Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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Mrs Humanities shares… templates for teaching

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

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

PowerPoints

My powerpoint template is as follows:

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

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

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

Further reading on role and value of colour 

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

Example Powerpoint

Teaching Resources

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

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

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

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

Self-assessment and monitoring

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

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

IB AfL grid template
IB AfL grid example

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

GCSE AfL grid example

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

Less is More

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

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


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

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

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

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

Teaching is Awesome

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

Don’t panic about your to-do list!

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

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

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

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

Do you need to do it?

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

Avoiding Back to School Burnout

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

Still worried? Support is available

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

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

Remember why you teach

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

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

Remembering the why

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

Strive to thrive, not just survive!

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

Other recommended wellbeing reads

Finally…

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

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

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


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Resource – Department Handbook Template

After writing the post yesterday which gave an insight into my department handbook, I realised that although I couldn’t share OUR department handbook I could make a template for others to use as a starting point.

It’s just a template with some hints to help anyone creating their handbook to get started. Adapt and amend to suit your needs.

I’ve left my departmental feedback strategies in it just in case it can be of use.

To download a copy, click here.

If you have any questions, do get in contact.

Best wishes,


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Mrs Humanities explores… Staff Wellbeing Policies

I’ve had the urge this week to explore school wellbeing policies. I don’t have any particular reason to do so, it was just something that I was thinking about and wanted to investigate.

My findings came as more of a shock than I anticipated. You see if you do a google search on it, you’ll find plenty on student wellbeing but policies specifically associated with staff wellbeing, well they don’t seem to be as prominent as expected.

I started my search with ‘Teacher Wellbeing Policy‘ On the first search page I found the following:

Only one of these hits links to a policy that is in place. Just the 1!! Although there were some interesting hits on how to look after staff wellbeing and even a model wellbeing policy from NASUWT, there was a distinct lack of actuall policies.

Since I didn’t find this search of much of use, I tried ‘School Staff Wellbeing Policy‘, having considered that it’s not just about the wellbeing of teachers, but every member of school staff. Thankfully this provides more relevant hits.

The one thing I found interesting though were that over the first 3 pages of the search, only 3 out of 30 search hits were policies from Secondary schools; the majority came from Primary. Why is that? Do Primary schools focus more on staff wellbeing? Maybe they make them easier to find on their websites or just that they are more likely to make them publicly available.

Finding that most of the examples available came from Primary Schools, it got me wondering about the schools I’ve worked at. So after a bit of digging I found that out of the 5 schools, 0 have a staff wellbeing policy publicly available or perhaps they are hidden in the depths of their websites; either way I felt frustrated that schools don’t have to publicly provide a staff wellbeing policy. All of them have significant policies in regard to student wellbeing, everything from general wellbeing to safeguarding and bullying. But where were the ones for staff?

In particular, finding that one still had no publicly available staff wellbeing policy in place, actually upset me. This is because at the this school, I’d been asked to write a wellbeing policy because “you’re into that stuff”. It was only a few months later that I then experienced a breakdown due to work related stress – there are others that left under similar circumstances. I’ll let you ponder on whether there is a relationship there.

Findings

There were a few themes running through all of the policies I read.

  1. The role of different members of staff and teams in the school from the Headteacher and Governors to individual teachers and support staff.
  2. Who was responsible for the wellbeing, mental and physical health of staff
  3. The support available for all staff

What I found most interesting though was the variety in many of the policies. Some policies made the Headteacher and Governing body responsible for staff wellbeing, whilst others made it very much about the individual taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

The well-being of staff is the responsibility of the Head teacher.

The well-being of the Head teacher is the responsibility of the Chair of Governors.

Holy Trinity Primary School

Some outlined how they would improve and/or promote staff wellbeing. Some examples included:

  • An afternoon treat – which involved small groups of staff taking an afternoon off to wellbeing activities such as baking, yoga, sports, a museum visit, a picnic at a country park etc. with the rest of the group
  • Headteacher lunch – staff could drop in and join the Headteacher for lunch on a series of set dates
  • Provision of facilities such as tea and coffee making equipment for free
  • Annual reviews and communication of policies and implementation of changes
  • Involving staff in the decision making process e.g. sharing school calendar before publication so staff can have their say on it
  • Provision of whole school calendars for assessment and reporting so staff can plan their workload accordingly
  • Induction processes for new staff to help them find their feet
  • Provision of relevant and suitable PD for all staff
  • Celebrating staff achievements
  • Providing refreshments and snacks before and during after-school events such as parent’s evenings or school ceremonies
  • Creating a private space for staff to take a break during their lunch and break times

Some outlined the support in place or available such as:

  • The Headteacher
  • Counselling services – face-to-face or over the phone.
  • School vicar and prayer groups
  • In-school wellbeing team
  • A staff wellbeing group
  • Human Resources
  • Occupational Health

Whilst others took a very matter of fact approach which outlined the responsibilities and roles of different stakeholders and how to proceed with concerns surrounding wellbeing, work-based stress etc. Some went on to outline the reponse that would be taken if concerns were raised or time off requested. If I’m honest, these ones left me wondering to what extent these schools support staff or discourage staff from raising concerns surrounding staff wellbeing. I guess I’d need to visit them to really gauge the answer to that.

Surprising Findings

One in particular jumped out at me where it said:

‘Individuals will assist in the development of good practice and ensure that they do not, through their actions or omissions, create unnecessary work for themselves or their colleagues”.

Annon

This statement really surprised me for several reasons.

  1. What constitutes ‘unnecessary’ work for themselves and others?
  2. How can one ensure they do not create unnecessary work?
  3. Will there be a list of ‘must-do’ and ‘don’t do’ work?
  4. What constitutes an omission?

This also got me pondering about the capability procedures associated with the actions and omissions, if you’re not contributing to the development of good practice, are you then creating further work for others? It really got me wondering.

What makes a good staff wellbeing policy?

Note: This is completely a personal consideration, I’ve not had any experience in HR or school leadership beyond HoD but I have experienced the negatives of poor work-life balance, a series of schools with different levels of consideration and support for staff. Therefore please don’t take what I say here as anything other than my opinion.

Identify aims

Firstly any staff wellbeing policy should identify what the school aims to achieve for staff overall. What does ‘wellbeing’ actually mean to the school, the leaders, the staff? How will they cater for everyone?

Direct to other policies

It should direct to other policies in place that support staff wellbeing e.g. marking and assessment, behaviour, sickness and absence, safeguarding, performance management, professional development etc. If these policies don’t already, the wellbeing policy should briefly outline how these other policies support and promote staff wellbeing.

Role of Stakeholders

The policy should outline who the stakeholders are such as the Headteacher, governors, SLT, teachers, support and office staff along with their role and responsibility in building an environment that supports and nurtures it staff, their wellbeing and their work-life balance.

Practical Actions

Next should be an outline of what the school is doing and will do over the time frame of the policy and then beyond. Actions that will help to manage and reduce workloads, that will value staff and provide solutions to challenges. Essentially it comes down to how will they address stress.

This doesn’t mean the introduction of ‘wellbeing’ activities – token gestures that falsely shout “we care about you”. Actual strategies that help to manage workload, foster a work-life balance and support staff during stressful school periods or events in their life.

This does mean… no enforced ‘Wellbeing Days’, the kind where staff are sent off to do activities that if they wanted to do them they could do in the time they gain from better working practices,policies and procedures.

Sure offer activities before and after school or at lunchtime that staff can join in if they choose too such as after school exercise classes, morning yoga, tea with the teachers etc. but don’t make it compulsory or an explicit part of the policy. Instead it should be outlined as provision of opportunities and not compulsory activities.

Practical actions should be associated with other school policies and thus actions that help to support staff, their workloads and to manage whole-school or individual challenges.

In-school Support and Procedures

Next the policy should outline the support available in the school and the procedures in place to guide staff in what to do when they are struggling. This could be people to talk to and people that can guide and help within the school such as HR and admin, the school nurse/counsellor/wellbeing team and of course the Headteacher. No body should be afraid to speak to the Head of the school, if they are in my opinion they are doing the job wrong.

External Support and Procedures

In addition to the support available and the procedures to take within the school, the policy should also outline how staff can get support elsewhere such as through national and local organisations and charities. The school may provide a wellbeing package to its staff which may provide staff with access to counsellors and other services; this too should be outlined and contact details provided.

Managing Issues

Finally, the policy should outline how they will manage any issues that arise. This should be a set of procedures so staff know exactly what to do, who to talk to and what the potential responses will be.

Perhaps more of a decision tree rather than a set of bullet points is what I’d envisage. This is so staff can clearly see the steps and procedures in place to support them, the help them manage and to enable them to thrive.

Review

I’m not entirely sure where I’d place this, but I do believe there should be an outline of how the impact of the policy is assessed, how wellbeing is monitored and how frequently the policy will be reviewed. The review process should involve all members of school staff and should have a degree of frequency i.e. termly, annually.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in a bit of further reading on staff wellbeing here are a few links that I have found interesting:

Supporting Staff Wellbeing in Schools – Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

Supporting staff wellbeing – Heads Together Mentally Healthy Schools

Looking after teacher wellbeing – Ed Support

Staff wellbeing: A whole-school approach – Ed Support

Caring For The Wellbeing Of Teachers And School Staff – YoungMinds

Every school needs a staff wellbeing team – here’s how to start one -Daniella Lang, Headteacher, Brimsdown Primary School

Final Words

The last thing I’d like to say on the matter though is that the policy isn’t necessarily the important part here, it’s the implementation and enactment of the aims, actions and procedures to foster an environment that values and cares for its staff. It’s about the creation of a workplace that places student and staff wellbeing in the same high regard and the development of working relationships that demonstrate care, compassion and empowerment.

Why? Because we want the best for our students. Happy, healthy teachers can create happy, healthy students.

Please feel free to share your experience of school wellbeing policies, the good and the bad.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


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Planning Shoutout

Are you planning on spending some of this half term planning lessons, SoW etc? Why not try to save yourself some time and give a #PlanningShoutout.

It’s pretty easy, head over to Twitter. Write a tweet outlining what it is your planning and add the hashtag. You might want to include any subject specific tags such as #TeamGeog, #MFLTwitterati or #TeamEnglish.

It’s a simple idea so we can help each other to reduce our workloads and spend more time relaxing in our well deserved breaks.

So far there have been quite a few requests and lots of replies with offerings.

Enjoy the half term.


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We need Breakthroughs NOT Breakdowns in Teaching.

The title of this post is inspired by the Education Support Partnership’s Christmas Campaign 2018. Reason being I went through through the latter. I burnt out, broke down and wanted to leave teaching for good. I asked for help, I reached out but it never happened and after two years of the same routine I reached my limit by bursting into tears in front of a class.

During the first 5 years of teaching, I had moments where all I could think about was injuring myself or worse still taking my life so I could end the way I was feeling. This all came back to me yesterday when I saw the following video on the BBC.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-hampshire-4673844

I shared the video on twitter with the following comment and spent the rest of the day dealing with an IBS attack. When I eventually viewed my twitter notifications I had over 500 notifications, many of which were associated with this single tweet.

It was late and the thought of replying to all the responses was a little overwhelming, so instead I decided to write this post.

In response to the tweet there were so many replies from people that were made to feel the same way. Teachers that had loved the teaching element but hated everything else; there were examples of bullying from senior leaders and other members of staff; examples of couples leaving the profession so they could actually see one another; teachers stepping down from roles of responsibility because the pressure and expectations got too much; teachers that have left full time positions and moved into part-time or teaching assistant roles and those that have left all together.

Alongside the examples of teachers that have felt the same way or similar, there were examples of those that were told or made to feel that by speaking up about workload or their struggles that they were weak, a let down, incapable, not cut out for teaching etc. etc. This should never ever be the case. The lack of support and deniability of the problem is causing a mental health problem in education.

On the positive side though, there were also those that talked about feeling this way and coming through the other side. Those that said how leaving teaching returned them to full health. Those that said they’d stepped down, cut back or changed positions that now manage. And those that moved schools, are much happier and enjoy teaching again.

I want to highlight that it is possible to be happier in teaching. It is possible to manage your own workload. It is possible to be a highly-effective teacher with mental health challenges. I know because I’m managing it.

Back in April 2016 when I reached rock-bottom I honestly thought that was it. I thought I was done with teaching. I took time off, I thought that was going to be the end of my time in the classroom. But… I spoke to Ed Support. I asked for help from the Doctors. I went on anti-depressants. I finally opened up to family. I finally acknowledged my position, my choices and took action.

I decided that I’d give one more school a try. One more. I was encouraged to write an application for a position at a top school in the area. I had no confidence that I’d be invited for interview, let alone get the job but I did.

I was still off work when I went for interview. I was still signed off sick. I was still struggling each day. But I went and did what I loved, I taught Geography. I really liked the school. I asked about wellbeing. I was happy with the response. But I worried. I worried my time off would look bad. I worried that this school would be the same; high expectations of staff, limited time to meet expectations, regular scrutinises, Mocksteads, regular observations…. etc. etc.

I was offered the job almost immediately after leaving the site. But I needed time to think. They were happy with this. I’d be leaving behind a department I’d built up from nothing (literally), single handed. My physical and mental health had gone into that department, that school, every resource, every lesson. I’d be leaving behind a major part of me. But when I spoke to the current Headteacher to explain my predicament, I knew then I was replaceable, valueless. My decision was made for me. I accepted the job offer and it’s been the best decision.

I still take anti-depressants, I tried coming off of them and even though I’m so much happier, I manage my time effectively and love teaching again I can’t cope with the general anxiety of the role. I went back on them. I also have periods of highs and lows but that doesn’t make me a bad teacher. It doesn’t make me incapable of being the best teacher that I can be for me students. Instead it has made me more aware of myself, my mental health and more so the mental health of my students. I see things I never used to, I’ve learnt how to support young people, colleagues and friends. Mental health is not a problem, a hindrance.

Help is Available

If you’re feeling like the teacher in the BBC video, please know you are not alone. You never are and never will be. There is help and support out there.

Speak to Ed Support.
Speak to colleagues.
Speak to friends and family.
Never let the job take over your life or worse still take your life.
Reach out.

There’s always someone there to listen, to support, to help.

Here are some useful organisations, their websites, twitter accounts and phone numbers

Education Support Partnership @EdSupportUK 08000 562 561
Mind @MindCharity 03001233393
Samaritans @Samaritans 116 123
The CALM zone @theCALMzone 0800 585858

There’s also those that have volunteered to listen via #Talk2MeMH. It’s over on twitter and is pretty simple, if you want someone to talk to search for the hashtag, find somebody that has added it to their profile and contact them. They have volunteered to listen, not as a professional but as a friend.

We need more breakthroughs, not breakdowns.

As a profession we have to reduce the stigma that surrounds teachers mental health, of struggling with workload and the pressures of accountability. We have to listen to those in need.

We have to speak up, accept the problem and work together to improve the experience of many teachers, school leaders and support staff whether new or experienced.

We need to change the system to ensure that teachers and school leaders are able to deliverer high-quality education within the parameters of the working day, without the excessive workload and impact on home life. We need change.

Where do we start?

We start in our own schools. Work together to create a better environment. Workload a problem? What are the solutions? Don’t just moan, be proactive. Offer alternatives. There’s no point saying you want change without a potential solution. What is the problem? How could it be changed or solved?

If leaders don’t listen, leave. Apply for jobs in other schools. There ARE better schools out there with leaders that listen. Go find them.

Campaign. Support action. Unite.

Here’s a recent resource, 20 ways to improve teacher wellbeing, that I produced for TeachIt.

Right I’m going to end this episode of being a keyboard warrior and actually go and do something proactive.


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Mrs Humanities shares… the 10 most viewed posts of 2018

2018 was quite an incredible year for me, it went from being offered a book deal to appearing on BBC Breakfast. In 2016, when I went through depression and a breakdown, I could barely envisage a future in teaching, to be able to use the experience to help others has been life changing for me. But I’m not here to talk about that but you can read more in my review of 2018 here.

What I am sharing in this post are the top 5 most viewed posts of 2018. They were bloomin’ popular. So here goes…

1 // Resource – GCSE Case Study and Exam Question Revision Booklet

In this post I shared a revision booklet to facilitate student independence in the revision process. Designed for AQA Geography but easily adaptable for other specifications.

The booklet provided students with a list of case studies, templates to summarise the case studies and exam questions to apply the content. With over 5,000 downloads of the booklet, I hope it’s helped students (and teachers) across the country.

2 // Resource – How to Revise in Geography

Creeping in just behind was the ‘How to Revise in Geography’ guide. Inspired by Greg Thornton’s post on How do we revise for history? which I recommended in my post on Mrs Humanities shares… 5 Epic History Revision Resources I decided to make a resource for my Geography students. It clearly hasn’t just been of benefit to my students, with almost 5,000 downloads of the document I’m hoping it’s been of help to many young people beyond my own classroom and school.

3 // Mrs Humanities shares… 10 Great Geography Revision Resources

I’m starting to see a theme now. Clearly revision has been on the minds of many this year. Perhaps it’s the pressure of accountability measures, maybe the tougher nature of the new 9-1 exams or maybe teachers just want to improve their student’s approach to revision, either way most popular post number 3 was another revision one. This time I shared and highlighted the work of a range of Geography teachers from the Twittersphere including
@teachgeogblog , @Jennnnnn_x , @InternetGeog , @GeoNewbz  and other. Many of these I have made use of in my own classroom.

4 // Zombie Apocalypse Atlas and Map Skills SoW

This one is always a popular post. In it I have shared resources to the scheme of work I produced to develop and embed atlas and map skills through the scenario of a zombie apocalypse. I’ve taught it a couple of times and every time it has been loved by the students.

I’ve seen it (via twitter and emails) used in classrooms across the world, which is incredible. It’s been adapted into other languages (Welsh and Chinese) and has been download over 40,000 times since I first published it back in Autumn 2015.

5 // Resource – Differentiation Strategies CPD

Next up was a resource I produced to support teacher training on differentiation. The presentation provides a variety of tried and tested strategies for differentiation and scaffolding to support and challenge students. You can even download the ready-to-go PowerPoint presentation.

6 // Mrs Humanities shares… 5 Whole Class Feedback Examples

Unsurprisingly the next few most read posts of 2018 are associated with feedback and marking. In this one, I shared 5 examples of whole class feedback to support teachers, departments and schools making the move from marking to feedback.

7 // My Marking and Feedback Toolkit

Since publishing this post in January 2017, it’s been a popular one. In this post I share the strategies that make up my marking and feedback toolkit. I tried and tested a range of strategies over a couple of years to find what worked best for me, my style of teaching and most importantly my students. In that time I changed schools and had to start again with the narrowing down process but it didn’t take me long to find what worked. This post goes on to highlight those 5 strategies.

8 // Mrs Humanities shares… 6 Epic History Revision Resources

Back to revision again, this one shared 6 epic resources for revision in History. I no longer teach history but I do like to keep up with pedagogical developments and resource sharing just in case I ever return to it. This post needs up-dating as I’ve seen many more fantastic resources since I first posted it, that will happen in due course I promise.*

*but please don’t hold me accountable if I do completely forget 🙂

9 // Marking, feedback and DIRT

This is one of my first posts on marking and feedback from way back in June 2015. The area of interest has come along way since then, but it’s a great post for those new to the profession or those being introduced to the idea of #feedbackNOTmarking.

In the post I share a range of strategies I’d tried in order to improve feedback but reduce workload. These then made up part of a CPD session for new and current staff at the school I was working at. The post also provides a downloadable resource with all the strategies included.

10 // Mrs Humanities shares… 10 fantastic displays for the Humanities

The final most popular post of the 10 was this one where I shared 10 fantastic display ideas for Humanities. The post shared 10 great examples of displays I’d come across on Twitter from the likes of @mrsrgeog @sehartsmith @MrJPteach  @EduCaiti and several more.

And that sums up this post on the 10 most popular posts of 2018. Hope you’ve found something of use and inspiration this year. Thank you for the continued support throughout 2018.

Best wishes for 2019.


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Mrs Humanities reviews…2018, a year of being braver

Oh my, what a year it has been. It’s been a year of being out of my comfort zone, a year of taking action and a year of raising my voice on matters that mean a lot to me.

When I first found the courage to acknowledge and share my experience of a work-related breakdown, I did so to help others. I never thought it would lead to the opportunities I’ve experienced throughout this year.

It has been a whirlwind of excitement and nerves.

January

The year started with the news that I was a finalist in the UK Blog Awards for the 2nd year, this was shortly followed by an offer from Routledge Education to write a book; after being invited to write a proposal in Summer 2017, my proposal was given the go ahead. What a crazy but exciting start.

January ended with another visit to Canterbury Christchurch University to present at the Beyond Levels Conference. Loved it again.

February

After Beyond Levels came Southern Rocks hosted by Kristian Still and David Rogers. This was a really enjoyable event, took plenty away and inspired a number of others to look into feedback rather than marking through my presentation.

February continued with my birthday but more importantly the 2nd birthday of Teacher5aday Buddy Box. This gave myself and a few other buddy box participants the perfect excuse to meet up over pizza.

March

Next up one of the highlights of my year, TMHistoryIcons. The last few years I’ve been the token Geographer that’s allowed to present. Additionally it will always hold a place in my heart for being the first teach meet I presented at.

Whilst I may no longer teach History, I still love to keep up with the world of History teaching just in case I head back in that direction. It also helped that for the academic year 2017 – 2018, the NQT I was mentored was a History teacher.

I’m gutted I can’t go this year, partly due to its location and partly because I’ve volunteered my services closer to home. I will miss my annual dose of TMHistoryIcons and more importantly Tom Rogers.

April

This month I flew by. I also flew on a plane, this is a big thing for me as I hate flying. I’ve only ever flown once before and that was to and from Iceland for school trip.

This time it was to the Bay of Naples. I loved it there. The history, the geography. I was in my element. But I hated the flying part. That alone makes me feel like I was 10% braver.

April ended with the UK Blog Awards. Myself and Bethan (History NQT) had a blast. I caught up with Ross McGill (Teacher Toolkit) which left Bethan and I both feeling a little star struck. Whilst I may not of won, the evening was so much fun (again).

May

May was spent preparing for the upcoming GCSEs. My class had been awesome, they helped me to love teaching again, I started teaching them in the September after my breakdown, their enthusiasm and humour was contagious. I was going to really miss them, so I made them little GCSE survival packs which they loved.


When they sat their first Geography exam, I overheard some of them on the way in wishing each luck and telling each other to do Miss Hewett proud (and they really did).

They don’t know it yet but I’ve dedicated my book to them as a way of saying thank you.

This month I also spoke to a journalist from the Guardian about burnout in teaching and my experience. You can read the article here.

June

What a month June was. It started with taking part in a panel discussion on teacher wellbeing at the Festival of Education with Julian Stanley (Ed Support), Vic Goddard and Adrian Bethune. It was nerve wracking but an awesome experience I’d love to take part in again. It was disappointing though that a panel on a topic of such importance was hidden away from the main area which meant despite eventually having a standing room only audience, many people missed the beginning as they walked to distance to get there. Hopefully if Ed Support are invited again this year, the event organisers place them more centrally.

This was followed by an overnight stay in Rugby for ResearchEd. What a beautiful school that was. The event was really interesting with lots of ideas to take away and thoughts to consider and digest. I also presented as part of the Humanities strand on moving from marking to feedback.

Here’s a little clip from the day

Next up was my favourite event of them all, TMGeographyIcons. I’m probably a bit biased there though as I am the lead organiser. The event was a huge success thanks to the help of Jenn and Gemma. It would not have been the event it was without their help and support.

The day brought together over 100 Geography teachers from across the UK to share and discuss. Our keynote speaker Alan Parkinson was fantastic and each presenter brought something for others to take-away. Really looking forward to the 2019 event. Gemma and I have some very exciting plans so watch out for further details in the new year.

For now you can find all the presentations from the 2018 event here.

June ended with the Teachwell Fest at Vic Goddard’s school, Passmores Academy. It was an event that was different to all others I’ve experienced.

I decided I would share my experience from breakdown which turned out to me quite an emotional rollercoaster. It was the first time I’d ever discussed my experiences with an audience. It was small but supportive.

It was difficult talking about my journey but I needed to do it. I’m glad I did it as it has put me in a much better position to be able to help others.

July

July was a quiet month. Apart from book writing, it was month for relaxing when not in work.

August

The summer disappeared very quickly. It started with some filming with the Education Support Partnership and was followed by a few days away touring the battle fields of France and Belgium with the husband and his nephew.

The remainder of the summer holidays evolved around writing ‘Making it as a Teacher’. Whilst I’d written bout 20,000 words between January and July, I wrote over 40,000 in just 4 weeks. I was amazed by my capabilities. It was a challenging process, very different to writing blog posts but I massively enjoyed it.

September

September has been characterised by an annual trip to Hampshire for Pedagoo for the last few years. It has always been a pleasure to attend, see people and to say hello (and thank you) to the inspiration that is Martyn Reah.  

Pedagoo Hampshire was the first time I presented on the topic of feedback and sparked my engagement in the movement. This year I returned and shared my experience of breakdown again. I spoke to a number of people at the event and the feedback was humbling. I just hope it inspired them to go away and make a change.

October

Another quiet month spent finishing off the book. Oh wait, that’s a lie.

I was invited to speak on BBC Breakfast about teacher wellbeing, workload and mental health. What an experience that was. I was on TV talking about mental health and teaching!!!

November

I sent off my book manuscript before the deadline. Will update you when I have a publication date.

December

I’m hibernating.

And that’s the end…

A lot has happened this that I’m extremely proud of. A lot of things that I would never have had the opportunity to do if a) I hadn’t gone through a breakdown, b) if I hadn’t spoke out about my experiences. Despite the hard times, I am very grateful for the person it has made me and the opportunities it has opened up.

However, the thing I think I’m most proud of is being able to be there for others, to be able to be someone that others can turn to for advice, guidance or a rant, someone that shows it doesn’t have to be the end of a career in teaching.

If you ever need to talk to someone about workload, your mental health or just need a friend. Please feel free to get in touch with me, Ed Support or someone else supporting #Talk2MeMH.

Hope you have a great end to 2018.

Best wishes,

Victoria


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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