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2019….

My teaching resolutions are all focused on doing things, not not doing them:

1. Focus on building productive and supportive relationships with students and staff

2. Explore the depth of added quality that enrichment and communal activities in school add to student lives and learning engagement

3. Create a great programme of experiences for Cultural Capital week in July

4. Strengthen our curriculum delivery so it’s even more cohesive and engaging, with rich learning experiences that support all students progress

5. To work with the SEND and Hearing Impaired teams to ensure we build on our ability to support all learners

6. To make the most of our local amenities to develop and extend opportunities for learning outside the classroom

7. To ask for help and support and readily admit when I don’t have the skills or knowledge to do something, yet.

8. To be more visible and actively advocating the 7 points above

Wishing you all a great 2019, be the best you can be and support all others to do the same. Remembering we’re all human and we need support and downtime to ensure we can succeed.

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Watching paint dry…

….well, sanding bannisters actually! Anyhoo, it’s summer so I can focus on things other than teaching and all that entails. We’re doing up our house so I’ve spent today sanding the bannisters before repainting them. It was a job I rushed last October half term, and now all the paint I carefully applied is peeling off. Because I didn’t prep the surfaces properly beforehand.

Whilst prepping the surfaces this time, and really taking the time to sand all the bannisters down, I’ve had time to step back from teaching and think. About how we prepare ourselves and our students. I look at all the bannisters and think this job is too big for me to do, there are too many but then I just focus on one bannister at a time and try not to focus on the amount of them, then I just get on with it. Life has many lessons to teach us, in many ways if we are ready and receptive to the learning.

Aspects of T and L reminded of whilst prepping my bannisters:

  • Good preparation is paramount
  • Breaking the task down into doable chunks makes it surmountable
  • Seeing the bigger picture and the end goal is important too
  • Laying the foundations and linking them to the goal is vital as this makes the learning journey meaningful
  • Going back over previous work and improving it is a good thing to do
  • When something hasn’t worked as well as you’d liked evaluate why and improve your practise.
  • If you’re doing DIY over the summer enjoy!!
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    Idolising money kills creativity, not schools

    I agree to a point, with Ken Robinson, but I don’t think it’s schools that kill creativity per se. I think it’s the idea that the prime directive of education is as a route to employment that does that. I think that’s really the point Robinson makes. I’m getting tired of beating the ‘Art is so important to humanity and education’ drum. Though it feels as if more people are listening these days which does give me hope.

    We really should be focused on delivering a broad and challenging curriculum readying our students to go out into the world as articulate, cultured, reflective and confident people. Ready to take on the challenges we cannot foresee, in ways we will never have dreamed of. Hopefully in ways that bring us together rather than the current fragmentation and hostility that pervades. I can see there are some excellent SLT teams who are confident enough to ensure they go above and beyond the prescriptive and accountability driven approach confined and nurtured by the current and previous governments. Thank goodness for them, the students they serve are lucky.

    But it shouldn’t be down to luck, it should be that wherever you live you go to a good school with a diverse cohort that has the resources and staff to teach all well and with equity in a way that encourages and nurtures all.

    Easier said than done, yes, but we are crying out for change. The education system and the staff in it are at breaking point. We all need more fairness, equity, respect and openness in our schools and the system overall. I am fed up. I’ve been a teacher, a passionate and driven teacher, for many many years now. Last year was personally hellish thanks to very poor management practices. Thankfully things have improved, but they could still be better, and I think many staff I know in many schools are all feeling despondent and let down after all our efforts and hard work result in a funding formula that will further reduce our ability to do our jobs.

    I do not produce a product, I teach children, they are not a commodity, a consumer or a client. They are a child, and they, and their parents, trust in us to provide them with a good, rounded, challenging and engaging education. Are we able to do that in the current circumstances? Basically no.

    That makes me so sad and frustrated. I do my best but the system that forces students into an exam machine to the detriment of their mental health is not the one I bought into when I trained to be a teacher. I don’t believe education should be easy by any means but does learning by rote to pass exams really provide our students with the skills for the life they need to live after they leave education?

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    Bringing the fun back…

    To promote a love of learning and children’s intellectual curiosity is one of the aspects of the Teaching Standards (DfE 2011). I personally think that we are failing to do that in most areas of education as evidenced by the rise in mental health issues occurring in our young people.

    One of the things I love about teaching Art, Craft and Design is that there are lots of opportunities to create awe and wonder. Thus engaging the students in learning and developing curiosity and inquisitiveness. This is not exclusive to my subject but because we are not encumbered by having to teach to the test we have more flexibility and risk taking is part of the creative learning journey. There is a myriad of knowledge to be acquired and skills to be honed however, so how we go about challenging our learners and developing their confidence in their abilities is a topic we come back to regularly.

    I love it, but it saddens me greatly, when students complain that the lesson is over when they’ve only just got into their work, as they’ve been so engaged they’ve not realised how much time has gone! They often wish our lessons were longer, as do I. My students generally love their art lessons but even they often fall foul of the thinking that abounds around it not being as important as other subjects or not being able to lead to employment. Both trains of thought I challenge regularly, through the curriculum delivery and in conversation.

    I still love teaching, and I love seeing my students learn, develop, broaden their thinking and celebrate their successes. I am saddened by the current state of education where subjects are too hierarchical and some devalued, where students and staff are under immense pressure due to outcome/results driven goals and where school budgets tragically reduce the cultural experience of most learners. But I will strive every day to make my classroom as fun as possible a place to learn in where everyone is celebrated and feels supported. My only hope is that educational policy changes soon so that all our students can succeed ( in terms relevant to them) in well funded, healthy and fun learning environments. That may take a bigger leap of faith for some more than others.

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    Planning goals as well as lessons…

    For a long time I have mapped out learning in advance using various structures for schemes of learning over the years. Forward planning to ensure the core learning that I want to happen and that I have created the time for it to happen within a flexible approach. I’ve started using a spreadsheet to do this over the past few years, I can see the year mapped out and flick backwards and forwards to quickly see what’s been taught and what still needs to happen. I keep the file in the cloud so I can access it whenever I need to. I use shorthand and it’s for no-one else’s use but mine, a useful tool I use to underpin my more detailed planning and resourcing.

    I was thinking about this planning strategy when I was musing over how I plan for other things with my leadership hat on. How do I track the goals I set for my team? How do I map out plans for whole school? How do I plan out other non teaching things? Should I timetable it all like I do my teaching, marking and planning? I think it might work and make it easier for me to see timelines and schedules and ensure I keep track of everything more effectively. So I am going to trial it for the next term and see whether it helps. Trialling things to see if they work us always a good approach.

    This brings to mind the current discourse around using research in schools that seems to be quite popular on Twitter and in other forums too. More on that soon.

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    Great gallery visits and treasured teachmeets

    I had the pleasure of presenting at the arts and culture teachmeet at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich last night. On a cold and wet evening many values colleagues made their weary way to the teachmeet held at the end of a long term and were inspired! I was left feeling very excited and itching to start planning exciting learning experiences for my students after the event.

    This was the third teachmeet I’ve had the pleasure to attend this year and I’ve been thrilled to find out so many interesting things and privileged to have such creative colleagues share their amazing work. I was honoured to be asked to share some of my thinking at this teachmeet and I chose to talk about how I plan gallery visits.

    I’ve been taking students to galleries for years and have always advocated for how beneficial these visits are. But about 12 years ago I was challenged to justify their benefit against the “lost” learning due to lessons missed. So I thought about all the benefits gained:

    • Collaborative learning
    • Gained cultural capital
    • Critical and analytical skills development
    • Deepening narrative understanding and creation
    • Historical and cultural awareness
    • Intellectual and creative stimulation

    I also thought of all the evidence in the students portfolios/sketchbooks after the gallery visits, all the images found and generated and the ideas developed because of this valuable stimulus.

    And for a while that was enough.

    But then I began to realise that I was imposing my expectations and terms on the students during these visits and many learners were only passively engaged in the process. So I began to explore how I could engender more agency for the students. It’s first I involved them in planning the tasks they would do in the gallery, the questions they would ask of the artworks and got them researching relevant artists before the visit. This soon moved into involving them in planning the whole trip.

    Recently I was at a CPD for my new role as Associate Assistant Headteacher with regards to overseeing trips, exploring why Risk Assessments are so important. The course leader discussed how empowering it was for students to help plan RA’s so now I’m also adding that into the whole visits process too!

    My students are more engaged in the whole visit and understand what they need to do from beginning to end, and beyond. They use their experience to inform their ideas and their working practices and feel more empowered and confident. Some of our students now take themselves to galleries in their own time due to their improved planning and knowledge and improved fortitude. Capital gains and cultural capital all round!

    I was pleased with how my presentation was received and inspired by the conversations I had with other educators from schools and galleries about further ways we can expand our students horizons through collaborative planning and learning experiences outside the classroom. To anyone who is worried about planning a trip, believe me the benefits outweigh the efforts when you work with the students to create a fantastic learning experience that will build their confidence in themselves and deepen their relationships with you and each other. Go for it!

    Education

    First they…

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    First they made changes to the league tables, removing value added, but I did not speak out, because I was under the illusion it would simplify things.
    Then they made changes to the setting of targets, but I did not speak out, because I thought setting aspirational grades wasn’t that bad.
    Then they came for the BTECs in animal husbandry and nail art, but I did not speak out, because I did not teach those subjects.
    Then they came for then league tables again changing the codes for some GCSE’s, and I did not speak out, because I did not teach those subjects.
    Then they came for the soft subjects, making their GCSE scores irrelevant to the league tables, and I did not speak out, as I did not teach those subjects.
    Then they changed the pay and conditions to make it easier for teachers to be paid less and made to work longer and harder, and I did not speak out as I thought this might make teachers work harder.
    Then they out so much pressure on the small number of subjects left to perform above and beyond realistic measures and I realised there was no-one left to speak for me.

    I know we have all thought that some of the changes being implemented may be for the better, but put together they are making teaching an incredibly stressful and joyless profession.

    What next? This government is doing so well as making education divisive, making it easy to slice and dice it up and parcel it out to private hands and money making enterprises. We need to stand together and say enough is enough, we are all educators and we all care about giving a quality education to ALL children in this country that helps them to achieve and grow into health he rounded individuals who participate and contribute to community and society.

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