#TMLpool: an educational “bring and buy sale”?

At #TLAB13, Alastair Smith spoke about TeachMeets. He’d attended the TeachMeet held at Berkhamsted the night before the main conference. He called it “an educational bring and buy sale” or a “carboot for teachers” and praised the counter-cultural, bottom-up rather than top-down nature of the TeachMeet format.

It made me think, as much of what was said at #TLAB13 did.

I’m currently organising a TeachMeet in Liverpool.

TeachMeets, along with the weekly #ukedchat sessions and the edu-extravaganza that was #TLAB13, have been the things that have re-energised my love for teaching. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and the negatives, but meeting people from across the country who are engaged, motivated and brilliant at what they do makes me realise why I love this profession.

Not many of the staff at my school seem that engaged – yet. They seem somewhat reluctant to commit to an event on a Saturday. And I appreciate why: we’re horrendously busy at this time of year and the majority of us give up lots of time as it is for revision, extra-curiccular activities etc on top of a huge workload. However, I believe the chance to meet, share and learn is important.

I’ve currently 12 people signed up to present and another 35+ coming to watch, meet and network. I’m confident that figure will rise. I’m looking forward to the chance to meet educators from across the North West.

So here’s to our counter-culture bring and buy!

If you’d like to come along, then sign up here: http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/64371633/TM%20Liverpool

This year and next…

Lots of people on Twitter seem to be writing an evaluation of their year & a looking forward to the next with #Nurture1213

So, in no particular order, here’s my contribution: twelve highlights of last year and thirteen hopes for next year.

12 Highlights of 2012:

1. Getting my own place.

Having moved back to my folks’ a few years ago, this felt like a huge step. I initially moved home to be able to afford to complete my GTP. I stayed for financial reasons and, although I love my parents dearly, moving out (again!) was and is just perfect.

2. Becoming Head of Department.

Admittedly this is an acting role during my boss’ maternity leave, but all the same I am enjoying the challenge.

3. Losing weight.

As of 27/12/12, I have lost 30lbs. I feel heaps better for it.

4. Starting to exercise.

I’ve discovered that exercise won’t kill me… although not doing any might!

5. Delivering a literacy INSET at school.

Sometimes I think my colleagues suffer from INSET-ennui, so being asked to present to them in December at the end of a long term was a challenge. Despite a raging flu-induced temperature throughout, I loved it. I’ve had some great feedback from colleagues from a variety of departments and I need to blog about the best bits.

6. Completing my MLDP.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Middle Leadership Development Programme and made some great contacts in local schools. It made me think and helped hone my practice. I have also found it useful to look back on as I have begun my acting Head of Department role this term.

7. Our departmental team.

I’ve taken on the acting Head of Department role and, it has to be said, I couldn’t do it without the support of ‘Team English’ who have been uniformly fantastic. We have a great team and it is a pleasure to work with them. I look forward to 2013, working with them to further improve outcomes for our pupils.

8. Learning to appreciate my family more.

My moving out was postponed by the horrendous flood I had in October 2011. The house was wrecked and lots of my possessions (I was in the process of moving in) were ruined. My family rallied round and were fantastic. From the initial desperate phone calls ankle deep in water, to the time they have taken to help clearing up, sorting stuff out and getting me settled, I couldn’t have asked for a better safety net behind me.

We’re not overly close. We don’t do emotion. I should tell them I’ve written this… but, whilst I pluck up the courage, at least some people know how much I appreciate them!

9. The fantastic wedding of the delicious Katherine and the marvellous Dave.

Two of my friends got married in July. It was the perfect day. The bride looked stunning and, what’s more, it was a loooooong time overdue. So, as the year draws to a close, I offer another virtual toast: “to the bride and groom.”

10. London 2012.

That opening ceremony. That glorious celebration of our past and present. The amazing Olympians and Paralympians. The medals. The once-in-a-lifetime moments. I’ll admit it: I got quite emotional!

11. Friends.

2012 delivered some new friends. That’s got to be a highlight!

12. The stuff I can’t write about…

Some of the highlights of this year are best not blogged about. But remembering them makes me smile… and chuckle. Lots.

Thirteen hopes for 2013:

1. To continue to lose weight.

I haven’t set any goal weight/size but I know I will continue in the new year. I’m following the Weightwatchers plan & so far so very good!

2. To make exercise an integral part of my routine.

I’ve recently started going to a Bootcamp fitness class in the village. It hurts but, oddly, I have found I quite enjoy it. I enjoy not being so preoccupied with work & just being outside in the fresh air. I’m determined to make this a 2/3 times a week routine.

3. To have one weekend a month in which I do no work.

Every year since starting teaching I swear I will achieve a work/life balance. I somehow fail. This year I’m trying to make this happen by having one weekend per month set aside for non-work stuff. We’ll see.

4. To start driving lessons… again!

Yes, I know, I should be able to drive at my age. Moving swiftly on…

5. To learn to salsa.

I’ve just booked a course of 10 lessons starting in January, so this is one step closer at least. Every year I watch Strictly and think I’d love to be able to dance. Every year I sit in front of the tv and do nothing. No more excuses!

6. To get back into photography.

I have a fab camera. I need to learn what all the buttons do. I’ve neglected it this year. I’m going to try & do more in 2013. (See hope no.3)

7. To successfully complete my acting Head of Dept role.

I want to make a success of the temporary position. I am looking to move onwards and (hopefully) upwards in my career, so this is a great opportunity. I don’t want to let our students down more than anything though. I want this year to be successful for them.

8. To be a better teacher.

I have committed to being the best teacher I can be. It’s a hard job but it’s also one of the best jobs in the world. I need to make sure I’m doing the best I can for my pupils. They deserve nothing less.

9. To make some of my Twitter pals ‘real’ pals.

This starts in January when one of my good Twitter pals is coming to stay. I’m very much looking forward to being tour-guide-in-chief for @joanne_rich as she ventures to Liverpool for the first time ever!

I have benefitted from the support, inspiration and challenge that Twitter, and the #ukedchat community in particular, offer. I hope to turn some of those ‘virtual’ friendships and collaborations into ‘real’ ones in 2013.

10. To blog more.

I’ve neglected this blog in 2012. I need to get better at reflecting on my teaching and blogging is such a good method of doing this. I read so many inspirational blogs… this year maybe I will contribute something of merit myself.

11. To travel.

I’m booking a holiday this year. I didn’t manage to get away in 2012 and I do so love to travel. After my solo trip to Italy in 2011, I’m hoping to venture further afield in 2013. I think a long overdue return to my favourite city – New Orleans – may well be on the cards.

12. To host a TeachMeet in Liverpool.

See no. 9 – this will, I hope, be a chance to meet lots of fantastic educators and to benefit my own practice and that of my colleagues. My Head will hopefully be on board with the idea when I present it to him in the New Year. Watch this space!

13. To be content.

I’ve felt somewhat at sea this year. I want to work at being content in 2013. I have so much to be grateful for and so much to look forward to. I shall work very hard to find my inner contentment this next year, even though I’m not quite sure how or what I need to do to make this hope a reality!

#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.

https://dailydenouement.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/ukedchat/

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?

Applying for your first teaching post: advice from an ex-recruiter

In my pre-teaching life, I worked as a recruitment consultant in the retail sector and spent some time recruiting managers and shop-floor staff for a multi-national retailer. As well as turning my hand to UCAS personal statements aplenty, I’ve also delivered training for our PGCE students on how to write a good application.

Here’s that training in a blog-friendly format:

1. Use the advert – schools pay a fair whack for their job adverts so don’t just look at them to get the bare minimum of details. The advert can often contain key words and phrases that give major clues as to the ‘type’ of school they are and what they’ll want to read in any application. Look out for things like: “The school nurtures innovation and risk-taking” or “and we are looking for an ambitious and enthusiastic colleague.” You’ll want to exemplify these qualities and attributes in your application.

2. Use the school website – again, this should be mined as a source of rich information about the type of school you are applying to. Do they have a mission statement? Has the Head got a welcome statement on there? Yes, most likely and you should again pick out the key messages. Read the latest school news; that will tell you a heap of useful stuff. Are they keen on extra-curricular provision? Have you run a club or could you contribute in some way? Make sure that part of your letter or statement is prominent.

But how do you ‘prove’ you can do it?

4. Mind map/Prep – before you write the application list, mind map, bullet-point everything you’ve done. Think about specs you’ve taught, achievements, extra-curricular stuff. Look at the person specification and job description and see where your skills and experiences fit with what they are looking for. Group your ideas together and prioritise based on what you’ve learned from your research about the school.

“What?! There’s no generic one-size-fits-all approach?”

In a word: no.

5. Tailor your letter to that particular school – having decided on what their focus is, prioritise and tailor your letter. Sure you can put together a basic letter of application, but every school is different. Cut and paste is your friend: if you think your A Level experience will set you apart, then move that further up in the letter; if it’s achievement of less able, then bump up your bit about your set 4 who all made three levels of progress.

6. Give real, tangible evidence – the Head Teacher and/or Head of Department may read 50+ letters for this post. You need to jump off the page as someone who can actually do it, someone who can hit the ground running. Don’t waffle! Use active rather than passive verbs: lead, coordinate, manage, engage. Give stats if appropriate: ‘25% of my Y11s received an A*, twice the national average.’

“But I’m only a student. I’ve not got real experience…”

Really? Have you been twiddling your thumbs for a year? I doubt it. You have experience and you have massive potential. Don’t underestimate the appeal of an enthusiastic person at the start of their career!

And finally, just a few application form dos and don’ts:

  • Do spell check & proof read everything
  • Do be truthful – you will need to back up your application claims
  • Do be creative with font sizes / margins if needed – page limits need not be too scary!
  • Do go and visit the school prior to applying if this is offered
  • Don’t copy & paste without checking – wrong school names do not a good impression make!
  • Don’t put someone down as a referee without checking
  • Don’t go over page limits or fail to follow instructions
  • Don’t send the same letter to every school – tailor it to fit them
  • Don’t use ‘creative’ fonts – stick to the basics

Hope this helps.

Any questions or comments, I’ll happily help if I can.

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  https://dailydenouement.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/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: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/may/09/twitter-teachers-forum

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

Books I recommend

I’m a terrible hoarder of books and, since becoming a teacher, have found a wealth of weighty educational tomes to add to my collection.

I thought I’d share a few that have made a real impact on me:

The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook by Jim Smith 

The Lazy Teacher's Handbook

I bought this at the end of last academic year and am excited to put some of the lazy philosophy into practice this year.

The Pefect Ofsted Lesson by Jackie Beere (Edited by Ian Gilbert)

The Perfect Ofsted Lesson

This is a great little book… and I say that in the nicest possible way! One of the best things about this is its size; it isn’t a weighty tome you have to be daunted by. It’s small but jam-packed with practical lesson planning tips. If you’ve an observation coming up or if you just need some basic but refreshing tips on how to make your lessons better then read this.

The Teacher’s Toolkit by Paul Ginnis

The Teacher's Toolkit

Now this is the kind of book you can dip in and out of. It has a range of activities which can be adapted to suit different phases or subjects. For every activity it gives you suitable room layout, equipment needed and ideas of how it could be adapted to different subjects. Love it!

 

More to follow…

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 http://www.nanowrimo.org/ 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 http://www.prizemagic.co.uk/html/writing_comps.htm 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.

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!