In true (absolutely never) earlybird fashion, I came in at 53 as at last week, so I’m quitting whilst I’m ahead. The majority of this year’s list has been borrowed or recommended via Twitter and as consequently, I am finding it more and more difficult to start a book without it receiving endorsement from someone else. I used to pick a book based upon what I  now view as the most frivolous of reasons: cover design (this was the basis of my decision for quite easily a decade- too much charity shop shopping led me to just lose patience and buy the pretty book), the same author over and over, learning to recognise their style and then becoming furious at myself for knowing it so well that I would guess the ending, or simply because it looked like the type of book that would hold my somewhat sketchy attention span. As I reach my fifth year of 50+ books, or at least formally tracking them, my tastes have changed to a degree, but I think the remnants of my twenty something self still remain; a pretty cover, desperately lacking in a reading of non-fiction or classic literature, manoeuvring towards the apocalyptic over a laugh-out-loud. However, in my defence, I read to teach (Daisy Christodoulou’s Seven Myths was a head scratcher), I have learned to persevere with the more difficult reads because sometimes, it’s worth it (Dear Amy was not but hey, I finished it didn’t I?) and I’m learning to stretch out beyond YA fiction from time to time.

The complete list:

  The Kites Are Flying Morpurgo, Michael
The Power Alderman, Naomi *
Alex As Well Brugman, Alyssa
The Girls Cline, Emma
Before I Fall Oliver, Lauren *
One Crossan, Sarah *
The Muse Burton, Jessie
This is Not Your Final Form O’Brien, Richard
Anna and the Swallow Man Savit, Gavriel
Dear Amy Callaghan, Helen*
Dreaming the Bear Thebo, Mimi *
Hot Milk Levy, Deborah
The Iron Man Hughes, Ted
Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite Kim, Suki *
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Out of the Hitler Time, #1) Kerr, Judith
Brother in the Land Swindells, Robert
Bone Room Cassidy, Anne
The Girl of Ink and Stars Hargrave, Kiran Millwood *
All the Little Animals Hamilton, Walker
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Konigsburg, E.L.
My Brother’s Ghost Ahlberg, Allan
I Let You Go Mackintosh, Clare *
The Dead Fathers Club Haig, Matt *
The Buried Giant Ishiguro, Kazuo
The Giver (The Giver, #1) Lowry, Lois *
How Texts Teach What Readers Learn Meek, Margaret
The Light Between Oceans Stedman, M.L. *
My Name Is Lucy Barton Strout, Elizabeth
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry, #1) Joyce, Rachel
The Nest Oppel, Kenneth*
Salt to the Sea Sepetys, Ruta *
Boy In The Tower Ho-Yen, Polly
Bed Whitehouse, David
Lie With Me Durrant, Sabine
Once (Once, #1) Gleitzman, Morris
Everything, Everything Yoon, Nicola *
The Bone Sparrow Fraillon, Zana
Red Sky in the Morning Laird, Elizabeth
Shtum Lester, Jem *
Paperweight Haston, Meg *
Wolf Hollow Wolk, Lauren
American Gods Gaiman, Neil *
The Tobacconist Seethaler, Robert
The Graveyard Book Gaiman, Neil *
Drop Everson, Katie *
Delirium (Delirium, #1) Oliver, Lauren *
Seven Myths about Education Christodoulou, Daisy
How to Stop Time Haig, Matt *
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers: The Michaela Way Birbalsingh, Katharine
How Not To Be a Boy Webb, Robert
Never Let Me Go Ishiguro, Kazuo
The Radleys Haig, Matt *
Turtles All the Way Down Green, John *



The Highlights:

Robert Webb, How Not to Be a Boy: I know that some will disagree, but I found this not only to be incredibly entertaining in an endearing yet sardonic fashion, I also found Webb to be well researched in his opinions as to what hinders boys throughout childhood to what can certainly be a well-founded contributor to our male suicide rate within the UK. If nothing else, one to ponder over.

Matt Haig, How to Stop Time: Haig is writing slower than I am reading. After discovering the author rather late in the day, I believe that I am all out but this (along with Reasons to Stay Alive) is a firm favourite. A delicious concept for a novel and Tom is such a likeable yet tormented individual to fall in love with.

Walker Hamilton, All the Little Animals: I came across a pile of these for 50 pence each in a second hand shop and wish I had scooped up the lot. Bobby is Lennie, and the novella tosses around the ideals of good and evil in this quick read.

Jem Lester, Shtum: I wept, a lot. Knowing a family that have been caught in the ridiculous, illogical cycle of meeting criteria to enable their child to be educated in a way that meets THEIR needs, not the needs of a piece of paper, this was a tremendous way of opening up that world to any reader.

Kazuo Ishaguro, Never Let Me Go: Because I resisted it for so long after my disappointing experience of Buried Giant, and now wish I had the opportunity to teach it. I loved the ambiguity that the characters journey through, not relentlessly but without option because after all, that’s kind of what life offers up.

I like to attempt optimism, but I think this may be my last smash at 52 books in a year for a while. The incredibly small person currently strapped to my body is the only reason that I can write this blog to you, but there are also other priorities for this year and I don’t do well with a target that seems unreachable. With this in mind, I’m aiming for 12 books for 2018 (piece of cake), but with specific criteria:

  1. One MUST be a classic. There really is no excuse.
  2. One MUST be a book that I own but have not yet read. This may or may not be as a result of bagging up five bags for life with books and still possessing an entire shelf of ‘I’ll get round to that’ books.
  3. One MUST be explicitly to aid with professional development. I want to really link this to subject knowledge as I do feel that my historical context could do with a Spring clean.
  4. One MUST be poetry. And it MUST be annotated as a result. Strict, but I read so much poetry and then instantly forget it, which means that I don’t make use of it or even remember it in a sense of personal value.
  5. One MUST be to help with grammar. I really want to take a more traditional approach to teaching grammar when I return from maternity leave and as with all things requiring memory, knowledge fades when it is not used.
  6. One MUST be a funny book. I read far too many books that end in death or despair and that’s all very well but Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van was one of the best things I had read in years and it reminded me of how therapeutic it is to laugh out loud at a book.
  7. One MUST be finished in a day. A pretty contradictory approach to the restrained twelve books over fifty, but this will force me to sit still for at least one day of the next 365 and relish the act of reading.
  8. One MUST be written by an author of a book that I teach. This one is off the back of reading Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant; there is so much value in exploring the rest of a writer’s brain when teaching their work.
  9. One MUST be a recommendation of my son’s choosing. I get passed so many books by him and often (this is awful, I know) say I will get around to reading it and don’t. This is admittedly because I’ve read the back and the plot line makes me want to weep- I do not want to spend my precious time finding out about the highs and lows of Captain Underpants, apologies- but I think I can stretch to one book.
  10. One MUST be more than ten years old. Weaning myself off all the amazing new YA fiction that comes out every year.
  11. One MUST be from the Carnegie List- because just writing the last stipulation brought me out in a cold sweat.
  12. One MUST be written by an author I have met or at least spoken to on Twitter. Because one of them had to be bloody near-on impossible (or alternatively, opens up a whole heap of brand new conversations.

Big thank you to @thatboycanteach, @afardon, @fkritson, @mrlockyer, @ralston_h, @happysadcross and anyone else who has endured my Twitter book chat over the last year, but also to @RemusLupin for disagreeing with every book choice I ever make, but always reading double my figure to spur me on. For anyone interested in setting themselves a #52books2018 challenge, @fkritson runs a group via Goodreads that helped tremendously with recommendations, alongside the hashtag on Twitter.

Please feel free to get in touch to chat books, make recommendations or dispute my choice for this year’s highlights; I recently tweeted here regarding the eleven books that I dug out in my book-purge and could not bring myself to get rid of.


The #Litdrive Way of Life

After receiving a vast amount of interest about my ambiguous spouting on about #litdrive on Twitter over the weekend, then sharing the original post (here if you are interested https://saysmiss.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/the-little-acorn-litdrive/ ), I have realised that there are already several things about #litdrive that are outdated. One, we shifted from googledrive to dropbox (mainly because my ICT skills leave a lot to be desired and my lack of organisational skills could do with an entire post of their own). We have also grown from the original concept that I posted about; what started in my mind as a resource for literacy has inevitably grown wings, sprouted heads and transitioned to a heaving bank of resources for all sorts.

Change is good! We are now sitting at 350 contributors (primary and secondary) and with lots of shared drives floating about, I hope that the variety of resources will add value to any teacher, anywhere. A plethora of ‘stuff,’ #litdrive offers schemes of work, exemplar work, marking ideas, reading lists and initiatives, written literacy support, literacy across the curriculum and a whole heap in between. I usually have a monthly re-arrange/clear up/back up to ensure that resources shared are safe and easy to find.

What next? I thought it may be beneficial to outlinethe purpose of the drive but also put a few guidelines/pleas in place to make it great for everyone. Excuse the bullet points (some people may not have wanted to read the rambly words above and just get to the good stuff):


  • DM your email address with the #litdrive hashtag for me to send over an invite for you. Alternatively, send to my email (Katherine.howard@hotmail.co.uk) and #litdrive world is your oyster.
  • Once you have access, please do share how you have used someone else’s wonderful resource, using the #litdrive hashtag! It may be that you have tweaked a resource or used it in a new way which would be invaluable to any teacher. You may just make someone’s day after an hour of pulling glue sticks out of a child’s hair. Make someone smile.
  • Please, please, please do add your own resources- the top folder entitled wittingly, ‘I have something to add!’ is the place to pop it. I get heaps of messages from people saying, ‘I don’t really have anything great,’ or, ‘what type of thing would you want?’ Nonsense to the first- you’re an ace teacher, joining an online community to collaborate and share resources. You’re resources must be awesome. To the second- if you’re sharing a resource, I will find a folder to put it in.
  • Final gigantic plea- please do not delete or modify files. By all means, download it- stick it on your usb but other shared drives are really suffering as a result of this. It’s never deliberate of course, but if your Dropbox is heaving and you want out, just let me know and I will remove you from the drive.

Thank you so much for getting involved with #litdrive- I have had teachers from all over the world say thank you and would like to pass on that thanks to the people that deserve it. Enjoy!

Seasick and Froth: Independence and Progress

Where did we get to?

I’ve been mulling over the concept of spoon feeding within education, taking away the safety net whilst providing enough of the net for any of us to avoid feeling that swooping towards the cliff edge feeling and how we plan on going about all of that in the midst of what is stormy waters for the educational sector (all the shipwrecked metaphors. What can I say? I love a metaphor).

Previous action research included studying the process of peer and self assessment using a structured framework, guiding students towards making meaningful progress through using one another as an additional resource within the classroom; this then moved onto how to personalise learning through characteristic strengths and growth mindset. At Ashby Teachmeet recently, I spoke about the explicit link between developing the climate that makes things seem challenging and yet possible for all learners; this is only achievable, in my opinion, if we provide learners with the opportunity to reflect upon their own progress. Here is where we got to.

I have trialled the process of reflection, improvement and self-audit with my GCSE groups; one is a ‘top’ set, all working to target grades of B or above. The other, a mixed ability group with the range of target grades E-C. All students have a skills audit sheet that not only identifies the skills that they will develop over the GCSE course, but also outlines the particular assessment objective that the skill will relate to. Additionally, at the start of each unit, we have spent time selecting the skills that we will endeavour to develop during that unit. As a result of this, I am now currently working on a skills audit that will be tailored for each unit and perhaps act as an overlay to the giant skills sheet for the entire course (blue sky and all that). Both groups went through this process: visit audit sheet to identify skills before commencing a topic, using skills audit sheet to peer and self assess class work, planning and assessments and using the skills audit alongside post assessment work to celebrate successes in confidence but also identify areas that should be their key priority for the next unit or when we revisit the following year.

Successes? Both groups got it. The student feedback at a midpoint over the 3 month period and then again at the point of completion showed a clear, strong understanding their progress and the next steps required from the students’ point of view rather than the teacher; male students that always demonstrated a requirement for ‘beating targets’ found some sense of satisfaction in measuring their increasing confidence within a subject that may sometimes feel as though you are reaching a plateau- English content I find is reliant upon transferring skills in addition to developing them as such. One student noted that it ‘was more useful than comparing my work to other people as I don’t write in the same way’ which I found comforting. This was a process that was taking a rather qualitative subject and providing a linear way to demonstrate progress – nuts and bolts are hard to apply within English. The danger then becomes in who got the best and self-auditing means that students move away from test-topping which is always a good thing, surely. One student stated, ‘it helps me realise that I can now approach tasks better,’ and ‘it boosts my confidence to answer a question.’ Personally, this is the value of the progress over progress itself; if the effort is there and I have helped to strengthen that, then I believe the outcome will still ultimately be the same.

The key successes I took from this were that the skills audit acts as a triple whammy for teaching resourcing; one to one discussions post unit were far more focussed and specific to the student, the onus took a shift so that whilst I provided any material to help to make an improvement by way of intervention, the student was the one to signpost to me where they needed to make that improvement. It also made discussions at parents’ evening based entirely around progress and independent learning; conversations were centred around effort and action plans to aid this process. Intervention has been far easier to tailor as a result; students have been in a position to use assessment marking and the skills audit to know exactly what they want to develop or work on as the GCSE course has got underway.

Advice for approaching? Play the long game. This, like any practice or adaptation to teaching will take a routine and modelling to perfect. The more frequently used, the greater value the students placed upon the process of considering their work with a much more obejctive approach than they were perhaps previously used to. Provide as many examples of work using the skills audit to measure skills applied wherever possible; use the skills to drive lessons or form the lesson’s big question.

Two things stood out to me above all else: one, that it is questionable to suggest that the act of self audit has to be accurate or correct. Two, that the link between assessment criteria and the skills acquired needed to be much more clear to even the most able of students; they found it incredibly difficult to understand that they were using the same skills but just with differing content. The ideal? To create an online process for students to visit each time they worked yhrough a topic, measuring their confidence and skills developed as they progressed through the content and completed assessments to test their knowledge. Smaller, regular assessments that were clearly targeting skills outlined within the tool that students could then identify their own capabilities and perhaps even better, have a variety of links to resources that could help them to ‘close their own gap.’ Students understood the value and could identify holes in their learning, but sometimes struggled to know what to do with that information without guidance from me, although I do still need something to do with all this independent work, so I’m not complaining.

Back to the ship, big waves, etc, etc. What next? Develop a clear pathway for students to identify with not only what they excel at, but the targets for themselves as well. Essentially, a lighthouse in all this murky, gloomy weather that we are having. I just need to get around to making it…

Learning the Hard Way: Preparing to Fail

I was raised within both a home and education where right and wrong existed. There was very little room in either setting for a grey area; what was, simply was and what wasn’t- well, you follow. My secondary school was terrifying; my option choices were honestly made on the basis of avoiding certain circles (hence my complete inability to sew) and I lacked confidence to take on an additional GCSE, selecting supported studies because ‘you get a free hour for homework). The curriculum was not an invitation for exploration, but rather an A+B+C formula to the grades that were on my target report. I remember rather vividly, my English teacher correcting me on an interpretation of Browning’s Sonnet and being shot down in an instant (this is the same woman who laughed in my face at the outrageous notion that I could study Literature A level, so without digressing too much, her putdown may not be representative here).

Did I require the extra hour? To step outside my prior self for a moment and look upon 90’s kid Katherine from a teaching perspective, no. I walked out of school with an A* (English, smugly), two As, five Bs and 2 Cs (graphics- textiles would have definitely been my bag. I’ll give you a moment for that one). This was accomplished as a result of zero revision and my speedy completion of Tomb Raider – that four week break in school timetabling to sit at home really paid off. To put it in a nutshell, it could have been better.

It is only now, nearly twenty years on that I can peruse over the situation as a professional and consider the possiblities here. My academic potential? As much of a muchness to any other student at such a fine establishment. So what kept me from success? To toss aside the black/white approach, there was a lot going on outside the classroom, behaviour in the classroom of some subjects was verging on the ridiculous but above all else, I did not develop the confidence to believe that I would cope or could experience success at GCSE. Why? Because failure was not an option.

I’ve spent the last week or so mulling over the concept of failure after discovering the counterargument to Dweck’s growth mindset via Dr Tim O’Brien thanks to Paul Dix. The realisation that growth mindset was flawed shook up my thinking a little until a colleague put it rather eloquently that, ‘anything that takes an approach that is as binary as “you are or you are not” is subject to being flawed.’ I believe in the act of learning as opposed to an end point but yet this is not necessarily the train of thought here; by adopting an adherence to growth mindset within schools, are we then rejecting all those who dare to voice that there IS black and white and there IS a sense of failure as rejection and not simply put, a circumstance that requires us to dust ourselves off and ‘have a think on it’?

Flash forward to my classroom now and the jury is currently out. I very much reward effort over achievement; progress, in my opinion is a result of hard work and the ability to recover from what psychologically the individual may view as a setback. This is not only essential to an academic setting but to the world beyond the walls; coping mechanisms are built through small, repeated actions and experiences of such an emotion as failure- the small shortcomings are received in the same way as the larger and are just in valuable in developing resilience. And so with all of this in mind, how do I accommodate for students that need specific skills to pass a linear examination with a binary grading but that I would ideally like to approach the curriculum with them in a holistic way that defies all of the above? Big breath. Dr Tim O’Brien put it nicely in his article:’Yet in this new mindset environment, a teacher trying to establish which mindset learners possess will naturally place them as learners on the fixed pole or the growth pole. Instead of the teacher having multiple lenses through which to understand individuality and commonality, they now have only two.’ One size, as we all know, is not possible. Looking for the quick win is not what will save the educational format as we have or now know it and whilst my mind boggles at the thought (all multi-faceted sides of it), it is slightly refreshing to observe with children that they can possess a sense of peace by knowing that there isn’t a formula to crack. It is, as they say, all gravy.

#Nuture1516 Time

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.’
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Why We Are Shouting about Wellbeing

In the lead up to @martynreah’s Slow Ed Chat, wellbeing has been top of my ‘this time around’ for the new academic year. Nearly a year ago, I blogged about how #teacher5aday had prompted me to not only slow myself down, but to develop a sense of awareness both inside and outside the classroom (see https://saysmiss.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/teacher5aday-making-each-day-a-prettier-version-of-itself/ ). So, where am I now?

Wellbeing has become more than simply promoting growth and development to students through self-fulfilment, but #teacher5aday centres me to an entirely new approach to my teaching, the way I deal with situations and breaking habits that I was not even conscious to during my previous career. Instead of reacting, I am proactive. Instead of pushing myself to such a point that it brings negative results for not only my health but also to the detriment of others around me, I listen to my body. We hear the term ‘wellbeing’ tossed around so frequently, but how easy is it to truly embed #teacher5aday into our day to day lives? Here is a little insight into how such a simple little mantra has featured within my Autumn term and the significant impact that it has made.


Twitter seems to have taken a little bit of a back seat for me this term and yet I feel that I have focussed my need to connect a little closer to home. Turning my attention to my school community has not been something that has come as second nature- in the daily bustle of lunchless, breakless school life, it is easy to feel a sense of isolation within school, but due to my new role as Literacy Coordinator, my role if nothing else has demanded that I form relationships with staff across the school. To ensure that all staff felt a sense of buy-in to my Fifty Book Pledge, I personally delivered staff ‘Now Reading’ cards, stopped to talk books with others after reading their cards in classroom windows- emailed recommendations in response to my findings. I visited the library more often to work my way through student recommendations and prompted reading exchanges over email by including my ‘now reading’ within my signature. Remembering a simple yet effective rule from @beingbrilliant, Mr Andy Cope, I go out of my way to say hello to everyone I pass during my school day. Now, both actions may sound rather small and not quite as grand as they could be, but both have had a significant impact upon me. You see, I’ve never been the person that offers up a conversation- the concept was terrifying. Talking to a stranger at a bus stop would have filled me with fear. I’m a changed woman; the straightforward act of connecting with other people, checking in on how they are, how they may be feeling has warmed my day more than I can describe. In the Winter months, twenty ‘mornings’ can be sometimes the best way to warm up your chilly days!

The other thing? Our TV ariel broke five months ago. We’re not replacing it. I enjoy telling people just for the look of pity that I receive in response. We read and talk. It is absolute bliss.


For anyone that follows my blog, I have been preaching about my ‘no work at home’ rule since my NQT year. It works for some, it is impossible for many not to I know, but it simply doesn’t work for me. My brain refuses to function after 7pm (spot the grammatical errors for proof) and I am at my least accurate and creative when I am that tired. Awesome, you say! Work life balance you say! Hang on there. The additional problem? Your brain switches off but your thoughts do not. Too tired to work but not too tired to think is an all too familiar state of the Autumn term teacher. Make a list? Nah. Doesn’t empty my brain to the point that I can sleep easy, free of crazy dreams about My Deputy Head and I planning to set up a theme park or an evening of grand plans as we get involved in a whole-staff effort to refurbish a haunted house to sell on to unsuspecting first time buyers. I have instead discovered Calm app, a new way for me to switch my brain off in the evening or to centre myself a little in the morning in an attempt to set myself up with a little resilience for the day ahead. Meditation is not for everyone, my previous self included in the mix, but I feel more able to tackle whatever is thrown at me- beyond that, I look forward to the things thrown at me (furniture being the exception to the rule!).


This is the area of #teacher5aday that I always struggled with the most. However, I have discovered that it was simply my perception of the word itself rather than the act that I was having difficulty with. Again, I started to look closer to home to see if I could help others without the expectation of help in return. I now proof read the school bulletin every month for one of the admin team. In the absence of a 2ic this year, I have taken on tasks to ease the workload of the department. I have shared my resources in a timely fashion to aid others’ planning. I have joined a twenty-strong team to share teaching and learning across the school through week-long incentives of non-judgement based observations (more on this later). I have shared the jobs at home. I have helped in small ways to make other people’s lives a little easier at times. And even in sharing all this, it feels a little self-promotional which is I think where I always found the difficulty. Although, sometimes it is the smallest of things that make a difference and in the same way that I have tried to do this, I have also tried to be more aware and appreciative of the small things that others have done for me.


Piano is still going strong, girls and boys. It is a year on and I know half of many a song. Some weeks, it seems impossible to fit in half an hour of a time-filler that isn’t sat in front of a computer, but after buying myself an old veteran of a piano for home, I have never looked back. I even take pleasure in the sound of playing scales! Nothing calms me more than going through the motions of what is now an well known tune and nothing develops my empathy with students as trying to learn a new one.

I have learned about myself over the last year, in my own capabilities and achievements. I have learned that I am only terrible at speaking in front of others as a result of my own fears and misconception that I am not entitled to know stuff. One of the aspects of teaching that you must face head-on quite early on if you are to progress as a teacher is that you are never done. I realised this some time ago, but it is only in my third year that I am truly accepting of the fact that I am always exposed to the possibility that things can be smarter, slicker, better. To open yourself up to the concept of being always-learning, without a standing point or moment of true mastery is both terrifying and liberating but I can honestly say, I have never looked back.


Now here, we have a stile in our path (I love a metaphor, obviously). After falling on the postman in the Summer, my ankle withdrew my ability to run on a regular basis and I struggled to find an alternative that left me with the same sense of satisfaction. so instead, I looked to improving the quality of my diet and how this could impact upon my sense of wellbeing overall. I bought @madeleine_shaw_‘s book, ‘Get the Glow,’ read the first few pages about quitting sugar, chuckled and then flicked through to a recipe or two that I would like to try. Now whilst I am far from kicking the sugar drug, I have managed to stick to honey in my coffee and my breakfast is now entirely vegetable based from the fruit bars that punched me into life in the morning. Swapping vegetable oil for coconut oil when cooking(also fab for hands, hair, face!) , spending Saturday afternoons whipping up thai soup much to the delight of a previously fussy child, including ‘superfoods’ such as chia seeds and fennel within my meals, or scattering pomegranate seeds on top of stir fries (much to the confusion of my partner) have all made me feel a little healthier. Whether this is simply down to the fact that I get to switch off in the kitchen, or that my body is eternally grateful in Winter for something that isn’t a potato I don’t know, but this is the first Autumn in a long time that I have not been ill. Not even a sniffle. I take that as a win.

This is all well and good……. but what does it have to do with teaching? Pedagogy? Improving wellbeing within our schools? Because, to put it simply-which is the driving force behind improving wellbeing- starting with people is the key. You cannot drive a concept without the small acts. It is the kindness of others, the act of humanity that drives a, ‘ghost of an idea’ as Dickens whispered with his tongue in his cheek. It is simply that I am a better person for reflecting on my own wellness. In turn, this means that I improve the wellness of others. In turn, this improves the wellness of others beyond the others that I connected with. There is such little need to extend our understanding beyond the straightforward. Steve Jobs stated,

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

It really is just that. Wellbeing is the simplicity that is essential to then move mountains within education.

Do As I Say: The Practical Implimentation of Growth Mindset

The spark of this blog came to me after an interesting week of obstacles. It seems that my teaching year demonstrates a certain rhythm to it; the beginning of the year is focused upon displaying your boundaries, developing relationships and choosing your battles in what feels relatively similar to that of a chess match in order to get the best out of the individuals in front of you. The second part of the term, I always encounter a battle of a different kind- the I Cants.

The students that I refer to are the ones that finished the previous year on a high. Their achievements were impressive on both a personal and school-wide level, their successes were celebrated in public and they left for the Summer with a well-earned and undeniable sense of pride and fulfilment. However, starting a new year with new challenges results in a feeling that they have not experienced in a time that they remember because the experience does not happen as frequently as their sense of achievement. I am referring to the concept of I can’t; this is the state of being where the student is unable to visualise the completion or success achievement of a task coupled with an inability to liken the sensation to another experience that they have had.

This is not the case, of course- they have reached obstacles (and overcome several) since they were born and during their educational journey. So why is it that these students seem to demonstrate the most resilience to believing that the can do the same with a new challenge, in a new situation?

The students are no stranger to Growth Mindset- they have carried out intervention sessions with our Most Able Coordinator, they are motivated by the very feeling of achievement itself, often with very other incentive because they can quickly recollect the emotions that come with success. They are intelligent, independent learners that will challenge, inspire and even compete with one another with regards to their learning. Consequently, I am always surprised when this point of the academic year arrives and I find that students experience a significant dip in self-belief that presents itself (in my experience) through either anger, anxiety or distress.

My opinion? That perhaps in the journey to success for these students, they have spent somewhat less time in developing their resilience to failure. Angela Duckworth outlines that the top players in their field are those that have worked hardest for longest, but also those that have additionally experienced failure along the way. In order to truly feel embodied by a sense of triumph, a student must be exposed to the reality of failure first. Now, there seems to be a very fine balance between managing a child through the psychological tightrope of success/failure ratio as a teacher. This must be personalised to the child’s own experience of resilience and developing that is incredibly difficult. You cannot simply tell someone that they need to be not so good at something in order to be good at it. You cannot merely outline the journey of learning- they need to not only be able to cope with the scenario, but also believe for themselves in 1)the necessity for failure but also that 2) it is temporary and that every student will go through a similar journey as their own.

This leads me to the speculation that whilst we challenge and motivate children so that they understand the importance and practical measurement of success, we are not preparing them for the emotions that they must experience or develop a certain level of flexibility to understand how to manage their emotions along the way, particularly with more able students. Additional support appears to be lacking for this group of students because of their ability to perform academically, however, I’m not sure that this means that they are at the same level to be able to ‘perform’ in response to their own mental wellbeing.

I will finish with this; a strong mental state is one of the most important factors that a child can develop during their education because with such an asset as this, the rest will follow. Flair and talent is inconsistent- hard work, application and a positive mindset to tackle and improve would always be my first choice. And so how are we equipping children with this level of self-awareness? If their mindset is one of the more vital factors that we have a significant chance to contribute to, how do we ensure that we develop strong, perseverant learners?

Oomph- what? #ReadTL15

Yesterday, I ran a workshop at #ReadTL15 and was absolutely terrified, as usual. I doubt that I will ever get over the fear of speaking in front of teachers and whilst it may hinder the process of getting my ideas across, I feel that it is a fear that encourages me to put validity behind my words. Good fear.

My topic was some two years in the making and very much geared not to answer questions but create them. We often look at the format and content of our teaching, resourcing accordingly and adapting the way in which we deliver to engage but I am in the process of studying how we allow students to develop as people along the way. The thing that keeps teachers awake at night is incredibly subjective and mean is this: what impact can I make to enable young people to empower themselves?

Essentially, it is not English that I want to teach; my course content is almost (almost!) my secondary intention when it comes to teaching. I am far more interested by how I am contributing to the process of young people forming their sense of self.

Now, I know how grand that sounds, so let me put this into context for you a little and please be considerate of the fact that this is in the most basic of terms- in twenty years, do I want to be content in the knowledge that I was a good teacher of English or do I in fact want to know that instead of teaching, I facilitated the development of young people as they realised and celebrated their strengths, developments and attributes?

Two things. This is a theory which has limited but significant data. The other thing- it needs TIME, like all effective and meaningful theories within education- to quote Matt Bromley, ‘there is no silver bullet.’

Yesterday, I tried to segment this down into steps of a journey within the classroom to provide further context. When you are discussing something as lacking in tangibility as ‘drive,’ you need a little of the concrete.

Imagine your first day with a new group of students. What do you do? How do you build rapport, develop relationships, gain trust in such a short time? I like to carry out a task that allows me to identify the strengths and specific characteristics of a group. A shipwrecked task is good- select the loudest pupil to direct roles for each member of the class. The roles may not be suitable for the particular student, or may perhaps be particularly biased on the directing students’ part but it helps you to see the entire group’s interactions but more importantly, what they bring to the group. This process is about helping students their strengths and reinforcing this in different ways over time. I provided examples of role cards yesterday with specific praise attached (‘I’ve chosen you because you are fantastic at encouraging others’ or ‘you are a natural leader to consolidate ideas’)or a personalised conversation that introduces a new seating plan (‘you are sitting next to such-and-such because you have a calming presence whilst they will develop your confidence verbally’). Alongside behaviour, your positive language in the first third of the academic year is significant because 1) you are currently in a role as teacher to the students (will explain what I mean later, promise) and 2) something you say cannot be undone. Again, simply put but easily forgotten at times.

I am at the first stage of handing over a sense of ownership to students at this point; they are recognising their place within my classroom and additionally realising that the strengths that they already possess can transfer to success within my subject. Peer assessment holds real gravity with regards to knowledge and criteria but it seems important to praise individual’s character, consistently and with justification; students value your opinion to a greater degree than peers and at this point in the teacher-student relationship, they are looking for you to almost prove your capabilities to them as a teacher. The challenges that are found with any new class’ behaviour is centred around their curiosity to see what you know and how much you will care.

The other element that I have started to pilot over the last two years is the element of choice. Instead of creating worksheets, I asked students what type of task would suit the learning objective. Instead of resources for the classroom, I asked students what they felt they would benefit from on the walls. Instead of setting homework tasks, I asked students to create a project title for the unit of work and then create something for homework that responded to that project title. I have invited students to attend focus groups to ascertain the success and possible adaptation of resources before using them with classes. Each unit ends with a survey for all classes as their final homework to feed back on what worked or what could be developed and improved. This opened up discussions around other approaches around the school that students found was beneficial and again, created a sense of ownership. I deliberately select the less engaged learner; they are the most honest and the ones who will Their opinion not only mattered, but they were helping to mould and shape their own learning journey. In a Key Stage 3 independent learning survey (alongside a student voice session), 95% students responded, of which 90% stated that they preferred being given the freedom to choose their own homework. In the student voice session, one student stated that the choice was better because it allowed them to ‘show the topic the way we do best.’ Students recognised their own strengths and utilised them accordingly. Need an idea? One homework was this:


I then outlined the aspect of leadership within the classroom. In the same way that leaders are created through self-empowerment coupled with the open mindset to learn from others, students demonstrate the same processes and experiences. At this late point in the year with my classes, one of the most rewarding parts is seeing the confidence of students grow. It is at this point in a relationship with students that you can allow them to view you as a facilitator rather than a teacher- leadership can take its form through student-student mentoring, ‘Genius bars’ where students become masters of an aspect of the topic, student led learning (students select the direction that the lessons take or even the order of learning), or students lead parts or all of the lesson themselves.

Questions/ challenges? I was asked how this accomodates for those SEN pupils that value structure and require a frame for learning. My experience so far is that it is those children that have made most progress over the period of time that I have taught them. They are more confident with approaching their learning, recognise the ways in which they can excel and how to demonstrate that. Feedback from one dyslexic students’ parent last week was such,

‘he does enjoy the choice of activities you provide.  I know (*&^%!  has been more focused this year in English than previous years. So I want to thank you for all your help and support. I have my fingers crossed he may have the pleasure of you teaching him next year!’

The other question put to me was surrounding the concept of choice vs requirement- how do we bring them back in to do the test or write after they have had choice up to that point? Being given the opportunity to input and ownership over their learning has strengthened the students’ learning to then transfer into a written assessment or reading analysis because they have had a free choice of how they have reached the end point. They respect in the same way that we do as teachers that there will be an exam at the end of it all, that we still have that to demonstrate. It is not about teaching students content and how to pass a test, it is about arming them with the tools to self-regulate.

A final question was put to me regarding time constraints; how can we let students take hold of the learning when we are the experts that have content to work through within a specific and off limited timescale? My response was that it was not yet something that had presented itself to me as a challenge. The students had followed a similar outline to the one that I would have followed, but this method simply allowed them to tailor it to themselves as individual.

My next steps? I intend to formulate this concept a little more and identify research that supports individualised learning- Eric Mazur’s original flipped theory makes a start on what it is that I hope to achieve, and Denise Pope and Maureen Brown’s Overloaded and Underprepared outlines the value of an active pupil presence and voice within schools. In a time where it feels a little like exams are the endgame, I wanted to keep the idea alive that we are helping people to grow too. Which is a pretty big deal.

How to Get What You Want By Going For What You Think You Want – The Middle Leader Interview

So. I went for a Head of Department role this week. As anyone who reads this chaotic cluster of thought bubbles may realise, I get itchy feet and bored if I don’t have my teeth in something and I wanted to see how I fared.

I had been toying between the role of HOD for the last few months, investigating the differences between that and Lead Practitioner and keen to know where my strengths would be better applied but more importantly, where I would feel most fulfilled. I knew that I wanted to make an impact on a larger scale than my current classroom bubble would allow and so I filled in the application form, expecting a polite no but some incredibly valuable feedback and an insight into what my experience and skills could best place me within a school.

In holiday for the week in remote Devon with only a six year old to bounce ideas with, I received a phone call and instantly recognised the dialling code. Imagining that it would be a thanks but no thanks, I ignored it, perhaps somewhat childishly but I was in full-throttle relaxation mode and was not in a part of my day to entertain work (200 donkeys and an Easter egg hunt will do that to a girl). The voicemail? Congratulations Miss, you’ve made the shortlist.

Now, things not to do if you only have a six year old to celebrate with. Don’t ‘Yessssssss’ without explanation as it makes them incredibly nervous, but definitely do not outline that your outburst was due to the possibility of a new job. Both will lead to meltdown city and I embrace a learning curve with the best of ’em.

This post is not so much to outline my personal experience (and outcome) but more because on the lead up to the interview, I really struggled to find advisory blogs that offered an insight into a Middle Leadership role. Fortunately, I felt almost over-prepared, having spent my time responding to data and completing high stakes prioritisation tasks and walked in almost over-equipped to answer questions that I hadn’t actually considered.

Clearly, every interview day will be different and tailored to the personal demands of the school and their specification but I hope that this will act as another resource for people to use as they wade through Google! I also haven’t included my 20 minutes lesson- happy to share but again, I think a lesson is rather personal to your style.

The In Tray Task

My day started with a 25 minute in tray task- a series of questions that I was required to write detailed answers to within the specified time. What rookie error did I make? I didn’t read them all first. Instead, I answered until I pondered, skipped over that one and returned to it at the end. Whatever suits. The questions combined a large number of scenarios that I had come across during my prep and was rather an effective way of covering several basis in a short amount of time.

Questions (and a summary of my responses) included:

What do you think is a realistic projection percentage for English GCSE for a good school? What if it is an outstanding school?

A risky business. It is right up there with ‘how old do you think I am?’ I said I would share with parents that we aim for ten percent over the National average (locally, schools are performing at this level anyway and it sounds aspirational in relation to the benchmark), internally- aim for 70%. The grading of a school should not alter these figures- that is insinuating that you’re not teaching as hard if you’re anything less than outstanding which is simply not the case. A target is there to be met- it should be a balance between achievable and aspirational.

A parent has emailed to complain about their child reading Of Mice and Men (Y10) or Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Y7). What do you do?

Y10- Phone. Always phone. Explain the requirements of the exam board and that the text is not governed by the school. Pinpoint the aspect of the text that the parent is upset about to be able to place it into context, placing heavy emphasis on developing empathy.

Y7- Outline the presence of the Holocaust within History but also the possibility of World War poetry exposure at Key Stage four. Place emphasis on preparation for this through a range of texts and that an understanding of historical context will be invaluable. Again, pinpoint to overcome.

Do you feel that there are benefits to students learning from past papers?

I said no. So many changes, completely new format as of September- use the reading material to develop new resources that mirror both the new specification and exam format. The quicker students can navigate the exam, the more confident they will feel.

A teacher has been teaching punctuation incorrectly, What do you do?

Is it just the one? Offer up a quick CPD session to clear up misconceptions and share resources. A group environment is an ideal basis for staff to share an,’ oh I didn’t know that!’ moment and clear it up without formality, Happens again shortly after? Sit down and share concerns, offer support of yourself or a member of staff that is a grammar Queen/King and set a follow up date.

Which book would you recommend that students read and why?

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Mark Haddon. What better book to build compassion for another human being and get an insight into how to see the world differently? I would have written Wonder, but I was not mispelling the guy’s surname on interview day. No no no.

The final question provided a piece of work that you needed to provide feedback for. No full stops, eight million spelling errors and you had to blur your eyes to spot the good bits. ‘Well done <insert name here>! Fantastic use of precise verbs- I have highlighted the most effective ones in your work. T- re write the first three lines, including punctuation to give the reader a clear idea as to how dangerous the situation is for the narrator. Correct the three spellings in these lines.’ I dug deep on that one.

The Student Panel

This was tough and I always feel like the students are so structured and rigid with their questioning that it is such a challenge to get to a point that you can be personable. Questions included, ‘What would you bring to the school? Why do you want to work here? How would you make use of our iPads? ‘ I made every effort to ensure that I mentioned preparation for KS4 (all students were Y8) and asked what would help them to build their confidence in tackling GCSEs. In my opinion, the student panel is an opportunity to provide an insight to your personality in a teaching capacity but also to instill faith in students that you are well equipped to lead them to success. They admitted that GCSEs scared them and it would be helpful to make the process transparent; I saw the simple admission as trust gained.

The Formal Interview

The individuals taken to interview stage were met with the panel consisting of the Head, Assistant Head (T&L who observed my lesson) and a long- standing Governor. I will simply list questions here- I feel that my own responses are not necessarily relevant or valuable. This would be your chance to leave the imprint of your own ability to lead a department!

What are three qualities of a Leader as opposed to someone who simply manages a team?

What will you bring to the role that the other candidates will not?

Name your favourite moment in teaching.

Give an example of a time that you dealt with challenging behaviour………. How did the behaviour make you feel?

If you could be an electrical appliance, which one would you be?

What would your colleagues highlight as your key skill?

Tell us about a time that you dealt with a safeguarding issue (be careful….)

How are you equipped to deal with the changes to your subject recently?

What do you think the priorities are within your department subject?

Do YOU have any questions?

Best of luck!

Thank You To The Teachers!

I thought it would be nice to say a little thank you to the good ones. I’ve had some absolutely shocking teachers in my time (my secondary English teacher laughed in my face when I signed up for A level lit) but some absolute gems. I will share the good, the bad and the ridiculous. I think the collection sums up the quirks, spirals and highlights of education!

Mrs Muchall

From Guyana so an instant hit with my educationally suspicious West Indian father, this woman was amazing. I had a reading age of 10 at 5 and she would take me out of class reading to let me read the Hobbit out loud to her. She was the kindest lady on the planet and I don’t remember her with anything but a smile on her face.

Mr Baker

Now, if you want to be the most cool of all the Headteachers, you have to top this guy. He would rock up to assembly, turn off the projector and whip out his guitar to share his own handwritten musical delights. He organised a local Beatle-athon with the other local primary schools, as we went head to head with one another, singing a heady mix of the Liverpool’s finest. He had the hairiest knuckles I have ever seen in my life.

Mr Cassidy

Mainly a brilliant man for tolerating me in his maths classroom for three years. I hated maths; I didn’t see the point and as a result would find ways to entertain myself through the 70 minutes of hell on a Thursday afternoon. My favourite would be ‘pack up,’ where you shook your tin pencil case 30 minutes before the end of the lesson and then sat back to view your own handiwork as the sheep-like fellow classmates responded robotically to the sound by packing away. I know- I was an absolute delight. He was 23 and had a beard-which I still don’t understand- and looked a little like a garden gnome in a bad mood. I’d be in a bad mood if I had to teach maths all day. Why do we call it maths instead of math like the Americans? Oh, who cares. It makes my eyes bleed (sorry maths!)

Miss Bursnell

Yes yes, we called her bird-smell. She wore socks with sandals and had clearly been to ‘stereotypical dress and behaviour for the Spinster Teacher today.’ She was my first English teacher and she threatened to destroy the English language, one monotonous lesson at a time. For an entire term, we came into the room, sat down and opened our play books, and read Romeo and Juliet out loud. No book work. I saw her in Sainsbury ‘swhen I went home before Christmas and she was wearing sandals. With socks.

Mrs Cooley

We called her big bird. She was SIX FOOT SIX without heels, had specs like Deidre Rashid (RIP) and wore lilac eyeshadow. The boys once smashed the window next to her desk at break, in November, and she didn’t notice until last lesson. She didn’t know what planet we, her or anyone else was and her french lessons were bedlam.

Mrs Ball

One in a long line of teachers who had the patience with me to notice a glimmer of a nice child underneath all of the indifference and hostility. She did the whole cigarette in a glass with cotton wool thing and blew me away. She listened when I asked very quietly to be moved from my tutor group because a girl had punched me in the face. I liked Mrs Ball.

Mr Marshall

Mr Marshall was a gently spoken man, with giant hands. He taught Art, and I produced the one piece of artwork that I have ever been proud to bring home. He never raised his voice in the classroom and one day, a girl wet herself on her stool rather than miss part of his class (I know- we were thirteen. No excuse). One day, a rumour started floating about that he had pushed a boy in my year up the wall by his throat. Dragged along by the hysteria that always comes with a Chinese whisper, we all sat down in the car park to protest. I don’t remember much about protesting, other than sharing my Iced Gems with the girl next to me. After being shouted at by Big Bird at the end of lunch, I tentatively went to my Art lesson. Mr Marshall had been replaced by a supply teacher and didn’t come in for two days after that.

Mr Rigelsford

This guy looked like the man from Red Dwarf. Rimmer. He is quite possibly the most angry man that I have ever met in my life. Looking back with my teacher head on, he couldn’t manage the behaviour and so all I remember about Humanities is watching the film about the Amish people and Hitler. To an extent, I hold him somewhat responsible for the amount of work I had to put in to bring myself up to standard when delivering historical context. Bar the Holocaust, I had absolutely no idea what had happened in any place at any time. It didn’t help that the same boys that broke Mrs Cooley’s window would regularly turn all of the furniture upside down and proceed as normal as though everything was as it should be. And affectionately called him Wriggles. All the time. The only thing I remember about that classroom was that we always had the television!

Mr Kershaw

Chuck was his name, outbursts were his game. He now works as a volunteer, taking old folk (namely my Nanna) to their day group of choice. Previously, he was best known for teaching stuff about chemicals, his grey ponytail leftover from the sixties, and throwing a pot of pens at me once because I got up to open the window whilst he was talking. He left the room for ten minutes, came back in with a brew and carried on where he had left off.

Miss Andrews

Mr Kershaw’s cooler, more collected other half. A psychology teacher, she unsuccessfully (my fault, not hers) kept me at the Sixth form when it was quite apparent that I could no longer fathom out any direction for myself. She would call my Mum at exactly 8.46am when my backside had not made it to my lesson and then sat through several meetings with my then divorcing parents to try to get me to buy back in to my education. When I received my place at University, I sent her an email saying thank you and telling her that I had finally figured it out. Her son was my boyfriend for two whole days when we were eleven, and I got to go to a teacher’s house- the entire house was laden with books. That is my goal- to live in a house as laden as Miss Andrews’ house.

Andy Mousley

Fast forward to University, and this guy knows EVERYTHING. His class was where I discovered autobiographies including my favourite book of all time, The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. We studied the concept of self, having a sense of self and building an identity. Andy conducts the Theory of Literature module which really opened my eyes to the motives of literature.


I feel bad for not remembering Keith’s name. He lectured and held the seminars for an American Literature module which is possibly the most practically useless but most enjoyable part of my degree, alongside film adaptation. He introduced me to Emily Dickinson by describing her as ‘someone who attempted to reach out on to the other side for us so that we may know what death would be like. Death in reality is actually pretty f***ing boring.’ He was Irish and would digress on such a regular basis that I lost track of what was or was not on the syllabus. They’re the best kind.

Victoria Elliott

Victoria was my least favourite of the two PGCE coordinators. She talked about grammar and sensible stuff, whilst Rachel the drama side of things simply hugged everyone and talked candidly about how tough it was out there. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I had been (and still on occasion take part in) comma splicing my entire life and had absolutely no idea what a prepositional preconjective personal imperative pronoun was. Why isn’t it enough that I really like books? But Victoria is a wonderful teacher because of her neverending knowledge. I have such admiration for an academic and once we realised that she was actually really rather lovely and it was simply that Rachel just liked to hug everyone that we had overlooked her and should probably not veer away from all the non hugging academia that we would really rely on to get us through and give us confidence. It is Victoria that I have to thank for keeping me going through what was a very difficult year and Victoria who has opened up opportunities to me since my completion of the course. Thankfully, she was substituted with the lovely Andrew Evans when I decided to spend four hours arguing in floods of tears that yes yes, I really did want to quit the course a month before the end and no, no, no, I definitely DO NOT want to be a teacher. I will always be grateful for a place on my course at Warwick- In didn’t think I stood a chance in hell next to everyone else there.

Ann Rayns

This lovely lady was my professional mentor during my PGCE year. She was the epitome of cool, immaculately dressed and used to glide around the corridors, smiling and speaking with everyone. I’m not sure I ever really worked out how Ann felt about me, but that was simply because of how wonderfully professional she always was, and how she found humour in everything to lighten the day. The first time she watched me teach, she pulled it to shreds and I was heartbroken. I had set out to impress her; that was the issue, she opened her feedback with- I had not put the children at the centre of it all. She taught me more in a very short space of time than I have ever learned from another teacher and I still implement a lot of the ideas I took from that in my day-to-day teaching.

Lorna Roden

This woman is an utter legend. Her brain works in exactly the same way as mine, only hers is much bigger and more impressive. We would collaboratively teach a lot during my training year and she worked in a very kinesthetic way with the children- Key Stage 3 were mesmerised when she taught. She never shouts, she teaches (as I often find myself) in a flurry of chaos and colour and we used to have long chats about autonomy of teachers and the concept that whilst the end point is still the same for everyone, that we must keep hold of our own approach to make the journey quite personal for the students and us.

I’d like to add to this from time to time- I think it is a nice process to reflect on where you have taken your teacherisms from. Teaching is a bit like parenting- we know how we want to be perceived and also how we do not want to deliver lessons. Hope you found it mildly entertaining for a lazy Easter afternoon!