Mrs Humanities

teacher . blogger . friend


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Resource – MYP Inquiry and Feedback Templates

One of the things I really wanted to improve in the last academic year was my departments approach to MYP criterion B – Investigation. In order to do so I set about creating inquiry templates to support our students to develop their approach to this criterion and to improve the teacher’s understanding and application of materials to support.

Criterion B: Investigating Students develop systematic research skills and processes associated with disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Students develop successful strategies for investigating independently and in collaboration with others.

International Baccalaureate

In order to achieve this, I looked into ways to develop investigation in the Individuals and Societies. Since my research proved challenging, I set about exploring the individual elements of criterion B which were:

  • creating research questions
  • formulating an action plan
  • collecting and recording relevant information
  • reflection

My research led me to develop inquiry planning sheets which initially looked something like this for both individual and group investigation.

Feedback from students had been positive however they highlighted some areas for improvement. Their feedback led to the creation of two versions, one for individual inquiry and one for group inquiry as well as increased guidance.

Individual
Group

As you can see, the template suggests that teachers ought to remove elements of the scaffold as students become more independent in their approach to Criterion B.

My research also led to the creation of an improved summative assessment instruction template:

Template
Example

I decided to keep the summative assessment feedback sheets as they were:

We are yet to reach a summative task, however feedback on the new and improved inquiry planning sheets have been positive.

If you’d like access to the templates, click here.

Feedback from MYP teachers very much welcomed.


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Resource – IB Geography Core Topic Inquiry Booklets

Last year after the first cohort of geographers went through the first set of examinations for the latest IB Geography specification, I decided to change our approach. Firstly to bring the units together better and secondly to build more inquiry and independent learning into the mix.

To do this I started creating booklets for each topic.

Each booklet starts with the statement of inquiry, the content from the specification and key terms. They then follow on with theory, application and case studies.

The booklets cover the core topics from paper 1; population, climate change and resources.

If you’d like access to them, simply click here.

If you’d like to say thank you for the free resources, I’d greatly appreciate a donation towards my walking challenge in May 2020 to raise funds for the Education Support Partnership.

They are the only UK charity dedicated to improving the wellbeing and mental health of education staff in schools, colleges and universities across the country. You can donate here.

Best wishes,


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Creating a Coherent Curriculum: Geography

Creating a coherent curriculum is no easy feat. I know because I once did it from scratch single-handily for Humanities!

Thankfully, I’m no longer in that position and have a fantastic team around me to develop ours. In the 3 years I’ve been at this school, I’ve been making slow changes to our MYP (KS3) Geography curriculum.

What I inherited was okay, but it desperately needed a revamp and some coherency. In that time there have been two new IB specs one for Geography and one for ESS, along with the new 9-1 GCSE spec, MYP unfortunately had to take a back seat. However this year, it’s turning into what I’ve envisaged for the past 3 years; a coherent curriculum, and I’m excited.

I’m going to outline the steps taken but do note this has been a slow process and not all in one go. I didn’t want to change everything at once.

Step 1. Planning Backwards


The first step has actually been getting my head around the new IB and GCSE specs and considering how everything we do prior to exam years is foundation setting whether it be skills or knowledge and understanding.

I carefully unpicked the assessment criteria and content of the IB and GCSE specifications in order to work out exactly where we were going to go with our curriculum. Some questions that drove my thinking included:

  • What do they need to be able to do at the end of GCSE?
  • What do they need to be able to do at the end of IB?
  • What would we want them to take away from Geography if they decided not to carry it on at GCSE or IB?
  • How were we going to develop and enhance our students understanding and experience over the 5 or 7 years in which they study geography?
  • How were we going to enable them to get the most of their studies?
  • How could we support and facilitate them in becoming independent learners?
  • How could we take their learning beyond the specifications?

Useful Resources

Start at the End -A Case for Backwards Planning
How to use Backwards design for effective lesson planning!
Outstanding Teaching: Teaching Backwards
TEACHING BACKWARDS TOPIC PLANNER

Step 2. Spiraling Curriculum

Before the next step I investigated the concept of a spiraling curriculum and from there considered with my team at the time the themes, concepts and skills we felt should be built upon from year 7 to year 13.

Our reoccurring themes were to include:

  1. Physical geography
  2. Population and Demographics
  3. Culture and Society
  4. Sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals
  5. Global Interactions
  6. Geographical Skills

Since I didn’t want to change everything at once, I decided it would be beneficial to make as much use of what we already had in place and instead refocus and develop it. So with that in mind we decided upon the overall topics of study. They were to be as follows:

Year 7Year 8Year 9
Geographical SkillsSustainable Development Development
SettlementsBiomes and EcosystemsWeather and Climate
ResourcesPower and ConflictTourism
Tectonics

Then we decided on some regional or national areas of study to locationally focus the themes.

Initially we decided on the following:

Year 7Year 8Year 9
EuropeBrazilNorthern Africa
UKChinaUK
IcelandMiddle EastThe World

I wrote about my initial ideas here towards the end of year 1.

However the following year when we actually started to implement a spiraling curriculum, we decided to change some of our initial plans. We removed the topic on tourism and replaced it with a topic from GCSE – The Challenge of Resource Management.

In doing so we made our Weather and Climate topic the unit in which we assessed all 4 MYP I&S criterion to be able give students an overall grade for their MYP experience when we then wrote their reports in the Summer. We created a unit which provided lots of insight into and knowledge of the topic and then allowed students to follow the avenue of inquiry they found of most interest.

Useful Resources

Research into Practice: The Spiral Curriculum
The Evidence People: Jerome Bruner’s constructivist model and the spiral curriculum for teaching and learning

Step 3. Planning Assessments

Next step was looking at the formative and summative assessments we already had and considering how they fitted in. Initially there had been too many assessed pieces of work in the units; I wanted to strip that back and look at how they actually fed into one another across the unit, across the year and across the key stage.

To do this I looked at the content, the skills and summative assessment for the unit as well as how we were going to build upon that from the units came before. It required big picture thinking.

What I came up with was a formative and summative assessment similar to that outlined below:

feedback

This example is for year 8. It identifies the assessed work for the topic, both formative and summative and who should be assessing and feedbacking on it. Tasks that required students to be provided with the opportunity to feedforward on the piece of work were also identified.

In the first topic, the feedback for the first two pieces of feedforward work came from the teacher so as to set up expectations and demonstrate effective feedback that allowed for action. From there the teacher could develop effective peer assessment routines that allowed students to feedback to one another before acting on that feedback prior to teacher assessment.

At the same time, each assessed piece of work assessed different MYP criterion. We looked carefully at the spread across the year to ensure all criterion could be built upon as students progressed.

Step 4. Planning Feedback

Final stage in all of this has been planning feedback, although this had been considered throughout it was only at the end that I could make it all explicit. I set about creating success criteria and feedback sheets for formative and summative assessed MYP work.

The feedback sheets for formative assessed work now look something like this:

Template
In use

Whilst summative feedback looks something like this:

In action

The criterion changes dependent on that which is applicable.

An example of how I use and embed formative and sumamtive feedback in my MYP classroom can be seen here.

GCSE and IB were somewhat easier to plan for. We only assess past paper/exam style questions – these equate to assessed work every 2-3 weeks. More info here. Therefore assessment for learning, self and peer assessment and verbal feedback is vital in lessons to ensure students leave feeling confident in what they have covered and so the teacher can effectively plan future lessons based upon the feedback they receive from the above.

Useful Resources

https://mrshumanities.com/2019/01/02/mrs-humanities-shares-10-useful-blog-posts-about-feedback/

What changes have taken place?

Many!
Towards the end of the last academic year, I sought to update the MYP curriculum in which we’d developed, particularly our year 7 curriculum. Since only 2/4 of us would be here come September, we both worked together to redesign our year 7 experience to give a global insight which would lead to national/regional studies in year 8 and 9.

Whilst this year we are exploring the embedding the themes implicitly rather than explicitly in year 7 and whilst maintaining the explicit themes in year 8 and 9.

What does it look like completed?

To start with, we are still working on this. My team has changed this year so their input into the development of the curriculum I feel is important. My aim this year to improve on our collaborative unit planning and resource sharing to ensure consistency in experience across geography.

So this is what our MYP curriculum looks like at present.

The following is an example of a unit of inquiry from our MYP curriculum. You can see that it outlines the objectives, content and assessment.

At GCSE we follow AQA and at Key Stage 5 we follow the IB. The development of these is a whole other post.

So for now I’ll leave you with some useful reading to support the above approach to curriculum planning.

Useful Reading

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Best wishes,


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Mrs Humanities shares… why I’ll continue to talk about teacher wellbeing and mental health

If you’re a twitter user, you may have noticed that this weekend a prominent, highly-regarded teacher offered an opinion about mental health and wellbeing that was rather controversial and for some, including myself, upsetting to come across.

The tweet read:

Twitter at your best: Sharing ideas. Pooling resources. Generating debate.
Twitter at your worst: Droning on about your mental health / wellbeing as if you work down a Victorian bloody coalmine. Get a grip.

I’m not going to name and shame as the tweet has now been removed. However before it was deleted there had been a barrage of more than 250 responses striving to counteract the statement made. It was pleasing to see that not a single response had been in agreement and that so many came out in support.

A bit of a shock!

When I first read the tweet I was flabbergasted that a member of the teaching community that I held in high esteem, could say such an insensitive thing. I retweeted with a comment explaining how I was ever grateful that I’ve been able to talk about my mental health and wellbeing over the last 3 years and left it at that.

However it stuck with me throughout the night and by morning I was rather angry. I had to respond directly so I outlined how being able to talk about and share by experience online meant I was able to accept my experience and later recuperate from the depression and breakdown.

However I also felt ashamed, firstly ashamed that others could feel this way about such an important issue and secondly because it brought back how I felt before I brokedown in Spring 2016 when I’d been too scared to face the reality of my mind and emotions. It’s really hard to hear others speak of mental health and wellbeing like it doesn’t matter, because when you’ve come so close to ending everything because of work-place stress, you know full well it’s not something to dismiss.

Worst thing is I’m not alone.

As a result of willingly sharing my experience, I’ve been in the position whereby not one but two fellow teachers have contacted me to discuss their mental state. One told me what they were planning on doing at the time, the other didn’t until weeks later. It was heartbreaking to hear, however, if they hadn’t reached out on those nights it could have been a very different story for them, their families and their schools. That’s two people that needed to talk, but there are countless others in similar circumstances. For instance, the Education Support Partnership year-on-year are seeing rising numbers contact them, in the year 2018/19 they saw a +28.1% cases compared to 2016/17. What a rise.

But there are also those that never reach out, that keep their challenges hidden and those that eventually leave the profession because it gets too much to deal with. We can’t hide from the issue.

We’ve got to keep talking!

Mental health challenges are easily hidden and without talking, how are we to uncover them? How to we de-stigmatise them? How do we make people feel okay about how they feel? How do we get people to reach out for help?

We need to talk and we need to look after and out for each other; be it ourselves, our colleagues or our students. We need to normalise the discussion, we need to normalise any need for support and we need everyone to know that it is okay to not feel okay. Society and individuals need that as much as schools do.

We all deserve to be happy.

Staff in schools have as much right to positive wellbeing, to be happy and to live free from excessive work-place stress just as much as the young people we work with. No body should be made to feel ashamed about their mental and physical health or their wellbeing and no one should be made to feel ashamed about talking about either.

I’m in a fortunate position whereby I have been able to publicly verbalise how many others are feeling. I’m contacted daily by teachers, school leaders and support staff about their wellbeing or lack of as the case usually is, each one fearful of saying anything whether it be to their schools, their loved ones or a professional. They don’t want to be seen as weak, inadequate, failing or add in any other negative connotation. But having the ability to speak to someone that has been through similar helps, it most certainly helped me. I was kindly offered support by a highly experienced geography teacher that had been through several of his own breakdowns and mental health challenges. His words lifted me on some of my darker days because he understood better than any of my friends or family could. Not only had he had similar mental health challenges, he was a teacher too. He understood. And that’s what is needed. Understanding and empathy.

Too many of those I speak to, meet or listen to say their school leaders, line managers, head of department or the like, lack it. That they’ve been told to get themselves together, that they’ve been told to grin and bear it, they’ve been told that everyone finds it hard they’re not the exception etc.

That’s not how we should treat one another; that’s not how we normalise mental health; that’s not how we save lives.

Teaching broke me. But it also helped me.

I’m stronger, braver and prouder now than I’ve ever been and that’s thanks to teaching and Edutwitter. I know I’ve been able to help others, whilst so many have unknowingly helped me. And so…

I’m standing proud and owning my mental health.
I’m standing proud and talking about mental health.
I’m standing proud and normalising mental health.

Why?

Because mental health matters and so do you!

Need help? Who can you talk to?

The Education Support Partnership are the only UK charity dedicated to improving the wellbeing and mental health of education staff in schools, colleges and universities. They have a 24/7 helpline if you need to talk about anything, whether it be professional or personal they are there to help.

Alternatively, find someone with #Talk2meMH on twitter. They are happy to talk not as a professional but as a friend. Some have been through their own challenges others have significant understanding and empathy.

Either way, if you need to reach out and talk, ensure you do so.

Best wishes,

P.S. I’m fundraising for Ed Support by walking 100km in 48 hours from London to Brighton next May. To find out more or to donate check out my Just Giving page here.


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Resource – Metacognition in Lessons

If you haven’t already read my post on metacognition in the classroom, I’d suggest starting there as it provided some context to the resource I’m sharing in this post.

I first came across the term ‘meta-cognition’ 4 years into my teaching career when I attended a Stretch and Challenge Conference back in 2015. Yet I’d been applying meta-cognitive strategies since I started teaching. Once I was able to put a name to the strategies I employed it opened up a world of other examples, evidence and approaches. Since then it forms a regular part of my teaching practice and is fundamental to the feedup-feedback-feedforward cycle that’s constantly implemented in my classroom.

As a subject leader however, I didn’t feel it was as embedded across my department as I would have liked. So over the summer I set about creating a resource that would help my team to apply metacognitivie practices in their classroom. It started with a PowerPoint split into two parts, first part information and guidance on metacognition for staff whilst the second part consisted of question slides for use with students. I don’t use the resource myself, however these are the kinds of questions I ask students as we plan, as they work, as they reflect and as we evaluate.

I hope the PowerPoint is a resource from which my colleagues will extract ideas from for their own lesson planning.

Teacher Slides

I’ll be making use of these in the first subject collaboration session later in this term to outline what metacognition is and how it should be applied within geography as part of our day to day teaching practice.

Student Slides

These slides are simply a range of questions associated with the following stages of the teaching process used in MYP Geography:

  • Planning (feed-up)
  • Monitoring (feedback – student to teacher, peer to peer)
  • Evaluation (feedback – student to teacher, teacher to student)
  • Reflection (feedforward)

One of my objectives for the last academic year was to develop student understanding of MYP I&S Criterion B – Investigation (more info here). This meant developing our students understanding of inquiry planning, effective research, academic honesty and assessment of sources within the context of geography. Many of the questions incorporated in the student slides I’ve incorporated into the resources I’ve been building to develop the elements above (I’ll write more about these in due course).

If you’d like a copy of the Powerpoint, simply click here. Hope you can find it of use.

Best wishes,


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Mrs Humanities shares… useful Google Drives from generous teachers

I’ve come across some very useful tweets whereby teachers are sharing resources they’ve created via a Google Drive (or similar) as opposed to Tes or other resource sharing platforms. But since they tend to highlight their resources via twitter it can often be hard to come across them in a web search. In order to help highlight the fantastic resources others are kindly sharing I thought I’d put together a list to share with you, with many thanks to their creators. If you know of one I’ve not yet listed, please feel free to comment or tweet me with links.

This post will appear on both MrsHumanities.com and Magpied Pedgagogy and will be updated as and when I come across new ones so you may wish to bookmark it.

NOTE: As most of these are Google Drives you will probably find that you need to login to Google otherwise the folders will appear empty.

Let’s start with something I set up a while ago but never launched. One for all the Geography teachers.

National Geography Department Google Drive is a way of geography teachers to upload and share resources. Simply upload to this folder and they will then be moved to one of the other folders which can be found here. Once moved the resources are view only. Please name documents by topic and key stage they are designed for.

General Resources

Jamie Clark @XpatEducator has quite a set of accomplishments. I first came across their resources some time ago back when I was Head of Humanities. Their profile now says they are Director of Digital Integration and Enlgish Teacher along with Apple Distinguished Educator, Producer of The Staffroom Podcast and Author.

Jamie Clark’s DropBox

Humanities

Mr Classics @MrClassics3 is a classics KS4 Latin and Classics teacher
Mr Classics Google Drive

Denise Freeman @geography_DA is a geography teacher and teaching school lead working in London.
Denise Freeman’s Google Drive

TeamGeog @GeogTeam is a platform to share resources for Key Stages 3,4 and 5 and is managed by @m_chiles and @jennnnnn_x
TeamGeog Google Drive

Rachael Speed @BeingMissSpeed is a Geography NQT based in Hampshire.
Rachael Speed’s Google Drive

Simon Beale @SPBeale is a Head of History, a @ssat lead practitioner and co-founder of @historybookgrp and critical conversations pod.
Simon Beale’s Google Drive

Morwenna Chapman @MorwennaChapman is Head of Department and Geography teacher. She has created a lovely set of resources for stretch and challenge. Grab a copy here in Morwenna Chapman’s drive

Science

I Teach Boys @ITeachBoys92 is a Science Teacher in London.
I Teach Boys Google Drive

Louise Cass @louisecass is a Science Teacher and former Forensic Scientist.
Louise Cass Google Drive

Miss Keloglou @MissKeloglou is a chemist and chemistry teacher. You’ll have to explore the folders to see their helpful resources.
Miss Keloglou Google Drive

Adam Bilton @heroteach is a Science teacher.
HeroTeach Google Drive

Dr Sue Thaw @aegilopoides is a Head of Science and has shared their revision resources. Again you’ll have to open the folders to see the resources.
Dr Sue Thaw Google Drive

Hope you find these of use and please do highlight to me any others you come across.

Best wishes,


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Got back to school anxiety? Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal.

I’ve seen lots of tweets this last week about back to school anxiety and I just wanted to say that new school year nerves are completely normal. Hence why my A-Z on the back to school realities started with it.

There are very few teachers I’ve met both since I’ve been teaching and whilst growing up around my Mum’s primary school that didn’t get the back to school jitters. You’ve had several weeks off to enjoy yourself; to use to toilet when you wish, to eat when you’re hungry, to relax and recoup from the previous year, it’s no wonder you’re feeling a little anxious.

I get it EVERY year! The nightmares, night sweats and moments of sheer panic in the remaining days of the school holidays. However there are also moments of inspiration and excitement for the year ahead. Why? Because…

Teaching is Awesome

Teaching, whilst fulfilling is a tiring job. You are performing every time you teach to an audience that can sometimes be unpredictable. What will you have to juggle whilst trying to teach them x, y and z? Who’s going to burst into tears? Who can’t sit next to who because they’ve just had a falling out? Why aren’t they getting it? Who needs a helping hand and who has whizzed ahead of the rest of the class? As a result by the end of the school day you are pretty tired and some of you will have further work to do before you can relax.

Don’t panic about your to-do list!

Your to-do list may go from a few points to multiple pages in seconds of being back in the school grounds…. but you will manage it!

Start by breaking down the tasks into compulsory-must do and desirable but not necessary. So often we strive for the perfect classroom, resource, activity etc. and in doing so we make more work for ourselves. So I’ve started thinking along the lines of is it required or just desirable by me?

Then apply my to-do list tasks to the Eisenhower Matrix

I use this as a mental guide to organising my to-do list and I find it really helps. Often many of the tasks on my list are those I want to do rather than need to and so get deleted.

Do you need to do it?

Do your displays really need changing or could they just do with a bit of tidying up?
Do you really need to spend ages looking for the perfect font or could you just use one single font for everything?
Do you need to create a whizzy powerpoint or could a slide with just the instructions on do?
Do you need to differentiate that task multiple times or could you scaffold it instead?
Do you need to use a wide variety of activities or could you develop a bank of templates that you frequently use?
This year, aim for less is more in your teaching practice, I highly recommend it.

Avoiding Back to School Burnout

If you’re concerned about the approaching workload, here are some tips for avoiding back to school burnout over on BBC Teach –https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/teacher-support/top-5-tips-for-avoiding-after-school-burnout/zkdsxyc

and here https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/teacher-support/5-strategies-to-help-you-reclaim-your-time/zr98cqt

Still worried? Support is available

If you are feeling extremely anxious and worried about the school year ahead consider making use of the services provided by the Education Support Partnership, the only UK charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the entire education workforce. The helpline (08000 562 561) is open 24/7 and from my experience I can tell you they are helpful, reassuring and encouraging. Speaking to them back in Spring 2016, helped me to find the confidence to take time off, to apply for a job at a different school and to open up to my family about my mental health. In doing so, it kept me in teaching!

It’s perfectly natural to feel anxious about something you care about, but even after a negative experience there breakthroughs to be had. Here’s an insight to 5 of mine https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/blogs/5-breakthroughs-made-me-better-teacher

Remember why you teach

So when the workload starts to increase, whether it’s meetings, marking, planning, data or whatever else try to remember why you wanted to become a teacher.

To help you why not try one or two of these ideas from an extract of ‘Making it as a Teacher’

Remembering the why

  • Draw up a list of all the things you love about teaching for regular review and reflection
  • Write your ‘why’ on a postcard and keep it on your desk or wall as a reminder
  • Note down and keep messages of gratitude from students
  • Keep a positivity box or journal and record happy moments from your classroom and school day
  • Create a positive mantra for yourself, for those days when you feel you just can’t do it anymore

Strive to thrive, not just survive!

For more advice and ideas to inspire and empower you through the next academic, you might like to grab a copy of ‘Making it as a Teacher’. Although aimed at early career teachers there is plenty in there for the more experienced too.

Other recommended wellbeing reads

Finally…

Don’t forget to reach out if you need to! Whether it be your colleagues, friends or family or maybe those you find online. Don’t bottle up your anxieties and worries, talk about them, get them off your chest and work on them. Speaking from experience, hiding them away only leads to problems down the line.

Best wishes for the new academic year, make sure you enjoy it!

p.s. This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just a really proud ambassador for Ed Support and teacher mental health and wellbeing.


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Resource – Welcome to GCSE Geography (AQA)

Whilst many of us are getting ready for heading back to school I thought I’d share with you my resources for the first few lessons with my GCSE students. Although it’s all one PowerPoint, I break it up as required.

I start the year off by outlining the course, the examinations and specification content.

Followed by the course outline, what they can expect and what they need to get started. At this point I’l give out books to those that wish to continue working in a book and ensure those that wish to use a folder have paper.

Next I explore the support available to students and how we encourage them to ask for help if they need it.

Next I’ll go into reviewing subject content. This year I’ll be getting students to return to subject content from year 9. They covered The Challenge of Resource Management in terms 5 and 6 and therefore I’d like to see what they can recall.

I’ll be starting with a bit of retrieval using a question grid.

Students will then self-assess as we discuss and review the answers.

Students will then use what they learnt in all three topics in year 9 to the discuss the link between resources and conflict.

This acitivity has been inspired by this resource on TeachItGeography.

I’ve taken the images out of my PowerPoint but you can find them at the above link if you wish to use them.

I’m then going to introduce ACE feedback to those I’ve not taught before by getting them to peer assess.

If time, they will make improvements and then peer assess again using PA Points focusing on terminology. Again inspired by the resource above.

In one of the following lessons, once the Assessment for Learning booklets are printed and ready to go I will then cover being responsible learners, assessment for learning and feedback in Geography.

I find that explaining feedback to students particularly useful in supporting them to understand how, where and when they will receive feedback and what to do with it. I also find it important to help them to understanding that the teacher is not the only one that can help them in their learning.

In addition I give students a copy of the ‘Welcome to Geography’ sheet and ask them to glue into the front of their book or folder for reference. This provides them with essential information as suggestions for GCSE Geography Revision. This year however I’ve added it to the AfL booklet.

If you’d like to download the powerpoint and sheet click here.

A few others have adapted and made their own versions for other specs.

OCR (A) Geographical Themes by Vicki Reed, @VickiLouise17

OCR B – Geography for enquiring minds (J384) by Natalie Batten, @Nat_Batten

Both can be found in the folder above.

If you’ve made use of the ‘Welcome to GCSE Geography’ document for other Geography exam boards or other subjects, get in touch and I will add them to the post.

Hope you can find the resources of use.

Best wishes for the new academic year.


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A-Z of Back to School

I thought I’d write something for fun to make the back to school experience a little easier for everyone.

Anxieties – The back to school anxieties get the best of us. No matter how long you’ve been in teaching, there are very few teachers I know that don’t get them. I like to think it’s because we care so much about our role, but really it’s because we know the workload is about to go from zero to light-speed in no time at all. That’s enough to induce anxiety is anyone.

Bragging
From the first day of the summer holidays it’s all about the bragging that you’re back to school in ‘insert number of days left’ days. We say it like we are gutted the holiday will be coming to an end but really it’s just that we want to tell everyone and anyone how many days of summer we still have off. Then when you’re back at school it’s all about what you did with your time off, just remember not everyone went on three holidays!

Catching up
The first week of the school year doesn’t really feel like you’re back in work. It’s just another week of catching up with people you haven’t seen in a while but this time it’s your colleagues (or school family) rather than the friends or real family you haven’t seen for months during the school year.

Drains
You’ve been in school for five minutes and already someone is draining the energy out of you with their pessimism for the year ahead. Acknowledge them, make a witty comment about how everything will fine and walk away. You don’t need the drains in your life.

Expectations
The first few lessons are all about setting your expectations with your students i.e. if they want to be your favourite class, your favourite biscuits are …, your favourite chocolate is…. and you enjoy drinking a glass of…

Freak outs
As you sit in your first CPD session, you start thinking about all the things you could be doing instead of sitting here. Then you start to make a mental list. The list is getting bigger and bigger. You decide to write down all the things you need to do instead of listening. The list keeps growing, your on to page two now. You freak out for a moment and then relax. You’re stuck here for now, make the most of sitting down and doing nothing.

Goals
Set yourself a few small, tangible goals for the first few weeks; you know goals like go to toilet during the school day, eat lunch at lunch time and drink a HOT cup of tea/coffee.

Half term
By the end of day one, you’re already counting down the weeks, days and hours to the next half term.

INSET days
You roll up to school, expecting to have some time to get yourself organised. But every year it turns out that that first day of professional development is jam packed and you won’t have a moment to breath let alone get started on your classroom, planner or lessons.

Joking around
The days when the kids aren’t in are days for the adults to act like the students. We have this innate ability to revert back to being teenagers, joking and larking around like we’ve no cares. Enjoy those moments!

Know the important people
If you’re new to a school, get to know the important people – the caretakers, cleaners, office staff, canteen staff. They know the ins and outs of the school and they’ll look after you if you look after them. A school isn’t just the teachers and students.

Lessons
At some point in the first week you’ll actually have to teach a lesson after all the getting to know you activities and setting out of your expectations. Make it easy though, maybe some colouring in or a wordsearch, you know to give yourself a chance to get back into the routine of early mornings.

Memes
Show your classes that you’re fun and down with the kids by welcoming them with some kind of ‘back to school’ meme on the board.


Names
Whilst it might seem like a big effort, at some point you really should learn the names of the kids you’re teaching. Why wait until parents evening? Start early and you’ll remember them all by Christmas.

Official Christmas Party
Within the first few weeks of the school term, someone will mention the ‘Official Christmas Party’ and how you need to get your name on the list and pay your deposit quickly if you want to attend whilst you’re more concerned with trying to get back into the routine of school.

Planner
Whether your school provide one or you’ve purchased it yourself, the school planner is a priceless piece of equipment. It becomes a record of the year – all the lessons you’ve taught, homework you’ve collected, detentions you’ve given. Look back at in August with fondness before you burn it. Plus the pleasure that comes with colour coding your timetable is unbeatable.

Questionning your life decisions
By week 3, that to-do list is starting to take up several pages of your planner and you’re wondering why you didn’t do some of this in term 6? Why you didn’t do some of this over the holidays? Why you even became a teacher, why oh why?

Research advocates
You’re all for improving your teaching and student learning but if one more person mentions the research reading they’ve been doing this summer and tells you that you really shouldn’t do x, y and z, you might just punch them.

Stationery
It’s stationery not stationary. You’ve seen so many tweets, texts and Facebook messages about the lovely stationery your teacher friends have bought but when will they spell it correctly?

Timetable changes
You’ve written your timetable into your lovely new planner, you’ve completed every week until the end of the school year. It’s looking lovely and you’re super pleased. Then in morning briefing you hear the words “there will be timetable changes from Monday, please check your pigeon holes for your new timetable” and your heart sinks. You pray your timetable remains the same….

Uniform
Buying new school uniform isn’t just for the students. Depending on what you’ve done over the holidays you’ve either lost weight or put it on, inevitably your favourite workout won’t fit and you’re going to have to buy some new clothes for work – the teacher uniform.

Vivacious in September, disheveled by July
You start the year fresh, enthusiastic and feeling somewhat alive, by the time the summer holidays arrive you’re bedraggled, exhausted and in need of the break. Why not document your year through selfies and watch your body change.

Wellbeing
You make yourself a promise, this year you will look after your wellbeing. You’re are going to put yourself first so you can be the best possible teacher, parents, friend, person etc. for everyone around you. But by the end of the first day of teaching, you’ve gotten distracted by the to-do list, you’ve forgotten to eat lunch, you’ve been busting for the loo since break and you’ve still not drank that cup of tea you made when you got into work. So much for wellbeing!

Xerography (or photocopying) guru
Learn to use the photocopier with expertise! Everyone is grateful when you can show them how to convert an A4 worksheet into A3 or how to print double sided as a booklet. Simple skills that mean a lot to the technophobes of the school.

You’ve got this!
The school year is a marathon, with a few hurdles thrown in. It’s challenging at times, but it’s also really awesome, fulfilling and at times good fun. Teaching is a fantastic profession to be a part of and despite how hard it can be, it really is fantastic to be a part of it. No matter how difficult the school year gets, there are always people within your school and outside of it willing to help and support you. Just reach out.

Zombies cannot teach.
Look after yourself.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. It’s just a little bit of fun for the new school year.

Best wishes,

Banish the back-to-school blues by joining #Teacher5adayBuddyBox. Sign up here https://teacher5adaybuddybox.com/


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Mrs Humanities is back (to school)…

Hello lovely people,

After almost 8 weeks away from social media and blogging, I’m feeling refreshed. Still very anxious about all the changes coming in the next academic year – new staff to lead and a completely different department as a result plus a 3rd subject to teach (which I wasn’t informed of until the penultimate week of the school year). But I’m feeling refreshed and ready to return to life as a teacher (just).

There have been lots of exciting developments over the last few months so thought I’d share them with you.

1 // My first book was published

First of all, my first book ‘Making it as a Teacher‘ was published at the end of May.

So far it has received a positive response from the teaching community which I’m really pleased about.

Making it as a Teacher doesn’t deny or shy away from the problems we are facing in the profession; it acknowledges them and agrees that it is a challenge to avoid being part of that one-in-three statistic of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years. But, through its human approach, helpful structure and real-life case studies, it offers a positive message: you can do it. It’s a cathartic read – therapy in paperback form. 

Haili Hughes, Tweets as @HughesHaili 

A lot of ‘me’ went into the book in order to show others that it can be hard in teaching but also that you can get through the challenges of the profession and come out the other side. If you haven’t read it yet, here are some of the reviews so far to maybe inspire you to:

Tes Book review: Making it as a Teacher by Haili Hughes

UKEd Chat Book Review by Colin Hill

Schools Week Book Review by Loic Menzies

Parents in Touch by Sarah Brew

Plus the lovely reviews on Amazon. If you’ve already read the book I’d love to hear what you think, feel free to comment or leave a review on Amazon (which would be very much appreciated).

2 // We’ve bought a house

I figured this contributed towards some of the anxiety of the final school term. Luckily it was quite an easy process, however I found myself working until 6 pm most night when normally by term 6 I’m leaving around half 4/5 pm. Then I’d be going home and packing boxes or filling in paperwork or something similar. However we’ve had the summer holiday to unpack and are feeling settled in our first (own) home. We never thought we’d be able to buy a property so are feeling very lucky that we have been able to.

3 // I’ve been working on a second book

When I was invited my Routledge to write a book proposal, this is the book I originally had in my mind. However, I didn’t know how it would work – a book about moving from marking to feedback. It sounded too simple so I felt it needed something that would make it worth reading. This came to me whilst writing the feedback section of Making it as a Teacher – case studies.

And so, after finishing my first book I wrote the proposal for the second. I’m really excited by it. I’ve been shouting about #FeedbackNOTmarking since September 2016, when I did my first presentation at Pedagoo Hampshire on the topic of Less is More – Marking with Purpose. Something I said was quoted on twitter and from that the hashtag #feedbackNOTmarking was born. Since then I’ve done 20+ presentations on the topic, written numerous articles and published a large number of blog posts.

However, that presentation wasn’t the beginning of my journey with feedback. That had started back in 2014/2015 when I started looking into ways of reducing my marking but maintaining effective feedback and thus the progress of my students. It started a new phase of my approach to teaching. It changed the way I teach and honestly it has changed for the better. My teaching practice is simpler, it’s reduced the workload yet the planning and provision of feedback has greater impact on my students than any of my marking ever did. And that’s why I felt this book was important.

The book consists of case studies from schools that have moved from marking to feedback and of departments but also looks at how individuals can apply the concept in their own classroom even if they don’t have the support of their SLT. I’ve really enjoyed reading the case studies so far, I’ve enjoyed further researching the evidence on the application of feedback in the classroom and writing up everything so far. I personally think the ‘Feedback NOT Marking’ book is going to be a change maker – well I hope it will be any way.

4 // Fundraising for the charity Education Support Partnership

If you’ve read any of my blogs on mental health and wellbeing, you’ll know I’m a massive advocate for the charity, Education Support Partnership. Honestly, I know that if I hadn’t spoken to them back in April/May 2016, I wouldn’t have stayed in the profession. I’m so proud to now be able to be an ambassador for them and support them in helping other teachers, leaders and support staff.

Since I failed to look after myself as well as I had been doing, in terms 5 and 6 of the last academic year I didn’t feel like I was the best I could be for my students and colleagues. So to help me look after myself over the next academic year so I’m at my best for those I work with, I decided I’d sign myself up to a challenge that would get me outdoors whilst doing some good for others. So May bank holiday 2020, I’ll be walking 100 km from London to Brighton over two days in aid of Ed Support. As part of my training I’ll be out walking and running as much as possible – Abigail Mann ( @abbiemann1982) and I have even discussed organising a ‘Wellbeing Walk’ at some point which will be open to all that wish to attend or join in.

So here’s where I’m going to be cheeky and say I’d absolutely love it if some of you reading this were to sponsor me and help me to fundraise vital funds for a charity that means so much to me and many others in the education sector. Without donations, they’d be unable to provide the support through their helpline, grants and advice to those that need it (including myself). Here’s my Just Giving page, if you’d like to contribute to the work of Ed Support.

In addition to fundraising for Ed Support, I’ll also be writing a series of blogs for my favourite charity throughout the year.

5 // BBC Teach

I’m really excited to have been commissioned to write 3 articles for BBC Teach over the coming academic year. The first of which is on 5 ways to avoid back to school burnout and can be found here.

In addition, I along with numerous other teachers, have recently filmed with BBC Teach for their Teacher Support section of the website. These videos will be out later in the academic year.

Final words

Finally, I’d like to say a massive thank you for the lovely messages and emails I’ve received over the last few months asking about my wellbeing. They’ve meant so much to me! When you put yourself out there in order to help others, sometimes it becomes a distraction and it can be hard to admit when you’re personally struggling. Thankfully, my prior experiences have helped me to identify when my personal mental and psychical health isn’t at it’s best and I’m learning to step back. But just in case you are wondering why I’m writing another book and articles if I’ve been experiencing high anxiety in recent months, it’s because I find it really cathartic. Like being outdoors, it weirdly helps me to relax and put things into context. So don’t worry I’m not choosing to overexert myself in this area of my life, for me this gives me more of the ‘life’ in the work-life balance.

Hope you’ve all had a great summer break and enjoy the final days if you have any left.

Best wishes,