This blog has charted an interesting period in my teaching life. When I first started blogging here, it was as a classroom teacher looking for an echo chamber to reflect and develop my practice. Then I became a Head of Year and finally an Acting-Assistant Head and immediately there was a substantial drop-off in my already infrequent posting. As my responsibilities in school have increased, I seem to have spent less time reflecting actively here (though that’s not to say I haven’t been reflecting).
The key point is that although the demands on my time may have increased, I still need to make the time to reflect and think. Otherwise I run the risk of never learning from my mistakes. To summarise then, consider this an intention to start trying to blog again. It’s easily said, but we’ll see if I can manage it!
New custom flow chart on the wall to guide students around an activity.
Through the classroom
On Tuesday night I was asked by our Head to do a quick and engaging starter for our staff directed time. I came up with ‘Through the classroom’. Utilizing my wasted youth practicing Loyd Grossman impressions and using the magic of David Frost’s show format, I put up pictures of innovative and useful ideas that people in our school have in their classrooms and commented on them.
The point I was trying to make is that our school is already jam packed full of useful ideas and we just need to keep sharing them. The clues are there…
Last night we had a twilight professional development session at work and as part of that we were put into Action Research groups. After a bit of soul searching I’ve come up with the things I really want to focus on after Easter. Whether or not these are areas we choose to develop as part of our Action Research, I must make it my objective to look at them anyway.
A) Reducing low level disruption in some of my classes, (shouting out, lack of effort, chatting)
B) Finding ways of catching groups of children that regularly miss one (or both) lessons up to where they should be.
C) Making better use of homework and getting a more consistent approach to it.
This is it! I promise. As some of my colleagues have pointed out, I’ve been rather acronym obsessed recently, but I think I’ve finally nailed it and I’m going to stick with ACT. It’s taken me a long time to work out exactly what I want to see in a pupils work, but that was the whole point of trying these things out and using them in a class-room. CUE was okay, but there was too much bleed between the different categories. ACT lets me give the students really specific feedback on their strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve been using CUE 1234, (Content, Understanding, Evaluation) for several months now with my students as an assessment tool. Now I’m starting to wonder whether I should change it slightly? My main issue is that there is a definite overlap between Understanding and Evaluation and they could easily be merged into one area.
Instead I’m starting to wonder whether it would be better to use CUT (Content, Understanding, Technique)? It seems to me that there is a definite opportunity to focus students attention onto the techniques they are using. Paragraphing, conclusions, metaphors, evidence, sources, examples… all these are techniques that should be encouraged and applied. Perhaps giving the students a ranking in technique will help them understand the importance of these features and also get me to focus on them more in lessons.
Of course, I could just go crazy and have CUTE… but that’s a discussion for another day.
Today has been a great day… an inspiring day in fact. That it has been so has been all the more unusual for the fact I am currently snowed under with work and busy dealing with multiple incidents in my capacity as Head of Year.
The reason? Just some simple conversations with colleagues about what really matters in teaching. Just finding the time to connect with my colleagues and take off the blinkers.
First I had a colleague come into a lesson just to have a look and tell me what she thought. No forms, no criteria… just a normal lesson to watch and then a good chat afterwards. It was illuminating and reminded me why I love this job. She’s new to our school and we teach the same class. Speaking to her, explaining my choices… stating what I was trying to accomplish opened my eyes and got my brain whirring.
Then after school we had a Bluesky meeting. Bluesky is our teaching and learning group, there were eight of us there and just having a chance to chat and discuss ideas was like a tonic. I left elated.
My overall point is that we need moments of unstructured time like this as an anodyne to the sometimes blinkered tunnel vision we develop as professionals wrapped up in our own narrow concerns. Tomorrow I will approach school with a positive step and an open mind.