How hard can it be?

So. You may have noticed that I am arranging a teachmeet for Leicester. You may also notice that the this blog is quite possibly the only one that I have written that doesn’t start with a heavily sarcastic sentence. That my friends, is called the fear.

I personally hold @actionjackson for this entire affair (please feel free to compensate my traumatic ordeal with a presence on the 17th March Mister?!). If I hadn’t read that damn book, and got all writing lists and positive on my capabilities, then none of this would have happened.

Basically, I think that I am pretty good at my job. Now, do not mistake that for ‘I am a fantastic, flawless teacher.’ The sentence does not state that. I am good at my job, because I am good at spotting the holes. Historically, I have demonstrated utter flair at replaying events and selecting each and every possible flaw in a system or process. It turns out that only two things can come of such an x-man style talent such as this. Your friends pile deplete dramatically to those who can accept your outspoken honesty (they are the best ones, after all) and you make a cracking teacher.

So. There I was, on page 17, reading about how @actionjackson ends up doing things usually as a direct result of being terrified of the situation.I had a little epiphany (if that’s possible at 7.20pm in bed on a Sunday in March. More dramatic settings would be preferable). What am I most afraid of?

Now, you are looking at the girl who is practically a social recluse. I could take part in some sort of social evolution study at the detrimental effect of social media due to my reluctance to speak to anyone on the phone, I am renowned for my spectacular ability to select only the most inappropriate of jokes for any given awkward situation in public, and I hate to talk about myself, or anything that I could possibly be judged or held accountable for. So, you’re wondering, what scenario would be the perfect combination to bring all of these fears together in one monumental ball of terrified metaphorical wool of panic? A blimmin’ teach meet.

After visiting teach meets in the past, and presenting last year at @furtheredagogy’s very well organised Leicester Teach Meet, I was blown away by the positivity and support within the room; there is nothing like the energy of several teachers that are genuinely excited about their profession.

Recently moving schools has opened my eyes to a new type of educational climate. After several local schools have had council approval to shift from 11-14 schools to offer education on a larger scale, expanding to 16, we are entering into an exciting time. Arm this jointly with the move for many subjects meeting linear assessment requirements, and boy oh boy. What fun we shall have. I wanted to provide a network for teachers to share ideas and approaches for this, specifically but not limited to the changes within the county. After two years on Twitter, I have come across very few teachers that use the social networking site, and do not feel that it is currently utilised by staff at both my current school and previous schools. Once I had set up the Teach Meet venue and date, I found myself repeatedly explaining the concept to teachers, which I found quite alien. I simply took for granted that others accessed information in the same way that I have.

And so, @TMLeics is my way of getting past that chapter in the book, and doing something about a situation that I feel is rather significant in both the local area, but also within education as a whole. I want teachers within Leicestershire and the surrounding counties to have a collection of people to call upon, and perhaps to open their eyes to the realisation that in a time of such a shift within schools, that we can both celebrate the unity that comes with being a teacher, but use one another to prepare ourselves for that shift. So yeah, to sum up, I’m excited.

Linear Preparation- Are We Ready to Rumble?

I looked around my year nine class yesterday and despaired a little. Not a fan to admit to moments of anything but positivity in the classroom, I thought that it would be best to take stock and work through to offering/seeking a solution to said despair. Little Johnny not even listening to the question until the fourteenth time, other little Johnny making what unfortunately are rather hilarious comments about little Johnnetta’s rather prominent eyebrow control, big Johnny in the corner retorting that Peter Kay made 34 million last year, and so his own career is SET.

My question- how on earth am I going to drag this angelic collection of Johnnies through the first linear GCSE spec in 2017? I have rather plainly stated that unfortunately no, I am not Alex Mack, I do not collapse into a pool of mercury and so therefore cannot segment out my being to reform terminator style as them to sit the exam papers. There has to therefore be another way.

The shift towards linear has challenged my usually positive and proactive outlook to my profession. In a perfect world, I need students who are focussed, well read, used to working independently, controlled with their written responses, able to interpret non fiction texts, a wide knowledge of poetry, a genuine enjoyment for the subject and an ability to work at their finest in exam conditions.

Now I know when I say this how surprised you will be; this is not the description of my Johnnies.

I realised that I was asking the wrong question. How are THEY going to drag themselves through it? I sincerely believe that it is my responsibility to fully equip and prepare them for such a condition, but they need to be actively involved in the process. Beyond a mother- style lecture, how do I get the commitment that I need from students that have already disengaged from my subject, a subject that is so imperative to their future?

I don’t have the answer to that. But I am on it, I can assure you.

Students need to recognise FOR THEMSELVES the importance of y9 as a preparation year. This is the year to understand the exam, the texts, and form targets that they can take into year ten with a clear expectation of what they need to do to achieve. They need to read, anything, and preferably a variety of texts to grow that word bank before 2017 sneaks up on us. They need to be able to look objectively at their work. They need to collate information along the way, preparing tools and records for themselves to be able to cll upon during revision time. They need to remember what they have learned and be able to apply it to a text that they have never seen before.

They’re going to do all of this, unaided, with an unabated eagerness to succeed. Right?

Ok. Here is what I am doing. I have prepared a ‘what can I do?’ Outline and hand delivered to all my y9s with a star next to the one that they should personally focus on first. You can find this on my twitter account, @saysmiss, but the actions are generally those in the paragraph above. We have a weekly spelling test, collecting the words that we struggled with the most for a lesson on strategy later on in the term. With 20% resting on SPG and a separate reference to formality within analysis on the mark scheme, I’m not taking any chances Johnnies, no no no. All students are sent the assessment cover sheet at the start of term, with the task that they will be completing. They are encouraged to look at this, work out where they feel they can currently meet or exceed the mark scheme, and an area that they want to focus on as a target. Again, this will be visited during the planning lesson prior to examination with a ‘Genius Bar’ lesson; those with specific strengths will advise those who have set that area as a target. We have a weekly non fiction news based starter, using news sites as inspiration for a correction task. We have #takeawayhwk to create and store revision tools for each unit, so that the end of the summer term can be based around those tools.

Both I and the students need to feel that not only are we prepared for this huge shift, but that we have done everything to equip ourselves for every eventuality. I still don’t know the answer to my question, and don’t feel that it will be answered until those exam results come through, but I need to feel that I have gotten off my lazy dependent bum and done something about it. Right Johnny?

Fifty Book Challenge- the story so far

In no particular order, I thought it would save me my Christmas jolly day (and spur me on to finish again this year!) so here is where I am up to:

Oranges in No Man’s Land by Elizabeth Laird
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
How I Pid for College by Marc Acito
Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally by Hywel Roberts
Strange Meeting by Susan Hill
Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Revolver by Marcus Segewick
The Bailey Game by Celia Rees
Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig
The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The Wish House by Celia Rees
The Photograph by Penelope Lively
The Lazy Teacher’s Hndbook by Jim Smith
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
the Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo
MidWinterBlood by Marcus Sedgewick
Fearless by Tim Lott
Floodland by Marcus Sedgewick
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang
Witch Hill by Marcus Sedgewick
Blood Miney by Anne Cassidy
The Willow Man by Sue Purkiss
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriaty
Exchange by Paul Magrs
The Wells Bequest by Polly Shuman
Pimp your Lesson! By Isabella Wallace
Malarkey by Keith Gray
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Edge of Nowhere by John E Smelcer
Out of the Easy by Ruth Sepetys
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Quantity Theory of Insanity by Will Self

The Ask in the Answer in progress….. 39.

Here we go again…

I am utterly ashamed of how long it has been since I have muddled through a blog post. I have taken my energies away from work for a bit (above and beyond Summer) and feel that I need to start this year with a babble to mark the end of my NQT and start of ‘proper’ teaching.

How was last year?

Hard. However, the goal posts were different to my PGCE, and the demands were different. Having the hindsight of simply recognising the pattern of behaviour as we enter a new year has been valuable. I have given myself the extra challenge of starting at a new school (I don’t like to make it easy) and with last year containing so many big things on the life front, I feel ready to tackle a new year and push myself in a different way.

As an NQT, I think it is the most manageable and self preserving approach to look at your role in a day-to-day manner, mainly due to time constraints and your head swimming with ideas/nonsense that you think you need to hang on to, and now I can see the value of looking further into peaks and troughs of an academic year. The knowledge of knowing that the Autumn term being the most challenging in my eyes is almost a reassuring element; I can mentally steel myself for the long haul, and know that a) there IS a light at the end and its name is Christmas! And b) the challenges are simply the ones I will set myself.

My confidence as a teacher is ten times of this time last year, and the self assurance that you are able to put things into small people’s brains gives you a real sense of self worth. Of course, you could do that at the start if your NQT- you just didn’t realise that at the time. By you, I mean me. Obviously.

This is essentially a little catharsis before the madness begins; I want to ensure that I have a clear set of goals for what I want to achieve within my teaching practice, and this blog seemed like the perfect place. I am not a person motivated by progression or career development in a TLR sense, but more the expectations that I want to place upon myself and the children that I have the luck to teach. So, here’s goes:

Re design Key Stage 3 assessment.

This is something that I have felt strongly about for a while- I do not feel that we are providing students with a clear, manageable way to assess their own capabilities or development in a language that is understandable to them. I am empathetic to teaching according to pervious APP framework, but I do not feel that it is adequate to giving students any sense of what is expected for them- both at the point that they are at in their educational journey, or to prepare them for GCSE and beyond. It is this that assists to stifle flair at an early point, which I am keen to confront- as I am sure others are also.

Develop independence within secondary education

Students need to understand the concept and value of thinking for themselves, placing themselves mentally in a position to question ideas and develop as individuals that will not only participate in society, but ultimately mould and evolve to change and improve it. In order to do this, they NEED to comprehend that it is ok to think, and that this exists beyond simple the right or the wrong answer.

Preparing children for linear assessment

This is something that makes my brain hurt, and concerns me the most. In a profession that is moving (against my will) towards treating all students the same, irrespective of specific need, attainment and ability to access, I feel that it is only fair that I equip them to do this to the best of their ability. I haven’t quite worked out what that looks like yet.

Bring literacy back

Like sexy, only better Justin. Because literacy is the key to the planet! I want to raise awareness in communities, both educational but with the supporting network that we have available to us as schools, that not only is literacy important but it craves to be celebrated. Poetry is a lost art that gets eyes rolling, and I want to change that reaction. Shakespeare doesn’t get the hand clapping that he deserves in the teenage world. Books are something to be shared and embraced, and the positivity that literacy should receive isn’t yet present to the extent that I want it to be (I have a mega plan for this one but you will have to bear with me whilst I teach/plan/do the other stuff on the list/ renovate a house/ maintain a relationship/ raise a child. Any day now).

Have a profound effect in the education in the country that I live in.

That sounds grand, but again, it’s in progress.

My plans are super sized, but I feel that if you can’t think big, how do you expect the kids to?