Archive for Personal thoughts

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Some great debates at RethinkingICT today. Certainly some thought provoking presentations. My head certainly hurt by the end of it, and in many ways I wasn’t that much clearer about where we should be going or even want to be going with ICT (if that’s what it remains to be called!). So many ideas, so many differing views, all at least seemingly held together by the desire of best practice glue with atoms of children’s best interests interwoven. But where does one go from here?

It’s all very well to say go forth, share and shout. But about what? A good lesson? A good series of lessons? An exciting product, software, web 2.0 tool I’ve found? Who decides what ‘good’ is? Where is the criteria by which that should be judged? I’m not really a shouter. I’m not a hoarder or particularly precious about what I do either. I love collaborative practice. But I also want some direction. I want to know that my practice is based on a sound core set of values/skills/competences. I want to be able to put my learners on a progressive pathway which includes some signposts for both of us to measure ourselves against.

I didn’t sense that really came out today.

The best piece of clarity I had was amongst the bagels in Waitrose afterwards, where I met a fellow lurking delegate. An English teacher (not ICT) whose background includes a far stronger base of experience than mine. She reflected how during the day she had observed the hammering out of similar ideas which the English profession have been doing for years.

As we berate the standard of ICT being taught by a potentially fabulous Maths teacher, they cry in frustration at how a brilliant Science teacher doesn’t bother to point out or correct incorrect punctuation. As we grapple with what the different parts of ICT should be called, contain and how they should be best taught – similar conversations have been had by the English specialists.

English (or Literacy) is divided into parts – all integral to a successful whole – grammar, handwriting, various genres of writing, speaking and listening, and critical analysis skills. We teach these elements but put our own stamp on it, use stimuli that enthuse and engage the learners in our own classes, use the core skills in a progressive manner to underpin the more exciting layers we put on top. Surely the same applies to any renewed ICT programme? I don’t want a prescriptive off-the-shelf solution (I know no-one was suggesting that) but I do want some sort of pedagogically sound framework on which to hang my personalised teaching and learning.

As a new ICT Coordinator, with a near-nonexistent curriculum and teachers still holding on to teaching powerpoint for grim death – what can I take away from today and use immediately? @ShelliBB reminded me of the importance of giving the children ownership for their digital future and I will relook at my Digital Leader program with renewed vigor, @mrlockyer engagingly reminded us that we all live in a REAL world – analogue is a present that should be enjoyed now and not solely through a digital lense. And @TheHeadsOffice showed me that at the heart of great change is often a simple idea that works – and I will even in the dying days of this academic year try and get some pupils engaged with the 100 word Challenge.

As for some sort of framework, the closest I saw today to something that fits the purpose for our school is the Digital Studies model (http://digitalstudieswiki.pbworks.com/w/page/49888869/Welcome) courtesy of @sharland, @infernaldepart and @teachesict, but it’s something I need to look into in more detail. I will also look through NAACE, Ian Addison’s (http://www.ictplanning.co.uk/) and Matt Lovegrove’s (http://www.mrlovegrove.net/category/resources/) planning ideas – and no doubt spend the summer armed with a wall and post-it notes.

I do know that any framework at the core of the curriculum I will use needs to be adaptable to the environment into which it is placed, whether that be a highly motivated digitally supportive school, or a more traditional and electronically challenged one. It needs to be simple and deliverable in bite-sized chunks so as not to overwhelm the tech-reluctant teacher. Strong enough to be bulked out and fluid enough to adapt with changing technology.

I’m not lazy by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t feel qualified to create from scratch, or even confident enough propose something so key to far more experienced practitioners. However I am more than happy to play my part, but I would prefer that to be adding to the muscle that holds the skeleton up rather than rebuilding the actual skeleton. Think if it more like the rehabilitating physiotherapist tailoring the exercises to the individual rather than the surgeon rebuilding a shattered body.

Too much to ask then – for some other intelligent bods, more experienced me, to design some pedagogically sound coat hooks on which I can help learners hang wizard cloaks (magic ones – but not made solely of the dust that comes out of the back of ipads!)???

 

Big thanks to Louisa Farrow, Head of English and Director of Studies at Winchester House for the interesting chat.
Oh and to Chris Leach for organising a brilliant event.

 

I am prompted to write as a result of watching twitter discussions about Gove’s announcement relating to the new curriculum, more specifically the intention to include more grammar in the teaching of literacy. The purpose isn’t to debate about what is wrong or right about it (although I do have some views) but what it prompted me to shake the cobwebs off this blog was to reflect on how my teaching has changed over the last couple of years, notably my literacy teaching.

When we learn to drive our parents did not just throw us the keys at our 18 year old selves (or 15 in NZ as it was then) and say ‘get on with it’, nor did they breeze over the basics and rely on us to teach ourselves the rest. As competent drivers we aim for automaticity – to use pedals, gears, indicators, move forward, backward, park – all fluently without having to detract our concentration by over focusing on one as we negotiate our journeys. But in order to get to that stage we needed to learn how to use each element, understand how each is linked, practice maneuvering and then transfer those skills into different situations and then practice even more until it feel natural. Understanding how writing ‘works’ feels no different.

Fundamentally at the beginning of this academic year I decided that I needed to be a driving instructor – I know how to drive (have yet to actually tackle the task with my still-15 year old daughter), but I also know how knowing the basics well can create a good end result. My basics were – to know my class (successful teaching is based on building good relationships – another blog post I think), use rigorous AfL (to identify the gaps), provide effective feedback and take a ‘get the foundations’ right approach. Then once these things were comfortably in place we could start to tackle driving down some more exciting scenarios. My end result was an expectation that children could use the elements and skills independently to create exciting and readable texts

We teach with a full creative curriculum approach, re-jigging some topics around and adding new ones. This year meant we also needed to re-look at the literacy units we were going to cover. Last year we sped through units, gratuitously at times and embarrassing to admit – I knowI left a trail of misunderstanding in the wake. It was time to slow down, take a more flexible approach and focus on getting things right before moving on. Added to that was both our whole school focus on grammar and sentence construction and a big push on phonics, a result of gaps found in whole school literacy assessments.

Admittedly I started with what I liked teaching (passion is infectious) ensuring that we covered the 3 different areas (fiction, non-fiction and poetry), I also took into account of the skills associated with each and prioritised on what would be ‘useful’ to my young learners on their life journey (eg: letter writing, being critically literate digitally) then I ‘matched’ these to topics I knew we were going to cover eg: Writing Playscripts in the term we did our production – purpose to write the final scene = stunning end result that the children created .

I have taken a structured approach to grammar, single focus but differentiating up to four ways and pushing on those who require it. It has not been a new focus per week, we’ve moved on when ready. I’ve dragged resources from where I can, surprisingly a lot of old ‘schemes’ the school had gathering dust (which I think I probably worked on in a publishing life) have been useful. Not to follow religiously, but as a starting point for activities. We revisit what we have learnt frequently, cross-curricularly and in Guided Reading (see below). My class can now identify different types of language, and give examples of each, last year they couldn’t. If possible, once a week I try to ensure a cross-curricular learning objective is grammar based.

Looking at the spelling in my class, I took a brave jump backwards and we went back to Phase 4 Letters and Sounds. Speaking of driving, this was for me a bit like suddenly being asked to drive an articulated truck! I have never taught KS1 – my phonics knowledge was limited to say the least. 6 months later (one focused lesson per week, linked to spelling, plus extra activities throughout) – we are all the better for it. My class use pure sounds for independently segmenting new words, in both writing and spelling, and are more accurate as a result. Revisiting the basics and building back up with alternative spellings (my goodness – HOW complicated is the English language!) has given them a stronger knowledge base from which to draw upon, understanding how these things fit together has enabled great peer tuition as I hear more able pupils asking questions of less able as they help them spell tricky words.

I have tied all my Literacy Units into Guided Reading sessions ensuring that there is a mixture of adult led and independent silent-reading, writing, grammar and phonics activities – all related to the unit, completed each week. This is now a well-oiled carousel activity that the children set our each day. It has been hard to resource at times, as I have wanted the reading materials to cover both specific AFs as well as link to the Literacy Unit. Invariably I have resorted to extracts, but I think the ability to re-cap features of texts as well as discuss them in more detail in small groups has enabled all children to consolidate a variety of literacy skills and has been invaluable to all. With 33 children in my class it has helped assess and scoop up misconceptions where necessary and almost feels like I have doubled my literacy time. All the activities I have used (mixture of digital and traditional resources) is probably worth another post sometime.

My younger brother taught me to drive, but then of course my parents insisted that I practiced by going out with them as well. This year I have re-jigged my use of my TA, especially in literacy. I have used her in a far more rotational capacity, predominantly supporting an identified set of children with whom extra time and focus will yield more results (cynically closing the gap to achieve my pay-related PM target results). The knock on effect is that my SEN children have made more progress, I would assume due to a number of factors – from being in class more, listening to good examples, working in mixed ability pairs and being forced by circumstances to work more independently, not to mention having high expectations set by me. End result is a win-win all around.

Lastly, setting personal targets is probably the final key point that has focused children’s writing. To date, I have set these myself as a result of identifying gaps or next steps, although children self check and identify evidence themselves, highlighting and allowing me to ‘sign off’ (or not!). However I think the next step for all of us is to move children towards identifying and setting these themselves.

To culminate, our latest topic – A Diamond Queen – focused on each of the decades and gave us an opportunity to recap such a variety of literacy skills. As we had visitors in each week, the children have written letters, both to ask questions and thank them, they have written scripts for telephone and latterly skype conversations as well as 70s TV programmes, written newspaper reports (1953 coronation), created information texts on particular decades and written Jubilee Poems. It has been thrilling to see them love the historical elements of the topic and be able to reuse the skills they have been taught throughout the year.

The effort of refocusing on the basics and then giving children relevant contexts to apply them has yielded results. We alternate Big Writes with Independent Assessed Writing in a book which goes through the school with the child, evidence so far this year is showing minimum of 4pts for almost all children, with some exceptional blinders! One of my SENs has made 8pts. More than levels – all understand the mechanics of the units we have covered so far, most could tell you what they need to do to improve their writing, and everyone has found a form of literacy throughout the year at which they have excelled.

So to reflect – I’ve probably done what most far more experienced teachers have been doing for years. A tweet by @LouiW summed it up for me today. “Surely it’s like everything? Take the best, use in your own way?” I guess I’ve created my own style of driving tuition based on a view of what a good end result looks like and by providing a good grounding of the basics along the way. So far it seems to have worked.

I know I can still improve – I’ve already got a few ideas up my sleeve for next year!

Now I just need to learn to change my own flat tyres without ringing the AA!

Nicki
@kiwiteacheruk

Today I read through the evaluations the children had written about our last termly project/learning.

One comment struck me particularly. It was in response to the question “What would you do differently?” the answer: It wasn’t fun (he’d crossed out boring) because we didn’t move around enough.

More surprisingly this comment came from a very able child who will interact well with whatever type of lesson I lead. It had never occurred to me that

Surely all classroom time has to involve a fair proportion of sitting? And I think I’m pretty good at finding inspiring lesson ideas and involving as much hands on learning as possible. I try whenever possible to stick to a 10minute carpet rule. So it got me reflecting as to what I might have done ‘wrong’ and could do improve or do differently next time. How can I include children’s views more in my planning? I always ask them what they know and what they would like to know – and cover off the areas within the topic. But I don’t ask them HOW they want to learn.

I need to think of ways to do that and continue to find even more solutions that engage and deviate from the carpet, stand and teach, independent work, plenary pattern.

 

Today I had a frustrating afternoon.

We had another science investigation to do involving magnets and compasses. My lovely Wednesday team teacher and I had crash tested the equipment and basics of investigation earlier and the plan was to let groups of children loose with the instructions and all the equipment and see what happened. Her lesson was done before luch and feedback from her was great, children had enjoyed the challenge and worked well through the instructions to achieve the objective.

My turn. I did a limited input, focussing more on expectations and roles within group work than the actual task and gave 3 responsibilities to each group, (more to stop the natural leaders taking over the task that to structure it formally). One of the roles included a recorder and I gave the children free use of the camera, flip video and microphones.

Very quickly I had children coming to me saying they didn’t understand. I sent them back to their groups to see if they could solve any the problem and continued to observe my class. After another 10 minutes I was losing the engagement of more children, so I collected them together and we read through the instructions as a class. Easy – they understood it, when explained (2 min explanation) and were then happy to go off and copy and continue.

Why did they find the task so difficult? The language wasn’t hard, it was laid out in fairly simple steps. Most had looked at the pictures and then tried to interpret what to do from those, many had given up as it didn’t all come together quickly enough for them. Had the children taken exception to some children being given roles and other not?

Reflecting, I think it would have been better to work in 3’s rather than tables of 5. There wasn’t quite enough hands on for the larger group. Interestingly – ‘recording’ for most children meant writing it all down. It took prompting to remind them they could use other methods. Watching the videos back, I can see children need more practice with that. Its a skill to talk in front of a microphone. ALthough they do seem to always see it as a performance rather than a fly on the wall type of recording. Maybe I need to think more carefully about my questioning. I am angry at myself that my frustration came out to them in the tone of my voice. I genuinely had thought after all the group work we do do, that they would have had less of a problem with it.  I need to re-read bits of Kagan and get more of a hang of it.

Thank goodness for Brainpop who gave us the opportunity for a great plenary!

Well I’m not sure I did too well at blogging in the first 3 months. Time (lack of) was a big factor, but I think I also became afraid of posting, thinking it had to be notable and worthy of sharing on twitter, and that kind of froze my confidence!

However I really regretted not having kept up a stream of regular posts when I came to fill out my first NQT assessment point forms in December. I realised that had I maintained regular posts the blog would have acted as a fantastic evidence file of all I had achieved and done so far. (Mental note to self – must also set up a more efficient system of checking C-standards off before next week!)

2011 is going to be my year of confidence – finding it again and believing in it so it will stay! It has been a shock to realise that the events of the last few years have silently eroded confidence and self-belief as well as a bubbly outgoing personality away.  Odd it took teaching, as well as the steep curve of learning to work as a part of a team to bring the realisation to light, but hopefully it will be the making of rebuilding it as well.

Part of the reason I took a break from twitter, and am still in two minds about it. I needed to focus on real people and rebuild real relationships both at school and with friends outside. Maybe there is a balance to be had. I certainly learn a lot via the PLN I created.

I think perhaps if I do rejoin, I will as ‘me’ (photo included) as somehow subconsciously @apimarynqt (whilst it is of course true) has too many slightly negative connotations that don’t represent who I truly am. I think what I am trying to say is that whilst I have huge amounts of stuff to learn as a teacher, I’m not some young graduate with little other experience and don’t want to be perceived that way. Maybe believing in myself needs to start with accepting exactly who I am. And without being big-headed, I am intelligent and talented in various ways, its a foundation I need to be proud of and build onto.

But intelligence aside – this blog isn’t really going to be the highbrow outlet for any emergent research theories. This is for the regular small stuff as well as the mini triumphs of tribulations of my classroom. Of course I will feel pleased if people still want to read it and make comments, but it’s primary aim is a selfish one – its my evidence record of what I have done and learnt as an NQT.

So here’s to 2011 and a confident 9 months of the remaining academic year!

Oliver Quinlan wrote a really interesting post this week that resonated with me. All about how we perceive ourselves as teachers in comparison to our colleagues. Read it here.

I think as teachers (reflective ones anyway) we are always first to be hard on ourselves and are the first to chastise ourselves when things go wrong. I have certainly never in my life felt less self confident and more inadequate than I have at times over the last 3 months.

It has made me think, firstly about my own priorities (another blog post) but also about attempting to stem the flow of inadequacy. Twitter, for all it’s helpfulness, can at times, appear to act like a breeding ground for it. There are so many people doing such amazing things; being cutting edge, inspiring great learning and guiding the children in their care to achieve, as well as seeming to be able to stay on top of the more mundane aspects of teaching – not to mention maintain a balanced personal life! Holy Grail!

But stepping back, I have to realise I’ve only been doing this job since September. Trying to measure up now is like trying to compare yourself to an older sibling – in age at least its a comparison that one will never win – catching up is impossible! Likewise for me to try and compare myself to an experienced teacher is a set up for failure – for every hour, week, year that they have taught, and continue to teach, I will always be a finite amount of time behind. It’s a game of catch up I cannot win.

Comparison is like stepping onto a treadmill that will never stop. I cannot let my head play that game. Just because I am new to the job, doesn’t mean I need to have inadequate as part of my job description. I need to accept that I can’t measure up or catch up to experience. This doesn’t mean I lower my own expectations of myself, but do accept that I cannot expect to achieve knowledge and wisdom without experience. I cannot gain experience without the time and the practice. Practicing means making mistakes, but also learning to enjoy the successes.

This year (and probably a few more!) is my internship, my gaining of experience. Despite hard work I do have the right to feel proud of my small achievements. I need to restart posting my small successes on my blog. These successes are my own, and I shouldn’t belittle them because others appear to be doing greater things.

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love my job! But sometimes I don’t quite get the point of why we are doing everything we are supposed to do.

Most schemes, plans, other stuff I find – are all about achieving an objective by expending knowledge. I am new, I struggle constantly, but I try my hardest every day to put every learning objective into a context that has relevance to the children I teach. Even if it is giving my own adult perspective of how I’ve used whatever we happen to be learning about.  In my view, stuff needs a point. No point – children switch off!

So that got me thinking.

I am obviously new to life as a teacher, but not education. My past life includes managing the design department of a large educational publisher and running my own businesses (forays into gaming and IT). In other words the real world – a lot of which, as grown ups we know, is tough and much, much more than just what you know! This resonates with me when I am thinking of what, as a teacher I am preparing my pupils for.

When I employed staff, graduates, or otherwise what was I looking for? Almost over and above the skills for the job I wanted self confidence, good communication skills, intuitiveness, the ability to work as part of a team, solve problems and at times, to think outside the box. Whilst crystal balls are hard to come by, it was also very useful if they would stay abreast of changes in the industry.

If these are the people I once wanted to employ – shouldn’t these be the people I now want to help create?

What would I like my pupils and my own children to emerge from formal education with? A lot of the above but add in resilience, an ability to self regulate, goal set, know what achievement feels like and a knowledge of how to transfer skills  – research, teamwork, collaboration are done in most industries! I can create a game without ever ‘meeting’ another person working on the project, I can create a fully illustrated picture book in exactly the same way. I get my CDP online via live streaming and twitter. Our world, means we now communicate in different ways, surely this is also what we need to teach our children to do. Not just rely on a terms ICT lessons on sending emails and their early experiences of face book and other social media doing it for us.

So it comes back to – what is the point of what I am doing…

And then @xannov tweeted this.

  • I often read tweets from teachers on here, and wonder what an amzing learning experience children would get  if we worked in the same school … We’d all be trying new tech and encouraging children to try (and sometimes fail) new stuff and learn from it.

The combination of my own personal feeling that education has to be far more than crashing through a curriculum to tick boxes as well as my frustrations with my current position and their unwillingness to embrace modern technology resonated strongly in that tweet from @xannov yesterday.

What a dream it would be to work with so many enthusiastic individuals, who seem to be constantly striving to find the balance between engaging learners in ways that both make the most of opportunities here now, and give children skills for lifelong learning in this future we can’t comprehend. Selfishly – I want to be the best teacher I can be, so why not learn alongside people I aspire to be like. Unselfishly – we need to teach children to use the tools of their world to become successful citizens.

So when the discussion between @xannov and @chrismayoh and I developed further into using technology for pupil to pupil learning – I got excited because it felt like that might be the hook on which I could hang my original quandary…. how to create learning that has a point – as well as gives children valuable skillsets for their future.

I continued to mull how this pupil to pupil learning might look and read @xannov’s blog post on pupil to pupil learning with interest. I can see the huge value in sharing learning and of a pupil meet where children are given a platform to share their own classes successes and learning with peers from around the country/world. But I can also sense the fidgety bottoms of my less engaged pupils at having to listen for 30 minutes even if it was on an ipad!

What I could really see was 21st century children using tech to work collaboratively and then celebrating their combined successes with other children. Children’s own version of viral marketing!

My vision of pupil to pupil learning looked more like innovative project design for a global enterprise. One where roles and parts are done in different places, where collaboration is required from all for the outcome to be successful, where there may be one objective but many possible routes to meet it. Or where there was no overall objective, but opportunities to add even more value to an existing collaboration are seized when they arise?

Why can’t a lesson or a unit be treated like this? Why couldn’t with good streaming (restrictions noted) two classes in different places share one input, then work independently to create possible solutions and then collaborate to meet one end.

Why can’t children communicate thoughts and progress via blogs and skype?

Why can’t children’s artwork from one place be used and embedded into online e-books and written about by students in another year group in another school? Why can’t draft poems be uploaded, phrases magpied by another children, edited, improved and shared in recorded presentations of these merged ideas?

Why can’t we take the Mantle of the Expert principle and go virtual?

My early experience of such possibilities were when my class used one of @deputymitchell’s Year 6s students writing as part of a literacy unit we were doing. In many ways despite the success, I can’t help but feeling we all just brushed the tip of an amazing possibility that may have magnified the learning even further. What if Binyameen had written the opening of another story that the children in my class had continued (we were only focussing on the build up and climax)? What if … we had given him some of our stories to check and edit? What if … he had fancied continuing one through to its resolution and ending? What if … another class looking at manipulating imaging software had decided to create some images for the emerging story. What if … the list becomes endless.

I accept that this couldn’t happen for all of the curriculum, and the pressures we face as teachers mean that in many ways it may just add more! But the possibility I sensed last night felt as if, even if we did it once in a year –  we could give children a early experience and a glimpse of the world that we are preparing them for. It would help to maximise all the amazing tools online and give tech a point in its own right

I think the Epic Citadell Challenge is moving learning in that direction. There are probably others that I don’t know of. I am very interested to know of any collaborative learning projects.

So, as for setting up a new school, putting the best in the business all in one place – great idea! But why not think outside the box and allow pupils to experience this super school virtually? Rather than being a lone school held up as a shining example, we become innovative teachers that lead by example and guide others in the best interest of all children.

Be yourself. As hard as it is not to become a clone of the teacher with whom you are on practice with you need to steal the good things, ditch the bad and find yourself in the middle!

Have confidence. You were chosen for the course for a reason! Looking and listening to many experienced teachers can be disheartening and overwhelming, as you feel there is so much still to learn. There is… but best done in small steps!

Take risks but be able to substantiate them. The first time I used Myst and moved the tables around (aka Tim Rylands) the teacher with whom I was teaching said she had been teaching 17 years and her room was designed so everyone could always see the IWB and stomped around for the rest of the morning. But the buzz from 30 excited children and the subsequent writing results were worth being able to explain that it was done that way for a reason.

Don’t reinvent the wheel! Been there done it – spent hours planning a 10min mental oral starter or a weekend on a 60minute observed lesson. The best I ever taught took the bones of someone elses planning and tweaked it.

Blogging creates global citizens. Look at lots of examples and decide which bits suit you before you create your own.

Love Wallwisher. Children do to.

Create a twitter PLN – its scary at first. I thought I had nothing to contribute, especially with so many far more experienced teachers around. But people are so helpful. When the going gets tough there is always someone out there to offer an encouraging word or another idea to try. Would never have thought I would have found a HT in the far reaches of Scotland who is fast becoming the most amazing online virtual mentor! (no pressure Fiona – HUGE thank you!!) …. all via blogging and twitter!

Remember to thank for the info, help and RTs! Politeness online seems to account for a lot.

Nothing will ever feel ‘right’ until you get your own class but if you dish out bags of enthusiasm children will generally come along for the ride.

Admit mistakes. Children love it when they realise you are learning too! Couple with very firm fairness and I’ve found they don’t take advantage.

I always remind myself – and one of the best things about this profession… is that every day is different – and everyday is a new day. Children are amazingly forgiving. Reflect, learn, adapt and move on! No time for festering!

For all we live in the 21st century and a world of fast moving tech –  READ real books too! Nothing captures a child’s imagination than a well written, well read book. Use picture books ALL the way up through primary education – no matter what anyone says about them being babyish past Year 3. Its bollocks!

Read Alan McLeans “Motivating every Learner” most inspiring book I’ve read in the last 18 months. Teachers Toolkit a close second for dipping in and out of.

Have patience. None of us could run confidently before we could walk!

 

A quick post to reflect on surviving my first term.

It was certainly a roller coaster – one that currently feels like it has been slowed by ploughing through haze of disorganisation, not to mention a paper mountain!

The GTP route certainly prepared me for classroom life. Having observed different teachers settling classes in last year and being practically aware of various pitfalls it didn’t feel that strange to have my own class. In fact it was a relief.

I am my reflective self’s worst enemy. I am constantly reviewing, mentally improving and changing things. It does mean my mind rarely switches off. I know this affects my work life balance I think to the detriment of my own children. I need to address this.

My archilles heels are my maths teaching (I can do things my own kooky way, but have realised I really struggle to explain them clearly and logically) and the not-always-internal battle of wanting to teach with instinct rather than the constraints of “we’ve always done it that way”. Another blog post on the latter coming soon.

So I may have had my knuckles rapped for my classroom being bright and vibrant and my displays being different from the other Y4 classroom. I know I have been in trouble for having a class blog and for inspiring parents to want to come in and be more involved. I know I haven’t taught any outstanding lessons, have a long way to go to complete a lesson with a perfect plenary and to complete a day having fitted everything in without letting my children out slightly late – but I have formed relationships with all of the children in my class. I could tell you one thing each of them is genuinely good at and one thing that they could manageably aspire to achieve this year. I have watched 4 children who made little or no progress last year open and blossom in 7 weeks – this totally inspires me. The power of being able to make a difference and the realisation of the responsibility of this is mind-blowing.

My highlights have been –

  • My Greenhouse display (children made flowers with their own wishes for this year on petals, then parents and I added a leaf each to their flowers, each with a wish) As I put them up on the display some of the messages made me cry. It inspired me to do the best I can for each of those children this year. Will post a photo soon.
  • Maths Activity time – planning the extra, differentiated activities takes time and would be far easier not to do. But children love the 10mins hands on time, it gives me a good opportunity for assessment and I hope by the end of the year their basic skills will have improved.
  • Setting up house groups – having four mixed ability groups has made it easy to change tasks to suit working collaboratively where possible. Children are learning to take roles and work well within these groups. I see these as vitally important life skills worth nurturing this year.
  • My hands on habitats lesson.
  • Learning logs – this deserves and will get its own blog post. The flip side to this success is that because the other class doesn’t do them, I have to keep them ‘secret’ and can’t share them with parents at parents evening.
  • The children in my class starting to log on, comment and start to feel a sense of ownership of their class blog as well as their growing sense of that they are part of a global community.
  • A guided reading session with my more able pupil using a short story I found on the internet. Reading and discussing it together was like unlocking doors to creative wonder.
  • Finding time to read, relax and laugh with my class – I have not been the ‘don’t smile til Christmas’ type of teacher. I believe I am firm and fair but I am human and we certainly feel like an “us” rather than a “me and them” type of classroom. That to me, and my instinct, feels like a pretty good foundation on which to continue building this year.

So as half term creeps on towards me, I have a mountain of marking to complete, next terms planning to sort, a classroom to tidy (I really did walk out tonight at 6 and leave a mess behind), I hope that I find some time to slow down a bit without getting sick!