Since I had a number of people email and DM to ask for access I figured I’d a share the resources with you. They are a basic outline for the teacher to adapt to suit their approach to inquiry based learning, so they’re pretty much the bare bones with resources that maybe an option.
The only compulsory parts of the resources are the assessed work and tasks that develop particular approaches to learning (AtLs).
The topic starts with an exploration of the types of and scale of issues.
It then explores the sustainable development goals, encouraging students to connect the SDGs to global issues they are aware of. After exploring the SDGs, students will have an understanding of the importance and role in sustainable development.
After the SDGs, students explore the problem with plastic. These lessons look at why plastic became so popular, why it is problematic and who’s responsible for the problem.
The lessons strive to give students an understanding of the variety of different perspectives on both the issue and the management in order to understand the challenges of dealing with any global issue.
A number of lessons also help students to develop particular approaches to learning, for instance one lesson aims to teach students the art of paraphrasing. This lesson was developed with support from the English Department.
Each element of the topic develops skills and knowledge that will allow students to transfer what they learn to a global issue of their choice in order to complete the summative assessment.
All assessed work (2 formative and 1 summative) and associated feedback sheets are provided, this is to ensure consistency in assessment and feedback across the department.
If you’d like access to the resources, simply click here to download them. This link is view only, if you wish to edit the resources please download.
Hope you can find the resources of use to develop your own from.
At the end of the last academic year, my colleague and I sat down to design a new unit for year 7 that would inspire and empower them to feel that they can do something about the global issues they worry about.
Before we sat down to create our unit, I’d already discussed the idea with some of my year 7 students and they helped me to formulate a few ideas. By the end of our collaborative session, I had a brief outline to take to my colleague for exploration and discussion.
Main points from my students included:
- they worry about global issues but feel they have no involvement in dealing with them
- they felt they didn't have a voice in the issues that WILL affect them (climate change and the consequential problems primarily)
- some knew enormous amounts about particular environmental issues but never got to make use of their understanding
- they wanted to feel empowered
- they wanted to learn about the solutions as much as the issues
MYP Unit Plan
It’s pretty lame, but I was really excited about creating this unit as it would be the first one I’d had the opportunity to create from scratch. I’d started as Subject Leader in September 2016 and inherited the MYP plans already in place. In the first few years, the departmental focus was on developing the new GCSE course & the new IB ESS course initially, followed by the new IB Geography course. MYP would stay as it were until the new exam courses were in place. Instead with the help of the team, we updated the existent MYP units.
Now however is the time to improve the MYP curriculum, to make it the foundations for future geographical study and to make learning, assessment and feedback fully integrated through the 3 years so that everything builds on what has come before.
Year 8 and 9 (MYP years 2 & 3) are functioning well thanks to the changes and developments over the last few years, however year 7 (year 1) needs quite the overhaul to make it truly fit for purpose. So this is where the ‘new’ department and I have started.
An MYP unit plan looks something like this (please note however that I added SDGs they are not a common feature):
Designing our unit
The first part of designing a new unit is to decide upon the final outcomes – what do we want students to learn and take away from the unit of study?
There are three areas of the unit plan we needed to explore before we could decide on these outcomes, these were a) the content to cover b) the objectives of the unit c) the summative assessment
We started by writing a brief outline of the content we thought appropriate whilst at the same time formulating a few key objectives. Once we had a rough idea, we discussed the summative assessment and how the three would connect. This was all rough and nothing was set at this point.
Once we had a rough idea, we went back to the core elements of an MYP unit; the key concept, relate concepts, global context and statement of inquiry. The aim of these are to establish the purpose of the unit.
From there we created the inquiry questions for the unit, these are broken down into factual, conceptual and debatable questions. These questions guide the learning and are asked throughout the unit to check for understanding.
The next stage of developing a unit is going back to the objectives, content and summative assessment and fine tuning these so they integrate the inquiry questions.
We decided upon the following objectives and summative assessment for the unit:
The unit would develop student understanding of one global issue together – we selected the plastic problem. We would teach students about the issue, management (including responsibility) and a select few solutions to the plastic problem. Student will then use this outline to structure their own awareness raising campaign, which makes up the summative assessment.
Our next focus for discussion returned to the content. We had our objectives and summative assessment decided we now needed to align the content, approaches to learning and formative assessment to these.
We started by breaking down the content and working out the sub-content.
Once the sub-content was determined we explored the approaches to learning that could be developed through the content delivered. Students would cover the AtL – Research (information literacy) in unit 1, so we wanted students to build upon this and selected a further two as shown below.
Now that we had our objectives, summative assessment, AtLs and content sorted we could consider the formative assessment – these are pieces of work that are assessed by the teacher and feedback is provided to the student. These are the only pieces of work teachers are expected to assess. All other work can be assessed through book looks with feedback provided via whole class feedback, assessment for learning strategies or peer/self assessment.
The aim of any formatively assessed work is that it should feed into the summative assessment and future work. Thus meaning that any feedback provided ought to be transferable between topics – thus developing the learner not the work.
We decided upon the following:
And added in where the formative work fitted into the content.
The final stage involved completing other elements of the ‘learning process’ section which include the learning experiences & teaching strategies along with differentiation (scaffolding).
After this unit, we created two more units using the same process. However the one difference being ensuring that content and approaches to learning developed through this unit, fed into units 3 and 4 of year 7 (MYP year 1).
Assessment for Learning and Feedback
In order to reduce the workload of assessment, teachers and students are provided with a feedback sheet prior to the task. These sheets outline the success criteria for the task. Here’s an example for formative work 2.
Teachers are encouraged to live mark whilst students work, pointing out the next steps the student could take before completion of the task.
My classes do a lot of what I call ‘messy progress’ , this means they are encouraged to add to their work, this can be in the margins, as footnotes or through the use of edit strips, encouraging them to self-assess their work and look for their own potential improvements before submitting as complete. It may end up looking something like this:
Once a formative piece is completed the teacher simply highlights the successes achieved and any relevant next steps. If teachers have any specific feedback for individual students they can either write it in or speak to the individual during the lesson in which they receive their feedback.
Summative feedback looks very similar, except an MYP grade is provided for the criterion assessed.
The key part of producing feedback sheets is that you have to know what you want your students to achieve through the task. This therefore requires an element of planning backwards.
From unit planning came lesson planning. During my gained time I created a set of outline lessons to cover the content of the unit. These are just outlines for the class teacher to amend to suit their approach.
Hope you found the post of use, feel free to share how you go about planning a new unit or SoW.
It was around this time 5 years ago I first stumbled across #Teacher5aday. It felt like a breath of fresh air; something that gave me permission to put me first. As selfish as that may sound, it was something I hadn’t done since becoming a teacher.
At the time I was at a difficult school, one with high expectations for staff which meant high workload as well as many behavioural issues and lack of senior support in managing it. I was doing detentions most lunch breaks and regularly after school and didn’t have much time for a break during the school day.
Just before I came across #Teacher5aday I recorded my workload in order to ask for support (if interested you can see the workload diary here). I was working long hours and long weeks and putting my job before my health and wellbeing. I was constantly exhausted, snappy with my partner, always saying no to friends and generally not a likable person to be around.
There was an element of change when I came across #Teacher5aday. I felt like it gave me permission to say no. I felt like it gave me the support to say no. I felt like I was part of something.
Over Christmas, I came up with my first set of #Teacher5aday pledges and published them on December 30th 2014. You can read them here.
“I will be the first to admit that I get stressed, I work and work and work and then I buckle under the strain. I don’t speak up until I’m about to hand my notice in. I don’t rest and feel guilty when I give up because I’m too exhausted to do anything.”
30th Dec 2014
The pledges were going to hold me to account. I was going to work hard to connect, exercise, notice, learn and volunteer over the coming year. I was going to do things for me and my loved ones. School was going to come second. Okay whilst that didn’t exactly happen, the pledges made me start thinking about how I was not looking after my own health and wellbeing. They gave me a daily focus and encouraged me to take time out from working where I could. That first January went better than expected, but then the workload went up several notches and the stress and anxiety kicked in. But there was a difference in how I handled it as you can see in the quote below from my end of January reflection.
This year started like any other, calm and relaxed and then boooooom! Workload went into overdrive. However there has been a slight difference in how I’ve coped with it. Normally I’m calm and placid in school but when I get home my frustration and stress comes out; I snap at Mr Humanities, eat tons of chocolate, work long hours, try to sleep but end up tossing & turning… the list goes on. The start of 2015 has been very different.
Keeping the idea of #teacher5aday in my mind has helped me to remain calm (most of the time), I had a wobble before school the other day but survived it through a chat with a HLTA and good friend. Phew. So far any time this term I’ve felt my blood pressure rising I’ve taken the time to think about ME and not felt guilty about it. How nice is that
1st Feb 2015
Knowing that there is a network of other teachers out there thinking about THEIR wellbeing made a big difference. It gave me the courage to put time aside, even if it was only one day on the weekend leaving me with just 6 to do the work. Knowing others were doing similar gave me confidence.
That support and confidence has continued and 5 years on I’m in a much better place (literally and metaphorically).
I made pledges again in December 2015 and 2016. However come December 2017 I felt that I didn’t need to make pledges anymore because my mindset and circumstances had changed.
I was no longer at the school that causes me to burnout and breakdown. I was actually saying no and I meant it. I was only working weekends when it really necessitated it. I wasn’t working until late each night. I had found strategies to manage my workload in the 4 months at my new school. I was taking anti-depressants and my mental health was improving. I had support from EduTwitter friends and loved ones. I felt I could manage.
Teacher5aday is always in my mind, it’s given me many fantastic friends, connected me with many through #Teacher5adayBuddyBox and changed how I approach wellbeing and mental health. I even wrote a whole section about it in ‘Making it as a Teacher‘.
There was a time when I didn’t recognise the importance of looking after myself. I’d plough away at the to-do list and work and work until I broke. That was no good for me, my students or my loved ones. #Teacher5aday helped to change that. Whilst it may only be a small part of a bigger story, the 5 elements and the support of a great community got me through some very difficult times. It changed my mindset and now I proactively look after myself. Why? Because ultimately it makes me better at my job, benefits my loved ones and makes me happier in both work and life.
All that is left to say then is a massive thank you to Marty Reah!
You’ve done an incredible job of putting wellbeing at the forefront of our minds, of bringing people together and ultimately improving the lives of many school staff and their students. For that I am sure there are many that would like to say a massive THANK YOU.
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.
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.
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.
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, click to download below.
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.
The GCSE ones outline the course content with key terminology/skills and case studies or examples.
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?
This article was created as part of Twinkl‘s worldwide teacher wellbeing campaign, TeacherTruths. Head over to their Year of Wellbeing page to read other’s views and find out how you can have your say.
TeacherTruths: Supporting teacher wellbeing, one conversation at a time.
If we rewind a few years back to October 2013. This was my marking pile for the 1 week half term.
This pile included Geography controlled assessments, KS3 and KS4 examinations and 2 sets of class books!
The following October half term was a little better as I was at a different school, mainly just a few piles of books, but that was only because the week before I’d had to mark exams and input data for all of the classes I taught. There was just a shift in when I did it. Booo.
Anyway, I found marking and assessment a struggle; firstly because it was just a tick boxing exercise and secondly because I didn’t quite understand the potential it held and thus didn’t fully implement an effective feedback system via my marking. I always felt that feedback was always too late for it to have impact on my learners despite the use of directed improvement and reflection time (DIRT). Marking books every 4 lessons just didn’t have the impact a more flexible system could have.
I was drowning in marking (along with lesson planning, curriculum development, assessment, behaviour etc).
So what did I do about it?
The first thing I did was ask for help. I kept a workload ‘diary’ and went to my headteacher at the time and said this is what I’m spending hours and hours and hours doing… please help me! How can I reduce this?
I was given a day off timetable to catch up with planning for the next term but nothing else was done to support. And so, I continued for a few more months, but the workload didn’t relent and so I went back and asked for help again.
This time my Dad was the influence, he told me to write down everything I did over the period and keep track of the hours spent doing each task.
Over 17 days, I taught 49 hours yet did 184.5 hours of work.
I took this data and asked for help again. I was told “leave it with me”. That was the last I heard of it until my back to work meeting after time off sick in April 2016 due to burnout, when it was exclaimed “well if you didn’t keep a diary of your workload…”
After little support, I decided I had to take things into my own hands and find ways to reduce my workload for myself. Marking was one of my biggest time consumers so that was where I was going to start.
I started investigating other ways of assessing and marking. I came across a variety of ideas and was reminded of some of those I’d used as an NQT such as that below and decided to implement some of these strategies again to see how they worked.
During my NQT I’d create these before assessing any work based on the all, most and some learning objectives of the lesson. Students would read the feedback and then use it to write a target for themselves. Did they ever act on the target? Rarely! (My fault not theirs).
So I tired these again, however this time I looked into how I could give them the success criteria in advance and then make use of the feedback to drive learning forward. I realised that I had to know myself what I wanted my students to be achieving and what that would look like before I planned any learning. Reading ‘Engaging Learners‘ and ‘Teaching Backwards’ were both influential in helping me to understand this.
I tried numerous strategies to find what worked for me and my students at the time but that would still meet the criteria of the school’s marking policy.
Some of these strategies included:
But the one that worked best for me was the feedback grid…
After seeing this tweet by @fiona_616 I decided to give the feedback grid a try.
It was slightly more time consuming initially to set up, but once created they were easy to adapt. I started using them in a variety of contexts since they saved me a lot of time when it came to planning, assessment and marking as outlined in this post ‘My Marking Saviour – The Feedback Grid‘.
The following year when we were required to provide an outline of topics and progression on the front of books, I explored how I could combine this along with feedback to make my workload more manageable.
These combined the topic outline, assessment objectives and success criteria along with what would later become feedback comments. During the assessment process I’d simply highlight the criteria achieved in one colour and the criteria for students to act upon in another.
When marking books, I would write the corresponding code in the students book in the appropriate location.
In line with school policy students would have time to act upon the next steps criteria during DIRT.
Unfortunately, reducing my workload from marking and feedback felt like the only area in which I could take control. I still felt overwhelmed with work and eventually experienced a breakdown due to burnout in April 2016 – more on that experience here.
However my exploration into marking, feedback and assessment led me into a topic I now find of great interest and I’m fortunate to be in a position to now be writing a book on the topic to help schools, departments and individuals move away from marking policies and into feedback systems. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from 10 fantastic case study schools, 5 departments and a range of individuals in the process and I can not wait to share the book with you next Spring/Summer.
Until then, I’ve plenty more to inspire your journey from marking to feedback here.
Share your teacher truth…
What challenges have you experienced during your time in the profession and how have you overcome them? Share your Teacher Truths with others and develop the conversation on teacher wellbeing.
One of the things I really wanted to improve in the last academic year was my departments approach to MYP criterion B – Investigation. In order to do so I set about creating inquiry templates to support our students to develop their approach to this criterion and to improve the teacher’s understanding and application of materials to support.
Criterion B: Investigating Students develop systematic research skills and processes associated with disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Students develop successful strategies for investigating independently and in collaboration with others.
In order to achieve this, I looked into ways to develop investigation in the Individuals and Societies. Since my research proved challenging, I set about exploring the individual elements of criterion B which were:
creating research questions
formulating an action plan
collecting and recording relevant information
My research led me to develop inquiry planning sheets which initially looked something like this for both individual and group investigation.
Feedback from students had been positive however they highlighted some areas for improvement. Their feedback led to the creation of two versions, one for individual inquiry and one for group inquiry as well as increased guidance.
As you can see, the template suggests that teachers ought to remove elements of the scaffold as students become more independent in their approach to Criterion B.
My research also led to the creation of an improved summative assessment instruction template:
I decided to keep the summative assessment feedback sheets as they were:
We are yet to reach a summative task, however feedback on the new and improved inquiry planning sheets have been positive.
If you’d like access to the templates, click here.
Last year after the first cohort of geographers went through the first set of examinations for the latest IB Geography specification, I decided to change our approach. Firstly to bring the units together better and secondly to build more inquiry and independent learning into the mix.
To do this I started creating booklets for each topic.
Each booklet starts with the statement of inquiry, the content from the specification and key terms. They then follow on with theory, application and case studies.
The booklets cover the core topics from paper 1; population, climate change and resources.
Creating a coherent curriculum is no easy feat. I know because I once did it from scratch single-handily for Humanities!
Thankfully, I’m no longer in that position and have a fantastic team around me to develop ours. In the 3 years I’ve been at this school, I’ve been making slow changes to our MYP (KS3) Geography curriculum.
What I inherited was okay, but it desperately needed a revamp and some coherency. In that time there have been two new IB specs one for Geography and one for ESS, along with the new 9-1 GCSE spec, MYP unfortunately had to take a back seat. However this year, it’s turning into what I’ve envisaged for the past 3 years; a coherent curriculum, and I’m excited.
I’m going to outline the steps taken but do note this has been a slow process and not all in one go. I didn’t want to change everything at once.
Step 1. Planning Backwards
The first step has actually been getting my head around the new IB and GCSE specs and considering how everything we do prior to exam years is foundation setting whether it be skills or knowledge and understanding.
I carefully unpicked the assessment criteria and content of the IB and GCSE specifications in order to work out exactly where we were going to go with our curriculum. Some questions that drove my thinking included:
What do they need to be able to do at the end of GCSE?
What do they need to be able to do at the end of IB?
What would we want them to take away from Geography if they decided not to carry it on at GCSE or IB?
How were we going to develop and enhance our students understanding and experience over the 5 or 7 years in which they study geography?
How were we going to enable them to get the most of their studies?
How could we support and facilitate them in becoming independent learners?
How could we take their learning beyond the specifications?
Before the next step I investigated the concept of a spiraling curriculum and from there considered with my team at the time the themes, concepts and skills we felt should be built upon from year 7 to year 13.
Our reoccurring themes were to include:
Population and Demographics
Culture and Society
Sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals
Since I didn’t want to change everything at once, I decided it would be beneficial to make as much use of what we already had in place and instead refocus and develop it. So with that in mind we decided upon the overall topics of study. They were to be as follows:
Biomes and Ecosystems
Weather and Climate
Power and Conflict
Then we decided on some regional or national areas of study to locationally focus the themes.
Initially we decided on the following:
I wrote about my initial ideas here towards the end of year 1.
However the following year when we actually started to implement a spiraling curriculum, we decided to change some of our initial plans. We removed the topic on tourism and replaced it with a topic from GCSE – The Challenge of Resource Management.
In doing so we made our Weather and Climate topic the unit in which we assessed all 4 MYP I&S criterion to be able give students an overall grade for their MYP experience when we then wrote their reports in the Summer. We created a unit which provided lots of insight into and knowledge of the topic and then allowed students to follow the avenue of inquiry they found of most interest.
Next step was looking at the formative and summative assessments we already had and considering how they fitted in. Initially there had been too many assessed pieces of work in the units; I wanted to strip that back and look at how they actually fed into one another across the unit, across the year and across the key stage.
To do this I looked at the content, the skills and summative assessment for the unit as well as how we were going to build upon that from the units came before. It required big picture thinking.
What I came up with was a formative and summative assessment similar to that outlined below:
This example is for year 8. It identifies the assessed work for the topic, both formative and summative and who should be assessing and feedbacking on it. Tasks that required students to be provided with the opportunity to feedforward on the piece of work were also identified.
In the first topic, the feedback for the first two pieces of feedforward work came from the teacher so as to set up expectations and demonstrate effective feedback that allowed for action. From there the teacher could develop effective peer assessment routines that allowed students to feedback to one another before acting on that feedback prior to teacher assessment.
At the same time, each assessed piece of work assessed different MYP criterion. We looked carefully at the spread across the year to ensure all criterion could be built upon as students progressed.
Step 4. Planning Feedback
Final stage in all of this has been planning feedback, although this had been considered throughout it was only at the end that I could make it all explicit. I set about creating success criteria and feedback sheets for formative and summative assessed MYP work.
The feedback sheets for formative assessed work now look something like this:
Whilst summative feedback looks something like this:
The criterion changes dependent on that which is applicable.
An example of how I use and embed formative and sumamtive feedback in my MYP classroom can be seen here.
GCSE and IB were somewhat easier to plan for. We only assess past paper/exam style questions – these equate to assessed work every 2-3 weeks. More info here. Therefore assessment for learning, self and peer assessment and verbal feedback is vital in lessons to ensure students leave feeling confident in what they have covered and so the teacher can effectively plan future lessons based upon the feedback they receive from the above.
Many! Towards the end of the last academic year, I sought to update the MYP curriculum in which we’d developed, particularly our year 7 curriculum. Since only 2/4 of us would be here come September, we both worked together to redesign our year 7 experience to give a global insight which would lead to national/regional studies in year 8 and 9.
Whilst this year we are exploring the embedding the themes implicitly rather than explicitly in year 7 and whilst maintaining the explicit themes in year 8 and 9.
What does it look like completed?
To start with, we are still working on this. My team has changed this year so their input into the development of the curriculum I feel is important. My aim this year to improve on our collaborative unit planning and resource sharing to ensure consistency in experience across geography.
So this is what our MYP curriculum looks like at present.
The following is an example of a unit of inquiry from our MYP curriculum. You can see that it outlines the objectives, content and assessment.
At GCSE we follow AQA and at Key Stage 5 we follow the IB. The development of these is a whole other post.
So for now I’ll leave you with some useful reading to support the above approach to curriculum planning.
If you’re a twitter user, you may have noticed that this weekend a prominent, highly-regarded teacher offered an opinion about mental health and wellbeing that was rather controversial and for some, including myself, upsetting to come across.
The tweet read:
Twitter at your best: Sharing ideas. Pooling resources. Generating debate. Twitter at your worst: Droning on about your mental health / wellbeing as if you work down a Victorian bloody coalmine. Get a grip.
I’m not going to name and shame as the tweet has now been removed. However before it was deleted there had been a barrage of more than 250 responses striving to counteract the statement made. It was pleasing to see that not a single response had been in agreement and that so many came out in support.
A bit of a shock!
When I first read the tweet I was flabbergasted that a member of the teaching community that I held in high esteem, could say such an insensitive thing. I retweeted with a comment explaining how I was ever grateful that I’ve been able to talk about my mental health and wellbeing over the last 3 years and left it at that.
However it stuck with me throughout the night and by morning I was rather angry. I had to respond directly so I outlined how being able to talk about and share by experience online meant I was able to accept my experience and later recuperate from the depression and breakdown.
However I also felt ashamed, firstly ashamed that others could feel this way about such an important issue and secondly because it brought back how I felt before I brokedown in Spring 2016 when I’d been too scared to face the reality of my mind and emotions. It’s really hard to hear others speak of mental health and wellbeing like it doesn’t matter, because when you’ve come so close to ending everything because of work-place stress, you know full well it’s not something to dismiss.
Worst thing is I’m not alone.
As a result of willingly sharing my experience, I’ve been in the position whereby not one but two fellow teachers have contacted me to discuss their mental state. One told me what they were planning on doing at the time, the other didn’t until weeks later. It was heartbreaking to hear, however, if they hadn’t reached out on those nights it could have been a very different story for them, their families and their schools. That’s two people that needed to talk, but there are countless others in similar circumstances. For instance, the Education Support Partnership year-on-year are seeing rising numbers contact them, in the year 2018/19 they saw a +28.1% cases compared to 2016/17. What a rise.
But there are also those that never reach out, that keep their challenges hidden and those that eventually leave the profession because it gets too much to deal with. We can’t hide from the issue.
We’ve got to keep talking!
Mental health challenges are easily hidden and without talking, how are we to uncover them? How to we de-stigmatise them? How do we make people feel okay about how they feel? How do we get people to reach out for help?
We need to talk and we need to look after and out for each other; be it ourselves, our colleagues or our students. We need to normalise the discussion, we need to normalise any need for support and we need everyone to know that it is okay to not feel okay. Society and individuals need that as much as schools do.
We all deserve to be happy.
Staff in schools have as much right to positive wellbeing, to be happy and to live free from excessive work-place stress just as much as the young people we work with. No body should be made to feel ashamed about their mental and physical health or their wellbeing and no one should be made to feel ashamed about talking about either.
I’m in a fortunate position whereby I have been able to publicly verbalise how many others are feeling. I’m contacted daily by teachers, school leaders and support staff about their wellbeing or lack of as the case usually is, each one fearful of saying anything whether it be to their schools, their loved ones or a professional. They don’t want to be seen as weak, inadequate, failing or add in any other negative connotation. But having the ability to speak to someone that has been through similar helps, it most certainly helped me. I was kindly offered support by a highly experienced geography teacher that had been through several of his own breakdowns and mental health challenges. His words lifted me on some of my darker days because he understood better than any of my friends or family could. Not only had he had similar mental health challenges, he was a teacher too. He understood. And that’s what is needed. Understanding and empathy.
Too many of those I speak to, meet or listen to say their school leaders, line managers, head of department or the like, lack it. That they’ve been told to get themselves together, that they’ve been told to grin and bear it, they’ve been told that everyone finds it hard they’re not the exception etc.
That’s not how we should treat one another; that’s not how we normalise mental health; that’s not how we save lives.
Teaching broke me. But it also helped me.
I’m stronger, braver and prouder now than I’ve ever been and that’s thanks to teaching and Edutwitter. I know I’ve been able to help others, whilst so many have unknowingly helped me. And so…
I’m standing proud and owning my mental health. I’m standing proud and talking about mental health. I’m standing proud and normalising mental health.
Because mental health matters and so do you!
Need help? Who can you talk to?
The Education Support Partnership are the only UK charity dedicated to improving the wellbeing and mental health of education staff in schools, colleges and universities. They have a 24/7 helpline if you need to talk about anything, whether it be professional or personal they are there to help.
Alternatively, find someone with #Talk2meMH on twitter. They are happy to talk not as a professional but as a friend. Some have been through their own challenges others have significant understanding and empathy.
Either way, if you need to reach out and talk, ensure you do so.
P.S. I’m fundraising for Ed Support by walking 100km in 48 hours from London to Brighton next May. To find out more or to donate check out my Just Giving page here.
If you haven’t already read my post on metacognition in the classroom, I’d suggest starting there as it provided some context to the resource I’m sharing in this post.
I first came across the term ‘meta-cognition’ 4 years into my teaching career when I attended a Stretch and Challenge Conference back in 2015. Yet I’d been applying meta-cognitive strategies since I started teaching. Once I was able to put a name to the strategies I employed it opened up a world of other examples, evidence and approaches. Since then it forms a regular part of my teaching practice and is fundamental to the feedup-feedback-feedforward cycle that’s constantly implemented in my classroom.
As a subject leader however, I didn’t feel it was as embedded across my department as I would have liked. So over the summer I set about creating a resource that would help my team to apply metacognitivie practices in their classroom. It started with a PowerPoint split into two parts, first part information and guidance on metacognition for staff whilst the second part consisted of question slides for use with students. I don’t use the resource myself, however these are the kinds of questions I ask students as we plan, as they work, as they reflect and as we evaluate.
I hope the PowerPoint is a resource from which my colleagues will extract ideas from for their own lesson planning.
I’ll be making use of these in the first subject collaboration session later in this term to outline what metacognition is and how it should be applied within geography as part of our day to day teaching practice.
These slides are simply a range of questions associated with the following stages of the teaching process used in MYP Geography:
Monitoring (feedback – student to teacher, peer to peer)
Evaluation (feedback – student to teacher, teacher to student)
One of my objectives for the last academic year was to develop student understanding of MYP I&S Criterion B – Investigation (more info here). This meant developing our students understanding of inquiry planning, effective research, academic honesty and assessment of sources within the context of geography. Many of the questions incorporated in the student slides I’ve incorporated into the resources I’ve been building to develop the elements above (I’ll write more about these in due course).
If you’d like a copy of the Powerpoint, simply click here. Hope you can find it of use.