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.