Finally! The Return of Litdrive

We are back! With the unrelenting support of #TeamEnglish, #MTPTProject, Martyn Reah of #teacher5aday fame and a few other wonderful human beings that have taken the patience to try to teach an old dog rather complicated new tricks that were way out of her depth on both capability and attention span, not to mention Grianne Hallahan, Amy Forrester and Sarah Barker who have cheerled me through the last few months, here we are. The website launches 1st August and my hope is that it will provide a far more professional, organised, credited and most importantly, free service to English teachers. A few answers to questions that hit the mailbox:

Where did you go?

For a number of reasons, Litdrive needed to be unavailable whilst we worked on a better way to provide a free service. The more people that got involved, the less that Dropbox was suitable for purpose. It was costing teachers money; several departments or individuals were signing up to a monthly subscription for Dropbox to access and organise files, defeating the object of the free service that Litdrive was meant to provide. Duplicate uploads, unnamed files and a confusing categorisation system that a fantastic team worked tirelessly to correct eventually proved a nonsensical use of people’s time. I was mindful that Litdrive’s key ethos was to restore some semblance of balance to people’s workloads, and it wasn’t doing that for me or the lovely humans that had offered to give me a hand. Not only was it failing to provide the service that I had originally intended, it was failing to meet its own objective. We needed a step back to pause before taking this exciting step forward.

How will it work?

The Litdrive website will hopefully work in a more efficient way to provide a free service to English teachers. Members will sign up and be able to upload their own resources, as well as download the resources of others. By logging resources yourself as a member, you are responsible for ensuring that they do not contain copyright material, and that any relevant parties are credited. Don’t let that put you off uploading material- in the same vein, those that notice their resource, please email through with the link and we will happily edit the description to credit you immediately- Litdrive’s key aim is to empower others through the process of collaboration! There will be a blog spot for willing volunteers to share their strategies or experiences, a CPD area for professional development opportunities but above all else, heaps and heaps of free resources to use in your classrooms.

Please do consider that this is a free service, set up by teachers in their spare time in a bid to try and create something brilliant for the Team English community; it is far from a slick, ICT wonder that we aim to work towards. In the same way, it has become impossible to answer all emails, queries or explain to those sending through resources to be uploaded. I’m hoping this blog helps to answer most questions but I am reliant on word of mouth above all else. Please share, talk, tweet! It really does save man power time that can be spent uploading resources.

What will be the easiest way for me to share all my stuff?

You simply upload your own resources to share! The site accepts most file types. Because of technological restrictions, multiple files are a bit tougher; if you have a scheme of work, it’s best to upload as one giant ppt if poss, or alternatively, you can upload a zipped folder for a resource that contains several files. Not confident with zipping? It’s easy as pie. Select all files in your storage area on your PC, right click and select ‘send to.’ Select compressed file (or zip file, or a zip folder icon). Done!

For ease of crediting/ knowing who to say thank you to, it may be worthwhile to pick a really clear file name followed by your initials.

There’s a donation button- how come?

For those that have had to endure my frustrations/tears/rage, they will tell you that the last couple of months have been a significant learning curve. One look at my blog will give you a mild indication of how capable I am when it comes to ICT; Litdrive is 68.4% stubbornness! The eventual aim is to carry Litdrive as a non-for-profit organisation but until then, I have paid and will pay for the maintenance and development of the website, and dedicate time to the monitoring and quality assurance of material contributed. Litdrive took a team of peoples’ time and to move forward, I am very aware that it would be valuable to be able to pay specialised teachers to quality assure the standard of our resources, maintain a newsletter and other interesting ways that we can progress as a collaborative enterprise.

Our shared money pool is just here for when you cancel that Dropbox fee!

The donation money pool usage will be transparent and all withdrawals publicly announced with an outline of what the funds have paid for. I do have a figure already outlined that I have paid for initial set up and operation costs. During the development process to set up the website, I had several offers of sponsorship but again, I wanted to be consistent in keeping the ethos of Litdrive as ‘by teachers for teachers.’ Donations from teachers instead of weighty Dropbox charges seemed to be the most logical approach to fund the costs to set up the website, develop a download database and justify the time to take to upload resources- this isn’t about profit, but about running a cooperative; teachers taking ownership of our own development. Litdrive is a baby teacher-made monster for the beast that I want it to become! Which brings us nicely onto..

What happened to all the stuff already on Litdrive?

I’m on it. Due to issues with some members of the previous Dropbox uploading content that couldn’t be publicly shared, or duplicate files, or obscurely named files, I now have the mammoth task of working through the resource bank, renaming and uploading resources. To my knowledge, all files to be uploaded have been shared via Twitter or sent through to the mailbox, however, if you come across something that you think does not belong on Litdrive, or is yours and you do not wish to have it available on the site, please do pop a note in the ‘contact us’ section and we’ll get it removed for you. If I had waited to do this before launching the website, I’m unconvinced that I would still be teaching and perhaps sunning myself on a SAGA cruise! Following numerous testimonials (of which there are only a slither currently uploaded to the site, also on my to-do), feedback was generally along the lines of, ‘save my summer, I need Litdrive back to share stuff with people.’ So, here we are.

Where is it?

The website address is http://www.litdrive.org.uk with a nifty countdown for you to keep you in the loop for launch day; I have also set up a Facebook group (LitdriveUK) here ; I rarely use Facebook but am aware that it creates an alternative outlet for people to share details of their own finds/pleas/uploads.

In the meantime, you can reach me at katherine.howard@litdrive.org.uk with any questions/comments or feedback you may have, or alternatively, if you fancy being one of our first guest bloggers, please do drop me a line with a rough outline of your topic of choice. See you on the 1st!

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TES Blog: How to Start a Grassroots Teaching Movement

Four years ago, I had just taken on the role of literacy coordinator and felt a little isolated. When working as part of a successful, like-minded department, the shared vision is clear and your support network is strong. Coordinating literacy could not be more different.

Read the full article here.

No To Corner Cutting: What Maternity Taught Me About Tackling Workload

Here is a short, edited version (without all the erms!) of my TENC18 session.

I was somewhat misleading with the title; my recent maternity leave taught me only a proportion of the strategies outlined here. Being a single parent whilst I completed my teacher training course taught me how easy it was to flounder under the demands of teaching. Struggling to work within constraints of a school system taught me the importance of taking control of my own workload. But beyond all else, the desire to do what is essential within my working day, and what is enjoyable outside of it was my main motivator- as I am sure it is with every teacher across the country. You can adore this job, but it WILL consume you if you let it; boundaries are essential to our survival.

We all know the teacher that works the longest at school- that looks the busiest, that has lunch the least, that leaves last. It is all too often that those individuals are praised for their commitment and drive. How alien, that we should celebrate and not support those working above and beyond any measure that they could be expected to sustain? Why do we not celebrate the people that work hard not to allow it to spill into the weekend? That rather than mock those that are leaving on time and not skipping to the car park with books, we work towards that as the norm for all teachers?

Wellbeing is more than regular sleep and eating properly. It’s taking measures, evidenced based steps towards teaching in a more streamlined way that doesn’t drain you as a resource, but also that makes your teaching more effective and reaps rewards in the long term. Sadly, ‘more effective’ or ‘lessening workload’ are often associated with corner-cutting and ‘easy lessons,’ but I stand by the conviction that there are a series of steps that you can take to challenge an unreasonable workload, whilst actually teaching in an efficient, succinct way.

1 There is a right way- for you

Ensure that your methods are embedded and implemented as a result of research. Focus your energy on strategies that are steeped in evidence of their success and discard those that are not- be ruthless. Being well read in education is a time sponsor- here is a lot of noise out there but by taking away practical ideas that are based upon theoretical approach and not simply ‘because this is the way it’s always been done,’ not only will it improve your teaching, it helps form comprehensive debate against crap like VAK and drawing yourself on the learning tree at INSET. True story.

TOP TIP: Teacher Tapp folk saved me heaps of time by providing me with a short, concise blog that provided the highlights of some incredibly extensive research.

2. Embrace the Gimmicks

We learn the alphabet song and the colours of the rainbow, only to sneer at rite learning and adopting a formulaic approach. Although PEE and AFOREST belong in a skip, using What How Why and narrative Story Circle structure have been invaluable to act as springboards for students. A formula that acts as a starting point rather than a confine aids all students, informing further analysis or sophisticated cyclical narratives that are still capable of creativity and individual craft.

3. Lighten the Cognitive Load

Yours and theirs. Focusing on learning environments alone, strip your wall space and provide students with only the essentials- @jamestheo’s Literature Through The Ages timeline, essential  terminology and a What How Why framework will be my choices this year. This allows me to return to my displays for reference during my teaching, make explicitly obvious to students the connection between the units that they learn and expand their analytical vocabulary.

4. Reading is Magic

If we don’t preach that as English teachers, we are simply doing our students a disservice. It’s easy to be deceived by our own childhoods or family environments as atypical for reading groups habits, but books in homes are not indicated by affluence; I work in a demographic that lends itself to affluence and yet I teach a great deal of non readers. Remove homework and replace it with reading and spelling. @TLPMsF has written an extensive blog about the journey her department took to implement reading logs as homework, and we have adopted this approach in the last year. It outlines the importance of reading above all else to students and eradicates all those homework menus (guilty!) that we slaved over for so long.

To bring this into the classroom, more and more, I find myself compiling an entire lesson with just the text, a visualiser to model our thinking and discussion. The magic lies not with dressing up or disguising literature as ‘fun,’ but exposing the intricacy of a text as something quite enchanting. Y7 were blown away by the psychological profile of Captain Hook, his callous and ruthless behaviour driven by fear and insecurity.

My own personal focus this year regarding reading is to incorporate etymology within my teaching; @jachwartz’s word of the week resource is inspirational and I’m keen to share the bewitching nature of words with students.

5. Knowledge is the Fun

This brings me aptly to inclusion of knowledge as a tool to reduce workload. By leading our teaching with knowledge, we reap the rewards in years to come with students. Using five a day starters to encourage retrieval practice, providing knowledge organisers for the testing of the this knowledge but providing students with additional outlets for their curiosity of a unit. @evenbetterif’s cover sheets idea curated a couple of years ago is a great way to provide students with additional reading or resources; I’ve included my KS3 examples in my presentation but this is something that I want to explore further in the forthcoming academic year. The benefits of teaching knowledge are phenomenal: the standard of work evidenced speaks for itself and it really is a strategy that will pay back in spades (retro idiom for free there, you’re welcome).

6. Dump Perseverance: Cherish Memory

As David Didau said in a recent Q&A, co-hosted with Nick Rose for their new book, ‘What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology,’ ‘Angela Duckworth simply proved that some people succeeded if they spent a long time doing something.’ We, and students don’t have the luxury of time, so what can we rely on instead? Memory. Explicitly teaching students the value of memory supports and aids retrieval practice, interleaving and encourages memory exercise outside of your subject, leading to a more secure chance of success.

Share successes of memory with students; highlight those students that are taking time to revise for self quizzing. I used to set spelling tests for the term in advance, providing students with words to revise for the entire term and giving dates foreach word group. I once had a student with dyslexia win for the entire year group and the whole of Y8 were blown away. How did he do it? His mum tested him four times a week without fail. He looked at the words himself every night, using look/cover/write/check. Students were astounded at just how simple success was – and how memory could work for them.

TOP TIP: The Learning Scientists Podcasts are a great time saving way to get to grips with six key strategies of effective learning using memory. Short and backed with a fantastic website.

7. Most important? Maybe . Time is your most precious tool.

There’s barely any of the stuff. Therefore, you need a way of working with less of it. For students, whole class feedback and marginal gains in the classroom slashes minutes and buys back time. I’m lucky enough to work in a school that has embraced a whole school policy for whole class feedback, but if that isn’t the case where you are, make it a talking point- Ofsted support it, it is more effective than paragraphs of feedback and it has a huge impact on workload- and ultimately, your ability to spend time in a more valuable way. In the classroom, having a five a day up, having books handed out by eight students rather than two, planned questions around texts (Reading Reconsidered is brilliant for this) are vital to making sure my time is spent teaching.

To value your own time, find a way that works for you and stick to it. To work full circle, boundaries are essential for your survival. I don’t take books home, I don’t do the essential work at home (resources are like a hobby!) and I don’t keep hefty to do lists. This doesn’t work for everyone, but stick to whatever system you have created so that work doesn’t encroach on the time that you have to invest in yourself beyond teaching. Similarly, surround yourself with people that are doing this really well: as a profession, collaboration is what will save us. Find out how they do it, magpie, share and repay the wealth. It will feel fantastic but you never know, you may also change the reputation of streamlined teaching as ingenious, rather than simply taking a shortcut.

Thanks to #mtptproject for the amazing accreditation process I have undertaken this year with them- endorsed to the point that I now have the role of East Midlands Representative! Thanks also to #TeamEnglish for helping me to shift the way I approach teaching and last but not least, huge thanks to old friend @martynreah and the #teacher5aday support that has helped me to revisit and explore the issue of workload over and over in the last few years.

Presentation is here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/i2o47ty4uz14fd0/TENC18final.pptx?dl=0

What’s on your doorstep?

It’s been one hell of a week. What made it so much more refreshing was finally taking the time to meet with Anna Hunt, a Head of English for a trust consisting of Primary and Secondary schools and talking all things English.

I’ve previously shared a range of ways that I have continued my professional development whilst on maternity leave- from scouring National Trust properties for contextual goodies, to listening to podcasts in the early days when sleep was gold dust and walks were the key to silence, I managed to not only slot CPD into life with a new person, but make it part of my routine. However one of the most valuable ways that I have used my time has been building relationships.

Through Twitter primarily, I found the Maternity Project, founded by the wonderful Emma Sheppard and started working towards an MTPT accreditation that allowed me to focus and prioritise my CPD for the year. This enabled me to develop Litdrive, and in turn connect with so many people in all corners of the world, at various points in their professional journey. One of these such people was Anna, who after chatting and sharing resources, I discovered was not only just around the corner, but had worked with one my colleagues!

After many attempted meetings, with apologies and promises of food and good intentions, we finally made time to chat today about my areas of focus: catering for the More Able students and avoiding the Y6-7 dip (amongst a thousand other digressions which proved just as useful!)- both of which are an area of personal interest when it comes to T&L. Since the Wasted Years report, KS3 foci has shifted dramatically, but I still have the niggle that I could be doing more to prepare students during that vital period of time before GCSE.

I’d like to outline two key aspects that came out of our discussion this afternoon that I plan on exploring in more detail over the next year:

– working with primary feeders on a collaborative scheme of learning. By collaborative, I mean that the teaching of the scheme staggers over year 6 and continues in year 7. Anna shared her experiences of setting something like this up, with the premise that secondary work with primary schools to develop a five-six week scheme that studies a class novel. Students then continue this novel at the start of year 7, bringing their completed work within the unit with them to their secondary setting. This would be incredibly powerful not only in avoiding the ‘summer dip,’ but in moving secondary and primary pedagogy closer to something that the other recognise: there is still a huge disconnect in the differing ways that Primary and secondary approach English and this could be a start towards dissipating that gap. I’m already in discussion with one of our feeder schools to trial this, with a view to carry out a formal research study to analyse the pilot data.

The second idea that we discussed was how to ensure that the More Able/Disadvantaged groups had sufficient provision at Key Stage four. Fortunately, Anna’s department contains a great deal of exam markers which means that each unit can have a ‘topic expert’ as such- a point of contact for each area of the specification. In the run up to exams this could prove a really concise method for approaching tailored intervention for students. Essentially, each respective member of staff can take on an area of the exam spec and design a session or series of material to support those students that highlight a particular gap in knowledge. I like this idea very much as not only would it provide really succinct intervention, but would be a great way of developing staff subject knowledge- less, but with more depth and when staff experienced a gap in their own knowledge, they would have colleagues on hand that were investing time in their own CPD to offer expert advice and information. Genius!

I came away from my visit inspired not only by the ideas discussed (of which this was simply a slither), but also by Anna and her role in itself- the concept of training to up-skill my subject across a number of schools and work so closely with feeder primaries is really appealing and I can only imagine, incredibly rewarding.

I would highly recommend networking in your local area to see how you could benefit other schools but how visits could also drive your own professional development. This sort of free, personalised CPD is priceless and mutually beneficial. Huge thanks to Anna for giving up her time and having Ted and I for lunch! I look forward to developing my takeaways over the Summer.

No Right Way? #rEDRugby

This will be in true #mtptproject blog post form; there’s a baby asleep on my arm and it’s Sunday, after all. I just wanted to take five minutes to reflect upon yesterday and the inspirational ResearchEd event at Rugby School that left me motivated to work on my own ongoing projects in keeping with Jude Hunton’s plea to continual ‘restlessness’ from educators in attendance, but also encouraged to push my practice beyond perhaps where it sits at the moment.

I attended sessions from the Orwell enthusiast Mark Roberts, who outlined the Perfect English Faculty, followed by the wonderful Claire Hill and Rebecca Foster putting evidence into practice within the classroom, Jake Hunton’s line of question in our approach to revision and the lovely Grianne Hallahan (who without her emergency chocolate fund, I wouldn’t be alive today) who talked us through how to lighten the cognitive load for analysis AND writing.

However, the session that made me feel a) suitably out of my depth and b) question our position as a profession was a Q and A session with David Didau and Nick Rose about their new book, What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology. Two key points stuck with me from the session:

  • The educational sector is not governed by a regulatory body with regards to research or theoretical approach
  • There is no correct approach, only aspects of teaching and the psychological theory that accompanies that aspect are more or less debated and controversial

The first is hugely concerning for a multitude of reasons but I think many of us can nod and confer over wasted time in dated INSET topics like learning styles or a warped concept of growth mindset. Not only does this have an impact upon the type of trained teachers entering the profession as a result of training that doesn’t fit the purpose, but as a prospective employee you need to scope out a school that has what Nick referred to as ‘professional skepticism’ in the absence of a regulatory body for research. Ofsted do many things (I’m going to leave hat sentence in its poorly constructed state for fear of getting into a topic I am not well versed on) but they do not govern the content of training in schools or training providers. It is only to what extent the trainee feels supported or catered for, leaving the quality assurance of educational research within their course somewhat neglected.

My first point holds my second by the hand: without an approved or perhaps even balanced approach to educational theory, rather than reaching a point of debate or decision as a trainee or teacher, if you relied solely on your schools to fuel your theoretical beliefs, where would that leave you? In my experience, it is that the school adopts a particular approach, the relevant external consultant is rallied in with lots of whizzy silver bullets and then after a half- day session, teachers are expected to pack up their new tools into their teaching bum bag and trot back off to the classroom, ready to label all the kids with their new found learning titles. There isn’t room for discussion or debate to a topic that is by no means set in stone or argued out. Nick outlined examples of this: certain aspects of research are so saturated that we can safely take a ‘best fit’ approach, informed by the research. Other areas (hence the requirement for the book’s Controversies section) don’t have a fail-safe, tested and undisputed approach.

To say the session left me ‘restless’ would be an understatement; I need to read the book, of course. But imagine if schools took the academic approach of a balanced debate and argument, using research and theoretical publication to inform their staff over a ‘one size’ approach? What would that school look like?

And yes, he’s still asleep. Thank you to the blogging gods.

Retrieval Practice: Returning to Work

A little sooner than expected but welcomed all the same, I screw my teacher head back on this Monday. Having left in a bit of a whirlwind to go onto MAT leave (Braxton Hicks in front of your y7s will do that to a girl), I’m keen to start back but primarily, I’m keen to maintain the mindset that having the break has allowed me.

Teaching is frugal for time; there isn’t any of it. Unless you regularly incorporate reflection into your practice- which I really do recommend- there’s little space to take stock in the daily/weekly/termly events with a view to developing your approach. Having a small person allows you that at least, even if it does come hand in hand with a healthy dose of wrinkles and sleep deprivation. The #MTPTProject coaching and accreditation programme has also been fantastic and Emma Shepherd has been instrumental to helping me recognise my own direction with certain projects or ideas. It was a great starting point for the beginning of MAT leave and have a loose structure and sense of purpose at a time that for one who likes a routine, felt very comme ci, comme ca.

Have I achieved everything I wanted to during my time away? Of course not, but the list was deliberately endless. I wanted to have things outstanding to get my teeth into once the hurricane of becoming a mother again had a chance to settle. To add to this, goalposts move, your own focus changes, and I feel that I’m going back to work with a definite shift in focus. However, I set these ideals back in October in my final days as a Mum of just one:

• Attend three text or subject specific training opportunities- either of the online or real-world variety

I completed a fantastic course centred around the link between mental health and literature through Future Learn. Supported and coordinated by universities up and down the country, the site is a door opener to so many lines of study if like me, you are keen to keep your mind active. There is a loose guide on timescales- the baby did not adhere to them!- but it allows you to work at your own pace. Sadly, I missed out on the CLIC event in Birmingham that I had planned to attend but the team very kindly sent me the resource pack to review and I have rediscovered the brilliance of linguistics for the classroom.

• Make #litdrive a functioning, organised resource for the 400 people signed up, instead of a neglected, chaotic bundle of THOUSANDS (just dropping it in there) of resources for Primary and Secondary schools

Sadly, Litdrive is taking a break, but by no means a permanent one. Standing at over 1500 members at time of closure, with over 300,000 resources, I will remain proud of whatever shape and form Litdrive may or may not take in the future. Watch this space (by putting that, I’ve committed myself)!

• Create a selection of resources at my leisure that I had on my to-do list before starting my maternity leave

This is where I have recognised the limitation of headspace. I always struggle to make resources when not actively in a classroom and should have recognised this a little. I believe resources need to be created, adapted and test driven with children to deliver on quality- the key behind my advocacy for Litdrive. I managed to knock up a Macbeth high challenge booklet here and a few writing challenges linked to the Lit texts, inspired by Jen Lud here

• Keep on top of the @TeacherTapp app recommended daily read- if you do not already have the app, download this!

This was easy peasy- the TT team make it deliberately so for you to engage- and the daily read has really kept my brain ticking over.

• Read- of course read- but in particular, read three classics before returning to work (to make up for the fact that my classic count for #52books2017 was appalling)

Hmm. Not so much. Modern classics allowed me to discover Steinbeck I didn’t even know about! What I did do instead was revisit the lit texts and poetry anthology and read around the texts a great deal. I feel I know so much about Romeo and Juliet that I didn’t previously, which will only aid my approach when teaching it next time around.

• Go into work for at least one KIT day prior to returning

One KIT day done, spending time chatting with not only members of the department but also staff in other areas about projects I am keen to develop beyond ideas. As well as my KIT Day, I contributed to a department meeting following a trip to primary Y6 moderation which was a real eye opener- there is such a disconnect between our demands and theirs. The grammatical requirements within the classroom alone made me rethink my approach to teaching narrative and descriptive writing, and Y6 students in our feeder schools have far more independent working and reflection time than I would have expected. As a result, we’ve revised our approach to transition work this year, which I will blog about at a later point.

So, what next? I look forward to the challenge of a phased return this term, with some key goals that Emma has enabled me to formulate and is perfect for keeping me on track. For anyone juggling the same plates as they return to work, I can only give my friendly advice from the distant memories of having a 3 year old during my PGCE, but the thinking behind my prep last week so that I could take half term to spend with the boys. A few tips:

– buzz word alert. Work SMART with planning. This is so vital to your wellbeing, ability to function, eat, sleep and feel like you have any sort of life. Strip away the bells and whistles to your teaching, give your classes knowledge they can use next lesson and the lesson after that. Adapt as you go and hang onto your planner for September when you are looking at the same schemes and want to do it a little bit better next time around.

– same for feedback and teacher input. Your time in the classroom is your prime time- I have in exceptional circumstances taken marking home, but never as a general rule. Set up routines for intervening there and then, go-to places for kids that have missed lessons and work, homework that is marked in lesson or not marked at all (this is where self quizzing is King- and not just to save you time). A trip to Michaela last year showed me the payback of working hard in the room with the kids- everyone’s brains should be sweating there and then so that when you go home, you’re not sweating over your marking alone. Metaphorically.

– Collaborate. Everyone in the department has a y8 group and are making their own resources? If you’re making something, let the team know beforehand in case someone is sat doing exactly the same thing. Share everything you create. Even the bits that you think are crap, because they won’t be. Share what you are doing to save time, teach more effectively, blog posts that have helped you, strategies with students, the lot. Not only will you feel warm and fuzzy, you will create a climate where others share in return and that means not only will you get more time at home with the people you love, the rest of the team will too. It’s that simple.

Enjoy the rest of half term folks!

Litdrive: Regroup, Refocus, Return

I’ve spent a long time trying to put the words together for this post, and as I type now, I’m still not sure how this will look when I finish typing. Perhaps to start with what, before worrying about the Why.

Litdrive was something I have always been incredibly proud of. Along with the amazing people I have met during my time on Twitter as a teacher, Litdrive felt like a profound, sustainable way of contributing to that community beyond throwing my own (never quite as spectacular) resources out there for others. Always fantastic at dumbing down my own achievements, I would try and explain Litdrive to friends as,’ I just put a bunch of resources together for other people to use,’ but I am proud and confident to say it is so much more than that. When starting out as Literacy Coordinator, during huge shifts in KS3 curriculum mapping across schools and when I took up a post as Assistant Subject Leader, the collaborative nature of Litdrive was an absolute lifesaver for me.

My own sentiments were echoed back to me over and over again; teachers would email requesting to be involved, sharing their own isolations or lack of confidence in their capability to produce fantastic tools for use within the classroom. It seemed that imposter syndrome is far reaching in this profession; I would be sent amazing stuff that I knew would shave hours off my and other teachers’ planning time, and the sender would play it down with comments like,’ it’s not much,’ ‘I’m not sure it’s really what you are after,”I’ll send some better stuff when I get a chance.’ I was blown away with the generosity of people, in such a tough, tough climate where time is beyond precious.

Over the last month, Litdrive reached whirlwind stakes. Having discussed with two other English teachers to take on their own shared drives to merge with Litdrive, as we became more and more aware that we were simply duplicating work when it could be one service, word of Litdrive spread. I received in excess of fifty emails a day, from every level of management within school, from a range of countries beyond the UK, but all with the same enthusiasm and willingness to contribute and participate. The buzz was infectious; people were receiving positive, encouraging feedback for their work, people were coming together with ideas of collaboration for future projects but most importantly for me, people were saving time. As one teacher commented,’ HOURS and HOURS of time that I will be able to spend with my two very young daughters.’ This feedback wasn’t isolated to parents, but NQTs looking for guidance, individuals new to particular roles or simply those who had been out of education for a little while.

Beyond that, the people I have met and collaborated with thanks to Litdrive have been priceless to me. This is a tough gig, teaching, and surrounding yourself with people who show compassion, patience and generosity is worth hanging on to.

But I don’t want to make this post a gushy, aren’t teachers great kind of deal. Two weeks ago, for reasons that I am too dignified to elaborate upon (and that ripple beyond just me), Litdrive had to be removed from a public platform. Over 1500 contributors, 300,000 files and so much hard work from so many people, over such a number of years. As I write (one handed, as with all tasks carried out on my maternity leave), I cannot tell you how devastated I was about my choice, but it was very much the right one. Not wanting to focus on the problems and the pitfalls, and with time to let the dust settle, the experience has presented itself as an opportunity in new form.

An opportunity to provide a professional, FREE service to teachers. To bring teachers together without the bitter aftertaste of a price for their request for help, the fear of someone selling on their hard work, the reassurance that they have a collective body of several teachers to support them. Litdrive IS the answer to the workload issue surrounding planning, and I put that down in complete conviction (and a small amount of terror from my inside voice). I have the grandest of plans to making Litdrive work, but it will take time, and the munificence of so many of you in order to make it happen. I don’t want to make a profit, I just want to provide something with a grassroots ethos that we can say, we run our own show here. We provide for one another. We build our own abundance of knowledge. We, as a group, make teaching better for ourselves and one another. Think of us as a giant super-powered teacher cooperative- because after all, the little guys come out good in the end.

I cannot promise a timescale or even a platform at this given time, but it was vital to me and my own integrity that I shared a little of our current state of play. If you think that you could contribute to what will be a spectacular service for English teachers, by all means start a discussion with me via Twitter or at litdriveuk@hotmail.com. We will need all of you, wit me all of your knowledge, skills, enthusiasm and will to make it happen. Until then, what Arnie said in that film that time.