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‘I am not afraid of storms as I am learning how to sail my ship.’ That was 2012. 2013? #bringiton

desert contemplation

While I am yet to meet the day in which I do not look forward to going to work, 2012 has been a tough, bittersweet year professionally speaking.  I truly love my job, but the challenge of motivating a high performing, dedicated and inspirational team in the context of working within a school deemed to ‘require improvement’ has been an interesting (and on-going) challenge as increased monitoring has forced some difficult decisions.  As one 15 week term ended and 2013 approaches I am reminded that Ofsted is due to pop in again.  The outcome will put the whole school and Priory Geography under a microscope.  The result will either be a ‘Good’ or ‘Special Measures.’ 

Still, I am reminded that I wouldn’t be doing anything else.  I am reminded that I couldn’t work with a better team.  I am reminded that I do truly love this job.  I am reminded of the futility and danger that focusing on the narrow accountability agenda brings: you forget about all the wonderful happenings that occur right under my nose every single working day.  I’m still learning as the title’s quote above, by Louisa May Alcott (thank to Jo Debens’ post).

2012-12-23 12.42.09

This post aims to sum up these thoughts and explain why.  I should warn you that it’s the product of some seriously reflective runs; my crazy jumbly mind and a large measure of goose bumps.  It’s been put together while spotting images and quotes like the one above found while exploring the grounds of Petworth House.  It’s mainly for me, but feel free to read on.  It’ll end with some promises put here mainly so that the wonderful Jo Debens and Samuel Atkins can keep nagging me.  This post is about keeping perspective.  Teaching is not really that bad when compared to the other stuff going on in the world.  The promises at the end are about the fact that I’m an habitual underachiever and really need to get around to raising my game in 2013.

I don’t apologise if it seems long winded and rambling.  It’s what I think. Oh,  and I apologise for any poetry misdemeanours.

Why teaching (and 2012) rocks can be summed up by this video.  I’m going to attempt an explanation, using events from 2012.

Look past the fact that it’s an advertisement for drama and documentaries.  Listen the the words and reflect on the images.  I think that this poetry mash-up (or cento) is great and would make an excellent English or Geography starter activity. You can find the words here together with the poetry. One of the limiting factors on young people in my classes is their lack of literacy. 

Much have I travelled in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingdoms seen, (John Keats – On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer)But still I long to learn (Alison Chisolm) tales, marvellous tales, Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest, (James Elroy Flecker – The Golden Road to Samarkand)

In 2012 I became the Professional Tutor and was reminded that everyone is a learner.  Some talk of the difference between senior teams and teachers, but in reality we are all a bunch of mixed ability learners.  I’ve always believed that developing people is the most important role of school leaders.  Better teachers create better learning opportunities.  I hope that I never tire of learning.  I am confident that working with young people will provide ripe conditions for this!  In 2012, I have seen the capacity for people to learn.  It gives me confidence.

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What wild ecstasy? (John Keats – Ode on a Grecian Urn) How far the unknown transcends the what we know. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Nature)

Teaching is seen by many of my friends as a mad pursuit.  I don’t disagree.  It’s a political rugby ball stuck in one of those kicking games that are a bore to watch.  It’s the role of teachers to remember that politicians aren't in our classrooms and we are the filter that keeps the focus on the main thing: learning.  Everyday, the team that I work with have accepted changes, taken my word (or at least acted that way) and delivered exception learning time after time.  ‘Typicality’ is a phrase that has emerged this year and do you know what?  I don’t dislike it.  What I see when I pop in to classrooms (mostly to offer support and not at all to wind the students up) are typical experiences that support young people.  ‘Let’s not do it for Ofsted, let’s do it for the children.’ We do, every day. Weekends, evenings. Day in day out. 

In 2012, we carried on as usual and sent young people out engaged in on-site fieldwork during an Ofsted Inspection. 

Thank you Priory Geography (Core members: Jo and Sam, past members Alec and Lauren) for the many spine tingly moments.  Every time I think I’ve pushed too far, too hard you’ve surpassed my expectations. 

We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, (Arthur O’Shaughnessy – Ode) Step forward, (Walter Savage Landor - Interlude) To feel the blood run through the veins and tingle Where busy thought and blind sensation mingle. (Percy Bysshe Shelley - Fragment) Come, my friends, ‘tis not too late, (Alfred Lord Tennyson - Ulysses) For we are the movers and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems; (Arthur O’Shaughnessy – Ode) To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. (Alfred Lord Tennyson – Ulysses)

Teaching is great as we get to encourage dreams.  More importantly, we get to help learners (young and old) develop a road map to help them realise their dreams.  In 2012 I’ve been lucky enough to set in motion a number of changes at my school that aim to celebrate and recognise professional learning.  If we can do it, so can they…..  There have been countless spine tingly moments in 2012.  The source of which have been students and teachers alike. 

In 2012 we have encouraged young people (of all difficulties) to take part in Geocaching and gotten some of our young people to interview Lord Coe.  Neither achievement was mine, but both were led by geographers.  One of my favourite moments of 2012 was sitting in the back of our Year 8 parent’s evening listening to parent after parent after parent tell us how much their children loved geography. 

2013…… Bring It On.


  • Listen to my team more.  Allow them to develop the department.
  • Be more involved with the Geography Collective.
  • (Un)plan more lessons.
  • Be naughty. 


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