Mrs Humanities

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NQT? No job for September? Develop don’t despair!

I’ve recently been contacted by a couple of trainees that have gained QTS but do not have positions for September. As you can imagine, they’re feeling somewhat disheartened and worried. I’m writing this post to let them know that it’s okay if they don’t secure a job for the new school year, that there are other options available and that there are many fantastic teachers that didn’t start their NQT year immediately after training.

So if you are a newly qualified teachers reading this and if you haven’t secured a position (yet), please try not to despair. Although the worry of income might be a concern, there are opportunities for employment available. To demonstrate this I took to twitter and asked for insight from those that have been in this position. In the rest of this post, I’ll share my experience and some insight from the edutwittersphere.

An Opportunity

When I undertook my PGCE, I was living in a hamlet near Machynlleth, Mid Wales. To get to any large ‘urban’ conurbation, you were looking at a journey of 30 miles or more. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, jobs were few and far between. It was for this reason, along with a few others (which I discuss in more detail in Making it as a Teacher), that led me to applying for positions in West Kent/East Sussex.

However, the journey from Mach to Kent was a good 7-12 hours, thus I had to be very selective about the schools I applied to. Although my interview feedback was always positive, I sadly didn’t secure a position by the end of the school year.

However, despite passing ITT, by the end of the course I was lacking confidence and felt disheartened that I hadn’t managed to secure a role for September. I went back to bar work for the Summer.

When September rolled around, positions started to appear as the term went on yet I didn’t have much confidence left by this point and started looking for jobs outside of teaching, but within the education sector.

By October I had secured a position in a day nursery, working with primarily 2-4 year olds. Initially I hadn’t seen it as an opportunity to develop, merely something to pay the bills, but I quickly came to realise that I was witnessing the theory in practice. This sparked an interest in child development and I started exploring the topic beyond the what we’d learnt on the course.

Come Spring my employer wanted me to undertake the NVQ that would allow me to go on to do EYFS management qualifications. Their encouragement allowed my confidence to blossom which made me long for the classroom again. And so, with my employers support and encouragement (they were former teachers) I started applying for secondary positions again.

I had a few interviews in the Spring and finally secured a position just before the May half term. Whilst the school may not have been at the top of my list, as it was quite some distance away and I didn’t yet drive, I was relieved to finally be undertaking my NQT induction.

The school started their new school year in July and so that was when I started. I walked into my classroom, nervous as hell on the first day. Apart from the interview lesson, I hadn’t been in a room with teenagers for over a year I was now expected to independently teach them. I think I was visibly shaking beforehand. But, it went okay. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful. But I was now a Teacher. That meant a lot.

Feeling like a failure?

Try not to despair and instead think of this period as a time to develop.

I know it’s easier said than done, but:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  3. Try thinking outside the box.

Many of the messages from those on twitter, mentioned how at first they felt like a failure. I did as well. But a common response has also been, that they felt the experience made them a better teacher. It cemented that they loved classroom teaching and allowed them to gain experience which others that have gone straight from training to teaching will never have.

So you haven’t a position (yet), what’s next?

You may not have secured a teaching position in a school for September, but that doesn’t mean you never will. For a while it may mean you have to think beyond a classroom teacher position to earn an income, but there are many ways you can do so within the education sector.

Twitter was extremely helpful are providing alternative options. Many sent me messages about what they did in between and how it helped and developed them. Rather than highlighting individual experiences, I’ve collated their thoughts to provide an idea of some of the options out there.

Beyond Classroom Teacher

1. Supply
Whilst it maybe challenging and the income insecure, supply can provide a flexible way of gaining experience.
The positives

  • Gain experience of a variety of approaches to teaching and learning
  • You experience a variety of schools, which will help you to identify and cement your ethos towards education and how it is delivered.
  • Confidence building. Many of those that messaged me said that the experience of going into different schools (sometimes on a daily basis) was daunting at first. However working in different contexts with different people built their confidence overtime, of which benefited them in future interviews.
  • Development of behaviour management. Some commented how they experienced a wide range of behaviour management policies and techniques which have influenced their approach to behaviour ever since.
  • Supply allows you to create contacts in other schools. If you do a good job of supply, they may keep you in mind for future positions.
  • You can say no – if you don’t like a school you’ve worked in before, you don’t have to go back.
  • Empathy for supply staff. You’ll never meet a supply teacher and not make them feel welcome afterwards.
  • Many have found ‘the one’ and have been at their schools for a long period of time.

    More information on becoming a supply teacher can be found here.

2. Temporary Positions
Don’t be put off my temporary positions such as those covering long term sickness or maternity. Whilst they may not provide the security of a long-term contract, they have their benefits.
The Positives

  • Similar to those for supply teaching
  • Longer term so can provide an opportunity to complete part of the NQT induction programme.

3. Teaching Assistant
Being a teaching assistant is underrated and underpaid. The skills, qualities and understanding one can develop from the position are not always recognised or appreciated by some in the teaching profession. I’ve worked with some incredible teaching assistants with degrees and other higher level qualifications in SEN, Educational Studies etc. Yet, they were earning less that £20,000. Unfortunately, this role doesn’t tend to pay well, but the experience gained can be extremely beneficial to your practice later on.
The positives

  • you see the classroom from a different point of view
  • you build relationships with students in a completely different way
  • you see pupils approach learning differently to the classroom teacher
  • opportunity to put into practice things you learnt during training
  • experience in different year groups and school contexts

4. Resource Publishers
Why not consider applying for positions or sending resources you’ve made to companies that specialise in the publication of teaching resources? There are companies that specilise in key stage and/or subject specific resources as well as subject associations that encourage and pay teachers for creating and sharing resources through them. On occasions there are opportunities for contracted employment with them as well. Whilst the income may not be large or even regular, it can be a useful experience for the CV.
The positives

  • You’ll gain experience in creating classroom resources
  • You’ll also add to your personal resource bank
  • Develop your curriculum and/or subject knowledge
  • You may develop skills in project management

Links
Teach Secondary

5. Alternatively, publish your own resources
Whilst it may not make a huge amount, it can be a developmental experience. As with publishing with a company, organisation or subject association it’ll provide you with new knowledge and skills. Whilst also providing an entrepreneurial opportunity.
The positives

  • similar to publishing with resource publishers, except you have control. You can decide the design, format, topic etc.
  • development of business and entrepreneurial skills
  • you can do this around other employment

6. Education Companies and Organisations
When I considered leaving the profession back in Spring 2016, I started exploring other options. Whilst I never ended up sending applications, I wrote a number for education based companies. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I wouldn’t have been able to start until the end of July, I may have even sent some. Many looked just as fulfilling as classroom teaching but without the pressure, responsibility and hours.
The positives

  • A different perspective on education
  • Insight into how companies and organisations work with schools
  • Networking possibilities
  • Dependent on the focus of the company you may learn about an aspect of education you previously had little knowledge of e.g. educational technology

7. Charities
Most charities have an education team. Whilst positions usually do not pay well, they can be opportunity to feel like you are working towards something bigger through education. When I interned with Global Action Plan prior to my PGCE, I absolutely loved working on the EcoTeams programme. Whilst I worked on organising events across the country and preparing the resources for them I not only learnt about sustainable living but how to deliver courses to adults of all ages.
The positives

  • Experience of education from a different perspective
  • May involve resource creation and development
  • Can involve the creation of courses, training or workshops
  • May provide opportunities to go into schools and deliver workshops or educational packages
  • May provide opportunities to deliver courses, training or workshops to adult learners
  • Allows for networking

8. Tutoring
Usually tutoring takes place either 1-1 or within small groups, and whilst it may not be a 9-5 job, it can provide you with the opportunity to work in your chosen subject or key stage.
The positives

  • Often, tutoring sessions are outside of school hours, which means you can arrange them around other work
  • Working with small numbers of students
  • Little preparation
  • Develop knowledge and understanding of exam specifications if at KS4 or 5.
  • Can test different approaches and strategies for teaching and learning
  • Explore ways of building positive relationships with young people

9. Pastoral Roles
Whilst you’re not in a direct teaching role, a pastoral role can be beneficial in helping you to develop the skills and qualities that allow you to build effective, working relationships with students. There are schools that are happy to take applications for pastoral roles from people without teaching experience. The fact that you have QTS maybe beneficial here and lead to future employment.
The positives

  • Working with young people from a different perspective
  • Opportunity to develop skills and qualities that allow you develop effective, working relationships with students
  • Insight into pastoral work, beneficial if it’s a route you’re thinking of going down later on

10. Other educational settings
As I did, you may like to look at other or alternative educational settings such as day nurseries, pre-schools, colleges or universities. Whilst they may not provide the opportunity to teach directly, they can be helpful in maintaining that connection to education. you may even wish to look at applying for teaching positions in other key stages or look at solely pastoral roles.
The positives

  • Maintains link to primary, secondary or further education
  • Opportunity to experience other settings providing insight into what comes before/after the stage at which you trained

Possible challenges

Whilst there are many options available, they obviously come with challenges. These are some of the areas that I and others have experienced as a result. However, do not let them worry you. For many of us, these challenges turned out well.

  • Positions may be low paid compared to new teacher salaries
  • You many need to work several jobs in order to supplement education based work such as supply or tutoring
  • You may feel financially insecure – but there are organisations like Education Support Partnership that can potentially provide financial support.
  • Loss of confidence. Many felt that initially they lost confidence, but as they gained experience in other areas, it slowly returned.
  • Expect the unexpected. You may end up working somewhere you never anticipated such as a supermarket, pub or pharmacy. Those that did, said that despite not being in education, they enjoyed the roles as it was something different and gave them further life experience.

Going Forward

So what do you do now?

1. Keep applying for positions

Whilst working elsewhere ensure you keep applying for the positions that you feel attracted to. However, don’t feel you need to apply to everything out of desperation. Something will find you eventually.

Some of the benefits of continuing to apply as highlighted by those that messaged me include:

  • any interviews provide an opportunity to network
  • school visits and interviews allow you to build up contacts which maybe beneficial in the future
  • each interview developed interview technique, some benefited from increased confidence
  • talking to staff at the schools was helpful and insightful
  • visiting numerous schools cemented what they did and didn’t like in a school
  • they felt more resilient by the time they started their NQT induction
  • experiencing a number of schools meant they learnt that you shouldn’t just go by what is on the school web page – schools can be very different (positively and negatively) to what they portray

2. Maintain contact with your training schools (if you had a positive experience with them)
Stay in contact just in case something arises in the near or even distant future.

3. Widen your search
For some it maybe that you need to widen your search area, this may mean a longer commute or even a move. This is what I did, whilst it wasn’t ideal, it was doable.

4. Application and Interview Technique
You may wish to ask someone experienced to look over your application and in particular your letter or statement of application. Always ensure you individualise your application to the school you are applying to. I used to have a generic template which outlined my ethos, my previous experiences and how my qualifications influenced how I teach. Firstly, I would consider how my ethos and the school ethos relate, and add this in. Then I would take the job specification and adapt my content to the requirements of the school. When I did this, I always got an interview. The few times I did a ‘last minute’ generic application, it was obvious I hadn’t done my research and I wouldn’t be invited for interview. Correlation? Maybe.

My friend Tom Rogers, @RogersHistory has set up this course to help with this element.

5. Network and connect
Edutwitter these days seems to be a positive place to network and connect with teachers and school leaders making it possible to reach out and ask for support and guidance. I’ve seen a number of teachers ask about positions in particular areas and discussions have then led them to a job. There are plenty out their willing to support.

Get in touch

The following are some of those that messaged me and are happy to share their experiences and advice on the routes they took before undertaking their NQT induction.

Victoria Hewett @MrsHumanities – Other educational setting
Teaching for Teachers @CherylC65378170 – Supply
Nicola @warrender278 – Supply
MrBrooksGeog @MrBrooksGeog – Supply
Jodie Waters @HistoryWaters – Supply
Miss Wood @PEMissWood – Application Advice
MrsMc @clmckimm – Moved location
Sarah Gooch @gucci22 – Supply
Hannah McCarthy @HannahCarey4 – Maternity cover
Ms G @SWprimaryHT – Supply and Application Advice
Mrs M @KAOMoreton – Supply
Harriet Cornwell @First_Floor_8 – Supply

If you’re an early career teacher still looking for that first post you might also be interested in the facebook group that has recently been set up by Lorren Brennan @BrennanLorren, as a support space for those in this position.

If you’re reading this post but haven’t used twitter for professional purposes or are new to it, you might find this post of mine useful.

I really hope that if you are newly qualified teacher and happen to be in this position, that this post has provided you with some useful insight and the confidence that it will be okay eventually. You might not have a position for September, but something will arise. You will learn and develop during this in-between period and as many of those that messaged me have said, it’ll make you an even better teacher.

Before I say goodbye, I should probably plug my book, Making it as a Teacher. It’s full of ideas, advice and inspiration to support early career teachers through the first 5 years. Grab a copy here.

Best wishes,


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Resource – Geography Recommended Reading Sheet

If you are looking to encourage students to read beyond the specification, here’s a sheet that maybe of use for geography.

I’m really fortunate that we have an ever-growing library and an incredible librarian that supports and promotes reading and research across the school. These are a small selection of the books that occupy the shelves of the school library.

Click the download button below to grab a copy*

*affiliate links embedded


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Lockdown Merit Badges

I don’t know about you but I feel like I’ve accomplished so little since March. I got to the point about 3 weeks into lockdown when I’d do something and add it to my to-do list just to feel the sense of achievement that came with ticking it off.

Another challenge has been that whenever I’m on Twitter I leave feeling deflated as I compare myself to others. So many doing CPD, subject reading, creating amazing resources. I’ve done none of that. I seem to only have the emotional energy to do only what is necessary. Yet despite telling myself not to almost every day but continue to do so and thus feel a sense of toxic productivity.

Then yesterday morning I had a bright idea…. Lockdown Merit Badges. A bit like those you might have earned as a Scout or Guide, but for adults. Mini-rewards for mundane accomplishments. How could you not feel good about yourself after earning one or all. I just wished I’d thought of them sooner!

In a matter of 24 hours what started out origianlly as a set of 6 has quickly manifested into 24. And more suggestions are coming in. Could have quite the selection by the end of the week at this rate.

So… which ones have you achieved so far?


Download Available

For a bit of light hearted fun as we struggle through a challenging time, feel free to download and use a PDF version of my lockdown merit badges. Praise and award yourself as you see fit, maybe even throw in a treat or two for further motivation.

DOWNLOAD HERE

Hope you like them, if you have any suggestions leave a comment.

Best wishes,


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Resource – Keep Learning Sheets

The other day I shared my ‘Keep learning…’ sheet to help year 11 and year 13 to continue learning despite the cancellation of this year’s exams.

Since then others have downloaded the template and made there own for a wide range of subjects.

Initially I added them to the original post however the numbers are rapidly increasing and the post has gone from one page to two. To make it easier, I’ve collated them into a single folder.

Click here to access the sheets

A massive thank you to all those that have already shared their version. And if you have made your own version and you are happy to share it, either pop it in cloud storage and DM me a link or email me at mrshumanities@outlook.com

Hope you can make use of the resources so kindly shared.

Best wishes,


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Resource – Continued Learning for KS4 and KS5

Last week when it was announced that GCSE exams were cancelled, I was heartbroken for my incredibly hardworking year 11 students. Many I’d taught for 3 or 4 years, they were excelling and I knew this year groups results were going to be phenomenal. However, they’re also not just a grade. They’ve grown into incredible young adults; conscientious, humorous and down right awesome geographers.

When the IB exam cancellations were announced on Monday, felt exactly the same for them. Some of my year 13 IB class, again I’d taught for 4 years. I even dedicated ‘Making it as a Teacher’ to their GCSE class.

Yet, I believe I hadn’t merely been developing my students abilities to pass exams. Instead I’d been teaching them to become life long learners… hopefully even geographers.

In order to keep them engaged with learning and the geographical world, my team and I came up with a list of books, articles, podcasts etc. we thought students would find interesting whether or not they are continuing with geography next year.

I then turned our suggestions into the following sheet. The content is divided into books, articles, documentaries & movies, podcasts and TV shows. All images are hyperlinked.

I’ve uploaded the geography one as a PDF and editable Word document, in addition to a general template for other subjects to amend.

You can access the resources freely here.

In order to edit, you will need to download the resources.

Hope you and your students can find it of use.

Best wishes,

keep learning sheet for key stage 4 and 5 students


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Resource – MYP Unit on Global Issues

I recently posted how I go about creating new unit plans for MYP.

Since I had a number of people email and DM to ask for access I figured I’d a share the resources with you. They are a basic outline for the teacher to adapt to suit their approach to inquiry based learning, so they’re pretty much the bare bones with resources that maybe an option.

The only compulsory parts of the resources are the assessed work and tasks that develop particular approaches to learning (AtLs).

The topic starts with an exploration of the types of and scale of issues.

It then explores the sustainable development goals, encouraging students to connect the SDGs to global issues they are aware of. After exploring the SDGs, students will have an understanding of the importance and role in sustainable development.

After the SDGs, students explore the problem with plastic. These lessons look at why plastic became so popular, why it is problematic and who’s responsible for the problem.

The lessons strive to give students an understanding of the variety of different perspectives on both the issue and the management in order to understand the challenges of dealing with any global issue.

A number of lessons also help students to develop particular approaches to learning, for instance one lesson aims to teach students the art of paraphrasing. This lesson was developed with support from the English Department.

Each element of the topic develops skills and knowledge that will allow students to transfer what they learn to a global issue of their choice in order to complete the summative assessment.

All assessed work (2 formative and 1 summative) and associated feedback sheets are provided, this is to ensure consistency in assessment and feedback across the department.

If you’d like access to the resources, simply click here to download them. This link is view only, if you wish to edit the resources please download.

Click the symbol in the circle to download.

Hope you can find the resources of use to develop your own from.

Best wishes,

Topical Books


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Mrs Humanities shares… planning an MYP unit

At the end of the last academic year, my colleague and I sat down to design a new unit for year 7 that would inspire and empower them to feel that they can do something about the global issues they worry about.

Before we sat down to create our unit, I’d already discussed the idea with some of my year 7 students and they helped me to formulate a few ideas. By the end of our collaborative session, I had a brief outline to take to my colleague for exploration and discussion.

Main points from my students included:
- they worry about global issues but feel they have no involvement in dealing with them
- they felt they didn't have a voice in the issues that WILL affect them (climate change and the consequential problems primarily)
- some knew enormous amounts about particular environmental issues but never got to make use of their understanding 
- they wanted to feel empowered
- they wanted to learn about the solutions as much as the issues

MYP Unit Plan

It’s pretty lame, but I was really excited about creating this unit as it would be the first one I’d had the opportunity to create from scratch. I’d started as Subject Leader in September 2016 and inherited the MYP plans already in place. In the first few years, the departmental focus was on developing the new GCSE course & the new IB ESS course initially, followed by the new IB Geography course. MYP would stay as it were until the new exam courses were in place. Instead with the help of the team, we updated the existent MYP units.

Now however is the time to improve the MYP curriculum, to make it the foundations for future geographical study and to make learning, assessment and feedback fully integrated through the 3 years so that everything builds on what has come before.

Year 8 and 9 (MYP years 2 & 3) are functioning well thanks to the changes and developments over the last few years, however year 7 (year 1) needs quite the overhaul to make it truly fit for purpose. So this is where the ‘new’ department and I have started.

An MYP unit plan looks something like this (please note however that I added SDGs they are not a common feature):

Designing our unit

The first part of designing a new unit is to decide upon the final outcomes – what do we want students to learn and take away from the unit of study?

There are three areas of the unit plan we needed to explore before we could decide on these outcomes, these were
a) the content to cover
b) the objectives of the unit
c) the summative assessment

We started by writing a brief outline of the content we thought appropriate whilst at the same time formulating a few key objectives. Once we had a rough idea, we discussed the summative assessment and how the three would connect. This was all rough and nothing was set at this point.

Once we had a rough idea, we went back to the core elements of an MYP unit; the key concept, relate concepts, global context and statement of inquiry. The aim of these are to establish the purpose of the unit.

From there we created the inquiry questions for the unit, these are broken down into factual, conceptual and debatable questions. These questions guide the learning and are asked throughout the unit to check for understanding.

The next stage of developing a unit is going back to the objectives, content and summative assessment and fine tuning these so they integrate the inquiry questions.

We decided upon the following objectives and summative assessment for the unit:

The unit would develop student understanding of one global issue together – we selected the plastic problem. We would teach students about the issue, management (including responsibility) and a select few solutions to the plastic problem. Student will then use this outline to structure their own awareness raising campaign, which makes up the summative assessment.

Our next focus for discussion returned to the content. We had our objectives and summative assessment decided we now needed to align the content, approaches to learning and formative assessment to these.

We started by breaking down the content and working out the sub-content.

Once the sub-content was determined we explored the approaches to learning that could be developed through the content delivered. Students would cover the AtL – Research (information literacy) in unit 1, so we wanted students to build upon this and selected a further two as shown below.

Now that we had our objectives, summative assessment, AtLs and content sorted we could consider the formative assessment – these are pieces of work that are assessed by the teacher and feedback is provided to the student. These are the only pieces of work teachers are expected to assess. All other work can be assessed through book looks with feedback provided via whole class feedback, assessment for learning strategies or peer/self assessment.

The aim of any formatively assessed work is that it should feed into the summative assessment and future work. Thus meaning that any feedback provided ought to be transferable between topics – thus developing the learner not the work.

We decided upon the following:

And added in where the formative work fitted into the content.

The final stage involved completing other elements of the ‘learning process’ section which include the learning experiences & teaching strategies along with differentiation (scaffolding).

After this unit, we created two more units using the same process. However the one difference being ensuring that content and approaches to learning developed through this unit, fed into units 3 and 4 of year 7 (MYP year 1).

Assessment for Learning and Feedback

In order to reduce the workload of assessment, teachers and students are provided with a feedback sheet prior to the task. These sheets outline the success criteria for the task. Here’s an example for formative work 2.

Teachers are encouraged to live mark whilst students work, pointing out the next steps the student could take before completion of the task.

My classes do a lot of what I call ‘messy progress’ , this means they are encouraged to add to their work, this can be in the margins, as footnotes or through the use of edit strips, encouraging them to self-assess their work and look for their own potential improvements before submitting as complete. It may end up looking something like this:

Once a formative piece is completed the teacher simply highlights the successes achieved and any relevant next steps. If teachers have any specific feedback for individual students they can either write it in or speak to the individual during the lesson in which they receive their feedback.

Summative feedback looks very similar, except an MYP grade is provided for the criterion assessed.

The key part of producing feedback sheets is that you have to know what you want your students to achieve through the task. This therefore requires an element of planning backwards.

Lesson Planning

From unit planning came lesson planning. During my gained time I created a set of outline lessons to cover the content of the unit. These are just outlines for the class teacher to amend to suit their approach.

Hope you found the post of use, feel free to share how you go about planning a new unit or SoW.

Best wishes,

#teacher5aday


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Mrs Humanities shares… how #Teacher5aday changed my mindset

#teacher5aday

It was around this time 5 years ago I first stumbled across #Teacher5aday. It felt like a breath of fresh air; something that gave me permission to put me first. As selfish as that may sound, it was something I hadn’t done since becoming a teacher.

At the time I was at a difficult school, one with high expectations for staff which meant high workload as well as many behavioural issues and lack of senior support in managing it. I was doing detentions most lunch breaks and regularly after school and didn’t have much time for a break during the school day.

Just before I came across #Teacher5aday I recorded my workload in order to ask for support (if interested you can see the workload diary here). I was working long hours and long weeks and putting my job before my health and wellbeing. I was constantly exhausted, snappy with my partner, always saying no to friends and generally not a likable person to be around.

There was an element of change when I came across #Teacher5aday. I felt like it gave me permission to say no. I felt like it gave me the support to say no. I felt like I was part of something.

Over Christmas, I came up with my first set of #Teacher5aday pledges and published them on December 30th 2014. You can read them here.

“I will be the first to admit that I get stressed, I work and work and work and then I buckle under the strain. I don’t speak up until I’m about to hand my notice in. I don’t rest and feel guilty when I give up because I’m too exhausted to do anything.”

30th Dec 2014

The pledges were going to hold me to account. I was going to work hard to connect, exercise, notice, learn and volunteer over the coming year. I was going to do things for me and my loved ones. School was going to come second. Okay whilst that didn’t exactly happen, the pledges made me start thinking about how I was not looking after my own health and wellbeing. They gave me a daily focus and encouraged me to take time out from working where I could. That first January went better than expected, but then the workload went up several notches and the stress and anxiety kicked in. But there was a difference in how I handled it as you can see in the quote below from my end of January reflection.

This year started like any other, calm and relaxed and then boooooom! Workload went into overdrive.  However there has been a slight difference in how I’ve coped with it. Normally I’m calm and placid in school but when I get home my frustration and stress comes out; I snap at Mr Humanities, eat tons of chocolate, work long hours, try to sleep but end up tossing & turning… the list goes on. The start of 2015 has been very different.

Keeping the idea of #teacher5aday in my mind has helped me to remain calm (most of the time), I had a wobble before school the other day but survived it through a chat with a HLTA and good friend. Phew. So far any time this term I’ve felt my blood pressure rising I’ve taken the time to think about ME and not felt guilty about it. How nice is that

1st Feb 2015

Knowing that there is a network of other teachers out there thinking about THEIR wellbeing made a big difference. It gave me the courage to put time aside, even if it was only one day on the weekend leaving me with just 6 to do the work. Knowing others were doing similar gave me confidence.

That support and confidence has continued and 5 years on I’m in a much better place (literally and metaphorically).


I made pledges again in December 2015 and 2016. However come December 2017 I felt that I didn’t need to make pledges anymore because my mindset and circumstances had changed.

I was no longer at the school that causes me to burnout and breakdown.
I was actually saying no and I meant it. I was only working weekends when it really necessitated it.
I wasn’t working until late each night.
I had found strategies to manage my workload in the 4 months at my new school.
I was taking anti-depressants and my mental health was improving.
I had support from EduTwitter friends and loved ones.
I felt I could manage.

Teacher5aday is always in my mind, it’s given me many fantastic friends, connected me with many through #Teacher5adayBuddyBox and changed how I approach wellbeing and mental health. I even wrote a whole section about it in ‘Making it as a Teacher‘.

There was a time when I didn’t recognise the importance of looking after myself. I’d plough away at the to-do list and work and work until I broke. That was no good for me, my students or my loved ones. #Teacher5aday helped to change that. Whilst it may only be a small part of a bigger story, the 5 elements and the support of a great community got me through some very difficult times. It changed my mindset and now I proactively look after myself. Why? Because ultimately it makes me better at my job, benefits my loved ones and makes me happier in both work and life.


All that is left to say then is a massive thank you to Marty Reah!

You’ve done an incredible job of putting wellbeing at the forefront of our minds, of bringing people together and ultimately improving the lives of many school staff and their students. For that I am sure there are many that would like to say a massive THANK YOU.

How has #teacher5aday benefited you?

Books on teacher wellbeing


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Mrs Humanities shares… templates for teaching

One of the things I mention to people when I talk about how I’ve cut down my workload is how I have a template bank of ‘go-to’ resources.

My template bank includes resources for scaffolding, teaching activities, retrieval practice and feedback. Along with a PowerPoint template in which I’ve been using since 2014. So I thought I’d tell you a little about them and share a few with you.

PowerPoints

My powerpoint template is as follows:

I first created a template to suit students with SLCN and Autism during my NQT year, after doing some work with my SENCo at the time. I had a large number of students with SEN and wanted to ensure I was doing the best for them. My template has come some way since my first creation as I learnt more about dyslexia and other specific learning needs.

It’s quite simple. The learning objective and list of keywords for the lesson are repeated on each slide. Then each colour textbook represents different information as follows:

I’ve chosen pastel colours for textbooks and a light grey for the background. Reason being they are beneficial for dyslexic students and reduces eye strain associated with white backgrounds.

Further reading on role and value of colour 

My powerpoints are pretty small these days in comparison to what they used to be, usually a maximum 10 slides per lesson. Videos are embedded and instructions are made clear. Students are allowed to access the resources digitally in lessons via their phones or devices if required for SEN. Download a copy of the template here.

Example Powerpoint

Teaching Resources

Next I have a bank of go-to teaching resources and keep them in a template bank folder. I have about 30 in total for different skills I want students to develop and simply adapt to suit the content, class and students. I’ve put some of them into a document for you here.

In my resource template bank, I have resources for a wide variety of activities from activities to describe patterns or to encourage interpretation, analysis and linking to templates for revision and retrieval, peer assessment and teacher feedback.

They can all be easily adapted and either projected on the board or printed off.

More recently I’ve created a set template for our MYP (Key Stage 3) assessed work – formative and summative – along with the feedback to go with them which my whole department use. We simply project the instructions on the board and print out for those that need a hard copy whilst feedback is printed and highlighted during live marking and after completion. More information on these can be found here.

Self-assessment and monitoring

I also have templates for student self assessment and monitoring. At GCSE and IB students are required to regularly assess their own learning through the use of AfL grids/booklets.

The IB template provides space for the topic content, the case studies and the examples studied. I’ve simply copied all of this information from the specification.

IB AfL grid template
IB AfL grid example

The GCSE ones outline the course content with key terminology/skills and case studies or examples.

GCSE AfL grid example

I put these into a booklet for students to make it easier to check students are self-assessing. You can find out more about the GCSE booklet here and IB ones here.

Less is More

When it comes to planning and workload, the one thing that has helped me though has been to simplify what I’m doing in the classroom with my students. Rather than focusing on engagement, I now think more about the actual learning and what I want students to achieve and go with the motto that “less is more”. This then feeds into how I assess learning and provide feedback – it becomes part of a feedup-feedback-feedforward cycle – whereby I am modelling and clarifying, allowing students to work, assessing and then feeding back, all of which then feeds forward into my short, medium and long term planning.

How do you manage your workload? What are your top tips for reducing it?


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Teacher Truths: Drowning in Marking (and other things)

This article was created as part of Twinkl‘s worldwide teacher wellbeing campaign, TeacherTruths. Head over to their Year of Wellbeing page to read other’s views and find out how you can have your say.

TeacherTruths: Supporting teacher wellbeing, one conversation at a time.

If we rewind a few years back to October 2013. This was my marking pile for the 1 week half term.

This pile included Geography controlled assessments, KS3 and KS4 examinations and 2 sets of class books!

The following October half term was a little better as I was at a different school, mainly just a few piles of books, but that was only because the week before I’d had to mark exams and input data for all of the classes I taught. There was just a shift in when I did it. Booo.

Anyway, I found marking and assessment a struggle; firstly because it was just a tick boxing exercise and secondly because I didn’t quite understand the potential it held and thus didn’t fully implement an effective feedback system via my marking. I always felt that feedback was always too late for it to have impact on my learners despite the use of directed improvement and reflection time (DIRT). Marking books every 4 lessons just didn’t have the impact a more flexible system could have.

I was drowning in marking (along with lesson planning, curriculum development, assessment, behaviour etc).

So what did I do about it?

The first thing I did was ask for help. I kept a workload ‘diary’ and went to my headteacher at the time and said this is what I’m spending hours and hours and hours doing… please help me! How can I reduce this?

I was given a day off timetable to catch up with planning for the next term but nothing else was done to support. And so, I continued for a few more months, but the workload didn’t relent and so I went back and asked for help again.

This time my Dad was the influence, he told me to write down everything I did over the period and keep track of the hours spent doing each task.

Over 17 days, I taught 49 hours yet did 184.5 hours of work.

I took this data and asked for help again. I was told “leave it with me”. That was the last I heard of it until my back to work meeting after time off sick in April 2016 due to burnout, when it was exclaimed “well if you didn’t keep a diary of your workload…”

After little support, I decided I had to take things into my own hands and find ways to reduce my workload for myself. Marking was one of my biggest time consumers so that was where I was going to start.

I started investigating other ways of assessing and marking. I came across a variety of ideas and was reminded of some of those I’d used as an NQT such as that below and decided to implement some of these strategies again to see how they worked.

During my NQT I’d create these before assessing any work based on the all, most and some learning objectives of the lesson. Students would read the feedback and then use it to write a target for themselves. Did they ever act on the target? Rarely! (My fault not theirs).

So I tired these again, however this time I looked into how I could give them the success criteria in advance and then make use of the feedback to drive learning forward. I realised that I had to know myself what I wanted my students to be achieving and what that would look like before I planned any learning. Reading ‘Engaging Learners‘ and ‘Teaching Backwards’ were both influential in helping me to understand this.

I tried numerous strategies to find what worked for me and my students at the time but that would still meet the criteria of the school’s marking policy.

Some of these strategies included:

marking codes DIRT
dot marking DIRT
WWW and EBI marking and DIRT
self assessment WWW and EBI marking and DIRT
generic peer assessment DIRT

But the one that worked best for me was the feedback grid…

feedback grid DIRT

After seeing this tweet by @fiona_616 I decided to give the feedback grid a try.

It was slightly more time consuming initially to set up, but once created they were easy to adapt. I started using them in a variety of contexts since they saved me a lot of time when it came to planning, assessment and marking as outlined in this post ‘My Marking Saviour – The Feedback Grid‘.

The following year when we were required to provide an outline of topics and progression on the front of books, I explored how I could combine this along with feedback to make my workload more manageable.

Along came the Learning Matrix

learning matrix assessment for learning

These combined the topic outline, assessment objectives and success criteria along with what would later become feedback comments. During the assessment process I’d simply highlight the criteria achieved in one colour and the criteria for students to act upon in another.

marking and feedback

When marking books, I would write the corresponding code in the students book in the appropriate location.

marking and feedback

In line with school policy students would have time to act upon the next steps criteria during DIRT.

Unfortunately, reducing my workload from marking and feedback felt like the only area in which I could take control. I still felt overwhelmed with work and eventually experienced a breakdown due to burnout in April 2016 – more on that experience here.

However my exploration into marking, feedback and assessment led me into a topic I now find of great interest and I’m fortunate to be in a position to now be writing a book on the topic to help schools, departments and individuals move away from marking policies and into feedback systems. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from 10 fantastic case study schools, 5 departments and a range of individuals in the process and I can not wait to share the book with you next Spring/Summer.

Until then, I’ve plenty more to inspire your journey from marking to feedback here.

Share your teacher truth…

What challenges have you experienced during your time in the profession and how have you overcome them? Share your Teacher Truths with others and develop the conversation on teacher wellbeing.