20 days to go..

in a whirlwind of creativity and inspired by Action Jackson’s mindset of ‘book a date. Then stick to it,’ I set a date back in October to run my own Teachmeet. I suffer hugely from imposter syndrome and spend a great deal of my time feeling like I am simply doing a fantastic (at best, passable) impression of someone that knows what she is doing, surrounded by people on Twitter that are far more knowledgeable and informed than I and the process of organised TMLeics has both fuelled and dismissed this in equal measure.

I read the helpful notes from Dan Williams, along with a few blogs that talked me through the process and then still with very little clue, got stuck in. Asking my new DH with a pretty please on top if I could use the school as a venue, I then made a list of local businesses that either had an educational background or a vested interest in investing in local projects and picked up the phone. Armed then with a list of email addresses, I began to compile an email outlining my plans and how they could perhaps support. To my amazement, ETeach got in touch asking for more information as to what I would require to fund my project and a more concrete idea of what the event would look like. 

Well. Great question ETeach. So, I got in touch with the most inspirational man that I had seen talk about positivity and generally got me excited about the more challenging side of education, Mr Paul Dix, @pivotalpaul. I asked him to lead as keynote because I knew that he shared my vision- to shake up the concept of behaviour management to taking less presidency over sanction and more focus towards forming relationships and nurturing every individual’s basic desire to please others. Now what?

Freebies. I asked myself what I would want from a Teachmeet that I would be interested to attend. Fantastic speakers from a classroom background, practical and simple ideas and approaches and most importantly, cake. A mid week Teachmeet is a tall order for those at the front line after a tough day with the small folk, and sugar would definitely be a deciding factor for me. So I made a kind, relentless and repetitive plea to the people that I would want to showcase to Leicestershire- the practicitioners that I respected and shared the can do attitude that gets me excited about being a teacher (Amjad Ali definitely still owes me on this- my weekly compliments haven’t yet got him up the motorway but there is time yet!)- people that I would love to sit and listen to because their fantastic ideas and attitude have inspired me countless times over the last couple of years. Namely, @lessontoolbox, @kvnmcl, @positiveweather, @thelearnmaker, @furtheredagogy…

Ok! So now we have a few speakers, I suppose I needed to present as well. We’ll get to that.. But first? Prizes. Teachers LOVE a freebie; we are only human, contrary to popular belief ( classroom cupboards as sleeping spots, no life outside the school-‘Miss, I seen you in Sainsburys! Doing FOOD SHOPPING!’). So I once again put on my best smile and asked nicely for support from our lovely sponsors. Thanks to Toshiba, Peppercorns catering, Twinkl resources along with some lovely authors, I had a fab collection of treats.

Then there is that moment where tickets started being scooped up. FAST. BY Christmas, we were nearly at full capacity and it became apparent that I was more concerned about people coming to an event without the number of speakers that I had originally planned rather than a heap of presenters turning up to a half empty event. Even worse, did we need a bigger room? Had I even thought through a contingency for this? I still have the fear that on the seventeenth of March, one will outweigh the other and the memories of a badly organised birthday bash will come flooding back. 

Why am I writing this now, rather than post event? It is important to me to remember WHY I arranged this, rather than HOW things work out, and where I can improve it to make it bigger and better for next time (I have high and very realistic hopes for Teachmeet Mids next year). A little self indulgent, but I wanted to celebrate the good points of this process which I know will personally be far more difficult after the event. How beer above all, I wanted to point out how easy it can be to do something if you feel truly passionate (Urgh, that word) about something. 

Teaching and learning is paramount and central to everything that I practice, follow and inform myself on. I cannot expect everyone to agree with my own belief system, but if there is something that means this much to you, just go ahead and do it. That way, even if it is a tiny thing, you have just managed to change the world a little bit. That’s kind of cool, right?

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#Teacher5aday- Making each day a prettier version of itself

I was truly inspired by @martynreah’s #teacher5aday blog, and it really helped me to provide a structure to so many goals and aspirations that I had marked out for the next year. As we approach the end of the second month of 2015, whilst fresh in y mind from the piece that I have put together for the #teacher5aday exhibition, I thought it would be nice to document the work I have put in so far to preserving my own well being in the hope that it might help others to embed their own #teacher5aday changes. And of course, the even better ifs.

#connect 

I have shed a lot of friends as a teacher- I think finally finding my vocation in life helped me to identify the type of people that I wanted to surround myself with and the people that fulfil my life in the same way that I try to do for them. A social networking lecture at the start of my PGCE course prompted me to purge my facebook and it is next to dormant other than the usual abundance of pictures of my child. As I get older, my friendship group grows smaller but stronger, with people that understand the way that I work, and appreciate that when I am emotional or angry, what I say and what I mean are not usually the same thing. My friends are now those that can celebrate in my successes, listen as I self-sufficiently put the pieces back together and share my interests or key fundamental ideas. As a result, I have been to the theatre, made new friends at work, and made a wonderful and memorable trip to Iceland this month. This year, I am embarking on my first holiday alone (meeting people out there!) and have so many amazing trips and events booked that force me to maintain the work/life balance that is ultimately key to the self preservation essential to any attempt at longievity in my role. 

Keep this up- I’ve bought a wall planner ONLY for non work stuff- if the planner is empty, I’m in trouble. 

#exercise 

I’ve joined a gym! Not only did I join a gym, which in itself is not a feat- a gym has always featured in my routine- but I managed to find a non-poncy, spa-like gym that feels like a mini retreat every time I visit the gym. I am also joining a running club this week (watch this space- I’m hoping the race bug comes back) after running my last half marathon 2 years ago and then allowing teaching to sink my PB without a trace. I bought a bike when my son learned to ride his own in the summer and it is such an instant fee-good hit to dump the bikes in the boot and head out to the park. In addition, my diet has had a complete turnaround. I have always eaten fairly healthily (evened out with my own weight in chocolate of course) but then in early January, watched a rather disturbing but eye-opening programme about the fact that our bodies are able to self heal if we would allow, but that we are denying the body of essential nutrients as a result of our diets. I switched to a vegetable smoothie and beetroot juice for my breakfast and after two weeks, felt an immediate difference. I was awake, my thoughts were clearer and I felt very little requirement for caffeine to keep me going through the day. After researching further into raw food diets, I am now adding chia seeds and spirulina, foods known to be rich in B12, iron and antioxidants. I have had a fair share of funny looks and shaking heads as I drink my green goo breakfast, but I feel fantastic and notice such a difference to my energy levels and mood. I know it isn’t for everyone, but it is a simple way to feel better- eat more veg. 

Keep up running club. Enter a race for the next six months.

#notice 

This is where the age-old good thing jar comes in. I have kept a yearly good thing jar since the start of my PGCE, using post it notes to record tiny moments that make me smile and make me happy. It could be a joke that I shared with a colleague or friend, the view from my classroom (my entire back wall is a window- I’m very lucky), or something that a child brings in to show me. With the same mindset, I have extended this to use with my form group- each week we have ‘Celebration Friday’ where we write a small note to share the thing that we are proud of or want to remember from the last week, or alternatively nominate a moment that they think someone else in the tutor group should be proud of. Students vote and we add the top two voted moments to our celebration board, but I have collected in all moments to collate for an end of year display. The whole process of noticing for me is to being able to reflect and retain the moments that seem at the time quite ordinary but in fact, it would be quite a shame to let them slip from memory. I keep a diary to monitor moments on a more personal level, which allows me to look back and consider where I was, and what I have experienced since that time. 

Eat lunch outside in the nature spot at work when we get to after Easter and there is slightly less danger of hypothermia.

#learn 

I am eternally grateful to Twitter for the fact that I am continually informing myself and improving myself as a teacher. I am now about to embark on Twitter Coaching (set up by @furtheredagogy and @ASTsupportAAli, the little geniuses) and love an opportunity to get involved in extra projects. However, #teacher5aday caused me to consider my interests and curiosity outside of work. I’ve made some fantastic new friends over the last few months, who have forced me into different projects outside of school that have been completely outside the box- drama workshops, creative writing, shooting! A blessing And a curse, I need a project to get my teeth into to keep me feeling like I have a direction. To do this outside of school instead of sinking into work related projects has been fantastic.

Look into the LP accreditation or an equally recognised qualification- not a masters. Not yet!

#volunteer 

 I have made a concerted effort to spend much more time with children during school hours- setting up a newsletter club, a poetry club, organising trips to get Y9 thinking about their next steps as we move towards GCSE, carrying out student voice beforehand to ask the kids what THEY wanted from their time in school- even down to the days that would suit them best. I find that this one is on a much more personal lebel- I have learned to habitually give without expectation- a compliment, an enquiry into how someone has found their day or how they are feeling; I’m consciously ending anything I say with a question. This sounds so simplistic, but when we are busy, it is so easy to use time with others to fill about our own rants and frustrations. Questions equal out the balance and offer the support that other people may need, just like you do at times. For me, volunteering up your kindness is the greatest gift.

Make up wellbeing bags for my department.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

You can keep Christmas. A food based coma where one prosecco-fuelled day merges into the next and after an eight week term, the only thing keeping me awake is the conveyor belt of food and the fact that I have an obligation to make sure I enjoy Christmas as I have been instructed to by every single member of staff as I left the school building the previous week.

Now February has got it going on.

It is my son’s birthday (big 6, big deal- he busted the mountain bike hiding place this year so now the David Walliams book has got a tough crowd tomorrow morning), my birthday- far less coverage for this one- and February half term always lends itself nicely to a bit of non-teacher related fun. Your eyeballs still work, sometimes you are known to be able to string a sentence together after such a short term and the fact that drinking during the day is far less socially acceptable in mid Feb, but most importantly, you are leaving classes that are just getting into the swing of things now. So before I scoot off to Iceland and remember how to be a fun human being, I wanted to round up why this term has been a good one and possibly the nicest one all round.

They are LISTENING!

By this point, your hard work is well and truly paying off. seating plans are in full throttle, students are tolerating and collaborating, pupils are managing to work in group tables without wanting to polish one another off in the process. Your already switched on group are with you, willingly holding out their hands for more learning, yes please indeedy give me that extra challenge further reading/homework/ website that you said was ace Miss (ok, there are about four of these children) and the not so proactive are coming around to your way of thinking. They’ve learned the person- they’ve grown accustomed to your ways, your expectations and are well aware that if they click that pen or rock on that chair one more time between now and July, you will get Liam Neeson on their ar…..

Ok. So it isn’t all raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens, but they are on your side. They see that your intentions are good and the ‘why’ questions are being answered within your teaching on a daily basis. They have seen you trip over a cable/box of books/your own feet at least once and are secretly amazed that you’re a human because up until that point, you knowledge of your subject has made them think that you were some sort of super-learning artificial intelligence. Stick a USB stick behind your ear to keep that one going.

START GOING CRAZY

Now they are yours is your time to really start to experiment. That thing you saw on Twitter back in October and guffawed at the teacher’s bravery/time management capability to knock up the resource AND ACTUALLY USE IT? Your turn. As you may have seen, I have now started moving my classes towards pledges for next year, long term project based homework, questionless feedback and response lessons, student led learning and a vast amount of student voice to ascertain the direction that we can take together now. Now that you are over the 15 week marathon that you dragged yourself through before Christmas, and before all that delightful Summer marking starts, indulge yourself a little. Your kids will thank you for it.

THE GOODUNS

Those lessons that you cannot even remember because it was the day that you received 684 emails, Jonny vomited on your classroom floor, Bob decided to knee Bilbo (I wish I taught a child called Bilbo) in between the legs, Martha walked out halfway through the lesson with a nosebleed, you had graphic novel club that day (that bit is true at least), a parent appointment after school, the photocopier broke and that child definitely, DEFINITELY whispered the word that starts with bell and ends in…. remember the good ones. The bits that worked, the bits that the kids’ eyes lit up at and you had real fun with. The lessons that you didn’t get through the whole lesson because you wanted students to enjoy the learning that you had jointly created within that room at that moment. For me, my best bits were:

Gothic fortune tellers

‘I bet’ trivia starters

A Christmas Carol Graphic novel pages (the day I called Jacob Marley Bob Marley)

Monarch for the Day (Beyonce as PM and Justin Bieber in prison- we all have to wear funny hats)

Could you run the NHS?

The crazy effect of Sugar

The documentary style football match jungle poem at poetry club inspired by watching the boys on the astro turf

HAVE A MOMENT

Look at your own midpoint achievements- what did you set out to do in your appraisal at the start of the year? Are you still working towards the same goals or has something happened along the way that changed your direction- perhaps for the better? I know that I have now reached a point where my focus has switched slightly and I have moved from a crossroads of career progression to a happy medium- working towards a specific goal but at the same time, relishing the extra opportunities that have come my way. Update a personal statement- map out your achievements to have a cathartic moment to celebrate how far you have come.

Happy half term everyone- you’re awesome for changing little people’s lives everyday and they love it, they really do.

Five Things to Do at Half Term

This is more a personal reminder than for anyone else’s benefit, but this is what happens when not one of the clever twitterers can help you to fix your iphone calendar. Instead of my technological to do list, I have put it together here. You’re welcome!

1. FRIGGING GO TO FRIGGING ICELAND AND FRIGGING FREEZE

My first cold holiday in a very, very long time, my key purchases have been a ski jacket, a new camera and some miniature bottles of gin. Priorities. However the trip will also be my first holiday this academic year and marks a definite move towards the switch off that I have been working on over the last few months. Other than private projects and reading that I aim to catch up on, I will not be working for the entirety of half term. Possibly if for no other reason, than my fingers will have fallen off.

2. SPEND TIME WITH MY SON

Instead of the constant juggle that my nearly six year old experiences between my and his father’s home with school in between, I will actually have the privilege of some uninterrupted time with my small person. No food shop, no big plans, just a lot of eating pancakes and fashioning of pyjamas.

3. HAVE ANOTHER BIRTHDAY

I almost forgot about this bit in half term and to be honest it is no biggy. But it is always a huge bonus that without fail, my birthday falls in the holidays. I will be celebrating with even more pancakes, maybe with a cake/pancake sandwich of sorts.

4. I WILL READ MORE THAN TWO BOOKS

My fifty book a year brag is fast dissipating as I am currently on book number 2. Sleepiness and other things are getting in the way of sitting down with a good book and I am damned if I end this year on 12 books.

5. I WILL FINISH

several things that have never been finished up. LIke the character mapping for my book, or the scrapbook, or the planning for the other book, or the scraps of poetry that don’t have an ending, or even the ironing pile. I will finish at least the ironing pile!