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Showing posts from August, 2013

The danger of Teaching and Twitter conversations: poorly formed bipolar arguments.

Sometimes in life, there really are only two options.  Get the wrong one and you can look like a muppet.  Take this useful sign for the toilets in Morocco.  I successfully navigated it, choosing the right option.  The result? No egg on my face.  As a mountain leader, there are many right or wrong decisions that I’ve faced, as there are all over life.  It’s not a good idea to let inexperienced young people walk themselves down Snowdon.  They may die or be seriously injured.  If someone is showing the signs and symptoms of hyperthermia, you need to treat it fast in a specified way.  There is no real arguing with this sign: Other options are less obvious.  Take this sign recently spotted near to where I live: Now, I wouldn’t consider sleeping in a bin.  However, faced with a sub-zero night, I could see the appeal.  The danger? Being tipped into one of those huge lorries with a compactor. (by the way, I only really considered all of this thanks to questions from my four year old boy).

Flipping blip! A decade in teaching: how did that happen?

As I’m between jobs at the moment, I’ve had time to think and reflect.  Thus, the realisation that I’ve been teaching for ten years hit my head.  Ten years? A lot can happen in that time. Anyway, after treading water for a while, I’m about to take up a new leadership post. It’s almost time to start wearing a watch again, so I thought I’d share what I’m looking forward to and what I’m not.  I have a plan. Sort of. Looking forward to: - having to learn stuff again in a different place. From different acronyms to finding my way around the building; - Being part of a vibrant learning community with a clear vision; - being in a school that values reading though the Drop Everything And Read scheme.  The only bonus of commuting for two hours each day is that I got to read a lot. - leading on teaching and learning (more on this below), - being challenged, - still teaching some geography. I have a number of KS3 classes, but nothing beyond. This sh

Reflections on CPD and education fashions

I’ve just finished Teacher Proof and enjoyed Tom Bennett’s writing and his points. Indeed, I recommend it to any teacher, especially those about to start out on classroom adventures for the first time.  The book aligns with my belief that teachers should never stop learning and engage with educational research (by which I mean reading critically).  I enjoyed Tom’s style of debunking many of the educational fashions of recent (ish) years, and it’s made me reflect upon my own practice, what and how I write on this blog and my own approach. As a former Fasttrack teacher I can identify with Tom’s experience of NLP (I have to admit to reading the course bumph and writing it off. I chose to go on a project management thing instead).  As someone who looked after whole school CPD, I can also attest to the power of Headteachers and Inset.  You know the deal, the whole school gives over a whole day to a certain strategy.  A speaker is invited in, you aren’t allowed to sit with your friends

Worthing(ish) Teachup proposal #worthingteachup

I’ve been living in Goring by Sea for around seven years now after a try-before-you-buy thing.  Back in July sometime I floated the possibility of organising an informal Tweetup in the area and there seemed to be a little bit of support for this.  I’m happy to do the arranging, no presentations, just chatting and refreshments.  Happy if it’s just me and one other, or more! The idea is the a straightforward and relaxed networking and support opportunity locally, perhaps leading to some joint adventures. Anyway, in order to get an idea of whether this is worthwhile, I’ve created the form embedded below.  The plan is to get back to you by the 6th September.  Of course, it’s Worthing(ish) so no geographic boundaries.  I’ve suggested a Thursday as it avoids any weekend getaways and 7-7:30 should make it fairly friendly to those with young families. Please feel free to pass feedback either through the form or through a tweet . As my culinary adventures extend mainly as far as Goring’s Sea

A summer of reading and implications for school leadership.

Soon I start at Patcham High School and I was asked to glance over some books in preparation.  A couple of these have been around for a while, but it’s always good to refresh the memory.  My overall impression is that there’s no real ‘the way’ to teach or treat young people.  Much of the research falls within psychology and other realms, research in its nature is reductionist and is prone to generalisation, but many of the stories presented link to some of my experience in the classroom and leadership.  These books tend to cite similar sources of information and even each other. For example, all of these books focus on the fact that measures of intelligence were designed so that interventions could be put into place to get children back on track.  All four also focus on the role of teacher feedback.  They are also written in a populist way, something that works better for the journalists rather than the researchers.  I’m not considering the validity and reliability of the messages

Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted #TLAB14

Last year, Nick Dennis and team put together the first Teaching, Learning & Assessment in Berkhamsted. The event was slick and a great success, even before Wales ripped the RBS Six Nations Grand Slam from England’s grasp in excellent style .  The team looked after every detail, even providing a screen to watch the match after the final keynote and thanks. My contribution to last year’s event on Inspirational Geography, can be found here and search the blog for the hashtag ‘#TLAB13’ for a flavour of the event.  Anyway, to stop rambling on, I’m delighted that Nick has asked me to be involved in next year’s #TLAB14, and there is a fantastic range of speakers already confirmed as seen on the Lanyrd page . The event is a bargain (around the cost of some 6 Nations or a gig ticket…).  Details are still being finalised, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the Twitter Feed and Webpage for the event. I plan to do a session about practical geography, so some experiments and links to S

Results day: it’s the best day ever.

A little while ago, I was asked contribute my thoughts for a series of blog posts over at the OCR blog.  My contribution went live today for the GCSE results and you can read it here . It also contains some advice for Curriculum Leaders on what to do with the results.  For me, results day is the most important day of the year for planning the year ahead. It’s a little too early for any detailed analysis on the current results (as they have just been released) but what I will say is that some of the news stories and comment remind me of bad climate change reporting: they’ve got the trends and variation mixed up. 

Teaching and Learning Takeover. #TLT13

Delighted to be involved in the Teaching and Learning Takeover event taking place in October.  I’ll be speaking about Progress and  Assessment: Am looking forward to the event and will put the resources up here in due course.  There are going to be a great line up of speakers .

Can Computers Keep Secrets?

I’ve been reading a lot this summer.  The more I read, the more I realise that I’m right to assume that there is no ‘ the’ way to teach.  I spotted Tom Barrett’s book on the No Tosh Facebook feed and ordered a copy having seen Tom speak at a couple of events and having read his blogs. Can Computers Keep Secrets explores the links between curiosity and creativity. The book (more of an extended essay) is quick and enjoyable to read that struck a chord with me as both a father, school leader and a geographer.  There are some clear links to other books such as Mindset , The Elephant in the Classroom and How Children Succeed .  That is to say, teachers need to move away from delivering knowledge toward allowing children to ask questions and driving their own enquiries.  This links clearly to the geographical enquiry process that we used at Priory Geography: Enquiry poster from David Rogers The idea being that young people access the process at different rates as their l

The Goldsmiths’ Company Science for Society Course #geogsotons4s

The image above was taken by a rather cool laser scanner just after the final picnic lunch of The Goldsmiths’ Company Science for Society course put together by the lovely people at Southampton University's Geography Department .   The course is supported by Ordnance Survey and The Goldsmiths’ Company, one of the ‘old school’ livery companies within the City of London. Rather than give you a full rundown of the content, you can head over to the Earth Surface Dynamics Blog here for a list of resources and links.  I wonder how many geography departments could rebrand some of their Geography as ‘Earth Surface Dynamics’…..? The week long course was an excellent opportunity given to me as a result of this .  First, the week long course is well worth the effort, although those that are rather ‘out of touch’ with current developments in geography would benefit more than those either new to the profession or fairly active geographers.  I went along to a similar course in 2007 (!

Work experience–not just for students.

When Professional Tutor (looking after whole school CPD) at Priory School, I wanted to set up some work experience for the teaching staff.  The thing is, most INSET days (call them what you will) focus on staff being told what’s good or working with the same teams of people that they normally do.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it doesn’t involve staff finding out for themselves, nor setting their own agenda.  As a Geographer, enquiry learning is central to my approach: setting up some questions and gathering information that leads to an outcome or change. In addition, professional learning needs to be personalised.  That’s not a choice within a narrow set of workshops (although that’s a great approach too – tools in the box remember).  Finally, teaching staff have the ability to identify what they need to work upon and put into action a plan. This isn’t an original plan, but included here as interest to others as I’ve received a number of questions about the proce

Looking back at five and a half years @PrioryGeography

It’s been quiet on here for a while as I’ve been taking a break to enjoy time with family and to mark the transition between Priory Geography and Patcham .  For those unaware, I start as an Assistant Headteacher in a couple of weeks (eek!).  This post mainly serves as a personal marker and a public thank you, but may be of interest to others.  At the end, I try to offer some learning / leadership type reflections ahead of the new adventure. Thank you and reflection In January 2008 I started as Curriculum Leader for Geography at Priory School.  Priory Geography was born and the rest is, as they say, history.  I’ve been reflecting on five and a half years of a challenging and difficult journey, one that had few easy, calm stretches.  Needless to say, I loved it.  Having said that, my time juggling the demands of subject leadership and having one foot in SLT told me that it was time for a new adventure.  More importantly, it was time to say goodbye.    ‘The primary role of leader