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Posts Tagged ‘blogsync’

QTS, Inequality and Political Footballs

January 27, 2014 5 comments

This month’s #blogsync, in conjunction with Labour teachers, invites bloggers to write an open letter to Tristram Hunt, the shadow secretary of state for Education. Here is mine:

Dear Mr Hunt,

Welcome to your new role, I think that this invite is a novel and brilliant idea and hope more politicians look to engage with the electorate in a similar manner.

I would like to raise a few points that I feel should be at the forefront of the debate on education and that I hope you will look into, raise in the house if appropriate and even include in your next manifesto if you are inclined.

Qualified teacher status

I think that the current administrations decision to remove the requirement of QTS is terrifying, damaging and dangerous. It removes the professional status of teachers and really does make a mockery of the whole thing. I fully believe that all teachers should have, or be working towards, QTS, or some equivalent and I hope that you do too. Having a qualification guarantees an adequate subject and pedagogical knowledge which enables teachers to ensure that all pupils get the best education possible. Overlooking it at best, I.e. for the top academics, might mean you have extremely brilliant historians standing in front of classes unable to impart any knowledge at all. At worst it might mean unscrupulous heads employing people with neither subject knowledge nor teaching skill to cut costs.

Inequality

I stand fully against inequality anywhere, but especially in education. My ideal world would see an end to any inequality. I would bring control of all schools back into the public sector. Removing private education and faith schools entirely is, in my opinion, the only way to create a truly integrated society where everyone has the same opportunities. I think private schools create an elitist culture and increase the gap between rich and poor.

People like James Keir Hardie fought for free and equal education for all, and this is currently under threat. The recent talk of charging the wealthy for state education is dangerous, and risks the reversal of the long fight to make education universal, and not just the property of the upper classes. The wealthiest would surely, if forced to pay, opt for the smaller class sizes and better facilities offered by the private sector, leaving the pupils coming from poorer backgrounds to make the best of a state education being run on a shoestring.

Political football

I think that too often education has become a political football. Governments use it to stamp their authority and this can be very damaging for the pupils. I hope that in the future more safeguards could be put in place to prevent this, and to ensure that the future of the young people of Britain is at the forefront. I would like to see teachers more involved in policy making and perhaps a reduction in the power of the Department of Education. Although I would be terrified if the control were to move entirely out of government control as we would no longer be in a full democracy. I have read about a Scandinavian country (I think it was Denmark) where the secretary of state had two advisers with him constantly, both of who were front line practitioners, and this struck me as an excellent idea.

Those are the three main issues I have at the moment.

Thanks

Stephen

Further Reading

You can read all this month’s #blogsync entries here.

I have written previous about the issues of inequality and education as a political football.

Victoria Coren Mitchell has written this eloquent piece on the state school fees issue.

Chris Hildrew has also written on the inequality issue here.

Tom Sherrington has written this excellent piece on the QTS debate.

An education to change the world

September 30, 2013 2 comments

This month’s #blogsync topic is reactionary, evocative and emotional.  It can be read, and answered in many different ways, and I can imagine that there have been many fierce and impassioned debates on the topic all over the world. I have very much enjoyed reading the contributions published so far and look forward to reading more.

While thinking about the question I remembered hearing the following quote from Nelson Mandela:

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”.  Mandela (2003)

And I think that this really sums up the purpose of education. Education is the key to everything. The pupils we are educating are the people who will be in charge of the country, the world, in the future. They are the future prime ministers, presidents, politicians, economists, bankers, police, doctors, teachers, everything. The impact we leave on these pupils will be our legacy and that impact will last forever.

The power of education is truly great on a macro and a micro level, and I intend to discuss both here.

On a macro level, it is the education of today’s young people that will affect the way society runs in the future. If we wish the future to have advancements in the field of medical science, then we must ensure that the science curriculum in schools is adequate enough to produce scientists who are capable of making those discoveries. If we wish our future to involve a secure economy, we must make sure that the pupils we have are equipped with the right mathematical skill to be able to balance a budget, both their own and that of the country. We need to ensure that enough of the young people are interested enough in the economy to study it further and to make sure the future is bright. We also need to educate our young on the issues that affect social policy. The world is forever changing, but we must instill a sense of fairness in it. We can all see prejudice in the world, and we have all grown up with unfairness ad inequality. If we educate the pupils of today on these matters then when they are tomorrow’s policy makers then they can ensure that they are bringing in policy which fights and eradicates those injustices.

On a micro level, the purpose of education is to improve oneself. To find a future where one can be happy, doing something worthwhile and enjoyable. I met a guy called Jonathan over the summer. He was a friend of a friend and we got chatting and quickly the discussion turned to education, He told me the following about his family, which I really think hits home about the power of education. He told me his mother was one of many siblings (possibly 7), and that her father had been a miner in the town they lived in in Scotland. He had been keen for his children to get an education and worked and worked to ensure they could all follow their education through to postgraduate level. He said that they all ended up with well paid jobs, and later paid for their father to return to his own education, and in fact he ended up lecturing in higher education in later life. Jonathan spoke of this social mobility as something that would not have been possible without the power of education and I’m inclined to agree.

“We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control.” (Waters, 1979)

This song is part of the fantastic work that is “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, and today a year 11 pupil sang it too me in an attempt to claim that she should not be required to study maths for homework outside of school, and I thought I needed to mention something about it here. I think that there is a lot wrong with the sentiment of the statement. Although I do love the irony involved with the double negative. The overall sentiment of the line, as used by said year 11, was that society uses education as a means of controlling the thoughts of the young. And I think that when misused, that is a danger of schooling, and that certain regimes over the course of history have used schooling as a source of indoctrination. However, I think that fundamentally education is the exact opposite. It is not about controlling the mind, it is about freeing the mind. It is about ensuring that pupils leaving education do so with the tools to succeed, and to investigate their own paths and create their own futures.

Free education for everyone under 18

We are lucky enough to live in a society that offers a free education for all people up to the age of 18. Infact, one that insists upon it. This is something I feel we can be immensely proud of. It means that the tools of social mobility are there. There are also many things in place to aid anyone that wants to to continue their study (i.e. student loans) and this too is something to be proud of. Personally, I would suggest we could do more. I would suggest that university education should be free, paid for by a graduate taxed levied on graduates who earn above a threshold. The exact same way the loan works, but with no nominal amounts attached to individual people. An equal society for all.

This free education we receive hasn’t always been. It was what James Keir Hardie and others fought for at the turn of the 20th century, to take the monopoly on education out of the hands of the privileged few and give it to all, as historically poorer families either couldn’t meet school fees, or needed the extra income they could gain by sending their children out to work.

This free education for all is something that is coveted still in the modern world. In Pakistan, for instance, girls are still fighting for the right to be educated. Malala Yousafzai has become famous for this fight, one she very nearly lost her life in. Pedagog in the machine has written a superb blogsync entry on her here.

She gave an extremely passionate speech on her 16th birthday which included this quote:

“We must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future. So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” (Yousafzai 2013)

So what is the purpose of education?

Put simply, to change the world for the better. By educating the young people of today, we can ensure a better, fairer, more equal society for the future. We can show them the mistakes we have made, and the mistakes of those that have gone before us to ensure that those mistakes are not repeated. No one can see what the future holds, but by using the powerful tool that is education we can do our best to make it better for everyone concerned. For individuals sure, but also for society as a whole. That is why we do it, that is the overall aim of the overwhelming majority of educators I know, and that is what people all over the world are fighting to be able to achieve.

 

Reference List

Anonymous. 2013. The Purpose of Education. 18th September. Pedagog in the Machine. [Online]. [30th September]. Available from: http://pedagoginthemachine.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/the-purpose-of-education-ask-malala-yousafzai/

Mandela, N.R 2003. Lighting your way to a better future. 16 July, Planetarium, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Waters, R 1979. Another Brick in The Wall. Pink Floyd. The Wall [CD] Correns/New York/Los Angeles: Harvest Records/EMI records

Yousafzai, M. 2013 Speech to the UN. 12th July. United Nations headquarters, New York.

Engaging with Written Feedback

July 1, 2013 9 comments

During February the #blogsync topic was on engaging and motivating pupils. In school, as a department, we were looking at ways to engage pupils with written feedback and to motivate them to interact with that feedback and attempt the challenges set. I figured that these two things would dovetail nicely and the idea behind this post was formed.

Much has been written on written feedback before and if you are looking for ways to improve your own I would highly recommend reading the four posts on the topic written by Mark Miller (@GoldfishBowlMM on twitter) they can be found at http://thegoldfishbowl.edublogs.org/category/feedback/ . I would also recommend this by David Didau (@learningspy on twitter) http://learningspy.co.uk/2013/01/26/work-scrutiny-whats-the-point-of-marking-books/

Within our department we have been developing our strategy on written feedback over the last few years, and around Christmas-time one of my colleagues came up with a way to personalise feedback and set questions on a computerised from which could then be printed and used as a starter for the next lesson with the class. He also set it up to include pupil’s names via a mail merge. This would provide the pupils with feedback on their work and set them a challenge which either focused on a skill they were struggling with or set them a challenge which would push them to the next level. Our marking usually ties in to the mini assessments, so these would tie in there as well. Before this we had been using marking stickers that had a box for students to comment in on it, but this was replaced by the question. Here is a picture of the previous sticker (the size would be 1/4 of an A4 page):

MS1 

 

And here is the new look one (A5):

MS2

I wanted to run a check on the effectiveness of the new system, so prior to switching I surveyed three of my classes with the following question:

“On a scale of 1 to 5, where one is the lowest and 5 the highest, how much does marking of books help you with your maths.”

I had all responses from 1 to 5 and the mean was 2.7 (1dp), unsurprisingly my top set year 8 had a mean of 3.5 which was much higher than the other classes.

I ran with the new idea for a term and re asked the same question. The results were slightly higher, this time the mean was 3.2 (3.9 for said year 8 class).
The data suggests that there is an overall increase in engagement with written feedback. I looked through some of the slips to see if anyone had drastically changed, and there were a few people who put 4’s that had put 2s, and a few who had jumped up one, so I asked them why they thought their perception of the helpfulness of marking had changed. There were two main answers that they all seemed to give a variant of. “Because it’s much easier to read when it’s typed,” and “There is a question to do”. During this time my HOD did a marking scrutiny and commented that my marking was much easier to read when typed, so I have taken this on board and intend to use consistently in future. Most of the team are using it now and we are going to implement it across the whole team next year to bring consistency to our marking.

I’m under no illusion that these surveys constitute concrete proof that the new marking strategy has improve the engagement with the written feedback in my classes, but all pupils are now answering the questions which certainly shows they are reading it. This is different to before where the higher ability pupils would write excellent comments, the lower ability pupils would write something like “thanks” and middle ability pupils would not write anything. The effects seemed to be higher on lower sets than it did on higher sets, but this could related to the fact their baseline was much lower. I hope to repeat the survey at some point next year with my classes to see how the data looks after a prolonged period of using tis marking strategy; this should give me an idea of the long term effects.

In conclusion:

The evidence suggests that the new strategy has increased engagement within the sample. This is because the feedback is easier to read and it includes something for pupils to attempt, rather than to just read. This is enough for me to decide to continue with the strategy.

A great classroom explanation

June 24, 2013 3 comments

This months #blogsync topic is a strange one, and I didn’t really know where to start. I’ve taught many many lessons now, and in each of them I will have explained many things. I’ve also observed many lessons, and likewise, in each I have heard many explanations. I’ve even heard pupils come up with some brilliant explanations, both during lessons when they were using prior knowledge to estimate what was next and in revision where pupils who remembered how to do something would explain it to their peers.

I’ve been thinking a lot this month about the explanations I give, as I knew this was the topic of the #blogsync, and I’ve had a plethora of explanations to choose from.

This week, off the cuff, I used a simile to contextualise simultaneous equation to a pupil who was really struggling, “is instead of 2x + 3y = 11 is said “2 cups of coffee and 3 cups of tea cost £11″” etc. This real world application, however convoluted it was, help him realise what was going on and he can now solve them.

Also this month I sat in awe as a yr11 pupil (who has yet to hit the c) explained to his girlfriend, perfectly and concisely, how to create a cumulative frequency diagram then use it to draw a box plot.

These were just two of an abundance of brilliant explanations I can think of to mention, but I want to dig deeper and share with you an explanation that has stuck with me for a long time. An explanation I remember from my own school days!

The lesson in question was a chemistry lesson, and the teacher was quite mad! He had some non-verbal behaviour management techniques which would surely be frowned on now. I.e. He would flick chalk at the head of anyone chatting and was a great shot! If chalk didn’t do the trick, the board rubber followed. He also had a giant pestle and mortar and used to walk around with it slung over his shoulder. He would periodically bring it down with a crack on the desk in front if those who were off task. He stopped that the time he smashed one if the desks in half! Anyway, I digress, time for the explanation.

The lesson in question was on bonding, ionic and covalent. He explained it all through simile regarding human relationships with devastating hilarity. He likened covalent bonds to elements who gave found their life partners, fallen in live, gotten married and spent the rest of their lives in wedded bliss “holding hands”. He then moved onto “dirty” ionic bond and likened them to one night stands, a quick switch of electrons and off they go, never to meet again. He also spoke about catalysts, likening them to nightclubs where people go, have a drink and meet people. Showing that the catalyst doesn’t cause the reaction, just gives it somewhere to happen and thus speeds the while process up.

The reason I wanted to share this is that this classroom explanation is the one I remember most vividly. It occurred at least 15 years ago, but I remember it as clearly as yesterday. So what made this explanation stay with me all these years? (As that is the key to a great classroom explanation, one which the pupil will remember.)

Well, the humour was a big part, and so was the clarity. The clarity of the explanation put the topic in terms that I understood, and as such could make sense of. If it hadn’t, then I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have stuck. But also the humour, it added am element of fun and kept my attention throughout the explanation. I think more goes in, if you are having fun, and I think that these two elements combined in this case to make a great classroom explanation, and for this reason they are two elements I try to include in my explanations.

Keep up the hard work

May 30, 2013 2 comments

This is a response to the May #blogsync topic

Teaching is a profession that I love. Having discovered the joys of teaching, I don’t think I’ll ever leave. I, like most teachers, work extremely hard. Yes, the holidays are superb, but the hours I put in through the week are long, and can be particularly hard through the winter.

My mum was a teacher, and growing up I remember the hours of marking she did at the dining table after cooking tea for me and my brother, I remember sitting playing in classrooms over the holidays while she planned, marked, renewed displays. So I knew it was not a 9-3 job, I knew I was signing up for 50-60 hour weeks, and I’m fine with that, and I feel it is nicely offset by 13 weeks of holiday time (some of which, but not all, does include some planning). Before i joined I knew about the profession, and I respected it. Perhaps this is what the public are missing.

Earlier this year a year ten pupil arrived at school around ten to six to go on a school trip to a football match. I was just leaving. He assumed I was going on the trip, and was shocked to find out that I wasn’t, he asked in amazement, “well why are you still here then? School finished hours ago.” I explained that marking and planning were part of the job, he paused, thought a bit then said, “yeah, that makes sense. I’d never thought of it like that before. I guess you lot are here loads more than us then.”

I reckon that’s what most people think. And it’s an idea perpetuated by the constant attacks on the profession by the government and the media. It’s probably an impression also given by poor teachers.

When I think back to my school days I can tell you which teachers planned, and which ones didn’t. Which teacher’s lessons were engaging, had been thought about, had real deep learning attached, and which ones didn’t. The worst teachers lessons were all very similar, no matter what the lesson: “Chris, you can go first today, start reading from the top of page 22”. One science teacher who did this regularly used to often notice my friend Liam and I playing noughts and crosses or writing songs and would randomly fire questions at us to catch us out. The problem with this was she’d fire a question about the passage being read, and it was not hard to gave a quick scan of the page and answer correctly. The next table housed a couple of lads called James and Anthony, they hadn’t worked out that if you had the book open you could find the answer, Liam and I used to throw the odd answer to them. One time the question was “which organ does” something, and I said quietly to Anthony “pipe organ”, which he confidently shouted as his answer, the class burst into hysterical laughter, much to the chagrin of The teacher, and to Anthony who was then on the receiving end if a right rollicking. This was the highlight of all science lessons from this teacher. She, and others like her, who spent the lesson sat at the front of the room while we took it in turns to read from the text book then answer questions on said part of textbook, are more than likely responsible for some people perceiving all teachers work 9-3, as they certainly seemed to.

Thankfully, teachers like this are a dying breed, and I think (hope) that the current generation in schools realise and appreciate that. When they grow up, then I hope that perception will change, but as long as the government and sections of the press are fuelling the feeling with their regular attacks on teachers, then it will be hard work.

What can we do? Short of bringing people into schools and showing them, I’m not sure. Keep writing blogs that show our passion. Continue doing our best to educate, and improve the lives of, the pupils in our care. Engage with parents in a positive manner, showing them that we are on their side, that we care and that we work hard. Ensure we read the party manifestos (especially on education) and campaign for the parties we agree with. And support the sections of the press that support us.

We are the frontline. We are the teachers these pupils will remember, we are the ones who can alter the perceptions of people who suffered in a different age. It might not work, but if we continue to work hard, we might just raise our status.

Progress, ’til there’s nothing left to gain.

April 29, 2013 3 comments

This is a response to the April #blogsync topic

“And progress is not intelligently planned;
It’s the facade of our heritage, the odor of our land. They speak of
Progress, in red, white and blue.
It’s the structure of the future as demise comes seething through. It’s
Progress, ’til there’s nothing left to gain,
As the dearth of new ideas makes us wallow in our shame” – Greg Graffin

 When Bad Religion released the album “No Control” at the back end of the 1980’s they included a song called “Progress”. It was not written about classroom practice, but that does not mean that the sentiments are not relevant to the day to day life of all of us classroom practicioners. The opening line “And progress is not intelligently planned”, could easily be written about the education system and some of the things that get said within it. We cannot “plan progress”. We can plan lessons, we can plan what we will teach, we can plan what we want them to learn, we can plan activities and we can even plan ways to show and track progress. All these things are planning for progress, but progress itself is the result of good teaching and good learning.

 Progress, ’til there’s nothing left to gain, As the dearth of new ideas makes us wallow in our shame,”

 We are told in training about this measure, that measure and the other measure. I hear people say “Ofsted want you to show progress like this”, etc and I worry, I really do worry, that all this things are geared up to give the impression of progress, rather than to enable pupils to actually make it. I think that when you are planning a lesson, if your thought process goes “I’d better do this because Ofsted like it”, or “I’d better do that because it was mentioned in training”, then you are doing things for the wrong reasons. That doesn’t mean I think everyone should instantly write off everything that Ofsted like, or that I think people should ignore everything they are told in training. Far from it, in fact. I just think that it needs to be appropriate. If you try to incorporate all of the strategies, all of the time, you don’t have any time left for teaching or learning!

I was interviewed last week for a TLR role at my school and one of the questions I was asked was “what makes a good maths lesson?” My answer was simple: “There are no one-size-fits-all ‘good’ maths lessons. A lesson which is good for one class could be terrible for another.” The centre of all lesson planning should be the students. The lesson should be built around their needs, not the opposite. And I think the same goes for tracking progress.

As a department we have developed a number of policies to track progress over time, but the most successful and useful is the marking policy. It has evolved over the last couple of years and is centred around giving good, detailed, personalised feedback and questions for the pupil to answer. At the end of each topic (every two weeks or so) all classes sit a short mini-test on the topic. These, along with bookwork and other activities done in class, inform the feedback and as such the questions asked. The questions are either on an area of the topic the pupils struggled on, which enables the pupils to consolidate the learning, or an area similar but further on, to extend those who have fully accessed the topic and are confident in all areas. Pupils are also expected to comment on the topic and let the teacher know how they feel about their learning. This is a valuable tool when marking and is superb way of seeing the progress all pupils have made over time. (Read more on our marking policy here )

 Progress over time.

That is the key right? Those three little words sum up what we’re judged by, and I have to say, “quite right too.” As teachers we are working to ensure that pupils leave us with more skills and knowledge than they had when they joined us. It is our job to make sure they progress over the time they are in our care. We need them to make progress over time. And we really need to be able to prove it. Obviously, the biggest proof comes in the form of exam results, but we need to be able to evidence that pupils have made progress over time. And the marking system set out above does this. The mini test results are also logged into a RAG rated spreadsheet, which gives a hand sheet to show the progress made by the group, and also gives a handy list of areas that pupils need to work on when revision time arrives.

Other ways I monitor progress over time is by mock exams. These work great for tracking progress, as you can see how far pupils have progress in relation to grades and/or levels. They are also great tools to inform future planning. If your entire class scored zero marks on solving equations, then you had better go back over the topic.

Progress in lessons

We are also judged on progress in lessons. I often hear people referring to progress in lessons and progress over time as two different things, but I don’t think they are. I think if you are making progress in lessons, you will be making progress over time. If you are not progressing in lessons, then you will not progress over time. I have a few strategies which I want to mention here that I find extremely useful for checking progress in lessons, but I must say that again, it’s picking the right thing for the right group in the right lesson that is important.

Exit tickets: – I love to use exit tickets and I have a wide range which I use, some I have designed, some colleagues have designed and some I even asked pupils to design. I find the best ones are the ones where pupils sum up in their own words what they can now do, and what they need help with. Some classes are superb at doing this, and some are not.

Whiteboards: – I often use whiteboards to complete show me activities at the end of the lesson. Asking pupils to quickly answer a range of questions based on the lessons activities. This gives me change to see where they are in relations to the objectives to inform future planning.

RAG rating: – I’ve used this in many different guises. One way I discovered on someone’s (can’t find who but will endeavour to add in later!) blog was to have three piles (they used trays) and have pupils put their books on the relevant pile on the way out. I also use RAG rating on mind maps, exit tickets and on objectives themselves to get a self-assessed version of progress in the lesson.

Peer assessment: – This can be a good double marker for progress; the work being assessed is checked against success criteria and as such is checked for progress. But the process of doing this checking shows that the checker has progressed enough to tell whether the work meets the success criteria.

The song concludes:

 “It’s Progress, ’til there’s nothing left to gain, it’s
Progress, it’s a message that we send.
And progress is a debt we all must pay.”

And this to me reads: We must strive to enable the pupils to progress to the height of their potential and we must show those to who we are accountable (The leadership within school, Ofsted, but most importantly the pupils and their parents) that progress is being made.

So, in short:

Do pupils make progress in my lessons? Yes, they do.

How do I know this? A variety of ways, most of  which can be boiled down to the statements: “They show me they have”; and “They tell me they have”.

Reflections on the spring term

April 3, 2013 2 comments

Well, that just flew by. I can’t believe how fast it went! Christmas seems only a few weeks ago. So what has happened, and what have I learned?

I have completed stage one of a project I was involved in with a PE teacher who is one year on from me in terms of his career. The first stage of the project involved each of us observing the other as if it were a formal observation. It was brilliant CPD for both of us. I got to see a PE lesson that I rated as a good with outstanding features. I got to give feedback and discuss the lesson and the grading process with him, got great feedback on my lesson (also graded good with outstanding features) and again had some great discussions about the lesson and the grading process. I was paid a huge complement as part of my feedback when my collegue said: “you ooze pace, but manage to do it in a calm and relaxed manner.” he also noted, “you can tell this is the standard of lesson their used to, and not a one off lesson for observations sake.” This second comment ties in strongly with my philosophy on teaching. I think we owe it to the pupils to give them the best lessons we can, to enable them to meet their potential and succeed on reaching their goals.

This has been a common theme for me this term. I have had a number of conversations, sometimes heated, on the subject. We took part in a peer review a few weeks ago where SLT from two other schools came in and along with our own SLT observed a lot of staff. Each department was given three lessons where an observer would be circulating the lesson. In the staffroom after they announced the time slots a colleague said, “that’s alright, I only have to plan two good lessons.” This irked me and I questioned this. I outlined my theory that we should all be trying to be at least good all the time. There was a little argument and a couple of others seemed to take their side, claiming it was impossible given the time to plan good lessons every period. I disagree, and think if the time is running out then you need to work smarter, not harder. A well planned and resources lesson can be tweaked and used again with a different class when the topic is next met. Marking can be kept on top of by implementing smarter working systems and doing a bit at a time, etc. Thankfully though, it seems from other discussions I’ve had that most of my colleagues are in fact in my camp on this one.

This term saw my first foray into teaching further maths a-level. Having finished FP1 and most of FP2 I have really renewed my passion for higher level maths. It has encouraged me to start researching higher maths for fun, this has meant though that maths books and education books are both now ahead of novels in my reading priority list. Reading is something that I have lost time for in general as well. This has been due partly to the hours I work, but mainly the fact I have a young baby at home and I spent all my free time playing with her. I do miss reading a little, but the precious moments I have with my daughter are far more important, after-all, the books will always be there. She will grow up and lead her own life. I am hoping to incorporate more reading time once she has gone to bed during next term though!

I have been excited by the blogsync initiative pioneered by Chris Waugh this term. It has given me a chance to express my views on topics and has given me a vast array of blogs and papers to read which have helped me to evaluate and improve practice. (Finding time to read these short entries is much easier than whole books!)

I have had another PGCE student take some of my lessons this term and have again enjoyed the experience and found that observing others is key to improving myself, be it said PGCE student, or the more senior members of staff I’ve observed. The whole process of helping develop students has been great and I have asked to be considered as a possible mentor (for NQTs; ITT students or even both) next year.

All in all, I have enjoyed this term and feel renewed and invigorated by the challenges ahead. The next half term is to be my last with my current classes (We change timetables at spring bank), and the ones I lose next year I will miss. None more than my year elevens, with whom I have built a great relationship. They were the first class I took over at this school, and I will miss them all. I just hope they leave with the best grades they can and go on to achieve all they want in the future!

There are also some changes being made to staffing at school. The vice principal is moving on to a headship and a couple of the department are moving to schools closer to home to cut down on their commutes and give then more time with their families. This means next year will be very different. I will miss those leaving, but wish then the best. I do, however, think that it is good to have some changes, if everything stayed the same we may find ourselves complacent, familiar, taking our foot of the gas. We have come a long way in the last two years, but our work is far from over and I know the staff staying are committed to taking the team on to the next level. I am looking forward to seeing what next year brings, for me; the team and the school as a whole! But first, there is the small matter of the summer term and external exams for us to sink our teeth into.

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