Supporting the Educational Community
Avoiding Teacher Burnout Transitions in Primary School
Jesters do oft prove Prophets
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Issue 30: June 2016
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From the Editor
4 Transitions In A Primary School Day
Charlie Archbold explores the upheaval which takes place daily in the primary classroom and discusses ways to improve it.
6 Jesters do oft prove Prophets
Catherine Steel takes to the stage to discuss themed days, teachersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; acting skills, and their impact on learning and engagement of pupils.
Claire Bracher explores the many issues around moving on to another school and ways to help smooth the journey.
10 How to do a Mystery Skype
Neil Jarrett takes us through the process of organising a Skype session with a class from another country and what benefits can be gained.
13 ICTmagic Edtech Resources 14 Avoiding Teacher Burnout
Jade Lewis-Jones reminds us to look after ourselves while looking after our pupils, and suggests ways to help teachers unwind and be organised.
16 A Hidden Life
Martin Burrett raises awareness of the hidden world of families caring for children with special needs and how teachers can help.
18 Bookshelf Ticked off by Harry Fletcher-Wood Review written by Nicole Brown
20 Yes... and what if...
Brian Christian explains about plussing and how the idea could relate to education by looking for opportunities to improve everywhere.
23 Challenging Times
Roy Souter shares his tips for what to do when things get tough, mistakes happen and problems arise.
24 UKEd Resource
Teaching and Learning Mission Cards by Victoria Hewett
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Education systems around the world seem to be in a state of flux. The US is grappling with the Common Cores, China is moving towards a creative curriculum, and there are seismic shifts in each of the home nations of the UK. In the classroom we encourage our pupils to try new things, sometimes fail and learn from the experience. Many teachers now actively move outside their comfort zone, fail in what they do, and then try again in a different way. What about the children disadvantaged by that failure? Should this experimental approach be used in education policy, with the caveat that we know it might fail? Who knows where we might end up! As we move towards the end of the school year, many pupil are thinking about where they will end up in September, so this issue of UKEd Magazine has a transitions theme. The times they are a changing. Martin Burrett @ICTmagic - Editor
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Charlie Archbold @CharlieArchbold Catherine Steel @TaffTykeC Claire Bracher @cjabracher Neil Jarrett @EdTechNeil Jade Lewis-Jones @pshee2015 Martin Burrett @ICTmagic Nicole Brown @ncjbrown Robert Howe @mrhowebsbh Kieron Middleton @kieronmiddleton Brian Christian @BST_Principal Freddy Ash @freddy_ash @Shhhteacher Gareth Evans @earthdog_58 Rich Baxter @mistaboxta Roy Souter @Exe_Head Victoria Hewett @mrshumanities
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Transitions In A Primary School Day By Charlie Archbold
For a moment close your eyes and think about how many transitions your class went through today. Transitions from room to room, lesson to lesson, even teacher to teacher. Now add in play time, lunch time, home time, before school or after hours care. It’s a lot of daily change for young people to manage, especially compared to holidays or weekends. So it’s no wonder that these daily transitions often become the flashpoints for emotional breakdown or behaviour management outburst.
an assembly to attend, computer lab time, or visit from the reptile farm etc.
We constantly talk about the importance of visuals in a classroom, but they honestly help. Visual can be digital or printed, public or on a personal device. By displaying a daily visual timetable your students and families will know what is happening. And gone are the days of finding images on clip art, as there are a wealth of free online resources to support this. Just Google visual aids, visual tools and away Most schools are timetabled institutions and become you go. There is also a range of digital software, purpose increasingly more so as we head into senior schooling. designed, which your Learning Support team or resource And whether we agree with it or not, for most educators, centre can guide you to. timetables are part of our reality. But for some children, Forewarning students about upcoming transitions especially our youngest ones, this can be a relatively new severely lessens anxiety. Take a moment to prepare your concept and takes some getting used to. Even as adults nervous and anxious children that a change is coming we know and experience daily how frustrating it is to up. A fast and hurried announcement then being herded be ripped away from something we are enjoying and out the door is tremendously unsettling. You may know probably learning. It’s the same for our students. We what’s going on, but does your class? Remember not need to prepare them for the day and the fact personal everyone likes surprises. And while we want to encourage interest will unfortunately be interrupted because there’s flexibility and adaptability, these skills, like all skills, are on a continuum. Some of your students need support to be successful with this important step towards independence. Letting children know what is coming, with adequate timing, facilitates the next transition.
04 UKED Magazine
Transitions can be particularly problematic for children with addition learning or behaviour needs. Timers, clocks, tablets are a great way to prepare these children for the next change. Be clear about the time frame, “In five minutes we are leaving for Assembly.” Explain you are going to set the timer and when it goes off that will be the time for change. If they are particularly engaged in their learning explain you will provide opportunity to complete it. Recognise when they successfully change between learning activities to acknowledge this as an important life skill. Having high teacher expectations are not just important for academic success they are important for all social interactions. So have high expectations for your class as they transition between spaces. Moving around the school safely and with good manners is actually important, so address it; talk about it in circle/ reflection time and make successful transitioning part of your class culture. If you know some of your students have difficulty moving from A to B, scaffold for success. Pair them with a reliable buddy, escort the class part of the way, gradually reduce your presence, and of course recognise and give explicit feedback on success in these physical transitions.
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All the students in a school are the responsibility of the whole staff. If a child in your class has issues with transitions you must let your colleagues know. Forewarned is forearmed and often being aware of this calms situations rather than firing them up.
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The ability to transition between activities and places is a major step towards independence. As adults we are often very casual about this seemingly insignificant ability to adapt and change at a moment’s notice. But this does not happen by accident. Primary schools have a pivotal role to play in preparing young people to cope with transitions, change and the unexpected. So take the time to scaffold and support this. Calm transitions are intrinsic to creative, safe and productive schools.
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Charlie Archbold @CharlieArchbold is an Early Years Educator living and teaching in Australia where she recently completed a Master of Education in Studies of Asia. She is also a blogger, fiction writer and her first YA novel won an award in the 2016 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. Read her blog at charliearchbold.com.
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do oft prove Prophets by Catherine Steel
06 UKED Magazine
As this year sees the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I make no apologies for the headings in this article, taken from the great man himself. Children have been learning about William Shakespeare and the countless plays that he wrote. My Year Two class have thoroughly enjoyed learning how he wrote his sonnets due to the closure of theatres during the plague and giggling about men playing all parts, including that of women. Being a teacher requires a sort of acting on a daily basis. For example, most adults having a bad day can keep themselves to themselves, but not teachers. When 30 little people or young adults are looking to you for inspiration, knowledge and entertainment, it is useful to remind ourselves of the great job we do. With many hats being worn each day, ranging from the banker collecting trip money, the doctor attending to little Bill’s grazed knee and the fountain of all knowledge for children and their parents, we are indeed acting more than we realise. Laughing Stock Of course, there are stark reminders throughout the school year when schools host themed days for various reasons. Often, these days are to raise awareness of important events and to raise money for various charities where children and adults embrace fancy dress and pay a small contribution for doing so. February was Safer Internet Day and in March, World Book Day saw Little Reds, Gruffalos and Harry Potters galore! Typically these days are based around key messages and outcomes. If we have inspired that child who dislikes reading to rush off and open a book, comic or e-magazine, we have achieved something that would have been trickier otherwise. Sometimes, fancy dress days are all in the name of good old fun. Our school recently had a Shakespeare week with the Friday being the big event. You can imagine my delight when one child commented on how pretty I looked as Queen Titania from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in my ridiculous gold dress complete with fairy wings and tiara. But isn’t that the point? For that child, seeing her teacher dressed differently and showing that it’s OK to have a laugh has really helped her to remember what she learned that week. Most importantly, it has taught her that it’s OK to have fun and not feel pressured into always ‘doing things by the book’. Not Slept One Wink We as a profession find ourselves all too often drowning in a flood of paperwork, standards to keep and ‘guidance’ to follow. Working with the children is the most valuable use of our time but there is an increasing amount of pressure to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ without exception. Being sleep deprived due to late nights planning, marking and (dare I say it) test worries won’t help anyone, but we are all guilty of it. With the end of Key Stage Assessments (SATs) being taken nationally, there are increasing numbers of reports about unnecessary levels of stress amongst children and educators. It begs the question, what can we do to combat this? Inevitably, no matter how good the lesson looked on paper, things rarely go to plan. I often find that some of the best lessons I’ve taught are the ones that go off script. Shakespeare himself would have almost certainly have endorsed a little improvisation here and there. I know that I personally welcome theme days, dressing up and whole school events as a bit of light relief from the usual routines and I’m sure other professionals would agree.
Heart of Gold It’s fair to say that we work exceptionally hard and have to ‘wear our hearts on our sleeves’ in order for children to trust us. By building these positive relationships and modelling qualities which the children will need for life, we should remember that we could have the next playwright amongst us. However, should that not be the case, we go to the workplace every day whether it be a themed day or not, to try to inspire the future generation. Although actors have the skill of pretending to be whomever they wish, I believe that if we have done our job right, every child will go home with belief in themselves and the confidence to seize whatever opportunities they aspire to achieve. So next time you embrace your inner Romeo, Florence Nightingale or Gruffalo, remember the impact that your part has in the whole production... the holistic child.
“O! (s)he doth teach the torches to burn bright”. - (Romeo and Juliet Act I, Scene V).
Catherine Steel is a Y2 teacher and Computing Subject Leader at Redbridge Primary School, London. Find her on Twitter @TaffTykeC or at catalystforlearning.wordpress.com Image credit: flickr.com/photos/arbron/9014131432 by Jeff Hitchcock used under Commercial Creative Commons 2.0 License. ukedchat.com/magazine 07
Transition By Claire Bracher It’s a funny thing: change. There are the little, subtle changes that go unnoticed. These changes make little difference to our everyday routine. We amalgamate them into our lives with a degree of ease - aware of them, but not fully finding their presence threatening to who we are. In stark contrast there are the big changes; the changes that are an inevitable part of life, but which change life as we know it. These are the changes which, whether we see them coming or not, have an impact on who we are; they are the pebbles thrown into our life-puddles which create what can often be lasting ripples. Apprehension, anxiety and a fear of the unknown can be powerful emotions to handle, even for the strongest of adults and adapting to change under these circumstances can often be temporarily debilitating. So how then do we expect children to cope with the huge change that is going to secondary school? It’s an ongoing quest: finding the key to successful transition. Year after year, the solution evades many, despite the tireless efforts of primary and secondary colleagues to bridge the gap between Year 6 and 7. Many educators directly involved, strive to do the best to achieve success at their ‘end’ of the process. Interactions between teachers and future pupils and induction days offer the wide eyed Year 6 children to catch a glimpse of what their future holds; bus routes are practised and new friendships encouraged, but somehow, when it comes to it, the reality of secondary education is such a big leap from the safety of its younger relative, the children find adjusting difficult. Secondary teachers are left feeling disappointed with how little their new year 7’s can do. Primary teachers are left feeling as though their efforts have not been enough. Secondary assessments fail to see eye to with SATs results and Year 6 assessment data and before you know it, colleagues begin throwing doubt in the direction of each other’s professional judgment. The question is then, is there an answer? Can we finally begin to work together to ensure that not only the children are supported through this transition, but also those educators involved? Is it not a case of managing expectations and clarifying misconceptions; to find a way of closing the divide that exists? The reality of the situation is that secondary education is a big leap from primary. Gone are the days of one classroom and one teacher. The velcro, whiteboard visual representation of lessons is replaced with a more complicated timetable of lessons, classrooms and teachers. Homework is set far more frequently than previously. Homework diaries become an essential tool or organisation but often, despite primary attempts, the children have not yet reached a level of maturity to understand how to make 08 UKED Magazine
their use effective. Managing your own books, homework, location and timing are skills that need to be developed. They do not necessarily all come together overnight and as a result, it is the children who find themselves floundering in their new environment. The familiarity of well known faces is gone and instead they are faced with a sea of unchartered waters. Add these daily pressures to the anxiety of the change itself and you potentially have dynamite with confidence being the first casualty. Those with resilience cope; those with perseverance manage; those with anything less than this, struggle. What strikes me most is that there is a genuine sense of wanting to find an effective way through the maze of transition from those involved in both secondary and primary. There are many primary teachers who welcome the opportunity to take the children on induction days, meet the new form tutors and encourage their much nurtured Year 6’s to spread their wings. I talk currently to my Year 5 and 6’s about what to expect at high school and I endeavour to foster resilience in them. I do not shy away from the fact that life is about to get more difficult and the challenges greater, but I do so with the approach that this is an exciting opportunity for them to explore. Likewise, there are many secondary teachers who ensure that they ease the children into their new school life with as much care as possible. They make the effort to communicate and get to know their children, make the effort to ensure that they feel safe and confident and above all make the effort to provide them with the best learning environment possible. The sticking point, I feel, comes around the issue of progress and achievement. The meeting of minds when it comes to challenge and expectation is not always there. A child can go from having a Year 6 teacher who challenges them daily, to a Year 7 teacher who does not expect as much from them, or vice versa. We are all aware that if we do not set the bar high, we will never come anywhere near to reaching it. Is it then a case of becoming more familiar with where the children have genuinely come from as a point of learning and in turn for primary teachers to be more aware of where the children are expected to go? Rather than see Year 6 and 7 as a division of Key Stages, should we not endeavour to see them as a phase on their own: the transition phase. If primary and secondary colleagues were to collaborate and share their experiences, on a formal basis, would this not enable the children to experience a smoother journey? There is no getting away from the fact that the transition is going to happen. We cannot escape the inevitability of what lies ahead. What we can do is take responsibility for making that less hazardous for all those involved, especially the children. Through working together, we could pave
the way for a meeting of standards, learning and challenge. Risks will be necessary. Resilience will be essential. The children have to face this experience as the first of many in their adult lives. Continuing professional development across the key stages would ensure a better understanding of expectations and in turn enable the children to be better prepared for what is coming. Bringing standards more in line would facilitate assessment processes to work together. Communication on a deeper level between old and new teachers would ease create a more nurturing scenario, allowing the children to feel more comfortable with the changes. It is not something that can happen overnight, but if we fail to take the opportunities to learn from each other and work together, we fail to make the period successful. In the words of C S Lewis, ‘It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.’ We are part of the best profession in the world. Rather than cast blame on an inadequate system, talk tirelessly year after year about the gap that exists between primary and secondary, is it not time that we worked together, stood up to be counted and take responsibility to ensure that we make it a success? It only takes the first step and our journey begins. Imagine if everyone played their part to the full, how much easier it would be for our birds to fly...
Claire Bracher @cjabracher is a full time class teacher and an Assistant Headteacher at Huntingtree Primary School, Dudley. She leads whole school English and Upper KS2. Passionate about education, Claire is a big advocate of making education creative and memorable for those she teaches. View her blog at clairebracher.wordpress.com.
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‘MYSTERY SKYPE’ by Neil Jarrett
Mystery Skype is a global guessing game where 2 classes from anywhere in the world Skype each other, taking it in turns to ask yes/no questions to determine where the other school is located and what it’s name is. The first class to find out wins! The first step to playing mystery Skype is to visit the After agreeing a date and time, we were all set to go! Dondi sent me a PDF with a list of questions that Mystery Skype website bit.ly/uked16jun01. the students could ask, which was great preparation for everyone to get the conversation going. View the questions as a PDF at bit.ly/uked16jun02. Naturally, we had to organise a suitable time for us both to Skype and ensure that we understood the time in our respective time zones. On 5th March at 2pm our time, 9am their time we began our ‘Mystery Skype’.
Next click ‘Find A Classroom to Play With’. Choose someone who teaches a similar age range and is in a suitable time zone. Click on their profile and ‘Request a Mystery Skype’. This sends your name and email to the teacher.
It was really interesting to hear exchanges between the classes and the questioning certainly improved as the session progressed. At the beginning someone asked, “Do you buy milk in bags or bottles? The students could use their iPads during the session to research and find clues in answers. The equipment I used to Mystery Skype was an iPad I found a teacher in Hungary called Dondi and before (with the Skype App) and an Apple TV to project the the Mystery Skype we exchanged a few emails, so that live stream to the class. The class in Hungary used a webcam, laptop and projector. we felt prepared. Unfortunately my class didn’t win because the other class guessed our location first, but we had such a great time. It definitely developed: • English speaking/listening skills. • Questioning techniques. • Teamwork. • A sense of internationalism. 10 UKED Magazine
• Research skills.
At the end of the session, both classes did a presentation about their city and country. This was a great geography lesson in itself. The presentation which Dondiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s class showed us is at bit.ly/uked16jun03. My students learnt lots about Hungary and the city of Budapest, where the school was located. After that my class did an oral presentation using notes on prompt cards (above). After the session, while the students went to break, myself and Dondi talked and evaluated the process. We ended the Skype session and exchanged final emails (we will certainly be in touch for more collaborative work). In conclusion, the Mystery Skype was a success and a great experience for both myself and my students. It was rewarding to reach out to another class and another culture to explore the differences, but also the may similarities our pupils share. Neil Jarrett @EdTechNeil is a year 6 teacher and maths coordinator at an international school in Bangkok, Thailand. He is interested in finding innovative ways to use educational technology to support his studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; learning. Neil shares his ideas on edtech4beginners.com Image Credit: All article images were provided by Neil Jarrett after permission was sought by the originators.
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Burnout by Jade Lewis-Jones
Helping, supporting, advising and caring for others are just some of the things that we do as teachers which go hand in hand with our roles in educational settings. However, we must ensure that we are giving the same care to ourselves; otherwise burning the candle at both ends soon leaves us feeling tired, stressed and worn out. It is important as a teacher that you find time for yourself and that you manage your work-life balance appropriately. From my four years of teaching experience, I would like to share some of the things that I do in order to sustain a positive well-being and give some hints and tips to those of you who get regular colds and sniffles. Whatever you do, keep it fresh, share ideas & network with others. This may lower your workload, save you recreating the wheel of resources and much more. 1. Time Management Time is the biggest issue that most people talk about in relation to ‘work-life balance’ and, although time is fixed, how we use it, appreciate it and schedule it are all things we can control. As a teacher, time is precious, so it is very important that it’s spent doing jobs that need doing. I seem to be one of those people who do all the ‘fun’ jobs first and not necessarily the tasks that are most important. I cannot recommend the Eisenhower matrix (below) enough. It is brilliant for prioritising your time, errands and workloads rather than writing lists of jobs and not knowing where to start. Below are two different versions of it, but honestly – since I introduced it to my life - I don’t have lists of lists or that overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start when workload is high.
What’s urgent and important do first.
What’s important, but not so urgent, schedule.
What’s urgent, but less important, delegate to others.
What’s neither urgent nor important, don’t do at all.
14 UKED Magazine
2. Marking Too often I hear about staff spending hours marking books – let the students take control. Embrace self and peer assessment activities in order to give yourself time for other work or time to prepare the next activity. Some schools have “purple pens of progress”; at my school we use red pens for student marking along with various stickers designed to assist with feedback. ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’ (WWW/EBI) is effective, as the feedback is clear, precise and identifies room for improvement. This has significantly cut the amount of time which I spend marking and it has also had a significant effect on student’s well-being and growth mindset. Students enjoy self and peer assessment tasks as they are getting critical feedback during the lesson, which can help them improve their work and techniques further. Students also enjoy having ownership of their work. 3. Sleep, Hydrate & Exercise As much work as you might have, make sure you don’t get bogged down with it all; set yourself a time frame for work, and then leave it and take time out for yourself. Your body needs a break so take some time out. It’s important to do something that you enjoy in the evenings: spending time with family and friends, going for a walk, playing sport, listening to music... anything that isn’t work related and makes you happy. Sleep is paramount to ensuring that your well-being is maintained; staying up late marking, then getting up early to plan is not a situation that you will be able to maintain or enjoy. This will ultimately consume you and you will be left feeling exhausted, stressed and unable to be the teacher you want to be whilst in school. Tea and coffee seems to be what many teachers live on during the school day, but it is very important to keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water throughout the school day too. Staying hydrated can avoid headaches, muscle cramps and fatigue, improve your concentration and promote clearer thinking. Research shows that exercise relieves stress - as the weather is becoming more pleasant, a bit of fresh air in the evenings is a perfect way to get active after a day in the classroom. I always sleep better and feel good about myself once I’ve done something active. Practising simple mindfulness tasks will do wonders for your well-being.
4. Preparation & Organisation “Fail to prepare, Prepare to Fail” – a motto I tend to follow on a regular basis. However, being organised in every situation is easier said than done, but I have a few tips to help you stay organised: • Have a desk tidy for key stationary like post-its, spare pens, highlighters, rulers - that way you always have equipment for students, should they need to borrow any. • Whether you’re a technology whizz, or the paper-based princess – have some form of filing system that you follow. I aim to leave school each day with a clear desk. This way, when I arrive in the morning, it’s a new start to the day and I don’t have things left lying around. • This is my Challenge Jar – I love it! Inspired by @87History. They are so easy and cheap to make up and they will save you from having to have an extension task ready. For all those students who say “I’m finished”, you are then prepared with something else that they can do. The jar is filled with lots of different tasks that can be re-used with as many classes as you wish. You may choose to make different ones depending on ability, subject or topic. My one is generic, so that I can use it cross-curricular.
5. Communication & Gratitude Face to face communication is rare nowadays with technology being at the forefront of our lives. However, it is still very important to talk to colleagues. I feel that it is even more important in a school or educational setting, where you are ultimately all working together to achieve student success. You would hate your tone of voice to be misinterpreted or for your message not to be picked up in time. With all of our busyness, sometimes we forget the effect that gratitude can have on colleagues’ wellbeing. Never underestimate the power that thanking a colleague has; it has a very positive impact, makes them feel appreciated and can put the bounce back in their step without you even knowing. I hope that you manage to find time to relax and unwind over the school break. Self-care is all about finding time ‘just for you’ so, if nothing else, over the school holidays make sure you’re indulging in ‘you’ time and chocolate.
Jade @pshee2015 is a whole school leader of PSHE at Elfed High School in Buckley, North Wales. She also teaches Business Studies and Maths.
A Hidden Life By Martin Burrett
It is a hidden world. A need to know thing. Not the sort of thing which can easily be slipped in conversation. Of course, there is nothing wrong with it and there is a lot of it about. But unless you have someone with a disability in your life, it is probably something that you rarely think about. As a primary teacher, I have had a number pupils in my class with individual needs with needed to be met. I’ve had a number of children in my class with moderate learning difficulties, and one child who had limited speech and required the use of a wheel chair. Yet, catering for their needs in class was only a shadow of what it is like to care for a disabled child as a parent. Meeting their educational needs for the school day is one thing, but taking care of their lives all the time is a very different prospect.
Besides that obvious perks of continuous and ever present cBeebies, there are many things that, in my experience, you should know about parents caring for children with severe special needs. Often parents will appear autonomous and independent, but these are a few insights which may help you understand and help the whole family. Time Simple tasks can take a lot longer when you have to do them for someone else. Dressing, feeding, toileting add extra time to the morning routine for school and hours of physio exercises each night need to be factored in. Teacher can help by understanding these constraints. Teachers should accept that a ‘quick word’ at the classroom door isn’t always possible when one needs to rush off to deal with a rejected breakfast (as I had to just this morning), yet I would ask teachers to be flexible for events like parents evening, as arranging specialist child care can be difficult.
Teachers must also realise that families with a disabled child will often be intimately involved with the health services and specialists. There are appointments for physiotherapists, occupational-therapists, speech and language therapists, specialists for various bit of anatomy, consultants for the the other bits. This doesn’t only take time and vast amounts of paperwork, but it is often the case that the parent is the liason between all the agencies. Professionals move on and case histories must be told First a little background, remembering that I am from the beginning afresh. Anything that the teacher can describing the symptoms, and not the children, both of do to smooth the collaboration between professionals, whether educational or for health care, makes life a lot whom are happy and a delight: easier. My eldest son, aged 11, has cerebral palsy which impacts on his motor skills. He is able to walk for short Communication periods unsteadily, but unaided. He is pre-verbal and It is common to hear parents suggest that their child says communicates via a few Makaton gestures and picture little more than grunts about what they do in school, but is a situation where the child is not able to say what they cards. He has microcephaly (a small head circumference), have been doing and state their needs and wants clearly, severe learning difficulties and autism. He also has sensory communication between the school and home becomes issues meaning that he often gets anxious and is sick if vitally important. there are loud noises or strong smells. No matter how good a school is at communicating with My youngest son, aged 7, has fewer issues. He motor skills their community, there is always room for improvement. are immature, but he is fully mobile. He also has learning In the past a communication book was the main method difficulties and autism, but he can speak with a limited of day to day messages to and from school. But this an number of basic phrases. To continue the magazine theme be time consuming for both the school and parents. What of transition, he is currently moving to the same school as has made a huge difference this year is the school using a Piota App (see right) to make communication smoother in his brother to better meet his needs. both directions. I have two sons and they both have severe special needs. In this article I hope to raise your awareness of the often unseen world of caring for children with complex needs, as someone who has sat on both sides of a parents’ evening table, so you might be better able to understand what happens away from school, but with the large caveat that I have a sample size of two.
16 UKED Magazine
Enable My children are told ‘no’ a lot. No, you can’t go on the bouncy castle with other children. No, you can’t play sports with the other children. Thankfully this is rare, but it does happen. As teachers we are enablers. We give our pupils the means, skills and opportunities they need to thrive. Make sure this extends to child with special needs by looking for ways to enable them to participate, rather than reasons for why they can’t. Naturally, safety is paramount, but exhaused the possibilities first before saying no. Ultimately, all parents want their children to be happy. For my children it is the only thing I want, so the last thing I would request is that you bring a little joy into the lives of the children you know and teach. It will spread far beyond the classroom walls.
Bridge the gap with an app - Android and Apple phones and tablets - One place for all essentials about school - Fast and easy for school and users “Having an app has brought us firmly into the 21st century, our parents love the immediacy of the information and the layout.” Gail Hard, Headteacher Boost engagement Improve communications
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Ticked off: Checklists for teachers, students, school leaders by Harry Fletcher-Wood @HFletcherWood
The book: Where educational guides are concerned the market is swamped with books claiming to be helpful and suitable for experienced and new teachers as well as middle managers and senior leaders. When you then take a closer look they cannot keep these promises. Here is a book that really works for all levels and keeps this promise. “Ticked off” takes its approach from Gawande’s “Checklist manifesto”, which demonstrates how checklists help to improve standards and avoid errors. Following the examples from the fields of sciences and medicine Harry FletcherWood shows how aspects of teaching and organisation can be managed more easily by using checklists. Structure: The book is divided into several chapters to cover checklists on all levels for teachers’ work and organisation in and around the classroom, to help middle managers and senior teams with their tasks of leading others, but also to help students with their learning by introducing writing frames and guidance for peer assessment in the form of checklists. The book’s structure makes it easy to read from the beginning to the end, to dip in and out of sections or to look up specific examples. The checklists: Each checklist is presented as an example with some food for thought and ideas of how these can be adapted to suit individual purposes. Whilst there are some checklists that may look like they are superfluous, they are actually not. For example, most teachers and schools have got lesson plan proformas to use, so they would not need a checklist as such. However, in Higher Education this could be a great resource for those that start seminar teaching and have not had teacher training. In line with recent research-based activities and continuous professional development strategies checklists also help practitioners within education become more research literate and reflect strategically on their work. Teacher trainers will find this book an invaluable resource for the trainees in their charge. Whilst focussing on so many aspects of teaching trainees may forget the obvious and experienced staff would probably not remind them of routines they carry out automatically and possibly even subconsciously. In addition to helping with aspects of work and time-management Harry Fletcher-Wood does not forget teachers’ well-being and introduces checklists to ensure better work-life balance. Some checklists are quite personalised. “How will I get the students into the room?” for example suggests that a
18 UKED Magazine
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teacher stands by the door to oversee what happens outside and inside the classroom. This may work very well for some. Personally, I never stand by the door, but either inside or outside the classroom and so send the message that I trust my pupils, which helps foster a great relationship. A wider range of different approaches or more critical views could have been presented to engage new teachers specifically in more in-depth reflections, but the final pages in the book demonstrate how teachers can create their own checklists and thereby appreciate the deeper thoughts going into what they do. Who is it really for? Irrespective of the ultimate complexity of the task on hand a checklist simplifies the task by breaking it down into manageable entities. But the real beauty of this book is that the checklists are easy to use and can be adapted for all aspects of teaching and working within education, from nursery and primary school levels through to higher education. All educational practitioners will find practical resources to improve their own practice, to lead and train others, to introduce and implement sustainable changes, to deal with difficult conversations, to lead meetings effectively, to gauge student voice and feedback and more generally to involve students by making them responsible for their own learning. What did I think? It is a great book offering an interesting and practical approach to time-management. Having read this book I am now implementing checklists in my own work. If you only have time to read one educational book this year, make sure it is this one because this is a fantastic resource for all of us working in education.
“And because, in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere.” - Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There can be no better reason for getting up each morning than to interact with other minds. As teachers we are thrilled by the added privilege of helping to shape a few of those minds. To put it better, we provide a key part of the environment for minds to flourish, amid a targeted assortment of mental stimuli provided largely by ourselves. Thrill your students unceasingly to the core of their being; widen their perspective and enrich their creative mindspace.
Send them out to surpass the stratospheric heights of your thinking, and above all, leave them wanting more. “Giving children something with which to surprise their parents is one of the greatest gifts a teacher can bestow.” -Richard Dawkins. @mrhowebsbh Assistant Head - Bahrain
How BBC got it right with the Micro:bit Many ICT teachers have faced the new computing curriculum with limited or no knowledge of programming. Attempts have been made to make computer science more accessible in the classroom for both teachers and students with the introduction of devices like the Raspberry Pi. Despite being massively successful as a hobbyist project board, the Raspberry Pi has only been adopted in the classroom by a small percentage of ICT teachers. Perhaps one reason it hasn’t been more successful was the lack of support material and lesson plans in the early stages of release. However, the BBC are providing a Micro:bit programmable project computer to every Year 7 in the UK. The key difference from similar projects in the past is that the Micro:bit has been released with over thirty step-by-step activities on the Micro:bit website, from absolute beginner to advanced. This will save a lot of research, and writing lesson plans meaning the Micro:bit will be more accessible to teachers and students who may not be familiar with programming as soon as they are delivered around April of this year, and will hopefully mean they’re not sat in the bottom of a drawer come next September. @kieronmiddleton ICT Technician - Scarborough
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by Brian Christian
In his best-selling biography, How to be like Walt, Pat Williams recounts the story of a father’s first visit to Disney World with his family. Towards the end of the holiday he is asked what the real highlight of the trip has been. Given the many obvious attractions of the Magic Kingdom, the father’s instant response is an entirely unexpected one. ‘The best bit,’ he said, ‘was coming back to the hotel at night.’ At which point I can well imagine that there might be a number of sympathetic parents reading this who think they understand exactly what the poor man is getting at: after a gruelling day largely spent queuing among hordes of noisy, impatient and horribly over-excited children, who wouldn’t greet the return to the air-conditioned haven of the hotel with heartfelt relief? There might even be the prospect of a cold beer and the chance of eating something with a sugar content of less than 50%. But this particular father was simply being sincere: ‘My five-year-old daughter can’t wait to see what the maid does next with her dolls. One night, we found the dolls perched on the edge of the bathtub. Another night, the dolls were hanging from the light fixture. Last night, the maid fashioned a boat out of a big bath towel and the dolls were in the boat on my daughter’s bed.’ Setting aside the rather disturbing image of dolls hanging from light-fittings, this maid at a Disney resort hotel had found her own very individual way of expressing one of Walt’s most influential and enduring business concepts. She was plussing the holiday experience of a five year-old.It’s already great – what if we added this?
Credited with coining the term, Walt Disney defined plussing as the willingness to take the extra step to make something even better: ‘It’s already great – what if we added this?’ It’s an idea that has been warmly embraced by the team that is seen by many as today’s most innovative and trail-blazing animation studio. Pixar can lay claim to no fewer than 15 Academy awards with world-wide hits including the Toy Story series, Finding Nemo and Inside Out. In any animated film, a typical four-second scene requires about 100 frames. Skilled animators can put that together with a week’s worth of focused effort. At Pixar an animator’s draft work is fed each day into a central network where other colleagues and the director can review it. The teams of animators then meet the next morning to review their previous day’s output and to offer a forensic critique. This is where plussing has come into its own at Pixar. The over-riding principle is that a concept can only be criticised if that criticism takes the form of a constructive suggestion for improvement. Pixar says the practice has been built on the core principles of improvisation: accept all offers, reject nothing; use ‘yes, and …’ instead of ‘yes, but …’ and remember that some measure of your success lies in making your partner look good. The objective is to critically – and rigorously – review existing work specifically in order to generate new ideas that build upwards and create something better. It will come as no surprise that the majority shareholder in Pixar (and the primary beneficiary when it was eventually bought by Disney for $7.4 billion in 2006) was that arch exponent of plussing, Steve Jobs. There are some invaluable lessons here for those of us who work in education. John Hattie has long argued that carefully structured feedback is one of the most effective interventions available to a teacher, placing it among the
80% of verbal feedback comes from peers – and almost all of it is wrong!
challenged to move on towards another objective, a deeper understanding or even higher achievement. And what if…
top ten influences on achievement. Unfortunately, he also maintains that research reveals that much of the feedback on offer in our classrooms is worse than useless, going so far as to claim that it can even do more harm than good. He points, for example, to one piece of research (Nuthall 2007) based on extensive classroom observation that revealed that 80% of verbal feedback comes from peers – and that almost all of it is wrong! Many teachers believe that they give a great deal of valuable feedback, but much of this is directed at groups and research tells us that individuals often fail to recognise that group feedback applies to them. Even when feedback is aimed at a specific student, it can often be personal in nature, founded on a response to the human being in front of us rather than on an objective assessment of the task being undertaken. We also know that students frequently fail to understand teacher feedback or, worse, think they understand it when they do not. Giving is not the same as receiving. Hattie’s view, based on meta-analysis of a wide range of educational research, is that effective feedback focuses on three questions: Where am I going? How am I going? Where to next? In other words, students need to be guided towards a clear understanding of their goals, they then need to be helped to see what sort of progress they are making towards those goals (relative to past performance, to their peers or to an agreed set of expectations) before, finally, they are
And here we return to Disney and those highly-skilled animators at Pixar. As with our students in the classroom, much of their feedback comes from their peers; talented peers with a clear sense of where they want to get to and a good understanding of the steps they have to take in order to get there – and beyond. It doesn’t exercise the mind too much to see that in the wrong climate exposure to scrutiny from peers like these might so easily become intimidating, stifling. That this isn’t the case and creativity thrives is attributable to the establishment of a shared culture of `imaginative risktaking and the wholesale adoption of the positive language of mutual aspiration. No one is likely to tell you how clever you are – but no one will dismiss even your wildest ideas as stupid. Praise will be hard won and perfection will remain elusive. Yes and… instead of yes, but… What if… What if we could establish a culture like this in our classrooms?
Having previously led schools in the UK, China and Singapore, Brian Christian is now in his fourth year as Principal of the British School in Tokyo and sits on the Board of the Council of British International Schools. Find him on Twitter at @BST_Principal and read his blog at bst.ac.jp/principalsblog.
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I have just submitted 4,000 words, a learning journal, lesson observation feedback and a seminar. “The lessons help, but the assignments don’t benefit me” one of my classmates commented. I can appreciate his point, but this assumes a correct/absolute answer to ‘what makes a good teacher?’ ITT benefits people in different ways. What’s important is to take from it anything you feel you need. Used wisely, it WILL make you a better teacher, but not a good one. That has to be carved out for yourself from experience and, unfortunately, occasionally failing. ITT provides the first step, but don’t expect to come out the finished article. So if, like me, you are finding the workload tough and an assignment deadline is the last thing you need, stick with it. Make that extra effort, keep sight of your goals and don’t give up. It’s a fantastic job whatever the media say about recruitment/retainment. ITT is the first step to getting there. @freddy_ash Lecturer - Somerset
Mindshaping I was reading a recent article about the disparity between middle class and working class at Faith Schools and I came to this... ‘And it added that research by the Education Datalab showed socially selective schools are more likely to be high-performing – so deprived children are being barred from some of the best schools.’ Well, surely they answer their own question? I am going to be controversial and completely generalise here. I am aware not all middle class children have support or home and not all working class children do not have support. However, middle class children with a supportive home life which value education are surely making schools better? Working class pupils whose parents don’t see the value in education and because of this schools are not as successful. Surely, those outside education can see a correlation? Every school does their best for EVERY pupil and if every parent wanted the best education for their child then I would argue that every schools performances would rise! @Shhhteacher Class Teacher - New Forest 22 UKED Magazine
Making Students Feel Uncomfortable is a Good Thing As a teacher of GCSE and IB Diploma students (I’m currently in China, but returning to the UK in June) I feel that one of the most important things we can do for our students is to keep nudging – gently and nicely – them out of their comfort zone. Make them feel just a little uncomfortable. But, Earthdog, they are already under enough pressure, so why give them more? I’m not talking about pressure, but about making sure that we add genuine value to their education, by not allowing them to stay intellectually and ethically unchallenged – by never being satisfied with the first answer. And maybe we can help them realise that the curriculum content is not everything they need to know (in your hearts, you know that’s true). In English lessons we can certainly find resources and stimulus material that force them to think more deeply about the world around them, and the way they interact with it. Bring ethics into science lessons when it can lead to an interesting twenty minutes. Sure, it means we have to take a few risks … but maybe, for some of us (myself included), our own comfort zone is getting a little too comfortable. @earthdog_58 Teacher - China
Does ITT make you a better teacher? I am studying DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector) whilst working as a teacher, and as the year progresses and students can see the finish line, work-loads are rising. Doing ITT at the same time as completing my first year is becoming difficult. Recently a conversation arose regarding whether the assignments actually make us better teachers.
Process over Product Inquiry, problem based learning, and process oriented teaching and learning all facilitate student face-to-face and online collaboration in and outside of schools. This is where engagement happens, where students actually experience the ambiguity of working through complex problems with their teammates, and where they learn from failure. For the classroom teacher who wants to begin experimenting with inquiry, start with a short process cycle – choose or negotiate an appropriate one and stick to a short timeline – say 2 hours. Try to make sure everyone commits to completing the cycle, and ask students not to worry about the product. Most important is shared reflection. As students (and teachers) get more comfortable with inquiry processes, start extending the time for inquiry cycles – maybe to 2 weeks, then try 2 months. Let’s stop wasting time arguing whether engagement increases achievement - it does, and it does a lot more than that. Let’s encourage innovation in our schools by using design thinking processes that will begin to allow us to move away from what students produce, to focusing more on the process of learning - where learning, and thus achievement, actually happen. @mistaboxta Teacher - Toronto
Challenging Times By Roy Souter
Every school goes through challenging times. If you stay in one school for a long time, as lots of people in Devon seem to do, you will inevitably go through difficult periods where a major event (or series of events) can shake your confidence or even put your position as headteacher in jeopardy. These can include: • A negative Ofsted judgement • A complaint from a parent
your own context - as well as a realisation that you are also doing some different but equally brilliant things - allows you to listen but not to take everything at face value. Blame someone else. One of the best things about being a headteacher is that you can change what’s not working. Sometimes it will take a long time, and it definitely isn’t always easy, but it’s not someone else’s fault if you haven’t taken action.
Give up and hope it will all go away or repeat the same mistakes that got you into the position in the first place. • A major mistake by yourself Being in the same school 16 years has meant I have had to When things go wrong, here are some responses that change the way I think about things adapt my practice. I read, listen to people and think hard about why I do what won’t make things better: I do. Panic and act without thinking. My first headteacher told me that school leaders have a ‘bias for action’, and that What does work for me: this is one of the reasons they go for promotion rather • I keep a close eye on the things that really matter than staying in the classroom. Difficult situations require decisive action, but sometimes the right thing to do is not • I try to be honest with myself and other to act immediately, but to make some space and time to • I make a plans, got over the plan with someone I trust, share the plan with my colleagues, and stick to reflect on the best course of action first. the plan. Buy in advisers, consultants and other experts that • A major mistake by a member of staff
don’t know as much as you already do. As headteacher you know the context of your school best. You know the children, the teachers and the community more than anyone from outside the school does. You know when to push and when to relax things, and you know how your teachers tick.
Like most heads I work with I write down what I am doing and what I need to do next. It is interesting to look at old notebooks. Yesterday I found a list I had written 5 years ago of the key things that were worrying me and what I intended to do about them. They must have been really big issues at the time but looking back from this distance Try to implement an idea that seems to be working in it turns out that they weren’t. I can’t even remember why another school without taking into account that the context they were worth writing down. is different and the strategy might not be actually working Roy Souter has been a headteacher in Devon since quite as well as the head tells you it is. This is linked to the 1996, and in his current school since 2000. He has last point. I have heard lots of heads talk about the brilliant things happening in their school but an understanding of supported other schools as a LLE and new head
teacher mentor. Find him on Twitter @Exe_Head.
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