Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job


Leave a comment

Mrs Humanities shares… T&L accounts to follow on Twitter

mrs humanities shares

This week I thought I’d share awesome twitter accounts for general Teaching and Learning inspiration.

So in no particular order… (although obviously I’ll start with mine)

Magpied Pedagogy

MP

Magpied Pedagogy simply collates the amazing practice shared on twitter. The twitter account simply tweets the posts from the webpage –https://magpiedpedagogy.wordpress.com/ – where you will find over 750 ideas collated from across twitter.

Pedagoo.org

ped

#PedagooFriday is probably one of those tags I find most inspiration from. If you’ve not come across Pedagoo Friday before you’re seriously missing out. I won’t lie, when I’m collating tweets to embed into MagpiedPedagogy it’s one of the first hashtags I seek out; there’s a huge array of ideas and subjects covered by it.

Pedagoo is a community of teachers learning through sharing classroom practice, you can join in at  or through the previously mentioned weekly hashtag: 

Pete Sanderson & Lesson Toolbox

ps

Collator of great ideas shared under the hashtag  

Pete shares ideas from far and wide. If you ever need a sprinkle of inspiration check out the Lesson Toolbox twitter feed or his site – https://lessontoolbox.wordpress.com/.

 

Try This Teaching

ttt

Created by  | Try This Teaching shares and promotes a toolkit of T&L ideas based on the site http://www.trythisteaching.com/toolkit/  

Outstanding Teaching

ot

Affiliated with Andy Griffith & Mark Burns, the Creators of the Outstanding Teaching Intervention and the authors of Engaging Learners and Teaching Backwards, this twitter feed regularly shares tips, ideas and good practice from classrooms across the UK as well as links to research and publications.

Isabella Wallace

iw

Now technically it’s not Isabella that I’m recommending here, but more the pedagogical hashtag she created – . If you’ve not heard of the concept of Poundland Pedagogy, then let me briefly explain it to you. Quite simply it’s the idea that cheap products from shops such as Poundland and PoundStretchers can be used to enhance teaching and student engagement through creative and innovative approaches.

There are a huge range of ideas to be found under the hashtag and I highly recommend taking a look.

 


5 Comments

5 Years a Teacher. A Reflection.

In October 2016, an article appeared on the Guardian that struck a chord.

“Almost a third of teachers quit state sector within five years of qualifying”

I started my teaching career in 2010 by undertaking a PGCE in Secondary Geography Education at Aberystwyth University, finishing in July 2011.

Living in the depths of Mid-Wales meant there were few employment opportunities so I made the tough decision somewhat late in the school year to move down to the South East of England where I initially went and worked in Early Years for several months before moving onto my first full time teaching role in June 2012.

The statistics in the article were concerning “Of the 21,400 who began teaching in English state schools in 2010, 30% had quit by 2015, the schools minister, Nick Gibb, confirmed. More than one in 10 (13%) of newly qualified teachers left after a year of teaching, meaning 87% continued to work in the classroom, a proportion the government says is largely unchanged since 1996. That figure fell to 82% after two years in profession, 77% after three years, 73% after four years and 70% after five years”. (

And whilst I wasn’t one of those that began teaching in state schools in 2010, I’m definitely one of those that has considered leaving the profession several times within the first 5 years.

To be honest teaching lessons has always been the easy part; it’s the relentless workload surrounding book scrutinises, data input, assessment and observations that have made it so difficult. Alongside that I became Head of Department at a new school in April 2014, which had opened in September 2013 and had to set up the department from scratch. Fortunately for me my planning was my strong point, but as the only Humanities specialist it was a solo effort and a lot of hard work.

So, here’s my tale of 5 years a teacher.

Year 1 

My NQT year was interesting. I worked with some amazing educators and a fantastic department. The school was tough with high expectations for staff and often challenging students, but I always felt incredibly supported by my department and NQT coordinator.

During this time, I lived 30 miles from work and although the journey wasn’t too arduous I didn’t drive; Never needed to learn living in Cardiff and Aberystwyth, where public transport was reliable and cheap or things were in walking distance. Luckily a wonderful woman came to my rescue, she lived in the same town and was also an NQT. She was older than me and had entered the profession after a wealth of experience elsewhere; dare I say it, she became like a mother to me with all her words of advice and constant reminders of work/life balance. Even when I eventually passed my driving test and got a car, we continued to car share.

However despite the support it was a struggle learning to manage behaviour whilst trying to ensure progress; trying to juggle marking and planning; keeping track of student data and monitoring progress; writing reports and attending meetings; finding time to make phone calls home due to negative behaviour and trying to ensure you added a few for positive behaviour; attending NQT CPD sessions and ensuring time to research pedagogy and classroom management strategies… the list goes on of the balancing acts that took place. The PGCE really didn’t prepare me for this level of work.

There was definitely no work/life balance at this point, along with Ofsted in the first term but I still managed to pass my NQT with Outstanding thanks to the support I received.

Year 2 

I stayed at the same school, I felt confident this year would be better. I knew the routines, more of the students, the GCSE courses etc. It should have been a breeze and to start with it was. Well until my projector broke in the first term. Doh!

No projector meant all my resources from the year before were somewhat redundant, that along with the fact that photocopying budget was low so printing was restricted which meant that teaching lessons suddenly became a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, it was going to be several weeks for the parts to be delivered because I just so happened to have an ‘old’ projector.

This point taught me a lot though, how to teach without technology and resources. I relied on my knowledge and the white board. I used models students had made the previous year to demonstrate, for instance rainforest structure; I became more imaginative in my approach. But it was hard work, really hard work though.

The tip of the iceberg came just after I’d been told to relax on my marking by the Head. He recognised how hard I was working and that my marking was top of the school but I was working myself into the ground. Yet we had a Mocksted and my external observer gave me terrible feedback – firstly he commented that I hadn’t shared the L/Os with students (hrm, yes I had they were on the whiteboard and at the top of the student instruction sheets and if you’d been here at the start of the lesson you would have heard me read and discuss them with the class), he commented on my poor planning (there were a range of activities with plenty of differentiation to suit individual needs and to stretch my more able, but that wasn’t recognised) and finally the negative comment on my marking… MY MARKING! Insufficient! WTF. I blew my top at that. My Head of Department was not happy, the Head certainly didn’t agree and essentially the whole observation was wiped off the record. The school threw a big party that Christmas… many of us felt it was a way to say sorry for the terrible Mocksted experience especially as we’d got Outstanding the year before from the official Ofsted.

After that experience however by the time half term came I was exhausted and didn’t feel I wanted to go back to school. I’d fallen into a state of depression, which I hadn’t realised at the time but looking back that’s exactly what it was. I started experiencing dizziness and vertigo as well which almost led me to passing out in front of a class and several visits to the GP and hospital.

The school provided some counselling which helped and I eventually applied for Head of Humanities at a different school, closer to home. I managed to get the position in February and handed in my notice to end at Easter. Whilst the Head did not seem happy with the decision and did not make things easy, I’m sure deep down he recognised it was the best thing for me at the time.

I left in April and started my new role after Easter.

And wow, how very different it was. I went from teaching Geography and History to teaching across the Humanities, as well as Art, Cookery, ICT and Drama. The previous Head of Humanities had left no resources, so I had no idea what they’d been taught already. What an interesting time that the first full term it turned out to be. The kids were very challenging in completely different ways and it was an exhausting summer term but I stuck with it. I immediately implemented routines and behavioural strategies and laid out my expectations clearly. My NQT year had prepared me well.

That summer was spent preparing for the September. I had to make sure I was fully prepared for my lessons in order to ensure my time went into managing behaviour and the resulting workload as well as the high levels of differentiation and scaffolding that would be needed.

Year 3

Year 3 went by in a whirlwind. Being a new school, there was a hell of a lot of work involved in setting up whole and departmental resources and routines. We were a small community and it felt like that to begin with. Everyone was supportive of one another, we ate together and chatted when we could.

As a consistent team of staff emerged, the kids became better behaved and the consistency helped many of them to feel better about school. In fact, what became more challenging was the workload. Being a new school, we had regular visits from a DofE representative (I think) who would observe the progress of the school, staff and students. We’d have one a term, along with other observations as part of the self-evaluation weeks. We had to provide data packs on classes, flightpaths on books, targets and progress on the front covers etc. The amount of paper being used was huge and that was before we thought about resourcing lessons and scaffolding for students. Anyway, I did what I had to do and got through. There were times I wanted to just give up but I kept on thanks to the support of my family and closest colleagues. By June we had Ofsted and it was a very positive experience. I felt confident and it came across; the inspector had no feedback on how I could improve. Win. My marking and feedback was also highly recognised and praised by the inspection team. My feedback not marking approach was beginning to take shape and as result I ended up running a CPD session in the final term for current and new staff on marking and feedback strategies.

Whilst it had been a difficult year in terms of workload, #Teacher5aday and twitter had helped me through the rollercoaster and I finished the school year on a relative high (although I was disappointed we didn’t have a celebration to celebrate our excellent Ofsted result).

Year 4

This was the year of my undoing. This was the year I came closest to walking out of teaching once and for all. This was the year when it all got too much. The workload, the behaviour, the level of SEN, the lack of support, the lack of specific CPD…. the staff morale. In fact, I think staff morale had the biggest impact. Seeing people working as hard as they were and receiving no recognition and appreciation for it and instead just having more and more work piled on to them was the hardest thing to witness.

I started to dread morning briefings, what would I need to add the humongous to-do list that was already impossible to complete even if I didn’t eat and sleep day in day out. I’d roll up to the meeting and the sense of anxiety in my stomach would bloom. My hands would shake and by Easter I’d leave with tears rolling down my eyes. I hated the morning briefings. I hated the feeling of worry. The stress. The anxiety.

If the workload wasn’t relentless enough, I felt unsupported by SLT. Behaviour was worsening and despite following the school procedures, kids seemed to be getting away with the highest f sanctions. I’d always follow through at my end but they weren’t exactly followed through at the top. This made teaching harder and harder.

I started looking and writing applications for jobs outside of teaching, but I was too scared to send them. I wouldn’t be able to finish until the summer; would they even wait that long? I wrote many but didn’t send any.

Then the penultimate day before the Easter break I eventually broke down in front of a class. The poor handful of students that wanted to learn in this particular group – their enthusiasm for learning slowly declined; their patience for others dwindled. I hated seeing this and burst, tears rolled down my face in front of the class and between my sobs I asked “Why? Why will you not respect your peers? Let them learn, if you don’t want to fine. But let those that do learn.” I remember my speech/rant going on for a bit longer than that but I don’t remember the rest of it. I probably rambled about the opportunities they’ve been given; how great the teaching and learning is at the school and how the school rules state that ‘everyone has the right to learn and the teachers to teach’.

I tried to enjoy the Easter half break but instead I ended up working most of it, marking assessments and planning for the next term. When I returned to school, I couldn’t do it.

I walked into my classroom and walked right back out again. The anxiety was too much. I walked away. Where was I to go? Since my other half would drop me into work so he could have the car, I couldn’t exactly go home. Instead I made my way inside the main building a member of staff caught me, asked if I was okay. That was the it, tears streamed. I sat in the quiet meeting room for what felt like hours sobbing. I eventually went home. I couldn’t return the next day or the next and eventually I was signed off. Three weeks I spent away from the classroom in total and although it helped I still didn’t feel ready to head back without a bit of medical help.

During my time, off I’d received notification that I’d been offered an interview for a job I’d previously applied for. I went to the interview and whilst I liked the school and they liked me, I felt I needed time to process the offer. In the interview, I’d asked about staff wellbeing and this essentially confirmed to me that it would be a good school to work at. After speaking to my current Head, I decided that accepting the offer was definitely the best thing to do.

My return to school was hard, I wasn’t ready but I was pressured into returning – I won’t go into the details. I returned and the kids were amazing. They were happy to see me and even those that had been difficult before Easter had somewhat improved for me. I didn’t share why I’d been off, but the kids made up a wonderful story about fighting crocodiles in some far off tropical land and being injured and so on. It was a relief when they just made a light-hearted joke of my time away.

I struggled through the remainder of the year and left feeling loved by the students. The array of gifts and messages were heart-warming. It’s not until you leave that you realise how appreciated you are. I do miss many of the kids, I’d formed some fantastic bonds with some of my classes and it was hard to say goodbye to them. But if I hadn’t accepted the job after support from the Education Support Network, I know I would have ended up leaving the school and teaching.

Year 5

This year has been the best year of my career so far. I’ve seen my career and happiness flourish. I’m glad I stayed in teaching and tried one more school. I can see this as my forever school.

There have been a few ups and downs, a struggle here and there but on the whole, it was nothing compared to my prior experiences. Nothing I couldn’t handle with a bit of determination and dare I say it… resilience.

The number of times reducing workload and ensuring staff wellbeing has been discussed in meetings this year has blown me away; to have a senior leadership team that cares so much about its staff and students really has meant a lot to me. I’ve felt appreciated and respected as an educator and member of staff. I wish every school could make their staff feel this way.

What has 5 years in teaching taught me?

The answer to that is a hell of a lot.

I know how I teach now, I know my preferences. I know how to learn about learning. I know what I like in the classroom and what I don’t. I know what makes for good practice for me and I know what doesn’t. I know how to be flexible but also how to be consistent. I know how to balance my work and my life.  I know I’ve grown as a practitioner and will continue to do so.

But I only know all of this because I’ve tried so much and learnt so much. I’ve experienced good times and experienced bad times. I’ve had the opportunity to explore and try new things. I’ve taken the time to read and research, to talk and discuss, to share and to steal (ideas). Without all my prior experiences in how to deal with behaviour and being overburdened with workload from marking and feedback, assessment, data analysis, planning etc. I wouldn’t have become the teacher I am today.

I honestly believe it takes finding the right school to really make you enjoy the job and love this all-important career. If you’re not happy where you are, try a few places before making the big decision to leave teaching forever. You just have to find what’s right for you.

I’ve now come to the end of my fifth year in teaching and thankfully I’ve remained as a statistic of survival. I’m staying in education because deep down, I love teaching those young humans who will one day be grown up humans that will make decisions about our world. I want them to make responsible ones that benefit and support each and every one of us; that respect their future colleagues and their kid’s teachers, that look after their communities and wider environment, that abolish homelessness and poverty, that fight diseases and find cures, that innovate and design. I want them to be able to learn so that they create a better world than we have today. And that’s why I’ve stuck it out and will be staying.

NQT and others in their first few years, I really hope this insight into my first 5 years, gives you hope for the future. Don’t become a statistic of despair in the system, instead become a statistic of survival and change in the system.

Mrs Humanities

 

 

 


3 Comments

Mrs Humanities shares… 5 tips for NQTs

mrs humanities shares

I remembed my NQT year as incredibly stressful, more so than my PGCE. I found myself in a challengeing school with extremely high expectations for staff. Whilst my department were amazing as was the NQT co-ordinator and lots of the other staff from across the school were very supportive, it was a difficult year.

Within the 1st term Ofsted decided to turn up, madness struck by the October half term. Workload was relentless, constantly planning, marking and assessing progress. It was hard work but taught me so much. So I thought I’d share a few tips for those embarking of their NQT year soon, these are based on personal experiences and others may have different advice.

  1. Forget progress in the first term. 
    Honestly spend the first term getting to know your students; how do they learn? What learning activities do they enjoy? What contributions do they make to school life? What hobbies do they have outside of school? Get to know the young people you are teaching. Build those all important relationships and make it clear what your expectations are in the first term. Personally I wished I’d done exactly that during the first few weeks of my NQT year rather than worrying about whether students were making progress. I now like to spend the first term finding out where my students are in regard to their subject knowledge, a bit about them and making my classroom expectations explicit. I make sure they are doing the little things that make the bigger things easier e.g. keeping their book tidy, meeting homework deadlines etc. and if they are not I crack down on it immediately – detentions, phone calls home, no second chances.
  2. Set up clear routines.
    My first school had a clear routine for students once they entered the classroom. Collect books, get out equipment, write the date, title and learning objective and underline them and then get on with the starter task until the register had been taken. This made it easy to set up initial routines. If your school doesn’t have a specific start to lessons, create one. Students like consistency and knowing what to expect. Lay that out for them from day 1; once they know they then know your expectations as well.
    However it’s not just the start of lessons you need to set up routines for. Consider routines for some of the following:
    – End of lesson
    Peer/Self assessment
    Class discussions
    – Handing books in
    – Toilet requests
    The list could continue but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone.
  3. Know your expectations
    Ensure you know what you expect from your students before the first day of school. It’s important when setting the foundations with your classes that you are clear in regards to what you’d expect from them and what they can expect from you. You will find yourself spending the first few weeks constantly repeating these rules and expectations but once your students are clear on them and are able to remember them (if you work in secondary, remember they will have numerous teachers with different expectations and routines they won’t instantly remember yours) you can then start to focus on the bigger picture – student progress. Word of caution though, ensure your expectations are achievable – if students feel there is no way or chance of them meeting your expectations you maybe faced with some behavioural issues.
  4. Know the school rules
    Consistency is important, ensure you know and understand the school rules and behavioural routines before you start teaching. In the long run it makes life in the classroom easier for you; give warnings clearly, set detentions and chase them up. Phone home if you have to. Once student’s know they can’t mess you around and that you a consistent and follow through life in the classroom eventually becomes a little easier. Also it’s really annoying when you constantly follow school behaviour routines and find that others are not, it makes your teaching life a lot more difficult if staff are not consistent and following the school wide routines. Firstly students know what to expect if they consistently come up against the same routines, also they can’t argue back if you do what everyone else is (or should) be doing. Be firm, be consistent. Ensure that you and other NQTs know and follow the routines set out.
  5. Smile before Christmas
    I’m sure you would have heard plenty of words of wisdom like the old ‘don’t smile before Christmas’. Ignore it. Greet your students on their way in and around the school. Talk to them off topic now and then. Tell them little snippets about yourself. Be human. Personally I tried too hard to be ‘a teacher’ and not a human teaching other humans; I felt I had to be 100% the professional and didn’t feel it was acceptable to share anything about myself with my students. I later realised this doesn’t work. It makes you unapproachable and unrelatable. Once you’ve established routines and expectations you can begin to ‘relax’ a little with your students and let them see a bit of you – you’re favourite colour (often related to the colour pen a student is using for their notes), your favourite parts of the topic (*insert excited face here* don’t get me started on climate change, I could talk about it for hours), your favourite books (oh,  I see your reading….I love it, have you got to the part where…. whoops was that a spolier?). I’m sure you get the picture. Have those conversations with your students; let them see you are human too.

I hope this is some use to you, feel free to ask questions or for the more experienced of you feel free to add your top tips in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Mrs Humanities


2 Comments

Mrs Humanities shares…5 Simple Starter Ideas

mrs humanities sharesI’m of the generation of PGCE students that were introduced to teaching with the three part lesson and it’s a hard habit to kick.

I admit my lesson almost always starts with a starter activity, a hook for the lesson or something to draw upon prior learning.

In this post I share with you a few of my favourite 5 starter tasks.

  1. Question it!

    question-i
    Quite simply students are given a stimulus such as a photo, sound, object, key term etc. and they draw up a series of questions. In year 7 I start students off with what makes a good question and introduce the question grid to develop their practice in this area so eventually they are creating their own awesome questions. In my new school I set up the questions to ponder area, students have posted some of their questions there and we come back to them throughout the topic.

  2. 5 in 5 minutes

    Students are given 5 categories and are given 5 minutes to write a list of 5 associated with the category given. 5-in-5For instance recently in a lesson on ecosystems and the cycles of the ecosystem the categories were as follows
    1 – Biomes
    2 – Climates
    3 – Water cycle stores
    4 – Carbon cycle stores
    5 – Transfer processes in the water cycle
    I find it useful as a recall activity to activate prior learning.

  3. Senses Starter

    senses-starter
    As a teacher of Humanities I loved this activity to stimulate the senses at the start of a lesson, to get the students engaged and questioning what they would be learning. Using YouTube I’d find a suitable clip for the students to enter to, sometimes the sounds of a battle field or the fauna of the rainforest, a tornado or trench. Sometimes an image would be displayed alongside the sounds, other times simply the sound clip. Initially students to head straight into asking questions but the refusal to answer and reminder to the task on the board soon quietens them and quickly engage their senses. This has worked through for me through the key stages, although the older they get, the less likely they are to want to close their eyes and engage fully.

4. Find your Match

find-your-partner

This one usually requires a bit more planning than the others. As students enter they are given a card which has a corresponding card such as a key term and definition or map symbol and description or part of a key term. Quite simply students have to find the person with the corresponding card. Sometimes this is used to partner students up or to create a new seating plan. Other times it initiates the learning for the lesson and other times it is quite simply used to recall learning.

5. Mind the Gap

mind-the-gap

A simple activity to get students practicing the spelling of key terminology. These can be made as simple or complex as you wish. I differentiate on occasions by providing several lists of varying challenge or will give particular words to students that keep making the same reoccurring errors.

What are your go to starter activities? Share yours in the comments.

Mrs Humanities


Leave a comment

Guest Post from @Jennnnnn_x – Stretch & Challenge. A few ideas….

guest postStretch & Challenge. A few ideas….

How can we ensure all students are challenged every lesson? Here are a few ideas I have used to encourage challenge in my Geography lessons recently.

What can you find out?

“Learning happens when people have to think hard” Prof. Robert Coe – Durham University. How often do we make students think hard – looking back I know that I don’t do it as often as I probably should…

So here is one idea I have used at the start of my lessons:

This example was for a Year 10 introductory lesson to Urban Issues.

1.png

I left my students with this image on the board/a copy each and then left them to think for 15 minutes (which felt like eternity) I then gave them some discussion time. Amazingly they came up with most of the ideas off the specification – they annotated their image to show their thoughts and added to them through discussion. I repeated this with my year 9’s and while there was more moaning, once they realised I wouldn’t help them they tried a bit harder and I had similar outcomes – they had summarised our whole topic in about 25 words and from one photograph.  Have a go – you might be surprised what they come up with!

Hexagons

An old one, but a good one. I remember seeing hexagons everywhere a few years ago but I had forgotten about them until I came across an old example when tidying my classroom. So I started using them again and I remembered why I like them so much! There is no right answer – which means there is lots of room for discussion and often the students come up with links that you might not have thought of.

I used this idea to support an exam question in a year 13 lesson looking at LDC countries. I put images onto the hexagons and the students cut them out, stuck them next to others and then annotated the links between them. They then used this to plan their essay. It worked well due to two reasons – it supported lower ability students as the photographs helped as a prompt to start different sections but it also challenged the higher ability students because the ‘link’ is usually where this class fall down – they forget to link their ideas to both the question but also other topics.

Here is an example:

2.png

IDEAL analysis

Command words – are the one thing every time I mark mock exams I wish my students understood. Despite doing a range of activities linked to command words and having them stuck around my room and on the table in front of them, I till find students explain when the question asks them to describe and vice-versa.

With the new examination changes and the increasing level of literacy needed to interpret some of the questions the focus on command words is more important than ever!

I went to a PIXL conference back in November and saw Rebecca Chew (@MissChewBeka) present her ideas on stretch and challenge… I have used every single one of them in various lessons since but my favourite is most definitely the IDEAL analysis.

It is based around a need for students to understand the different command words, but also that as we move through the word IDEAL the difficulty increases.

3.png

I – identify – what is it that you can you see?
D – describe – what does it look like, where are different objects/landforms?
E – explain – why is it like that, what are the reasons for what you can see?
A – apply – where else might this happen, how might it be similar/different?
L – link – how does this link to wider geography, other topics, other places?

Students seem to like it and more importantly find it useful. I recently marked a year 10 mock which asked students to use a figure (a photograph of the devastation caused by an earthquake) to support their answer and saw many of them plan their answer using IDEAL.

Below is also an example of a differentiated worksheet given to support some of the students in my class.

45

There are some more examples on my twitter if you want to take a look (@jennnnnn_x)

Hope some of these ideas are useful,

Jen (@jennnnnn_x)