Category Archives: Resolutions

#Nurture 15/16

‘Twas the night before term starts, and all through the land,

Every teacher was stirring, wondering if they had planned;

Good enough lessons to teach the next term, 

With knowledge a’plenty so children could learn….

It would take me all night, probably all week, to finish that as I am no poet so I shall leave it there! I’ve been trying to get this post done for days now, reviewing the year and sifting things through. It’s often painful doing this, dredging up memories you’ve tried to bury.  2015 wasn’t the best of years in many ways, and it’s hard entering 2016 with the shadow of dad’s illness prognosis over us. But 2016 might be the year of miracles! Anyway, the slideshow of pictures reflect some of the moments that left a mark on me in 2015. 

2015 Highlights:

Family :)
Family 🙂
My family. Who continue to amaze me every day. Watching the way that my devoted mum cares for dad every day with total patience and love, and how he never complains and just worries about others. How my sister gives up so much of her time to make things for others, or decorate 26 Christmas trees at different houses to bring cheer! How my brother doesn’t complain when he’s making the hundredth tip run to clear my house, or helping me move house, or spending hours on Skype to bridge the gap to Ukraine. How my brother-in-law is giving up countless hours to renovate my house, despite having no spare time whatsoever as he’s always doing things for others. How all the extended family (I have many, many uncles, aunts, cousins!) have rallied around to support and to visit with dad, including a very emotional family carol sing-a-long with four generations all present. I am blessed and love them all.

Awesome friends
Awesome friends
Old and new friends. Laura, Becky and Jo are always there for me and constantly support in good times and bad. They constantly impress me with their professionalism as well, and I’m super proud of each of them in their work as well as being such good friends, mothers, and soon-to-be mothers 😉 We don’t see enough of each other, and I shall miss being close geographically and seeing the littlies grow up…but I can always travel! It only takes minutes to have each other in hysterics.

Great times with O’Donnell family again this year. The Cairngorms trip was a blast and I’m always impressed by how smart and hilarious the younger O’Donnells are!  I think I’ve heard more about Middle Earth, Hogwarts, Lego mechanics and robotics than I could remember 🙂 You are all awesome. 

When I moved to Basingstoke this year I was apprehensive about the new folk I would be living with, yet they have all turned out to be (in the words of ‘Spud’) ‘super human beings’! Ben, thank you for always making me smile and for cooking the most outrageously amazing meals to spoil us (also sorry about the ice-skating). Philippa, thank you for being beautiful inside and out and such a good listener. Nerea, thanks for putting up with our tea-towel fights, Christmas obsession, and general madness! Richard, thank you for the midnight chats about anything under the sun (sorry for boring you). I hope to see you all soon.

New house back in Kent!
New house back in Kent!
New house! I’ve finally made it back from Hampshire to Kent! After spending ages trying to find a job and a house at the same time it seemed impossible, and then a house turned up on the same street as my parents! It’s quite the renovation project but does have a roof again now at least! Moving was traumatic, leaving broken dreams and heartbreak as well as close friends, but now I’m close to those who need me most.

New job! I’d decided to try for Assistant Head Teacher some months back when I was looking to relocate, but didn’t think I’d get one. I’ve loved being a Head of Geography, and being in the classroom feels natural and I know I am good at it. But I was beginning to feel like I needed another challenge, and to put my knowledge of turning places around to good use. Despite wanting to be back in Kent, I’ve never been someone to do a job for the sake of it and I wasn’t prepared to just apply to any old school. I wanted to feel like I would be in the right place, so I have been picky about where to look. Then when I did apply I assumed it would be just ‘an experience’ and was thrilled to just get an interview, wanting then only to not embarrass myself on the day. It was the hardest thing I have done professionally, and by some miracle I got the job! I really felt an affinity on the day, that this school is on a journey with some really needy children needing support. And I loved that my new Head wants to make this the best school in the world, not just ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and he wants it because the children deserve it. But I will admit, I am petrified at the thought of starting tomorrow. I haven’t felt clueless for a long time and this uncertainty is scary! I wrote a piece on UKEdchat about my thoughts, so feel free to read this here . I just want to make a difference, and give children a good foundation in life. Just hope I have the tools to do this.

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Working with amazing team at Eggar’s
Eggar’s itself. What an experience working here. I worked with some truly amazing people. The Hums team were just great. Super supportive and so professional, always seeking to do the absolute best for children. Each member brought something great to the table, whether it was Louise’s chirpiness (I’ll miss being greeted as well as you did!), Claire’s meticulous organisation, Linda’s ineffable charm (who cannot smile around you?!), Emily’s creativity and enthusiasm (though with a bizarre obsession with satsumas), Cathy’s calm presence and support for others, Anne’s amazing baking (!) and support for yr11s, Cath’s steadfastness and constant support for all children (best Head of Year I’ve known), and Gill’s enthusiasm, laugh and patience. Even though we were sometimes accused of being ‘overly questioning’ this was always because these queries were always rooted in ‘how will this benefit children’ and had this core purpose. It was our job as teachers and middle leaders to question, and to ensure we did the best possible for our learners. I would always hope that middle leaders do this, and that staff feel free to talk to me as a member of SLT – after all, we as teachers are all learners and we don’t always get it right. 

The Geography ladies helped me to see the department transform from a place that children loathed and disrespected, to somewhere that children enjoyed and felt challenged in and made progress. From being blue on Raise to green. From poor achievement to better (still not perfect!). From being inadequate to good. From being unknown to being recognised by other professionals outside school as somewhere to come and learn. Anne with her support of trainees and organisation, and Gill with her ideas and willingness to try new things. I may have only been there 15months, but we did some good work. Results day was emotional! Those year 11s who had to learn an entire course and controlled assessment in nine months, and yet still beat national average! Student feedback before and after was so positive, and I loved hearing from them and their parents.We also introduced previously unknown fieldwork, including overseas and a fantastic Iceland excursion. And we had fun with Skype in the classroom that saw one year 7 boy who had never spoken aloud in class suddenly speak voluntarily to a scientist in the middle of the Arctic Ocean in front of his whole class.

Oh and introducing the Eggar’s Experience was great, trying to encourage a ‘have a go’ culture and attitude with students and extra-curricular opportunities. I also hope the ‘This Girl Can’ efforts introduced by my excellent colleague Cathy take off. I could say so much about Cathy, who held me together on more than one occasion and is the most selfless, down-to-earth, thoughtful and professional person I know. I don’t know how many lunchtimes she gave up for students needing someone to talk to, or for colleagues, but she is the unseen glue and I hope she knows how truly valued she is by those that matter most.

Students are awesome
Students are awesome
Students past and present. When I left Eggar’s I was blown away by the generosity of students (and staff of course), but I was reduced to tears by the comments in cards by them and by their parents. To be told you have raised a child’s confidence as they prepare for their finals and that they finally feel able means more to me than a piece of paper with their mark on. To be able to give a lad his first ever C grade on two mock exams when his FFTd is an E. To have parents saying thank you for helping. To know kids want to pursue their learning at college or university. That is why I teach – for those spine tingly moments that say yep, I did some good today. 

I also attended my first student funeral last year, for Elliot. He was the student who changed me most as a teacher, and it is with thoughts of him that I go to my new school knowing that there will be so many more Elliot-like children who need TLC, need their teachers to support them, and need us pushing to get those grades more than they would ever admit.

Getting certified!
Getting Chartered!
Professional bits and bobs. I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking at various events last year including BETT and the GA conference, as well as the work with the Prince’s Teaching Institute until September. I was sad to stop with this work, but to be honest was a little disappointed with the upper leadership that did not seem to want to recognise the necessary changes or embrace alternatives.Hey ho.

The GA conference was one of the highlights of my year, especially the first ever GA Teachmeet that had me reduced to tears of laughter with the inimitable Paul Berry’s session. I can only hope that when I am close to retirement like he, that whatever job I am doing I do it with the same level of love and enthusiasm and dare-I-say passion as he seems to. Wonderful man. We also had our last ever TMPompey which was great, even with me knocking myself out before the start. I shall miss working with David Rogers in future and am sad the once dream-team is ended, but grateful to have had some great opportunities in the past. I shall also miss being near to Rachel Jones for her amazing work and joining in her mad antics, as well as her support as a great friend. I am genuinely so impressed with how she juggles everything and has some of the happiest and most confident children I have met which is testament to her and to her new family. 

Taking part in the RGS Explore weekend was also amazing, working with other great professionals and hearing about incredible expeditions current and planned. I hope to be more involved with the RGS in future in the education capacity, and was thoroughly chuffed to receive my Chartered Geographer status this year as a Christmas present 🙂

I was published in a few magazine bits this year, including a revision guide and finally finished the GCSE textbook! What a mission! I never realised what hard work it is, all the research and then trying to put it into something work-able. Being somebody a little bit perfectionist it is hard to know what to do when it is your first go! But hopefully all is well, and will be on sale in March so if you fancy a new Geog textbook please try it!

So 2016?

I don’t know what the future holds, and I am apprehensive about much of it. I’m not making any resolutions other than to be as good a daughter/sibling, friend, and teacher / leader that I can be. I will be running more this year, including a half marathon which will be near to home which is good. I will try to blog about my journey in SLT and other random musings more, as I’ve not been consistent with this. I have a house to finish and a life to build as well though, so perhaps this blog will include a bit more about life beyond school by this time next year who knows!

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Year’s end musings

St. Catherine's College, Cambridge UniversityIt’s customary to reflect on the year ending when it comes to December 31st, and to ponder the New Year and its potential. So I had better have a go. If for no other more cathartic reason than to get my boss off my back for a few days about writing another post :-p . Though I won’t be able to rival his quality reflection here www.daviderogers.org.uk I figure I may just muse a little.

Those who know me will know that this year has been a tough one for me personally, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the love and support of my amazing family, friends and colleagues. So thank you. There’s a lot from this year I would like to forget, and hopefully I’ll come out wiser. T.S.Elliot said “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” I guess I should take from that and try to not think on the past too much, and try to reinvent my future. Hmm, that’s quite a challenge.

Sgwd Clun-gwyn waterfall, Brecon BeaconsNew beginnings are scary to anyone, human nature clings to the safety of the known and the ‘it’s always been done this way’ mantra. Perhaps this is most often evident in schools! But just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it is wrong to evaluate and change – roll with it and adapt. Just because the road most often travelled is the easiest to follow doesn’t mean that the other road isn’t actually better.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” (Mark Twain)

This doesn’t mean that I think we should be reckless and always trying something for the sake of it, but I hope I am never afraid of change or attempting something new. This year has seen some new ‘firsts’ for me: my first proper Ofsted (last time I was an NQT), first time speaking at GA conference and other events (again being dragged in by the boss!), first time writing for education blogs like The Guardian, first radio interview (BBC Radio Solent on the topic of mobiles in schools), first time mentoring and getting to help our excellent NQT Sam Atkins be even more awesome, first time coaching, first Olympics (including our kids getting to interview Lord Coe!), and many other highlight moments.

My most recent first was something I put off doing for months. I was approached in July by the Anthony Salcito education blog for Microsoft ‘Daily Edventures’ – a 365 day blog featuring so called ‘heroes of education’ worldwide.

Daily Edventures blog

I felt completely out of my depth and not in the same league as others appearing so at first I declined. After all, I’m ‘just a regular teacher’ – at that point I didn’t even hold a TLR so felt inadequate. I forgot all about it until November when I was asked again, and from that moment on was badgered by David Rogers (who even resorted to Twitter peer pressure!) to submit my statement. David’s own post is here . It felt crazier when Bill Gates was the most recent person on there but in the end I did submit and I am very chuffed that I have now appeared. You can see the blog post here Daily Edventures Blog if you wish. One of my main points was about educators not being afraid of change and of being lifelong learners. So that is a resolution for me – to not be afraid, to constantly learn, to spend more time on my own CPD through networking and good old twitter. I’m @geodebs by the way.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of inspirational quotes! I won’t apologise as I think they’re great but I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m trying too hard! Here’s another one :

Hal Borland : “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”

I like this concept. I’ve never been the hugest fan of new year in itself nor really been big on resolutions; it is just another evening and another day in many ways. It would be simpler sometimes to slough off the old and take the new as a fresh start but that would mean losing what we may have learnt along the way. Experience is a great thing. Whether good or bad, failure or success, we can always learn from experience. And I hope I do. I have to admit, I don’t like failing. I’m competitive and want to be good at the things I try, and especially at teaching as it is too important. But I know my students learn through failure and I should do too. So, another resolution is to learn to fail better!

BeBo at Mersham-le-Hatch deer park, Kent

Finally, things I’m looking forward to in 2013:

– working with the challenging but awesome David Rogers and Sam Atkins (no doubt involving more crazy ideas to get us in trouble, hopefully including pranks and naughty fun along the way)
– helping to maintain and always improve @priorygeography
– Iceland 2013 trip with 30kids
– improving my curriculum area of Careers Education for @priorysouthsea
– seeing some great friends get hitched
– exploring more of the world

Right, think I’ve rambled on long enough. And it’s almost 2013 already. Phew!

So, professionally I make these resolutions:

– spend longer on CPD related activities through reading more blogs, taking part in twitter discussions more, etc,.
– try more and learn by trying
– support the department I am in and colleagues school wide (e.g. through coaching)

Better add in some personal ones too, then people can check up on me! So :

– run at least once a week
– get my little cottage industry of clay crafts up and running online
– go somewhere I’ve never been before

And I promise to make more cakes for work – provided the boys deserve it 😉

2012 was hard work and hard to keep smiling but I’m known as being ‘pink and fluffy’ and just about kept to that. Bring on 2013.

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At the start of things…

I am in my fifth year of teaching and have had a professional blog to share with students for some time (see link widget on sidebar), but now have been cajoled / elbowed / convinced to keep a personal reflective blog. A place to put down thoughts about teaching or travelling, or any other topic that grabs my attention. I could say I was nagged slightly into keeping this by an enthusiastic boss 😉 , but it will be interesting to look back on in the future and a great way to keep track of what goes on in a profession that changes so rapidly.

The last year at school has seen a whole lot of changes, and lots of exciting projects come and go. I have been fortunate to be a part of things like the Microsoft Innovative Teachers’ forums in the past, been invited to write for the Guardian Teacher blog, been involved with pushing school leaders and educators to embrace using mobile devices, and getting out and about on trips. I am lucky to work in a department that is supportive and challenging; with a boss that sets you up for all sorts of trouble but will help you get out of it, and a more recently qualified teacher who is driven and perfection seeking. Both of whom have the drive, passion and creativity to push the department and myself to constantly improve. @priorygeography is a great place to be, a bubble of innovation and energy which hopes to spread. And we work with amazing kids. Hard work at times, but rewarding and awesome to see them develop and succeed.

 

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step" Lao Tzu
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” Lao Tzu

The start of the new year inevitably leads to resolutions and target setting. The department has collective aims: to become leaders of innovation & creativity, to inspire our learners, and to continue to improve results, amongst others. Personally, I aim to spend more time learning from other professionals, through using blogs / Google reader / twitter more. I want my lessons to be more creative and inspiring. I want to do better for my GCSE classes and support them more. I want to be an even better team member, coach, mentor & to support staff across the school. And I’d like to make the work-life balance a bit more, well, balanced.

One thing I do know about this profession though: that I will keep adding to and altering these targets / resolutions / wish lists (call them what you will) throughout the year. It’s a roller coaster, and it’s time to strap in and get going.

Finally, one of my favourite quotations is “I am not afraid of the storms, for I am still learning to sail my ship” (Louisa May Alcott). This sums up my approach to teaching & to most things: I would rather try and fail than simply stand by idly. And I think that this is important for our learners; so much more is learned by making mistakes then fixing them or being afraid & conquering rather than simply by just doing. So….bring it!