Sunday period 4 – *Packing the Head’s briefcase

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Like many a teacher and many a headteacher I packed my bag as part of my rituals on a Sunday afternoon. Then started my thinking of the week ahead. Here is a light hearted list but with a hefty dose of truth.

1. A proper fountain pen and proper ink
IMG_1891Heads sign a lot of documents, contracts, policies, orders, cheques. Be prepared. there are also letters, lots of them but the best are my own letters. I often wrote to thank people for their work or contribution, if I was a banker of course that would be a £ cash  bonus but this is the public sector, people had to make do with a letter. However a letter with an additional hand written note from the head is good. We don’t receive many letters these days in a world of text, twitter and email so a letter or a postcard from the head should stand out. When I left one student thanked me saying “Sir, I have 7 letters from you…..all pinned on my wall.”

2. Chocolates, biscuits and fruit
Lots ofimage people in a school are very busy and don’t have time to look after themselves; late lunches, no breakfast. Rushed. We need to get better routines but in the odd crisis, the head’s stock of biscuits and fresh fruit on the table helps. Hey it helped me the number of times a meeting overran, or a conversation of 2 minutes becomes 20 and it was hardly fair to say, sorry I need my lunch. Top up on good quality fruit, nuts, biscuits and why not – chocs.

331fc590baf0d26198ce7f5646e590ec                             Swisss JAD (989)

3. Batteries

BullshitButton-mainI had a few things in my office needing batteries but the one which ran out most was my “B*ll**it” detector. A legacy from the previous headteacher almost worn out with detecting. Not just meetings in my office or elsewhere, it was sometimes pupils and parents, occasionally colleagues and officials and most often twas me. It is good to listen more, think more and say less. Whatever you decide to do make sure you have a cr*p detector, and have it switched on permanently.

4. A set of clean clothes
There are long days, not always a 3.30 pm escape as you know, it’s a normal school day then meetings then plays, or shows or parents meetings and a change of clothes helps freshen up. But I have also discovered other occasions like when our y 6 transition day on the Anglo Saxons saw me demonstrating the stocks and surprisingly needed cleaner and drier clothes after the event. At my school we needed a new umbrella – a split site school and trying to still see our children onto their buses at the end of the day – when just a few times it…..pours

5. Tip top organised briefcase .
No one ever helps teachers understand their paperwork, not even my NPQH; it’s a bit of an unspoken task we are all expected to manage, maybe no one knows how to do it. My colleagues always urge to read any document just once. This is often difficult for a scientist like me. I liked to ponder and think but that took far too much time, so get a system, get a new system, get advice and make life as comfortable as possible. Believe me decisions come in thick and fast, some are simple and straightforward and often made by others – so the head gets left with those complex and difficult ones, but that’s the job. I never had a PA, I did use our office staff to help me hugely but I liked to keep myself organised – others can judge.

6. Diary
I had a diary, paper and electronic, I knew what I was doing but I tried to add reflections and also use it as a reminder of the bigger picture. The days can be full of operational stuff, and interruptions so a chance to stand back and re-engage the bigger picture needs noting. the person who stops you in the tracks and makes you think – get that in a notebook/diary. Capture if not for now, for later.IMG_2499

7. Tissues
Yes there have been a few tears. not too many from me but some from the other members of the community. Staff under pressures, pupils under pressures and parents. Even some difficult conversations with parents can end in tears. My tissue box was a part of offering hope ( see blog) There was no deliberate attempt to get tears but they happen and need dealing with in order 1) tissues 2) hope 3) solutions. A simple fact of dealing with families and a reminder schools are communities NOT businesses.

8. Photographs

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What do you decorate your office with? Timetables, DfE updates on curriculum changes, teacher standards, rotas? I had one small notice board and the rest of my four walls were covered in photographs of school – activities, opportunities, pupils learning, studying, working chatting, playing. Pupils in classrooms, on the yard, playing sport, performing drama and music. Teachers, TAs, secretaries, groups. I regulalry renewed a few but I loved those photos and when bogged down in some policy or reading a long-winded update from the LA or DfE I reminded myself of what schools are all about. I actually think no data in school should ever appear just as a cross or a point on a graph they should all have a photograph of that little person.

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9. Any presentations or papers for the week ahead.
One thing I learned if there was a talk to do, an assembly to give, an important meeting to lead, it must be done by Sunday evening.  There is unlikely to be any other time in the week save a chance to check and edit. No time to write so get that done and in the briefcase.

10 Fresh cover work.
I hated covers, actually I grew to love them. They did interrupt me in whatever I was doing – but hang on that was a me me me type cry. I loved covers, they reminded me of the job staff do day in, day out and children’s experience day in day out. They gave me a chance to talk to pupils and hear from them, to see their books and hey to teach them. Even my weakest subject ( not telling) I am prepared. ( PS had a copy of “Stig”, I carried him with me for all my early years and if there was no work, we read a bit of Stig – nostalgia isnt what it used to be.)stig

In fact with that number 10 job done , am I prepared  for anything………oh hang on

 

 

 

 

 

11. Hope – my bag was full of hope , but it needed topping up fairly often.Road-Sign-with-Hope-and-SkyIMG_8725

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to add in a reply the most important item in your packing for the new term, or tweet them back and I’ll add them here:

Some Questions

Q1 What are the important items in your bag to do the job properly?

Q2 What stuff is there and worried about but unnecessary?

Q3 Any advice for an NQT briefcase/bag ? a new middle leader’s briefcase? or even for an old SLT member’s briefcase?


and for those working in a church school:

Matthew 26:19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared…

Matthew 3:3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

2 Timothy 4:2  Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction

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.

Sunday period 3 – Plans off the shelf? No – planning is critical.

My short blogpost on planning started from some major frustration with a TES article  in October 2014 reporting Lord Nash (Schools minister) comments about teacher planning. This and a twitter conversation with colleagues (Thank you I’ve tried to cover your points) out there who know the job. I need to come clean I am an SLT member, I like to see evidence of planning and not a template lesson plan, but we are not a school in measures so that may be necessarily different. I still teach and I can well remember teaching full timetables, even though not so much now and in the immortal words of Mr Tom Bennett “I have a fat wallet and light timetable”.
fail to planSo my thoughts:

Credit to the deputy in my teaching practice school in rural Oxfordshire along time ago “every hour of teaching John will need an hour of prep and an hour of reflection/marking”. That was aimed at a PGCE, maybe to an NQT but it is not sustainable, some planning time can be reduced from an hour per lesson over a period of time methinks. Even the oft hated Oftsed stopped checking lesson plans ( often perfectly presented etc) but want to see evidence of planning. But here is my analysis:

 

Planning long term
The first task with any class is to plan the year. Think about each term and the purpose, the aims and the build up to say a public exam. For most of my career I’ve taught GCSE, AS and A Level groups so this bit of planning threads aspects such as: coursework demands (when will the students have learnt the skills we test?) alongside standard assessments and exams and any reporting cycle (nothing worse than writing a report and finding out in an assessment the next week how wrong I was). Think through the rough division of the specification or units or topics. and Then also think of the state of our pupils, (not too much compromise) – Chemistry coursework started the week before Christmas is likely to be poorer but if we have four groups how do we fit them in? These are the discussions to have with HoD. This is also where we all produce, contribute to, work on and improve schemes of work; even in production the discussions can be a huge help to understanding the T&L of a course.

goal without a planPlanning mid term

So knowing it is these topics to cover this half term and these assessments to fit in, just check how far we got in the last chunk of time. For example the summer often catches us out, we restart the AS students and they are not well motivated (sometimes neither are we) so the autumn term needs to take account of such. Even now I still read over the topics, refreshed from a textbook and check for any shiny new ideas maybe from twitter, maybe from blogs. Chemistry is a great subject to teach and there are lots of ideas out there but the core lesson cannot have too many stories, just a bit of spice in the meal. So this “planning aspect” is about subject knowledge, and it needs building and learning by the teacher, hang it that was the stuff we wanted to teach so it should not be a chore. It’s the reading and the thinking how I might get this over and get it learnt and get it understood that is such a great part of the job. (and worth noting in all my years the content has changed at all levels and the assessment model at all levels and very often, so what I do now is far removed from what Terry Alsop taught me back in the 1980’s in my PGCE. Thankfully the principles held me in good stead.)

Planning short termarchitectural

Well that’s the weeks work. I still have a planner and think what I’m doing for the week. Science teachers need to order their kit for experiments and whilst we can be kind and buy chocolates for lab technicians, we know they need a fair notice. ( see blogpost unsung heroes). It’s now getting quite detailed, the odd powerpoint, video, website links I’m using, narrative from a text and a think about what questions I might ask and even what might be written on the boards. Oh and don’t forget homework!Certainly any worksheets for practicals or other activities need checking printing or ordering. Oh and here I might check my resource bank and colleagues shared resources and have a chat with colleagues. This is where we should not reinvent the wheel! I really like this and miss it now I teach less. I used to find it difficult to use other people’s worksheets and likewise I do with other people’s powerpoints but they are a starter. In fact this stuff all evolves. I grab last years lesson(s) and last years resources and adapt. In my first three or four years of teaching I did a long review every lesson and my reflections were one of the most helpful parts of my work.

Planning the lesson
Take the deep breath and have a think where we got to last time, check out the short term plan, adapt anything from my marking , heck they really didn’t understand that part. When I was a Head of Year and stuff hijacked me and even now as SLT when stuff in school happens this step can get lost in the fog of school. After all these years I know my stuff well and can cope and manage, it won’t be outstanding but it will be pretty good. There is a vitally important point to this part, we make the lesson work for the class, for the time of day, for certain individuals. We do this to help with behaviour, with progress and ultimately with attainment. Teacher’s know how important planning is to maintain and raise standards of behaviour and understanding – watch me try and teach French if you want to see how awful it can be. ( I make a good fist of it c’est la vie). This needs saying in response to the original article. So obvious really there is not much point me teaching how to do calculations in Chemistry if we can’t balance an equation. In a threatened new world where I am given lesson 256 today and tomorrow must deliver 257 it will come unwound in a hugely serious way. attainment will suffer and behaviour will deteriorate. Teacher plannerQuite often I’ve been lucky enough to have two Y10 or two Y12 classes, less prep -well sort of, the long the mid and the short but not the lesson. It remains a mystery that I can teach exactly the same and one group get it and one don’t, hey ho that is what we love about the challenge of the job. It’s what I think absorbs all the extra time too as the teacher pleased with all that work gets reminded – Ah but it still might not work for Robert, yes what can I do with Robert? so there is a final challenging jigsaw, are we doing enough for “every child matters?” G&T, pupil premium, SEND, girls, boys, middle of the road, quiet pupils? BUT we cannot kill ourselves with work, even I say to the NQT, sometimes you won’t be able to do an all singing all dancing lesson, it’s not a problem, just do some now and again to remind yourself why you came into the job.

Off the shelf plans, will they cut down planning? No. Will they save time for us all? No – and anyway much of this is done…..at home! DO I want offf the shelf plans? No its the creative bity of the job and if you offer me some they pop into a box called possible resourcves, I still need to do the planning. Or follow the logic and then read this post by Martin Robinson

I still think this basic, preparing a lesson is vital for the successful outcome and it’s a good reminder to try and protect each other from other stuff to make sure we prep well, we enjoy prep and our pupils benefit. One last small point though, pupil behaviour needs to be good, nothing more soul destroying than all that prep and an inability to deliver cause of poor behaviour or low level disruption. That’s for another post.

Here is a helpful link to @teachertoolkit clever 5 minute teacher plan if you have others, let me know.


Some questions to think about

Q1 How does preparation evolve in a teacher career from student teacher, NQT, the early years, middle leader etc?
Q2 What evidence should we see from colleagues, what evidence of planning without an endless stream of paperwork and extra work which does not directly benefit pupil progress?


and for those in church schools

Isaiah 28:29
All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.

Isaiah 32:8
But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.

Proverbs 15:22
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Psalm 94:11

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile.