Don’t Suffer, Together We’re Tougher: Rochdale teenager has a message for victims of bullying.

It’s been a long time since I blogged, and excuse today’s more personal post. I’ve been inspired by the daughter of a friend of mine.

It’s been a summer of role models and positive images of young people. August 2012, in contrast to the riots of last year, has given us plenty to look forward to, to celebrate and to shout about.

It’s not all about our Olympians or Games Makers however. This summer, whilst the much of the nation has been transfixed on the events of London 2012, a young woman in Rochdale has been undertaking a marathon of her own. Meet Emily Foster, 16, the founder of the Brave the Bullies campaign.

Emily was inspired to start the campaign as a way of remembering her best friend, Sam Riley, who tragically committed suicide in 2009 after being the victim of bullying. It seems bullying has rarely been out of the news lately, what with the so-called ‘trolls’ online posting vicious and hurtful attacks on Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley, Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton closing her Twitter account and, just this week, people abusing Gary Barlow after the tragic stillbirth of his daughter, Poppy.

As a teacher, I am all too aware that bullying is commonplace yet it sometimes seems it only really gets the attention it deserves when it is a celebrity on the receiving end. Emily is determined that the victims of bullying will not be forgotten and will not have to suffer alone, no matter who they are.

Emily describes herself as “a ‘do-er’” and explains that “whereas some people will sit and complain about something, I’m someone that will do something about it, that’s all.” She’s being modest; since finishing her GCSEs, she has dedicated herself to setting up a charity campaign rather than relaxing and waiting for her results. We’ve heard much about what motivates our young Olympians, but Emily’s motivation is similarly impressive. She explains: “ever since Sam died I’ve always hated bullying and it’s been something that really angers me. But a couple of days before my last exam, another teenager in my area committed suicide and, although I didn’t know her, it really got to me and made me realise that even if I don’t get anywhere with it, there’s no point in me wasting my summer doing nothing. I could be doing something positive that could actually save someone’s life. So as soon as my last exam finished on the 18th June, I went home and got started with it all.”

So what is Brave the Bullies all about? Emily aims to raise awareness of bullying and offer support to young people and parents. She is starting small, as at the moment she can’t afford to register as an official charity but with a summer fair and fun day planned this weekend, she is hoping the funds will come. Working towards charitable status is just one aim and she wants to create a website full of resources and information that people can access. However it doesn’t stop there, she wants to run workshops in schools across greater Manchester and the north west “and basically aim to educate pupils on how much of an impact their actions can have because I think a lot of people don’t even realise how hurtful they can be.”

Emily has been surprised at how willing people have been to help her. She puts this down to the fact that many people have been affected by bullying themselves, or know someone close to them that has. She has had to overcome some resistance, given that her campaign isn’t an official charity yet, but she says that the overwhelming reaction has been positive when she explains what she is trying to do.

Changing people’s mindset about what constitutes bullying, is one of Emily’s aims. She wants there to be more of a focus on the victim’s feelings, “I know a large amount of people that think that it’s only classed as bullying if someone is crying or has a black eye and I think that whole mindset is completely wrong. It shouldn’t be the bully that gets to decide whether it’s bullying or not, if somebody feels that they’re being victimised then they should be able to go to somebody about that without being made to feel stupid about it.” She is keen to raise the profile of the victims of bullying: “people who have been bullied deserve to be respected because it takes a lot of bravery to have aspects of yourself torn down and humiliated” and she wants people to understand that significant and lasting harm can be done to people, without there being physical signs or evidence.

Emily met Sam when they both started secondary school together. She describes him as a joy to be around and “one of the friendliest boys in the whole school regardless of some of the taunts he got.” Sam suffered from eczema and it was this that people chose to pick on him about. Unfortunately Sam clearly felt unable to cope with the bullying he was receiving and, in 2009, took his own life. It is not hard to understand why her motto for the campaign is “Don’t suffer, together we’re tougher.” Emily doesn’t want anyone else to feel they have to put up with bullying alone. She has a simple message for potential bullies too: “all I want is for them to take more notice about what they’re doing or saying.  Actually think about whether ruining someone’s whole self esteem and way they see themselves is worth it.”

This Saturday 18th August, Emily has organised a Brave the Bullies summer fair. It is taking place in Queens Park, Heywood from 11am to 4pm. You can also follow her campaign on twitter (@BraveTheBullies) and on Facebook

All too often, people criticise young people for their apathy and unwillingness to get involved in their communities. In this Olympic year, if there were a gold medal for making a difference, then I’d say Emily Foster would have a place on the podium in her very determined sight.

#ukedchat – a year or so on and I’m still a fan!

I blogged in August 2010 about the weekly #ukedchat discussions that happen every Thursday on Twitter between 8 – 9pm.

A year on and I’m more enamoured than ever with the whole #ukedchat ‘thing’.

Why? Well, for a start I have now got professional contacts from all over the UK who provide me with advice, support and inspiration on a daily and weekly basis. Sometimes I think there is a tendency for teachers to become quite inward-looking. We get very caught up in “this is how we do it here” and “our focus is this”… #ukedchat takes you out of your own classroom and gives you a privileged insight into hundreds of other schools, methods, pedagogies etc.

It’s free. It’s fun. It’s fantastic.

Join us?

Twitter for Teachers

This feels almost like a 12-step confessional: my name is Clare, I’m a teacher and I’m addicted to Twitter.

Well, addicted isn’t exactly true, but I do use Twitter increasingly to aid my professional development and practice. To non-tweeting colleagues that seems strange. They don’t ‘get’ Twitter and they don’t understand how or why I use it.

I’ve blogged before about my participation in the weekly twitter discussion #ukedchat (if you wish to read it again!) but today I’m thinking more generally about the myriad uses I find it has to help me on a daily basis.

Take today for example: I’m looking for inspiration to update the corridor displays in our new English block. At 11:41am I logged into my Twitter account and wrote:

“#engchat #ukedchat Our English dept is in desperate need of beautifying (just moved bldgs) Seeking corridor display ideas. All ideas welcome!”

For the rest of the day I’ve been receiving tweets from a variety of English teachers and other subject specialists with some great ideas for displays. The very generous @daveterron even went so far as to send me some quotations and display documents via DropBox. Fantastic support!

Where else but Twitter would I have received this wide-ranging and prompt support? If you teach but don’t tweet, you should!

This weekend I’ve contributed to a discussion with English subject colleagues about the new GCSE spec, I’ve commented on a great linoit for @tomhenzley’s Year 4 class, I’ve read some excellent articles which were sent via links on Twitter and I’ve shared some thoughts about why the careers service shouldn’t be cut with Andy Burnham, MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Education (@andyburnhammp on Twitter.)

Twitter connects me with other people who share my interests. It makes me reflect on my work. It makes me better at what I do.

If you still need convincing as to the value of Twitter, perhaps this article by Lucy Tobin (@lucytobin) will help:

To tweet or not to tweet? There really should be no question.

Writers’ Club

I’m on a mission to start a Key Stage 3 writers’ club this year. My intention is to run it on a weekly basis during a lunch hour.

I used to love creative writing at school and I just don’t feel we do enough of it with our students now. I don’t want to be levelling their writing all the time; I want them to love the idea of crafting a piece of writing for its own sake.

A plea on twitter via #ukedchat has pointed me in the direction of the NaNoWriMo website and also suggested half termly themes or tailoring it around available writing competitions.

Much food for thought already, but I would welcome any more suggestions!

29/8/11: I’ve done some digging and found the following website with lots of writing competitions Not all of them will be appropriate but they might give us a focus to start.


Too Old for Musical Chairs?

During the #ukedchat session on Thursday 19th August (subject: Classroom Management Tips) someone mentioned using music as a ‘settler’ when pupils enter the classroom. The way it works is that a song is played whilst the pupils enter the room and they then have until the end of the song to get themselves sat down, bags and equipment sorted and ready to learn.

I like this idea: it seems simple and workable.

Fussy classes who take time to settle can be very difficult to manage and I find this sort of disruption has the potential to eat into a 50 minute lesson in a very frustrating way.

So, I’ve been trying to come up with a suitably random playlist of songs with a literary theme to use at the beginning of my lessons this year. So far I have the following:

  • Paperback Writer – The Beatles
  • Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush
  • Books and Letters – The Morning Light
  • Newspapers – Dan Vaillancourt
  • Every Day I Write the Book – Elvis Costello
  • Read It In Books – The Teardrop Explodes
  • Lucy – the Divine Comedy (lyrics are a Wordsworth poem)
  • Reader Meet Author – Morrissey
  • Books Written for Girls – Camera Obscura
  • News of the World – The Jam
  • Books from Boxes – Maximo Park
  • Wake Up Boo – The Boo Radleys
  • The Writer – Ellie Goulding
  • Mr Writer – The Stereophonics
  • Speech Therapy – Speech Debelle

I’d love to hear anyone’s suggestions for any other songs I should include. Oh, and I’ll let you know if the tactic works as a classroom management tool as the term progresses!

Mobile Phones in the Classroom: do you use them as a teaching tool?

“Do you allow learners to record sessions on their phone, their very own dictaphone? #ukedchat or are phones #banned” @MoodleMcKean posed this question part way through tonight’s very productive #ukedchat on Twitter (weekly Thursday 8-9pm)

Ah, the mobile-phones-in-classroom battles I have fought this year!

“Carly, are you texting?”

“No, Miss.”

“Then exactly what are you fiddling with under your desk?!”

We have a policy that phones are switched off in school and out of the way. I’m sure many schools have similar. Largely it works, but we do have the odd pantomime every now and again with pupils who persist in checking phones/texting etc almost as if their lives depended on it.

So when I saw the question posed above, I was stumped!

Using mobiles productively in the classroom? What genius! Dictaphones… I’d never thought of them like that before. And yet it’s simple. Every one of my A Level group has a smartphone – they like to display them at every opportunity! – so why shouldn’t I encourage them to put them to good use?

I’ve pointed my GCSE class in the direction of the SHMOOP Literature study guides (a great iPhone app) and most of them downloaded the To Kill A Mockingbird guide. As one put it: “Handy for the bus, Miss.” Beyond that, I’ll confess, I haven’t really explored the potential of mobiles in the classroom.

Will this make my classroom more inclusive? Tonight’s #ukedchat topic was, after all, creating an inclusive classroom. Well, if I allow use of voice recorder/dictaphone facilities in my A Level classes, then it certainly may address the needs of those pupils who struggle with lengthy note-taking. And however we like to think pupils make that leap seamlessly from KS4 lessons to the more collegiate seminar-style of KS5 lessons, it isn’t easy for many. Note-taking is a skill that needs a lot of teaching.

So, using mobile phones as dictaphones: one small leap for some, potentially a giant leap for my school!

I look forward to giving it a go come September.


If someone had told me this time last year that I’d be spending time in the hols ‘talking shop’ with a group of strangers via a micro-blogging site more frequently associated with celebrity gossip, I’d have laughed at them.

Fast forward to 2010 and welcome to the world of #ukedchat!

So, what is ukedchat?

Between 8-9pm on a Thursday evening a group of people who have teaching/education in common gather for a natter on Twitter. The topic is decided by a democratic poll, again publicised on Twitter, and the discussion is moderated by volunteers.

What do we talk about? Well, tonight’s topic is:  “How can we make our classrooms a more inclusive learning environment? (Are ‘tech tools’ the answer?)” In previous weeks we’ve reflected on what went well in the last year, how to maximise the use of technology in the classroom, how to share best practice etc etc.

Why is it so good? It is genuine support and professional development. It’s cross-phase and for me, that’s exciting; I don’t think we work enough with our primary colleagues. People work in schools and colleges all over the UK and beyond. I’m able to actively network with fellow professionals in a way that I truly don’t believe I would otherwise in the proverbial million years!

It’s worth staying in for…

But hey, it’s Twitter and on a smartphone or Netbook or iPad, who says you actually have to stay in for it!

So if you’re interested in education, then come and join us – search for #ukedchat on Twitter and get contributing.

TeachMeet Moodle – 3rd July 2010

So, I’m back home in Merseyside after my trip down to ‘that London’ for TeachMeet Moodle. What a great weekend!

I really loved the whole TeachMeet vibe: relaxed, informal yet completely relevant & productive. I met some great people who I know I am going to mither (as we Northerners say!) further in future. The good thing is, they all offered their support so I don’t think they’ll mind.

The presentations were fantastic & I have had my eyes completely opened to the potential of a VLE generally and Moodle in particular. It was inspiring to see real teachers (as opposed to imaginary ones?!) talking about what they do and how they make Moodle work for their pupils.

I will come back to this when I’ve tried out some of the ideas and plug-ins suggested, but in the meantime, cheers to everyone who was there & hope everyone has a great week!