Sunday, 5 March 2017

CPD: Where to now?

I have spent the last few years developing a CPD programme for the staff in my school that I am really quite proud of.  It has leadership development pathways for those who wish to progress outside of the classroom, the opportunity to attend external courses for exam guidance and inspiration (or at least it has for now - Devon to anywhere else is pretty costly) and it has relevant sections for teachers at all points of their career.  It was designed to be a cradle to grave (is that an appropriate description for teaching?) system.

But it has one flaw and it is a deeply frustrating flaw because the flaw is in my favourite bit.  I have always believed in the Dyaln Wiliam approach that teachers need to get better not because they are not good enough but because we can all get better.  The building blocks of my CPD approach is formed on this basis - all teachers participate in a long term CPD project - either an inquiry group or a book club.  In the inquiry group teachers from multiple disciplines come together to work on an area of school need, for example stretch and challenge, or raising attainment in underperforming boys.  They read research on the topic, trial strategies in their own classrooms, carry out peer observations and generally investigate the issue working in collaboration.  In book club group staff come together to read and discuss an educational book which I buy for them - they are given choice as to which book they would like based on a 'niggle' - something in their teaching they would like to address.  The system still needs a little tweaking, it needs to be tighter but the essence is right, it is good.  I like what we have done.

But there's a but and it is starting to feel like a big one.  My initial fear was that staff would not engage with the programme - I was wrong, the staff have been brilliant and they love their books.  And yet despite this, despite the buy in, I don't feel like the programme is having the impact that I want.  So I did a little audit against the standards for teacher professional development:

1. Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.
This is there and is beginning to emerge - staff select their area of development based on pupil outcomes and will reflect on the success of their work against pupil outcomes - check.

2. Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.
Each group, whether inquiry or book club, are based around reading research, books written by people who know what they are talking about.  Opportunities for staff to attend workshops with experts are made available (although finances will begin to affect this) but overall - check.

3. Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.
Yes - certainly in terms of collaboration - perhaps the expert challenge element could be improved but as a general theme - check.

4. Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.
This.  This is my flaw - they are sort of sustained over time but not really.  At the moment we give staff two disaggregated INSET days in return for 10 hours of CPD spread out across the year organised in their free time - lunchtimes and after school.  If you have worked in a school however, you will know that there is no such thing as free time so the CPD groups and the quality of the work within these groups gets squeezed.

5. Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership.
I am lucky on this one - I am on SLT and work within an incredibly supportive SLT who do see this as important and support the programmes at all levels.

So my issue is how best to structure my CPD programmes so that staff get a lot from them and we can see the real impact of the time they are investing.  If I had a magic wand, I would send the children home early at least once per half term to ensure that all teachers have the time and space to engage with these programmes fully.  As many of the children in our school arrive by bus this is not a viable option.  For the same reason, collapsing mornings or afternoons are also not viable,  I have thought about incorporating it into our pre-existing meeting cycle to provide the iterative rhythm that makes a difference (and I think this is my preferred option) but this would involve removing two INSET days a year from staff (unless I find an alternative way of utilising this time) and removing time from how those meetings are currently spent.  With budgets being squeezed, it is more important than ever that teachers are given time and space and expertise to support them in developing their practice.  So my question, dear reader, is how do I achieve this?        

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Nurture 2016-17

I did surprisingly well on last year’s goals except for one.  I pledged to read 52 books and didn’t get anywhere near that goal (I shall revisit the why and what next as I look ahead).  But I also pledged to pick up my MA study, breathe new life into my CPD programme, find the love in teaching again, make Devon home and let go of a problem that had been a problem for a long time.  Well in 2016, I attended MA summer school and met a group of inspiring people who made me believe I was capable of anything – something I am incredibly grateful to them for.  In 2016, I did breathe new life into my CPD programme – the introduction of book club went really well and has planted the seed for a Book Club Teaching and Learning Conference (watch this space for more details).  In 2016 I reconnected with the people I love (family and partner) and started to stop taking them for granted, that ticked two boxes – it enabled me to let go of ‘the’ situation and resulted in the purchase of our new home in Devon.  In 2016 when I said ‘I am going home’, I actually started to mean ‘to Devon’.  And teaching?  Yeah I do kind of love it again.

So onwards and upwards… What do I want to achieve in 2017?
1.       Read. 
The reading thing is key and symptomatic of a bigger problem.  I don’t read because I figure if I have enough time to read then I have time to do more schoolwork.  I have an unhealthy work-life balance, I feel guilty anytime I am doing something that isn’t school related.  I got pretty poorly over the last couple of months and yet didn’t take a single day off because the guilt feels worse than the ill.  And actually that would be okay except that I realised (with the help of a wise person or two) that when I do this, I role model to everyone else my own unhealthy attitude to work.  I don’t know how to not work, how to switch off but I have to try to figure it out because I should be allowed to go to the gym or take a weekend off or get the sleep I need or read a book and I have to demonstrate to other people that they are entitled to that too.  So two goals off one goal – read more but also give myself permission to take time out and switch off.
2.       Make a difference.
I used to feel that I made a difference every time I got up and went to work and I don’t feel like that anymore.  I miss it.  I am a lucky person.  I am, quite frankly, blessed.  And if 2016 opened my eyes to anything, it is that there are far too many people who are not.  I want to make things better, fairer and more just.  Life can be horribly unfair and I want to be part of a solution not part of the problem.  I am a bit obsessed with parity and fairness and often bite my tongue when I see the unfairness I am surrounded by – I don’t think I want to do that this year.  I want to speak up when something is wrong, reach out if someone needs help and just live my life with a little more compassion.  I am not sure how or what yet but I need to find a way to make a difference – find a way to make the world better even if it is in the smallest of ways. 
3.       Be inspired.
Professionally this year, I have a couple of goals.  One is to use the opportunities my MA presents to research things that are important and matter – and that challenge my thinking as a leader.  The second is to provide opportunity – through my work, my school and our Teaching School Alliance - I want to take every opportunity to support the work of groups like #WomenED #BAMEed #CharteredCollegeofTeaching and to bring some of the best and most inspiring speakers to the South West.  I want to find ways to inspire as I have been inspired.  
4.       Ambition and Challenge
For a long time I have been quite scared to talk about my career ambitions – there are those who make you feel like ambition is a bad thing.  But I am not ambitious for the sake of it and I am in no rush.  I just want to keep my career goals in my mind and feel proud rather than embarrassed about them.  I want to work in Washington DC.  I want to be a Headteacher one day.  I might want to do a doctorate at some point (although I am reserving judgement until I know whether or not I have passed my MA).  I want to take every opportunity that will prepare me for this possibilities and ask people to help me be ready for these challenges.  But ultimately I just want to feel confident enough to pursue my goals.
5.       Be more than a job.
I want to make time for the people who matter.  I want to be more than the job – I want to travel to cool places, meet up with great people, take amazing photographs, write interesting essays and maybe find a way to care of myself to a standard I usually reserve only for work.  I want to try and sort my health out.


Will I manage it all?  Almost certainly not.  Will I give it a bloody good try?  Yes I think I will. 2016 was a year of sadness and surprise but I also had some great experiences and have come out of it a happier person.  Now I ready for the next chapter – 2017, let’s be having you!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Losing your confidence... the impact of two days at #EducationFest.

I don't usually write about personal thoughts and reflections when I blog.  My usual approach to blogging is sporadic and usually just a summary of talks I have attended or things I have read or would like to try in my teaching.  But this blog is a little different and maybe it is foolish to reflect so honestly and so publically but maybe a little humility in leadership is okay from time to time.

I attended the Telegraph Festival of Education on Thursday and Friday of last week and it lived up to my description of it as a 'CPD spa break for educators'.  As always it was thought provoking, inspiring and insightful.  And it got me reflecting.  A lot.

The combination of Jill Berry's talk on transitioning in leadership, David Weston's talk on unleashing greatness in teachers and Alex Quigley's session on confidence led me to a startling conclusion.  I have lost my confidence.  In my teaching, in my leadership, in relation to my career.  I have entirely lost my confidence and for the first time in a long time, the day to day act of going to work has felt like wandering through a fog.  I listened to David Weston and his thoughts on quality CPD were what I already knew - I have spent a long time reading and researching what makes CPD meaningful and yet somehow over the last year, I have allowed my CPD programme to be a shadow of what it should be.  I have allowed it to detach itself from the core business of teaching and learning and I haven't developed the impact side of the work to the extent I always promised I would. I don't know why but I have.  As a result I have produced something that I am not proud of and does not reflect what I wanted it to be.  I heard in three separate talks that self confidence comes from achievement and on this measure I have not achieved.  And I think maybe that has knocked my confidence, at least in part.  It was particularly kind of David to find time to give me some advice at the end of his session on where to go next so I do at least have the beginnings of a plan.  It is not just a leadership issue though, I feel as though I have lost my sense of identity in the classroom, I find myself constantly questioning and doubting what I am doing - perhaps that is part of teaching less or perhaps it is natural but I love teaching and I want to be good at it.  I want students to get a good deal from me and right now I have no idea whether they do or not.  So I shall take Alex Quigley's advice and start playing with the 20% of my teaching that will make 80% of the difference.  And I will start playing with my teaching again - trying different things until I find the thing that works.

So that will address the teaching... But what about the leadership? For this, I found Jill Berry's session especially useful.  She talked about transitioning from one leadership role to another and as I sat in the session I felt a tremendous sense of relief.  She (and we) described and identified issues that people experience when they transition from one leadership role to another, considering the differences between internal and external promotion and it was like she was reading my mind.  I think perhaps I underestimated the impact that working in a new context with new expectations and without the comfort of a familiar context and developed support network can have.  I worked in one school for ten years and was pretty comfortable there and having moved to a new and unfamiliar context, perhaps I have struggled more than I realised.  The best thing about the session though was the reminder that I don't have to be a perfect deputy to perform the role of deputy - I am allowed to build the bridge as I walk it.  I need to look at my role and work out the things that I am finding challenging and work out what I need to do to tackle those issues that challenge me.  I work on a team of incredibly brilliant and experienced leaders and at times I am intimidated by that.  In reality it means I have an incredible pool of support to learn from and draw on but maybe I need to ask for help a little more than I do instead of walking around feeling like I might get caught out at any second.  The concept of 'imposter syndrome' is used lots but it summarises quite accurately how I feel in my weaker moments.

The last session I attended across the two days was Alex Quigley's session on the Confident Teacher/Confident Student.  He talked about lots of superb points but something that resonated with me was his points about time.  When you are losing confidence, you need time - time to reflect, time to coach and to be coached.  When we lose our confidence we suffer from the spotlight effect - we zoom in on the things we are struggling with and over emphasise the negative.  Teaching is stressful, leading is stressful and it always will be.  How we deal with and address that stress is critical.  This made me think about my immediate response to stress - when I feel stressed and under pressure, I respond by filling my time, doing more, working harder, trying to achieve more and in doing so I take away the thing I need most - time to think, to reflect and in doing so I open myself up to more stress.  What was most helpful about Alex's session however was the practical advice - losing confidence?  Do four things: have an expert experience, observe people, physically present as confident, take praise when it is offered and believe it.

In addition to these sessions, there was also great advice from Clive Woodward (analyse success rather than analysing failure) and John Amaechi (be more Jedi).  Am I magically feeling wonderfully confident and ready to face the week?  No.  Do I have a greater self awareness of the things that I am struggling with and a willingness to ask for help?  I think I do.  So apologies for the self indulgent post but thank you Wellington College, Clive Woodward, John Amaechi, Jill Berry, Alex Quigley and David Weston for a much needed pick me up.        

     

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Festival of Education - Day 1

This year’s festival felt a little different to previous years. My initial thought was that it may be due to the timetabling confusion or the absence of the education secretary but in reality I think it was more to do with the Noah-esque flood weather that ensured that wherever you went, you were soaked to the skin (even with the extremely helpful ponchos). Despite the bad weather and the absence of Nicky Morgan, the festival continued to do what it does best – providing educators with the time, space and inspiration to reflect on their current practice.

The first session I attended was delivered by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby and it was a safe bet as it was based on their book ‘Making Every Lesson Count’ which is marvellous. I have heard both of them speak a number of times and never fail to be impressed with the way they cut through the nonsense to get to the heart of great pedagogy.  Their book is one of a few that I have selected to be part of our CPD book club reading list and I was absolutely convinced that this was a great choice, I was also pleased to hear some of my other choices – Ethic of Excellence, Hidden Lives of Learners and Teach Like a Champion – get a mention.

Shaun started by reminding us that the core principle of great teaching are not new - high expectations, perfect practice, focus on presentation, response to feedback, corrections – were all used to great effect by Mr Clarke in 1985 – none of this is new.  In Shaun and Andy’s school they have taken a ‘tight but loose’ approach to teaching and learning which identifies 6 key principles that form the basis of their teaching and learning policy and their CPD Programme: challenge, expectations, modelling, deliberate practice, questioning and feedback.  They idea is that teachers take these ideas and do them well.  What it has created is a common language for teaching and learning, a policy that works irrespective of subject specialism, an approach of ‘less is more’ and ultimately improved outcomes for students.

Andy then went on to explain the principles in greater depth and started us thinking with a quote from Muijs and Reynolds “The effect of achievement on self concept is stronger than the impact of self concept on achievement.” The idea behind this is that building self esteem does not lead to greater achievement. Greater achievement leads to improved self esteem therefore working on the core business of teaching and learning has to be the most important thing.  He then went on to explain each of the areas in greater depth raising excellent points about each one. I would tell you what he said… But then you wouldn’t need to read the book. My advice? Get the book, read the book but keep your own context in mind when applying the ideas.  This was a great session that really got me thinking. Next steps – get myself a ticket to their conference on 7th July!

The next session that really had an impact on me was led by Steve Munby. I think Steve is one of the best speakers around in leadership in education, he has an optimism founded on reality that is really refreshing and makes you feel like the job is doable.  He spoke about leadership in a high accountability system and identified three A’s that are particularly relevant to school leaders at present – accountability, autonomy and austerity.

He talked us through five issues that occur when high accountability is mixed with autonomy (and exaggerated through periods of autonomy) and these really resonated with me.

It was refreshing to hear him say that Ofsted is a good thing – it is. Accountability is necessary but the current accountability framework has gone too far.  HTs  worry about how one cohort of children can make or break a career with one set of results and even good schools ask themselves what would Ofsted say? Steve reminded us that Ofsted are a regulator not a source of inspiration, their job is to comment on whether money is being spent well not to drive change.  Even beyond Ofsted though, schools are surrounded by accountability measures and as Fullan points out “Extreme pressure without capacity, results in dysfunctional behaviour”. Munby talked about the importance of striking a balance between accountability and capacity building – we need accountability but we also need to build capacity if it will work.  He argued that there is a real need to work on leadership development, getting great leaders into the schools that need it - collaboration must be seen as voluntary but inevitable.

He then outlined some of the headlines from the research report ‘Lessons Learned from 5 Interesting Cities in which they identified seven themes of successful schools – Effective leadership at all levels, data-driven reform, making teaching a career of choice, accountability and support, new forms of school provision, collaboration between schools and building coalitions for change. He outlined some of the key features of each if these before comparing the system leadership we have to the system leadership we need:

The conclusion of this was that neither top down approaches nor bottom up change works...  Therefore we need collective autonomy - a compelling narrative rather than an instruction.  He then looked at the role of peer review and the role this can have in building trust.  Peer review is something that I am very keen to look at and looking forward to reading about this in greater depth.

This was a superb session and I encourage you to read/hear his ideas as he never fails to inspire.

At this point, the heavens opened and I sought refuge from the rain in the marquee where the rather outrageous yet wonderful Germaine Greer took to the stage to share her thoughts on gender equality.  There were some really powerful ideas shared about the role of women and their relationships with one another – once again reminding me of how unhelpful we can be to both ourselves and each other.  Next Piers Morgan and Clive Woodward took to the stage in a brilliant interview that reminded us that talent matters but only with hard work and the right attitude does a talented individual become a champion.  Clive’s ideas were superb and easily applicable to both teaching and leadership. From a teaching perspective, I loved the idea of T-CUP, from a leadership perspective he reminded us to be a little more kind when we fail - we over react to failure and under react to success. When we fail, we need to chill out (I believe he mentioned the pub), as we have done our learning. The time to get the team in to pick apart our performance is when we succeed -  analyse the successes. I enjoyed this a lot and bought yet another book which I am really looking forward to.

My final session of the day was with Jill Berry.  Jill is an exceptional person who takes the time to read blogs and encourage many of us on twitter and I personally have really benefitted from her support. At a time when I am having a bit of a leadership wobble, her session was exactly what I needed and provided me with some much needed personal inspiration whilst also helping me to see what I need to do in my role to support others.

The session was focused on transitioning into leadership and she started as she often does reminding us that ‘we have to build the bridge as we walk on it - you learn the role as you do it, be prepared to learn from the process.’

We spent time reflecting in a series of questions:
Who do you influence?
Are you making the most of the role you have to build the skills you need for the next role?
Are you satisfied? Are you making the most?
What are the demands/challenges?
Are you building capacity to cope? Or wanting to escape?
Is the move a negative or positive? Are there specific opportunities/satisfactions/ rewards in the role to motivate you?
What will you bring? To the role because if you are doing is running, this will get picked up on.

She then encouraged us to think  about leadership and our own vision and values as a leader. She reminded us of the value of both positive and negative role models. It can be frustrating but also extremely powerful.  This then led us to a discussion around leadership transition challenges and we generated an impressive list – some of which hit home with me:

Challenges of promotion - things that make transitions into leadership difficult
Perception
Relationships
Accountability
Support
Trust
Assumptions/context
Actions/reactions/change
Dealing with someone who got the job over you/you beat
Expectations

I then should have moved into a group to discuss some scenarios but had to retrieve my students and take them home. I am grateful to Jill to providing such a thought provoking session which personally gave me a bit of a kickstart to address some of the niggles I am experiencing.

Then I found the students who had spent the day listening to talks by Terry Waite (who had moved them to tears), Will Young and Germain Greer, debated, climbed, scuba dived and acquired more swag than the staff. So a pretty good day all round.

Thank you Wellington for day 1, I am really looking forward to day 2!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Recruitment and retention: a symptom of a wider issue

We are repeatedly told that there is a recruitment and retention crisis and I think that's true. It is more true if you work in a challenging context. I had never really thought about leaving education - I liked teaching and I like my work in leadership and honestly there is nothing else I could do. But just lately I have been wishing there was another option. Not because I am unhappy or stressed or have an awful work-life balance or dislike my job but because I suspect that at some point the job I am asked to do will become at odds with what I think is right.

Education is losing its moral purpose and reaching a crisis point. I didn’t used to think it was. I used to think that people were exaggerating the problems but now I believe it. Education should be the means by which we empower the children in our society but instead it has become an example of survival of the fittest. I am not going to use this post to bash the government (and that doesn’t make me a Tory sympathiser). The government make decisions about education and some of those decisions are the wrong ones. But I don’t believe that there is a government conspiracy to destroy education, rather there is a lack of understanding of what it feels like to be in education. There is some odd stuff in the white paper and there is also some pretty good stuff but too many people are ignoring the positives. This is a problem in education, we are alienating ourselves. Since the dawn of time educators have had to work within difficult political frameworks and our job is to make the best of the bits that can work and present a united front on the elements that won’t so that we are truly listened to. We don’t do that at the moment.

Education has become too competitive. Schools are not collaborating or even coexisting. They are competing: to be the best, to get the most bums on seats, to poach the best staff, etc.  It isn’t helpful for schools to be in this situation. If you are a struggling school deemed requiring improvement you need support from local schools and staff but you don’t get it unless you sacrifice your autonomy to be gobbled up into a MAT led by an ‘outstanding’ school who, despite knowing nothing about your context, are hailed as the answer to everything. How can you grow cooperation in an environment like that?  I have worked in a good school, an RI school and an outstanding school and each of those schools had pockets of excellence. The outstanding school had lessons to learn from the RI school, the RI school from the good. But it doesn’t work like that. And that's a real shame. And I accept that  it is largely due to political and accountability frameworks but we as school leaders could do something about it.

Recruitment and retention are talked about in the same breath but they are very different. The recruitment issue is an easy one to unpick. It used to be easy to apply to do teacher training – clear routes, clearly signposted, accessible application process and a fairly quick decision. Ten years ago, no fees and indeed a bursary and for the privileged few, golden handshakes and the suchlike. Now it costs you to train unless you are in a shortage subject. There are multiple routes, schools are competing to secure you in school based routes and the whole thing is confusing. It shouldn't be that hard just to train. There is uncertainty in the relationship between schools and HEIs who need to collaborate and compete all at the same time. There is PGCE, School Direct, School Direct distance, School Direct Salaried, Teach First, Troops to Teachers, and so on. We don’t make it easy.

Then there is the retention issue. More teachers are leaving in the first five years than ever before. Is the training flawed? Maybe. Teach First is hard and perceived by some as a two year commitment to give back to society before moving on to better things. But this isn’t true of all.  Do we prepare new teachers for the realities of teaching? Maybe not. Then there are those who make it through the training but become career changers due to intolerable workloads, filling in spreadsheet after spreadsheet to prove to management that they are doing their job (it doesn‘t happen in all schools but it does in some) or because they are battling poor behaviour that leadership pretend not to see. Again I am not trying to bash leadership – leaders do the best they can in the accountability systems that drive their reality. Then there are the good teachers, great teachers in some cases, being made redundant as schools try to balance the books (something that will hit the creative subjects fairly hard I suspect if the Ebacc is prioritised). Then there is another group of people, people who want to be teachers but are deemed inadequate and ‘moved on’ through various processes so whilst they are willing to teach they are no longer able to. I remember being inspired by Dylan Wiliam’s idea that we should love the one we are with – we have a duty to help teachers to become better but sometimes this is an ideal rather than a reality. And possibly understandably – bad teachers get bad results, bad results mean standards fall which triggers Ofsted which nobody wants – so can we blame them?  Once you then factor in  PRP and other devices becoming part of teaching, it is a fragile and unstable job to be in.

So it all feels a little bit broken. We have lost sight of who and what matters as we step on each other to get to the top of the table. And those at the top get rewarded (sometimes financially) which strengthens their position and those at the bottom get stepped on as everyone tries to promote their organisation all the while forgetting that why we came into this. We are supposed to prepare students for the world. To educate them. To support them. To care about them. To challenge them. To teach them about the world. Maybe even to role model how we treat people. If ever we lose sight of that, or fail to attract and retain the people needed to do that then the education system truly will be broken and I will have to find something else to do.


Thursday, 31 December 2015

Nurture 15/16 or a version of it anyway.

2015 was a year – not a good year, not a bad year just a year.  Lots of change, lots of life stuff that probably doesn’t need to be shared in a blog and a general feeling that I won’t be sad to see the end of this particular year. 

Before pondering the year to come, it is worth reflecting on the goals I set for myself for the year just gone.  The first task I set for myself was to remember the importance of the act of teaching and the impact it can have, to remain committed to the provision of an education that meets the need of every child.  In some ways I have struggled with this one as I didn’t start properly teaching until September.  I don’t think I have forgotten what is important to me but I do think I have had fewer opportunities to put it into practice.  I wanted to say yes to new experiences and this one I really didn’t.  I retreated back into my shell a bit and whilst I think I have learned a lot in my new job, other than that, this one really didn’t take.  My third goal was to learn.  I wanted to attend CPDL events and get back on my masters.  I managed the CPDL bit going to some amazing events: Inspiring Leadership, Education Fest, ResearchEd, TLAB, TLT, Northern Rocks, Pedagoo Hants (I even presented!) etc. and they were all fantastic (If you have never been, pick an event, any event, and give it a go).  Financial issues meant that the masters wasn’t viable but maybe next year.  My final two goals were personal.  I wanted to make sure that leaving home didn’t mean leaving my people behind and I have done quite well with this.  I have lost one or two people along the way but have managed to keep the people that matter most and I am grateful for that.  I also wanted to manage the nurture part of looking after myself – photography, baseball writing, etc.  I did some of this but not enough.         

So 2016… What for this year?

Honestly I don’t know.  2015 has left me feeling a little out of sorts, discombobulated and off track.  So I suppose the aim for 2016 is to get myself feeling in sorts, focused and on track.  An important part of that is having goals so I am choosing 6 goals to aim for this year (plus diet and holidays but you don’t want to read that!).  So here they are:

1.     To read.  I need to read, to open my mind, extend my thinking and read because I enjoy it.  So the aim is 52 books in 52 weeks – 1 book per week and no feelings of guilt whilst making time for them.
2.     I have applied to continue my masters, even if I end up in a pile of debt, I no longer care.  For reasons I do not understand, the masters is the single most important goal for me and I have been wanting to do it for the last three years.  If not now, when?  So affordable or not, by the time I reflect again in twelve months I will have been to summer school (application acceptance pending) and be in the process of completing my next two modules.  I will get this done – it was such phenomenal CPD last time that it has to be my own personal CPD focus this year.
3.     In school, I want to create a CPDL programme that has impact and meaning – I would like to incorporate masters study into this for other staff if possible.  I also want to get my head round how best to teach students (and staff) about mental health and well-being.  Because I was inspired by a talk delivered by Dr Pooky Knightsmith and I think it is too important to not address.
4.     I need to find the love in teaching again.  I used to argue quite passionately that it doesn’t matter what you teach, that I was a teacher of students not subjects but I am not sure that is true.  I miss teaching Psychology and Philosophy far more than I ever thought I would.  I need to find joy in teaching subjects that I am less expert in and passionate about (which is difficult with the amount of curriculum change being introduced) but I think it can be done if I focus on the pedagogy side which has always enthused and motivated me.  So I am going to go back to reading, researching and trialling new ideas and hope that it kickstarts my passion!
5.     I need to try to make Devon home.  A year on I still miss the West Midlands a lot.  I am glad I left my old job and am happy to see how well my old school is doing, it makes me proud and happy to see the journey they are on.  And I really like my new job but I haven’t done much in the way of making my new life, my new life.  And maybe that’s okay.  But perhaps part of feeling settled requires me to put down some roots and try to find a home down here.  We are still in the slightly too small rental, in the very too small town(?) and half of my life is still boxed up.  I need to try to become more settled and whilst there are some fairly sizeable barriers to this, I need to give it a go.
6.     The final thing is about being brave and letting go.  I have been stuck in a situation that for years my very best friends have told me I need to find an end to.  An end is presenting itself and whilst letting go might be a difficult thing to do, it will be the right thing to do.  I suspect that the next few months will be quite the challenge but if I can let go of the things that need to be let go of, I might just find the rest of 2016 significantly easier!

So a slightly short and muddledy list of things and not the most ambitious by my own admission (although adding health, diet and holidays should sort that out).  If I fail at these, I may just start collecting cats and give into my destiny as a crazy cat lady!!    


Happy 2016 tweeps!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

In response to @ChrisChivers2...

I read an excellent and insightful blogpost from Chris Chivers (@chrischivers2) today. In this post, he posed and answered four questions:
What got you into teaching?
If you are/have been a headteacher; what was your motivation?
What would you do to improve the current system?

What keeps you in teaching?

I enjoyed his post so much, I thought I would try to answer the questions myself because this time of year seems right for reflection.

What got me into teaching?
My answer to this question is awful but a lack of something else to do. I was on the verge on finishing university, couldn't afford to stay on for further study and didn’t have any burning career ambitions. I had spent a lot of my uni days working on play schemes and enjoyed it so thought I would try teaching. I had flirted with the idea of primary school teaching whilst doing my A levels but a degree in Psychology and Philosophy seemed better suited to secondary. So I applied to do my PGCE, was pretty awful at it, scraped a pass and got a job.
What really got me into teaching though was my first school. If you can imagine what a rubbish trainee looks like as an NQT in a not-easy school, I was it. But my mentors, my colleagues, the leadership team, the dinner ladies, the cleaners, everyone just helped me. And I got better. And then I started to love it. And at that point, that's when I got into teaching.

If you are/have been a headteacher; what was your motivation?
This is easy. I am not a headteacher. But sometimes I think I would like to be. Then I realise that I am not that person and I probably won’t ever make it that far. But on those days when I want to be it's because I have a compelling belief about what education should look like for every single child, regardless of postcode. There are lots of things that I don’t like about education and where it is going and the approaches some school leaders take, but it makes me want to fight it from the inside. So, I am not a headteacher and sometimes I want to be and sometimes I think I would be rubbish if I was, but if I ever am, it will be so I can create a school that reflects my beliefs.

What would you do to improve the current system?
I would fight the power that Ofsted has over some leaders. I don’t hate Ofsted but I intensely dislike school leaders who make decisions that affect their children and staff because of Ofsted. We need an objective observer, someone who can come in and help us critique ourselves and figure out how to be better but we shouldn’t be slaves to it. And we shouldn’t be breaking teachers because we are enslaved.
I would hand data back to teachers as a tool to help them, not a stick to beat them with. And not just data… Where is the trust? We need to trust teachers to deliver their subjects effectively and free them up to focus on what matters not bog them down with mindless accountability measures.
And I would grab teacher training by the shoulders and shake it! It is so hard to figure out how to be a teacher – PGCE, School Direct, TeachFirst, apply to the school, apply to the university, it just goes on, and it shouldn’t be that hard. Quality training for teachers – realise that it's a tough profession and develop a training programme that will prepare them and sustain them. Think about visions and values and resilience as well as the other stuff. And tell them that sometimes education is not the problem, that you might just be in the wrong school. I love working with trainee teachers but I understand why they leave sometimes and it makes me sad.

What keeps you in teaching?
I love it. I am a deputy/assistant headteacher at the moment and so I am not a proper teacher and honestly I am not sure I could be. The demands on classroom teachers are ridiculous. But I won’t leave because I believe things can be better and I would like to help make them better, which I can do in a leadership role. And I hope I never leave the classroom altogether because honestly, the best part of my day is when I am teaching kids. That's what keeps me there.