#teacher5aday Summer Updates 

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It’s the end of the academic year, almost 7 months completed and here is my #teacher5aday update. Thanks @martynreah for reminding me. 

#connect

I haven’t been great at catching up with as many people as I wanted to as life, the job list and the daily goings on have got in the way plus the inevitable finality of end of academic year. Despite this I have focused on my team and those immediately around us. One of the MFL team has departed, choosing to take a break from teaching so ensuring that my existing team and the new member had all they require for a positive start in September has been a priority. So I have been focusing on making stronger #connect -ions with them, my brilliant team. 

I do plan to catch up with close friends and family soon. I promise. They are incredibly tolerant and patient and I’m very grateful.   Created with @typorama

#exercise

Walking the dog is about as far as it gets but I am doing over five miles a day according to my Fitbit tracker which I still love and wear everyday.   

#notice

There are several colleagues who have had ‘surprises’ when receiving timetables this year. One in particular, a history specialist received a timetable of nothing other than English. Suffice to say that little support was in place and they have been told to just ‘get on with it’. Their new timetable started in May so they had the half term break to work out how to transform from being an amazing history teacher to an English specialist! Despite working in a different school I’ve done my best to find support so this colleague isn’t noticed for the wrong reasons! 

Whilst out with the dog I’ve also taken time to notice what’s around me more. Stopping for a moment and appreciating all that is around me has been lovely.  

#learn

I’ve been doing lots of reading and I have more to do. I want to make a difference and make sure my team do too, not just continue to do the same thing. I’m motivated by the phrase ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ – however I don’t want to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’ and equally I don’t just want to grab at a latest fad. I want to read, explore and discover more and this holiday is perfect to reflect and build upon work I’ve already started looking at my practice postively to ensure I am doing the best for my learners, and my team, with the new academic year in mind.    

#volunteer
I still volunteer on Sundays @wildplace . I love it and it allows me time to do something different out in the fresh air where I’m not know as ‘Miss’ and forget about the marking, planning, data, emails etc for four hours!  It’s all waiting for me when I return but I can look at it from a different perspective having had time away, which can’t be a bad thing!    

  

#Summer10

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As inspired by @rlj1981 here are my #summer10 promises to myself.

1. Sleep. I must catch up on sleep. For seemingly months now I have been staying up too late to get the job done. I have a Fitbit so I have a record of how little sleep I’ve had. Last week there was an update and there are now ‘awards’ for 8 hours sleep per night. I’m going to aim for 8 per night through out this holiday so I can rest and feel human again. 

2. Read. I have a stack of books, some novels and some ‘thinking’ books that I would like to read across the next six weeks. I’d also really like to get some French literary texts re-visited too. The joy of reading a novel from cover to cover is reserved for holidays! Whilst on holiday in Mauritius earlier in the year I unplugged, no IT, no TV, just books, sun and it was ace. 

3. Exercise. I’m very lazy actually and besides walking the dog and striding through the maze of corridors to get to my classroom I don’t actually do very much. So getting out on my bike is something I’m looking forward to. I might even Canicross train the dog, we’ll see. 

4. Catching up with some fantastic (but neglected) friends. Six whole weeks to actually physically see and hug friends that I haven’t seen for a while will be utter bliss. New additions to families and sad departures have meant that time has slipped by far too quickly but the coming weeks will allow time to pick up where we left off but face to face. I can’t wait. 

5. iPad usage. Father Christmas gifted me a mini iPad seven months ago which is great but I definitely do not use to its full capacity, far from it, because I don’t know how! This holiday I’m planning to change this. iPad for dummies anyone…

6. Eating. Recently I’ve been surviving on coffee, sugary naughtiness (biscuits, pastries and chocolate with mini packets of haribo thrown in for good measure) which isn’t great. I shall eat much better, ‘cleanly’ following a detox of all things processed this holiday seeking to be nourished rather than just grabbing a hit whilst on the run. 

7. Declutter. I seem to collect ‘stuff’ on my travels, some very useful, life changing even, some truly not. I shall be gutting cupboards, wardrobes, drawers, desks and shelves because I just don’t ‘need’ these items and they certainly aren’t being used.

8. Stopping and Thinking. I love whiling away the hours lost in thought and the holidays are perfect time when I am alone to do this.

9. Baking. I have no confidence in the kitchen, in fact I detest cooking because I make a mess and the kitchen looks like a bomb site when I’ve finished with every utensil, measuring jug, pan or baking tray covered in detritus which explains why I am so very good at washing up. However I am not bad a baking biscuits and flapjacks. Following decorating workshops the plan is to move on to fairy-cakes, well buns (called cupcakes these days) edible ones hopefully. Well I hope so. 

10. Work. We all have to do some so I’m going to get on it. I also want to look back through my notes from the collection of fab TMs and Ed conferences (TLAB15, @NRocks15, @pedagoolondon15) and online training events that I’ve attended to reinvigorate my classroom practice and resource bank and to stay fresh, fun and focused whilst keeping my #MFLAllstar learners and fab colleagues #TeamMFL interested and motivated too.  Have a brill and balanced summer everyone, I plan to! 

Image credit: http://www.imageinpeople.com

Adventures in my Department and Beyond – Magical Moments

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As we approach the end of the academic year I hear the question ‘hasn’t it been a challenging academic year, more challenging than last year don’t you think’? many times. Possibly, I reply possibly not. However this year I’ve tried to promote health and wellbeing in the MFL department and in our corner of the school as we are at the furthest point from the staff room, the heads office and main reception. But that’s ok. 

I truly believe that we have to keep an eye on each other so we can share the load, help a colleague and take care of one another. It bothers me to think that teachers, our own colleagues, might feel very alone in classrooms, perhaps in challenging circumstances with demanding classes and heavy workloads. I know of colleagues who are driven to think that marking at break and lunchtime is de rigeur rather than share lunch and a giggle with tutees, with other students in the canteen or with colleagues in the staff room or departmental office. Connecting is a necessity so I’ve sought people out checking they are ok.

We have an open office furnished with all mod-cons (a kettle and fridge) as well as a (sometimes alarming) array of tasty treats to breakfast, lunch or snack upon. The office is cosy and is, I’m proud to say, frequented by many. Some to make a drink, some to sit and have a natter, to share an idea or to bounce an innovation and some just to chill out. Some to loan a book from our pedagogy library. Others stick their heads around the door just to see what goodies we have or to ask advice but that’s ok because we share, we look after each other and anyone else that walks through the door because we care. But we don’t half get through some (Yorkshire) tea and coffee! 

To promote positivity, a key to well being, I decided as well as the end of academic year treat-fest (pastries, biscuits and cake), thank you cards and gifts I felt inspired to promote, with increased fervour, seeing life and everyday challenges from a different perspective. Teaching is a fab job but also a tough one and if someone asked for the most memorable moment at school this year, I feel certain the first memory that springs to mind may not be positive amongst some colleagues.  

On Tuesday evening I was slowly meandering through John Lewis at Cribbs Causeway soaking up the extensive new ranges and satisfying a deep desire to add to my stationery and notepad collection and as luck would have it I stumbled across several boxes of delectable and fabulously coloured ribbon. A spark of inspiration hit me like a bolt of lightening as I swiftly gathered up an array of different colours and headed for the till, basket bursting, mind positively buzzing, plan hatching!

On Wednesday morning and assisted by the brilliant @wordswag app I created brightly coloured labels and skipped off to the printer half a dozen glass (empty but clean coffee) jars and eye catching ribbon in tow. With printed sheets in hand off I went clinking up the corridors, strange looks aplenty, destination reprographics. I made a beeline to a brilliant and highly skilled creative colleague and friend who quickly became an integral part of the ‘positivity plan’ who, bless her heart, helped me realise a personalised gift for several utterly brilliant colleagues. The gift was hugged by one, reduced another to tears and caused squeals of delight by the other recipients but will, I am certain, help all of us individually and personally to focus on the positive by collecting and collating ‘magical moments‘. 

The magical moments jars are a collection of all things good, positive and utterly magical. It’s a very personal gift made with lots of love and with stacks of potential. 

A lovely and highly valued member of the MFL team left this week to become a full time mum, no mean feat, so her jar, I hope, shall be filled with details of ‘magical moments’ of the adventures she enjoys with her two delightful boys over the coming months for her to remember, enjoy and re-experience in the months and years to come. I suspect this jar shall be filled very swiftly with glorious and deeply personal family moments to be enjoyed and cherished forever and most definitely when the boys bring their first girlfriends home! 

Another brilliant colleague who has multiple significant roles across the school has returned to teaching MFL this year after a significant break so I hope that this magical moments jar shall be filled with wondrous details of the magnificent wins she has experienced building relationships with students and extending her repertoire in her MFL classroom this year and beyond. 

Obviously I would never direct how my team and the other recipients should use these jars, however I see these as opportunities for collecting the positives, truly ‘magical moments’ that should never be forgotten, but, with the daily grind and hustle and bustle of life we simply do forget to remember the ‘good stuff’ and these jars can encapsulate all of the amazing experiences they have personally enjoyed and will enjoy; perhaps in their classrooms or around school highlighting special moments with students, perhaps at home with families, perhaps for both. 

A green ribboned one (pictured below) is for me and I shall certainly be collecting magical moments from my classroom to cherish and keep. I see the jars as ‘brimming with possibility, hope and positivity’ and I cannot wait to start collating and noting down the magical moments from my classroom adventures, from the interactions and conversations I have with students and colleagues to remember and relive at the end of each term. I’m going to try to collate my thoughts and to reflect at least once per week, focussing only on the positives of each lesson or day. I can’t wait to get cracking but perhaps a little rest first ! 

Have a brilliant summer holiday everyone and a well deserved rest. Please do create some magical moments for yourselves! Inspired by the fabulous and very lovely @musicmind – thank you Nina for sharing and  for always inspiring. 

Thanks to @ictevangelist for introducing me the @wordswag app.

Thanks to the brilliant coffee drinkers who call in to the office many of whom have emptied the (many) jars! 

Thanks to the lovely reprographics star for assisting make the concept a reality and for making them look so utterly brilliant!

And to the recipients of ‘magical moments‘ jars – thank you for embracing this, for being so excited and positive and for using them!  And please do definitely use them!  

Adventures in my classroom – That Class

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I’m thinking about the long journey I’ve had with ‘that class‘. In a few days time I’ll have the last ever lesson with them and swiftly after that the academic year will draw to a close and ‘that class‘ shall no longer exist. This has been at the back of my mind all term. I have been dreading this week because the class that has challenged me the most will disappear and be no more and I don’t want the journey to end.

Eighteen months ago I’m certain that I would not have felt as I do now, quite desperately sad, that my eclectic bunch of challenging learners would cease to be.

I’ve been honest about this class with close colleagues and friends; that this group have caused me significant consternation since I first met them. I used to feel weary at the thought of teaching them prior to lessons with all that they would throw my way. They are a very challenging and large class with some characters within that I hand-picked from colleagues classes to save their groups from disruption to learning. It truly is a mixed group which for some MFL truly isn’t their favourite subject and never will be. They used to frequently make me aware of this through their punctuality, attitude to learning, lack of equipment and if I was really lucky, through verbal and non-verbal comments and behaviours. This class has been a real labour of love and caused me intense frustration, tears and headaches as well as sleepless nights not least because I just couldn’t seem to get through to some of them and this I couldn’t compute nor was I prepared to accept. 

I understand that MFL isn’t everyone’s first choice but I was frustrated by the surliness, bloody mindedness and utter refusal to truly engage and after some time of battling against them, pleading with them and almost tearing my hair out I had an epiphany in @davewhitaker246 ‘s session at @NRocks14. Genuinely it didn’t take long to dramatically change my attitude to teaching them, their attitude to MFL and their motivation and engagement in our lessons and their attitude towards me. Gone were raised voices, consequences (for the small stuff) and tellings off, in fact it was banished. Back in were smiles, positive comments and caring; really honestly giving a damn about them as humans, as learners, as children. Caring how they were doing in and out of school, what they were doing and what made them tick. It didn’t take at all long to see transformative behaviours from the class of students who had been wearing me down. I took the time to really get to know them, and regardless of the ‘goings on’ remained as unconditionally positive despite what came my way. There were times when I genuinely thought I was beaten that this was the class I wouldn’t get through to but there was no way I planned to give up (not least because that scared the hell out of me!) 

So onwards I went. Digging deep. Remaining unconditionally positive with a huge smile and cheesy grin. Positive body language and careful use of voice when in the past I might have not been quite so smiley or positive! I thought very carefully about the impact of my behaviour towards these students who were highly unlikely to choose MFL for further study (some repeated this every lesson) on to options evening, when I had a ‘Hunger Games’ moment. Many of them raised their hands admitted that they had opted for French despite struggling. Lots of them had opted for it. I was in shock! According to them I was ‘safe’ and one of those teachers who you could trust to be fair and honest, who actually cares, one of the ones who you could turn to for help or for support. After picking myself up from the floor I took the compliment and continued on my journey with them, guiding and scaffolding bumps in their learning journeys reinforcing key learning points as we aimed high to secure target levels. Almost all of them have secured their target level and many have surpassed it too, which is a joy. I am sure the ones that missed out will be disappointed, but not as much as I am, but there was nothing else I could have done to support and coax them to increased success. All of their achievements are a huge success and I am proud (of each of them and their progress) because eighteen months ago the picture couldn’t have been more different. To have completed this stage of the journey from where we were to where we are now has been incredible, with blood, sweat and tears shed along the way. 

I’m dreading my two final lessons with them this week, bidding ‘au revoir’ to them for the final time. It’s going to smart and I’m going to feel it deeply. Even as I type this I’m welling up at the thought; however we have two lessons… one to complete a vocational qualification and one to celebrate their successes. 

I probably won’t forget this class ever and I know I’m going to miss each and everyone of them as they commence the next stage of their learning journey. I think I’m going to thank every one of them in our last lesson. They’ve made me become a better person; a more resilient and unconditionally positive teacher who still loves their job despite everything.     

Adventures in my department 

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That time of year, July, has crept upon us. I have found myself scratching my head on several occasions wondering where the academic year has gone as there are two, just two weeks left! I don’t panic but I truly I feel like I need to make a report to the local constabulary regarding a theft! Of time!!

Teaching is a hard job, @ictevangelist wrote a blog on this last week. It is for some the best job in the world for others, not so at the moment. It is a job I leap out of bed for, a role I feel privileged to do every day with my own classes and those I cover or pop in to see. Lucky me.

There are colleagues around us who perhaps don’t leap out of bed every morning and for whom the trials and tribulations of juggling a family, the daily commute, marking, planning, shopping and the daily grind just need some extra care, attention and love this time of year. When gained time comes in to play ginormous lists of things to do force us in to overdrive as evaluating and reviewing every single scheme of learning, planning grid, lesson resource, subscription, the list goes on.. needs to be done before the mid-July deadline and despite the longer and lighter days the departure of y11 and y13 students the workload gets greater but there are still the same hours in the day. 

We need to stop, take stock and take a moment to check each other over. As a middle leader I try to take good care of my team, and those around and about my classroom. I value each of them and care for them I see it as my role to help, guide and support them as well as to make them tea, bring in delicious biscuits and chocolately treats.. Ooh and cake, nice cakes too. It’s also my role to say thank you, to value them and to make myself available if and when they need me whether it’s for five minutes or a little longer. Its one of my responsibilities and one I take very seriously. 

@MartynReah and the #teacher5aday wellbeing movement reminds us to take a moment to #notice and I think at this time of year when we are so close yet so far (not that far!) from the end of the academic year when we long for and need a rest, a good sleep and time for the ultimate recharge we have to stop and take five to notice those around us, those in our teams and beyond who are just feeling it a little more than usual and to try to make a positive difference to their day.  If we are honest we are all feeling it with the surprising intensity of the heat however rather than wallow in it and moan we perhaps just need to stop and look.

Taking care of each other and keeping each other going is important every day of the school year but especially with lighter days and the potential for longer working hours. I know of colleagues who are getting in to school at 7am and not even thinking about leaving until 6pm when their school closes to go home and start again or those that go in to school and work on Saturdays as their school is open. This is worrying as we all have to do the roles we are paid to do but we must remember that we work to live not live to work!! 

@ictevangelist reminded us to note down the good things we do each day but also consider doing one thing for another person before the end of term. It could be

  • Smiling at them
  • Having a conversation 
  • Putting a positive note in their pigeon hole or on their desk
  • Finding time for a coffee and a chat
  • Treating them to their favourite chocolate bar or sweets
  • Giving a shiny new funky pen 
  • Giving a Lego minikit to build and play with (everyone loves Lego!)

It’s something that might brighten their day because working in schools doing the roles we do is hard, it is exhausting and sometimes the smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference to the recipient. Today a fabulous member of the department shared delicious chocolate joy with a ‘smile, it’s Friday!’ note attached and on Wednesday, I made a dash to purchase ice creams just because. 
Please find time, it could be the smallest of moments between now and the end of term to brighten someone else’s day. I’m certain it’ll brighten yours too. Feel free to share what you do so we can all be inspired by your kindness to make someone smile and make their day that bit better! 

Happy Friday Everyone, have a great weekend!  Image credit @iamkidpresident