It is that time of year again: I have two days to tap out my fifty book challenge review and look back on the last year. It took me a little while to identify with the ten plans I have laid out for myself at the end of 2014 because they were so work orientated. In my quest to reach a more balanced and nourished sense of wellbeing this year, I am not sure how on the mark I have been to these ten things in the meantime. However, I simply see this as a good thing and a clear and wise indication that things change. Change is good. It has taken me an incredibly long time to realise that contentment does not always need to be at the end of a to do list or a sense of accomplishment in something that you set out to do; contentment can simply be a moment of existence. Don’t let me waffle- I do that a lot.
1. Running a teachmeet without it falling apart at the seams like a poor man’s super sweet sixteen. Cake everywhere.
I did it! It was easily the most stressful point of my career so far- I don’t fare well when I set a huge amount of expectation upon myself and I was so very keen to make this a success that I fell into an all too familiar trap of looking at the negative outcomes of TMLeics rather than the amazing benefits that running a teachmeet offered to others. The drop out rate was high, tech was not on our side and we ran very late- needless to say, I am still not sure I can look at it as a success, even nearly a year on. I don’t feel ready to run another one single-handedly next year and am focusing on attending teachmeets rather than tackling that challenge again just yet. However, my growth mindset pocket of the brain kicked in and I have learned a lot from the process- maybe maybe room for a TMLeics17? We shall see.
2. Identifying possibilities and not waiting for opportunities.
I applied for a Head of Department role, managing to secure an interview and being one of the two final people in the running for the position. It didn’t work out. What filled my perfectionist head with some comfort was that my feedback was, ‘it was who was there on the day,’ and the school offered me an alternative role, stating that I had ‘intrigued them.’ In all my eccentricity, I really enjoy the interview process and relished the challenge that the day brought(I blogged about it here) . I ultimately decided to stay at my existing school within a new role but the day encouraged me to assess where I wanted to be within my career at a particular point. My biggest mistake at some point is thinking that I have nailed reflective thinking and that I manage to avoid the negativity that comes with thinking of failure as an obstacle rather than an opportunity to change direction, realign and learn from the experience. I believe that the fact that I applied in the first place raised a few eyebrows, with mutters of the small matter of my only teaching for two years. I ignore eyebrow raising in most instances now unless the eyebrows come with valid, constructive advice or debate. Any other eyebrows do not help me to achieve.
3. Running and coordinating a teaching and learning programme within my own school.
This is always going to be on the to-do I think. Running literacy on a whole school level has made me realise that my way of working- big, fast and at times, all guns blazing- is not always the best way. Teaching and Learning has gone from strength to strength in my current school, with a small group of staff signing up for an ‘open door week.’ Staff shared their observations to all staff over email and another week will run next term. There were no expectations, no judgement and the whole experience was invaluable to me- discussions since have included the possibility of running staff twilight sessions to develop their practice as an enrichment to the existing initiative.
4. Not yet knowing where I want to be- that’s exciting! I have constantly toyed with my next steps within my career and where I want to be- I am hoping that this becomes more apparent as new opportunities present themselves to me.
It is not that I care less about my direction, but that I have realised that there is more than one direction and that I do not need to worry too much about this. I say yes to the things that get me excited about teaching and avoid the things that excite me less (or make them exciting). It tends to work.
5. Becoming more informed in my practice- I need to fit more stuff into my brain to understand and implement certain ideas.
I have been reading so many blogs! I wanted to use this part to list all the wonderful things that I have read this year that had aided my practice but I truly would not know where to start. @Teachertoolkit and @mfordhamhistory speak a lot of sense with well-evidenced approaches.
6. Making plans- both in and outside of school.
What a year! I visited Iceland, Barcelona, Palma, Hong Kong and have so much in the pipeline for next year ( we will get to that). I have a wall planner at home. Its a real party piece.
7. Wanting to collaborate and share beyond my own Teachmeet.
Beyond blogging, this has taken a back seat with my new role. I attended Ashmount’s teachmeet where I discussed Literacy, an developed the idea of #Litdrive, a collaborative effort of literacy based resources for use within primary and secondary schools. I think that I could definitely market #litdrive better and whilst we have over 50 contributors now (and I hope to some extent sparked the lovely @JulesDaulby to start up her collaborative blog, Literacy Liaisons, I feel that this is something that needs a little TLC in the new year.
8. Organise myself but at my own pace, and within my own capabilities.
#teacher5aday keeps me well and truly in check. Ted Talks Life Hacks are a bit of a new obsession. I meditate when I can, I eat properly (I put my first Autumn term virus free down to the sheer amount of vegetables that I have consumed), and I know when to stop because I now listen to my body. Not being exhausted is my priority over all other jobs- what kind of illogical world would we live in if our physical health took second best to our workload? Anyone that knows me knows that I am a chaotic mess of post it notes and to do lists, half done tasks and deadlines but it works for me. I get stuff done.
9. Complete action research, looking at what I believe to be the detriment of interdependence and how to react to that within secondary education.
To do! I spoke at #ReadTLT over the summer about the link between playing upon personality strengths within students and success and I only wish that I had the time to dedicate to researching this in more detail. If anyone can recommend individuals that have already published work that examines the detriment of interdependence within education, I would be really interested.
10. Providing a real-life context to my teaching, so that students can recognise the importance of holding and justifying their opinions and views.
This is now a regular go-to for me. In their shoes, what would you do, would you rather and holding personal response and opinion at the centre of learning are now key features of my teaching. I have recently developed a new scheme of work for both non fiction and poetry that lead with personal response and opinion over formulaic approaches. It is all too easy to want to teach to an exam, to tick the boxes and ignore the fact that students already have an opinion as a starting point.
Right then Katherine, shall we get cracking on next year?
- Get outside. My one gift request for Christmas was National Trust membership and I am determined to also get back to running club now that the busiest term is behind us. Fresh air makes me happy.
- Spend regular, quality time with my small person. He had an incredibly rocky year and felt the full force of that in no way that a six year old should. The side effect of working full time is always feeling that you could be there more and I have certainly felt this way at times. We have set up a regular spot each week to chat over our week- number one should help!
- Make fifty book challenge for the fourth year on the trot! I do blog about this every year ( it is next on the the to-do; last year’s can be found here) and the majority of my books are recommendations.
- Quit sugar! Don’t laugh. Ok, you can laugh a bit. But this was a plan of mine before the new year guilt kicked in and I feel that it is an achievable one. I don’t think I will be completely at zero sugar- eating out is a minefield- but after buying Madeleine Shaw’s book at the start of the year, my approach to eating has changed from eating thin to eating to nourish. For me, this will be the next step in that change.
- Work on my fear of talking in front of adults. For those that have read my blog over the years, my imposter syndrome is in full swing when speaking to a group of adults. I have continued to deliberately put myself in positions that force me to share ideas (Teachmeets are fab for this, as everyone is so encouraging), but I always walk away mumbling at myself for how I repeated myself, ran over, and generally resembled a bag of damp nerves. I have booked myself to speak at Ashby Teachmeet, am performing a follow up poem at TMBehaviour and have offered myself up to running CPD at a local primary in addition to a parent workshop to support with reluctant readers. Can’t blame a girl for trying.
- Don’t worry too much about the direction.I have always been incredibly work orientated, before and during joining the teaching profession. I get anxious about sitting still and as a result, often put myself into a position of perpetually over committed to ensure that I don’t get bored. As you can imagine, this was not the best advocate for #teacher5aday! The discovery of wellbeing along with meeting someone who is now incredibly important to me has allowed to me lose a bit of the crazy outlook I have towards my career. I’m 33, not 53 and love the current role that I am working in. You never know what may happen and that’s a good thing rather than a hindrance to ‘the plan.’
- Write a book.Expect to see this one for a few years. I haven’t even decided on the type of book- last year, I drafted a plan for a non fiction and fiction book. Then a children’s book. But don’t forget number 6! I was inspired by @behaviourteach’s own Nuture post and it reminded me that I had this idea about a decade ago!
- Ditch the waste. The friends that I now surround myself with both in and out of work are like family to me. The more I read about mindset and the habits that we fall into, the more keen I am to choose to spend my time with those that don’t fall back on negativity as a reflex action. I watched Julian Treasure ‘s Life Hack where he outlines the ten deadly sins of noise- one being negativity. As people, our measurement of worth is as a result of finding someone who, in our opinion, is in a lesser position than ourselves. I’m babbling so let me put a little context to this. A friend of mine came to teaching and started her NQT year this year. After seven weeks, she felt that she had no option but to quit the entire profession with no plans to return- this was after a few years working in schools, her training which she thoroughly enjoyed and some fantastic observation feedback. She took four days off to consider her options and came back fresh and ready to continue in a career that she loved. Why? Because she had simply listened and surrounded herself with individuals that bred negativity and cynicism. In the words of Paul Dix, radiators rather than drains. I will listen to the people that love and encourage me over the ones that may have other motivations.
- Continue to blog, regularly, about more than simply musings. I do tend to carry out a lot of student voice, student reaction and student led learning within my teaching, document with pictures and data and then forget to blog about it. This is another thing that has taken a bit of a back seat this year and I would like to aim for once a month or at the very least, once every half term.
- See other teaching in action. Whether this is at teachmeets, visiting other schools, lending out my services locally in exchange for observing classes (I have organised a series of literacy masterclasses for a Y6 group, alongside a Y5 active literacy day for all of our feeder schools), signed up for an RQT course- anything that means I can see other teachers do their thing! It is the best thing for CPD and I always come away with so many ideas for my own practice.
I struggled a little this year to come up with my ten things. I don’t think it is because there are less things, but simply because my direction keeps changing and I want to see where I end up.