Monthly Archives: October 2014

Some Ofsted comments from reports – new things to look out for?

missdcoxblog

Check uniform

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The school was given ‘good’. Data not everything?

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Speaking ‘ad hoc’ to parents. Wouldn’t be as accessible in secondary?

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Adult behaviour was watched. Does this define British values as listening, communication and respect?

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Check uniform standards again

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Don’t celebrate inappropriately

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Don’t tell children their answers are ‘brilliant’ when they’re not!

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Make sure classrooms are ‘attractive’ and ‘clutter free’

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And organised

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Ensure broad and balanced curriculum

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Ensure behaviour is ‘superb’

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And finally don’t shock your staff!

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The #CultureBox Experience – The story so far…

I had been scrolling idly through my Twitter timeline one evening and stumbled across a tweet from Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) using the #culturebox with a link which I duly followed as it had perked my curiosity.

The link led me here:  http://cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/culturebox.html

(or somewhere close!)

An opportunity to link with another school somewhere in the world?

That sounded exciting and I signed myself up immediately!

Time passed and I eventually discovered that I was unlucky – the odd man out so to speak, the only teacher not to be paired up with another school (to be fair, my potential partner school had pulled out.) I was disappointed but happy to wait until the next opportunity…until I received a Tweet from Amjad, offering me a pairing with Brett Salakas (@MRsalakas), one of the top names in #aussieED, the massive Sunday morning twitter chat… I was delighted to accept!

Brett Salakas #aussieED

Brett Salakas
#aussieED

I honestly don’t think I could have been paired with anyone better.

It has already opened my eyes to new technologies. I had my first ever Google Hangout chat with Brett, and spend an hour laughing and chatting about our schools, jobs, different contexts, sharing information about our classes, teaching philosophies and more. Brett came across as an eminently likable and engaging character, who I not only shared a great deal in common with but we also look ever so slightly similar!

Perhaps the biggest lesson for Brett was what was to become our catchphrase “Don’t say Bloody!”

In Australia, an innocent word used by teachers, adults, pupils and children alike, in the UK a swear word, albeit a very mild one. That one gave us a giggle!

Speak No Evil! pixgood.com

Speak No Evil!
pixgood.com

We realised that the only disadvantage of our pairing was the timezone difference: 9-10 hours (depending on daylight savings). It was highly unlikely that the children in each school will ever get to meet each other. The UK school day starts at around 6pm for Australia and the Australian day starts at 11pm.

We decided that this shouldn’t stop us as we were too excited to get started and do some live broadcasts to each others schools. Especially Brett – he was literally buzzing with excitement and to be fair it was infectious. If the children couldn’t meet each other, they could certainly meet us!

I set my class a piece of homework: #CultureBox

This got them thinking about their own culture and that of another country – the children were as excited as we were.

I put a display in a shared area of school:

#CultureBox Display

#CultureBox Display

Hangout 1:

We set a date and time to have Brett link up to our school, but the time zones cursed us and unfortunately he missed the call.

He may or may not have been asleep! (Curses Time Zones!)

After a stream of apologetic DMs on Twitter, Brett was forgiven and we tried again a few days later this time at the start of our day.

Brett was fantastic!

We chatted for a bit and spoke of time zones, animals, Aboriginal history, British Colonization, Christmas tradition in Australia, as many children in my class thought the whole of Australia go to the beach!

#AussieEd Blog – Brett’s reflections on the 1st CultureBox meeting

It was a great experience for me and for them.

When it ended they wanted to know when we would be doing it again!

It wasn’t long.

Hangout 2:

My class had been learning about traditional tales and fables and other short stories, so we used another live link for Brett to share a ‘Dream Time’ story about Tiddalick the frog:

What a great experience – tales shared from another country, literally as far away from them as you can go without leaving the planet!

Even more exciting this time was that the Hangout was recorded live and streamed to YouTube – Brett felt his nerves let him down and he removed the video – he shouldn’t have.

#AussieED blog – Brett’s reflections on our 2nd CultureBox meeting

Hangout 3:

My turn followed a week or so later once the Aussie kids had returned to school.

It was my turn for a late night!

At 11pm Hangout went live into Brett’s classroom – delightful children – we had a great chat and a laugh too. The conversation and questions that came at me were almost identical in content to the questions my class had asked – if Culture Box teaches me nothing else it is that children are the same wherever you are!

WatsEd Live to Sydney

WatsEd Live to Sydney

It is not often I find myself without something to say, but I was genuinely lost for words when the link up started – such a cool thing to do. The children nursed me through and by the end we were mimicking each others accents and discussing farming, weather, food, hobbies, all sorts of stuff.

I with my ‘cultural’ cup of tea and digestive biscuit in hand!

We discovered:

a) The children didn’t know what a Badger was

b) The children didn’t know what a Yorkshire Pudding was (!)

and

c) I sound weird to them. (Fair enough – I sound weird to everyone!)

The chat ended with me being left with a challenge… share and traditional english poem, and discuss the features and why I chose it.

That’s going to be a tough one… but I am looking forward to it!

Oh, and the class told me they “had a bloody great time!”

I told them I had done too, and that if I said that to my own class I’d be in LOTS of trouble – they thought that was bizarre!

 

Now we are in discussions with our children to think what we can put into a parcel to send to Mr Salakas and his class that sums up ‘Being British’, their homework activity gave a few thoughts. It will be great to share a real life #CultureBox!

 

To those who dreamed the idea up Amjad and Maggie @madgiemgEDU – thank you. You have opened a window on the world to my class and hopefully a class in Australia.

You have linked me with a teacher who is an all round nice bloke and given the children I teach a chance to meet him too.

I can’t wait to keep the project moving!

UPDATED POST – Literacy Shed Conference – Lincolnshire

A Trip Too Far?

This is a great example of when an Educational Visit adds tangible and genuine value to the life experiences of children.
Well prepared and supported by informed and knowledgeable staff the children were able to move beyond their difficulties and experience a day that made their learning real and in context.
My feelings on this are very corporate – but as I have a vested interest in children’s experiences of learning outside school, I wanted to share this with as many people as possible.

cazzypotsblog

An English Trip to Shakespeare’s Birthplace

imageFor the last fourteen years I have taught English to secondary-aged pupils at a Pupil Referral Unit in the Midlands. Many of these students are vulnerable and complex, some are in care, and a large number have severe behavioural difficulties. All of this means that we must be especially cautious when choosing a location for school trip. Notwithstanding the risks, last summer I made the decision to take a KS3 group to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

This was as part of an English topic we were doing on the theme of ‘Performance’. We’d already studied The Globe Theatre, in context, and learned about some of its fascinating history. More importantly, perhaps, we’d looked at extracts from some of Shakespeare’s plays and also studied plot synopses and analysed a selection of quotes.

Now, I must confess that I was dreading this trip. As the…

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To plan or not to plan? Please RT as there are misconceptions.

Wise words.
Which I hope are headed by those that are either mistaken, or trying to over control and micro manage.

cherrylkd

I’m not an authority on education matters but I do try and keep myself up to date with the latest decisions affecting teachers. So when I see a misconception on twitter I generally choose to ignore it and move on. We’re all entitled to our own opinions and that’s fine by me. Just sometimes you see something that is blatantly wrong and shouldn’t be ignored. Some things are detrimental to the profession and some things are detrimental for our work life balance. 

It all started on Tuesday morning with a tweet from @Vickiteaches

‘How often do you hand your planning in? Anyone else do it on a weekly basis like me? This is before we have taught the lessons!’

I answered her by asking why she had to hand her plans in. Did her SLT not trust her? 

This simple statement from me unleashed a debate which lasted for two…

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Are you a Pit-Pony or a Show-Pony?

normsteachersblog.com

normsteachersblog.com

As I drove home from another meeting that ended at 6pm – I reflected during my long drive, on something that was said on the 1st day of term.

A colleague of mine, whom I respect greatly and who is a high quality teacher (avoiding the the grade there!), had been to visit a school which was graded ‘Outstanding’ by OfSted as part of her CPD.

She said how she was greeted by the HT, who quickly after told the visiting teachers – that her staff were not ‘Show Ponies’, but were ‘Pit Ponies’.

They were hard working staff who delivered everyday for their children.

My colleague felt that this was a great mindset and a proven methodology for success. I can see why, it sounds great but let’s consider this analogy in an Education context:

My school is RI and has it’s problems, we are a tough, hard working staff, who are committed to making the improvements that we need.

The Pit Pony:

Pit-pony

  • Works hard in unpleasant conditions
  • Beaten and mistreated
  • Undervalued
  • Need to be able to churn out performance/quality is less important
  • Failure results in punishment and possible abuse
  • Made to do more work than is healthy
  • Given just enough nourishment to survive
  • Little support/training
  • Works until facing a cruel death in the workplace
  • Little rest or chance to regain fitness

 

The Show Pony:

ShowPony

  • Protected
  • Supported
  • Given the best of everything
  • Under pressure to perform/expected to be the best
  • Held up as an example of the best of its kind
  • Failure results in care, attention and training
  • Trained to the highest most exacting standards
  • Coached, groomed and developed professionally
  • Given time to rest and recover/best of care

So,  based on this analogy, it is best to be a Pit Pony?

The pit pony is the model of success and excellence?

Pit ponies worked hard and did their best in the very worst of situations, day in, day out and this is something to be respected. But it isn’t sustainable.

A show pony can have a long, successful and healthy career – when that comes to an end they are invariably used to create more excellent show ponies.

The news that 90% of teachers have considered leaving the profession in the last 2 years do to excessive workload surely damns this idea.

I like working hard, I want to work hard but every week I am spending less and less time, NOT working. My family are seeing less and less of me and I am seeing less and less benefit. (1% pay rise? £1 a day extra?) Thank goodness I’m not in it for the money.

I find myself working longer hours, having more meetings, giving me increasingly less time to actually do the job!

Is all the work I am doing getting the best out of me?

Work hard and work smart, they say.

OK, but that’s Show Pony mentality.

A Pit Pony would work hard and then work harder.

I have my PPA and Leadership time (2 x 1/2 days a week) and I am both very grateful and lucky to have it, but it is full and there is always more to do!

Perhaps this is just a blog at the end of a long day. But I think I would really thrive given the chance to be a Show Pony for a change.

Which you you rather be?