I cannot believe that a year has gone by since I wrote my #Nurture1314 post. A lot has gone on at work this year and being one member of SLT down means that I haven’t had much time to reflect on the highs and lows so this is a good opportunity to do just that. I’m also going to use Martyn Reah’s #teacher5aday as a focus for my goals for this forthcoming year; the reason for this is because this year I’ve realised that I have very little work-life balance and this has got to change pronto!
So what were last year’s wishes?
1. To become more confident dealing with the more challenging students at school.
This has been a really steep learning curve for me. I am not naturally ‘strict’ and I don’t have a good shouty voice – so I have to play to my strengths, which are (I think) that I grew up in the area, I was a naughty student and it takes a lot to shock me! What I have been working on in the past year is to set aside time to actively seek out those challenging students and find out what makes them tick. Sadly, many of them share a depressing family narrative. I think it would be easy for me to give in and allow these students to play up because of their difficult circumstances. Without doubt, it would make my life easier: but it’s not the right thing to do. Instead, I try to treat them fairly, listen to them and explain that every action – good or bad – has a consequence. We all have choices and for some of our students it takes a concerted effort to make the right choices. There have been a couple of times this year when I’ve had a private little cry when some of them have made some wrong choices with big consequences but I believe it’s our duty as teachers to support them in becoming good human beings as well as academically capable students.
2. To understand more fully the complexities of working with outside agencies.
As I said in last year’s Nurture post, I had very limited experience of pastoral and all these crazy acronyms meant very little to me. CAMHS? EOTAS? Now, I have a much clearer understanding of how much important work external agencies do. I have nothing but complete respect and admiration for two of my colleagues who I work with closely – Aimee our head of year 7 (the year group I line manage) and Katy our SENCO. These two are formidable when it comes to pastoral work! They ensure that our youngest students who have some very tricky set of circumstances to navigate get the best shot at having a successful school experience.
3. To observe every member of staff again during the year to get a sense of how we’re developing as a staff.
I haven’t managed to achieve this one but I’m not too annoyed about this one because our new way of talking about the quality of teaching, with a scope far beyond the snapshot of a lesson observation, means I’m focusing much more on working out better ways of evaluating teaching. This year has been a really exciting step forward as we abandoned lesson gradings and work towards a professional development audit which focuses much more on our strengths as well as identifying our next steps.
4. To work more closely with reluctant members of staff.
Last year’s accusation by a very experienced member of staff that I had only connected with young females still makes me wince but this year I’ve realised two things: everyone is carrying their own private worries about their teaching and you can’t win them all. I thought my stunning personality and abundance of wit and charm would make teachers knock down my office door to get on board. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite happen – unbelievable, I know! – but what did happen was that as every month went by, someone new would open up and be willing to contribute in a small way to changing our school culture. I also think that me going to the pub a couple of times each half term made me a bit more approachable. This month, I went to the staff Christmas party, had one too many sherries, cut some appalling shapes on the dance floor and started some impromptu karaoke. Now I’m not advocating this as a winning leadership style but the the only negative consequence was I looked like a total prat. I’ve certainly had some longer conversations with some staff members than I’d had in the past!
5. To develop the Leverage Leadership coaching model to replace our traditional lesson observations.
This year, I finally convinced the head to give it a go; all I needed to do was get enough teachers to give up an hour a fortnight to coach two teachers. I was blown away that we had 22 coaches by the first week in September. They gave up their time for nothing in return except a belief that there was a better way to develop teaching. I’m really proud of this change and so thankful to these teachers. We’ve got some good coaching relationships set up; coaches are also coached and we’ve got coaches with two years of experience and twenty years of experience. A truly bottom up approach!
6. To write more frequent blog posts.
Hmm… I’m disappointed with myself on this one. I’ve written fewer posts this year than last year. Slap on the wrist for me! The only thing I can say in my defence is that Mel and I have been writing a book on lesson planning for two years and it’s finally going to be published in a few months. We’re soooooooooo excited and keep pinching ourselves to make sure it’s really happening. However, I still love the buzz of posting on our blog so I need to ensure I set aside enough time to post more frequently.
7. To meet fab Twitter peeps @Gwenelope, @TStarkey1212 and @LeadingLearner in the flesh.
We met Gwen at Pedagoo London and Mr Suave Starkey at the launch of Don’t Change The Lightbulbs. They are awesome people. Fact! Unfortunately, Stephen still alludes us but we hope to pin him down at #NRocks15. If not, then we’re going to have to decamp oop North and wait patiently outside his schools!
8. To become more involved in organising a TeachMeet.
Well, I organised a borough TeachMeet for Ealing so that sort of counts but I’d like to do more this year.
So what next for 2015?
This is where Martyn Reah’s #teacher5aday comes in. I’m proud of what has happened at school but this has been an annus horribilis for my personal life this year. Now there’s no need to get the violins out, but to cut a long story short, my first year of married life, with its usual trials and tribulations, has been played out in my parents’ two bed flat as me and my husband found ourselves without a home in June. To say that this living situation has proven difficult is an understatement. It’s taught me a lot about myself and my flaws have been magnified in the last six months. What I have learnt is that I take my loved ones for granted because I get consumed by work. I love my job but there are times this year when it has become my life – and this is not healthy. My husband is a police officer so it’s easy to just work, work, work when he’s doing late shifts. My mum and dad have noticed this and have basically told me to sort myself out because I’m going to burn out. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: Mum always knows best!
Here’s my #teacher5aday to help me become happy at home as well as at work.
#connect My family deserve the best of me just as much as my students do. I tell new teachers that the to-do-list will never be completely ticked off but I do not follow my own advice. This year, I am going to go home at 6 rather than check my emails for the hundredth time, which often means I’m at work for another 45 minutes. They can wait till the morning.
#exercise When I was a student, I was really sporty but since being at my school, I have stopped going to gym class and I don’t play tennis anymore. It’s time to find the time to work up a sweat for a couple of hours a week. No excuses!
#notice I need to notice when I have disconnected from my family because I’m engrossed with whatever is on my iPad screen. Me and my husband are guilty of this but I don’t think we realised how bad we were until we moved in with my parents. I find it rude to play on my phone when my mum might be sitting next to me. My mum loves our chats and it’s reminded me to look up from the screen more often.
#learn I love studying. I am an official learning geek and I don’t care who knows it! This year, I am going to continue reading lots of education books and boring everyone senseless with what I’ve learnt.
#volunteer Fingers crossed, I should be moving into my new place in the next few weeks – I’m so excited if not a little nervous! As a born and bred Ealing girl (I love Ealing so much that my friends joke I could work for the Ealing tourist board if teaching doesn’t work out), I am moving a massive two miles down the road to Brentford. It’s a new area for me and I’m looking forward to us putting down some roots and learning about a new community. I hope to find out what opportunities there are to get involved with some community projects.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2015!