My Contribution to the blog of the wonderful – Chris Chivers 1000 years of experience

On you

Be kind to yourself – look after your health, and your family. No job is ever worth a sacrifice. As I read today, teaching seems to be the only profession that having time off sick creates you more work to do!

Have a list of priorities, to do lists and stick to them. My husband and I leave school most Friday’s at 4 for coffee and cake with the children, that is sacrosanct!

Don’t sweat the small stuff – it really doesn’t matter if you trip over when an inspector is in the room!

Ask for support if you need it – teaching can be very isolating and lonely at times.

We are all replaceable don’t grind yourself into the ground for a job – as I was once said in the past, “that headteacher will not sit by your deathbed. It will be your family.”

Forgive yourself.

On children

There are sooo many children that have to put up with so much shit in their personal life, remember a simple smile and hello can mean the world. I didn’t realise this impact until I met a student I taught 15 years ago the other day.

Remember with every child there is always hope and if we all give up on a child then we really must shut up shop. It is really rare to find a child in a school who has no connection with any colleague. This may be the cleaner or the warden, use this connection it could change a child’s world.

Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, or even cry infront of children. This happens at times especially in my job watching children in poverty brings a tear in my lesson, shows your human!

This job is all about building relationships. Your most challenging child has an interest, one of mine recently was into fishing so I brought him a fishing magazine. What a difference that made to our relationship. He has left school now and I am grateful to know him and he always says hi miss when I see him.


Communication is the key to any misunderstanding in a school – Take time to listen.

Always have integrity – I have seen too many who have had none.

Don’t create a them and us culture – your staff are your greatest commodity and often not treated that way.

Being pragmatic in a crisis is essential, helpful and solves issues quickly.

I’m adding a general note….

This is the most privileged job in the world. It is very rare in employment that you get to watch so many people grow into adults. For such a short but poignant time you are part of someone’s life. You will never know your impact so be careful with your words and how you make people feel.

As Vic Goddard says it’s the best job in the world and you make the weather!


You can find all the amazing comments from so many educators at

Add your experience in the comments thread…….


Teaching and Learning Takeover 2013

What a day and what a treat!

Me being your average ‘Enemy of Promise’ gave up my saturday for some free CPD at Southampton University, hosted by the fabulous and fantastic David Fawcett and Jenn Ludgate.

The day kicks off with Jamie Portman, a very powerful speech and this got me reflecting, back to when I first started teaching.  During a PGCE are you ever encouraged to be the best in your field or even the best in the world? The ever changing world of teaching and the mantle of outstanding is rather dull at times.  No really.  I am happy for you, if you are happy, if you get an outstanding in an observation.  The talk on twitter recently rather reminds me of the twister chasers during the season in the USA.  For me I want to do the best I can for the students presented to me day in day out.  I don’t want to be outstanding every day as for me stopping at outstanding does our profession a disservice and if you are an ‘O’ chaser.  You do the students infront of you a disservice.  I may be an aging hippy but I do feel that the students I teach deserve the very best.  I will not always get that right – I may try a new way to engage the students.  A different style of lesson.  This may fall flat on it’s face.  In fact I could talk you through and tell you which parts of the lessons I teach and what I would grade them as.  The fact we are all too aware of gradings takes our eyes off the prize.  The prize of engaging learners with a life long love of learning.  This may be a cliche to some but for me it is bigger than that.

I had the delight of my first session delivered by Judith Enright about differentiation.  I was very lucky to have the opportunity to sit with two twitter heroes of mine John Tomsett and Chris Waugh. Some very simple strategies shared that were low tech and low cost.  I left thinking why hadn’t I thought of that before!!!  Little things like extending the margin for feedback.  Considering the layout of your classroom to encourage and support independent learning, some fantastic resources drop boxed to those attending the session.  So good to see clips from Judith’s school.

Straight to John Tomsett and the growth mindset and how a Junior Leadership Team has been created and used in his school.  JLT what a fab idea to develop professionals in the school.  We learnt that the team chose to explore the use of Carol Dweck’s Mindset.  I am rather relieved I scored 5/6 in the questionnaire so being more growth in my mindset than fixed.  In order to raise expectations of our students and challenge their attitudes to learning is something you cannot argue with.  I have read Dweck before and went back to class Monday morning and it was interesting to see which students who were fixed and growth in their mindsets and I have also been playing about with differentiating learning to support the different mindsets in my classroom.  Dweck has her supporters and those that dislike her.  But the BIG POWER OF YET is something I would defy anyone to argue with!

Rather nice break and a chance to catch up with some more great tweachers.

Lisa Jane Ashes and Manglish – being made to do the plenary was rather out of my comfort zone but fun none the less.  I do think people should buy her book.  Literacy and Numeracy across the curriculum has never really worked (in my humble opinion) but the ideas presented in this session do work and there isn’t really any excuse.  Why wouldn’t you want to make learning relevant to the students in your class rooms?  Excellent ideas shared and lots to take back to my school.

Vic Goddard – I have been wanting to hear Vic speak since Educating Essex and after my colleagues had the previous year at teachmeet Clevedon.  I was not disappointed.  His school have developed the idea of marginal gains and this is something I have already been using in my classroom – you can see a previous blog.  It was so nice to hear a head teacher with such compassion for the profession I am very proud to be part of.  It was also good to see how the concept of marginal gains can be developed as a whole school initiative.  An idea that we all should adopt and use day in day out.

Finally – finishing with the lovely David Doherty, my husband.  A fabulous speech to finish off a great day.  Make the sea roar in your classroom day in and day out.  I won’t get all biased on you, he is fab (that is all!)

I am very much looking forward to TLT14 – it is the buzz which is hard to describe, spending a saturday with some fabulous colleagues in my even larger staffroom is more then worth it!

When Learning has meaning ….

I write this having just returned from an evening of philosophy organised and delievered by my A2 students.  What an amazing night after a minor roller coaster moment they pulled it off.  It was one of the moments that you get every now and then in your career, that makes your job really worth while and leaves you buzzing for months.  You know them – we all have them.  I think it’s largely because of the individual achievements of the entire group, as well as the success of the evening.

The idea came from reading Ron Berger’s book – An Ethic of Excellence.  Berger takes learning to an entirely different level, especially in terms of project based learning, and for me much more of this is needed within our secondary schools.  I am feeling totally inspired to try other projects next year.

The other thing he does so successfully is really makes you re-evaluate all of your own practice.   I have extremely high expectations for my students but after reading this book I realised I could take them to an entirely new level, almost like leaping out of the water and into the beyond.  Our Mantra will now and always be “if it’s not perfect then it’s not finished!”  The students are using public critique and constantly improving the quality of work even more than before!

You can buy the book here:

Ron Berger says when starting new projects, “start small, I suggest.  It is better to improve one aspect of a culture and do it really well than to take on too much too soon and do it poorly.  Do something well and build from there.”  That is certainly true as I have had a number of students in many year groups since the evening asking me what I am planning to do with them! That’s come about entirely through word of mouth.  I have asked for their ideas as well and I have a few of my own cooking.

I also received a lot of support from @davidfawcett27 with a few emails bouncing ideas around.  Thank you David!

My rationale behind the evening was largely to do with my obsession with marginal gains as well.  My thoughts surrounded the idea that each student takes a component of the course and becomes an “expert” in this area.  Thus, giving each student more confidence with subject material and in the future they could coach others in each revision lesson leading up to their exams.  By starting early they would be a subject ahead of their revision and making their own marginal gains.

Each student received a killer question.  The question needed to be challenging and also provide the students with a basis to work on their presentations.  They nominated a student as a group leader to nag and organise them (their words).

Example of questions issued:   ‘Only delusional people believe that their experiences could be religious.’ Discuss.

The students designed their own invitations, hand written and laminated to also act as a souvenir for parents.  Posters and a guest list written.  They organised their own catering, only giving me a list of extras I needed to buy as time got a little short at the end.  The real gift of this evening was that they had to take extremely challenging concepts and explain them in a clear and coherent manner so their audience would understand baring in mind the age range of our audience would be 10-60 plus!

The subjects of the evening were split amongst the students who either worked alone or in small groups largely differentiated with confidence and philosophical skill. Subjects covered: Religious Language; Miracles; Attributes of God; Religious Experience; Life After Death.

They practised their presentations again and again until it was indeed perfect.  These were in front of each other and they then accepted critique from the group and any visitors who happened to arrive for support.  Keeping with the rules – be kind, specific and helpful. Their essays were written and re-written until they were an A grade.

They also contacted other people in the community for support and guidance.  These included, ex students, local youth workers, churches and a local university.

The programme of the evening started with some thunks, they decided to use a starter that I had used previously in class which involves rolling up a small piece of paper and placing them in a balloon.  The audience blew up their balloons, popped them and then discussed them with the person they were sat next to.  The A Level students then lead a discussion amongst the audience.

They then launched into each individual presentations which included; a screenflow; powerpoint; and prezi. After each and during their presentation they would ask questions to the audience and manage discussion.

During the interval the audience visited a gallery of their work which included displays on each topic and their A grade essay’s.  They ate from Socrates Snack Shack that the students made themselves and they were also available for questions; and some students issued extra information they had prepared.  The second half of the evening included some more presentations; discussions and a quiz.  In which prizes were issued for first, second and a socrates beard for the wooded spoon.  There was an opportunity to offer feedback and for the students to manage  more public critique.

It was so nice to see the parents and audience blown away by the evening they had organised.  The feedback included some of these comments:

  • Thank you for a very interesting evening.  I have learnt a lot.  I gained a greater understanding of the subject and appreciate how much hard work all the students have put in to this evening.
  • I thought it was funny informative and impressive.  Would like to see more A Level learning like this.  Cakes were fab too!
  • All students performed well, under pressure.  They came across confidently and with humour.  Good public speakers.  Well done.

One parent commented that the evening had offered an insight into her daughter’s world as she often sees the home learning that comes home and she doesn’t always understand what her daughter is learning.  The evening has given an overview and understanding of the struggles and successes we have had this year.

As Ron Berger says “I believe that work of excellence is transformational.  Once a student sees that he or she is capable of excellence, that student is never quite the same.  There is a new self-image, a new notion of possibility.  There is an appetite for excellence.  After students have a taste for excellence; they’re never quite satisfied with less; they’re always hungry”

As I sat down earlier to mark their essays that certainly was the case………  As one student said yesterday “I will just hand it in like this Miss!”  There was a short pause…. and “No! I can’t look what you have done to me!” A rather nice wry smile is left with me.



Marginal Gains the beginning…

What a great start to last week! Kicked off marginal gains with my AS class.  Who were absolutely amazing.  They are anyway but I am biased about all the students I teach.  I gained some fabulous ideas from marginal gains guru Zoe Elder AKA @fullonlearning and the cycling wheel from Lindsay Mason @liplash_mason.

The first start of the lesson involved introducing the idea of marginal gains which is from a bbc article  from Dave Brailsford.

“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

I’m not sure if everyone has the lesser-spotted-typical-sixth-form-student but it seems more and more that students struggle with the step up from GCSE to AS.  Marginal gains has offered an opportunity for my students to feel success in a very short space of time.

Loosely this is what we did – I asked my sixth formers to apply this to their studies, some fabulous ideas for example – “I could read a chapter every night instead of leaving it to the night before!”  – “I will download some MP3 bits and pieces for my studies and use during my lunch hour at work, and when I walk the dog”.

A week in and feedback consists of, “I couldn’t see how marginal gains links to philosophy at the start of last lesson, I do now and its making a difference to how I approach my essays”.  “Why can’t every teacher do this?”

We also as a class completed a marginal gains essay wheel.  The philosophy comes from using the mark scheme and the students ideas, If you include all of these components and then improve on them by 1% each time the benefits are endless!

here tis:

*Toilet notes came from one of my students – something about consolidating learning and then sticking the notes all over the walls.  I feel it’s important that they have ownership of this I have no worries with toilet notes, not that I would spend that amount of time in one!

Marginal gains this week will be learning objectives:  So What (my learning objectives).  So That (What’s in it for me?).  I often explain the “so that” but I think if I tweaked using the marginal gains idea they would be even better.

There’s my 1% this week..  What will you do?


Oops I am learning!

Here I am teaching Religious Expression.  I probably do not appear to be the most dedicated of Religious Studies teacher.   I really do love teaching my subject but there are some tedious moments in a GCSE.  I am approaching “What’s inside a Church?” and “What’s inside a Mosque?”  Not a topic I particularly enjoy in terms of getting the students hooked into learning, generally because I can’t teleport them to various buildings around the world, and looking at pictures doesn’t really do this justice.  You probably say go visit some buildings, not as easy on an Island that has been affected by the current economic climate.  We do visit the local Church.  What else could I do to spice things up a little?

Thanks to Oops!  Helping children to learn accidentally.  Hywell Roberts.  If you haven’t read it do – it is inspiring.  I think every teaching school should issue the book as they qualify!  That’s another story.

Students were placed into their OUTSIDE groups.

1. Inside groups are safe friendship groups.

2. Outside groups will be selected at random each time.

My students were asked to protect some delegates from Germany from a potential death threat during a visit to the UK.  I whittered on about the Eurozone crises and how threats can come from a variety sources. Then some of my year 11’s replied – I have seen MI5 advertise in the paper, this is real!  There were quite a few suspicious students but given the enthusiasm from a few – the interest in the task began to take flight!  I explained that the delegates wanted to visit a Church and a Mosque.  They had to think laterally about how they would come up with a plan to protect the visitors and also act respectfully when visiting a religious building.

Here is the picture of the worksheet that was issued to explain the task, logo etc for authenticity.

I also used plain wall paper lining, cut and rolled up to look like plans.   Poundland have an excellent supply.

The class was buzzing – with crazy ideas and finding solutions to protect the delegates.  The learning was found in the solutions.  Identifying areas that were weaknesses meant that they had to identify the key features of a Mosque and Church, they also needed to work out whether they were of religious significance, what the features meant to the particular religion so not to cause offence when protecting the delegates.

Here are the results! More to come having a few issues with my techno world!

I was observed during the lesson, every student who was spoken to was able to articulate why they were completing this task, what they needed to do to improve and thankfully everyone was engaged – even my reluctant learners.

To show progress – I had a few mini plenaries during the activity and the students then completed an exam question – in which they marked themselves in an AFL type exercise – making suggestions of how to improve their answers.  This is the first year they were clearly able to outline the symbols of a religious building from two religious traditions in a concise manner and most students achieved at least 5/6 and all my learners who find RE a challenge achieved at least 4/6!  First time in year 11 this was pretty good going.

I will try and remember to photograph their work to add to this on my return next week.

I am starting the sanctity of life this week and thinking I need to borrow from science the lab coats, get my learners all dressed as doctors, get them to sign the hippocratic oath and get them to face some scenarios in which they need to decide what to do according to the oath they have signed.  In terms of developing my high achievers the current Thalidomide case in the news will be good as a developing tool after the initial case studies.








Techno Lark and a promise to my students!

This is my new blog – I intend to learn how to blog properly, my history of technology is not great – a promise to my students!  We learn every day and its never too late to begin!  I have promised my students that I will blog successfully.

New blog.  What to write?  My thoughts are drawn to my NQT year, over 10 years ago now.  I was very enthusiastic, I really did love my job!  It has taken a while to get back to my first three years of teaching.  Don’t get me wrong teaching is a wonderful career – not one of my students ever suffered – I felt disillusioned with the politics of education.  Which I feel with the added admin tasks year after year does pull you away from the desire to help students become life long learners.  The problem is every one has been educated, they all have an opinion and they never ask the experts!

I have only in the past couple of years found that enthusiasm for teaching again.  I remember the quotes from my wall – all taken from Alistair Smith’s Accelerated Learning in the classroom – a book I was mesmerised by at the time.  It changed teaching for me and began a process of looking at each individual in the class.   A few years ago,  a dear friend visited and asked whether I had read – What’s the point of school?  Guy Claxton – I’m back to being mesmerised by learning again! I have embarked on a variety of learning journeys and this one promises to be the best yet!