15 top tips for 2015

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1. Be deadline ready.
Know what you’re meant to be doing for when.

2. Be equipped.
Know your students, make sure you know how they are doing not just academically. Christmas is lovely for lots of us but not for all of our students.

3. Have spares.
Make sure you have extra copies, pens, pencils, books, the equipment you need in your classroom so as to ensure a trouble free start.

4. Be raring to go.
Have a starter ready for them, plan it now so it’s ready and easy to use to get them going as soon as they enter not when they are ready!

5. Be at the door.
Be at the door, ready and waiting to welcome them in to your learning space.

6. Smile.
A warm cheery smile works wonders to all that come across it, students, support staff and teachers alike. So give it your best super smile. Say cheese!

7. Be calm.
Use your voice but don’t over use it. Apparently when we shout it takes a good 10-15 minutes for the adrenalin and heart rate to return to normal. Therefore we are ‘hyped up’ for that long too. Try not shouting.

8. Be reflective.
What went well in that lesson, how could it be even better…? Ask yourself these two questions to remain fresh and keep students working and lessons engaging. It doesn’t take long but is worth ten times its weight in gold.

9. Be committed.
Start as you mean to go on. Resolutions and changes are hard work, so get your tutor group to commit to change or use @missKMcD ‘s awesome idea of being ‘just that bit better’ at something. Perhaps encourage colleagues too. A joint venture will provide excellent support.

10. Be well.
The job we love is hard and we give so much of ourselves we have to stop and take care of ourselves too. @martynreah has inspired a huge collection of blog posts where teachers are committing to looking after their wellbeing too. Have a read and perhaps blog yourself if you haven’t already. Check out #teacher5aday

11. Collaborate.
There will be someone in your school or in the Twittersphere who will also want to develop, change or improve their practice. It will help you and your students to develop your practice, confidence and toolkit and with a buddy or coach you can journey together making it more fun along the way. So #connect.

12. Eat well.
Apparently we are what we eat but also a little bit of what you fancy does you good. Next week and beyond will be tough but stop to at least eat your lunch. You can’t drive a car on an empty fuel tank so find time! How many of us take it back home with us or eat it at the end of school!

13. Get out of your classroom.
How long do you spend in your classroom each school day? Get out and speak to other colleagues or students perhaps even go for a stroll outside for a breath of fresh air for 5 minutes at break or lunchtime.

14. Sleep.
Try to get some decent sleep each night. Staying up until the wee hours then teaching quality lessons all day is a tough ask day in day out. So aim to get more sleep. You’ll feel refreshed and awake and ready for the day ahead.

15. Rest.
What do you do to chill out? Read? Watch TV? Exercise? Walk the dog? If you don’t know then it’s possible that you don’t rest. Find a hobby or book you want to read and enjoy that for a few hours a week to allow you to just stop and rest for a while.

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#teacher5aday

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So I’ve finally managed to find time to think about #teacher5aday sad isn’t it as people were doing this at the end of a very busy term. Apologies for the lateness of this but here it is @martynreah

#connect
I try to connect with people everyday in classrooms, in corridors before, after school and at break times. I stick my head around doors and always pop in to say hello to connect. I try to connect with people on line too but this is proving to be increasingly more difficult but I’m always trying. It’s important to connect with the ‘human’ albeit it making a cup of tea, sharing tasty treats or a hug after a tough day. It’s something I try to do everyday because it matters!

#exercise
Eeek I’m rubbish at this, I have good intentions but I must improve at actually making these a reality. Long walks with our dog (husky-German Shepherd cross) is great for getting out in to the open but as I’m in to a new decade I have to try a little harder. I have tried running with the dog but often he gets sidetracked by rabbits and bikes and I give up easily so perhaps some additional training might make this more fun. Oh and fixing the puncture on my bike so I can get out on it more!

#notice
Last Christmas I did get a fitbit (wearable tech) which has significantly helped in keeping me knowledgeable about sleep, weight, water intake and movement which sounds probably tedious but honestly it has become an addiction to see how many steps I do, how much sleep I get and how restless it is. I had been tracking my sleep for a while as I was a bad sleeper but it appears I’m not according to the data. Interestingly this wearable tech is helping me rid my wardrobe of those terrible bugs… The ones that stitch your clothes tighter and give you a muffin top though in my case it was more Victoria Sandwich with a strawberry gateau for extra support!
I try to notice the people I work with and look in to their faces to make sure they have what they need and I can check in. The job we do is ace but hard work and someone taking the time to stop their busy schedule and notice something on a human level is important and another thing I try to do everyday.

#learn
I like learning so I feel good when I learn something new. I try to read books, blogs, experiences and can get so caught up in the learning experience that I don’t always get to blog about the adventures in my classroom which was an idea put to me by a few friends a while back. I love getting out to TMs and learning from others, it’s a privilege to hear others sharing their experiences and learning from them. Learning something new to me is rejuvenating and keeps me happy. It’s keeps me out of my comfort zone and at my most active. I love it.

#volunteer
After working myself in to serious health issues in 2012-13 and then a nasty health scare resulting in operations and consultants I decided that things had to change but I didn’t know how. The job still needed doing and with the pressure to get good results I felt I couldn’t step out of the role and actually I still had so much to give. My wonderfully tolerant and amazing husband and I had a plan to retire at 50 to volunteer to work at a new conservation park in Bristol but with changes to retirement age and the fact the park had opened in July 2013 we felt it was now or never. So we volunteer as rangers at the Wild Place, Bristol’s newest attraction. @wildplace is a conservation park and has ambitious plans right next to Cribbs Causeway. We both love it. Every Sunday at 10am as the park opens we go in until 2pm and have been since Easter time. It’s fab, we are out in the fresh air meeting new people and learning about endangered and critically endangered animals from across the globe from the amazing animal keeper team who are brilliant at what they do. I am stopping to enjoy life, to enrich it and never in my wildest dreams would I have seen myself face painting hundreds of children, feeding lemurs and being part of such an amazing project this time last year. The marking, planning, updates to handbooks, policies and RAPs still get done but I get to stop and have fun. I didn’t think I could find the time to do this with a full time middle leader role but I’m so pleased I did. I can’t imagine not doing it.

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#Nurture14/15

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I didn’t complete a wish list for 2014 and as I reflect upon the goings on some were hopes, aspirations and actions but others, well I couldn’t have wished for in my wildest dreams.

So where to start.. I guess at the beginning.
January saw a new MFL team born as a result of departures to pastures new, promotions and maternity leave so a new year and a new start but some serious work to be done. RAP in place and learning walks aplenty with support from SLT and interest from the Governing Body, interesting times with some fun navigation was certain. Kagan strategies were being trialled with a range of outcomes; inside outside being a swift class winner at getting students speaking in the target language without protestation nor grunts! Excellent stuff.

February saw some planning and lots of action in preparation for our first TeachMeet, not quite the first in Gloucester but certainly the first cross-phase event in Gloucester city, and who to have as a keynote speaker. Thinking caps on. Decisions, decisions. Dedicated staff from our school and partner primary colleagues met to plan what was to be known as #QLCTMGlos. Sweets, tasty treats and an unforgettable and completely awesome T&L experience was the goal that would shake the city, inspire colleagues and ensure best practice was disseminated far and wide.
I offered to make a connection with the rather awesome @ictevangelist to ask if he could come to be our keynote speaker… He would be perfect for #QLCTMGlos sharing his awesome inspirational practice that everyone could take away with them to develop their own repertoire and share the word of the incredible impact that ICT can have upon learning in all of our classrooms. Mark’s non-threatening way of explaining, inspiring and encouraging is exactly what we needed. However being an ITL associate, an author probably creating his new masterpiece and AHT I knew his time was precious but all I could do was ask. So ask via DM I did!
Kagan strategies were setting KS4 lessons on fire and when students beg for you to use talking chips, round robin or inside outside you know you are on to a winner! Happy learning times!

March saw more amazing lesson observations from the newest member of team, a real natural affinity with students, making language lessons fun and exciting, and superb subject knowledge from the former marketing and events queen the profession managed to win. Excellent work!
Also the Head asked me to speak to a conference for Gloucestershire’s Headteachers and SLT about the ‘Power of Twitter’, I expected about 10 but found myself in a conference hall where there seemed to be few empty seats. Smiling faces from the assistant head (my line manager) and deputy head gave me confidence and all was well, despite little sleep, until I stepped up and scattered my note cards across the floor. D’oh! But I managed without them.
Kagan was proving to be a massive winner with a range of strategies being trialled across KS3 and 4 with real tangible and lasting impact on learners plus talk of a visit to a rather amazing school in a wondrous place called ‘Splott’.

April saw the Easter holidays and a well deserved rest for all come and go. Final preparations for Y11 and final MFL listening and reading tests were on the horizon so an extra special Easter holiday revision project was devised after our deputy head, now head, purchased GCSEPOD for the school. More variety, fun and practical revision for our Y11 lovelies and #QLCTMGlos was planned and sorted and joyfully @ictevangelist had confirmed he could be our Keynote speaker. Joy, joy, joy!

#QLCTMGlos was awesome. A truly incredible experience which seemed to take forever to arrange, sleepless nights, dreams about not enough ‘pick n mix’ bags and then it was over way too quickly! It was an ace event to which many of our own staff pledged to use Twitter after hearing the incredible range of speakers sharing their amazing practice that night. Proudly the event was truly cross-phase with primary, nursery & KS5 speakers coming to share their classroom magic from across the Midlands and South West ! Everyone had something they could take away whilst friends and colleagues that I had convinced to come had the fire back in their eyes and a hunger in their bellies that they hadn’t enjoyed for a while. In addition @ictevangelist storified the entire event for us and make us an iBook full of tweets from the evening. Awesome work and we are truly grateful! A night not easily forgotten!

May saw a new ‘revision offensive’ with relaxing and creative revision T-shirts magpied from #TMBristol in December. I had been sat on this gem for months after repeated requests from the wondrous NQT so with T-shirts and coloured sharpies at the ready we had our final few MFL lessons which were fantastically relaxed and focussed. My delightful Y11 tutor group and MFL groups depart and final exams galore. I love and hate seeing Y11 go, I’m truly rubbish at goodbyes and always sob but hey we all have to grow up don’t we and the next phase in life is always so exciting. However as luck would have it I was gifted another tutor group with immediate effect, goodbye Y11 hello Y10 So not time for the dust to settle and as I was their third tutor since Y7 no time for sadness on with the day job. My plan for the bonus 20 minutes gained pushed aside to get to know this not so merry bunch.
Weirdly I’d been asked to do a ‘little presentation’ for #PedagooSW by @ictevangelist which I agreed to but @rlj1981 said was actually a 50minute workshop… Instead of crying WHAT?!?! And panicking I cast my mind back to all that I had learned from the TeachMeets which I had attended since #TMClevedon and wondered what on earth I could speak about & what people might actually want to know about.
‘Kagan in my classroom’ would be the topic sharing my journey and that of the team was the plan. So that I did. The planning and preparation from @ictevangelist, @rlj1981 & @drmassey was incredible and so in June, on what seemed like the hottest day of the year hundreds of teachers convened at one of the most beautiful schools in the City of Bristol for #PedagooSW
It was on this day I met amazing people like @kwdscience, @aleishawoodley, and the rather incredible @musicmind. The sessions I attended were marvellous and a whole day of #awesomecpd was mind blowing, truly brilliant. Then it was my session and I was on at the same time as @eddiekayshun and @ictevangelist which surely meant no one would be coming to mine. Ah well and off I went, escorted to what seemed like the other end of the school to the sweltering drama studio by a delightful student, one of many who had given up their Saturday to support #PedagooSW, to find two people waiting. Yay I shouted (inside) at least I would have two. I opened a tub of lollies and welcomed my two which quickly became four then ten and when I’d counted over 30 my stomach started to drop so I just got on with it. And present I did. There were multiple handmade Kagan bookmark freebies and the lollies went down well, really well! So well I decided to stay for the evening event which was also truly awesome too with some very delicious #pedagooSW cake thanks to @flythegeekflag and more sharing of incredible practice. I was buzzing and grateful for the incredible experience.

July saw a roadtrip to Leeds to the
fabulous @NRocks2014 which did indeed rock and I found myself being awestruck by poetry, song, creativity and amazingness from some of the ‘rockstars of education’ the movers and shakers and the wonder makers- @davewhitaker246 @hywelroberts @debrakidd and Mick Waters to name a few. A truly incredible day out and well worth the trek from Bristol. And yes we have booked for 2015 and will be bringing a few more cars and booking some more hotel rooms!
In addition to this a thanks and well done team was gifted to us by SLT which was a really wonderful start to the long summer holidays despite the departure of one of the MFL team.

The summer holidays brought a birthday, an anniversary and building work… Which was all good until the rain came. There was also some rest and a chance to recharge which can only be a good thing.

August brought some good results but still some work to do to secure what we want for our students but thankfully few tears this year and this is testament to the hard work and commitment of the team. Together we make a difference and together we will get there, we are getting there. I am truly grateful for the effort, hard work, support and creativity that I see in classrooms across the MFL dept, and indeed the school. It is an honour to observe other people’s lessons, the interactions and relationships and the movement along learning journeys that I witness and I know how lucky I am.
The deadline for the #sweetdreams calendar that I’d volunteered to be a part of with so many others was fast approaching. So off to the fancy dress hire shop it was to ‘Lara Croft it up’ and to try to have just one decent photo taken before the final deadline! It was such an honour to be part of this, such a fab concept made reality and I’m grateful to @cazzwebbo for realising @chocotzar ‘s vision. Having gifted these to friends and family their joyful faces are hilarious at their reaction when I tell them I’m November 10th! They don’t believe me but it’s true.

September, a new year and a new start, to build on the team ethos and become even stronger and more successful in supporting all of the students we teach in every lesson. Also a book launch invitation and to London so off to the ‘Big Smoke’ I go with @misskmcD to meet some of the awesome contributors in @rlj1981 ‘s incredible collection of amazing practice in ‘Don’t change the lightbulbs’. Meeting up with Twitter greats such as @imagineinquiry @kevbartle @hgaldinoshea @chrischivers2 @kwdscience was a super treat in itself as well as meeting @jillberry @vicgoddard @martynreah for the first time. @misskmcd and I giggled all the way home at our encounters with some of the ‘rockstars of education’ that we had waved hello and chatted to, not actually quite believing it.
Also an interesting email from ITL, as in Independent Thinking Limited, inviting me to ‘try out’. Me?! The email, I think, must be a joke, like the one I received several months ago inviting me to think about writing a book… I mean seriously… Me?! Only in my wildest dreams…
So after another email or two and the need to respond I speak to people who I have begun to consider friends. They tell me to reply, to accept to not worry.

October comes and suddenly I have to attend a chat, an informal interview with three of whom I would consider to be ‘rockstars of education’. What me I say and start to get a weird feeling. I speak to friends and they say all is well, you’ll be fine and just go and be you. That’s the problem I think… I’m just me.
A #tmnsl workshop on Kagan was requested by the ever-inspiring @mrocalloghan at Bristol Brunel Academy which was a privilege to attend just before half term break and the opportunity to meet up with @musicmind @ictevangelist @daviddidau @eddiekayshun and @edubaker again. Exciting times in the education world in Bristol especially being immortalised in animation by the incredibly talented @davidjesus the live scribe for the evening! Amazing stuff especially at the end of a very long first term.

Then the drive to the Midlands for the informal interview, the chat with @DaveHarris, then @musicmind and @hywelroberts. I’m me, what on earth was I doing here and feeling a little peculiar and rather Alice in Wonderland. Incredible people, very inspiring, and I was absolutely awestruck. Another one of those days I’ll never forget. Two days later an email arrives, the kindest email I’ve ever read, the invitation to join ITL and become an associate. Amazing stuff I can’t quite believe it. It takes several moments to sink in.

The October holiday ends and to the Head’s office I go to speak to him of the news. It’s well received and he is pleased and happy to support this new venture. I tell my line manager who is also delighted. The support is tremendous, I feel relieved. The MFL team have known a while as have one or two others and are over the moon.
Then a phone call, a first event to deliver, a one hour session entitled ‘what does creative teaching look like?’ I am well up for it but ought to check with the Head first. He agrees and I am allowed to go be a part of the fantastic experience that is ITL’s Big Day Out in Surrey so to work I go. A ‘double act’ with Dave Harris – eeek best not muck it up!!

November comes very quickly and to Surrey I go after a day of learning walks from SLT and the Governors. A welcome dinner with Ian Gilbert, Dave Harris, Hywel Roberts, Roy Leighton and many many others. Fabulous evening and delightful food, superb conversations wonderful support. I’m truly grateful to be in the same room as these people!
So with my knees knocking, I don’t want to disappoint it’s the The Big Day Out at Glyn School! So exciting then I’m welcomed to the floor in a huge Surrey school hall. My solo session to provoke thoughts and ask questions and to share some tried and tested ideas on creative teaching to all of those people sat there to take back and use in their learning spaces. With some of those ‘educational rockstars’ sat there, I start and before I know it a one minute reminder (no sign of a ‘comedy cane’ around the neck). The coolest moment was when those sat in the hall wrote the idea(s) they were going to take back and use in their classrooms on coloured paper planes and threw them across the hall towards me. Brilliant. Thank you @rlj1981 for the paper plane plenary idea from #TMClevedon.

So an incredible year, really amazing experiences had, kindnesses shared and encountered as well as wonderful connections and budding friendships made and I do very much feel like Alice in Wonderland but I am really excited about what is to come in 2015. New friendships and opportunities. Practice developed and shared. Perhaps another session and maybe a book after all. We’ll see.

Thank you to everyone, fellow professionals, school support staff, TM organisers, colleagues past and present, new friends and old ones and of course the twitterati, as in you on Twitter who inspire me everyday, who share and support and whose positivity and willingness to help and support is frankly amazing. You are amazing and you know who you are. And finally the students without whom there would be no profession and who make the job I love everyday such fun, a joy and a challenging journey. Thank you.

Wishing you all a truly happy, healthy and successful 2015 in all of your ventures.

Adventures in my classroom

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So it’s Christmas and I’ve said goodbye to my classes for the rest of the year, 2014 that is, I’m not leaving but there are some changes for January 2015.

Am wondering and worrying actually how quickly I’m going to learn my new students names in the first couple of weeks as our year 7 classes have been changed from mixed ability tutor group teaching since September to being setted across the whole year group from 8 tutor groups to 9 classes. Interesting times ahead!

Discussing this as a team we have ensured all books are marked up to date, have been handed in for for sorting so each teacher has their class set but I also gave them a list of superb blogs to read from some really incredibly outstanding practitioners to help us all hit the ground running in January settling the new classes but also providing ace ideas to help the team get to know their students really well and swiftly. It usually takes me a few weeks in September, but it isn’t Term 1 it’ll be term 3 and we might well know up to half of the class so I can’t use the entire term getting to know them can I?!

It will be messy and noisy but I’m certainly hoping it’s going to be lots of fun, I’ll have two classes whilst one member of my team has five!!
I shall be definitely using @rlj1981’s incredibly brilliant ‘getting to know you activities’ they sound so much fun and I can’t wait to make those fortune cookies!!

It’ll also be about skilfully managing their behaviour and for some, disappointment, while keeping the learning experience rich and a key focus. So calling upon @headguruteacher’s blogposts and those the silver arrows will be a cert to ensure calm, purposeful mfl classrooms are positively buzzing January!

Of course making are that routines are in place and sticking to what we have instilled with each of our classes should help us enormously. The power of meeting and greeting all classes at the door with a smile and a ‘Bonjour’ or ‘Hola’ then welcoming them in to your learning area is never to be underestimated. You are the one in control and you will be guiding and facilitating their learning journeys and a smile from the teacher, rather than a growl, and purposeful starter will get them in, busy and doing in no time at all. It’ll also relax and focus their minds and give you a minute if that’s what is required. @ictevangelist and his blog posts reminds us of this which we know, have known and hopefully have had in place since September but a few changes could unsettle the most basic and important of routines.

So changes are afoot in my school but am certainly ready for them, as are the team. Very exciting times ahead! There’s no need to wish us luck, we’re all ready!

Thanks to @rlj1981, @headguruteacher & @ictevangelist for your fantastic blogs & prolific sharing! 😀

Christmas time

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School is finished, the last bell rung

Students skipped out of the gate, I saw some run

“Christmas is coming” is squealed, “Yay!” shout some

It’s on the horizon for everyone.

Staff are convened excitedly in the hall

Excitement is brewing, Secret Santa gifts for all

Thank yous, well done, goodbyes for some

Then others drive carefully to the pub for a swift one.

Decorations taken down, recycle bins full

Classrooms cooling down, from all this terms learning and fun

The site staff are coming to lock learning spaces down

to help all school staff completely wind down!

A good rest, recharge and much sleep is required

To help amazing lead learners continue to inspire

Those learners we love whose futures we shape

To make our world a much better place.

So as classrooms are locked and alarms are set

All valuables locked away, our families and friends are met

Enjoy this break, take time to reflect

To ensure we come back fighting fit and are just almost perfect.

Eggbert&DaisyImage of our 2014 christmas cards beautifully created from @eggbertanddaisy