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Showing posts from January, 2013

Are teachers like priests? Is it time to start believing in ourselves?

I keep track of GapingVoid and this blog post , combined with a few other events this week, have made me think.  I pondered briefly on this subject back in 2011.  Hugh’s main point in the post above is that we’re all looking for new stuff to believe in. Following Hugh’s format, here are a few ingredients: One of my favourite tracks contains this lyric: ‘Believe in me, Help me believe in anything, I want to be someone who believes’ Thinking about digital exercise books over at the Microsoft School’s Blog . Some excellent blog posts defending Gove and his policies by Tom Bennett , Andrew Old and Kevin Bartle that I tend to agree with.  Having been dragged up in the Welsh Valleys as the son of a mining engineer, I’m a life long Labour party supporter. If you haven’t already, read them. In essence, we have to stop saying that Gove’s educational policy is pants because it originates from Gove. This post isn’t as good as any of these. Planning some reaction and getting students

Kidsmeet coming to Portsmouth

Priory Geography have been organising our school’s contribution to the BBC’s School Report for the past five years now.  This year, through a twitter suggestion or two, I floated the idea of a kids meet tying in with the news day. Luckily for me Jo Debens agreed and so I stepped back into the shadows until the next time the world needs a crazy suggestion.  On the subject of Jo, after five years of nagging, she’s finally started a blog, do check it out! Jo has written an excellent post here that explains it all, and sign up details are here .

‘Why do you want to be a teacher?’

Sometimes, this job can feel like you’re on the railroad to oblivion, unable to change course.  I’ve never been one for negativity, but it’s always important to have a reality check now and again.  One of these occurred to me today and I’d like to share it with you. Part of my role as Professional Tutor is to work with PGCE students.  As part of their first couple of weeks at the school, I like to sit them down with our Head for a chat.  And a coffee. What struck me is that it’s easy to clip into the delusion that teaching is a rubbish job that nobody wants to join.  And yet, when asked the question ‘why do you want to be a teacher’ I was struck by the diversity of answers.  Here are individuals who have chosen to change careers or to buck the trend of their peers for something challenging and life affirming (their words, not mine).  It was very spine tingly to listen to and reaffirmed that I love what I do. Someone also spoke about never being bored.  About wishing for time to

Using Photo Stream to share good practice

All teachers know how hectic a school day can be and how easy it is to get distracted and never get around to ticking off the to-do list.  Furthermore, it’s always tricky to remember those lesson insights / ideas / breakthroughs that occur during a lesson.  For example, our Year 11 sit an examination tomorrow that consists of an applied essay.  During the lesson, I came across a few barriers; overcame them and then shared with my colleagues.  The thing is, what if you forget? Also, what happens if you spot a great lesson idea or take a photograph that you want others to see easily? This is a work is progress as relies upon the fact that all of Priory Geography have iPhone 4S devices.  There are similar systems that rely upon other operating systems, and of course we use Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Docs and Evernote.  Last week, I started using Photo Stream to share ideas quickly. As the team can choose to have push notifications, they can be prompted to ask me about the idea wh

Being a Professional Tutor: Establishing a coaching culture.

One of my priorities on becoming Professional Tutor at my school was to establish a cadre of highly trained coaches.  Throughout my career in school so far I have been exposed to coaching.  While I can find the sessions uncomfortable at times, there is no doubt in my mind of the positive impact that being coached has. It is with this in mind, and some wider research into coaching, that we are part way through establishing a high-quality coaching culture.  This post aims to briefly share how I went about this.  A deeper reflection of impact will follow in the summer term The first step was to identify a group of willing, volunteer coaches from the existing staff.  We didn’t mind what their position was within the school.  Being trained as a coach and coaching others can have a positive impact on the coaches own teaching and this is was very much an opportunity for challenging CPD. We used an external trainer.  This was to separate a previous attempt at establishing coaching

On becoming an Academy, some messy musings.

At a consultation meeting this week concerning our conversion to academy status something that the visiting Headteacher, who was speaking, said struck a chord.  What he said was along the lines of: “My job as a Headteacher for the past 11 years has been to subvert schemes and national initiatives, and the money that comes with it, for good and good is better learning” It resonated with me as for the past five years, I’ve subverted funding from projects to enable wider changes to take place.  It’s amazing how much impact a small grant aimed at helping a select bunch of students can do for a whole department.  For example: The Olympic Geocaching project (250 students and on-going), Blogging from a field (250 students and on-going), Mobile @ Priory and it’s cookbook of teaching and learning ideas (1,250 students and on-going as well as other schools), and Our BYOD mobile policy . These projects all started with a narrow aim, but ended up having a school-w

TLA Berkhamstead–Great conference

In a time where everyone is focused on the measurement instead of the learning, it’s great to see the Teaching and Learning Conference being put together by Nick Dennis taking shape.  It;s been a while since I checked in on the website and I’m now very excited and more than a little chuffed at being included amongst these workshop leaders . I remember when Nick first approached me. The idea was to hold a weekend conference so cover wouldn’t restrict attendees at the cost of a gig.  The price of £40 is certainly worth it when some day INSET courses cost upwards of £200.  Book your place here . There is also a TeachMeet on the Friday .

What am I up to at BETT? ( #BETT2013)

I’ve always had a bittersweet relationship with BETT.  Essentially, it’s a huge hall filled full of people trying to see you stuff.  However, if you get over this (mainly by pretending you aren’t a budget holder – most sellers soon leave you alone) there are some gems in terms of professional development.  This year I’ll be doing my best to tell stories of guerrilla subversion; getting students to create school policy and getting teachers, students and artists together to co-create and team-teach lessons. You can read my unofficial guerrilla guide to BETT here .  This is where I’ve put some sensible stuff…. Come along to our Learn Live session on the Friday to hear what we’ve been up to a Priory School.  The session details are here: Mobile devices account for only 1.6% of negative behaviour incidents at Priory School since the introduction of its student written-mobile device policy. Listen to the story of how our Rights Respecting School empowered young people in order

#TMPompey returns: 6th March 2013 at Action Stations

TeachMeet Pompey is returning in March.  Action Stations has kindly agreed to host the event for the second time which is great news.  We’d like the event to be better than ever, it really is an informal get together. There’s even optional Laser Quest for those with energy to burn.  It;s not that scary and even our pupils took part last year. So, please help promote the event and sign up to see you there Details can be found on the TMPompey page , email me at or tweet me. If you’re new to TeachMeets, here’s the general blurb: What is TeachMeet? Learn something new, be amazed, amused and enthused. This is an informal gathering of those curious about teaching and learning. Anyone can share great ideas they've trialled in their classrooms, ask important questions or simply sign up to take part in learning conversations. Education professionals from all sectors are welcome to take part. The main part of TeachMeet is heari

Investigating place: is Portsmouth all the same?

During the Autumn Term, Year 7 spend their time exploring ‘Amazing Places.’  Lessons focus on the distinctiveness of places around the world.  The Spring Term concentrates on ‘Our Places' staring with the school and local area.  This is a brief description of an enquiry lesson that explores the similarities of places. Priory Geography has access to the flat roof on top of our 3 story main building, built around 1890.  As we are an urban site, the school is surrounded on all sides by some of the highest density housing in the UK. The lesson starts by considering the Urban Earth video below.  The class are challenged to identify distinctive features of the city. We use this video as it is unfamiliar to our students.  Of course, the general consensus is that there isn’t anything in Bristol (based on the video evidence).  This is used to suggest that most urban places in the UK are mostly similar.   This feature allows geographers to make educated guesses about other urban a

Being Professional Tutor: Is it possible to make INSET days worthwhile?

This will be the first in a planned series of posts that will highlight various aspects of my new role as Professional Tutor.  Future posts will cover Professional Learning Time; developing a cadre of expert coaches and new staff induction. Was pondering what to blog about this morning when I stumbled across the following tweets: In turn, this led me to this excellent post by the Learning Spy that contains a thought provoking response by Ian Gilbert .  What follows is an attempt to describe what I’m aiming for at my school after my secondment to Professional Tutor in July this year. You can read my vision for the role here . They way I see it, INSET has a problem.  The time has to be identified in advance and yet it has to respond to the needs of teachers.  These will invariably change over the year.  I can’t offer any cast iron way of making INSET better, but here’s a story about what we’re attempting to do.  I’d like to think that this approach has helped me make

The totally irresponsible and Guerrilla alternative Guide to BETT

Before I start, if you;re looking for a useful guide to BETT, head over to Ian Addison’s blog and check out his comprehensive BETT for beginners post .  This post is a guide to what I usually get up to.  The main plan is not to have much of a plan.  Please, don’t assume that I’ve done anything in the post.  It is probably just for entertainment. I’ll cobble together a real preview post of what I’m up to this year when I’m being all serious. I take BETT for what it is – a big barn where loads of people try to sell you stuff that you don’t need.  However, it is possible to avoid the hype and seek out some excellent CPD if you take the right approach. In preparation, register at least four time: Once in your proper name, include a Twitter handle.  Use this for people and stuff you actually want to speak to. For the second promote yourself.  This enables you to speak to the people who sell the stuff you really want to play with.  If they think you the holder of a large bud

My challenge for you in 2013: create and share a manifesto.

One piece of advice that I give to middle leaders and individuals, whether they are new to teaching or not, it to create a manifesto that reflects their style of teaching.  This is an exercise that I do with NQTs and trainees and it can often help set the sights.  It also creates something to reflect back upon. In April 2011 I created a rather crude personal manifesto.  It was an attempt to set out my core values. Looking back, there’s no real, overt mention of leadership.  No, I a subscriber to the view that we are all leaders as leadership operates at all scales from the personal to the organisational and beyond.  However, the third statement is linked to leadership. I should also probably add that everything should have a picture of me.  What can I say – all I can do is tell the stories that I have been involved with In terms of the department, each yeah we hold a curriculum development day.  One of the activities to to revisit, evaluate and create a department.  This w

‘Never off duty’: productivity and prioritisation in teaching.

My son’s current cartoon hero is Fireman Sam.  Sam is a workaholic for sure and is well known for always being at the emergency.  In his words, ‘A good fireman is never off duty.’  Teaching can often feel like that.  The steps up from Phase One up to Phase Two and Three during a PGCE course; from PGCEer to an NQT and from NQT to NQT+1 are daunting. A question that I often get asked is how it’s possible to cram it all in.  The question comes from trainee teachers, NQTs and experienced teachers alike.  Now, I consider myself to be very disorganised and quite forgetful.  Most of the time I rely upon what’s in my head.  Not a great system many would say! This post is an attempt to summarise my approach of organisation and prioritisation in my professional life.  I should add a caveat which is I operate under the assumption that people will shout at me if I forget something important.  I also take the approach that a teaching team exists to help each other out, so there’s no room for

Is technology ‘transforming schools’? Today programme by @ruskin147

An interesting and well balanced extract can be found here .  I liked this quote: "Great teachers use technology to do even greater things... they use the technology as a bridge." My own view? As the person driving the greater adoption of technology, I have no doubt that technology can and will transform schools.  Though the real question should be is technology transforming teaching and learning ? What do you think?

#ukedchat : ‘Handing over the reins. How do you implement pupil led learning in the classroom?’ - A response

This is a personal response to the #ukedchat that took place yesterday evening.  In a nutshell, I think it missed the point.  Whether this is because in-depth and meaningful discussion, argument and rebuttal is not really possible within the fast-paced 140 character format.  I find the more useful Twitter chats tend to swap and offer practical classroom tips.  I’ve tried to link to some of the examples I threw out in last night’s ‘debate.’ What was striking is that the debate was bi-polar with very little middle ground.  I’ve tried to sum up my own thoughts here.  I know that there are some who would disagree with the whole concept.   They are welcome to that opinion but I won’t be listening, especially to the louder, anonymous voices that I pay little attention to nor attach any reliability.  1. There is a problem with the term ‘Pupil Led Learning’ as everyone has a slightly different definition in mind.  There’s nothing wrong with this in my view as it reflects the diversity o

What you were reading in 2012. Top 5 blog posts.

I’ve been keeping this blog for a few years now and it still always amazes me that people read, comment and respond to what goes on here.  In 2012, your favourite posts were: Monitoring to support better teaching and learning A practical post outlining my approach to monitoring and supporting my team of teachers. A curriculum isn’t creative or innovative, teachers are A general, characteristic ‘rant’ about keeping a positive during (continual) curriculum change. ‘I’m not afraid of storms as I am learning how to sail my ship.’ That was 2012, 2013? #bringiton! Storming into the top five in my recent reflective post. Drip Feed CPD from Partners in Learning Another December post highlighting some of the new professional learning opportunities from Microsoft. Day in the life of…. An overview of a typical day.

Are you ready to join #GeoEdChat?

#GeoEdChat is a new Twitter based chat that is being put together by The Geography Collective .  For those of you familiar with other chats such as #ukedchat, there are a few differences , apart from the geographical theme. We do have the poll where you can make your choice and there will be a rotating moderator and editor.  In addition, we are aiming to flesh out the choices a little and provide a ‘ think piece’ blog post before the chat to generate and focus discussion once the poll closes. Secondly, we plan to allow the chat to tour the time zones .  We hope that this will allow participants to access the chat at a time convenient to them. Like all Geography Collective projects, it a work in progress. You don’t have to be a geography teacher to take part.  Anyone with an interest in geography and education is more than welcome to take part, lurk or heckle . The first poll is already live and attracting votes as I type. The first chat will take place on the 6th Febr

Present me and the OCR B GCSE SDME

It’s time to start warming up for school.  Although I love my time at home, I have just planned many adventures that need funding Today, I;m putting together resources and plans for the Priory Geography team linked to the Sustainable Decision Making Exam on the 21st January.  While accessing the excellent selection of resources curated by Matt over at Geography Pods and the OCR Ning I came across the ‘ Present Me’ above. Great use of a new tool and one that I can see myself using in the near future.

Would the last teacher to leave the profession please turn out the light?

The problem with having the rolling news on in the background while I was working today is that it was almost impossible to ignore this . Now, I’m no statistician and I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an uber-informed person, so this is more of a personal position founded on nothing but my nine and a bit years of teaching. But really?  If teaching is so bad, why don’t we all just quit?  Or is it just human nature to have a little rant and moan.  My main issue is that people leap follow the media.  If they say it’s right then it must be true? So a poll, commissioned by the NUT,  of 804 ( source ) the approximately 320,000 NUT members ( source ) has found that the entire teaching profession’s morale is ‘dangerously low.’  When teaching young people to critically evaluate sources of information, this could be called bias.  Can the 804 NUT members who replied to the survey be considered representative of all teachers? Interesting also that the response from the NUT mirrors its

Work experience for teachers–help needed

Working life as a teacher can be very solitary.  This leads to tunnel vision, or a one track mind.  We get comfortable and tend to oppose changes that would shift us.  It’s easy to lose the perspective that other schools and institutions can give. In my role as Professional Tutor at Priory School in Portsmouth, my plan is to use a whole Inset day in June to allow every teacher to visit another school or institution.  The aim is to go out, visit and share.  Think of it as work experience for teachers.  In order to pull this off I’ll need some help.  So, if you could accommodate a teacher or two at your school for the day (and I’m not limiting here – we are an 11-16 Secondary, but I’m more than happy to receive offers from all phases) it would be great to hear from you.  You may even be an educational business and fancy offering a place. Your location should be in and around Portsmouth, although all offers taken! If you could, get in touch with me by: Using the get in touch

Encouraging exploration on school grounds

On opening January’s edition of National Geographic , the photo below accompanies the Editor’s Letter, which ends with the words above. The photograph was taken by W. Eugene Smith who was a war photographer.  He describes the moment of capture : While I followed my children into the undergrowth and the group of taller trees – how they were delighted at every little discovery! – and observed them, I suddenly realized that at this moment, in spite of everything, in spite of all the wars and all I had gone through that day, I wanted to sing a sonnet to life and to the courage to go on living it…. This sums up the spirit of outdoor education, of which I am an enthusiastic advocate.  As geography teachers, part of our responsibility is to attempt to instil the wonder of place in young people.  Many automatically think of the wide world and heading off to far flung places for adventure. However, as a fellow founding member of the Geography Collective and National Geographic