Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Empowering young people to change the world 2017


I was so inspired by the 2016 conference that I decided to write a new style of PSHE to address the issue of empowering young people to change the world. I was delighted to be asked by @RWBAHolocaust to run a workshop this year. The small question I posed to delegates was if the future of humanity lies in our hands as educators – what would you teach in 21st Century Global Citizenship? The idea of what ingredients we need to help students flourish in a curriculum and values we wish to have in our educational environment was a topic which repeated during the day in other speakers’ sessions. Like last year, I came away with sheets of questions. Now I need to consider my answers to them.  

@RWBAHolocaust began the day with a leading question. What are the obstacles to empowering young people to change the world? As a leader of learning do teachers consider those obstacles and seek to teach students the skills they need to deal with 21st and 22nd Century obstacles to them flourishing in life? 

I have seen the amazing work being carried out by the new Venturers’ Academy in Bristol on the local news and was not disappointed by Trystan Williams’ presentation with Richard Lang. Where everything’s possible! What a school motto, vision and ethos! Trystan reminded us that you can’t empower people unless you trust them. In Sweden all 16 year olds sit exams which are marked internally. Trust is part of the education system. Trust enables students to flourish. Trust enable students to be that innovative thinker. Trust enables room to grow in an education system for all stake holders. Trystan firmly believes that it’s the way you make people feel that lets people flourish. By having values in education such as empathy and kindness the world is a simpler place to live in.  

@VenturersAc is unlocking potential in learners. We saw the impact of music therapy in helping a student find their voice. A student who had not been speaking has been helped to realise that everything is possible.  Where we see NHS mental health provision being cut Venturers Academy are running mental health provision with the NHS through schools. However are all schools moving with the times? We saw a picture of a Victorian classroom and a modern classroom. Have we moved on as educators? Are we writing a curriculum with vulnerable leaders’ needs at the heart of it? Do we see poor behaviour as our school not meeting the child’s needs? Can we see past labels and push people to exceed the expected outcomes?  

If learning ambition and self-confidence can often only be taught outside the classroom do we have a plan for experiences our students are going to have during their time at our schools? Trystan talked about his experiences in the world’s highest classroom, the world’s coldest classroom and is planning his next adventure. He even asked for people interested in participating in a sailing classroom. Forward thinking and imaginative educators who think beyond the traditional curriculum can empower young people to move beyond labels. So I’m off to make sure I hold the idea of where everything’s possible for all learners I meet. 

@PSHESolutions John Rees presented last year and a talk on SMSC in a post-truth world seemed like a topical presentation this year too. John posed another leading question. Are students actively engaged within their local community? When we get spiritual, moral, social and cultural education correct then attendance, attainment and progress rise. Students and staff are encouraged to engage in school life and become involved in the community.  

How does our curriculum support a customer facing world? Are we providing students with the skills they need to deal with people? Are we providing lessons on stress management? Are we looking at high performing PISA countries such as Singapore to look at the work they are doing with regard to Character Education? 

Children need roots and wings! If we provide academic roots to let them fly to university and life-long learning can we say the same for their social skills or their values?  

@paulday30 ran a workshop on leadership. Would you follow you? This is a great question at any point in your teaching career. Although I kept thinking of Spartacus I did find the fill in the blank activity really powerful. 

Leadership is ____________________

Leaders are _____________________

We are _________________________

I am ___________________________ 

Now I really want to try it with middle leaders, aspirant senior leaders and even initial teacher trainees. 

@aprenderuk Phil Hawkins shared his experiences of working in Brazil. By working in a different culture there are lots of lessons we can learn. As educators we know that reflection is an important part of teaching as it helps us consider what creates success. What is our successful outcome from education? Intelligence and character are the goals of true education. We have a responsibility to grow responsible students. How do we build bridges between the groups we have in our school community? Sports stars, musicians, scientists, artists, pupil premium, most able etc etc. Do we build bridges using values, relational education, sharing inter-cultural dimensions? How do we build real versus virtual relationships? 

I am interested in exploring the idea of explanation and respectful discussion on how breaking rules affects those around you which builds empathetic responses as adults. 

#EYP2CTW is an inspiring event. I haven’t even mentioned connections I made. If @RWBAHolocaust runs this event in 2018 I urge you to book!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Empowering young people to change the world!

Over the past few years I have increasingly explored the aspects of positive psychology in empowering young people in managing their way through the modern world. It was great to spend the day exploring Empowering Young People to change the world with @RWBAHolocaust. #EYP2CtW is a fascinating topic and it has taken me over a week to write this blog due to the additional ideas explored in the conference.


Peter Hall Jones @PeteHJ opened the day with the first Keynote of Leading Upwards. My take away top tips from his speech was that Hong Kong Universities test EQ for entry before IQ. Considering the amount of time we spend in schools working on IQ and passing exams there is an international viewpoint that EQ aspects of individuals also needs to be developed beyond the initials phases of education. The second take away tip was about how much money or time do we spend selling our vision upwards and to our teams? Do we only look at these on occasional teacher training days or when writing admission materials? Do we ensure that this is within the fibre of a school so that everyone is completely aware of our vision and values every moment of the day from staff to students to visitors? Do people need to ask about our vision and values? 

The second keynote speech was delivered by Dr Neil Hawkes and his wife Jane @NeilHawkes. This looked at values based education. Again a thought provoking speech. Top tips were that beliefs divide – values unite. We also look at the idea that students need to develop as self-leaders and whether schools are producing a large amount of conformity. Are there times when conformity needs to be challenged? Do we develop this aspect of learning in our students? My top take away from the speech was to start building an Ethical Intelligence. In addition to British Values, IQ, EQ there is indeed space to consider values to ensure that there will be an ethical future community in all aspects of employment on the planet.

Having worked with the United Nations in Poland on two occasions I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Warsaw. This is indeed a lifelong memory and they came flooding back during the third keynote speech by Ruth-Anne Lenge@ralenga. Learning about Janusz Korczak’s pioneering educational approach was thought provoking. “Children are not people of tomorrow but people today” and how they can be empowered to make decisions. The work the Centre for Holocaust Education is doing to ensure future generations are aware of real stories from Holocaust lives is empowering and enriching student knowledge and values.

During the first breakout session entitled Innovators, laggards and pyramids. The risk of pupil independence with Paul Day @paulday30. We considered how we make learning stick. My take away from that session was creating memories works. I have set happiness homework in the past but would consider setting a holiday homework entitled memory homework where students had to go on a visit a historical site, have a picnic outside etc. Something to make a memory and learn. The other take away was that success breeds motivation.

I’m really pleased that Juliette Yardley from Laughology was presenting. @Laughology is an area I have been wanting to explore for some time. Since completing a Science of Happiness course this area of wellbeing seemed to fit well with the Positive Psychology programme I have been developing in school. The idea of Happy Centred Schools sounded delightful. Science and the psychology of laughter seems to be a perfect antidote to the stress and poor wellbeing we are seeing increase in young people. My first take away was that having fun embeds learning – therefore how do we build happy environments in our classrooms? Interactions with students as an adult need to be reasonable, logical, rational, not-threatening and non-threatening. Happy children, having fun in a classroom will learn and remember happy memories. If you think of the stress, anxiety and lack of smiles in some classrooms in secondary school can we really say those students will have happy memories of those classrooms? Will they be releasing the chemicals needed to help memories or hinder memories? Happiness is a feeling of well-being. Are we doing enough to promote this for staff and students? If not how could we improve on it? The reality will be no fun in the classroom, no learning. Staff and students need to have good relationships with people to ensure that the stress hormone is marginalised – it impairs their ability to learn. I can’t wait for our next teaching and learning briefing when I will be sharing the power pose from Amy Cuddy and the added Laughology element : ) I just need to work out which member of staff will play the role of cortisol! The final take away will be the good humour ingredients of facial expression, body language, voice, tone, pitch and the type of words used.

I was pleased to see a breakout session about School Improvement through staff wellbeing by John Rees @PSHESolutions. We have put staff and student wellbeing onto our development plan this year, however there is still a long way to go to reach the ideal situation. John talked about how students will only truly flourish and thrive if staff are cared for too in our educational establishments. As school leaders what is our moral purpose? Do we have that unconditional regard for staff? Can they see, hear and feel it on a daily basis? By improving the emotional and physical environment we can improve staff wellbeing. So take away tip number 1 is it worth stopping buying coffee for the staffroom to save a few pounds on tight budgets if you look at the cost of staff illness – maybe not. I was horrified to listen to statistics of teachers leaving, self-harming etc. The system may be stressful but I for one will be continuing to ensure that wellbeing stays on the development plan as it is too important to ignore.

My final breakout session was run by Andrew Foster @Tougherminds and @AFosterTeach. Indeed this was the reason I had booked to attend the conference. Again the theme of #EYP2CTW continued. We heard about how healthy, happy and high performing students often get stopped by their inability to self-control. A fascinating whistle stop tour through the 6 week programme for kids and parents sounded like a great way of dealing with some aspects of wellbeing. 

The day ended with the keynote by John Rees discussing how to enable young people to flourish as they are more than a number, more than a grade. As education continues to raise the bar higher and raise aspirations as well as outcomes, there is still a need to stand back and realise that these are human beings in our schools. Every individual of every age in educational establishments need to be able to flourish, from the youngest student to the teacher nearing retirement. Can we all say as teachers and leaders that this is the system and establishment that we are building? What will you go out and change?

I plan on embedding key learning from the conference into our about to be relaunched revamped PSHE curriculum, build on the positive psychologies programme further and ensure that CPD/development plans enable students and staff to flourish. That’s my plan.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Grit, character and well being

I had never been to The Festival of Education but quickly realised that my one ticket needed planning. At times during the day I wished I were Hermione Granger with a time spinning device. So many things to see and do. I prioritised my school development strands and hoped lunch time would let me see some more. I hadn't reckoned on a talk being rescheduled to lunchtime meant surviving on 2 ice creams. 

If I get to go again, I'll bring a colleague, some students and a picnic. So what have I learnt? So much? Now to put find into a detailed development plan. These are my notes to help share some learning.

Nicky Morgan.

 Stretch and challenge all students. Look at the in school gap and national gaps. Go beyond the curriculum and offer enrichment. Passing exams is important but character, resilience are too.

Light bulbs panel. Rachel Jones, Keziah Featherstone, Amy Harvey, David Rogers, Debra Kidd, Steph Ladbrooke, Sue Cowley.

Develop strong practice in schools by using curiosity not spoon feeding. Keep it simple and creative to make it stick. Schools should be a sanctuary, safe stable places for students to learn. Students should create trouble by asking questions and make every moment count. Leaders should give permission to teachers to let children explore their interests. Build teacher confidence. When children are captivated and motivated them they are learning. Are we using too much quantitative data and is there room for more qualitative in ks3 where students explore an independent task? Is data sanitising education? Are we using data to drive teaching or is data driving teaching? 

Tom Bennett rebuilding a profession: research in education.

Be resistant to fads/fashions. Become discerning analysts not passive recipients. Drive a model of reprofessionalism. Become more research engaged and maintain ownership of classrooms. Ask critical questions. Research won't solve education issues but ask the right questions. Is your CPD a monogue? Turn it into a dialogue. Take ownership of your own CPD. Teacher craft/experience/wisdom is not to be lost. Research based education can lead to cherry picking. Be aware and be critical of research and research evidence.

Grit Dr Angela Duckworth

Grit = perseverance over the long term on the same thing. Talent is one thing but grit is important. Older adults have higher grit than young adults. Character, kindness, stability grow as you get older. Grit might be malleable. Grit = sustained passion and perseverance for especially long term goals. Achievement = Talent & effort. Repetition not memorisation is key as it leads to automaticity. Gritty people think about what they are doing not a possible reality. Deliberate practice is the only indicator of how well you will do. Tell students that Olympic swimmers etc hate  practice. Frustration and confusion are natural for learners. Say good for you - you're learning. 

Surrogate grit is needed when a third person helps you out when your will is weak. We often need someone who is psychologically distanced. 

Well being Liz Robson-Kelly

Poor mental well being - I'm going to fail so why try. Mental well being = effective learning. Staff CPD needed, remember in an emergency you need to put your own air mask on! Whole school approach. A culture of well being for all. Mindfulness, resilience and growth mindset in addition to anti stigma PSHE lessons.

 Mental toughness. Help students move up the mental health spectrum and flourish if they have low mental illness and high mental health.  Low mental illness and low mental health = languishing students. 

Positive psychology is a science of optimal functioning, success and well being. Teach staff skills to coach posited emotions, empathy, relationships. Communication skills, thinking skills and self emotional awareness. 

Australia are using behavioural coaching. Improve hope, reduce stress. Positive failure - failure is an inoculation that helps you become more resilient. Embed it, teach it, live it. 

So I had a clear brief to follow. Now to put this into a plan that works for our school community. Staff, students, parents as an ethos not an add on.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Personal professional development and personal learning networks - @SLTcamp

I started my twitter journey around 18 months ago. Taking the leap to follow people was the first step and I was so lucky to come across a tweet in August 2013 about @SLTcamp. I had really enjoyed taking part in the weekly #sltchat and thought it would be really good PPD to spend an entire weekend with twitter SLT. So I signed up.

After driving for 3 hours the scariest part was arriving in the dark to a youth hostel with no phone signal. I also had never met any of the people who had signed up. I had looked up participants' profiles on twitter in the hope that I would then recognise people when I arrived. I shouldn't have had any worries. As soon as I arrived a fellow camper said I was in the right place and that the teachmeet would be starting in a while, once food and people were ready. Some people had even flown in for the weekend. We were all expecting a great weekend.

Everyone had arrived expecting to participate in healthy discussion and "Chatham House" rules were in place, providing a safe environment for sharing and debating issues and solutions. The Friday evening teachmeet sparked lots of post-presentation chats and many campers stayed up for long discussions and building networks. Evening entertainment, helped break any ice that was hanging around and set the tone for the entire weekend. PPD in a fun environment. Where else can you go to spend an entire weekend building personal learning networks and focussing on your own PPD? @SLTcamp was that opportunity.

I learnt so much from my time with sparky SLT campers that I have signed up again for @SLTcamp 2014. I'm even prepared to drive for over 4 hours this year just to have my PLN and PPD top up for the academic year. As a veteran my expectations are high. I know that if I get as much out of it as I did last year, I will leave with a book full of notes and take another year to implement things that I have learnt.

If you have not signed up for SLT camp 2014 then do read some of last year's blogs. If you are a long standing Headteacher, aspirant senior leader, senior middle leader or even an established member of SLT then the weekend will have something for you. Who knows what "golden nuggets" will end up being shared this year?

Bring your own device (BYOD)

I was tasked with innovation as part of my leadership role in 2013/14 and improving learning experience in 2014/15. My first port of call was to read lots of teacher blogs. Thankfully having made lots of notes @sltcamp in November 2013 I was able to read around pioneering teaching technology in schools.

From Easter 2013 to the end of August, I read, read, read. I knew the success of launching BYOD lay in my trailing and reflecting on how to make best use of the technology. With no student Wi-Fi I asked to teach Year 9 German in an IT room with flipped learning as my pedagogical tool. Attempting to use Edmodo to get students and parents engaged in learning at home to enable practice at school. Student feedback was good and in June 2014 the entire school were enrolled and staff trained. In preparation for BYOD all students signed the newly updated Digital Citizenship agreements and had an assembly on how to use e-learning sensibly.

During summer 2014 I downloaded as many apps to my phone and tablets. Making the most of the long summer break I was able to see which apps worked well on android and apple devices. Day 1 in September staff and students were welcomed back to a Wi-Fi network. Year 7, of course had to be signed up to the agreements and then we were good to go.

In just 38 days at school the amount of use our student Wi-Fi is experiencing is on the increase across all curriculum areas. Without specific training pioneering staff have had the flexibility to trial what works in their areas. ICT Guru certificates have been handed out in our Teaching and Learning briefings and nano-presentations have shared ideas across staff.

Students in my class have used phones, mini ipads and android tablets too. The knack I have found is being flexible and making sure that there is a back up plan. Maths have found QR codes linked to explanation videos on their own Youtube channel allows for students to get "help" as many times as they need it explaining, as well as clear differentiation. Tutors have used the Edmodo app for literacy whole group story writing challenges. MFL colleagues are using it for memorisation techniques using Tellagami, visioprompt, Yakitt kids and early evidence suggests it is helping increase confidence in speaking techniques. Science staff are enjoying padlet, socrative and wordwall to gain quick starter and plenary data to help find out what students have remembered or need additional input for in the following lessons.

After many years I have also moved to an electronic markbook. Having visited Bett 2014 I decided there was a much more powerful way to mark. I use idoceo and it has been a great way to share data, seating plans etc with shared groups. Even staff who only have 1 lesson a fortnight are as up to date with the day to day marking for homework and tests as they can be. I hope my next shared group is with a colleague with an e-markbook.

All of this has been achieved via personal professional development, one CPD course and lots of perseverance. The first set of staff CPD on BYOD begins on Monday. With three tiers for opting in green for using teaching apps, amber for using student apps and red for using teacher/student apps in the same lesson.

BYOD is simply another pedagogical tool, however it is interesting to hear student responses to a non-digital lesson as they begin to get used to using apps to aid learning. I like the ability to use ICT without having to book an ICT room and sharing information immediately via an app reduces delays in learning and feedback. It would be interesting to compare BYOD with 1:1, however the early signs are that BYOD is enhancing the learning experiences without rolling out an expensive 1:1 programme.

A class set of ipads are due to arrive next term. This will be the test to see if we need to consider pushing the parameters of e-learning even further.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Magic moments

Every new school year is like waiting for the chance to open Christmas presents. Most teachers will organise seating plans with good intentions. Boy/ girl seating to help close gender gap achievement, ability tables to aid differentiation or even targeted positioning to improve behaviour. Yet data can only go so far. Will the seating plan work? Only when you meet the class and see the class chemistry will the magic begin to happen.

It may mean amending seating plans regularly. 

Other magic moments I am looking forward too. Results day. Again, just like Christmas. Will the envelope contain the present students and staff want? 

We know it can't be Christmas every day, however I would argue that being a teacher there are magic moments every day. Every lesson the learning objective and outcomes may seem impossible for some students. The magic comes when students realise they understand the task or even when they take a risk answering a question. The smile of relief is magic and can be used to harness confidence for the next lesson.

Magic moments are the best part of my normal teaching day.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Teachers have such long holidays

I am a third generation teacher and knew from an early age - holidays weren't for sitting relaxing. I remember helping to unpack classroom materials in August and delivering them to different classrooms. This was so staff arrived in the last few days of the holidays to find poster paper and glue sticks ready for the new academic year. I even spent 4 summer holiday weeks post A levels cleaning the new build school and helping stuff envelopes for 1st September mailing to parents. Many people think teachers make the most of a long holiday, the reality is there is so much to do for a smooth start to September.

Living with a teacher.

My knowledge of life as a teacher came from having both parents as teachers. I was used to doing my homework while they wrote reports/marked books/made classroom displays. I knew the amount of evenings I spent with a babysitter due to parents being at concerts, plays, governor meetings and parents' evenings. This knowledge prepared me for the pace of working life as a teacher. Arrive in school 90 mins before school begins to deliver materials to the different teaching rooms I'm in, attend briefing and get last minute information to students and staff. Realise at 2:30pm that the headache might be due to no drink since breakfast. Arrive home at 20:30 after parents' evening and plan lessons for the next day.

Enjoying school holidays

So 5 weeks and 1 day of summer holidays! On call for school trip and summer school, emergency contact for site staff too. Two weeks into holidays and still picking up work emails which need following up. Reading up on new OFSTED guidance and latest educational publications.  A level results day and  GCSE results days are busy with students to congratulate and commiserate. Then staff room displays, classroom displays, new web classrooms to be filled with resources. For teachers new to the world of teaching I can see why they feel overwhelmed with working hours.

Bag ladies of Europe

I can understand why the perception is that teachers have truly long holidays. The truth is, time flies by. There is time to reflect on what worked last year and make sure to build on it with new classes. My PGCE tutor said teachers were the bag ladies of Europe, picking up leaflets everywhere they went on holidays to use in their lessons.

From bag ladies to magpies

So 15 years later there are fewer leaflets collected on holidays and more ideas from the virtual world squirrelled away. So many ideas get collected it takes time to decide what works in each context.

Work life balance

While on holidays it is possible to start thinking about school less. However I would argue that many teachers are mentally logging ideas for September.

I wouldn't have it any other way. Time to reflect, find new ideas and plan ahead is refreshing. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

When questioning gets questioned!

I have been planning 1st September training day for a few weeks now. The theme is questioning classroom questioning and engagement techniques.

As a school we have loosely followed Blooms and revised Blooms for the past decade. Has it been successful in creating classrooms full of deep learning?  Yes, where staff have planned it into lessons, or skilfully adapt questions depending on student learning.

So I took time in term 6 to research and trial different options, before launching with staff on Term 1. Having used PLTS roles successfully over the years, I thought I'd try de Bono thinking hats. Not a great fit for me, it could be the years of using Blooms.

I then moved onto Solo. We aren't using levels as of tomorrow and this seemed to provide a framework for class tasks. As an MFL specialist it was easy to apply. I also managed to plan a 30 minute practical training session, I could run for staff with a humanities style lesson.

Twitter disaster.

Then I read @LearningSpy's blog that solo may not be the way to go. 

Staff choice

1st INSET plans: 3 sessions with different engagement foci, such as e-learning, students leading learning and student roles in lessons. Each session will have a questioning technique to underpin it. Then it will be down to staff choice.

It will be interesting to see if Blooms wins the day. I, however will stick to SOLO and  let's see how many hat posters there will be.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Building student engagement and confidence

Do you struggle with a class of higher ability students, who just won't put their hands up in class. They are happy to write, but will take the easy option of saying they don't know if you ask a question? Are they worried about being embarrassed or even too afraid to take any risks in answering questions?

Teaching group issue.

I have been teaching a group of Gifted MFL students this year, who have taken their GCSE German in one academic year. As a group they are great at reading and writing. Their controlled assessment grades in reading and writing were up to 2 grades higher than their speaking and listening grades. I had tried no hands up, lollipop sticks, specific role cards, group work, think, pair, share and was in need of inspiration. Once they sat their GCSE German they immediately flipped to learning French - as they need to take it next year. How was I going to hand them onto their teacher for French with equal skills and confidence?


As has been the case throughout the past 12 months, twitter came to the rescue. PedagooSW was launched and I signed up for the day. I was so pleased to see a session which appeared to be the answer to my problems. Kagan strategies run by Crista Hazell (Head of MFL).

Strategies for students to learn from each other, collaborate, communicate and be confident

The 4 strategies explained were introduced in Crista's school to get rid of the fear factor, they are embarrassment free, less pressure for students and there is no room for passengers in the classroom.

Inside, outside circle - students are provided with questions in the inner circle and the outer circle answer the questions, then immediate peer feedback and swap roles. Then move to new partners. All students must participate and they get feedback to act upon straight away.

Talking chips - buy a box of poker chips. Give a certain amount to each student, which they spend when they contribute to the lesson. It enables quiet students to contribute. In MFL you can differentiate by colour - blue (answer in English), white (answer in French). Penalty (red) chips can be given if students have not spent all their chips and next lesson they are given extra chips.

2 stay, 2 stray - groups of 4 work on an activity and then 2 can go and steal answers from other tables, the remaining 2 have to talk to other stealers about the responses they have. Again risk free as they are sharing information before the teacher asks for answers.

Round Robin - In pairs students have to provide rapid, multiple answers to their peers. A great starter, plenary or progress point. Again all students have to participate and it is a safe risk free environment to build confidence.

Did it work?

PedagooSW was on the Saturday. I was so enthused, and had just been told my formal lesson observation this term would be with this group, I decided I had to try all 4 techniques. Monday after school I headed straight to Argos, as they were having a sale on 200 Poker Chips. The next day I introduced Talking chips to the class - they didn't like it as it meant they had to participate, but the first question I asked that lesson saw a class of hands up! Amazing. The next lesson I ran talking chips and inside/outside circle - they were beginning to get the hang of participating. It was a boiling hot day, so went to the hall (right by my room) to take the activity out of the classroom. In two lessons students who used to shyly put their hands up / or didn't participate at all were trying to get my attention to use their chips.

On the third talking chips lesson 7 girls had not used their chips, so I asked them to stay behind and explained that they would have extra chips the next lesson. (Formal observation!) I set up at lunch time and made sure that the girls had the correct amount of chips. When they arrived they knew what was expected. My Head of MFL had heard me talking about PedagooSW and the Kagan stratagies I had been trying. The lesson had students participating and whether they had confidence in speaking or not, they had the appearance of speaking with confidence. Over time they are improving each lesson.


I cannot say that the class are raving about the techniques but they are speaking increasingly in French. The lesson observation could not have gone better and I will be using these tips with my groups next year. In fact I am now looking into learning more about Kagan stratagies. My Head of MFL is keen to try them too. As I'm on SLT I will run CPD sessions next year but I also know that our open door lessons will help cascade the information in Term 1 too.

Massive thank you to Crista for her session at PedagooSW and @ictevangelist for organising the day.
The impact of teachers training teachers in massive.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Bouncing back

The term resilience is currently in vogue in educational establishments in the UK. Teenagers mental health issues are rising and there is a distinct inability to use inner grit or resilience to deal with academic failure. So I was delighted to find a teaching school locally that was running an entire day on this with Tanya Byron and Phil Beadle presenting. Luckily I was able to complete a staff training form linking this to the current issues must able students (my remit) are experiencing. So I was on the course.

Phil Beadle launched the day and did not disappoint. Bouncebackability was my lasting new term. Stress and failure is not bad for us as long as we can learn to control it. Having a fear of snakes I must thank Phil for warning the audience at a key point. It was a case of freeze, flight or fight. I chose to freeze and not watch the pictures. Good choice. Apparently this lack of resilience to stress by teenagers is due to their animalistic response. It closes their options down. If they were used to risk taking they would be more positive and be able to have a creative menu if responses to situations. I refer you to the snakes, I could only freeze and try to keep breathing.
Now according to Phil if I were a defeatist I would create actions which would be self fulfilling. If I fail in teaching a good lesson or I get a bad exam grade then I will maintain that type of approach.
However the optimist will view failure and stress in another way - blame themselves as they are the only part of the situation they can change! So year 9 last lesson on a Friday. I can be self defeatist, the lesson will go badly and I fulfil the prophecy. Or change my demeanour, attitude and create a positive learning environment they will engage with. :)
To translate this optimism to students does require realistic optimism to ensure resilience. My golden nugget from the keynote was: to deal with fear and build resilience- deal with what you know, not what you imagine. What people don't know worries them and then they cannot be resilient.

I will admit an hour on meta-cognition was a challenge. Phil was on top form recognising that we were having to find meta-cognitive managing strategy not to walk out. What about students? Do we need to scaffold and give them ways to build their own meta-cognition? I'm going to try the handy meta-cognition planning tool in September with my new Year 10. Start the linear course with a plan for building resilience into planning, activities and homework. The golden nugget from this session was: students need to over learn so that there is automaticity. Having experienced years of MFL speaking exams this is an area where automaticity is lacking. So there is my learning objective for y10&11.

A well earned lunch break (reflection time) then Tanya Byron. I recently ran an assembly where I spoke about how the students were being labelled as generation zombie. Tanya started her talk with the idea of captivity. We are raising a generation of kids in captivity. No more free range, risk taking kids. Captivity is breeding dependency. As a result kids cannot manage risk or failure.
Mirroring Phil's talk Tanya outlined Carol Dweck's work on teen angst. There are image maintainers. The students who plod along too afraid to push harder to gain higher grades incase they fail. If we continue to push they will have an animalistic response and shut down. Like me with Phil's snake images.
So how do we get past this angst and develop resilience. Help students understand the physical response to stress. Neuroplasticity key times during schooling at early years and puberty. This is the prime time to ensure there are chances to fail in a safe environment. This is the chance to desensitise the student by making them do what worries them. If not then they won't build resilience.

IQ is only 25% of success. EQ will power through. By building healthy, cognitive, socially, capable, creative and intelligent kids - society will have a resilient generation. 

I certainly had a lot to consider after 2 keynote talks and 2 workshops. Now to write this year's development plan to ensure resilience has a key role. Not forgetting my own bouncebackability.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Romance and reality. Two sides of the educational coin

In a school where 40% of the senior leadership changed this year and half the team will be new within a 12 month window, it is not surprising that there has been a high rate of resignations. The negatives of this are a loss of expertise and the ethos built up over time in a school is held by staff. The ethos can quickly change. Fragile in the face of change, needing protection and care. Only if the community feels the ethos is still wanted.

The other side of the coin comes from predicting the next 12 months. Having interviewed new colleagues joining us and interviewing the new TLR restructured post holders, there is a rose-tinted vision of what the future holds. It is uplifting to see their enthusiasm, untainted by any reality.

If new colleagues and new TLR holders arrive with the romance, isn't it morally important for SLT to foster and build this amongst all colleagues? Indeed a bridging programme for 2 sectors of staff would be useful. Through buddy coaching and personalised CPD opportunities it must be possible to keep the romantic vision of teaching and leadership alive. A school wide CPD programme is important for key levers, however time is needed for reflection. Mindfulness is the new ideology for students but staff would benefit too.

That spark of romance also needs to stand up to the daily rigours of learning walks, drop ins, SLT wandering and formal progress meetings. Will there be support to build on aspirations or will there be a dip like Year 7 students often experience? 

I have used twitter as a personal version of CPD. Outward looking and taking the opportunity to go to @Sltcamp helped network with leaders who cling on to the romantic vision of teaching, despite the daily rigours of reality. Inspite of an OFSTED visit in term 4 I look forward to the next 12 months to address issues all of us agreed upon.

The challenge is to hold onto the vision!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Emotion in leadership

I signed up to BELMAS this year and have dipped into the journals from time to time. One article from the March issue caught my eye this evening.
Emotion in leadership
The article looks at how emotion impacts on leadership. I was interested to read about the idea of emotion being a taboo subject and was interested in how Yamamoto et al discuss this. Karpinski's study of a keen female assistant principal and her unremarkable male principal stressed ability and expectation over emotion. Emotion was not taken into consideration in the learning journey to effective leadership resulting in a lack of trust in the leadership partnership.
I understood the discussion of expected and even prescribed emotional displays. The true conflict for any leader must be when they do not agree with the expected emotional response and have to act pleased, annoyed or truly happy with decisions taken by others. Indeed the act of suppressing feelings to sustain the outward show of expected emotion can be truly draining. I wonder at what point leaders then either become very good at pretending or indeed convince themselves they do believe for that authentic emotional response.
Again I agreed with the idea of EI positively affecting teachers' job satisfaction. Middle and senior leaders EI in sync with a school is pivotal to staff well-being. If leaders and teachers are forcing the accepted emotional response the working environment becomes untenable for colleagues.
As Yamamoto et al discuss the need for leaders to bring their authentic selves to the workplace, how then can leaders wear a mask of accepted emotional response? This surely is a juxtaposition as not every decision will be agreed with in a school?
It is only while reading this article that I start to understand how the emotion of the leader affects the emotions of the staff and this in turn affects the emotional well being of students. Interesting how the article suggests that secondary school principles have given little thought to the role of emotions. Indeed Yamamoto et al point to leaders who ignore or downplay emotions as leading to organisational problems. 
Is this why there has been an increase in senior leader roles looking at staff training and well-being? In secondaries yet not in primaries?
The notion of culturally accepted silence must be a toxic situation? If inner dialogue is in conflict with external emotions leadership is not harnessing staff confidence in their decisions. In an atmosphere of fear, where emotions are seen as a weakness leaders are not entering into dialogue with staff who may have a logical response to a situation yet are afraid to show their response due to the organisation's expected emotional response.
I have had the pleasure to experience transformational leaders during my career. Their emotional intelligence ensured that they truly inspired and motivated. Even when some of their ideas maybe should have been challenged. As a leader I would like to harness what I have learnt from them.
At times reflecting on poor decisions, embracing feedback and accepting you don't have the answers, will aid trust within a school. Having no EI will neither foster trust, nor build a team.
There is a need for leaders to willingly acknowledge that decisions made in schools emotionally impact on staff and students.
Scant regard for emotions will lead to a toxic environment. Accepting that there is a need for give and take makes for that transformational place of work with can do people.
Having reflected on my current environment and leaders around me. I conclude with the decision that embracing emotion will make me an authentic leader, masking emotion will lead to inner conflict. To ensure motivation, staff need to know their emotions are important.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Flipped learning

Being tasked with leading innovation in teaching techniques across the curriculum this year, I spent a lot of my time during the summer holidays researching the latest trends in teaching. I came across a whole new pedagogical vocabulary and it seemed like I would have to trial some new methodologies throughout the year.

My top tip so far has been +Edmodo as it has enabled me to flip learning for 1/3 of lessons with my Year 9 group. Teaching German in an ICT suite once a fortnight was always going to be a challenge and I decided that students needed to be able to work independently, collaboratively with me facilitating as any good ICT teacher would run an ICT lesson.

Thanks to +Sarah Findlater and fellow colleagues @sltcamp talking about how google docs could be used for collaboration and teacher comments I thought I would partner both together. The bad news was we had a school challenge consultant coming to do a faculty learning walk, particularly to look at student engagement and independence in the very lesson I was trialling the whole thing.

It was with trepidation that I set up the entire lesson via Edmodo. The class was split into pairs and sent the link to different documents they were going to construct together, with my comments to help them edit level 5 upwards. Students did not know who their partner was until they started to log on and type the document together. They also had a powerpoint of grammar uploaded to the class page on Edmodo incase they had forgotten key grammar from the previous lessons.

At the same time I was analysing the quiz starter on how students had done on their tenses recognition homework. Thanks to Edmodo marking the quiz straight away I was able to call students up for individual support. Then quickly take a look at the co-construction of texts pairs were working on.

I had no idea what the consultant was going to think about this as I was purely trialling an innovation with the hope that student would learn independently. The feedback was great - in fact he suggested that it should be rolled out across the MFL faculty and then across the school.

So in 7 days time I will be training up my pioneering digital leading teachers on how they can use this style of flipped classroom to drive up independent skills and attainment. My students have also invited their parents to be part of the experience and they get to track their work as well. I'll get parental feedback at Year 9 parents' evening. Hopefully after my trepidation in the beginning parents will be as delighted with the "facebook for German" experience their children are having. Then it will be almost time for a whole school launch.

The power of twitter in improving my teaching skills for the 21st Century continues to amaze me and I am grateful for the collegiate approach of all tweachers who are willing to share their successes and failures.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

My full story

So on the morning of Friday 15th November 2013 I packed my bags for the first ever @sltcamp. Trying to explain to people what I was doing, was met with confusion. Family were told I was off to a Youth Hostel south of London with no mobile phone signal to spend the weekend with people I have only ever met on twitter. Imagine the response when they heard I only knew them via #sltchat once a week for half an hour via tweets. I then justified it further by saying I knew they were real people as I had seen a chapter written by one of the organisers in a book I had bought recently. In a final effort to show they were real people and it wasn't an e-safety nightmare I forwarded several of the planning emails and my coordinates for the weekend.

It was with trepidation that I drove down single lane tracks in a dark and secluded wood. Getting my bags out of the car I definitely did not have a phone signal so it required some positive thinking to knock on the door to the youth hostel. Never has it been so nice to be met by a fellow SLTcamper who said yes you are in the right place. Rooms are labelled, drop you stuff and we're getting set up. I had the luxury of arriving slightly early as this was my first ever teachmeet. I had decided to just do an entire weekend to find out what everyone on twitter has been raving about. I am so glad I went.

The evening kicked off with lots of finding out who people were. Twitter helped, as did the bios and blogs but the most positive benefit was meeting people face to face and having the chance to keep conversations going all weekend. Networking of this type is the strength of grassroots CPD and I will talk about this for a long time to come. I had decided to attend to meet with forward thinking SLT and I wasn't disappointed. A weekend of laughter and support from a group of adults who all want to continue their professional learning.

Such a diverse range of people, backgrounds, geographical locations and teaching positions. It meant a truly rich conversation. 6 minute presentations began at 9pm and such enthusiasm for their topics people often did have to duck to avoid the balloon timer. Such was the quality of chat many people retired at a very late hour - to be awoken nice and early with cooked breakfast.

Saturday morning meant a convoy to the teachmeet in the village hall. How can I explain to colleagues in my own school that this was an unconference to be run by the agendas of people who attended. Sarah and Stephen were great at facilitating timings and making sure that everyone had the chance to get what they wanted out of the day. Feeling free to move from pedagogy to leadership topics meant I came away buzzing with ideas and positivity to bring back to my own school.

The evening allowed for an overspill of these conversations and dancing allowed the mind to slowly digest the learning. It was another long but worthwhile day. Sunday morning numbers may have been depleted but those who stayed enjoyed many a video from inspirational leaders. Just the icing on the cake to send us home. Truly pleased I put myself out of my usual comfort zone and that the 2 hour drive allowed me to start thinking through how I can share this experience.

SLT beanie to be worn on Monday gate duty . Then I can explain why I'm wearing it to staff. This is the beginning of a new learning experience and I hope there are many more to come.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Preparing for SLT camp

On the 9th October 2012 I started my personal journey of developing my own Personal learning network via Twitter. Hunting around cyberspace I found hashtags such as sltchat, mfltwitterati and started to follow people I came across on CPD courses.

The Lazy Teacher, Hywel Roberts being amongst the first I managed to find.

Nearly a year on my twitter journey has taken a truly positive life of CPD. Having joined in sltchat over several months I wondered what some of these like-minded people would be link in person as opposed to being virtual tweachers. I hadn't managed to take part in any teachmeets and then over the summer an intriguing invitation to sltcamp appeared.

SLT camp sounded even more exciting than a teachmeet and meant a 3 hour journey to the location for an entire weekend of CPD was too enticing to pass up. So when the launch date was given I duly set up my own account on eventbrite  - another new app. How lucky am I to be a proud owner of a pass to the first ever SLT camp.

What am I expecting? Well with the title Igniting Change there are lots of things this will mean.
Already I have experienced lots of change from my twitter journey only 11 months ago. This is my first personal blog - blog for my school once a month but this is another CPD journey. As this is a CPD weekend with no specific agenda and titled sessions as yet I am hoping for a truly organic experience. Letting all participants lead, share, question and support each other through what is a constantly changing educational environment.

What am I looking forward to? Meeting the virtual tweachers. Twitter has enabled me to participate in many conversations and to support teachers. It never fails to amaze me how supportive the twitter teaching community all are. I am looking forward to being in a room with like-minded people who are embracing change. All too often daily life puts obstacles in our way and this is an opportunity to look at what would we like to ignite as a change, has someone already done it, what problems might occur and coming away from camp fully ignited and passionate about making change.

How change makes things tricky? Having settled into becoming a more regular user of twitter I have already noticed that change can be tricky. There are ideas which are good but can only be great if they are put into place in a sensible way. I know I will be buzzing with information after a weekend of CPD and the tricky thing for me will be to temper this and embed ideas in a way that I can take others with me on this journey of change.

For my first blog I have written much more than I thought possible. Another first.