#LETBookClub is here!

At a loss as to what to do with myself over the summer, and a little afraid that my laminator may get used to an unnatural degree, I decided to set up a monthly Twitter-based book club aimed at teachers primarily. I did not intend to get the ball rolling myself, but was unable to find anything that catered for me. After a few plea-tweets, I decided to take the book-shaped bull by the horns. How hard can it be, right?

The key aim of #LETBookClub is to keep teachers reading, not only to promote a love of literature within the best salespeople of English around, but also because whilst I love falling and re-falling in love with reading, it is difficult to prioritise it when the to do list is bigger than the book on my bedside table!

We will ‘tweet-meet’ once a month on the 1st of every month at 8pm with members taking turns to choose our book of choice and compile discussion starters for the session. Our first book is Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, chosen by the lovely @veldaelliott.

I appreciate that the 1st is not very far away, so we do not expect members to have finished our first read. Please feel free to ask any questions or find me via twitter @SaysMiss , and I very much look forward to our first meeting!

A Letter To Myself

Dear Miss,

I don’t think I know all the answers yet, but hopefully I know a little more than you. Either that, or I just blew £9000 in a most incredibly boring fashion…. I will go back in stages of years, so do try to keep up. You have this tendency to think that you don’t need to listen, and that you’re always right. Don’t worry, that bit is still prevalent….

Listen to people. People that teach you, people that tolerate you as a friend, even your mother. Listen when people say that you excel at something, or that this is an area where you could really shine. Whether you think so or not, you are not the minority; you do want to be part of something truly aspirational. The only way that you can exist in this way is if you follow something that you feel utterly passionate about.

Don’t rush. You will spend so long chasing things or worrying that events are in the wrong order that you will forget altogether to enjoy this time in your life. It doesn’t matter about where all the big moments are, because it will be the small moments that you remember the most. You don’t remember the day you went out for graduation, but you remember the way your baby’s hair smells. You don’t remember moving day, but you remember how it feels to hold hands. Stop trying to grasp onto memories, or fretting about the ones you haven’t made yet, because you already have so many beautiful ones.

Do not worry about what others think of you. If you make that central to all that you do, life will be miserable. Their opinion only matters if they hold your respect, and their opinion is justified. Beyond that, it just doesn’t matter. More so, any negativity is not worth the breath to discuss.

Develop your ability to display contentment. You have only mastered this very recently, and it still shifts from your view, but once you have experienced the emotion of contentment, you will realise that it is irrelevant as to how you reached it, but that you have succeeded in getting there. To be content is to really appreciate what you have and the people that you have allowed yourself to be surrounded by. Beyond that, you have learned to be content with yourself, not in spite of your flaws but because of your recognition of them. You are you because of all the elements of you, beautiful and otherwise! Your ugly bits are what draw people to you; to show vulnerability just makes you normal.

Celebrate. Celebrate your successes, other people’s successes, allow yourself to to take the time to give yourself the time to realise your achievements. It’s fantastic to constantly challenge yourself and reach beyond what you have already managed to achieve, but you must stop to look around along the way every now and then.

Lastly, remember that you are only human. You don’t have to be the best of the best all of the time. You don’t even need to try to be. Sometimes you can just be you.



Combat to the Classrom?

I know I’ve appeared a little ranty in response to the news this week that members of the Armed Forces can join the profession unqualified, and complete their training without a degree in a matter of two years. I am blogging in an attempt to unpack this new development within the industry in a slightly less irate manner. Let us begin by looking at the facts, shall we?

So, if you are a member of the Armed Forces, and do not possess a degree, you may apply for the “Troops to Teachers” scheme. The application FAQ outlines that qualifications are necessary, but does not embellish as to what qualifications exactly.. Still not ranting. The US ran a incentive of the same name in 2008, but the requirements called for at least ten years service, and a degree qualification. At present,in am unable to source as to whether our incentive is running in response to the success of this one. I suppose that my key question is: how can we ensure that individuals lacking any experience in schools or with the previously essential qualifications are fit to teach children within our schools?

Ok, a bit ranty. I have had the equivalent of an seven year up hill paper round to get o the end of my training. I decided upon my career change, saved the funds that I would need to be out of work for a period of time, completed a three year English Literature degree and am now in the final days of my PGCE. Even with my qualifications and experience, I have encountered the most steep learning curve of my education to date, teaching myself linguistics for A level teaching, and re visiting aspects of my knowledge that were a little on the dusty side. If there were a pathway available to me to avoid all of that and simply complete two years training before embarking upon my NQT year, I would be listening. So, why is it that the details of the scheme are so difficult to unravel?

Lets work with what we’ve got form the highlights:

“You’ll be a good motivator with a positive can-do attitude: this will help you encourage your pupils in their learning and raise their aspirations.” Yes yes, positivity is key. I’m not sure that these skills are central to autonomy or class facilitation, but I will hold fire.

“You can communicate well: you’ll be able to give clear and concise instructions” I think I had this nailed about four weeks in. Carry on…

“You’re able to handle challenges: you know how to behave in unexpected situations and be a good role model.” Fight or flight is not how I would describe adapting to the needs of the classroom, but I will let that slide..

“You’ll have confidence and composure: this will earn you respect in the classroom.” We’ll see. We will jolly well see.

Ok, so I have a bit of an issue with this whole scenario. I will try not to generalise, or berate, or assume. However, there is absolutely no mention here of the relevant knowledge that would be required. There is no plea for creativity or educational experience (which if this were a PGCE, you wouldn’t even bother with the application form). In every article presented so far within the media, the central argument is that Army Veterans would be able to “control” our children. This is offensive or two levels; one, that we currently doing an inadequate job of behaviour management, and two, that this is the priority within education. With requirements simply outlining the completion of skills tests prior to interview, I am concerned at how you might approach the role of teaching to a level that you are not qualified to yourself.

I am not stating that members of the Armed Forces cannot teach; I am sure anyone with the qualifications that the profession has asked of its current teachers would, and has previously fulfilled the necessary requirements. What does not sit comfortably with me is this arrogant assumption that the role can be carried out by certain individuals with very little or no experience of working within the classroom and with less training. Watch this space.

The Reward of Rewards?

Straight from a faculty meeting, I felt that this warranted further exploration (particularly because it was impossible for anyone to agree) and I am keen to see the link between progress, development and reward. Our SIMs reward system is being re considered for a VEVO revamp, and the option of reward categories caused a rather mixed debate; I am interested to establish to what extent rewards reward. More importantly, are reward systems now being manipulated and moulded to fit a teaching function rather than traditional student recognition?

Current reward systems function with an accumulation system, usually within Houses that follow a particular theme. It seems to be a familiarity within Outstanding schools to present a firm method of provision for those that are engaged and perform consistently well. Point systems allow for a spectrum of positive behaviour, and give SLT the opportunity to draw summarise data from departments to see how students respond and perform. But are we setting ourselves up to fail? Have the reward systems that we implement working for the staff more than the students?

A conference led by Paul Dix of Pivotal Behaviour at the beginning of the year allowed me to view reward systems in a whole new light. Working with other PGCE students, we compiled a list of known and tested reward systems; phone calls home, post cards, point systems for prizes or cash and the like. Research demonstrates that students will always choose the more personalised of approaches over larger, more established systems that whole schools will use to provide specific points. A phone call home on a Friday evening can be the single most powerful tool in your teaching toolkit to keeping positive behaviour to a shining standard, and more importantly, to keep it consistent. Kids love that you have spoken to their Mum. They love that you had a chat with her whilst she cooked the dinner, and joked about pasta bake recipes. That alone is more powerful than a year’s worth of points and a school mug in June. Hands down.

I took away the idea of personalised postcards and have used this consistently with all groups, 7-10 since January. Combined with stickers and phone calls, this is admittedly my only reward system. Why? Because the school points system does not leave me with responsive, engaged students.

So the question is, do we need whole school recognition? Yes. But in a way that doesn’t just have the same two students stood up in assembly every summer, feeling a little bit sheepish as they receive their speed boat. Ok, they were 13,421 points off a speed boat but you get the idea….

Can we formulate a way of establishing a whole school initiative that rewards the boy who turns up with a pencil for the first time in weeks, and the Mensa candidate all in one to?
This key question led the meeting onto linking rewards to APP guidelines. I just wanted to throw that out there for a second. It’s not something that sits with me.

So what ARE we rewarding for? Surely, we need to decide upon the behaviour that we would like to be exemplified first of all. My brain toys with the concept of linking rewards to PLTS; that way we can allow for creativity, collaboration, participation, leadership skills. All those great things that great people are made of. Great people who work DIFFERENTLY, where their goal posts may differ but they’re all pretty good at what they do. Because surely that is ultimately how you reward people in the same way, for the various ways that they approach ideas in such a unique fashion? Right?

This is by now means a ‘this is how it’s done’ blog; it’s a ‘juicy-get your brain squishing’ blog. Would love to hear your thoughts.