Chemistry Practicals in the new world

There has been an interesting debate on the MyRSC  “Talk Chemistry” and twitter and various blogs which raise an important question for the RSC, for academics teaching and designing courses for Undergraduate Chemists and for schools and teachers.

There is always change – I’m only in touch with the changes to A Level Chemistry, AS Level Chemistry, and around the corner GCSE Chemistry; the profound changes over practical work.

Universities will have changed too, new techniques, scrapping old pracs, developing new skills – I am slightly guessing at this though.

So will new and young teachers in school have the skills to deliver practical work and perhaps more broadly motivate pupils as they once had or actually need in this “new world”? Can they do a good demo? Can they deliver the organic prep the new spec demands? Have they even used the kit they find in a school under financial pressure where Chemistry puts most of its capitation down a drain? Seeing some of the nonsensical practicals suggested for AS and A or at least the slightly odd quantities will teachers (old and new) know where to turn for proper advice – CLEAPSS, RSC, ASE – sure but exactly WHERE – they are busy people?
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Is it time for the RSC to take a snapshot of practical work at UG level and bring together the skills developed in UG courses and design any necessary training courses for potential and actual teachers in secondary. What role “old hands” like me who should be able to help show how show a good demo ( patter and all) or point out the pitfalls.

Over my career of 34 years in comprehensive school classrooms – the magic, the mystery of Chemistry is delivered through a range of activity but practical activity caught me in school and I daresay caught you – is anyone making sure practical work isn’t sidelined to the side bench?

We know sometimes physics or biology colleagues struggle with doing some of our Chemistry practicals – probably easier and more comfortable to hit youtube – so Chemists let’s stand up and be counted and ensure whether it is assessed, sidelined by exam boards or rubbished – that we maintain experimental Chemistry at the heart of our lessons, our teaching and our future workforce of Chemists.

Meanwhile let’s see just what the score is!

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Sixth Form Funding Warning

I have been asked for a quick  way of identifying funding problems, what is set out below are two very quick ways you can crudely view your funding allocation using only your allocation statement.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) are in the process of uploading the 6 form funding allocations and in their covering documentation

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/503050/Explanatory_note_SSF_Allocation_Statement_2016_to_2017.pdf

They state
“For some schools and academies the allocation based on your data is likely be considerably lower than you might expect.” (p3)

The reasons behind this reduced allocation are identified mainly as issues relating to

• The funding band that individual learners from 2014/15 census data are placed in for allocation purposes.
• And errors related to the English and Maths condition of funding data

What would indicate a possible problem?

I would carry out a crude calculation from your Allocation Statement using the boxes from the Programme Funding Formula, divide the total funding in the National Funding Rate Per Student box by the number of students in the Student Numbers for 2016/17 Box

This will give you a total that will not exceed £4,000

If 100% of your learners are 16 and 17 you should achieve £4,000 as an answer
The exact make up of your funding depends very much on the nature of your sixth form, the higher the % of your Sixth Form who are in Y14 aged 18 at start of academic year, the lower this total will be
If 4% of your learners are 18 you should achieve £3,972
If 10% of your learner is 18 you should achieve £3,930

In practice many 6 Forms also have a few learners who do fall into the Band 1 2 and 3 categories (namely 18 year olds sweeping up subjects)
If your answer is below £3,950 you need to carefully review your data and consider if you have a business case option

This is crude but fast

For issues related to English and Maths Condition of Funding, if your allocation is being reduced by this you need to investigate the data.

Please feel free to contact me via Paul@pro16plus.com if you require any help or advice

YBA Sixth form Funding Consultant by @The_Data_Adonis

For the past three years have been working as a self employed sixth form funding consultant, having the great pleasure of working with schools the length and breadth of England. I did not enter this role through the traditional education pathway; in fact for the first twenty years of my working life I was involved in project and commercial management of construction projects, across the country. I then undertook degree and post graduate studies as a mature student, gaining my only teaching experience working in lectures and seminars with undergraduates. My entry into the education field was via the now little loved Learning and Skills Council before transferring to a Local Authority, specialising in funding and most aspects of Post 16 data.

So why a Sixth Form Funding Consultant?
I felt that a gap existed in the field of funding support for Sixth Forms. It is difficult for an individual within a sixth form team to devote enough time to appreciate the nuances of the 16-19 funding formula and its implementation, for a Head of Sixth the focus is on performance and delivering the teaching and learning, for a Data Manager again funding data is only a small part of their work and the same can be said for School Business Managers.

Part of the issue for schools is that the approach to funding is much simpler for the providers using the ILR, for schools using the census it is more complex and the data has to be forced from the census, sometimes it feels like it is dragged kicking and screaming
The big question for a Sixth Form team remains “Is my funding good?”, the issue for many teams is they only see their own data so comparisons are difficult, the nationally published data gives only a crude funding picture, so how short of sharing the funding detail with other schools or large MAT’s comparing data, are the teams meant to know if they have it right.
Part of my job, is to tell the story of a Sixth Form as portrayed by the funding data, if that picture is recognised by the team, then generally funding will not be far away from the right area (within 10% of where it should be). You should also know how your allocation data crudely compares to other schools in your area, because of the persistence of protection and some schools carrying significant errors in their funding it is not uncommon to have differences in funding levels of over £1,000 per learner

The Enrolment and Census Period
The funding formula is less complex than previously was the case, the formula is data driven and importantly the funding generated (or earned) from the formula can be influenced by exactly how the census data is recorded. As an example of recording being important (particularly for vocational learners) one school had a group of vocational learners undertaking BTEC Business and Engineering courses and another group undertaking Business and IT.

The school initially recorded the business course aim as the core aim for all learners, however by recommending this being changed the IT group of 30 learners each generated a 20% Programme Cost Weighting Uplift and the 20 Engineers a 30% Programme Cost Weighting Uplift, thus increasing the allocation potential by around £48K through the recording process alone.To move towards optimum funding many schools need help and advice before and during the enrolment and census period to ensure that what is delivered is recorded in the best way possible in funding terms.
The Allocation Process
This is a particularly stressful time for schools, well for the ones who look at the allocation data, it may be hard to believe but some schools do not download and check their data. This is a must. As a consultant I dissect the allocation data to identify each element that has a negative impact on the funding process and explore the data to identify errors or issues with the data. Most allocation processes have had “issues” which have impacted on funding, mainly due to data collection issues, and it is vital that schools are made aware of the issues and if they are impacted by them.

It is NOT the role of the EFA to draw your attention to issues with your data it is YOUR responsibility to check that data.
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For my clients it is my responsibility to check the data identify issues raise them and prepare where appropriate business cases, which have in some cases been of six figure values.

We have also seen the return of the Zombie learners. that is to say learners who appear as part of your learner numbers, but whose data, for various reasons shows them as having no  study programme hours.  (they also add nothing to your Disadvantage  & Programme Cost Weighting factors as they count as zero). It is vital to identify if your allocation data is  infected with these zombie learners and put in place plans to cleanse the data of them via business cases. For the 2016/17 allocation round these Zombie learners have NO minimum  funding threshold to cross and cases can be produced for single Zombies.

How I see my role
My role as a consultant is working with my client schools to identify problems and ensure they get the optimum funding and put in place measures which address those problems for future years. I also as part of a staff development role deliver training around the funding formula and the practical steps that need to be taken to ensure that as far as possible the initial data is right and the correct funding follows.

At one of these sessions I was asked why we had a problem because we ran a data check and no errors were returned, the simple answer is the census can be valid but still deliver levels of funding well below the optimum.

It’s a job I enjoy, its great working across the country, I meet great people I see great schools I hopefully help the schools get out of funding problems, prevent funding problems or simply ensure that a process is embedded that delivers good funding.
I do this in a way that I hope schools think is fair and honest and carried out with integrity, and in a way that I feel comfortable with and can sleep at night.

How to succeed in post 16 Chemistry exams *maybe not*

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Just to be clear, these are the top tips for doing badly in your Chemistry exams. Badly – yes that’s right.

Ignore the information in the stem of the question…head straight for (a) part i.

image1Show how expensive your calculator cost you by giving all answers to at least 9 decimal places, and preferably put the decimal point in the wrong place too. This also leaves no room on the page for units.

 

Units – forget them after all surely an examiner knows that most of the time it is KJmol-1 except when it’s moldm-3 and aren’t they a chemistry graduate, surely they can work it out.

Forget this is an A-Level Chemistry exam and keep answers superficial. At any hint of ozone/greenhouse effect, or those tricky application questions “suggest one other consideration…” This is your chance to waffle about needing a greener world/being environmentally friendly, or even the ubiquitous “might I suggest a quick google of the problem”

Adopt a sloppy use of language, especially those pesky technical words which no one else in the sixth form even has to bother with. It’s really best if you can muddle up the terms atom, molecule, element and compound because these are basic. However the real test is using words like electrophillic in the wrong place.Hey and if you get really stuck use electronegativity.

Past papers show you ideas in Chemistry which are often raised in exams. Hence it’s better not to look over past papers, and neither should you read those examiners reports because they say stuff like ” Few students know the reagents for synthesic organic  reactions” You will do much worse in the exam if these type of questions come as a complete surprise. Of course the worst thing you could do is practise those past papers.

Here is a great trick when answering really tricky questions – rearrange the words from the original question. eg

Q Describe and explain the effect of increasing the pressure on the Haber process?
A The Haber process makes ammonia and when changes are made like pressure it will change the amount of ammonia and the other chemicals. This can be explained by a Frenchman better than me.

Understanding Chemistry. I think a lot of students wishing to fail make this mistake. So forget about trying to understand concepts and key chemical ideas. Just head to one past paper, preferably from a different spec and preferably one you can do so badly on you are convinced you are useless. This will boost your confidence that you will do really badly.

Reading – I did mention it, don’t do it. The school really want those text books back in pristine condition ( they are only used once more) but stick to your games web sites, gambling sites and Facebook.

Talking to other students – this is another dangerous game. Sharing what you can and cannot do, could lead to you helping each other, you might discover trying to explain to a peer helps improve your explanations – avoid it

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Faced with those longer parts to questions with half a page and 5 marks, do not bother to review your knowledge and select key points. Instead ramble on and on, jump from one idea to another. In fact the more chemical words mentioned the better. (A-Level equivalent to indicator goes bluey reddy yellowy greeny orangey colourlessly clear.)

Likewise with practise  and you reall will need practise the + can look like – for ΔH calc’s; Better still ink spots and extra dots on dot cross diagrams. There is also a knack to writing the fourth letter in alkane like alkene try alkøne or alkæne

On the subject of organic reactions you will probably get a mechanism, you can lose a lot of marks by random use of curly arrows – pretend they show where to attack, not where electrons move from. It’s also better to target atoms than bonds – after all bonds already have enough electrons, rather delicately shared.

Overlook the advice given in the question to help you. It is preferable to answer your own question NOT that set by the Board. A favourite here should be answering about kinetics, how fast etc when the examiner asks about equilibrium and how much . I suggest you write Le Chatelier in the original French just to show off. “Quand un système à l’équilibre est soumis à une variation de la concentration , de la température , le volume ou la pression, puis le système se réajuste à ( partiellement ) neutraliser l’effet de la variation appliquée et qu’un nouvel équilibre soit établi.” Eh voila mes amis

imageDiagrams, here you can lose a lot of marks. Make sure glassware does not connect properly, leave gaps for gases to escape edge between condenser and flask. also do like you did in the lesson and pop a stopper in the top. Remember no one does these experiments from your exam answer so the explosion will be a bit lost

Excuses – examiners love excuses to write in a friendly style to them preferably in red ink ” Dear examiner we had a useless teacher who could not explain Hess’s law” or “I had very bad toothache the day this lesson was introduced and my teacher refused to help me.”

Make sure you switch off your common sense. Some of the best answers I have seen proved you could extract 1000 tonnes of copper from 1 tonne of copper ore and who knew blood had a pH of less than 1. ( well after all it is red). With luck you can get a reaction to give a yield well over 100%.

Space – exams board work hard to leave you the right amount of space to write in, so best then to try and use just a few lines if they leave a large space and maybe make one point (when there are 6 marks available) or else write loads, round the margins and up the sides.

Some exam boards try and trick you by giving a choice of questions.So a good plan here is to do more questions than asked or do fewer than asked. If you would like some fun, don’t read the rubric at the start of the paper just guess how many questions they might expect you to do.

Timing – most students struggle with timing here is a big tip to cause major mark losses. Some students look at the mimage2arks available and the time e.g. 120 marks in 2 hours. They then spend time just short of the mark allocation e.g. Q1 is 25 maks therefore spend 20 minutes no more no less. Here is my tip – rush through the whole paper doing all the bits you find easy – shouldn’t take long! the go back and guess the next bits then go back and fill in remaining gaps just using random big chemical words (see above). Finally colour in your data sheet – as you know this is why the exam board gave it out – see it as extension work.

Monday INSET – Effective or just a non uniform day?

INSET or as I like to call them non-uniform days. Over my teaching career I have done a lot of CPD – has it made me a better teacher? Yes I hope so, certainly some has challenged and made me change practice, hopefully for the better but a lot, especially some “done to me” hasn’t made much difference and I have sat thinking of all the jobs I have to do or would prefer to be doing.

Not more INSET please not more

Heck now I’m a head I can’t moan any longer but I can evolve our systems and CPD programmes and look for something better. One of the first areas I wanted to develop was CPD, we have great teachers and I love hearing their ideas so how do we capture that, mould it with current ideas and good practice even academic research? That was the challenge and I just didn’t have time so with a new deputy we set about working on a project. Huge credit to him for making this work, by working out the finer details, you know how it is -he does the work I take the credit; not today it was just too exciting. But let’s go back to the plans:

  1. Get some topics we think the school could, should, might consider or be interested in, may or may not be on the development plan (summer 2015) BUT we are interested in.
  2. Get some teachers who are enthusiasts on these topics or maybe their own topics?
  3. Pay them – sadly no, no budget for that but maybe buy some time?
  4. Give them a nice title “directors of learning” – 6 get going
  5. Get them to choose a topic start some research/reading etc and tell the staff body about their projects Sept INSET day. Draw in a few other potential enthusiasts.
  6. This becomes a learning community and the rule is to share the ideas, work out what might really make a difference in a classroom, try it; YES try it in a class in our school with our pupils and be preparing for a February INSET to share with rest of staff.
  7. Meet them support them, get resources if necessary, bring in colleagues etc
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Star “Directors of Learning” – gold stars

S0 in September through to February these little communities slogging away, reimageading about teaching and learning aspects of their topics, discussing with each other and other colleagues and then, that final rule they must try any ideas in their class, and do a bit of proper research and get feedback from staff, from observers, from pupils. [ and of course still teaching every day!]

So that was all going well but next up not just piloting with in the classroom sharing with that most critical of audiences – your colleagues – feels like the worst lesson observations ever.

Wow Kerbang Whoosh!

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Here were our topics

  1. It’s not personal – How does student voice impact on teaching and learning
  2. Don’t say please – Practical positive approaches to classroom behaviour management, using light touch and considering what to do for the “not very OK” pupils
  3. Using data to inform day to day teaching and learning – instead of just looking at exam results and working out what did and didn’t happen, can those systems help us understand day to day interventions? can they help with new specs where we are in the dark a little about grading?
  4. Why are questions worth thinking about? Are we still stuck on closed questions? Can we move the discussion on and will this lead to deeper learning?
  5. Flipped learning – what impact can flipping the resource have on classroom time? How can we do it, what are the benefits and how might technology help us?
  6. What does Independent Learning look like in the classroom? – a KS5 focus considering how we might use a) research b) group work)teaching methods and d) assessment to create more resilient independent learners.

IMG_2499Then today we had out INSET day whereby each community led a 45 minute workshop, repeated twice – Three slots for staff, and then followed by discussions in departments, what did you learn about, what might work in your subject. It wasn’t about throwing out old practice it was about tweaking it, was about marginal gains instead of marginal losses for all of us in the classroom. It was occasionally a reminder that praise does work and I need to bring that back a bit ….especially with my year ….

Don’t you love that buzz when colleagues from different subjects with different experience just get enveloped in the issues, jotting ideas and enthusing. Picking each others brains. “This worked in my class in our school, it made my practice better and their learning enhanced” “OK might try that”. Absolutely no need to worry about the gigantic lesson observations going on in your workshops – listen to the big buzz, the chatter, the concentration the “loving it” moments. 

I do wish we had another INSET day tomorrow to get it all written into SoW or lesson plans but I know our staff, they’ll be trying stuff. Oh and follow up? Well from here we hope to try those ideas and feedback results to dept or pastoral teams, we have promised our Directors we will do that.

Next up we need to think if we can

  • continue the same topics and bring more effective learning
  • move to new topics.
  • bring in some more Directors
  • check out how staff are doing embedding the ideas
  • maintain a manageable workload but be more effective in the classroom

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Monday period 4 – Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin

This is blog to put storytelling back into the heart of outstanding work in school. However you wrap it up much of an attention grabbing, motivating, challenging moment is – a story.IMG_0640

I can see it being a challenge in Maths but beyond that storytelling should be at the heart of great lessons, great assemblies and purposeful conversations with pupils and parents. If I am honest it’s what I will miss most when I eventually retire – telling a story and engaging learners to start their journey of Education. In fact for some may even evoke memories ( hopefully good ones) of storytelling times.

And a big thank you for a tweet from Gareth Williams (@gwill72)
“Pratchett, Stewart and Cohen suggested our genus should be Pan Narrans, the Storytelling Ape

 

Why?reading

  • Stories hook pupils
  • Stores fascinate pupils
  • Stories stimulate curiosity
  • Stories grab attention
  • Stories motivate
  • Stories allow the teacher to light up the classroom

Stories underline challenging learning, introduce it, develop it, help with recall and stories can be short and brief and pointed, they generate curiosity

In the classroom
time for learning is precious, literally every minute is important so as a teacher you need to justify the storytelling. I think there are plenty of reasons (above) but a few minutes of a well told anecdote and gripping story grab attention, fascinate, drive up curiosity and frankly are at the heart of learning. I do apologise a little as I think my subject (Chemistry) has the very best stories! In fact since 1992 I have taught my lessons by stories. Those are highlighted separately but as part of my plenary, part of my conclusions or as the meaty part of the lesson are *stories* to help understand, build knowledge, motivate and synthesise. I want to say a very daring thing – we sort of know what makes a bad lesson turn out bad, we know what needs doing to turn the learning around from inadequate to satisfactory ( hey I know Ofsted use RI but this isn’t ofsted speak this is classroom speak). What I am not sure about is making good lessons become outstanding but I reckon decent storytelling sits at the heart. Not only grabbing attention, but hooks to help recall of knowledge and also to challenge pupils – if X really thought that back in the 21st Century – who is doing that now. If Y discovered that, then so might I. If this solved a problem of drug development, then I might be able to do that. To me it adds a moral purpose too.

Chlorine-LAnecdote > Chlorine- saved incalculable numbers of lives by purification of water; ridding us of cholera and other diseases but misused in WW1 cost many lives too. We have got a story worth telling and with some Wilfrid Owen poetry brings us to a position where pupils listen all the more carefully to my lesson on Chlorine “it’s properties and reactions” – and remember it and may even challenge them into their future career directions, or choices.

Assemblies
I guess this is more obviously where a good story tells the message. Elsewhere I have written of the disproportionate effort necessary for good assemblies but at their heart is brilliant storytelling

Here are two examples:

1 During the Football World Cup I saw an interview with Gary Linekar saying he practiced penalty taking 50 -60 times after yes after everyone completed training. So while others tired and exhausted went for their showers, he stayed out maybe on his own, and the secret = practice = hard work. Check the stats on his penalty taking too! Wow I thought we can help children understand greatness cannot be achieved overnight but needs hard work and with hard work -who knows?FullSizeRender

2 I once read of a Uruguayan rugby team who were lost in the Andes and had to consider eating the flesh of the dead to survive.  “Alive” is a great story full of drama and tears, with a continuous unfolding of the. Story from the 70’s to date. This became the basis for one of my very favourite post 16 assemblies ” when is it right to do something which is wrong?”

Pupils
As a long serving teachers, SLT ( and many others)  have all seen pupils “turn it round”. Pupils that are a bit like the pupil sat in front of you: yes the upset pupil, the bullied pupil, the bullying pupil, the “I’m not sure any more about A Levels” pupil. The poorly attending pupil, the one with special needs not being addressed, the one with stuff happening at home. So have a story to uplift, to bring hope, to challenge and to help. It’s not the main discourse with the pupil that’s much deeper but the view that there was someone like you who….got through, made good, turned it around, found an answer….might just be important to this pupil.

Parents
The same is true of discussions with parents. This is more challenging but knowing your parents and their story it might help to have an anecdote and a story to hand. I try never to conclude a fixed term exclusion meeting without sparing a separate word for the parents. I don’t try and engineer a story but I do need to help them – I might need to challenge them, to tell them a home truth, to put something up to date before them and a story might help.

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Cover
I’ve never been much good at cover lessons. I feel bad for the children that their teacher is missing and so I always try and teach them, especially as a senior leader I think it is really my duty and only rarely with other stuff pressing down have I said “sit down, shut up and do this work so that I can get on”. Of course I try and do the tasks set by any absent staff where that has been left, but peppering with stories can really help bring a lesson to life which might otherwise be dull.

Personal Stories? Maybe
Can we share personal anecdotes, stories from our own lives or families? Well I guess this is controversial and its up to colleagues to be comfortable but the occasional story can help with engagement. I have told of stuff that has happened relevant to the lesson.Perhaps mostly about incidents in my own journey with Chemistry – where I inadvertently made a few crystals of explosive Nitrogen Triodide, or where I met a Nobel winner and nearly embarrassed myself.image 2(3)

So here are some headings I drive around my brain finding for Chemistry Stories and watch for a post with some of these in more detail.

  • Origins of chemistry
  • History of chemistry
  • The story of an element
  • Characters  in chemistry
  • The obviously famous chemists
  • The less well known chemists
  • The bad chemists
  • The controversial chemists
  • Preset frontier chemists 
  • Events in chemistry
  • Discoveries in chemistry
  • Inventions in chemistry
  • New products from chemistry
  • Changed ideas in chemistry
  • Prize winning chemists
  • Daft chemists

Some Questions

Q1 If you are a teacher does your subject have great stories? And do those stories bring a magical enchantment to your pupils in your lessons?

Q2 If you are not a teacher, do you remember lessons, or school or teachers and is any of that memory from stories or anecdotes ?

If you work in a church school

Proverbs 1:6.  –for understanding proverbs and parables (stories) the sayings and riddles of the wise

Matthew 13:13     This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘ though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

Genesis 39:17 Then she told him this story

 

Great Teacher to successful Middle Leader

Teacher journey mindI have blogged elsewhere about why staff should consider being middle leaders this post is more about the move from great teacher to middle leader. Heads of department, heads of year, i/c of gifted and talented, SENCO, ITT coordinator – a host of roles and most are at the heart of the success (or otherwise) of a school. Successful middle leaders can become successful senior leaders and headteachers – and we need them because in so many aspects they run the school.

First of all I recognise not all great teachers want to be middle leaders – there is an important place for the great teacher who wants to try and stay just that “great”, who enjoys the work of the classroom teacher and should be valued at that -full stop. However schools do need middle leaders, and I want to encourage staff to consider those roles.

Early steps:

Know the job.
imageWork out from the job description what is expected but also talk to others about the role. Start with the head, heads should be willing to set out clearly what they hope from your appointment. Listen and take note and return often to discuss progress. This might be easier with a line manager or SLT but get yourself a mentor, a critical friend, a coach – these may sound like similar roles but they aren’t – they may be performed by the same person but these are all for quiet discussions over coffee or over lunch or after school. They allow you to tell your bothers, concerns, hopes but then to go home challenged and reassured and hopefully uplifted. Gather together the metaphorical tools for the job.

Know your people.
imageExactly who are you responsible for and to? This might be easier for a head of year (tutors) but my view is that all roles are fairly grey. For example as a head of year you are responsible for a year group but that involves tutors and clearly involves parents. You don’t need to announce your arrival, but think over with senior staff/heads how to introduce yourself. For the start, now much more important, learn about people ( staff parents, pupils) and the work they do with you. We have some great middle leaders, in my school, for example our ITT coordinator but at the heart is the ability to connect with key players in the team – the deputy who supports, the head of subject who embraces, champions and understands ITT. There will always be ‘problem people’ those who don’t respond, those who aren’t keen but in the early days don’t worry about them as much as those who will support you and encourage you and expect greatly of you.

Communicationimage
You don’t need posters, or video footage, staff will know via the usual channels and the last thing we all need is a meeting with you, but think about the most effective ways to communicate – email, presentations, notes on the school platform, letters etc My view in your early days is to talk to people. Never use “all staff” email, if you need a message to everyone talk to others or SLT how they do that effectively. They key word is effectively. Communication is vital in schools but often those who didn’t empty their pigeon holes don’t read their email – so don’t worry about them as much as those who do read, listen and act. Once you have them on board others will pick up and those who miss probably miss other stuff and that’s a job for SLT or headteachers to deal with, not you. Remember your aim is to ease everyone’s workload by your role, not to increase it.

Priorities.
e devicesTeaching is a never ending job. You will always have areas to develop, aspects frustrating you and ideas you never seem to get sorted. Stop worrying. You’ve been appointed because people believe in you. Just get on with the tasks and pick the tasks at the core of the job and do them to the very best and highest standards. Don’t duck any important issues and get the important routines up and running. It isn’t a bad place to start with the present systems and use them to deliver the role. Your reflective journal will be vital to help here – nothing better than a note that “this would be better done if …..everyone had the dates in advance” – so get that on the school calendar for next year.

Keep a reflective diary
picjumbo.com_HNCK3576I am very keen on this! Reflections help us to improve and help us note issues which need changing and yet so often we become “socialised to” – by which I mean early on in a job staff often wonder why does the school do stuff like that? And after a short while we become socialised and just say Oh OK let’s carry on in that routine. A reflective journal helps halt that and bring effective change. I once mentored a new SLT member and made him email me a paragraph every week. He was reluctant bu in the end it be an=me an effective and hugely humour out journal which saw much change and saw much “stay the same” on that reflective analysis.

Put on your imprint.
sparklerYou do need to make your imprint preferably within the first year. Don’t look for a hugely better way of doing things, jobs are just like schools, quite complex, but early on understand the role as we said and now make your imprint. Make it in simple ways, and make it simple – for example, a brief email at the end of term to colleagues thanking them; postcards home to pupils who succeeded, or maybe some celebration and invite SLT or the head – maybe a story for the school website. A short slot at INSET – trumpet our success or better use other colleagues to do so – especially if you have a colleague who has piloted your ideas with you, get them to share that effectively.

Feedback
I try and ask a question after a term and after a year in the job. “How is it going?” My bottom line would be – “no disasters and the role understood and being developed.” My top line would be ” pupils and staff are very pleased with the way this person is working because…” I would start with the views of those closest to the role eg the geography staff about the new Head of Geography or a sample of Y11 pupils and Y11 tutors for the new Head of Y11. BUT I am not expecting the finished article. Jobs take about 3 years to be fully understood assimilated and done routinely well and effectively. Are we on track?

Learn from others
You have a coach, or you found one, you have some line managers or SLT you are answerable to, but you need a ‘friend’. Dig out a colleague who you can confer in, and who you can let off steam to, and who can advise you from their experience. So if your middle leader role is head of year, find another head of year, you are a new head of dept, find another relatively new one. Ask them how they learnt, ask what CPD went well, what CPD they had, what else they wished they knew about. Don’t jump at the opportunity for the first course on middle leadership – best place to learn the initial stuff is….in school. However schools can be bad at telling you what is around the corner and may be just assume you know – for example “check exam entries” we all know that is coming but what does it really mean – ask this colleague or else ask the exams officer but seek…. done once it will be fine second time around and you’ll probably develop new aspects in year three. Hence my 3 years to get to be great.

Two warnings:

1) You are paid most of your salary for being a professional classroom teacher. You do have responsibilities (new ones) and they may well hijack you during the school day. However never lose sight of the day job: planning lessons delivering lessons, marking work, feedback and assessment. Just keep a vital perspective – if you have a team of staff relying on your prep or decision get that done first, then prep your lessons. Just don’t neglect classroom duties

2) I think there is a considerable difference between internal promotions and external ones. In the former case you already know the people around to help you, the potentially awkward ones and the children, you should be aware of your community. So your day to day work as above is relatively straightforward. However if you are moving school it’s pretty well back to square one. Learning a new set of systems, learning and contributing to a new ethos, learning about a lot of children, understanding a different community. However you should be able to bring your great teaching into operation so the big part of your role is, well should be OK. Nevertheless there will be expectations and you need to quickly find a colleague who will work alongside you, sharing with you in the role, helping you learn the new systems that operate. I have seen a few staff struggle badly when moving school, perfectly competent and sometimes outstanding classroom practitioners but the new school is just that: a new school, and needs time to understand the role, the people and policies. If you have a new colleague joining your school -look out for them, help them, and in due time they will be as good as those who appointed them thought but if you expect them up to speed in week one think again.

The secret to a Sixth former’s success

image1 Bury your head in the sand

This is the style of the lesser spotted modern Ostrich student, who pops their ear phones in and ignores the reality of the world around them. They are behind with work, and confused in some subjects. But listening to music and playing level 145 candy crush is a safer bet than tackling the work.image

2 Ignore deadlines and forget to plan

Douglas Adams the successful author of the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Universe said he loved deadlines, he loved the whooshing sound as they passed by. The great thing is to ignore them, bluff you didn’t know (when you know you did) and be busy with something else: candy crush 146. Now your teachers go on about being organised, so here’s a thing, stop worrying about organising stuff. Just try and turn up here and there with files of paper and smudged make up and the odd tear (onions, use onions they are good). The trick is to make the teacher really glad you are actually there, so a lack of the right folder/papers is just fine, and you’ll get away with it.

3 Skive a lesson

Be smart here, it can’t be a lot just the odd one. Especially as stuff is all on SIMS and texts get sent home. You might be able to feign being sick to friends who might pass the message on. Be a careful  actor though.

4 Avoid eye contact with staff.untitled

It’s when the question is straightforward like ‘Who can recall photosynthesis?’ Make sure you have pen in hand, jot down something on paper ( anything at all, most pupils find a Christmas present list or favourite curry dishes is a good start). Point the top  of your head at the teacher. No way do you want to be answering questions especially now the class is 15 not 30

5 Hand in shoddy incomplete work, preferably shuffled with work from different subjects

Drop files on the floor, at home in school, with your peers. This is called peer revalues, you lend work for marking and don’t  get it back. You tell Miss that you friend marked it, gave it an A+++ and once you get it back you will pass it on but if she would just add that mark to sims. Hang on, you know she will forget. there is an added spin off here, you can also pull the wool over the ‘interested parent’ here. Recycle old work to make sure the file looks full, or weighs a lot. You also need to purchase those specialist printers, you know the ones that are 100% reliable until you tell them this is “coursework” and they stop working. if they do print your feeble efforts, make sure you leave the USB key somewhere where it won’t be found, or at the very least snarls up when you press “save”. You might just get away with “Miss why does windows update always delete my work *tears* can you help?”

6 Organise dental and other appointments for the lessonappointment calendar

No brainer and heck no one counts these up so you might be able to get a dental appointment every week. Be a bit careful I have a colleague who does tend to spot that on that rate of dental visits your family would be broke or you would have the best set of teggies in the world. Dig out those old bottles of tippex too temporarily cover your teeth.

7 Catch that well-known 24hr flu

Only for emergencies but you can get away mid morning after ICT before Maths and get back the next day for your free with your mates. You might need to practice impersonating your Mum on the phone or else that manflu voice.

Fed up that the rest of the class just won't listen

Fed up that the rest of the class just won’t listen

8 Distraction

Listen carefully to your teachers little spillages of personal info and exploit. What football team they support, what car they drive, what social things they might let slip they are doing at a weekend. then exploit this. Monday’s lessons ask them how their team did ( do your research, start the dialogue). Sometimes the wiser headed teacher spots this technique. You must be more subtle. try the clever question when the teacher starts. “Oh Sir I heard that  Shrodinger didn’t have a cat but spent his time solving complex Maths, I tried to solve this equation Saturday evening, can you show me how its done?”  ( never mind the lesson was PE)

9 Do the study for your favourite (easy) subject only

If you do Maths and Chemistry for example and are doing Ok at Maths and badly at Chemistry the trick is to go to all the help sessions for Maths. Counter intuitive I know but this way your ego is boosted and the staff love you and its easy because you can do Maths. By not going to Chemistry you don’t get depressed about just what you don’t get. You don’t see those other clever students who don’t get it which clearly means you are more clever than them. Oh and you know all that background reading and references and posts and links – make sure your computer blocks them.

10 Compare and contrastphoto-1441973270863-189a40107d80

Some students reflect on their progress and learning but you have a much snappier way. you compare yourself to the worst student  in the group. The one absent or shouted at, or daydreaming or who never hands work in , after all at least you are present and correct. Hey and you wear cool clothes that must count, cool clothes.

 

Here is some even better advice from Red Dwarfs Rimmer’s study habits

PS I need to tell you the ctrl alt tab key combination allows you to very quickly bring up a page of work and hide the games/shopping/gambling sites – sweet.

PPS You will be pleased to know in the world of HE University or employment they love excuses!

  • So much they just ignore them. So if you can’t make a deadline you get zero. If you fail an exam and retake, you must pass the retake but the new grade you get won’ t count now. Ohps bang goes that first or 2:1 or ….place.
  • If at work you miss stuff they give you a nice form , AND you don’t even need to fill it in, it’s called a P4561750

Saturday period 3 – Creating a silk purse from a pig’s ear of curriculum change

The old story goes of the man who asks the way to Liverpool and the bystander says, ‘if you want to get to Liverpool mate I wouldn’t start here.’It’s how I feel about curriculum design or lack of it, with the changes to A Levels. BTecs and GCSEs. At the last major revision of A Level in 2000 at least stuff hanged for everyone at the same time, but this time we have the proverbial ‘pig’s ear’. Some ALevels have changed and their AS count for less and need doing at the end of two years even if done after one. But hey shiny new Year 12 students it’s not all your subjects. So schools and colleges grapple with – shall we just do three now, shall we forget the AS for all, for some etc. Meanwhile some subjects have changed at GCSE, well two to be precise Maths and English who will see new grading of 9 to 1.Yes but reporting for the present y10 comes soon – we need to explain that carefully to pupils and to parents, oh and we aren’t really sure what really will happen to the grades. ( Check out the Ofqual postcards -they help)

INSET and training back in 1999 allowed all staff to look at their subjects, advise SLT, think about the best way ahead for the students and discuss together the best way to make decisions. So as I stare at this pig’s ear not of my making I am looking to create a silk purse from this. The big structural stuff is out of our hands but there are still important decisions to make about which courses for the best

Simplistic_Refined_11. Don’t pick for grades. We don’t know about the grades but we do know ofqual take charge.  Boards subjects apparently achieving higher numbers of A and A* isn’t “easier” it’s about the profile of those taking the subject with that board. At A Level the highest number of A* and A are from Maths – it doesn’t mean Maths is easy or your heads of sixth form recommend everyone does Maths as it’s the best way to get an A.

2 Look at content. Carefully examine the content, does it suit your pupils, does it suit your teachers. How does it compare to past content. My guess in most subjects is that its much the same – Science subjects especially but there are twists – do you like them. In Chemistry if we have a chunk of nanotechnology do we welcome that or not? In some subjects this may not be the case so do you welcome the content or gasp in horror. Think about delivering content by all your teachers and across all the abilities.

Autumnal fruits

Autumnal fruits

3 Look at assessment. It’s not the standard of specimen papers etc it’s the style, the type of questions. The assessment model should test the content but look carefully and think about your pupils. All the pupils the brightest and the weakest who will be studying. In the end, assessment models deliver the fruits, or not.

 

 

 

4 Look forward and backwards. How does this course prepare your pupils for what they do next. if this is KS4 how does it prepare well for Btec or A Level and then beyond into the worlds of work and further study. downloadLook back at your KS3 courses. Of course these may yet need a tweak but if you love the content and outcomes of your KS3 then how well does this dovetail. This is a bit more pig’s ear than silk purse at the moment as you are changing GCSE but not KS3 -however the decisions you make at KS4 will stay for several years and no one likes a change of spec-worth a careful think. To some extent the definitions of KS3 4 and 5 are artificial – think like that to help you decide. AND don’t forget the added complexities of post 16 funding as some BTec are weighted in different ways. [Paul Hanks @The_Data_Adonis is worth following at the least and worth contacting for advice on funding issues post 16 too.]


imageimage5 Resources
. It would be naive to ignore your bank of resources or the resources on offer from the Boards. I guess this means a default starter being the spec you study now. However your job is to teach, help the pupils  learn and a massive desire to inspire. Do those results or your creative juices excite you – do they make you want to teach this tomorrow?

6 People You probably aren’t making this decision on your own , you have to bring other staff in your dept along with you. So check the dept view, check the other networks you are in; maybe professional groups like the ASE or local networks or teaching alliances. Also think about using twitter; you can create a list and add those other ‘history teachers’ to it and get chatting. Perhaps you attend teachmeets and ask trusted people what they are choosing and why. Remember it’s your call so don’t decide because someone with 2400 followers says so, just pick a few brains and move from the foggy grey to a black and white conclusion.

Patron Saint of lost causes - St Jude

Patron Saint of lost causes – St Jude

Finally then jot down your reasons. Get ready to share with the dept with SLT, the Headteacher and possibly governors. You need two or three reasons why you chose them and two or three why rejecting the others. In fact not just for the dept for your conscience and for the pupils to be rocked and rolled.

In the end whatever “others” do to us as teachers, we must use the tools we have to do the very best for the children and young people we teach, and do you know what? We usually do.