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!

New Academic Year Resolutions

I do this every year.

Will I stick to them this year?

The list:

1) To use my planner effectively & efficiently – I tend to start well and slack.
2) To try and do the majority of my marking (KS3 & 4 anyway) at school rather than bringing it all home – last year was hard work, I want to make my marking this year much more efficient.
3) To blog once a week – I think blogging will help in my quest to reflect and improve on my teaching.
4) To ensure my Year 9 classes make progress in both their learning and behaviour.
5) To try and establish a workable work/life balance: the holy grail!

I’ll probably add to the list as the new year gets ever closer…

In edit:

29/8/11 – I’m not happy about resolution number 4; obviously I want all my classes to make progress, but my first term’s focus will be on my two Year 9 groups in particular. I believe that making progress will have a positive effect on their self-esteem and, as a result, their behaviour.

I’m also adding:

6) To make weekly positive phone calls home to parents/carers.

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!

Things I’ll do differently next year…

I’m starting to get excited about the next academic year. Is this normal?

I just can’t help being enthused by the thought of fresh starts, new classes, new modules to teach, new pupils and new challenges. I love that I get to have this new year buzz in the middle of the calendar year too; it’s so much easier to be positive & optimistic when the sun is shining than in mid-winter!

So, I am starting myself a to do list for next year, so I can keep track of all my proposed good intentions. Here goes:

  • Fully integrate Moodle into my own working practice & then encourage full department participation
  • Research Masters courses for 2011
  • Make my SmartBoard my new best friend – get to grips with the software upgrade & use it! (Not long had it fully operational so have got out of habit of using it.)
  • Go to the annual NATE conference & any regional events where possible
  • Build up my PLN – attend TeachMeets, participate fully in #ukedchat on Twitter, learn lots generally from networking with other teachers
  • Build on the Kagan training I attended this year
  • Launch the ESB qualification
  • Start up the A Level Book Club
  • Make it a habit to share web-based ideas/innovations with rest of my dept at our meetings

I was thinking I’d keep this in draft form and add to it until complete, however I think there is more of an incentive in publishing it and then adding to it.

So, my new academic year’s resolutions. I cannot wait to get started!