What Inspired Me?
Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Author:

I have been asked by the SHINE charity to write a short blog post about being inspired at school. to find out more about SHINE, there is a link at the bottom of this post.

The question posed was…What inspired me at school?

I honestly can’t remember. When I was a child, I spent four years at Riders Infant School and then a year at the Junior school before asking my parents to move me elsewhere. I was an able child, it was (and is) a deprived area and I wasn’t being challenged enough. I certainly don’t think I was special at all, but I felt that I could do it all. I do remember moments when I was proved wrong, like when I completed the whole of the Maths workbook but got lots wrong because we hadn’t looked at that bit yet, but still, in Year 2 (as it is now) I was certainly doing Junior level work. Moving to the Juniors was a terrible experience. I was there just a year and hated every second. I can’t even remember why it was so bad, but in a whole year’s education, and I would have been eight years old, I can’t remember anything from my time there.

So I moved schools and went to Front Lawn Junior which, in comparison, was a wonderful place. Instead of classes of 30ish, we had a huge class of about 55. With two teachers. It was open plan, we had different teachers for different things and I met other children that were just as able as I was. I loved it. I was there for three years and they were the best three years of my school life (I hated every second of secondary school too, but that’s probably another story, right?)

It makes me think, what made the time at Front Lawn so good? I remember cross-curricular activities such as the one where we asked to design a new development for the recreation ground behind our school. I remember the science lesson where we used different washing powders and soaps to get stains out of fabric. I remember being set complicated challenges by my teachers to stretch me in every way possible. I remember having teachers that made learning fun and relevant. I think that is what inspired me. It inspires me to make my class enjoy what they are doing and to make it purposeful.

Oddly, twenty years after leaving Riders Junior school, I went back. This time as a teacher. I don’t want any child in my class to feel like I did when I was there. I don’t want them to be bored, disinterested and disillusioned. I want them to learn, and learn lots, I want to provide them with the experiences that they might not normally have. This might be visiting the Spinnaker Tower, which despite being less than 10 miles away was something many had never been to before. It might be the residential trips that I have spent hours and hours planning and fighting so that every child in my year group that wants to go, can go. I want to give them the best that I can. I want them to look back in a few years time, or in twenty years time, and remember that their time at Riders Junior wasn’t that bad really. You never know, some might even say they enjoyed themselves.

So what inspires/inspired you?

The Let Teachers SHINE competition provides an opportunity for inspirational teachers to use their ideas to improve outcomes for children. You can submit your idea today for the chance to win up to a £15k grant

 

http://campaigns.capita-sims.co.uk/sims-and-shine

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Feeling Charitable @kiva
Thursday, April 17th, 2014 | Author:

Totally different blog post to usual, but one that I hope leads to at least 1 person donating some money and making a difference.

I’m not sure how many of you donate to any charities. Some of you might donate regularly, some might do it if a friend is running a race or something similar. But about a year ago I donated in a different way. Kiva (www.kiva.org) is a website that lets you donate money to projects around the world. This isn’t just a way of giving money and never hearing about where it went. You lend it to a business or project and then they pay it back over time. This money might help a family to buy building materials so he can build a house or it might give supplies to a farmer to start off his business or it might stock up a local shop so that the owner can sell products to local people.

Here’s how it works:

When we ran an enterprise topic last year, we donated around $100 to Kiva and this money is still going strong. It’s been paid back and lent out again a number of times, but each time, it feels like the chance to make a bit of a difference.

So if you want to give it a try, visit this link and who knows, maybe you can make a difference.

*If you click that link, I will get a bonus referral fee from Kiva to donate to a project on the site. Alternatively, just visit www.kiva.org

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Literacy and ICT
Sunday, April 13th, 2014 | Author:

At the end of March, I presented at the Derbyshire LA ICT/Computing Conference. I was running a workshop on the use of ICT within Literacy lessons and I thought that I should share the links to the resources that I talked about. There are some that have been around for ages, but maybe there’s something you haven’t seen before.

All of the links can be found on www.3x3links.com/literacyandict

Before starting, the links are shared using 3x3links which I have been using for over 3 years and I first blogged about here. This is a free website (using just a Google login) that allows you to share links with others quickly and easily. It can also embed into websites, meaning that pupils can access links quickly too – this is an example from my school - http://ridersschools.co.uk/children/

The general theme of the session was using ICT to improve standards in Literacy and there are lots of ways to raise standards so this is far from a definitive list, but there are a few suggestions.

Inspiring stimuli + messing around with sentences and words

One thing we have been doing is giving the children something interesting to write about. This can be for the whole unit of work, but it can also be for a snippet of a lesson such as the first 10-15minutes. This is traditionally whiteboard work, but we have a writing journal that these ideas can go into as well. They can start with simple sentences and then we mess around adding verbs, adjectives, adverbs and so on. We might then use the Random name generator to select the next sentence type e.g. starting with speech or containing commas in a list. Through playing with sentences, we have been able to explore what works and what doesn’t. Although this may seem like finding the few key components to make it to Level 3 or Level 4, there is more to it than that. The children enjoy playing with sentences and developing as writers.

There are loads of places to get inspiring pictures and one of these is Twitter. I blogged last year about using various Twitter accounts that share photographs and we use these to give us something to write about. This might be thinking about using our senses to describe the picture. A great place to get images from is Google Maps. Look at this image from Hengistbury Head in Dorset. Think about how the sky looks, what is causing it? The images of Whitby Abbey can also help to inspire writing too. Obviously if you can visit there, even better. But if not, use Google Maps/Earth to explore the world from your classroom.

Writing for an audience

Once you have some great writing, what do you do with it? For years now many schools have been blogging and sharing their work with the world. We have had a fantastic few months at Riders and when we produce writing, we try and share it with a specific audience. We have written book reviews based around Mr Gum and Year 5 wrote instructions for surviving in space. We then tweeted or emailed these links to people we wanted to see them including Andy Stanton, the author of Mr Gum and Commander Chris Hadfield. They don’t always reply, but we have had comments on our blog from both of them. Year 6 also wrote letters to Newsround and received a reply too. Now we make sure that when we plan a unit of literacy, we also plan in the outcome. Obvious to many teachers, but making it explicit really helps the children. I have the purpose written on my Literacy wall so we know where we are going each time.

Videos

This isn’t something I’ve done yet this year due to a lack of equipment in school, but last year we produced scripts and then recorded these as videos. We wrote news bulletins sharing our weekly news and we wrote scripts for assemblies and shared these with the rest of the school. Using sites like WeVideo gave us the chance to produce great quality videos, for free, in a matter of minutes. This is next on my list at Riders as we want to have a big push on Speaking and Listening. A big success last year, and the most complicated site that I shared, was Popcorn Maker. The complications come when signing up. Sometimes it takes 24hours for the confirmation email to come through and a few times the email has never arrived meaning the children weren’t able to use the service. The basic principle is to find or make a video, paste the YouTube link into the tool and then add captions, speech bubbles, pop-ups and URLs to give extra information about the video. This could be describing the action, showing where in the world it is set or simply adding dialogue via speech bubbles to a video without any speech. The final video can then be exported and shared.

 

Feel free to look through the sites I shared and the examples of work from my class (and some from Simon Haughton’s children). I hope you find something useful.

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Let Teachers Shine
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 | Author:

This is a guest post, written by Graham Cooper

Interview with Graham Cooper – SHINE

What inspired me at school?

Graham Cooper, Head of Product Strategy at Capita SIMS and former deputy head, reflects on his teaching days, when he witnessed the inspirational turnaround of a young student.

I’ve decided not to tell a story from my school days but from my teaching days. It’s a story that’s stuck with me after all my years of teaching and I’m sure many other teachers out there will have had similar experiences.

Back when I was a deputy head at a girl’s school in Manchester, a student joined the school who had been permanently excluded from another school.  She was new into school having come from a very troubled background.

As deputy head, I used to carry out the inductions for the new students – sitting them down, putting them into a class and buddying them up with somebody. I have to admit that on first impression I didn’t think she would last long at the school. Within a couple of months I was unfortunately proved right – I excluded the student for bad behaviour and rudeness to teachers. But we didn’t want to give up hope. With everything that was going on in her life we wanted to provide her with stability and support. We decided to put in some support strategies around her – she had a classroom assistant and we gave her counselling around anger management. Another student in year 8 also took the student under her wing and they became good friends.

Gradually, over the course of the year and into year 9, her behaviour began to improve. She became an integral part to the school’s peer mentoring and bullying support scheme. Her school work also improved, she started learning to play the piano and took part in the school talent show alongside another student.

By the end of Year 11 she was voted student of the year by her fellow students and left with a string of good GCSE grades – she became a model student. It was a miraculous turn around and due to the hard work of a number of staff that supported her and of her own belief that helped her make more of herself than anyone ever expected.

There’s a point about this – while teaching is hard and stressful, in no other job in the world do you get anything close to the level of job satisfaction that you can get out of teaching when something like that happens. We all remember the moment in Channel 4 TV series Educating Yorkshire, where student Musharaf overcame his stammer and started talking almost fluently in front of his English teacher. It was a truly inspiring moment not just for the millions of viewers but for that teacher, knowing he had truly made a difference to that child’s life.

Most teachers rarely get the chance to reflect on what they do. When good teachers move from one school to another and students say ‘I’m really sad that you’re going’, those teachers can really tell that they’ve made a difference to those children’s lives. But it’s probably something that most teachers don’t often stop to think about.

There are times in a teacher’s career (and I don’t think they’re that rare), where something happens that you just wouldn’t get anywhere else. I certainly believe the Let Teachers SHINE projects will help to deliver even more of those moments.

 

The Let Teachers SHINE competition provides an opportunity for inspirational teachers to use their ideas to improve outcomes for children. You can submit your idea today for the chance to win up to a £15k grant

 

http://campaigns.capita-sims.co.uk/sims-and-shine

The Half-Way Point
Thursday, February 20th, 2014 | Author:

This half-term has been a bit different to usual. Yes there are days out and yes, the nieces have come to visit, but I have also been into school, not for planning, but for completely redesigning my classroom. This post will also be an update on the classroom tour post I shared in September.

I have a massive classroom. It echoes, it’s just huge. The plan was to redecorate and build a small office/workroom space at the back for interventions, so I held off making changes for the first term but as this work isn’t going to happen now, I could get in and change things. Also, I wanted to reflect on what has worked and what needs to be improved.

Literacy – As blogged about here, we focus on a different sentence every week. In practice this actually becomes a “sentence of the literacy unit” but that doesn’t sound as cool. So what I have done is to make a board showcasing different sentences. Some are examples of complex sentences, e.g. embedded clauses and some are taken from Alan Peat’s book. The idea is to have examples to share with the children but also to have space for children to share their own too. Example sentences will also be in their toolkits on their tables so that they can see them while they are working.

2014-02-19 16.15.09

Maths – Before, I had a working wall and a whiteboard for Maths. The whiteboard didn’t really work and soon became used for other things as I needed somewhere to write notices for the children and also put up learning objectives, the date and other similar information. I love the A4 whiteboards that we have. These are not the chunky ones for using on the carpet, these are flimsy ones that snap very easily (one broke yesterday when I dropped it onto the carpet!) but they are perfect for blu-tacking to the wall and writing on. For my Maths board, these will have questions based around the maths we are doing. I try to differentiate them but the more-able will always try and answer every question anyway. there is also space available for me to stick up paper to show methods or ideas as we go along. The main thing for me is to make their toolkits on their table better so that once we have taught something in Literacy, Maths or Spellings, it comes down from the wall and into their toolkit to be replaced by new learning on the wall.

2014-02-19 16.15.43

 

 

The Science wall has more whiteboards stuck to it with questions about our topic. I could print the questions and stick them on but these whiteboards are fab for quickly changing ideas. I have also left space for children to stick post-its with their own questions too.

2014-02-19 16.15.34

A big change in my room is that my dry-wipe whiteboard has been moved. There are various reasons it hasn’t been moved until now, but having it at the front of the room will help. The behaviour chart is also now at the front, next to me while I teach. One issue that I had is that when the children move up or down the chart, I had to break from the teaching and request that the child moved their name. This meant that the flow stopped and sometimes there could be problems if a child didn’t want to move their name…so by having it at the front, I can move names without discussion if needs be and continue with the lesson.

Another change is that I now have a board for “Building Learning Power” which is something we are trying to start in school.  It is about picking up the learning behaviours and making children aware of what they need to do to be better learners. My wife suggested making it Lego-themed and singing “Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team” to show how working together can achieved great results. I have a few children who want to improve, but want it on their terms. They want to work on their own and don’t want others to help. I want to break this down and make them want to learn and succeed together. So learning behaviour is going to be a big push this term.

One idea that I found in the book Inspirational Teachers, Inspirational Learners is the idea of having marbles in a jar not to represent “good” behaviour but to represent learning behaviour instead. So “Well done Timmy, you have shown great resilience today” which then leads to a marble (or for me, ping-pong ball) going into the jar. The whole class will need to work together to focus on the behaviours we are trying to learn about. I want to make this very explicit to them so that we can discuss what is meant by resilience or perseverance. It’ll be interesting as some of the children find persevering very difficult indeed at the moment!

It’s odd to think that half of the year has gone already and I’m still figuring out what to do. I am doing OK so far but I want to get better and I hope that the re-arranged classroom will give y children the chance to succeed even more than they have done so far.

 

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps
Wednesday, January 01st, 2014 | Author:

One benefit of the Christmas holidays is the chance to catch up on various jobs that need doing and books that need reading. One book that I have had for a couple of weeks is Scratch Programming in Easy Steps by Sean McManus.

I know that many people will find this book extremely useful and as I have mentioned before, Scratch has been part of my ICT curriculum in school for a few years now. Programming won’t take over the curriculum, but if you are looking to introduce Scratch then this is a useful book to use. This takes the excellent resources from Code Club a few steps further. Those are good for getting started but this book actually begins right at the beginning, with explanations of the different blocks and their functions as well as instructions for changing elements such as the background or the main sprite.

Every aspect has colour images (crucial when using Scratch’s different coloured control blocks!) and it also includes step-by-step guides to writing each program. The next step for me would be to adapt the numbers. What happens if the 50 becomes a 5? Or I change this to 2.5? As confidence grows, children and teachers can then explore changing blocks to see the impact it will have. The book is very clear and gives lots of information about each element.

Once the basics are covered, there are various projects such as playing Dodgeball, creating your own choir (little bit odd, but fun) and also creating your own quizzes and conversations. Towards the end of the book there are projects involving Raspberry Pi and webcams as well as some short projects such as Keepy-Uppy. The book covers the how to do it but doesn’t give examples from the classroom. But that’s where good teachers come in. I saw the conversation aspect and thought about how I could get two characters from my Guided Reading book talking to each other discussing why they had acted like they had.

If I was looking at the new Computing curriculum and wanted to include aspects of Scratch,  I would start with this book and Phil Bagge’s Code-It website which has plans, resources and videos. Then, when confidence has been developed, teachers could change the dodgeball game to a similar one but with a different outcome and this will enable your plans to grow and grow.

 

For information: I was sent a copy of this book to review, but if I didn’t like it, I would say so.

Looking back at 2013 #nurture1314
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 | Author:

To be honest, 2013 was never going to top 2012 was it? Last year I got married, turned 30 and released my first book. 2013 would’ve had to be very special to come close. Although it didn’t have anything as huge as those events, it was a year of change for sure. So, in no particular order, here are 13 memories of the year.

1 – Digital Leaders – It feels like forever ago when I started working with Digital Leaders in school, but last year was the best in terms of what my small group achieved. It was the first year I had had children in my class that were Digital Leaders as previously I had been a PPA teacher so they were spread out a bit further across the school. Having them in my class meant that when they spoke and presented, they were talking about things that we were doing every day. It did mean I probably favoured the ones in my class a bit more than the others, but they were outstanding so it was hard not to choose them! The year started with a huge group of 11 going to BETT and they had a range of jobs such as being my able assistant while I demonstrated Purple Mash, taking photos of the event through to presenting for Tony Parkin. The highlight for me (sorry Tony) was Emma, Issy and Francesca presenting on the Google stand. They were Year 4 children and they were petrified. They’d practised every lunchtime for about a month and I had told them to forget all of that and just talk naturally and try not to leave quiet spaces. They started with around 70 people watching, this was Google’s stand at 10:30 on day 1 after all. Within 5 minutes there were 120-150 people and every single Google employee watching them talk about their use of Google Sites. I overheard the Googlers talking and praising them. I felt very emotional and they did themselves and the school proud. They’ll probably never go to BETT again, but it’s something they’ll remember for a long time and I feel honoured to have given them the opportunity to do that.

2 – Leaving St John’s – This year saw me leave St John’s after 3 years and move to my 4th appointment in my 9 years of teacher. I don’t know if this will ever go against me, but I think I have always moved for the right reasons. It was definitely time to leave St John’s as there were more suitable avenues opening up for me elsewhere. I will always be immensely proud of what I achieved there and over the three years we appeared on TV in the UK (BBC Click) and Brazil (Globo TV) as well as starting a blogsite that is now just short of 1,000,000 views in 3 1/2 years. I think this is outstanding and I am pleased to have been a part of it. My last class were incredible and I was truly blessed to have such hard-working, incredible children. Some still email me now or comment on my new school’s blogs. I visited St John’s a few weeks ago and they were all asking how my new job was going and thanking me for the work I’d put in with them. One said she did amazingly well in Maths recently and said it was all down to last year. I don’t know if I believe her or not, but it felt nice anyway! When I left, I got lots of lovely cards and messages from children and parents and many are now stuck up the wall around the computer I’m typing on now. Whenever it feels like there’s a lot to do, I can look up and see the message from Issy’s mum or Owen’s poem or Francesca’s artwork and it all feels completely worth it.

3 – Starting at Riders – I started looking for a new challenge around March time and it was a tough decision. I was in charge of ICT at St John’s but did I want to go down the ICT route and try out what people like David Mitchell are doing and present at conferences and work with schools as a consultant or did I want to progress in teaching and become a Year Leader? I talked to many people about it (Thanks Dawn, Julian, Dughall, Tony etc…sorry Charlie for being a pain!) and it was a tough choice. I had offers, I’ve turned things down, I could have done a range of things this year, but especially with ICT becoming more computing/coding-based, was I the person to go and talk about the changes? I’ve had interviews with people from various magazines and papers about my views and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be in the classroom.

So the decision was made to look for Year Leader positions.  Riders Junior was well-known to me as I had attended it briefly as a child. I spent four years at the infants, one at the juniors and then asked my parents to move me as I hated it. So why go back? There were three reasons. One was the challenge and the other two were Claire (@clairemarie00) and James (@blakey09) who I knew a little through Twitter. James was great and spoke to me at length on the phone about the job and the school and as it turned out, I am now working in year 4 with him. He’s in his second year but he’s an amazing teacher and doing very well. Claire is the most hardworking Literacy Leader I have ever worked with. In the past term, she has led changes in handwriting, spelling, phonics, guided reading and Literacy lessons. We joke that she seems to lead every other staff meeting but it’s true. Luckily Year 4 are used as a sounding board and we often bounce ideas around that we’ve seen or read elsewhere.

As for the job, it is the toughest job I have ever had. There is a mountain of work to do and a lot of things to change but luckily the staff are determined and we will get there. It is totally different from being “just” a teacher to someone that others will look up to. It hasn’t been easy and I would rate my leadership as “requires improvement” at the moment but it will be better by the end of the year. It’s weird not being in charge of ICT though!

4  - Teachmeets – \there have been a wide range of Teachmeets this year and it started with the largest, craziest of the lot, the one at BETT. It’s crazy because it takes a lot of people to organise. I felt that this was my favourite BETT Teachmeet since my first one about 4 years ago. It was also great to introduce new people to BETT and the Teachmeet experience. While talking of crazy Teachmeets, #tmpompey must be right up there. Where else do you get a round of laser quest after your CPD? I’m very proud to say that I have been to every #tmpompey, from the humble beginnings with about 10 people in David Rogers’ classroom, through to the massive cinema room with about 25 of us to the latest one which started on HMS Victory. It’s amazing that we have these incredible facilities just around the corner and that we are using them to learn from our peers. Love it. The other stand-out Teachmeet of the year for me was #tmsussex. This was the first one organised by Ben (@iteachyearr) and Jo (@mrspteach) and it was a huge success. Lots of people attended and they did a fantastic job.

5 - #tmhants – The only Teachmeet I organised this year was with Michelle (@footiefanmiss) and this was held at St James in Emsworth. I felt proud of my children who presented and of the wide range of presentations that we had there, including a lot of practical science experiments which went way over the allotted 7 minutes! Let’s hope the next one is as much of a success!

6  - Speaking at Events – There have been two standout events this year. Both to a large audience and both made me very nervous about doing them. Only one that I think had any impact whatsoever. So we’ll start with the other one. In February I was invited to speak to the Westminster Forum about my views on the new computing curriculum. I was the only primary teacher addressing the audience and it was a bit scary. My main concern is that everything I see and hear is about coding and algorithms and “just do Scratch” which all sounds very dull and tedious to me, that’s two years of BTEC ICT at college for you. But there’s one statement in the new curriculum that I clung on to. The one about using a range of tools on a range of devices to achieve a range of goals. This kinda means do whatever you like, however you like. So my 5minute talk at Westminster was about this. It was about the necessity to include video editing, website design, art, presentations and all of those great ICT elements within a curriculum and just because it was only one bullet point in the curriculum, it didn’t mean that it only took up a small amount of time. If anything, this should be the largest amount of time because it will make the biggest impact on the children. Coding/instructions are important and would always be, and have always been, part of my ICT curriculum but they wouldn’t define it.

The other event had an even larger audience. It was as part of the Optimus ICT Conference in May and my talk was on using a range of free tools in the classroom. It was very similar to Dughall’s talk later in the day but surprisingly, we chose completely different tools to talk about. I showed a lot of tools, talked about how they have impacted learning and shared examples of children’s work. People enjoyed it and it felt good (afterwards).

7  - Running – This has been a frustrating year on the running front. I haven’t done as much as I wanted to because of work, but I will get better. I had my worst ever Great South Run and it felt rubbish to have failed. I’ve also piled on weight since getting married and need to sort it next year. After starting the whole “1000miles in 2012″ thing, I want to set myself a target and I am going to give it my best!

8  - Exciting lessons – There have been some great successes and some failures this year, but it’s been a year for trying new things. The biggest failure were the lessons based on shares. The point being that each child had £1000 and bought some shares, checked them the next day and looked at profit and loss. Unfortunately it was just a bit too complicated for my Year 4 to do in a lesson and because we set for Maths, I had no additional time. Also, every share went down every day in the two weeks we tried it! Maybe the only thing they learnt was that their investment may go down. Oops. The biggest success though was with the same Maths group. We ran businesses and the children were incredible, we made cakes, smoothies, you name it and we sold a LOT. Over the course of a couple of days we raised over £150 profit and it was great to see them working together. I invested around £140 of my own money to make it work and I lent each group money, which they then paid back or used to buy more ingredients as they needed to. Each group then decided where to send the money with around £30 going to 4 charites and £30 being lent to worthy causes on Kiva. It was also the year that I took my Wii into class and launched Endless Ocean. The children loved it and you can read more about my adventures with games-based learning on the blog post. Thanks to Dawn and Pete for inspiration!

9  - Essentials CPD – Following on from the book last year, I was asked by Rising Stars to put together an online course called Essentials CPD which gave users the chance to work through a range of tools and ideas for use within the classroom. This took a LOT of work to put together and it seems to have gone down quite well. It has also been accredited by a University so completing it will also earn points towards a Masters! That all seems odd for something I wrote in my spare room…

10  - Google Apps – This year I have continued to use Google Apps and train others in a variety of schools across the country. I have trained students in Manchester to be administrators for their domains and I have continued to work with C-Learning to deliver course to teachers. The highlight was the most recent course which took place at a little school called Eton. So I think I can now put “Taught at Eton College” on my CV. Even if it was just for a day.

11  - Visitors to School – Withing the first half term at Riders we had a visit from Julia Skinner who came in to school to work with children on the 100 Word Challenge. This was their first experience of it and they had never blogged before but it has now become part of their weekly routine. They love it! Russell Prue also visited a little while ago and it was extremely interesting to see the children out of their comfort zone. He asked them to say a few words each but some really struggled. This highlighted the need for explicit Speaking and Listening aspects to the new curriculum in our year group. Something we are now looking to develop.

12  - On top of the world- Not the scariest thing I’ve ever done (see: parachuting or laser-eye surgery) but still a great day out. This year I climbed onto the O2. It’s just a steep walk but the views from the top are incredible and it is well worth doing. Unfortunately I had to do it alone as there is no way Charlie was going to go that high up, so she watched from the safety of the ground.

13  - Additions to the family – No, not babies. Although as a newly-wed, people do keep asking. This year saw us adopt a stray cat for a couple of weeks before he ran away again, maybe he likes the open road or something? Then once we had bought all of the cat paraphernalia but didn’t have a cat to use it, it made sense to do something about it and a few weeks ago we became parents to Spencer and Morgan, a pair of male ginger kittens with a love of trees, baubles and  other Christmas-related objects! Next for us is teaching them that are arms are not to be used as scratching posts. It does look like I’ve been in a fight at the moment.

It’s been a good year, but there’s still things to improve. Can I think of 14 things for next year? I doubt it. So here are my targets for the year ahead:

1 – Spend more time with my wife. I’m lucky because she’s a teacher so she knows what it’s like, but I know I must be a pain to live with. There’s always more to do and it can always be done better. I want to spend a lot more time together next year and I am planning my workload so that this can happen.

2 – Cooking – We were given a few cookbooks this Christmas and then bought a few ourselves and in the past week have already made a few curries from scratch (including the chapattis!) so we want to continue doing this. We spent over an hour in the kitchen together preparing for a meal the other day and it was lovely. More of that will happen!

3 – Getting fit – As mentioned above, I am not the fittest person and I am not far off the heaviest weight I have ever been (that was around September 2013) and I want to lose two stone to get me around 13stone. I think I can do it, I did it with a lot of work pre-wedding, so it might be possible. I did have a personal trainer then though!

4 – Running – Along with the one above, I need to run more. I have a few events lined up and I want to do a 10k in under 50minutes (PB is 51:30) and I want to do a 1/2 marathon in under 2 hours (PB is 2hours 4mins). These times were both two years ago when I was at a good weight and a better level of fitness! I also want to do the Great South Run in under 90 minutes which would be 10 minutes off of my PB. Gulp.

5 – Teaching – I need to be a better class teacher. I am good, I know that but I want to be better. I want to make sure my children are enthused with their learning and I want to make sure that we give them the best that I can.

6 – Planning – I want my lessons to be better planned and more engaging. I am fine with most areas but I need to work on making aspects such as spellings just as engaging for the children. Not sure how that will happen, but it is a target to aim for!

7 – Leading – I am still new at this and as Michelle says, it’s about making the right impact. We have a great team and I want them to be able to develop and grow and be amazing teachers too.

8 – Organisation – This Christmas I have setup Google Apps at Riders and over the next couple of weeks it will be introduced to staff to get us more streamlined and to make sure we all know what is happening at school. It can be difficult organizing teachers in two buildings even if there is just a car park between them!

9 – Teachmeet Hants – The next #tmhants is coming up soon and posters/flyers will be sent to most Hampshire schools next week. This will be the second time I have held one within my own school after having one at St John’s a few years back. That was a huge failure with no St John’s staff attending and only about 3 teachers from other schools coming along (Thanks Ben!). This time will be different. Claire and James have already been talking about the impact of Teachmeets so having one at Riders is bound to be a good thing.

Category: General Thoughts  | 3 Comments
Getting on with it
Friday, December 27th, 2013 | Author:

One of my Christmas jobs is to plan the curriculum for the rest of Year 4. We did look at this in May when draft documents were out and we pencilled in an overview for the year but quite quickly we realised that we needed to change it. This happened for many reasons including:

  • The final curriculum was released and changed our plans
  • We wanted to make something coherent and exciting, our initial plans were done in a couple of hours and didn’t fit together as much as I would’ve liked
  • I now know the children. I didn’t then. I was new in September and hadn’t worked with the children so didn’t know what would or wouldn’t work for them.

I know that this year, as the National Curriculum documents were disapplied, we can do whatever we like (pretty much) but I want to think longer term so that I have some things in place for next year if needs be. Not to 100% re-use but to adapt and change as needed.

There has been a lot of talk about Gove, his constant teacher-bashing and the new curriculum, among many other things, but y’know what, being a teacher is an amazing job so I’m going to just get on with it. I read this post from Pete Yeomans and I know that some people disagree with his tweets and think of him as argumentative at times, but read that post.  He talks a lot of sense. As a profession we have just been given a hell of a lot of freedom. Let’s make the most of it and create something amazing for our children and our schools.

Take the new curriculum. For Science it lists five areas that Year 4 must cover. The electricity area is so small and simple it can be done in 20 minutes (allowing 10 minutes for finding some batteries that work of course). It involves making a circuit with buzzers, bulbs, switches and batteries/cells, play with it a bit e.g. what happens with more batteries? Or with more bulbs? Then draw a diagram of it. Simple. So this gives you loads of time to expand on it and develop it. The problem with the circuits made in many schools is that they don’t really do anything. What about this though. We could get some proper equipment with batteries, LEDs etc and make a torch that the children can take home. That’d be better wouldn’t it? We could even write instructions for how it works.

It’s the same for many other areas of the curriculum. Yes there are things we don’t agree with in there, but I think this is because we have no idea what happened in Baghdad or Benin in 900AD so we don’t know how to teach it yet (I’m sure someone is making/has made documents to help). Having a slim curriculum is fantastic, it gives you the chance to open your mind to a whole host of possibilities. I asked the children what topics they would like to learn about and they stuck to fairly standard things such as Egypt, Romans, Vikings but also wanted to know about their body, weather, aliens and my favourite, London. This could be a great topic looking at the capital throughout the ages, stopping off at the plague and the Great Fire along the way and, of course, a school trip. Many just want to go on the underground as they’ve never done it before. Think of the writing opportunities from that first-time experience though!

So my New Year resolution is not to moan about the curriculum, even the Computing bit, I’m going to make sure that the stuff we teach the children is going to be fantastic. It will encompass ideas from the children and from teachers, it will include chances to be entrepreneurial and it will involve parents as much as possible. And my children will make a lot of progress along the way too.

Anyway, now to plan a topic suggested by my class about the human body and the digestive system. I think it’s just because the children wanted to say poo without me moaning at them…

Category: Curriculum  | Leave a Comment