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Showing posts from July, 2015

Bridging the chasm–collaboration in schools with real people #blimage

Rachel Jones tagged me in this #blimage post with the image below ( source ).  You can see the growing list of posts here . The challenge is to write about an image, linking it to education. There are many ways in which I can interpret this image and link it to education, many of which focus on the paper and all linked to collaboration– which I’m assuming is blank: The paper is a Scheme of Work or Development Plan. Planning is vital – teaching really isn’t something which can be made up as you go along.  This can lead to jumping on bandwagons or using the latest resource or tool out of context – remember it’s not about lessons but sequences of learning .  Often, I speak to teachers who plan is isolation.  I would say that this is impossible.  Not only will the resultant work be limited to one educational perspective and be biased toward one set of tools and ideas, it’s just bloody hard work.  Creativity is best set free in a collaborative environments.  Of course, this may mean t

My dream model of learning.

In many, many ways educators stand on the shoulders of the giants that go before us.  In this post, it’s the many sources of inspiration out there, especially the Staffrm crowd who fed into the feedback.  You see, I only ever hold my ideas lightly, but I’ll still fight you for them…. It’s struck me over the past year that the online community is not wholly healthy for education.  To me, it represents a healthy dose of state the obvious (dressing old ideas up with new language and buzz words) blended with utter pointless arguments.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good argument, but there are many offline colleagues that provide endless inspiration and challenge.  I include myself in this. It’s been a brutal year, one characterised by redundancies and a drop in outcomes with all of the pressure that generates.  What’s important  is that we dust off and continue to face the storm.  This post comes about as the result of countless runs and a certain colleagues always asking me what I’d d

Recognising the ledger of our daily work

'I Guess we all like to be recognised not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.' Neil Armstrong Have been meaning to respond to  @leahmoo   's story about  end of year gifts  for some time now (that phrase always reminds me of Agent Smith).  In a nutshell, I don't do gifts for either students or staff at the end of term. It would be impossible for students - there are over a thousand of them. However, I do believe that recognising and thanking staff is important. To me, this links with this year's obsession with wellbeing. I'm also always aware of perception - I'm SLT so therefore should be able to afford gifts or if I give gifts, does that set a precedent and expectation that others do the same? Also, I'm not in the habit of thanking people for being mediocre. Now before I'm accused of being a grumpy member of SLT, here are a few things I try to do throughout the year. 1. As a Head of Department I used to arrange

The pure incidental things - simplicty

It's just, it's just the simple things, pure incidentals, It's like stayin' up 'till midnight and talkin' about ... absolutely nothing .  My favourite campsite (Dol Gam, pictured above) has hot water, toilets and recently electricity. And there a quality pub up the road.  I've been going there since I was around 13. Together with the walking kit, and a map, I don't need much to achieve a great deal in the mountains. I just have to put one foot in front of another, have a rough aim (subject to change) and some fuel to scoff.   In schools, we have a wealth of tools.  Take data.  Many schools track the performance of individuals and groups of students across every year group. It makes me angry when this is seen as a desk exercise, although the fault is my own. This is important as the intervention and budget planning ultimately is decided by people who are removed from the chalk face.  If the predictions aren't accurate, the school can't

KISS - Keep it simple stupid

I've been teaching stuff for a long time, although I haven't always been employed as a teacher; Here I am in the Brecon Beacons teaching climbing.  Before I was a teacher, I taught principles of flight, marksmanship, lifesaving, swimming, water polo, map skills, mountaineering, rifle drills. I've been a mountain instructor and a other stuff too. By 14 I was teaching adults how to safely use a variation on the SA80. From this age, I was introduced to a simple way to start learning, and I still use it now: INTRO. For: Interest - motivate, spark, inspire Need - why is what you're about top learn important. Trust me, that's simpler to do when related to firearms. Title - this is kind of important. Revision - or how does this learning link to others Objective - behavioural linked in the RAF, but objectives are important. This got me thinking about other routines.  One that I am a firm believer in is a strong routine for the beginning of


Earliest memory of reading? My grandfather (Welsh side) was in hospital.  I was reading a book linked to Disney / Mickey Mouse and it was upside down.  He helped me.  I remember because he died shortly afterward.  I link books I've read to the events and places at the time. When and where do you like reading? Whenever I can - camping, travelling, on the sofa with a pint mug of builder's brew.  I'm getting into Biff and Chipper of an evening at the moment. What sorts of things do you read? All sorts of things.  I really enjoy the Jack Reacher, Ben Hope type thrillers. Terry Pratchett's Discworld is a favorite. Climbing and travel books, such as the White Spider.  Recently I've been reading lots of books about Iceland (the sagas are amazing - Vikings, gore and magic - what's not to like?) and running - especially ultra running. Best book(s) read in the past year? Hard to narrow down, so I cheated. Chrissie Wellingon, Life Without Limits.  Any book

The problem with lessons

I have a massive problem with lessons.  The focus upon lessons, instead of sequences of lessons.  Stuff doesn't get learned within neat chunks.  Knowledge has more chance of sinking in over time. Skills get honed by application to other, unknown contexts. I'm privileged to be able to visit many lessons, but recently I've been on the hunt. It's clear when learning has been focused over many lessons as opposed to a one off whizz bang performance. Artefacts are made and links are made.   Take our recent exhibition of technology and art work.  This stuff takes real time to put together. The mystery was created through some giant arrows throughout the school: Inside, the work was displayed: Of course, the fruit of extended learning is found all over the school. Real learning takes time, and real learning needs to be really quite difficult at times. When was the last time you went looking for it?  When was the last time you celebrated it?  Do

Rewilding education?

In an effort to link to  yesterday's  post, I picked up a book tip from geography legend and  colleague  Alan Parkinson :  Feral: Rewilding the... .  At Patcham High, we have a Drop Everything And Read policy where everyone on site reads for fifteen minutes a day.  Feral is my current DEAR book. This morning, I read the chapter linked to (re)introducing beavers and other 'keystone' species, such as wolves, to ecosystems.  George points out, that ecosystems are so complex, we couldn't possibly know what effects one action may take.  Similarly, the purpose of rewilding, is the rewilding process: there is no endpoint. I see the mass restoration of ecosystems, meaning taking down the fences, blocking up the drainage ditches, enabling wildlife to spread. Reintroducing missing species, and particularly missing species which are keystone species, or ecosystem engineers. These are species which have impacts greater than their biomass alone would suggest. They create habita

Eyes were invented before technology - getting young people to read the landscape

Just time for a quick story. Back from a day along the East Sussex coast - classic gemorphological sites such as Birling Gap, Cuckmere Haven and Rottingdean. The day is set up to tell a story, moving from an undefended stretch of coast where nature will be allowed to take place uninterrupted to Rottingdean where humans are 'holding the line.' The narrative of such a day is just as important as what is measured. The day is about the complex interplay between human activity (spanning hundreds of years in the case of Birling Gap and Cuckmere Haven) and unstoppable physical processes. Of course, there's loads of measurement, field sketches, talk and questioning about processes, landforms and human decisions. But then there are also the moments where measurement takes place by using the human mind and brain. Those that have been out in the field with me, whether on a Geography fieldtrip or expedition, know the phrase 'Eyes were invented before (map/compass/ranging ole/t

Switching on to the emotion of learning

What is the point of education?  It's a deep question I know. Is it to impart facts and pass exams, or is there something deeper?  I often see teachers grappling with the facts and bare bones of a topic , without delving deeper.  Geographers are a classic example: examinining case studies from around the world without exploring the wider context of the country.  Such learning is merely the tip of the iceburg. Of course, it's not our fault.  The examination system has always been focused upon facts and knowledge recall (no, it's not really a new Gove invention) and there is limited time and so much content.... What can we do to encourage young people to fall in love with the places, people, problems and passions that we explore in our institutions?  Wouldn't setting learning within a wider context actually assist in the recall of knowledge?