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Nurture 16/17? It's time for trust, faith and hope.

Forgive what many may consider to be a self indulgent post (I got a bit distracted) but, over the ten years that I've been writing here, I've been known for the occasional run and beer induced waffle and, in any case, it is my blog and I'll do what I want to.....  This is an attempt at a look ahead to the new year ( I'm always reminded of Dawn Hallybone's words that teacher have two New Years).  I've endeavoured, perhaps rather ambitiously,  to suggest some undertakings for teachers and myself. I'll have to get some help in making it all into a diagram to stick on my fridge, office wall and car windscreen. The basis for the structure comes from this post about growing grit.  In the month where this blog turned ten, I must acknowledge that I may have done more falling this year. But, I rise. And will continue to do so.

You see, although I am no music buff, it plays an important part in the way I think. See my leadership playlist, for example.  I also listened to music in order to drown out the sounds of domestic abuse and therefore my own eclectic taste developed and music got links to thoughts and feelings. The image above hints at the direction here: that we need to look at things differently. Indeed, as Ewan Macintosh encourages, teachers need to do two things better. The first is to define the problem properly and the second is to use that knowledge to become more provocative.

Anyway, what follows is based upon my own crazy little mind.  When trying to reflect on 2016, it's easy to jump on the celebrity death bandwagon. Now, whilst any death is sad, many others have passed on this year. This is the year that my autistic sister's father went and my family became suddenly aware of our own mortality, unfulfilled dreams and broken promises. I think that my 7 year old son just summed it up brilliantly as we discussed what we were grateful for.  He said 'for living in a country free from war so we are not refugees.' Bugger me. Puts life into perspective. I've tried to look forward here, rather than back.


There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
'Cause he knows it's all worthwhile


For me, this song talks about trust. The starman is waiting to create a unified teaching profession. Imagine if all the energy spent on spats and how we should be teaching were spent on creating a unified professional association and a united front against the government.  The starman knows that teaching is a complex beast as it deals with human beings, but that there are some simple areas to focus upon. We shouldn't let ourselves get distracted. In addition it's time to stop doubting and waiting for permission. For example, I come from a teaching and learning background and landed a teaching and learning job. However, many of the barriers are not about teaching and learning. Yes, the purpose of a school is to impart knowledge and the core activity is teaching and learning, however I know that there are non teaching and learning problems that stand in the way. I've been too influenced by the bloggers and tweeters out there and I have doubted myself. I loved this post by Old Primary Head.

As teachers we are concerned with bringing forth the best in young people. Indeed, for some children, we need to do a little parenting. This doesn't mean to become group work loving entertainment clown teachers. Just to treat young people as human beings. We are responsible for developing qualities as well as ensuring young people achieve academic qualifications. This is because I am a teacher not simply to furnish youngsters with certificates but to ensure that they have the best start in life. This is why I'm committed to working in comprehensive education.  

There are two areas of interest here: making learning better for young people, which includes making teachers' lives easier and my own personal interests in geography, getting fitter and the outdoors. Sometimes we need to look outside of the classroom.

Implications for teachers: 

  • We need to unite around the fact that, although difficult, teaching is a brilliant job. 
  • We need to support the National College for teaching and become even more militant.
  • This means taking well-being seriously and I've committed personally to trying to do this past the cosmetic gift culture. Do we need parents' evenings that are a high cost PR exercise or should we be encouraging and facilitating regular contact home, for example?
  • Leadership teams need to summarise and spread the word easily, perhaps through video. 
  • In the absence of a moratorium on curriculum change (one of the main root causes of the current well-being crisis in schools and therefore the retention problems) and more money to reduce contact time, we need to forge solutions that ensure teachers are able to access a drip-feed of high quality CPD throughout the year. Personally, I'd be tempted to bin INSET days.

Implications for me: 

  • Make a positive difference and do what I believe
  • Accept that loads of anecdotes become data but challenge decisions made on crap information and dubious statistics. 
  • Sleep outside. Serendipitously, I was thinking about my failure to complete the 2015 challenge of sleeping outside once a month as Alistair Humphreys posted the idea again on Facebook. Therefore this year I plan to wriggle under a good sleeping bag at least once a month as per this plan.
  • In 2016 I published a number of geography resources, spoke at various conferences and edited two GCSE geography textbooks. In 2017 100 Ideas for Geography Teachers is published and I've also got a far more academic writing project to focus upon which will challenge me.
  • Online I'll write here. About the stuff I want to.
  • Do something mental with my siblings.
  • Continue to support three TeachMeets: at the GA Conference, RGS(IBG) and TMSolutions in Brighton.
In a quote:

“And therefore education at the University mostly worked by the age-old method of putting a lot of young people in the vicinity of a lot of books and hoping that something would pass from one to the other, while the actual young people put themselves in the vicinity of inns and taverns for exactly the same reason.” Terry PratchettInteresting Times


George Micheal: Faith

This year I haven't run far enough. Whilst I accept that injury and pleasant distraction were part of this, I need to be more commitment and think bigger in 2017.  Forming habits is a big part of that. Habits help teaching as well as fitness and well being.

Implication for teachers

  • How are we ensuring that our curriculum is set up for 100% terminal examinations? 
  • Are we ensuring that there is high challenge right from lesson one of year 7?
  • In secondary schools, are we looking at what our primary colleagues are up to and learning from them so that 11 year olds feel challenged, curious and enthusiastic about learning.
  • Are we focused on sequences of lessons rather than the single one off? I'm not convinced we are there yet where we have a culture of 'we do the same thing every day regardless of who rocks up.'

Implication for me: 

  • Run the LakeLand 100 and run at least 1500 miles over the year and get at least one run in a week. This means doing a race on New Years Day and getting more marathons done. I want to finally enter the Snowdon Marathon and run an ultra in my second favourite country, Iceland.
  • Get along to bootcamp during term time three times a week, which will mean moving a 7:30 meeting. Do some sort of exercise daily during the holidays.
  • Stick with the growinggrit project. This means putting the job search on hold, or at least being less frustrated. I could get a job if I cast my net wide enough but I'm unwilling to accept the impact that will have on seeing my boy. At the moment, I'm a poor weekend Dad during term time. There is plenty of time to get to chief inspector for schools. 
  • Complete the 'fat' NPQH rather than the 'thin' tick box version.
  • Continue to be harsh on myself but realise that the underachievement can be tackled.
  • Stop being a snob and (re)engage with Twitter chats, especially #PrimaryRocks which I enjoy.
  • Get a new watch.
In a quote:

“...Life is nothing but a habit. Get to work.” 
― Chrissie WellingtonA Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey


What is the point of school? This year has been tough and 2017 will be tougher, especially with the current mentalist policy. Our purpose is to celebrate teaching. Shout far and wide and the make the job seem possible. 

Implications for teachers:

  • Take responsibility for well-being and start saying no.
  • Ignore those who aren't capable of seeing the grey areas. That advocate that there is one way to teach. Especially be cautious of the voices that aren't in the classroom or leading change and therefore perhaps talk without experience or evidence of impact or leading the change that they advocate. 
Implications for me:
  • Remember that my core purpose in life is to make a positive difference in the lives of others. It's OK if this is small scale. 
  • Stay focused. Love, fitness, job. There's plenty of time for legacy and I don't need to be linked in to the Twitter world and certainly don't need the people on it to approve. I need to stop spreading myself too thin.
  • I think it's time to give up on the Microsoft / Google / Apple stuff. I've always used and advocated what works, but I'm increasingly concerned that these companies are focused on stuff rather than learning.
  • Consider rejoining the GA but stay clear of getting involved. Focus on my work on the RGS(IBG) Education Committee.
In a quote:

“When things are tough, you get tougher.” 
― Chrissie WellingtonA Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey


The end of Rogue One was a spine tingling moment for me when Princess Leia appeared exactly as she looked at the start of A New Hope. When asked what she had been given (I'm not giving any other details unless readers have not seen it) she replied 'hope.' Tomorrow will be better because it's far too high stakes for us to fail. I went back to re-read this open letter to my son. 

Implications for teachers:

  • Can we get rid of the culture whereby we target certain groups of children on order to satisfy league tables? Instead, let's ensure that every young person matters. Let's see young people as humans full of hope rather than data waiting to be labelled and grouped.

Implications for me: 

  • Never lose hope and always stay on the side of justice.

In a quote:

'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.' Helen Keller


The final words will go to two actual real life spacemen: Neil Armstrong and Chris Hadfield. Dreams are possible to achieve and we should always aim for what is just out of reach. One of these quotes in on my office wall, and the other adorns the thank you post cards that I hand out.

“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you'd be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don't let life randomly kick you into the adult you don't want to become.” 

"I guess we all want to be remembered for the daily ledger of our lives, rather than one piece of fireworks.'

It's time for all of us to have a little more trust, faith and hope. It's time for me to #beDavid .

Image credit found on Flickr and used via a Creative Commons Licence


  1. Found this really interesting to read, David - you always challenge me and make me think (which I need and welcome).

    This is an ambitious set of goals for the year ahead, but I can see you have the hope and confidence to have a good shot at them.

    Don't stick them to your car windscreen though... I'm really not convinced that's safe!


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