Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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A Kind Request – Please vote for Mrs Humanities in the UK Blog Awards

I’m super excited to be nominated for the UK Blog Awards for the third time. In order to make it through the finals, I need a little help from you lovely readers.
If you wouldn’t mind from now (14th November) until the 21st December could you please take a moment or two to vote for Mrs Humanities. The entry is under my ‘real’ name Victoria Hewett.
To vote simply click here, find my name (Victoria Hewett / Mrs Humanities) and click on the red heart. If you like you can read my entry information by clicking on the “i“.
*Please note, there is only one vote per person per category, so pick me (please) 🙂
UK Blog Awards #UKBA19 #UKBlogChat #UKBlogAwards #MrsHumanities

A massive thank you from me in advance!

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… how I cut down my marking workload.

mrs humanities shares

If there is one thing that has had the biggest impact on my work-life balance it has to be assessment and marking. There was once a time when marking took me several hours an evening and several over the weekend. I had a marking timetable and felt I had to rigorously stick to it to ensure I ‘passed’ book scrutinises.  I’d worry if my books weren’t up-to-date yet also felt that marking has little impact on student progress.

Nowadays I spend a few hours a week out of directed time marking and assessing. No longer do I drag a bag of books home with me. No longer do I have a books and assessments piling up by the door over the holidays, calling and beckoning me to mark them instead of resting. Yet I see more progress taking place in my classroom than ever before. How? Well here’s my secret, I started to refuse. I rebelled. I researched. I implemented. Okay, there was more to it than that, here’s how…

  1. Adapt to School Policy
    My last school had a every 4 lessons policy; books required success comments and next steps to act on during directed improvement and reflection time. To start with they were written comments then I started to use a feedback grid instead – these consisted of a bank of comments in which I’d expect students to achieve, followed by a bank of comments that students may need to do to improve their work.
    GCSe exam questionHaving these in place helped me to live mark and ensure the feedback I’d given was evidenced to save having to write verbal feedback in books. I’d carry a highlighter and highlight the achieved criteria, would put a dot on the criteria to work on next. When I’d collect in the work, I’d already done half the marking and could simply finish it off and highlight one or two of the ‘next steps’ criteria for students to do during DIRT.
  2. Meticulously planned feedback
    Next step has been planning when and where to give feedback across the school year. My department and I have looked at the work we get students to complete and figured out how we can assess progress over time. We’ve introduced a spiralling curriculum in which skills and content repeat throughout topics allowing us to spread out formative and summative assessment. The provision of feedback has been carefully plotted to ensure students can act on it in a timely fashion but so they can also make use of it in the long term when they come back to similar skills or content.
    Assessment outline.png
  3. Less is more
    Alongside careful planning of feedback across the year, we’ve reduced what we mark to ensure that feedback is high quality and effective. For example at GCSE we give students 3 sets of exam style questions for each unit to assess their understanding of the content, we don’t mark their notes unless students ask. We use assessment for learning strategies in class to check understanding and to pick up on misconceptions along with verbal feedback. The exam style questions are roughly undertaken every 2-3 weeks. Despite not marking the classwork, I know where my students are through discussions, live marking and assessment for learning strategies.
    booklet pages
  4. Create a feedback-friendly classroom
    I’m a huge fan of feedback-friendly classrooms whereby teachers are not the only providers of feedback. I teach my students from day 1 how to feedback effectively. It takes times, scaffolding and persistence but it pays off.

    By the end of the year students are highly effective at self and peer-assessing. They do not take my place as the professional provider of feedback but they provide one another with feedback on their work and they have time to act on the feedback before they submit work. I feel it’s an important skill to teach to support students in becoming independent learners. More on peer assessment here.

  5. Feed-up, feedback and feedforward
    Feed up, might be better known as modelling expectations or to clarify the objective, before allowing students to engage with a task. Take feedback from students through assessment for learning and use it to forward plan. For this I quite like using the whole class feedback approach, I review all of the books without writing anything in them. Instead I go through the feedback with the class the next lesson. Feedforward Book Look Record
    I use the information I’ve gained from their work to then plan the following lesson or series of lessons to review ideas or misconceptions, to challenge and extend or change the course of the learning taking place.
  6. Live mark
    I love discussing work with students there and then in the classroom; the ability to identify successes with students and areas for improvement in the classroom is incredibly powerful. I carry a highlighter with me as much as possible and will highlight areas for improvement or put a dot in the margin to identify an area to review. I discuss progress with my students and encourage meta-cognitive questioning.
  7. Simplify feedback
    Make it simple. Use strategies such as marking codes, dot marking or comment banks to reduce your time spent writing feedback. More ideas here
  8. #FeedbackNOTmarking
    Since starting at this school in September 2016, I’ve strived to ensure marking and feedback is manageable, meaningful and motivating for myself, my team and my students. In doing so we’ve moved from marking to feedback as part of our departmental policy.

    For me, not having a set number of lessons in which marking has to take place has been freeing. I much prefer using the time I’d have once spent marking, planning lessons that actually lead to more progress. I use the feedback from student work and the discussions I have with them to integrate work that covers the targets I would have otherwise spent several hours writing into their books. Personally I prefer that to writing a comment that may never be acted on. More on the 3 pillars here.
    3 pillars of effective marking and feedback

At PedagooHampshire I was extremely surprised to hear of schools either still implementing excessive marking policies or even introducing them. I would have thought that with the Governments recent publication of the workload reduction toolkit along with all the reports on reducing teacher workload and evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation on feedback that there would be more schools moving away from such policies.

For more of my posts on #feedbackNOTmarking click here

Feel free to share any other ways you’ve reduced the workload associated with marking, feedback and assessment in your school.

Mrs Humanities

 


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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 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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Resource – 1066 and all that

1066

I’ve just been going through some of my resources I realised I’ve a lot of history resources I’m unlikely to use any time soon but I don’t want them to just there on my computer.

This scheme of work starts by looking at key events between 410 AD and 1066 before going on to explore life in Anglo-Saxon Britain. The topic then goes on to look at the contenders for the throne, the Battle of Stamford Bridge and on to the Battle of Hastings. Finishing with the Harrying of the North after an assessment.

resources.png

Each lesson has a range of resources suited for mixed ability and ability set classes. When I taught these lessons I was teaching in a school with a wide range of abilities from students that could barely read and write to students that had moved out of grammar schools. Classes were in ability sets and the work created to suit their varying needs and abilities.

lesson1.png

There are a wide range of activities from timelines to historical detectives; campaigns to extended writing tasks.  As well as a wide selection of support material.

 

The lessons use a range of resources that I have both created from scratch and adapted from freely available resources over the years. I can’t credit any work I’ve magpied since I don’t know the sources after having used and amended them over two years ago. If you see anything that belongs to you please don’t hesitate to let me know and I will either acknowledge you or remove it.

To access the resources click here.

download here

Hope they can be of some use as springboard for lesson planning.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Mrs Humanities shares… Subject Specific Teacher Facebook Groups

mrs humanities shares

It was pointed out to me after sharing my last Mrs Humanities shares… post on History Revision Resources that many people share their resources via Facebook groups now instead of other online platforms yet I still speak to people who are completely unaware of this.

In order to inform those that might be interested I’ve collated the variety of Facebook teaching groups in this post to help you find them easily. I imagine this is not an exhaustive list so if you know of others please let me know.

geography

General Geography

// National Geography Department

// UK Geography teachers resource sharing

// Geographypods.com

Geography GCSE

// AQA GCSE Geography Teachers Group

// Edexcel Geography B (9-1) Community

// Edexcel GCSE Geography A Teacher Network

// Eduqas geography spec B

// OCR A GCSE Geography

// OCR B GCSE Geography Teachers’ Group

// WJEC and WJEC Eduqas GCSE Geography A Teacher Network

// WJEC Geography Teachers

// Edexcel iGCSE Geography

Geography A-Level and IB

// AQA A Level Geography Teachers Group

// OCR Geography AS/A Level Teachers

// Edexcel A Level Geography Teachers Group

// IB DP Geography Teachers Support Group

history

General History

// History Teachers and Those Interested in History Education UK

History GCSE

// Edexcel GCSE History 2016 support group

// Edexcel GCSE History

// New AQA GCSE History 2016

// WJEC/Eduqas GCSE History

// OCR GCSE History A 9-11 support group

// IGCSE History Teachers: Support Group

History A-Level and IB

// Teachers of AQA A level History

// OCR A-Level History support group

// Edexcel A Level History support group

// IBDP History Teachers: Support Group

RS.png

General Religious Studies

// Save RE – The Subject Community for RE Professionals

// RE Teachers Forum

Religious Studies GCSE

// AQA GCSE Religious Studies – Christianity & Islam (Teachers only)

// AQA GCSE Religious Studies – Teachers & Resources

// Edexcel Religious Studies GCSE

// GCSE Hinduism – Religious Studies – RE/RS Teachers Group

// OCR Gcse Religious Studies First Teach 2016

Religious Studies A-Level

// AQA A-Level Religious Studies 2016

// Edexcel Religious Studies A Level (For Teachers Only)

// Eduqas A-Level Religious Studies Teachers

// OCR A Level Religious Studies H173 and H573 for professionals

// KS5 Buddhism Teachers (AS/A2 Religious Studies)

citizenship

General Citizenship

// Teachers of Secondary PSHE & Citizenship

Citizenship GCSE

// Edexcel GCSE Citizenship Studies

other.png

// PSHE, Collective Worship, RE & Citizenship teacher forum

// PSHE & Careers Teachers Centre

// MYP Individuals and Societies: Teachers’ Support Group

I hope this helps you to connect, share and inspire.

Mrs Humanities


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PedagooHampshire Presentation

Less is More – Strategies to Reduce Workload

At last year’s Pedagoo Hampshire event I presented on Less is More – Marking with a Purpose. Since then there has been progress across the country on reducing teacher workload resulting from marking and feedback and I’m pleased to see so many of the strategies mentioned being used by so many.

 

This year I thought I’d share some strategies I use in the classroom on a day to day basis that help me to manage and reduce my workload as well as approaches I’ve come across from others that might be of use and interest. Overall I aim to discuss the workload issue and offer a few solutions to support you.

I wanted to keep my presentation in the theme of reducing workload in order to improve wellbeing.

Sound of interest? You’ll find me session 3 in the MAIN HALL (yup, you read that right!?!)

Hope to see some of you there.

 


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5 Years a Teacher. A Reflection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year 1 

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

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

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

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

Year 2 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year 3

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

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

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

Year 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year 5

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

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

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

What has 5 years in teaching taught me?

The answer to that is a hell of a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs Humanities

 

 

 


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Breakdown, reach out, recover.

In April 2016, on return to work after the Easter break I had a breakdown. Anxiety hit as I walked into my classroom the morning after the Easter break. Anxiety that was so crippling I immediately left my classroom with no words to convey how I felt.

A member of staff caught me in the corridor, asked if I was okay and that was it.  Tears ran down my face, snot poured from my nose, words failed to leave my mouth.

I sat in the meeting rooms for what felt like hours. The deputy head came to see me to ask what was wrong. I couldn’t explain it other than the fact I couldn’t be there. The job had worn me down, the emotional toll had broken me. I cried. I cried some more.

Eventually I was sent home. My partner would drop me off at work so I had to make my own way home. I don’t remember though how I got home. It’s all a blur now. Did I get a lift? Did I get the bus? Did my sister in law pick me up? I don’t know.

I don’t remember much of that day to be honest.  I don’t remember much of that week actually.

I remember trying to go to work the next day but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’d never felt this way about a job before.

I’d worked hard all my life, at one point I was working two part time jobs and a full time one and still wasn’t as stressed out by employment.

I didn’t go back for some 3 weeks. I stayed curled up in bed or watched Netflix. I visited the doctor eventually. But only after I’d spoken to the education support partnership. I knew I needed to talk to someone. Someone that could advise. Someone I didn’t know.

The counsellor I spoke to was patient, supportive and helped me to come around to the idea I needed time off and needed to see a professional.

The next day I went to the doctors.  I returned the following week to be signed off. I got help. I got medication. The first medication didn’t help. But my medication was changed and I got better.

It’s almost a year since I started taking anti-depressants. A year on something I said I would never take. But it’s helped me to reclaim my life, reclaim my love for teaching and reclaim my happiness.

I moved schools, I feel confident in the support network there. I feel confident in the focus on staff and student wellbeing. I feel confident that if it’s raised with SLT it’s not going to just be swept under the carpet.

Like a number of teachers I know, I’m not the only one to have gone through this. I’m not the only one that’s broken down. I’m not the only one to be taking medication.

I want you all to know that, no matter what you have to look after you. There are so many organisations out there, but in particular I’d like to recommend the Education Support Partnership. Reach out, talk and get help.

Feel free to get in contact in you need to.

Best wishes

Me.


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Using Padlet for Notetaking

During the course I attended over my half term I decided that instead of taking notes in the traditional manner, I would use Padlet to make them interactive and memorable.

I’ve used Padlet before as a revision tool with a GCSE group and thought I could easily use it to share the earning and key information with my department and school on return this term. I was right.

Here’s a look at what I created

MYP humanities geography individuals and societies notes
I found this approach useful for the following reasons

  • could add links to course material
  • easy to sort and organise
  • simple notes could be added as discussions took place
  • could instantly look up and add links to anything I found of particular interest that I want to return to later on
  • digitally stored so easy to share
  • can be public, private or password protected

I’ve decided this is going to be my new way of note taking… well once I get an iPad or something similar that is. Can’t be lugging my laptop to school just for meetings and it would just look unprofessional if I used my mobile.

Hope it’s given you something to think about.

Mrs Humanities