Wednesday period 1 – Building character? or what we call – teaching.

downloadI recall a press visit a few years ago when the whole Jamie Oliver ‘healthy food” stuff was kicking off and a call for us to teach ‘proper’ cooking. The journalist from a broadsheet came to school and at one point asked the head and me how we might fit yet another thing into the curriculum. “After all” he said, “you have citizenship, financial literacy, healthy eating, fitness, democracy, relationships, driver awareness etcWell” said the head, “it’s quite easy we start at 8.50, do all those things and then send the children home at 3.30 where their Mums’ and Dads’ teach them Physics Geography, Art, Maths and English literature”

I like to remind myself there are 168 hours in the week or about 112 waking hours and we have the pupils in school to teach and influence for 25 which is about 20% of their lives. Parents there is a job for you to do there!! There is a lot to do in school and a lot to teach and that’s why we have a curriculum. There are of course trips and activities beyond the classroom – vital and I’ve blogged that elsewhere. The government recently announced a project to bring Rugby players into school to teach resilience – it might be the army to teach discipline, or chefs to produce the next generation of Mary Berry’s or in case you forgot that infamous Olympic legacy: bring in a few gold medalists who will inspire a great gold haul in 2016 – we’ll see won’t we! (and got the feeling ‘teachers‘ will take the blame for a lesser haul). Sport  and all sorts can teach us a LOT I have no doubt there -this is one of my favourite images to use at school -it is the expression of fulfillment agony, ecstasy, joy and pain. I use it a lot.image

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Actually though what we need is good quality teachers and support staff. That is a responsibility a bit beyond my remit. As a school we are very happy to help fully in ITT through teaching alliances, through PGCE with HE providers, in fact to help in any way at all. I don’t want a Rugby player thank you! Ofsted won’t really be happy if my pupils are full of character but have poor qualifications, more important neither will their parents neither us teachers, nor the spooky “global economy”. It’s not either/or, it’s about growing characters as they grow up and learn. Ha schools – places of teaching, learning and Education ( drawing out).

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David Jackson fund-raising

 

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Etienne Stott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please don’t get me wrong we love our “heroes” In recent years we have had all sorts of special assemblies, afternoons, meetings; some for the whole school some for a year group some for subject groups, some schools have big traditions like prizegivings. We have a sports award afternoon when many local hero sports starts visit us. They have all been great: from David Jackson a local rugby player, Etienne Stott and Rebecca Adlington olympic gold medallists, but also some of our own ex students: Panthers stars, football stars and equestrian stars and rowing stars. They come in chat informally and formally and their example and words have impact. I really appreciate their contribution, their story and their inspiring words, and even the extras – popping in to see students. We have had our local MP in school, a very memorable holocaust survivor from the HET, a famous northern poet, and a local writer, we even had a cosmonaut. I could go on check out our website for stories of those visits. They are vital, most schools do them, we all do them in different ways, but we all do them. In fact I bet if you look at any school website there will be a story of some sort of visit. Some schools can get bigger stars and celebrities it doesn’t matter, we all do what we can. These are celebrations, visitors confirm what we stand for and they do inspire and challenge pupils BUT the big influence goes on in classrooms day by day. 40 weeks 25 hours ( well minus those spent in these assemblies) .

e devicesWe don’t teach behaviour, character, integrity as ‘subjects’ we discuss them, we model them we point out good and bad examples of them, we do it every day in classrooms and on corridors. When I say we do,I mean teachers do. Therefore we need good teachers, good at their subject, good at relationships and good at pedagogy. Whatever clever ideas we leaders might have without good people in our classrooms we won’t be able to teach Physics or teach character or inspire our children. We won’t improve the lot of EAL pupils, of PP children or CLA – or any children. AS my forst Director of Education Sir Tim Brighouse said: “Good schools get the right teacher in the right place with the right class at the right time..easy” for the occasions when I have been the right person in the right place, I am proud and privilged for the people I have taught each and every one a genuine (and usually a lovely) character.

Please can someone ensure a good supply of teachers and a place to start might be to make the profession attractive again, to talk up teachers and to listen to practitioners as to what is needed to make it more attractive. But hey, if you politicians pile more onto us, pile more work our way, cut our budgets and slow to a drip the supply of teachers…..as well as talking us all down and blaming us, you’‘ll be needing more than a rugby team to turn that around. Meanwhile me and our staff will just keep up the day job, teaching our 1100 mix of little characters.

This blog did remind me of a lesson I covered with a Y8 class in which a little boy couldn’t log on. He said he forgot his password – try and recall it I said and he began…Snow white, Grumpy, Dumbo, Nemo, Robin Hood, Mickey Mouse…er…er.

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“Goodness” I said “why such a long password?” “Mr Smith said I needed a minimum of 8 charactersimages

 

 

Some Questions:

Q1 Building these personal attributes is vital – how do we most effectively do so as teachers?

Q2 What do you think are the most vital characteristics to have and to avoid? Confidence can so easily become arrogance. Humility so often self deprecation!

Q3 Teaching, Learning or passing the baton?

For those in a Church school:

Ruth 3:11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.

Romans 5:3 we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Proverbs 6:23 For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life,

 

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

 

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Thursday Period 7 – Celebrating Success. What, reward for doing the job?

imageI was at school when there were extensive discussions about banning the cane. One fairly significant argument was: “well I was never caned at school and it never did me any harm”. The implication being that the cane kept us in good order and thus helped the majority. This blogpost is about rewards, and frankly, I was rarely praised or rewarded at school. Maybe it did or maybe it didn’t do me any harm. I’ll finish my story later. I am definitely not someone who thinks we offer some financial cash rewards for each GCSE ( as a school or as a parent) and will fairly despair if our job of education only seems to get done by offering financial rewards. There is much research showing this is pretty redundant, moreso for many of us, it’s not likely to instil lifelong learning skills and the kind of education we want for the generation .So how do schools celebrate success, in fact what do we mean by success and how to reward excellence? It’s not the winning but the taking part, so do we just reward all who take part or just winners? Then we find it difficult to decide winners, oh hang let’s do nothing to anyone in case someone is offended or upset or overlooked.

Here are my top five of thoughts on rewards

1. The big occasion

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I recall my own school’s prize days in the 70’s, long speeches I never followed, and a day off in lieu granted by the speakers wife usually!. We will shortly hold our school presentation evening, we use the local “Albert Hall ( Nottingham sorry not London). We have an evening with a few short speeches, aimed at the pupils, parents and teachers. We imagehave our honours, about 75 pupils for subjects, for contribution, for effort for battling against the odds and for achievement. Every year will be represented, every ability but sure emphasis rests with the Y13 and Y11 who will be the role models others can aspire to. The pupils who watch can see that they too can ‘make it’ yes they can, they reallimagey can, because these are our pupils from our school who have enjoyed success. The bulk of the evening will be a musical celebration with the best of our orchestras, music groups and choirs. It will be top quality and uplifting for all in a way only music can do. The audience will be staff and parents, grandparents ex students guests. When our previous Head suggested the event, many of us thought it would last a few years but here we are 22 years worth of celebrations on.

imageWe used to celebrate sport that evening too but this made for a very long evening. So we now have a separate sports event on a Friday afternoon in October – local sports stars generously come and help us celebrate. Our competitive teams, our sports stars, our selected pupils and our internal house teams ( swimming gala athletics football, rugby cricket cross country….you know the sort) video clips and some good humour from the imagestaff too. A great event to mark the work of hundreds of pupils and of course PE staff and all those who take teams and go the extra distance literally.

 

2 The extraordinary occasion.

imageNot so long ago we worried that our post 16 students were getting lots of advice, lots of suggestions as to how to improve and messages from me and others to ‘work harder’. We felt the need for a rebalance and introduced an ‘Oscars” – students nominated by staff not just because they were achieving but because they were trying, they had listened and learnt, and they were progressing. A message publicly that we have noticed and we say well done. We repeat these medal awards at the very end of the year on the day they dress up as Y11 and we say farewell. In other year groups we applaud the sports teams weekly, we offer the certificates for getting into a special place.

3 The bread and butter.

Our Y7 to 9 have merits, they have varying degrees of enthusiasm to collect them and I guess the same is true of staff who show varying degrees of enthusiasm to hand them out. Despite the fact we can’t quite create fully workable rules the system works and pupils do work to collect them. They do try and the things we ask them to do are recognised on the bigger stage. Certificates, presentations in assembly and what I do really love, their peer group applaud as they recognise something special themselves. We have only recently introduced rewards in Upper school Y10 and Y11, pupils collect them and after gathering a number complete a card. Once complete this becomes a chance for a bigger reward as we have a draw for some prizes like book tokens, meals etc We recently had a group of Brazilian teachers visit school, a few of our Portuguese speakers helped out showing them around and interpreting in lessons. When I thanked the pupils who did great job, written all over their faces was “Sir any chance of a merit?”. There can be great ways here to involve school councils and the proverbial ‘pupil voice’

4 The regular routines.

In lesson time and form time and extra curricular time there are merits but there are also significant responses. The pupil giving the subject a good go, the one who really tries to learn for a test, the one who listens to what was said at their parents evening , or maybe the one who happily takes the CAFOD box around or the poppies. imageA recent report said ‘lavish praise’ doesn’t work, I think the headline should be ‘false praise’ doesn’t work. It is important in schools to say thank you, well done; to ring home with good news as well as with concerns. It is nice, it’s appropriate and it’s probably important to send and receive a letter from school just to say something slightly out of the ordinary has been noted.

5 The most effective – the informal.

The teacher who notices. Notices the pupils tried, notices there has been improvement, notices that the task was actually quite a big challenge and it was managed. We recently had our swimming gala and the races are hard fought. Some younger pupils filled with enthusiasm volunteered to swim but unknown to us they were not the fastest of ‘fish’ in the pool. How wonderful to hear a whole audience of Y7 to 9 cheer and clap and appreciate the last person home as they gained…just the point, that really was the ‘taking part’ and the PB ( personal best). The “pincer” movement is even more effective, pass the little message to a Head of Year or to a form teacher and let them also pass on gratitude or thanks – watch the smile and see it encourage even more contribution, and effort.

imageA lot of our pupils, whatever we may think, really do lack self confidence, they are growing up in an uncertain world and I have always found it a challenge to convince them they really are good, capable and can aim even higher. Keep an eye out for those five ways.

So to my story of school, at one of those Grammars oft touted as bringing social mobility ( which it did for me but by accident methinks! Top of my class in Y7 I was rewarded with a book, an atlas. In Y8 I didn’t come top, but second and my report said: “Now even Dexter has learnt that there is no substitute for hard work” a phrase I have occasionally used myself. Despite not a single absence, a clutch of decent O Levels and A Levels and a place at a fairly prestigious University; the first in my family to even stay on past 14 let alone get into HE – well just one more book in Y9, and hey the lack of reward never did you any harm Dexter! There is a spectrum of views about rewards, from overdoing them to under-doing them. I still say to all my classes or year groups, don’t expect rewards for doing what I ask or for turning up for school That’s what we expect, but extra efforts, fulfilling parts of the schools ethos, and maintaining persistently high standards should always be recognised.

Rugby world cup winning captain M Johnson

Some questions to consider

Q1 Should we give rewards, or do they offer the wrong incentives?

Q2 It is often them same (few) names who get nominated for rewards and prizes, as they are the best should they keep winning, or how do we share out rewards?

Q3 Are we all winners, or does that make us all losers?

Q4 What ways do you have to reward, celebrate and promote successes?

For those in a church school

Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

2 Kings 23:21 The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”

Proverbs 9:12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Luke 15:23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

Monday Period 1 – *New Beginnings

In a way it doesn’t matter if it’s a NEW week or a NEW term or a NEW year – or all three in one!

Schools will have INSET and those slightly odd first days of admin and assemblies, but they will nevertheless resound through their ‘year group assemblies’ and classrooms with numbers of teachers saying “It’s a new start”.

HP mark bkIt is so good we can give a fresh new clean start, some children really need this, probably some adults need it too. There is something special about the first page of the new book, the new uniform, the new shoes. When asked, almost all our year 7 had  a photograph taken at home before they came to school in their new uniform before their first day at their new school.

Even staff love their clean, new mark book, new planner and new diary. I wonder when do they become those old tattered friends filled with details of lives? Whilst I appreciate what ICT can do for us, opening a new ‘Word document’ just does not have the same effect. As for my new exercise book – does writing on any page better that crisp new page at the front after writing “your name and subject” [in my career two pupils when asked to do this have actually written your name and one pupil wrote ‘Fred Bloggs’ after I actually said don’t write ‘your name’ but write ‘your name’ e.g. Fred Bloggs – hey ho I’m such a poor communicator]

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Of course it isn’t really a brand new start, unless you are Y7 or a brand new shiny teacher, but it is a new year. It is a chance to start afresh, we have had a break, and the rhythm of school brings us full circle with a new intake and the school year has rewound to the start once again. I worked outside of education a short while and talking with friends it does not happen so clearly elsewhere, people holiday at different times and the ‘new’ does not happen. I know that some blog readers will not be believers but there is an echo of the church calendar. When a church gathers on a Sunday it’s the first day of the week, and some time is spent reflecting on the last week, seeking forgiveness before looking to the new opportunities in the week ahead. There is no doubt we need to reflect in school. My first teacher planners which I still sort of treasure are hand written with the left column my plan and the right hand column my reflection. A reminder how I sat with my ‘old’ planner to see what had gone well and what had gone badly, to do more of the former and none of the latter. Following the story of my lessons I can see (and still recall) sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t BUT it was vital in that all important aspect : ‘ how can I improve?’

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A new journey starts here

Back to the new term, new opportunities, new ideas to try and and try to forget the rotten, bad bits of the past, to an extent putting that behind us. This is also a time when we tend to think a little about what is really important to us as we begin a new year, you probably heard some of it in the head’s ‘welcome back’ speech. Pupils often need a new start, and not always at the start of the new school year, a little bridge back into their school community and a new opportunity, probably not too many if the action plans don’t work but forgiveness might be important for some. They too though will embrace the challenge of the new year, maybe the new school for Y7 or the new Y10 curriculum they had a say in choosing for themselves, or a very big shiny new Y12 confidently or with a big dose of trepidation starting these A levels ( hey its a big jump this new year). Fear and joy, its just so exciting, well and scarey. Pupils need support and bags of encouragement – some secretly want to do take part in the school play this year, learn a new instrument, take up a new sport, or even make new friends or just make amends. Parent and teachers can help them – or hinder them.

contemplationI have always thought and found this first full ‘normal’ week back quite hard, I’m not sure what the next class brings into the room, I get a bit sick of the sound of my voice, the holiday had no bells and now they ring the lesson start and end. Nevertheless it is the start, it’s the beginning of an exciting new journey. Welcome back to the new term and we really are in this teaching and learning stuff together.

And some questions for you to think about in the nouvou world:

Q1 When we and our pupils are so busy how do we find time to reflect?

Q2 I make my Y12 write themselves a letter about how their revision and exams went immediately after their return. We then open them this week and reflect. What activities do you use to help pupils (and staff) reflect, in the busy routines?

Q3 Is there a limit to how many times can we give a new beginning before we say that really is enough?

and a bit more thinking about the mundus novus in Church schools:

Genesis 1:1     In the beginning …

2 Corinthians 5:17:    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Hebrews 8:13     By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Ephesians 4:24    and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.