New Year Resolutions Update #1: Phoning Home

Yesterday I made four phone calls home to the parents of pupils who had made positive starts to their English lessons. It was an absolute joy to speak to their parents and share a good news story.

All week I’d been keeping a note of pupils who had made good contributions to class discussions, settled in well or produced excellent work. In my free period yesterday I made the calls. When I made this resolution for the new academic year I hoped I would find the time to keep it. Hearing the pleasure, pride and (in one case!) relief in the parents’ voices when I shared my news, I’m more determined than ever to keep it up.

One Mum said “I was worried for a moment then; I thought it must have been something bad.” That’s what I want to change. I don’t think communication with parents focuses on the ‘good’ often enough, certainly not from a subject-specific point at secondary level. I’m hoping to change that.

I’ll be sharing my good news story with my department as term progresses to encourage them to do similar. In the meantime, I’ll just bask a little in remembering the warm, fuzzy feeling I got after I’d made the calls. It brightened up a very hectic Friday, hopefully for those families as well as for me!

“What’s in a name?”

Ahh, the joys of the first week back at school!

New classes to get to know, a new GCSE spec to teach, new colleagues, a new headteacher and A2 courses being tackled for the first time.

It all passed by in such a blur.

My main challenge thus far has been learning names. Knowing names is such a powerful tool in the teacher’s armoury. I’d be very interested to hear how others go about the challenge of learning pupils’ names.

I work on the simple seating plan philosophy: I’ve allowed my older classes to sit where they wish so far, but have requested that – for the first few weeks – they stay in that chosen place in order to help me learn their names. I think that being able to picture them in ‘their place’ when I try and recall their name helps me learn names quicker.

I also spend my first week or so asking pupils their names whenever they answer a question. The visual cue of them sitting in the same place is then reinforced by the aural cue of hearing the pupil say their name.

So, what do you do to learn pupils’ names? Are there any tricks and tips I could be employing to nail the name game quicker?

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!

Summer Reflections

I’ve been told several times that your third year of teaching is when things “click” and I’m wondering if that will be true.

I know that there are several things that seem more achievable this coming year, like classroom management for example. I’ve now worked out how I want my room organised to suit my way of working and how I want the seats arranged to suit my pupils’ behaviour! I feel like my room will be my room this year.

Researching my new courses has been fun. Year 13 English Language is proving fascinating. The new GCSE spec seems interesting: next week I’m tackling the prep for the Shakespeare and linked poetry assignment.  And somehow, planning and prep seems to be getting easier… It’s a third year thing perhaps?

One thing that is definitely going to make a difference this year is my own proactivity in terms of my CPD. I’ve recently found Twitter and participate in the weekly educator’s discussion #ukedchat (Thursday 8-9pm)  I’ve attended my first TeachMeet and intend to attend more next year. The power of the PLN is huge… I am actively engaged in my own professional development and it has made me feel completely invigorated and positive. Now if I can only transfer this sense of possibility to the rest of the department then we might be getting somewhere!

My next project is Moodle… and that will need a whole new post!