Archive for October, 2012

A week of two halves (Part 2)

……Part 2

Wednesday evening is spent with the family helping younger daughter complete her homework that she needed to have completed by Thursday but was too worried to ask for help as she knew I was under stress the previous two nights.

I also felt the need to do something basic.  Hence I return to my roots and whip up a quick Victoria Sponge to share with tutor group or science team decision to be made on Thursday.

I answer the stream of tweets from the concerned collective who have supported me through the last 48 hours. Finally falling into bed with the satisfaction knowing that I survived my first OFSTED reasonably unscathed.

I return to school on Thursday after the ‘Hobbits’ visit, we are all a bit jaded and shell shocked, an impromptu staff briefing and the HT gives us the news. Not that I am aloud to share but needless to say he was pleased as were the team. We breathe a collective sigh and wonder how long before the pressure starts again.

I head back to the lab to think about my unplanned lessons for the day and the cover work I need to set. As now the fun part of the week was to start.

I was off to TeachMeet Clevedon ‘Learning Rocks’ that evening, with a follow up on Friday at the Independent Thinking’s Big Day Out. (Excited does not do justice to how I was feeling)!

Now a newbie to the whole TM thing, I had watched the You Tube clips from the last TMClevedon, and listened in awe to the ‘tweechers’ talking about the exciting things that other teachers were doing in their classes.

I had persuaded my Assistant Principle in Charge of Teaching and Learning to accompany me so that she can see what an amazing bunch of people I had been connecting with over the last 6 months and to show her that there is a bigger world out there than Devon.

I left Devon at 2.30 and started my drive to Clevedon, it was only then that I realised just how tired I was and wondered whether I would survive the next couple of days with out keeling over or suffering brain explosion.

I arrived at just after 4 the quickest drive ever to park up outside the main hall to the sounds of Mark Andersons’ @ICTEvangelist entry music.

My partner in crime wasn’t too far behind me and she parked up and we compared notes on how we felt and what we wanted to get out of the nights proceedings.

We were greeted by an amazing array of polite young people from Clevedon School who showed us to the hall, and plied us with what seemed liked an unending supply of mini hamburgers. With the tea and coffee flowing, people were arriving and I was wondering how I would recognise some of the amazing ‘tweechers’ I’d been talking to.

But I didn’t have to worry, @Pekabelo was busy handing out the Teachers Tube Map which I was very excited to receive. 5 o’clock arrived and people were pouring into the hall and we lined up for more amazing food. The wonderful @KevBartle and @Hgaldinoshea arrived with Kev suitably hobbling from his encounter with a slippy floor, @Lizdudley, @MissJlud arrived with @Hrodgerson hot on their heels. It was great to meet Tait Coles and see David Didau and Zoe Elder @fullonlearning  plus too many others who I felt I had a connection with, but in reality had no idea who this little NQT was and rightly so.

The evening opened with a bang with the image of Marks sparkly gold jacket still vivid in my brain. The Key Note was from the amazing Vic Goddard @vicgoddard, who I had w

atched during my PCGE year wondering if I would ever be as good as some of his teachers. He talked about a school that refuses to fail, and how sometimes the tough decisions are the right ones. He made us think about why we teach and how as leaders we mustn’t loose our humanity and be teachers that light up the room when we enter not when we leave.

The night then went on to seminars and I was lucky to see Tait Coles or @Totallywired77 ( brilliant blog) present on Public Critique  which is much more effective than your standard peer assessment. I had been dabbling in this but now have a clearer idea of what needs to be done and shall definitely use this more in my teaching.

Then on to the mini presentations, which were varied and challenging all of them, which can be viewed on the TeachMeet Clevedon site on you tube (not sure how to embed all these links etc hope they work)

My mind was spinning and I was inspired even more to ensure that when the Hobbits arrive next time I will be an ‘Outstanding’ Teacher, my practice will have moved forward with the ideas of many of these exceptional teachers embedded into my daily practice.

We met, we laughed, we compared notes and ideas and then left re-charged after a quick ‘half’ for tomorrows offering. Well some of us did, from what transpired a bar somewhere was hit quite heavily by some of the others but I made my way happily knowing I had some great stuff to take away and my expectations and worry of meeting all these great new people were unfounded.

My partner in crime is now talking about making sure that she encourages all the SLT to attend a TM somewhere to refill their reservoirs.

Friday arrived far to fast and I was up and breakfasted and on my way to City Academy, with my Assistant Principle to the Big Day Out #BDO

Arriving way to early I sat in the car park and checked the nights tweets and thought about my day ahead. I looked out of my window and thought I spied @fullonlearning, so tweeted that and lo and behold she invited me to say hello. Which being the good girl I am, I did and we had a lovely conversation about how we find our voices by doing exactly what I am doing now. So thank you Zoe, I am finding my voice very slowly.

Ian Gilbert welcomed us to the day and what followed can only be summed up as totally mind blowing. I sat there among some of the most influential movers and shakers in education and felt humbled and if not a little intimated by the company I was mixing in.

Lisa Jane Ashes has an amazing blog about Why Am I here? which summed up my feeling exactly.

Me a lowly NQT just starting out on my career and I was mixing, speaking, tweeting with some of the leaders in our field.

I was  in awe of Gill Kelly as she spoke eloquently in her belief and values. I got over excited by Dave Keeling which resulted in me making a very public fool of myself (one way to get noticed I guess), who was rather close to the bone, right up my street. I laughed and cried with Vic Goddard as he yet again shared his vision and passion for a ‘No fail school’, (he was the stand in and a brilliant job he did to). I certainly didn’t feel ‘lazy’ as Jim Smith @thelazyteacher moved with such pace through ideas that could make us all ‘Lazier Teachers’.

By the time break came I was already thinking my brain can’t cope with much more but Oh yeah, there was more, as I passed through the time and space continuum getting a glimpse in to some amazing classrooms, led by Simon Cooper Hind(new to twitter @innovationined), followed by Hywel Roberts @Hywel_Roberts, by this time I was reaching capacity and thinking that I couldn’t take any more notes or ideas down. I entered the domain of David Didau @Learningspy to get the inside scoop on SOLO which I have been using for a while now. Came away knowing ‘Why’ I use it and glad that I went to hear him talk about the need for knowledge as well as skills.

Lunch beckoned and what a lunch it was full of scrumpy delights and I discovered just how hungry I was, eating my fair share of cream cakes!

After lunch suitably stuffed I went to listen to Zoe Elder ( to see if I could get a better grip on her ideas on ‘Marginal Gains’ unfortunately I was more of a Piglet in this session rather than the Tigger, I usually am.

Energy levels were now nearly on empty, but there was still more to come. The wonderful Jackie Beere gave us the Pefect Ofsted Experience, and for once, I could put my Ipad down and stop taking notes as we had had our experience and by the time they come back the goal posts will have moved again I am sure. So I sat back and enjoyed the show. Jonathan Lear, brightened the afternoon with Little Miss Sunshine and some vagueness.

Dave Harris closed with a plea for us all to be braver.

And so the end to the Big Day out arrived, I was exhilarated, exhausted, inspired and in awe.

Hence I go way with renewed vigor to make sure that each week I put into my classes at least one thing I have noted from the day.

I will not return to the old ways, I will employ marginal gains to everything I do, make small but consistent and continued changes to ensure the success of the pupils in my room.

I pledge to revisit my notes and ideas once they are in a sensible format to use.

I will share what I have learnt with those who want to listen but most of all I pledge to do my very best for my pupils everyday, to ensure that they succeed and be the best that they can be.

Thank you to all those who took time out of their busy couple of days to talk to me, clarify what must have been some strange questions, but most of all for allowing me to see the way that when like minded people get together what an impact we can have.



I sit here reflecting on my week of two halves.

I arrived at school thinking about the next two weeks of hard work ahead to get to half term. Still feeling a little bruised from my bullets of last week, but determined to do better this week.

I was sitting at the desk, planning for the week ahead while my Head Teacher was teaching the PSE class of year 9’s that I take over next term once I have finished my NQT. Now I try not to check my email to often as it so much of a distraction, but I thought I’d have a peek, and there it was, a message from the Head’s PA – Urgent.

It was a the call everyone is waiting for with dread…… HMI Ofsted called to speak to HT and will be ringing back after the lesson. Right so this is it, the CALL, it had to be OFSTED are coming.

First of all I picked my stomach up off the floor and thought about what was ahead of me. Two days of hell, nine lessons over two days where each and every lesson has to be planned to the max, etc..Firstly I had to teach the last two lessons of the day, without loosing the plot.

Finally about 1.15pm I check the email again and yes they are on their way, a meeting was called for 4pm to discuss the way forward.

I attended the meeting and the HT gave us the pep talk, yet you could see the worry in his eyes.

I returned to my room to re look at my lessons for Tuesday, I had luckily  prepared my data and seating plans so they were ready for scrutiny, I checked all my groups to make sure I had the IEP’s and everything ready for the big day.  I could identify the groups in my classes, use SISRA for checking on the progress of my tutor group, and any other piece of data I could find. (For those of you who know me Data is not my area of expertise, but I do my best to understand the myriad of graphs and comparisons that are sent out every six weeks. Although just to say CAP 1 hadn’t been done yet).

We were told that we didn’t need to do lesson plans but were encouraged to prepare them as it looked better to cover our behinds in case things went wrong! I worked until gone 9pm, making sure the room was as I wanted it, resources were printed, lessons differentiated, co-operative learning was in place, on and on the list went.

Finally, exhausted I returned home  to check my tweets, and there they were…. the support and twitter love from the collective that are amazing teachers out there. Re assuring me to be the best I can be, just do what I do normally, remember it’s their privileged to be in my room, the support was overwhelming and I was re-energised.

A recommendation from @Ljrn42 to get a play list of motivational songs, instigated another frantic tweet, so the call went out and I was inundated with ideas from @LGolton, @KevBartle, and pearls of wisdom from @Gwenelope, @hgalinoshea, @scieteachcremin, @aegilopoides, @hrogerson, @sciencetchr12,  and many others. I compiled my list and was ready. Went off to bed fairly late, alarm set for 6am.

At 4.30am I thinking that I wouldn’t get any sleep, as I seemed to have tossed and turned all night; I would get up, however the next thing I know the alarm went off and it was 6am time to get up.

Arrived a school early, prepped and pumped after listening to my OFSTED play list,  and I start my day. Firstly the meeting of  the  inspectors in the hall for a impromptu staff briefing. (Here is where I loose it a bit  they traipse in looking like a bunch of Hobbits, all black suits, and clip boards and stern faces.)

Lesson one, passed by, lesson two, lesson three still no sign, lessons are going well, most of the science department have been done, and still no sign, PPA time arrives; so now the planning for Wednesday begins, which is my worst day. Period 5 passes and still no visit.

I attend the literacy meeting with the inspectors where as the only NQT in the room I try not to look too inexperienced or nervous, get to say my bit and hope it made sense and was in line with the SEF!  That I had only had chance to revisit in the 15  minutes before the meeting. I leave thinking I had hopefully done my bit and worrying about tomorrow.

I retire home about 7ish thinking that Wednesday will be hell as it is 5 lesson day for me, plus a break duty and a bus duty to boot. Two KS4 lesson, with inactive year 10’s and 11’s,  with an interesting year 9 group and the group from hell. So I was worried about how Day 2 would go.

I have a quick check on the email upon arriving home and there it was, an email from Head Teacher, which now in hind sight I realise was done in good faith and encouragement. However was more of the kind of what aren’t we doing and make sure lessons had these covered for tomorrow. This had the effect of sending me into tail spins. Re looking at all my lessons and wondering what have I missed, what haven’t I covered, what could I be doing better.

Once more twitter comes to the rescue and I retire to bed, for another restless night ahead of me.

Wednesday arrives and no amount of rock music seems to raise the blood or confidence, just a deep down feeling of dread, I read through the tweets to encourage me. SLT are looking harassed, worried, exhausted and its not even 8am yet.

The rumors are flying around that Science will be first and especiallythat they are after Biology for a change. I take my tutor group into assembly, hoping the rumor mill was wrong. I  hot foot it back to my little lab to find a ‘hobbit’ waiting outside my room. She introduces herself as coming to see what I will be doing,(no kidding). Here I get the chance to point out my knowledge of my 10 set 2 group, my dyslexic pupil and one FSM in this group, I let her know what went before as I had half the group the day before with many missing as they were on a trip.

I won’t go into the ins and out of the lesson as that is for another post but it passed by and 35 minutes later she left, I sighed a huge sigh and thought that was my bit done.

Lesson 2, in come a rather hyped year 9 ready for fitness testing in the quad, first part of the lesson passes well, everyone on task and I check the clock, only 25 minutes left of the lesson to go and we’d been told that they were doing 25-30 min observations and I think well as they had seen me period 1 then I was done and dusted.

Oh how wrong, at exactly 22 minutes to go before the end, the door opens and in walks ‘the meerkat’, inspector number 2, to say  that I nearly passed out was an understatement. But on I went. I have never been so happy to hear the break bell in all my time.

Feedback was given for that lesson and it was a ‘GOOD’ lesson and I was relived and waited till lunch to hear the verdict on the first, which again this time was a ‘STRONG GOOD’. Upon reflection I should have asked loads of questions as to what I could do to make it even better but brain was in overload by this time and nerves were so frayed I couldn’t’ even construct a sensible sentence.

The rest of the lessons, passed by with an ever watchful eye on the door as who knows they could be back again. But we got to lunch to be told no more observations and they were now deliberating.

I conducted my bus duty and returned to the lab to plan my cover work for period 4 Thursday and all day Friday as the other half of my week wasn’t too far away.

I got to be there when the meetings concluded and it looked like SLT were happy with the outcomes and the school could hold its head up and say we did OK!

I went home exhausted and now wondering how was I to get through the next half of the week, with out completely running out of steam?…..

So on to the second half of the week… To be continued.

No longer Bullet Proof

This was the week I discovered I wasn’t bullet proof.

My NQT year has had its highs and lows during the last twelve months, but nothing that has laid me low or given me too much that I couldn’t resolve it. Yet this week has been by far one of the most challenging.

Lets set the scene I have a the bottom set year 9’s,  there are sixteen in the class who are all school action, school action plus with one statement child. Their issues are mainly related to the BESD spectrum.

The behavior and emotional ‘issues ‘I am not sure of as I am not privy to know all the details as there are various agencies involved. However enough to say,  two of the most challenging boys in this group are school refusers, a couple of the girls seem to have a dislike of authority. Which manifests itself in not wearing the correct school uniform, turning up consistently late, and generally conducting themselves in a fashion that means they have an answer for everything I say or do! Another has quite severe ADHD and she refuses to take her medication saying that she doesn’t need it and the doctors don’t know what they are talking about!

I have been having class management issues with this class from the beginning. They have no social skills, self awareness or ability to understand the consequences of their actions and how it impacts upon their own learning and that of the others in the the class.

I started the term with us deciding on the rules of the class and our expectations of each other, which although a lively lesson I felt was quite successful, little did I realise that no matter what is said one day the next they have forgotten.

I have planned using SOLO to help them see progress, I haven’t been explicit in sharing the views of SOLO but have been asking them to reflect on their learning as we go along.  Ha well I shall say I have tried.

As the weeks and lessons have progressed children have been in and out of the lessons depending on attendance, behavior at school and other extenuating factors that are beyond my control, so the class dynamics are constantly in flux as once I manage to set the expectations down with one combination of the group, the returners have to be re-integrated and don’t like the new order so do everything in their power to disrupt the learning. So now I spend a long time managing the class and the learning takes a back seat.

However last week after having a chat with @FergusonMr1, who is a NQT as well, he was struggling and we shared ideas and decided that it was time for our ‘WAR FACE’ to come out and make these kids take responsibility and for me to regain some ground.

So ‘WAR FACE’ on I took no prisoners, they were sent out to come into the class in a silent manner not once, twice but ten times, before all the group complied with the request. They were seated in a new seating plan, each one on a table alone, so no interference from others, and the lesson progressed with silent work on the relevant tasks that I had set, I walked around the room, helping those who followed the rules, hands up if you need help etc..

Every little infraction was noted, the school procedure was followed to the letter, which resulted in three pupils being removed and parked with other teachers, but the lesson was controlled and the pupils were compliant.

So I tried this a second lesson, and this time the pupils only were made to go out twice, and no one was parked, however this time the major personalities were out of the room again.

Now on to this week, I thought that by this stage they have understood some of the basics of general classroom behaviour and I would let them do some private work in the ICT suite. Most of them managed to produce a piece of work, except for the one who insisted every lesson that she wanted to pee. Having read a blog by (sorry can’t remember) but about ‘To Pee or Not to Pee’ those children who seem to find any excuse to leave the room, I stuck to my guns and refused to let her leave.

Well the writhing, moaning, and general noise that resulted from this young lady, you’d have thought that she was undergoing surgery without anesthetic! This resulted in her finally storming out of the room, shouting how rubbish I was and what a terrible teacher I was and that it was my responsibility to take care of her and make sure she was safe in her lessons.

This resulted in a further cattle call of names but this wasn’t too bad and it was near the end of the lesson, so after much reinforcement of the rules the class became settled and we finished the lesson.

So I walked away little battle weary but nothing that left any scars.

So now to this week, I arrive at the classroom with a new day, new attitude approach but hoping that things were going to be smoother now that I had a spent a week of re-establishing the rules. To greeted by all 16 children. This was going to be interesting.

I had to reintroduce the seating plan, at which those who were new to this moaned about not liking it, I repeated the in and out shake it all about start to the lesson, with those who were new to this struggling to be quiet, but eventually we got there. So with renewed verve, I embarked on a slightly more ambitious lesson with some group work to be completed together with some individual work. The group work needed to be completed in the  ICT suite, which is where the problems started.

The more difficult of the class decided that they weren’t going to be on task so rules were followed by me and the major culprits were parked…… well tried to be parked. What followed was number one offender swear at me and saying that I wasn’t in charge of him ( that is putting it politely) and then storming off, the second member of the group creating merry mayhem in the ICT room which when I returned was now in chaos, bearing in mind I was only outside the room.

The class refused to behave or listen to any rules, and I had now realised that my Bullet Proof vest wasn’t protecting me any more and I had been severely injured and was losing blood.

This resulted in me leaving the room, as I was either going to loose my temper or cry which was neither a good thing. So I left and then cried!

Upon reflection I should have stopped the lesson, returned to the classroom and call in the marines. But hindsight is always 20/20.

The resultant fall out from all of this heartache and tears is that the SLT have really stepped up this time, from what I can gather people were really afraid to say that they were struggling with this class, but’ ole mouth the size of the Dartford Tunnel spoke out well, cried out for help and it came in spades.

As luck would have it, Year 9 assembly was the next day and the  Head Teacher was taking the assembly and before he started he really laid the law down about the issues of the cohort to remind those not involved how easy it is to get branded or dragged down by the few.

I was seeing them period 2 of that day, so having sent out the flares via Twitter, I was armed with some new strategies and renewed vigour.

On a side note, Twitter is amazing for support, ideas, and just general tea and sympathy. Teachers like, @LGolton, @Gwenelope, @kevbartle, @OTP26woods, @hrogerson, @ljrn42, plus many that I have forgotten to mention. Who gave suggestions, and strategies to help with controlling and moving this class forward. (Apologies if I forgot someone… let me know and will add you to the list).

Back to the issue, so I signed up for ClassDojo on the recommendation of many tweachers including @ICTEvangelist and posted this on the board, the pupils were interested and once saw it in action started to question why they were getting red marks instead of green, so the visual impact of using a behavior tool like this can’t be underestimated.

While this was being displayed on the board, the Head of KS3 came in to read the riot act, closely followed by him removing one pupil….. plus he loved ClassDojo and was keen to let the Head know about it.

So on I go, thanks to @LGolton for the inspiration they were all investigating the idea of drugs to produce a leaflet for primary school kids on the problems caused by addiction. In walked Head Teacher, to give another good dressing down! The natives were getting a bit restless by this time and the constant pinging of ClassDojo was reminding them of their behavior  so in true fashion another one kicks off and out they go with Head.

To say the rest of the lesson went well, was an understatement once the troublemakers were removed all went swimmingly with lots of discussion about how they can improve their Dojo reports next lesson.

Now the positives are that more teachers have come forward to discuss issues surrounding some of these pupils and the school is now in a position of building evidence to support any action they may want to follow.

More teachers feel that they are being listened to and that actually something may get done to ensure that the learning of those who want to is not affected by this 10% of the cohort who seem hell bent on destroying their future.

Outcomes and where do we go, well I will continue on with the regime of ClassDojo, plus individualised tasks that give them some sense of achievement no matter how small, and general lion taming in between the moments of learning.

So flak jacket on and now ready for battle again.

Will I give in ‘Hell No’!

Will they win ‘Hell No’!

Will I be glad  to see them go on to year 10 and maybe to become someone else’s class from Hell …. well watch this space!

After spending a wonderfully indulgent grown up evening with @KEVBARTLE last Wednesday, where we watched the sun go down over Torbay, we discussed all manner of topics from music, food, benefits of twitter and Kev’s view on the world of teaching. My NQT brain was spinning at all the information I was absorbing, plus the wine which went down rather well on a school night.

However the most important discussion came about through our talk about the work both of us were doing with SOLO.

Now my pupils really do wonder about the point of national curriculum levels. My school like most others I guess is obsessed with reporting data every six weeks, with both a level and an attitude to learning level, and just lately we have added a new column QWC! (quality of written communication) with associated sliding scale!

But I was having trouble getting the kids to realise that levels don’t always apply to the quality of learning that is going on in the classroom. Some government junkie has allocated these levels for various skills that the children have to meet and they differ across all the subject with numerous AF strands. How on earth are they supposed to know where they are going or where they have been?

Our department has taken the reporting of levels to another dimension, with us having to complete a Level Assessed Task at the end of every module we teach, nor more tests, just chose a AF, choose a task, assign a level!!!

So I was wondering how using SOLO I could evidence …… brace yourself, here comes one of Kev’s weasel words PROGRESS without having to show the level, also to get the kids to look at their JOURNEY! rather than for the level.

Plus in true CYA style, making sure I have evidence for HoD that what I am doing is not some ‘namby pamby’ new age dance, but is rooted in solid achievement.

So on @kevbartle’s advice I embarked on another new adventure on the Thursday morning in school.

He suggested that I took the level ladder of the task and ask the kids to look at the levels and assign the SOLO criteria to each of the descriptors, ensuring that they were using them correctly, in addition also explaining why they were applying that level.

So armed with four coloured highlighters and a lesson plan thrown out the window I gave it a whirl.

At first they struggled with what I exactly wanted them to do, more on my part of not explaining it very well (can’t have been anything to do with the wine the night before!)

But eventually they got the hang and comments were coming forth like ‘Miss how can this be level 5 when it is only unistructural, or maybe multi’.

The light had dawned that the levels that we issue aren’t in line with the learning journey that they go on.

Next stage was to get them to self assess the LAT they had just completed to see where they could highlight their SOLO levels, once again with choruses of ‘Miss but I am a mixture of all the levels now, how will you mark this?’ How will I indeed.

Once they had finished their own marking, I asked  them to peer assess someone else and see if their assessment matched those already on the page. Upon returning their work I then gave them a further opportunity to improve on what they had done, seeing where they were unistructural, multistructural and where they could get further detail added in.

See pictures for examples of some of the work…

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This young man is a NC Lv5 but he managed to use some good SOLO levels reaching Relational.

20121003-040250 PM.jpg This pupil underestimated her achievement but understands why she is actually further along her journey

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20121003-040330 PM.jpg This young lady is a very reluctant participant in class, with low belief yet her work shows a level of understanding that she didn’t realise she had.

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I have now started to mark the redrafted work and it is amazing to see the new found confidence in the work. The children knowing what they needed to do in a more structured way have included detail that wasn’t even on the level ladder.

I think most of them have exceeded their so called predicted target in the first assessment and I can only see them getting better.

So I would recommend taking your level ladders and doing something similar to see what effect it has on the quality that can be produced in the so called Level Assessed Tasks.

National curriculum levels I think your days are numbered.