Taken with Instagram
It has been a while since I have had any time to write on my blog. Here’s why:
The last 5 weeks have been THE most busiest of my life. What a statement, but so true. Our owners gave us 5 weeks notice that they will be visiting Shanghai to do a quality review of the school. 5 weeks sounded great, “we’ve got loads of time!” - the most uttered statement the first few days after being told.
That is the problem, any teacher knows that our jobs can literally consume whatever time we have and so for many of us at BISS, review preparations became a second full time job; outside of normal teaching hours. Having recently taken over the Humanities faculty that had been ‘headless’ for the first 6 months of the school year, we had some work to do. The faculty had been very supportive to my early requirements, preparing an overview of the years teaching, entering data into a centralised mark-book and attending regular meetings and participating in CPD exercises. But we didn’t have everything we needed in place, but I saw this as an opportunity to have that put right.
So, the school had arranged set meetings every Monday to prepare. We the time focus on creating consistent schemes of work, developing and sharing best practise through targeted CPD (specifically on AfL/formative assessment techniques), compiling all the necessary data and administration and producing ‘outstanding’ wall displays that would please any Ofsted inspector. We wrote IEPs, set up and implemented intervention strategies, documented all our communications to parents, got all our marking up to date and even re-branded our VLE pages to make them look more ‘premium’!
It was mental! Over the last couple of weeks, we were regularly doing 15 hour days in school, and who knows how many hours at home. The team and I managed to conduct a huge self-evaluation that was built on observations, learning walks, work and marking sampling and through discussions in my coaching sessions and with my team. Data was analysed; the figures actually looked pretty impressive for the exam classes and I felt like the Faculty was ready!
Before I took over the leadership, I was told our department was somewhat of a concern. The Head of Faculty had quit at the start of the year and had not been replaced, results were far from good; the team’s predictions had been quite off in some subjects (unfortunately, quite a bit higher than the actual grades). All this had sparked an internal ‘spotlight’ review at the start of the year, conducted by the Senior Leadership Team. After this initial internal spotlight review, I was asked to take over the leadership of Humanities Faculty. So, after the inspection was over and I had received our feedback about the team, I was absolutely delighted. We had massively impressed the reviewers. The lessons observed in Humanities had been graded as mostly ‘outstanding’, our displays were hailed as the best in the school and they were pleased to see such immense progress in our results. A complete transformation.
I remember being in the UK and receiving 24 hours notice of an Ofsted inspection. They were a crazy 24 hours, but there were only 24 of them. I honestly hope that the next inspection we are given is literally sprung upon us. I would prefer no time to prepare than too much. It really nearly killed me!
It feels great now it is over, though… what is particularly great is being outside of the school during day light hours, a real novelty. But what feels even better is that in such a short space of time, our faculty has really turned things around: Quality Assured.
For goal 3, ask a learner, I am adding a link to my year 9 tutor group’s blog. In a recent tutorial, the class were tasked with responding to two statements- Learning is…. and Learning should be…..
They were split into groups and had to respond to their designated statement using the ‘chalk talk’ technique. They could add comments, questions, answers, argue, draw or whatever they wanted, in response. After some time, they swapped statements and read the other groups’ efforts. They had some reflection time and they then began commenting on this new statement. This was all done in silence, hence the ‘chalk talk’ name. It was an awesome session and the results can be viewed in the two images provided in their blog post. Please visit their blog and take a look. Also, while you’re there, please leave them a comment, they’ll love it!
It has been an extremely busy couple of weeks in Shanghai, both personally and professionally…
On a personal note, my mum, dad and sister came to town to celebrate my mum’s 60th and my engagement to Jade! They came for 10 action packed days that coincided with Chinese New Year and that took us to Nanjing, saw us do a few nights in Puxi by the Bund and a few at our flat in Kangqiao. It was awesome but very tiring!
Professionally, we have been informed of an impending inspection by our owners, Nord Anglia. Inspections are never fun and can cause a lot of stress for many teachers, my team seem positive but there is definitely an element of “Great! More work” in the air.
More on that another time, the above are just excuses for not blogging about my magical teaching moment, Goal no. 2, until now!
Anyway, I have been thinking about my magical moment for some time and I keep coming back to something that happened before I was actually teaching. After traveling for a year, I mentored in a community college in Leicester before going on to teach there following my PGCE. I was hired as the inclusion mentor and focused on keeping the most ‘challenged’ students in school. It was a particularly tough school, so the challenged kids were, at times, totally ‘off the wall’. I worked with lots of great students who just needed a chance, and some completely bonkers kids, too! It was great fun but exhausting.
The moment in mind came a few years later than when the work was put in. A year 10 girl was school phobic and regularly skipped classes, ran out of school and generally did anything to avoid or disrupt learning. She wasn’t a bad kid but completely hated the school, her teachers and most of the other kids. I worked with her on her self-esteem and anger issues. I felt we made ground in my time working with her, she started turning up for school most days.
The following year, I left to do my PGCE and returned to the school on placement and was subsequently offered a teaching post for the following year. The girl had left by then without any GCSEs. I taught business studies and my prior career was in recruitment so I found myself involved with the careers team. I ended up running classes for the year 11’s on creating CV’s, letter writing, interview techniques and helped write some college applications and actual job applications. A younger relative of the girl was still at the school and she asked if I’d help the older girl again. She needed assistance with a job application. She actually came along to some of the after school sessions and I helped her apply for her first ever job. She had never dared apply to anything before and felt she had no chance because of her lack of qualifications.
A few years later, I received a Facebook message from the girl and it was amazing. I never added students to Facebook, and she knew that but basically it just said that she wanted to thank me personally for all my help over the years. It turned out that she got the job which I’d helped her with. It was with a high street retailer, and in her email, she said it was all down to me. She was extremely grateful and said that my mentoring had kept her in school and out of trouble and then later, that my time spent coaching her had got her the job that she still had to that day.
It was a great feeling and although it had been tough at times, it suddenly felt more than worth my efforts. I felt great that my input had actually made a difference to her. At that school, it often felt that we were banging our heads against the wall but that success was truly magical and helped inspire me to keep going, even when it didn’t feel like progress was being made.
Dorian (@dozmeista) sent me a tweet about the 30 goals project for educators, and asked if I was ‘up ferret’… I am!
So, the aim is to complete 1 to 2 goals a week for the year and then tweet or blog about it. The first requirement is to create a ‘me manifesto’ so here’s mine with a wordle to reflect the most common words to remind me of ‘what I am about’; or aspire to be.
1 my ‘me manifesto’
• personalise the learning
• inspire a desire to learn and a passion to achieve
• guide, motivate and lead
• encourage open lines of two-way communication
• listen and give students a voice
• be efficient, look for a better way
• do what I believe to be right
• always deliver with enthusiasm and passion
• be accountable and instill accountability and respect
Following our wonderful Christmas break in India, it was great to get back and see our colleagues at BISS; and especially the Humanities team, who I am excited to now be leading. Although, I cannot believe how cold Shanghai has become!
Our first day back was a training day and was well structured and enjoyable; following a warm welcome back from Sir Terry, the secondary and primary staff split to follow separate training schedules. Our day (secondary) was focused on Formative Assessment and was extremely interactive and practical.
We were all provided with some departmental time and I chose to use it to officially get to together as a team for the first time. I wanted to share my objectives, set a short ranking task for the teachers and explore what each individual values in order to deliver effective teaching and learning. We also took the time to discuss our development plan, which I hold as our single most important tool. Reflecting on our department’s recent ‘spotlight’ (inspection) I had categorised everything we do into 3 clear and specific areas -
To help raise achievement and improve teaching and learning, my focus for the Humanities Faculty is to ensure that everything we do fits into these specific areas. A clear focus on Attainment is underpinned by clear development planning, specific curriculum plans with built in assessments and continuous professional development. Although we have quite clear outcomes, there are many small steps that need to be taken in order to raise our performance. My first goal is to establish some team cohesion and build our identity and set some clear standards and rudimentary processes. We will now be meeting weekly (which is new for the team) and every session will focus on all of the 3 key areas.
Each official meeting will be rotated with a different teacher hosting and also delivering one aspect of good practice in a short, practical manner that will hopefully continue to enhance our teaching and keep everybody thinking and focused on development. I am happy with the early feedback and positive comments regarding my plans and am looking forward to meeting every one again tomorrow, whereby we have a short briefing in which I am going to deliver a short session on effective feedback lessons following our very recent mock exams.
Having analysed the results, my year 11 Business students will be assigned to groups based on areas of weakness and will be given a question they performed poorly on. They will create and deliver a 15 minute three part lesson to teach the group the knowledge, how to apply it and produce a model answer. They must include an interactive starter, main learning activities and a plenary to test the learning. I will be modelling an example and they will have the remainder of the lesson and homework time to plan their lesson. This way of feeding back is so much more effective than simply going through the paper with the class. It utilises diagnostic planning, is student led and personalised. I am doing this lesson period 1 so it will be good to run through the task with the team and get their feedback.
Whilst on our Christmas holidays in India, I tried my best to switch off from all things technology (Jade’s request). Although, the iPad did come in handy a few times, particularly with Twitter where we received some good advice on India from a few people in my PLN. @Liz_Halina, who teaches in Delhi, gave us a few great tips on where to go and we almost managed to meet up for chai, but sadly couldn’t quite meet.
Whilst browsing Twitter, I learned of the new Educreations tool which allows you create your own screen casts and lessons to share. You can create straight from your iPad or online. At first viewing, it looks awesome. A simple interface lets you record what you type or write (my stylus will now get some usage), and you can add photos, record your voice and add extra slides etc. I have been creating screen casts for a while now using Explain Everything, but have found it a little unstable and slow when saving projects. I am excited to give the new tool a go and hope to be able to create some fun lessons for my students.
The site lets you create lessons using your interactive whiteboard too. I have a colleague (Matt Prince) who teaches maths and uses the whiteboard incredibly; he records most of his lessons for his students to access later. He hits record when writing key points or formulas and then pauses again. All his lessons are then available in short snippets for his kids to review at home. I have been doing similar things and Educreations will be great to enhance this.
Also, having experimented with ‘flipping the classroom’ of late, I was looking for a better screen cast tool…This is hopefully it. I will see how it goes using it both to record lessons so students can revisit them later (or can see the lesson if absent) and also to provide pre-instruction as a homework activity when flipping. I look forward to getting involved…