite what we may feel about Mr Gove the new curriculum can be shaped to deliver what we consider to be good learning. English and Maths seems fairly set in stone, nut as for the rest of it, if we don't like the content we can shape it to what is good for the children and their futures. No teacher dares scupper the future of any child. The New National Curriculum is a challenge, but an exciting one in the right hands.

4. Levels: Levels won't be used by the Government to assess end of Key Stage progress. We have had years of levels and are used to them as teachers, and most schools seem used to APS and the implications for target setting. What is actually stopping us using this as a progress measure?  Schools still using the old QCA tests will all know there is no consistency between the levels from one test to the next. Strong and rigorous (and I don't use 'rigour' ironically) teacher assessment is required to answer that old perennial favourite question from parents 'How is she doing?'.  Deciles will determine relative standing on a national scale,and the first use of it for primary schools will be in 2016, but that will work with up to 600,000 children. With a cohort of 30-60 the use of deciles will be virtually meaningless because applied to a whole school lifetime experience of a child, we know that there will be a group who will always be in the first decile, and one who will always be in the last. What impact will that have on self-esteem. I attended a conference recently at which the question about level replacement was answered by the representative from the DfE with a resounding 'I don't know!'

5. Developing Leadership: I have found the transition to my new role relatively smooth because I realised that I had actually been doing much that is required of me for a few years already. Being a really good leader is something I wish to develop. There are plenty of examples of what is not good leadership. I'm certainly not going to employ any of those strategies. Leadership should be by example, and founded in the realities of life in the classroom,not divorced from day-to-day practice. Good leaders drive from the pack, not from behind it. Listening is a skill, not a gesture. I'm not a checklist and clipboard person. I would rather get my hands dirty! And I hate cliches. 

6. Reading: I have barely been near an educational text since my research experience. Time to reverse that trend. SLT camp provided me with a start to my reading list. Any more suggestions would be welcome

7. OFSTED: Love it or hate it, there is no getting away from it and I know I can't because some time between January and July they will be here. Is OFSTED a bad thing? Ignore the horror stories for a minute. The organisation per se has made schools more self evaluative, reflective and aware of the meed to be responsible for their own development. In four inspections I have only encountered one inspector with  negative attitudes. 

8. Surely we should be united against the common enemy: Not the obvious one or two! Not the Judean Peoples' Front! It is complacency, arrogance and a belief that ones own ideas are right at the expense of those of all others that can undermine our professional standing. There isn't one way of teaching well and some methods work better for some people than others. 

9. Making a difference:Quite simply, that is what I want to make in my new role. Not change for change's sake. Enough said.

10. Proactive not reactive: Ok that is a cliche! One which I may have used in my interview, but from experience. However no school can run successfully by simply reacting to day to day events. Of course there is no way of predicting some of the random happenings, but anticipation of where problems might arise, through sound management and awareness of what is happening, is strategic and avoids dramas becoming crises. 

11. Work Life Balance: Mythical? The Holy Grail of teachers? I know of teachers who have been told that they couldn't have one! Well we need one, all of us, because quite simply which child, and which parent, wants a teacher who is an automaton with no life experience to draw upon? Children want to know your football team (and to rib you when they lose) whether you watch  EastEnders and if you can salsa. Thanks again to SLT camp for that one! Without a work-life balance a teacher will be stilted and unproductive. I fully intend to take  and make time for myself each day and each week. 

12. Reading and Writing: Not work related this time! However if the children perceive us as readers, then they will see it as less of a chore. Christmas again produced a small pile of reading material for me. At least 20 pages a day will be my target. Also I am going to add to my creative writing blog as was mentioned above. If my work does make it to the stage, even as an amateur production, it will bring enormous satisfaction. And hopefully no lawsuits!

13. Cooking: See work-life balance. For me this is not just a survival essential, but a hobby and a way of bringing people together. Twitter again has enabled me to build this aspect of my interests, and it is a great channel to share pictures and recipes.

14. Family and Friends: Finally if you don't have a work-life balance, you don't have these! Value your time with both, because you never know when you will truly need them. For the cynical, and they probably won't be reading this, Twitter does lead to real friendships.


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  2. I enjoyed reading this Andrew - thanks for sharing your thoughts and plans!

    Hope you're having a really good Christmas holiday and that 2014 is a very positive, productive and happy year for you and for your wife. I am absolutely convinced that it IS possible to achieve a balance between the personal and the professional, and that you will be a BETTER professional for it. You can be committed and dedicated to your work without sacrificing the things that make you you, and without neglecting your family and friends. It can be a challenge at times, but it can be done - so good luck!