Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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Exciting News: Pre-order ‘Making it as a Teacher’.


I’m super excited to share with you that my book ‘Making it as a Teacher’ is now available to pre-order from Routledge.

Cover of  'Making it as a Teacher
How to Survive and Thrive in the First Five Years' by Victoria Hewett
Cover of ‘Making it as a Teacher
How to Survive and Thrive in the First Five Years’ by Victoria Hewett

I’m super pleased, rather proud and somewhat terrified about it’s publication so I really hope it’s what is needed to help keep new (and experienced) teachers in the profession.

If you fancy having a read when it is released, you can pre-order it here. You can also pre-order it from Amazon here. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it and find it useful.

Thank you for the support along the way.

Best wishes,


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Mrs Humanities shares… 10 useful blog posts about feedback

When I first started writing about marking and feedback back in February 2015, it was an issue for many but it was barely on the radar of bloggers and #EduTwitter.

It was a period of research for me and often the main resources I would come across were academic papers or books by the likes of John Hattie, Dylan Williams, Helen Timperley and Doug Lemov. There were a few blog posts I came across such as David Didau, Ross McGill, Geoff Patty and Joe Kirby but on the whole it was barely discussed online. I found myself digging really deep to find relevant (and free) resources to guide and support my practice.

Now though if you look up marking, feedback or even ‘feedback not marking’ in Google now there are a huge number of relevant hits (including mine).

feedback not marking google search

One of the biggest influences on the discussion came after the publication of the Department for Education’s ‘Reducing teacher workload: Marking Policy Review Group report‘ in March 2016 which put marking (and feedback) in the spot light. This along with the evidence provided by the Education Endowment Foundation’s from their work looking into the value of marking and feedback on student progress, it has grown into a regular topic of discussion and more so a movement of change.

I thought I would share a few that I’ve come across that I have found useful for sharing with colleagues within my school and further afield this year.

  1. Marking and feedback are not the same from David Didau. Starting with the basics, this post simply outlines the distinct difference between feedback and marking. Too often the two are seen as a single entity when in fact feedback is so much more than marking. They can often be seen as synonymous when in fact they are distinctly different and must be treated as so. Michael Tidd says similar here.
  2. A policy for feedback, not marking from Michael Tidd
    This post looks at moving from a marking policy to a feedback policy from a Primary perspective with the provision of the policy at the end of the post. Useful for schools taking a whole school approach toward feedback rather than marking.

  3. Insights into assessment from ‘what does this look like in the classroom from Research Schools Network
    This post provides a snapshot into what feedback looks like in the classroom taken from ‘What Does This Look Like In The classroom?: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice’ by Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson. If you’ve read the book, it’s an insightful read but if you haven’t time for the whole thing this post is a useful summary.

  4. Marking and Feedback recommended reads from Mr Barton MathsThis post effectively recommends a variety of research papers on the topic. Mr Barton highlights his takeaways from each one to give the reader useful insight into whether or not the pursue the article.
  5. Live Marking: Feedback in Lessons from Ross McGill (Teacher Toolkit)
    A 4 minute read on the value and use of live-marking. A useful post for evidencing the value of verbal feedback and how to apply.

  6. Whole Class Feedback & Crib Sheet Handout from Mr Thornton TeachA very short post but it’s the resource that’s useful. In this post Mr Thornton shares a handout he produced for a session entitled ‘How we can use crib sheets to improve marking and develop better feedback’.
  7. Giving feedback the ‘Michaela’ way from Reading all the BooksIn this post the author discusses how they started to implement a no-marking approach. A useful post for anyone new to the idea of feedback not marking. Here’s an additional post from Doug Lemov on feedback at the Michaela school.
  8. No Written Marking. Job Done. from Andrew PercivalThere were parts of this post I highly agreed with, others that I weren’t too keen on such as ticking each piece of work to show it has been checked. Why? Anyway, I think it’s a useful post to support the moving away from written marking and focusing on feedback.
  9. Designing a Feedback (not Marking) Policy from Jemma SherwoodThis post outlines the move from marking to feedback within Maths. I shared this post to highlight the use of Exit Tickets. Personally though I would say these are most effective for Maths and lessons without the subjective nature of assessment, so I tend to use exit tickets for very specific content e.g. names of processes, facts and stats associated with case studies, definitions of key terms etc.
  10. Do You Understand Your Mock Exams? from DI thought this one was an interesting an interesting post about the value of mock exams. For many secondary teachers, mock exams create a HUGE amount of marking but also provide valuable insight into student’s understanding and application of knowledge. But to what extent are they really useful? The argument at the end is rather interesting.

And finally…

Feedback (and marking) links

Just a useful post from NDHS Blog Spot of lots of useful links on Feedback (and marking).

I hope you find this post useful.

Here are some of my other posts on #feedbackNOTmarking

Moving from marking to feedback

Workload reduction

Strategies

If you’re looking for other ideas check out the hashtag (#FeedbackNOTmarking) on twitter for a wide range of ideas for providing effective feedback.

Best wishes,


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Mrs Humanities shares… 10 Tweachers to follow in 2019

The great thing about twitter is it has opened my mind, inspired my teaching and introduced me to hundreds of fantastic people, many of whom I would call friends.

The following are some people I would recommend following this year if you don’t already. In no particular order then…

1 // Adrian Bethune. Tweets as @AdrianBethune

Adrian is the author of ‘Wellbeing In The Primary Classroom’, Primary Teacher and creator of teachappy.co.uk. 

I first met Adrian at the Festival of Education, we were both on the Education Support Partnership panel as part of the discussion on wellbeing in schools. We later met again at Pedagoo Hampshire. He’s an inspiring, down to earth person so go follow.

2 // Sarah Larsen. Tweets as@sarahlarsen74 

Sarah has been an influencer in the #feedbackNOTmarking movement. After having taken ideas to her senior leadership team, she’s been able to influence change in her school to reduce workload and improve feedback.

Part-time teacher, full-time mum. Go follow her.

3 // 𝓝𝓲𝓸𝓶𝓲 𝓒𝓡. Tweets as@NiomiColleen

Niomi has so much positivity to share. A new mum and Primary school teacher, I’m sure there will be lots of interesting perspectives coming from her this year especially once she’s back from maternity leave. Until then, adore the many baby photos.

4 // Kim Constable. Tweets as@HecticTeacher

Kim is a wellbeing warrior, cat lover and all round goody. I’ve met Kim a number of times over the course of the last few years and she’s as lovely in person as she is online. If you teach Sociology or PSHE, well your in for a treat; her website HecticTeacher.com has a huge array of resources. Additionally Kim shares resources and ideas relevant for any classroom.

5 // Fearghal O’Nuallain. tweets as@Re_Ferg

Teacher, Geographer and Adventurer. What more could you ask for. You may not get much in the way of teaching resources from him but you get a hell of a lot of inspirational photos, stories and links. I love the break Fearghal creates in my twitter feed from all the ‘Edu debate’. Much appreciation.

6 // Tom Rogers. Tweets as@RogersHistory

History teacher, Tes columnist and Founder of @tmhistoryicons. Tom is a top bloke and one I’m proud to call a friend and colleague. We may not work together in the same school or even country but being part of the #TMIcons team is fantastic. Tom has helped me to open many doors, the first of which was overcoming my lack of confidence and presenting in front of a room full of history teachers at TMHistoryIcons way back in March 2016.

If you follow Tom on Twitter you’ll find lots of tweets saying the things so many of us are thinking but daren’t say aloud. Tom says it for us, we all need people like him fighting for our profession.

7 // Kathryn. Tweets as@Arithmaticks 

Kathryn will be leading #TMMathsIcons, the first #TMIcons event for Maths Teachers. How cool is that? I’m sure there will lots of inspiration posts over the coming year from her.

8 // Natalie Scott. Tweets as@nataliehscott 

Natalie has been quiet throughout 2018, she’s been through some hellish experiences over the course of the last year but she’s back and excited for 2019. Who knows what 2019 will bring for her, but I she’ll be sharing lots of educational inspiration over the coming year. Check out her heart felt blog post on the WomenEd blog here.

9 // Patrick Ottley-O’Connor. Tweets as@ottleyoconnor

Patrick is a leader with heart. He cares about his staff and students, he creates change and posts plenty of positivity. If you enjoy travelling, bonus! He’s guaranteed to inspire with his holiday snaps. Enjoy!

10 // Martyn Reah. Tweets as@MartynReah

If you’re not already following Martyn, why ever not? At times a man of few words, but his enthusiasm and positive nature is contagious. It’s been an absolute pleasure meeting Martyn and becoming part of the #Teacher5aday movement. Without him and it, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the academic year 2014-15. He’s one to follow for wellbeing advice, ideas and inspiration.

Okay that’s my top 10 to follow at the start of 2019. Check them all out on twitter. Many of them have blogs too so be sure to take a read.

A few honourable mentions

Stephen Schwab. Tweets as @schwabs52
Marcus Cherrill. Tweets as @ICanTeach_uk
Kristian Still. Tweets as @KristianStill



Best wishes for 2019.


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Mrs Humanities shares… Education Room 101

After speaking to the lovely Kate Jones (@87History) I was inspired to write a Room 101 post. I’m sure many of you will remember the show; celebrities get to banish their pet hates to room 101.

Definitely can be applied to education. So here’s 5 things I would add.

1) Marking Policies.

There are the ridiculous, the absurd and the downright extensive. Triple marking, a myriad of colours, extensive dialogue… the lists go on. Marking needs to be meaningful, manageable and motivating. In fact, the focus should move away from marking and promote feedback in all its forms. #feedbackNOTmarking

2) Fieldtrips

I know, I know… fieldtrips are fantastic for students. They develop skills, confidence and application of knowledge. But… they are so stressful and time consuming. They literally induce panic in me, even when I’m not the trip leader the stress and anxiety is unbearable.
I guess this one should really say paperwork for fieldtrips as actually I love seeing students in a completely different setting. I love seeing them apply what they learn in the classroom. I love seeing them work together, challenge each other and support one another. Could we do them without all the paper work and responsibility? If we could I and many others like me would find them far less anxiety inducing. 

3) The trad vs. prog debate.

Most teachers don’t even know the debate exists. It’s pretty isolated to the EduTwittersphere. Why do we have to pick a side? Can’t we all just do what works for us, our students and our context? What works for one person, won’t for another. Let’s agree to disagree. Easy really.

4) Teacher Guilt

Teacher guilt, it’s inevitable. Whether it’s a permanent reminder of the career you have chosen or something that comes and goes through the school year (lucky you if you’re the latter), teacher guilt is experienced by everyone at some point. Teacher guilt is exhausting. If you allow it to start, it can take over every waking minute. You have to block it out. Making the effort to give yourself a break from the list of things that you could always be doing is hard. It takes willpower but in the end your students will benefit more from a healthy, happy teacher than a burnout, unenthusiastic one. You have to be the best you can be for your students and yourself. Take time for you and lock the teacher guilt away. 

5) Wellbeing days/CPD

Wellbeing, it’s a focus for many of us. I’ve heard from numerous leaders that if you improve the wellbeing of your staff and the rest looks after it self… or something like that. That’s great but do we really need ‘wellbeing’ activities forced upon us? Why waste an hour after school or a whole CPD on it? I just don’t understand it, yet I keep hearing of more and more events like this. Make those days or meeting productive time for staff to get the things done that they need to rather than forcing them into activities that should improve their wellbeing without the time to get the important things done. 

If you want to improve the wellbeing of your staff it starts with workload, simple as. Remove the unnecessary admin and record keeping. Reduce the data drops. Amend the reporting policy. Give autonomy to departments. Create a centralised reward and sanction system. Minimise workload so teachers can focus on what’s important, the teaching, that’s how you improve staff wellbeing. 

 

What would you put into Room 101? 

 


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Mrs Humanities shares… 8 reasons why I love to teach.

After all my recent anxieties, the first day was fine. I’m sure tomorrow will be too, Wednesday the same…

Anyway, I’d like to share some positivity around teaching so here are a few reasons why I love teaching. Would love to hear your reasons, feel free to add them in the comments.

1 // Learning is awesome. Seeing my students engaged, enjoying their learning is a fabulous feeling. I love it when a class is fully engaged and I can step back and see the learning taking place.

2 // Planning learning is also awesome. It’s great sitting down and planning the process in which my students will participate to learn what they need to learn. It’s a beautiful moment when it all comes together and you know the kids will love it.

3 // Students teach me as much as I teach them. Whether it’s pedagogical, subject based or something a little more personal like something about them, I love that I learn from my students. One of my favourites is when students take our learning in a different direction due to their curiosity, it’s inevitable that I will learn something too.

4 // Students help me to forget my worries. Teaching takes me out of my mind, the best distraction possible. My students make me want to be happy, to want to be the best possible me. They deserve that so I strive for it. That includes taking charge of my wellbeing, to be the best teacher possible we need to be healthy, rested and present.

5 // Developing lifelong learners. Knowing that the skills, knowledge and understanding my students develop in my classroom they will take forward into their futures is empowering. I want them to be the best possible version of themselves now and in the future.

6 // Responsible citizens. In the last 7 years I’ve seen a huge shift in the attitude of young people. In general they are more politically engaged, more open-minded and more emphatic to the experiences of others. When the world is becoming increasing fractionned, the rise of the far-right is evident and leaders aren’t exactly the best, it’s a relief to see that young people want to see change. Our job is to empower then to engage and be work towards that change. I love it when students start to be the change they want to see.

7 // Teachers are great people. Generally speaking, most are caring, supportive and helpful. Sometimes that means we are taken advantage of but it also means there are some incredible people who’ll have your back.

8 // Teaching is like a jar of jelly beans. It’s fun, full of variety, colour and flavour. Every handful is different, so is every day in the classroom. Embrace it.

Why do you love teaching?


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 reasons teachers are leaving the profession

mrs humanities sharesThis is a post I’ve had on my mind for a while but haven’t wanted to write but then I decided that actually I would as I’d also do a post to counteract it with 5 reasons to stay in teaching.

We need more teachers; teachers are leaving the profession and few are being replaced. The numbers of teachers in secondary schools has fallen whilst the number of teachers leaving for reasons other than retirement has increased by 34,910 between 2011 and 2016. Yet the number of students is set to increase by 19.4% between 2017 and 2025.

So why are teachers leaving?

The following five reasons are based on my experiences and those of many teachers I have spoken to over the years.

1 // Accountability

Current accountability structures were introduced originally in 1988 as part of the Education Reform Act with the introduction of Ofsted and league tables yet it’s been Gove’s legacy that has had the most significant impact on teacher and school accountability in my opinion.

Accountability is important to maintain sufficient standards of education for all but it’s the way it has been implemented more recently and combined with performance related pay that has impacted teachers the most.

Ofsted and league tables already have a widespread impact on teacher workload, wellbeing and stress. In my first two schools, I feel as though I heard the word Ofsted more than I heard the word student; yet we are in our schools for the benefit of our students. Everything we do should be for them, not for Ofsted, not for the LA, not for the MAT boss making big bucks but for the students in our care. There are many examples from schools across the country whereby strategies have been implemented not for the benefit of students but to tick box in preparation for Ofsted. Strategies that have had little to no benefit for the students; so why were we doing them in the first place? It takes a brave and honourable leader to stand up and say ‘other schools maybe doing it, but we are not because it doesn’t impact on learning’.

But the introduction of performance related pay for something with so many external influences is damming.

In 2013, the DofE released details on how schools will be able to link teachers’ pay to performance allowing them to pay good teachers more. By that September schools had to revise their pay and appraisal policies to outline how pay progression would be linked to teacher’s performance. The advice suggested schools assess teachers’ on their performance in some of the following

  • impact on pupil progress
  • impact on wider outcomes for pupils
  • contribution to improvements in other areas (eg pupils’ behaviour or lesson planning)
  • professional and career development
  • wider contribution to the work of the school, for instance their involvement in school business outside the classroom

For many this meant setting specific targets for pupil progress and specific targets for performance in observations and scrutinises of different kinds.

For me, one of my appraisal targets looked something like this…

PM v2

These targets were set by the school. The lack of autonomy in the PM process for many and the implementation of specific targets, some of which are impossible to achieve due to external factors has massively increased the stress experienced by teachers to perform whilst also leading to a great deal of micro-management in order to help others to meet their targets. It’s been crazy for many, stressful for others and downright impossible for some.

2 // Unnecessary Workload

Resulting from the introduction of greater accountability and new performance management measures, teachers have also been finding their workload increase exponentially over the last 5 years or so. Often the workload has been associated with either doing it to cover ones back or to tick boxes for Ofsted, Mocksted, parents or performance management. Too often workload has increased not a benefit to learners but merely to say it is being done.

Take class profiles for instance; in my first school class profiles were introduced to give to any observers. These outlined the class, their achievement, progress, concerns etc.; imagine doing every term for 12 or more groups of students. I never felt this helped me to improve my students learning; instead just a tick box exercise of justifications.

profiles

In my opinion the unnecessary tasks that distract from the assessing of learning and planning of progress are the biggest distractions to improving education in our schools.

3 // Constant change

Along with unnecessary workload, another major influence on teacher wellbeing and the workload crisis is the impact of constant change. So far, I’ve been through just two governments in my teaching career, yet it feels like many more as a result of the political input into the UK’s education system. Each time there’s a change of Secretary of State for Education there are new policies and changes to implement; that’s 4 to date for me and despite the name change of the role, others have seen many more ‘in charge’ of education in the UK.

Along with changing ministers, comes changing examinations.

I started my teaching career in 2010; just as Gove become the Education Secretary and since then I’ve taught the following GCSE exam specifications

WJEC (1 year)
Edexcel A (1.5 years)
Edexcel B (2.5 years)
AQA IGCSE (1 year)
AQA 1-9 (2 years)

I’ve taught with levels and without levels. I’ve taught with the national curriculum and without it.

I’ve taught in a comprehensive converting to an academy, an academy, a MAT and a free school. All within 6 years. Some of this was chosen change, others were enforced change all of which those increased workload as it wasn’t possible to just ‘transfer’ resources from one situation to another. Each school their own way of doing things; each exam spec was different; each had new implemented strategies that had been noted in another school as good practice and thus we had to implement just in case.

The change to qualifications, curriculum and testing has probably had one of the largest impacts on workload, in my eyes especially for those teachers in schools teaching both GCSE and A-Levels. The introduction of new testing; the removal of levels and new qualifications have meant a lot of change all at once for schools, subjects and teams to implement alongside dwindling resources and money. All of which has increased workload, stress and poor mental health of teachers.

4 // Limited Autonomy and Micro-Management

Tom Rogers shared this on twitter just the other day

A fine example of micro-management and poor leadership. Limited autonomy has a huge impact on teachers; imagine being faced with a school leader that tells you what you can and can’t do in your classroom; that tells you to do things you damn well know will have little to no impact on your students; that tells you to follow me and you’ll be outstanding; that doesn’t let your own way shine through. Imagine how uninspired you’d feel, how your enthusiasm would drain; how ticking boxes to please that person rather than to benefit your students becomes your norm. No thank you.

Yet too many people have experienced this. The list of non-negotiables. The do it this way or take the highway out of here routine. Or worse still the you’re with us or against us, so we’ll put you on PM measures that mean you’ll hate working here and we can soon get rid of you approach. This micro-managing and in some instances, bullying is driving teachers out of the classroom.

We train to teach because we want to teach. We want to give something to our students. We want them to take knowledge away. We want them to develop skills. We want them to be life-long learners. We want them to enjoy and be happy in school and life. If we’re not allowed to do that; our souls become drained. Our happiness withers. Our love for the profession dwindles. We leave.

5 // Societal Opinion

Ever had the kid turn around and say, “my mum says you’re just a teacher, so I don’t have to listen to you’? Thankfully it’s happened just the once; but who has the right to say that? No one is ‘just a….’. We work hard in our jobs, whatever job you do whether a truck driver or dentist, teacher or neurosurgeon you’ve worked hard to get where you are. You’ve put time and effort into your job and/or career. Everybody is worthy.

Just because we’ve chosen to be teachers doesn’t mean we couldn’t have been something else if we wanted to. Teaching is incredible, every day is different, every student is different. We learn as much from the kids as they learn from us; what we learn is just slightly different.

Yet people envisage that we have 13 weeks paid holiday where we go galivanting around the world, sunning ourselves and relaxing. When in reality the majority of us spend much of our time working over the holidays or recuperating after the last slog of several weeks of hard and tiring work.

A recent survey by the Education Support Partnership found that teachers expect to work eight days over the holidays up from six days in in 2013 and that’s just from the 811 surveyed.

I’ve been guilty of working far more days in the summer than 6-8; as I know others have been. Fortunately, I’ve now I’m working in a school that considers workload and have developed my own strategies for reducing my workload meaning I’m sure I can limit my time working to less than 8 days.

Teachers work hard for their students and those that don’t are few and far between. Teaching as a profession needs higher recognition in the UK simple as. Greater recognition for our professional status, greater emphasis on professional development and efforts to retain rather than recruit will help to maintain numbers.

Conclusion

There are so many other reasons teachers are leaving teaching other than those above. What would you add to the discussion? Feel free to leave comments.

// Useful Links

Teacher recruitment and retention in England

Factors affecting teacher retention: qualitative investigation

Teacher workforce statistics and analysis

Teacher Retention and Turnover Research

// Posts from teachers that have left teaching

Why I left teaching – Philip Duncalfe

Why I’m leaving teaching – Annabeth Orton

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 end of year reflection tasks

mrs humanities shares

Personally I think it’s important for students to reflect on their learning journey over the year. By the end they often forget what they covered at the beginning. They’ve forgotten how they felt and how much they didn’t know. It’s nice for them to recognise how far they’ve come over the year.

These are a few strategies I use or have used in the past.

1 // Adventures in…

Write a blurb for a book entitled

A really simple strategy but very much enjoyable for all. Simply students write a blurb for a book entitled ‘Adventures in…’. Students consider where their learning took them and make it sound adventurous.

2 // Knowledge Scale

scale.png

The questions you ask are completely up to you. I like to ask the students where they place themselves at the start of a topic and then at the end. Works well for the end of year as well to get them to reflect on their development of knowledge over the year and how confident they are that they will remember it next year as well.

3 // Tell me more…

tell me more

With this one student’s simply consider what they would have liked to have learnt more about, how a topic could have been improved and if there was anything they felt was missed out of a topic that they would have liked to have covered. A great one for if you want student voice in the development of the curriculum.

4 //  Progress Meter

progress meter

Print out a meter diagram for students self-assess their progress over the year. Encourage students to look through their books to identify where they struggled to start with and where they are now with those particular skills. Often my students don’t realise how far they’ve come until they take the time to think about it.

5 // What helped you the most?

helped.png

I think it’s important for students to understand how they learn and to recognise strategies that help them to progress. Encourage students to reflect on ways in which you have helped and supported them through the year with any struggles the have come across and the strategies implemented to help them overcome these. This information can then be passed on to the next teacher to take them.

How do you get students to reflect on the year? Let us know.

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 takeaways from this academic year

mrs humanities shares

As I come to the end of my 6th year in teaching, I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learnt this year. I feel like this year, my practice has developed, I’ve managed to balance work and life effectively and I’ve learnt more and more about pedagogy and education politics.

This academic year has seen lots of involvement in conferences and events as well as supporting the work of the Education Support Partnership. It’s been a good year, so here’s a reflection on 5 things I’ve taken away from it.

Note: This is the second (and not as good) version of the post I originally wrote but unfortunately technology did not wish to work and it didn’t save.

1 // If it doesn’t benefit my students, why am I doing it?

I’ve learnt to question everything I do, to consider the benefits it has for my students and thus whether or not to do it. Obviously, I still have to do the things required of me by the school like writing reports and that, but I do question what I’m doing and why in order to make it have the greatest impact possible. When it comes to my own classroom practice, I think I’ve been teaching long enough that I have go-to strategies that I know work and whilst I try the odd new activity or approach I try to keep consistency for my students (and myself) and no longer try too many new things like I probably did in the first few years in order to find what worked and that my students ‘enjoyed’.

Before implementing anything, first consider the impact on students. How will it benefit them?

2 // Differentiation is misunderstood

This one has worried me at times, how differentiation seems to be so misunderstood by many. I’ve had many NQTs and trainees say they’ve been told to show differentiation in lesson observations; things like individual worksheets for each student with their target at the top and work to help them meet that target (crazy I know), having students do different tasks based on their prior attainment, grouping students into high, middle and low and giving them work based on their ability… the list goes on. Not only does it create excessive levels of work for teachers, it limits a student’s progress.

Overtime my understanding of differentiation has developed with research, action and curiosity. I will admit I was guilty of using the ‘spice challenge’ for differentiation in the past, but I never limited which one students could do, so long as it challenged them. It was always their choice. But there have always been the little things too like word lists, scaffold sheets etc. and plenty of choice. Additionally I like to give students independence and responsibility for their learning by making differentiated resources available to all so students can opt to make use if they wish to do so.

We need to remember that differentiation is more than just the task we give students or small adjustments and provisions we make such as coloured overlays or paper, it’s a teacher’s response to learner’s needs and therefore can be planned or unplanned, long term or short term, explicit or subtle.

notice-blog

These days I’ve learnt to teach to the top and differentiation down through the use of scaffolds, feedback and in-class intervention strategies. Appears to be working.

I’m no expert on the matter, but here’s a free CPD resource on it.

3 // Saying no is hard to do, but has to be done

As much as you might not want to say no, learning to say it is vital for your own sanity, health and wellbeing. Teachers (generally speaking) want to do well for their kids, they also want to be good at what they do and that also means we sometimes take on far more than we should. Before my breakdown, I struggled with saying no. Partly due to my desire to succeed, but also partly due to the performance management process.

The performance management process, which for many involves book scrutinises, observations, crazy targets etc. etc. has had a hugely determinantal impact on our ability to say no, both to requests from others and to ourselves.

It’s important that we do though.

In my last school, books had to be marked every 4 lessons. For me that meant marking every night which would take 3-4 hours to do a set. I had between 12-16 classes each year over a two week timetable across the humanities (Geography, History and Opening Minds) as well as ICT. I didn’t want to ‘fail’ book checks so made sure I kept up to date. I even had a marking timetable to keep track. That was unhealthy I realise. I’d stay up to around 9 every school day, just marking books as there was no time in the school day. So that meant my day consisted of wake up, go to work, teach, admin and phone calls, go home, eat, mark, sleep and repeat each day. Where was the life?

marking timetable

Now I’ve learnt to be strict on myself when it comes to a work-life balance. I don’t have kids, so I can stay in school until 5-6pm get all my work done then take nothing or very little home. Usually if I take anything home it’s the last few essays I haven’t finished marking and want to finish, but that’s because I want to not because I feel I must. I’ve never had students complain when their work wasn’t marked for the next lesson, that’s who we do it for so why worry about book checks?

It’s important to be able to set yourself limits and stick to them, but know you can alter them if you need to. Don’t take on too much, if you can’t fit it into your directed time and the hours you opt to work just say sorry, I can’t.

4 // Plan for progress by planning backwards

Planning backwards is a skill I’ve developed over time and involves carefully planning learning not lessons . Ever since I set up the humanities department singlehandedly from scratch at my last school, it’s become one of my most honed skills I reckon. It takes time to be able to look at the bigger picture and work backwards; you need to consider the content, the skills and the development process of both. By doing so, I can plan assessments and feedback throughout the course, year and term. I can see how everything fits and works to develop the best possible learner I can create in a year, over the course and within the 5 or 7 year geographical experience within my department.

It was hard work to begin with, but the one thing it has done is made me a more effective teacher. I’m constantly thinking about the big details and how they relate to the minute day-to-day teaching.

By planning for progress, it has also meant I’ve reduced my workload. With my team, we planned out assessment, feedback and feedforward across each year group across the year to identify the work that will be formatively assessed, the work that will receive feedback and who the feedback will come from.

Assessment outline

Feedback as a result isn’t just the responsibility of the teacher; I train the students from day one to be able to give their own feedback to their peers and to themselves. In the end this helps them to self-regulate and progress effectively.

5 // Being organised is essential

Probably the most under-rated skill in a teacher’s repertoire. Seriously, I’ve become a master organiser since becoming a teacher – possibly to medically diagnostic levels but still it’s a vital skill to have to help limit the stress, particularly of deadlines.

Know the school calendar or at least regularly check it. Take note of upcoming deadlines and organise your time to be able to complete them in time. It reduces stress and anxiety, I promise. It can also help Heads of Departments and your Line Manager, if they don’t have to chased you; making them happier too.

Print resources at the beginning/end of the week ahead. Stops you just ‘adjusting’ lessons in your PPAs so you actually spend time doing things you actually need to do.

Plan your PPAs. Have a definitive, yet realistic list of what you want to complete and aim to do it.

Avoid distraction, when I was stressed I’d always go and do what I didn’t need to do usually lesson planning as it was the one thing I enjoyed. This only made things worse as I’d still have to face the task at some point. Delaying it just it more stressful.

Keep your resources organised. I have folders for each year group on a desk at the front of my room. I keep resources in there when we’ve used them. This means students can always catch up and I have the resources ready for next year. Admittingly I need to organise them as at the moment they are just shoved in there, but I’m waiting for a filing cabinet to become available.

What have your takeaways from the year been? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… A-Z of Twitter for Teacher CPD

twitter a to z (1)

I’m not entirely sure what spurred this post to be written; usually I have them whirling around in my head for a few days but this morning I woke up early, turned the computer on and out it came. So here’s my A-Z of Twitter for teacher CPD, part encouragement to join twitter, part advice for newbies to twitter.

To access an interactive version click here.

a – ask
If you ever need resources, ideas or some inspiration for a topic or lesson, all you need to do is ask. There is always at least 1 person willing to share. In addition there are so many knowledgeable people willing to support, guide and offer advice. You just have to be willing to ask.
b – bookmark blogs
There are an incredible number of education bloggers that tweet or tweachers that blog. Finding the time read them all can be hard. I highly recommend making use of a bookmarking app such as pinterest, flipboard, google bookmarks or similar to keep track of them for when you do have downtime to read them.
c – connect
Twitter has been a source of connecting to others during my hardest of times. It stopped me from feeling as alone as I could have. Personally I’ve made some incredible friends as a result of twitter and whilst I may not work directly with people, some feel more like colleagues than online acquaintances. Try it.
d – debate
Now this one can be a challenge. Debates sometimes can lead to arguments on twitter. It’s difficult to put across what you want to say in so few characters and as a result debates can quickly turn into arguments, particularly in the school holidays. But don’t let that put you off. It’s good to have your thinking challenged. You don’t even have to get involved in debates and discussions; being a bystander can be as much of benefit as being involved providing you are willing to listen to all sides of the debate and challenge your own thinking.
e – engage
It’s all well and good signing up to twitter, you can find plenty of inspiration and ideas by merely following people but to get the most out of twitter for your own CPD purposes you need to engage with others, conversations etc. Start by liking a tweet or two, then respond, then share your own resources, links etc.
f – feedback
Provide feedback to those you borrow ideas from, firstly it helps both of you to develop your practice as a result of the reflection process and secondly it feels great to receive feedback on a resource or idea you’ve worked hard at.
g – give
As great as twitter is for borrowing ideas, it needs us all to give as well. If we leave the giving to a small handful of people; ideas run dry, practice stagnates, contempt sets in. For every resource you borrow/steal/magpie etc. give something back whether it be a link to a useful article, offering an idea or giving out a copy of your own resource. We all need to give a little back to those that share profusely.
h – hashtags
Hashtags are great for sorting your tweets, highlighting content of your tweets and most importantly to create a sense of community. Most subjects have their own #Team tag such as #TeamEnglish #TeamGeog and #TeamRE to name a few. As well as hashtags for communities there are plenty of education chats as well. Here’s a link or two to get you started
a) Hashtag list
b) Edu-Chats
i – ignore
Unfortunately you’ll find some educators on twitter believing they are the epitome of what the rest of us should be like; don’t let them fool you. Ignore these behaviours and don’t let them make you feel like you are not worthy of your job title. If you really don’t like what some people have to say or their behaviour, follow the advice you’d give students and report and/or block them.
j – jaded
It’s hard not to become jaded when you see the amount of amazing ideas some people share; you can end up feeling like you are not good enough, that you don’t have any original ideas, that you don’t work hard enough. Don’t worry, you are doing great. Some people (I was once included in this) work too hard, whether a result of personal desires or workplace demands; they also tend to have few responsibilities outside of work and therefore have the time. Do not feel you have to work harder, longer, more creatively etc. Make the most of twitter by borrowing what you can to reduce your own workload, just remember to give back.
k – knock-on effect
What you discover through twitter has a knock-on effect in your classroom and hopefully school. Be sure to share what you find with others. Perhaps highlight a piece of good practice you’ve stolen from twitter with others as part of department/leadership meetings, as a message at the end of emails or through a weekly bulletin.
l – learn
To get the most from Twitter for CPD purposes, you’ll want to ensure you keep an open mind and are willing to explore/discuss new ideas. Allow yourself to keep learning, keep being challenged. Learn from the experience and make the most of the opportunities to update your understanding of pedagogy, teaching and learning and education.
m – magpie
One of my favourite terms picked up from using Twitter has to be to ‘magpie’. In order words, steal, borrow etc. ideas and inspiration from others. I loved it so much I even set up Magpied Pedagogy to try and collate as many of the fantastic ideas out there. It’s even a term I use in the classroom ‘time to magpie’ – students fly around the room stealing ideas from others before returning to their own work and adding to it.
n – network
Twitter provides a great opportunity to network, the opportunity to interact with others from both within and outside the teaching profession, to exchange information, ideas and debate as well as developing professional and/or social contacts.
o – offer
As with engaging with others and sharing your own work it’s also important to offer ideas, advice and resources if possible when others ask. By doing so we reduce each others workload that little bit and help to develop the community of educators; it’s a kind of pay-it-forward scheme.
p – PLN
A PLN is a personal learning network; this being the connections you create with those that help you to develop and learn in a professional (and possibly personal) context. A PLN is about sharing ideas and resources, collaborating and learning.
q – question
There are so many resources and ideas being shared, it’s hard to know what to use sometimes. Ensure you always question the purpose, the application and how applicable is it to your learners. I must admit that initially I tried to use everything I saw and liked; but that lasted all of a few months when I realised a) it was unsustainable b) they weren’t always suitable for my learners/my style. There’s no harm in trying new things, just don’t try everything. Question them to decipher what’s worthwhile for you and your classes.
r – research
I could spend hours on twitter researching particular areas of focus there’s so much out there; I often find it quicker to find research material on twitter than on google. Simply type in the search bar your topic and you’ll find either people involved in the field of study, hashtags or tweets associated. From there I find what’s relevant and take it from there; sometimes it might be taking the name of a university lecturer from the field and then googling them to find their work or even just simply opening a link from a tweet. Also you can easily ask others for pointers on where to find relevant research and information.
s – stand up
Sometimes when we are stuck in a classroom/office for the majority of the day, it’s hard to feel like we are a community of professionals with a voice. Use twitter to stand up for what you believe in. The more noise we make as a collective, the further the message spreads. I personally do a lot on teacher wellbeing, workload and mental health as a result of my own experiences, I know others stand up for LGBT rights, minorities and women in education.
t – tweachers
Once you start tweeting about education and teaching, you officially become part of the community of ‘Tweachers’, I’m afraid there’s no fanfare or certificates but you can take pride in the knowledge that you have joined the ranks of teachers that tweet.
u – Universities
Follow universities on twitter for education and subject specific academic research, articles and links. They are a great source of information to develop you pedagogical and subject knowledge.
v – visits
I know of a number of educators, teachers and school leaders that have organised school visits via twitter. Twitter is useful for connecting to teachers and schools; seeing the good practice out there and creating connections. Make the most of it by creating networks and communities with schools in your area or further afield.
w – wellbeing
Twitter has been my biggest support for managing my own wellbeing. I got involved with #Teacher5aday back in December 2015; it has given me a support network as well as incredible friendships. It’s important to look after your wellbeing (that includes not spending hours on Twitter looking for teaching ideas), allow your twitter friendships to support you to make sure you switch off from work.
x – x-factor teachers
This one can be both positive and negative. You can end up feeling a little z-list with all the great work being shared but remember its social media, regularly users highlight the great stuff in their life rather than the mundane day-to-day. Also look out for those x-factor tweachers, the ones that think they have a noteworthy talent and that everyone should listen or do as they do. It’s not good for you mind or soul. Remember not to compare yourself with them.
y – year-round CPD
Twitter for CPD is year-round, really you can’t get away from it so try to be ‘strict’ with it, otherwise you can constantly be thinking about work. Disconnect from twitter now and then or at least disconnect from the education based conversations, remember you are a human first, a teacher second. But whilst we are on the note of year-round CPD, check out this list of CPD events through out the year from Pete SandersonEdu-Conference National Calendar.
z -ZZZZs….
Too many teachers are burning out. You must look after yourself. Beg, borrow and share resources on twitter; by doing so you reduce your workload and the workload of others (here’s an article I contributed towards on the topic). Avoid burnout by asking for help, ideas and resources; share what you can and make sure you get plenty of ZZZZs (so avoid twitter before bed, it’s too easy to get caught up in something).

What would you add to encourage other teachers to use twitter for CPD?
Your thoughts are welcomed.

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 strategies for developing independent learners

mrs humanities shares

Are we doing too much for our learners? This question has plagued me a lot recently.

I’ve seen hundreds of fabulous resources that take the hard work out of learning for our students. That remove the responsibility from students to teacher. That take the independence from the learning process. That make them dependent on us, their teachers.

Now I’m sure many people will argue with me that it’s a result of increased scrutiny; the unrealistic performance management targets; the use of target grades etc. Which are all completely valid arguments and I agree, but it still scares me that so many teachers are doing so much for their students. Things that take away their students responsibility and independence in the learning process.

Things like case study guides with all of the content students need, completed knowledge organisers, again with all of the content students need. Completed exam questions, so students can learn to replicate. Revision booklets again with all of the content. It all worries me.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I facilitate learning, that my aim as a teacher is to make my students as independent as possible in my classroom and in their learning. That I want my students to leave school being able to learn for themselves; to be able to critically analyse and evaluate; to design and create; to research effectively; to be responsible for their own learning; to want to continue learning after compulsory education.

I’ve created numerous posts on developing independent learners such as these

Developing Independent Learners – Help Yourself Display and Resource Station

Developing Independent Learners – Seating Plans

Developing Independent Learners – Attempts at Flipped Learning

Developing Independent Learners

Developing Independent Learners – Independent Learning Projects

Developing Independence in the Humanities Classroom

Although my practices have evolved and changed over the last 4-5 years, developing independent learners is still at the core of my teaching.

Some ways I approach ‘developing independence’ are as follows

1 // ‘Help Yourself’ stations

I’m a big believer that students should learn to take responsibility for their progress and learning. That we should facilitate them in any way we can to help and support them but at the end of the day, we don’t sit their exams. That’s down to them.

Here’s some further reading from Tom Rogers if you’re interested

Anyway, whilst I do differentiate for students individual needs I also believe that students need to be able to identify when they need support and should develop the ability to be able to work out for themselves what that support looks like.

Therefore in my classrooms for the last 4 years, there have been a ‘help yourself’ areas or stations. This is an area where students can find resources that can support them in a variety of ways. For instance students can find sentence starter mats to help get them started with a variety of extended writing tasks, topic platemats/knowledge organisers that provide the key content of topics (see below for more details), blank maps, atlases, peer and self assessment sheets, note taking templates, timeline sheets and the list goes on. All of which students can help themselves to in order to help them with the tasks they are undertaking.

Initially I will direct students to particular support and overtime encourage them to help themselves to the resource they feel appropriate. Usually as students start to recognise their areas of ‘weakness’ they can independently select the appropriate support strategy.

Read more on ‘Help Yourself’ stations in my original post here.

2 // Project Breakdown

I start year 7 with a homework project that is broken up into smaller chunks, each with their own deadline. We cover map and atlas skills to ensure all students embark on the rest of their geographical learning with the basic skills required.

Student’s therefore complete a project as homework over the course of the first term on a European country of their choice. Each chunk of the project fits with the work covered in class allowing the students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they developed in the lesson.

The breaking down of the project into chunks develops students time management skills and teaches them to break down a project over time to ensure they do not complete other projects just before the deadline.

Over time these breakdowns are removed so students can independently carry out projects without the haste of

3 // Blank or Basic Knowledge Organisers (AKA Placemats, Knowledge Mats etc.)

I’ve seen knowledge organisers with the entire topic on one sheet. All the content a student needs to know. It makes me question why the student needs to listen, to participate in the lesson, to do the tasks set by their teacher. If they have everything they need to know in front of them, surely it encourages students to ‘switch off’. Some may argue that students have KOs in order to then apply the knowledge, but I fear this reduces their ability to retrieve information.

I prefer to use KOs or placemats as they were originally intruduced to me to provide a basic outline of the content students generally struggle with.

For Geography for instance I often find students confuse the 3 tectonic plate boundaries and find it hard to visualise convection currents.

placemat.png

In History it tended to be the sequence of events, names and places.

placemat History.png

Therefore I created a basic visual summary for my students to collect if they so desired. These mats would consist again of the very basics to support my learners.

I also encourage students to create their own KOs at KS5 and hope to implement this into KS4 in due course. In order for my KS5 students to do this I’ve created KO sheets with blank boxes, except for a question or statement in which they respond to in order to collate the knowledge they need to demonstrate thus retrieving and revising the content for use later on.

KO ks5

KO ks5 2

4 // Revision

I refuse to give students the content they need to know in the form of a booklet or similar in order to revise from. Sorry, but they should get that from lessons, why else bother going to lessons if it’s not to learn the content?!

Instead for I provide a variety of resources to support my students.

To start with for each topic students receive an AfL grids with an outline of the topic content. At the start of the topic students self-assess their prior knowledge and then at the end their understanding of the topic in order to highlight the areas for future revision.

Then in regards to revision of the content I’ve created how to revise guides to help students to develop an ongoing approach to revision as well as teaching retrieval strategies and exam technique in class.

In addition I’ve created case study templates for students to complete to summarise the case studies and examples explored. To support revision these have been combined into a case study and exam question booklet so students can also apply the content to exam style questions.

gcse revision

All these strategies require my students to do the work and be responsible for their own learning and progress. I’ve provided the resources, taught the content and given them the support they need to succeed but it’s up to them to actually learn what they need to know for the exam.

5 // Inquiry/Enquiry based learning

At my school we have a real ethos for developing inquirers. I love that we do loads of inquiry based learning across the school. Students get to question, research and develop their curiosity throughout.

In KS3, at the start of each unit, my students write down questions. These questions influence my planning, the resources I use and the lesson objectives over the course of the topic. Students are the driving force of the lesson content. I teach the same year group the same topic to reach the same outcomes but the approach varies dependent on the class questions.

Now that I’m settled in my ‘new’ school for a full year, I’ve seen the progression students make through this approach. Enquiry truly develops their curiosity and interest; they constantly challenge me to further my subject knowledge and keep it up to date as their questions get us exploring aspects I’ve missed in the past or thought not relevant when planning schemes of work.

Through their questioning comes exploration, analysis and evaluation; deepening their understanding and I love it.

How do you develop independence in your learners? Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

Mrs Humanities