Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Why I love teaching...

Having seen a recent blog post http://www.creativeeducation.co.uk/blog/index.php/2011/06/why-teach/ I had a good think about this... where to start?

I do love my job; so, you may be thinking, why are you going part time then !? If you love it so much, why not devote yourself to it...

Well, that is why I have decided to go part time- because I DO love it so much, it is easy for the job to become all encompassing. Alongside all the teachers I know (and probably the majority of those that I don't!) I am constantly trying to keep up with the many changes that come (and go). New initiatives; give them a go, changes in leadership- try new things. APP, AFL, NNS, NLS, QCA, curriculum change  (who remembers all those folders that came out when the national curriculum started?) The job is constantly evolving, and, like the rest of the profession , I try to move with the times and keep my head above water.

Why do I love the job so much? The challenge of teaching children who struggle, the satisfaction in seeing a child flourish, the laughter and the tears. So many children: a little boy who as a Year 3 made my heart stop with his amazing gym skills (that boy is now in the National squad!) A postman's daughter who had a knack of writing the most incredible rhyming poems, an incredible flautist, a lad who could recite the times tables in the flash of an eye, a boy who lost his Dad to cancer and cried on my shoulder, colleagues who have moved on, teachers who inspired me in my early career and have become great friends, children who have come back to me as adults saying they remembered something I taught them, that lightbulb moment when the penny drops, a girl who started to believe in herself, a girl who managed to stop sucking her thumb, a boy who managed to learn to hold his own in English even though he had no knowledge of the language to start with, a child who managed to get a tune out of a recorder, a child who managed to write a whole sentence and read it back... I could go on and on.

I am just an ordinary teacher, I have been lucky  to teach in great schools with dedicated teachers who all maintain a strong sense of fun and looking beyond the data , the results and the politics of teaching. The job is immensely rewarding. But, I am just an ordinary person and the demands of the job nowadays are so huge that I just don't feel that I can do it on a full time basis as well as everything else. Juggling being wife, mother,teacher, human being!! So, to go part time is for me, the way to go at this point. Since making the decision my enthusiasm has been completely re-energised as I can finally see myself getting the work/life balance better for me. It is my own fault that I am too much of a perfectionist and find it hard to switch off from the job. Having time to pursue other interests will, I hope, bring a new dimension to my teaching. (Remember, I have been teaching all my working life!) Sadly, sabbaticals are not easy to come by in this country- a lesson we could learn from our European neighbours perhaps? Many teachers struggle with the demands of the job which is such a shame as, by the nature of the job, the people doing it are not going to do anything other than their best (and still feel they could do better!)
Going part time doesn't diminish my love for the job.  Already have a trainee lined up for September :)

Friday, 24 June 2011

Strike on 30 June

I feel extremely frustrated with the proposed changes to our pensions, but at this time do not support the strike planned for next week. I stress the "at this time" most strongly. Having commented on Creative Edu's blog recently: http://www.creativeeducation.co.uk/blog/index.php/2011/06/strike/  and being shot down in flames by my expression of concern as to how this could affect the reputation of teachers, I sat down and thought very carefully about it.

Reputation is, of course, not the most important issue here; however, as teachers, dare I say almost more so than other professions, we set an example to the children we teach and our actions are going to be challenged by our children and their parents.

I was therefore gladdened to receive notification from my union yesterday (NASUWT) about their success to gain the High Court's permission for a judicial review of the Coalition Government's decision to change the index-linking of public service workers' pensions, including teachers' pensions, from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).


The NASUWT (along with other unions) took the decision to go for a legal challenge first. If this proves successful, the strike will have been a meaningless exercise which will have done little good to the profession, caused divisions and unrest...

If the review does not prove successful, then of course action is most certainly necessary to protect our pensions- particularly for those who are nearing retirement and stand to lose the most.

Is the strike really the right thing to do at this time? Does the profession stand to lose even more? Is it not possible for it to be called off to wait to see how the judicial review goes?  

Maybe I am being naive, but I would like to be optimistic and go explore all avenues before resorting to strike action. 

This comment on the creative edu blog : 

RW 06/21/2011, 9:02 am:
As parent in a family of 2 working parents who have had their pay frozen and pensions adapted in the private sector I feel this is appalling. I am even a governor of my daughters school – something I do for no pay and I lose my free time and I will find it hard to justify carrying on with this.
83% of 40% anyone ? Certainly never a majority.
The extra cost of childcare – or lose a days pay. These are tough times for ALL of us. Teachers you have lost any grain of support you had from me.
You have all worked so hard to bring teaching up to be such a noble and respected profession – with this strike you will drag it back to the 70′s.
does nothing but affirm my views that striking at this time will not achieve anything positive. Let's go through the correct legal procedures and see what that brings.  We are in a difficult financial time at the moment and both public and private sector workers are facing uncertain futures. I like to think that a moderate approach will ultimately be the most beneficial.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Going part time...

Well, my new job share partner was appointed today and I can now start to think about how my practice is going to change when I become a job share partner from September. I am incredibly excited about this new direction in my career; I have made the decision for a wide variety of reasons and am really looking forward to this new phase in my teaching.

Having worked almost exclusively full time since qualifying this will be a huge change to me. Since making the decision last year to change my working pattern it has reignited my passion for teaching in a way that I hadn't expected. Maybe that whole work/life balance juggling will finally become achievable...

When I first thought about making the move to part time I talked to family, friends, colleagues, my union rep and read anything I could find about it:




Will it stop me trying new things? Certainly not; in fact I see this as such a positive step. Having talked to other job sharers I look forward to the future with excitement. I know that it will take some getting used to ; I  will have to stop referring to the class as my class for a start! I hope that it will make me a better teacher; communication with my jobshare partner will aid reflections and we can teach to our strengths.

There will be pitfalls along the way I am sure; but I am determined to make this work. Twitter has been such a useful resource and has introduced me to a wealth of new ideas. I will try to get as many of my colleagues on board as possible to  enrich our knowledge of what goes on in the wider teaching community. (Being in a small rural school is rather like being in a bubble at times). I hope to use the blog to reflect on my new working pattern.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Class blogging 3

Have just logged onto my class email to see that several parents have commented on our new class blog, and some of the children have sent posts for it.

I am really pleased with the reaction from my class and their parents. We have a fabulous school website already which is used to share and celebrate work and events in school. http://www.standrewsyetminster.org.uk/

The only thing really missing from the  class website is the ability to comment on it; that's where blogging came to mind. If it wasn't for the enthusiasm of my twitter PLN I would not have thought about the whole blogging idea!  

Where it will go next I have no idea at the moment. I want to use technology as much as possible to enrich and enhance the children's learning. If a class blog can persuade just one reluctant writer to produce a piece of writing then I shall be pleased. If it encourages parents, carers and families to show more interest in their child's writing that is great... I can't think of any negative impact at all.

I can't wait to see how this idea develops and grows. Only 6 more weeks until the summer holiday; will it be used then at all? I wonder... http://classash.primaryblogger.co.uk/

Saturday, 11 June 2011

End of year reports...

It is that time of year again. In the midst of writing end of year reports and asking myself how this can be made a more meaningful exercise.

We meet the parents in the Autumn and Spring terms for ten minute appointments at which they are given a written report on their child's progress and targets for learning. In the summer term we write a comprehensive report for each child. As any teacher knows, this takes a considerable amount of time.

We don't use report writers, each report is two to three sides of A4. As a parent, I really am not that bothered about knowing if my child "is able to enter data into a spreadsheet" or "has become more confident with times tables". I want to know if they are 1) confident in their peer group, 2) well behaved, 3) trying their hardest, 4) making progress and 5) if there are any areas which need particular working on.

A grade would suffice for 1-4 with 5 needing elaboration.
Hours and hours are spent writing reports, and I really question the purpose of this. How does a lengthy report help anyone?
I plan to raise this at school to see how we can make the report writing more meaningful and useful. Our children know exactly what they can  and can't do due to class targets... I appreciate that there is a legal requirement to report to parents, but how many parents actually want all the information we provide them with?

Secondary schools seem to favour a graded report with minimal comments whereas primary school reports tend to be far more verbose...Is it time to change this?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

School trips

Just returned home after an exhausting but rewarding day at @Bristol. (Science museum for anyone who hasn't heard of it). 105 very excited children arrived in school early this morning ready for our "Brain and Body theme day."

Highly enthusiastic staff there led us through a series of workshops and talks; some of which were better than others, but the enthusiasm and energy of the presenters could not be faulted. The highlight, though, was the time spent in the interactive parts of the museum. Watching children from Years 2,3,4,5,6 working together and enjoying a range of scientific activities made the experience so worthwhile (apart from the travel sick children :S)! The children were literally buzzing with excitement. "Come and look at this!" "Wow!" "This is incredible" were just a few of the comments that poured from the children. We literally had to drag them away at the end to get the coach! Having the chance to watch children working with different classes has made me think about how to make more use of that within school...

School trips take a lot of organisation and are stressful (how many times did I count the children!) but well worth it. Everyone had a great day and can't wait to get back to school tomorrow to share our experiences and make some big posters to put up on display. A great day for all. Where to next?...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

School Science Day

Tomorrow we are off to @Bristol thanks to our wonderful PTA and some external funding. Can't wait :) Hoping that my class will be inspired to write some of their first blog posts about the visit and workshops. Most of them haven't been before so are very excited about the day. Me too. I love school visits (the risk assessment part is not so appealing though). To see the children really buzzing about something is great. Hope that my lessons can create the same sort of buzz...

Mentoring trainees.

Less than three weeks now before my trainee finishes with us. After an interesting lesson today thought would reflect on the mentoring process.

I have been involved with trainee teachers for the last 15 years, with BEd, PGCE, GTP and SCITT. The role has evolved over the years and it is immensely rewarding.

Working with a trainee has made me evaluate my own teaching style and made me much more aware of the importance of teaching lessons with good pace. Being an effective mentor is crucial to support trainees through the nerves and the odd disastrous lesson! Spending time talking about lessons I have taught has really helped to build good relationships with trainees. In fact I have used video to good effect - the trainee will video me and we will watch it together and discuss the lesson, concentrating on questioning for example. This will be followed by the trainee being videoed and a similar discussion taking place. The idea not being "Watch me to see how marvellous I am" but "Let's look at this lesson and identify what works and what could be done differently/improved". Once the initial fear of the camera is overcome this is a very powerful tool indeed.

An effective mentor must be an effective teacher first and foremost, and have bags of enthusiasm. A mentor forced into the role is not the way to go.The amount of teaching experience is not key- a teacher in their 2nd or 3rd year of teaching can be a great role model for a trainee and the process can be useful for both.

Being a mentor has certainly improved my own teaching, as well as shown me a wealth of different approaches, resources and ideas. I hope to be able to continue as a mentor next year, but restructuring in the school leaves that somewhat uncertain at the present time. There are so many more positives than negatives.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Class blogging...

Hurray :) Spoke to my HT this morning about setting up a class blog and he was totally supportive. So I am now very excited (and a bit nervous) about the process. Used Ian Addison's excellent website (http://ianaddison.net/)  to help put a map to see who visits (I like to think ahead!), got inspiration from my VLN on twitter and  http://www.creativeeducation.co.uk/blog/  and have emailed all the local schools to see who blogs... Not much from that yet. Have also put out a request on twitter for schools who have class blogs to see if I can link with any of them.
The school I work in has an excellent website and my plan is to link our class blog to our class section. As I explained to my HT, the reason I would like my class to blog is to give them an outlet for writing to be published which can be read by, potentially, a world wide audience.
Short term, if parents and other children make comments (I have checked to make sure the comments have to be checked by me before they are published!) that will be a step in the right direction.
Medium term I would like the children to regularly comment on other children's writing from other schools and have their work read by a wider audience.
Long term I would love blogging to be a way for the children to have links with classes of similar aged children from a variety of places both within the UK and outside. How exciting!!
I know that this won't happen overnight; I need to talk to my class first and see how they react and get some ideas from them as to how they would like to see a blog develop. I know there are only 7 weeks until the end of term, but no time like the present and I so want to get started with it!
Any tips/advice would be welcomed.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Trainee teachers

I have been writing the end of year report for the trainee teacher who has been based at my school since September. As part of a SCITT scheme, we have trainees for their Autumn/Summer placements or the Spring one.
I have been involved with this particular SCITT since 2002 and love it. To any teacher who has never worked alongside trainees, I can't recommend it highly enough.
I really admire those entering the profession via a PGCE as it seems an impossible amount to pack into a year. I did a four year B.Ed (back in the late 80's!!) and at the end of it felt that there was still so much to learn. Several of my colleagues came into teaching after other careers and found the PGCE route the most suitable for them.
Anyway, I digress, back to the trainee teachers...
Yes, there is a heck of a lot of work involved; I would be lying if I said otherwise,but it is well worth it. This year my trainee (I know there has been much animated discussion over the term trainee on twitter; it's the agreed term on the SCITT I work with having replaced student teacher!)  has really blossomed and it has been an absolute delight seeing the change over the year. She is only with me for three more weeks after half term and will be missed by all.
Having a trainee in your classroom really helps you to think about your practice deeply and having the opportunity for professional discussions about lessons is priceless. As a newbie to teaching there is a fair amount of support which dwindles as the career progresses. I feel lucky to be in a school where we all work very closely and peer mentoring is something we want to develop further, but the day to day discussions of classroom practice have certainly enabled me to constantly look at how I teach.
I am in the middle of writing a (very long) report and loving the fact that I can comment on all the progress that has been made. The next few weeks give a chance to consolidate and build on progress made and give me time to observe my class at work which tells me so much about them that I sometimes miss.

New to blogging. June 2nd 2011

Well, having seen so many teachers writing blogs, I thought that I would give it a go...
Why have I decided to do this? To help me be more reflective of my practice, to share ideas with others and, hopefully, learn a lot!
Will anyone read this, comment or will it just be my ramblings sitting there in cyber space... Well, if doing this becomes a useful way to reflect upon my teaching, (something I am often telling the children to do about their work!) it will serve a useful purpose indeed.
Off to get started on the end of year reports now...