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Northern Rocks 2015


As a southerner I sat and watched the tweets stream through for Northern Rocks last year and was amazing by the incredible energy and positivity that exploded from my phone and the ORRsome singing at the end. So when tickets were released late last year I was encouraged by Crista Hazell to come along I dutifully purchased my ticket and thought nothing more of it. Until about a month before when a buzz started again thorough Twitter and the reality of a 6-7 hour car journey loomed on the horizon.

So Friday arrived and luckily I only had to drive the two hours to Gloucester after seeing my year 11s into their final science exam. I met up with Crista and another car full of eager not so sothern teachers and we set off on the road trip from hell. Through torrential rain with two coffee stops on the way eventually reaching our destination. Crista doing a Stirling job.

I got to share a room with @Chocotzar and @betsysalt two amazing Bristol heads whose conversations about what they do on a daily basis leave me speechless. We made our way to the bar where we met up with other northern rockers Rachel Orr, recognised by her shoes of course, Rachel Rossiter, Tim Taylor and many others who my tired brain couldn’t remember. Conversations were started like old friends even though we’d only just met, this is the testament to the power of Twitter. “It was well late miss” when we retired.

Saturday started with an amazing panel of speakers who discussed questions that even though I’ve only been teaching for four years as a late comer to the profession I am already relating to. The struggle between accountability and performance. Creative arts versus traditional subjects, age, OFSTED, curriculum changes. All these were delivered with insight, passion and a real belief that we need to remember why we are here and what our real role is. To teach.

I attended four workshops, who will have been blogged about by the presenters themselves and some much more eloquent bloggers than me, but will include links to videos and presentation.

Martin Illingworth @MartinIllingworth


Rory Gallagher @EddieKayshun

Staff Room Blog on NRocks2015


Chris Waugh @ Edutronic_Net


Website/Blog the reason he exisits

John Tomsett @johntomsett



The final debate of the day was between Stephen Harford from OFSTED and Mary Bousted, I felt this was even and well balanced. Who won, well I’ll keep that to myself.

My overriding takeaways from the event is about the connections we make with other educators who remind us what the most important part of our job is.

We are teachers of children who are looking to us to provide an environment where they can flourish, struggle, fail, succeed, expand thier mind,  test their meetle, shrink and hide when they need, buck the rules but realise that they are there for a reason, ask them to look beyond their room, home, town, push them to be more than they ever thought they could be. We are not there to tick a box, fill a basket, meet a requirement of some arbitrary organisation sent i to to inspect us. Because if we are doing the first things then the rest will take care of itself.

I have reclaimed  pedagogical techniques that I can use in my classroom now that will make a difference to my learners today. I have shared over various forms of beverages ideas for teaching, from differentiation, to challenging pupil premium students, to raising expectations of gifted and talented, to the merits of curriculum change that I have no influence over. Plus I have listened bizarre for me I know to wiser more experienced teachers talk of their solutions, struggles and how it’s the same for them.

Northern Rocks reminded me that I am a teacher first and I have come away with some real pedagogical strategies that I can implement straight away into my teaching that will make a real difference to my pupils.

The connections that we make with like minded educators at these events help us to remember that we are responsible in ensuring we prepare our pupils for a future.

I am renewed in my belief that I’m not just a biology teacher but my job is to stretch and challenge my pupils, encourage them to test their meetle, fail, succeed, push them beyond their limits so their brains hurt and they moan about it being too hard, remind them that I have an unwavering belief in them that they can be the best them they can be, support them to have opinions even if they are different to others. Challenge the status quo in a mature and well argued fashion. Be creative, innovative, numerate, literate, articulate. Be respectful, kind, aware humans. But above all be themselves, individuals who all have a potential to fulfil no matter thier start and finally a true sense of themselves.

Ultimately the North does rock and roll ( thanks to David Cameron) with apologies for my bad jiving (blushing). It was worth the long drive up and thanks to @chocotzar for the return drive back to Gloucester.

Keep Rockin’


Time to Say Goodbye


“The time has come……” is one of the sayings I have used a lot with you over these last four years. “Be the best you, you can be”, ” Now is your time to shine”, ” I believe in you, when no one else does”, “We are Super heroes”, “Resistance is futile”, “Failure is not an option, just fail better”, “Fail 7 times, get up 8”, “Heads up, Chins up, you are better than this”, “Believe in yourself”, “Reach for the stars”, “Dream big”, “Don’t stop believing”, “You rock”, “You are superstars”, “Find your special, that makes you you” “Education isn’t just about what you learn in school it’s about so much more”, “This is just the start of your journey not the end”, “Look in the mirror and see the person I see at 25”, “Go be amazing because you all are.”

I am sure often these have fallen on deaf ears but I have meant every one over the last four years. I started at Dawlish in what was your second year. You were hardened year 8, survived year 7, ready to take on this new NQT teacher who arrived ready to take on the world.

I was tough, I played by the rules, made you observe ALL of the rules, questioned you when you were late, made you wear the right uniform, conducted uniform checks and sent letters home. Checked the equipment when I was told. Made you do silent reading as per the schedule even when other tutor groups clearly didn’t follow the timetable. Signed your planner. Made you watch motivational videos to encourage you to look beyond Dawlish, to help you aspire to being bigger than you ever imagined possible.

I made each one of take part in the tutor competitions and sports day where I cheered you on till I was hoarse and you all were embarrassed by me when I danced on the side-lines.

I was proud when we won the attendance box of Celebrations, two years in a row and displayed our certificates on the wall by the door.

I got annoyed at you when you moaned saying you wouldn’t go on school trips that teachers had taken time to lay on for you as I saw them as missed opportunities to experience something new.

I pestered you into completing your record of achievements so that you were ready for your mock interviews and applications for college.

I was glad that I stayed late on that Friday so that I could be there to help sort out your late taxi so you didn’t have to stand in the rain.

I was touched when your Mum came up to me at the Business Enterprise evening to say thank you for everything I did for you during that difficult family time and how much more settled and focused you were now.

I was surprised by your vehement support of me when you said that I was ‘sound’ and that I understood where you came from after all that time you spent begging to change tutor groups.

I have supported you in not forgetting your dream of reaching for the stars, who says who can’t go into space, if that is what you really want to do.

I will remember the time we circled the field, I don’t know how many times, to help you express your emotions about the break up between you and that girl, I was the last person I’d thought you’d confide in but I was glad you chose me.

Thank you for trusting me with that letter and I know you knew what I had to do was the right thing and that everything has worked out.

I was so elated to see so many of you put yourselves forward for student leaders and most of you be successful. I could hardly contain myself when you hugged me so tight when you became head girl.

I have loved my notes, whiteboard messages, balloons, they have picked me up more than you’ll ever know.

I was bursting with laughter and pain while I watched your GCSE drama productions. I spent far too much at the Enterprise evening.

I could barely speak when you got one of only 60 places available on the course you want. Against the whole of the country.

I knew that you’d both have an incredible time on the Chemistry course at Cambridge, even though you didn’t believe me.

I have feigned shock at some of the stories you have told me about the parties you go to, like I wasn’t young once!

And now I am in the final stretch, tissues, chocolates, space, pep talks and back to those motivational sayings to keep you at it for those final weeks of the GCSEs.

You  have pushed all my buttons and some I didn’t know I had, over the last four years, but I have learnt so much from you all. I will have more tutor groups over the years but you will always, like a first love hold a special place in my heart.

You have grown from truculent little boys and shy, giggling little girls into articulate, confident, grounded and some of you very tall young people. Who can be proud of their journey.

So  now as you leave me  I’ll leave you with one more of my favourite quotes from Winnie the Pooh written by AA Milne.

Image credit

Goodbye 11KDW


On bank Holiday Monday night I was sat contemplating my weekend spent alone as other half had to work over the holiday and was thinking about how the next few weeks will pan out when I had a lovely post pop up in my in box with the above heading.

I had been reading these posts with awe and wonder never imagining I would be nominated as this year I didn’t feel I had done anything that worthy to be part of the crew.

However here I was thanks to the amazing @Chocotzar with my own nomination, so now it was my turn to nominate my 5, in no particular order.

1. @musicmind, Nina Jackson.

I met Nina back in 2012 at TMClevedon after an extremely stressful ofsted and I was a bright eyed bushy tailed NQT. She has always been there as my editor, supporter, coach, mentor, sounding board, sherbert lemon giver. She has supported me in her unwavering belief in my pedagogical stance in providing the best opportunity for the pupils in my care. She just seems to know when to contact me and always knows how I am feeling and what I need to hear to get through the problem. Often she just listens, but more often then not she has a simple solution to what seems like an insurmountable problem.

2. @hrogerson, Helen Rogerson.

A fantastic Head of Science Teacher who is a Physicist, (don’t hold it against her), she is an active member of the South West ASE and of the ASE as a whole, she has welcomed me into that science community with open arms, encouraged me to develop and stretch my understanding of the changes that will be affecting the GCSE curriculum in science, she has explained the changes with the patience of Job! She as read letters of applications, encouraged me in my search for a new position. Her passion for science is a pleasure to behold and I am lucky to know her.

3. @KevBartle, Keven Bartle.

He was one of the first of my twitter friends I met in the real world over a glass of wine and a meal watching the sun go down one evening in Torquay. He is a true gentleman and I have had the pleasure of visiting him both personally and professionally and his amazing school Cannons where he is now the Head. He has a vision that is pure and focused on the best for the pupils and community his school serves. He is truly generous with his time, wisdom and insight. Happy to share both his successes and tribulations with honesty and clarity.

4. @CristaHazell, Christa Hazell

A great Head of MFL teacher, who I hadn’t realised was also a friend of the amazing @Misswrightatdcc. I love her ideas on Kagan and she is generous with her time and advice and I know that if I have a question she will respond with a strategy that will work. Plus her encouraging words help lift the dark days.

5. @aegilopoides

I had the pleasure of taking part in the first round of twittercoaching that was set up by @ASTsupportAAli and @aegilopoides was my coachee. Since then we have talked and not met sadly but she is always willing to share resources, ideas, and her revision resources have saved the day many a time over the last few months.

So there you have it, the likes of @ChocoTzar, @Betsysalt, @Gwenelope, @rjl1981, have already been nominated, but I’d like to nominate all on the  #ASECHAT as they are amazing educators who share and help the subject of science move forward.

So to the rules:

@teachertoolkit ‘s rules are: 

  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge
  3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the rules and what to do) information into your own blog post

What to do?

  • Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regularly go-to for support and challenge. They have now been challenged and must act and must act as participants of the #TwitteratiChallenge
  • If you’ve been nominated, please write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @staffrm
  • The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top 5 go-to educators are. However, as I am a rebel, I nominate everyone. You are not the last to be picked in PE again

In my pledge to focus on my own and schools well-being this month I feel that I might not have achieved all I wanted to so far.

I wanted to create a wall where teachers could post their own actions on #wellbeing … well I have the headings and titles but have struggled to find a suitable space for whole school access, so I am going to put it just in my department this week and post some of my own reflections to encourage others.

#exercise has been quite a good one, although not back to spinning yet! I have been out every lunchtime, including in the rain and wind, walking around the perimeter of the site to blow away the cobwebs and replace my stale oxygen levels, this helps with a clearer mind for periods 4 and 5. This is also been helped by my 7 days on nothing but pure extracted juice and homemade soup which has refueled my cells and help me lose the christmas bulge. I am also taking at least 2 hours on sunday mornings to walk my fabulous 6 month old german shepherd Bentley and we are loving each others company.

#notice again a good one so far, I have noticed how fab my drive to work in the mornings is, now that the days are getting lighter. I am noticing when I am tired and actually stopping or not doing any school work. The guilt is still there but the earlier nights and more sleep is making more productive the next day. I am calmer most of the time at home now. For those that know my situation, not always easy!. I am taking more notice when I am feeling stressed and have taken more deep breaths to reduce those moments and now feel better for that. I am using guided meditations at night before I go to sleep which is also supporting my mental wellbeing.

#connect.  #TMPicknMix is gathering momentum and it looks like will be a sell out. I attended the ASE conference last Saturday (I know) but loved connecting again with some great twitter scientists and had a fabulous chat with @Hrogerson who has given me some very important guidance and a confidence boost which I am eternally grateful.

Also as a department we are connecting in the prep room more often, sharing our day, discussing students, this is only going to improve the morale of our department.

#volunteer. Mainly work related, but I am doing an observation lesson for our up and coming Assistant Principal interviews, plus a Challenge Partner observation and finally the one I’m most looking forward to, I have put my name down to help out at the Colleges 24 hour concert and in a moment of madness, said I was happy to do whatever Jon couldn’t fill, so I guess I will be awake at 4 am in the morning with some very tired or hyper performers.

#learn this is more of a personal one. I have learnt that I have qualities that I didn’t really think were important or being noticed in my job. Yet when put down on paper look quite impressive. I took quite a knock to my confidence recently and felt that maybe what I thought was good about me, wasn’t what others valued. However with the support of the Twittersphere, I have realised that I do have a lot to offer and maybe now is the time to look out for me. (Cryptic know but can’t really be any more specific at the moment.)

I have also learnt that I am being more tolerant and patient at home,looking for the good which there has been a lot of, and I just need to focus on that a bit more.

So for the next half of the month, what will I do.

Just keep doing what I’m doing, listening more to myself, to ensure my own #wellbeing is taken care of and then making sure that I keep promoting it’s benefits. Without this I think some of the changes I am making I would have put off and now with the support of the #wellbeingsuperheros feel I am making progress.

What are you doing  #wellbeingsuperheros?

“The time has come” the Walrus said ….


As I head into the weekend thoughts of school now are raging in my head and I’m looking at the time table and realising that the next two weeks will be given over for my year 10s and 11s for revision in preparation for their mocks.

Part of me struggles with the concept of dedicating learning time to revision but then the other part of me says ” if I don’t do this will I be disadvantaging the students in my class?”

In the dark ages when I was a pupil in a very strict all girls Catholic school run by the nuns with steel ruler; it was expected that revision was done in our own time. We were supported with creating revision timetables and suggestions on how best to revise but that was the extent of it.

It was assumed that we were motivated and knew the importance of revision to ensure our success in our ‘O levels’ at the end of the year. When tests or exams were given, there was no two weeks notice, we were given a day or two to prepare, with the expectation that we wouldn’t need that much time as we were continually revising.

As a student I remember my teachers stressing the importance of independent revision, reading around topics and generally expanding our understanding of the topics we were covering. While all the while keeping our eye on the prize of ultimately achieving good grades to take us to the final step of university entry. Often to the exclusion of discussion of other opportunities or avenues to follow after school.

As a teacher now, I hear myself extolling the virtues of independence and intrinsic motivation and the importance of continued revision. I stress that the more you revisit a topic the stronger the synapses become and the more chance you are of transferring that knowledge into your long term memory. However sadly, this advice is falling on deaf ears. With faces looking blankly at me wondering why this will be an issue.

I tested my theory like all good scientists do, with running a trial, after teaching three modules in a unit, the school policy is to test; so the first time I gave them notice of the impending test, spent a lesson doing revision and then delivered the test. No moans or complaints they were ready and happy to take the test. All doing OK as things go.

Did the same for the next three modules with constant reminders to revise and its importance. Lesson given over to revision again eating into vital learning and teaching time. But date of the test not given out. A few days later gave the test without warning, and you’d have thought I’d asked the class to donate their kidneys. Much moaning you didn’t tell us etc, After the complaining had finished I reminded them, of the procedures, they’d been following for the last year and a term and this should be no surprise as we did the revision lesson so that was a clue! Again all being equal not bad. Some better than others though this time.

Finally reached the end of the unit with the inclusion of the last two modules and I told them to revise ready for end of module test which unbeknownst to them I would give on the Wednesday before end of term. This I did…. well the rumpus that was created on delivery of the test was even worse than before. Plus the results weren’t that brilliant with some apologising saying they weren’t prepared, didn’t have enough time etc.

So does this mean all my advice, warnings and routines are falling on deaf ears? Am I not making my self clear in my expectations, or do these kids really expect me to do the revision for them?

So with that in mind knowing that they aren’t revising on a regular basis, and the school worried about the results. I am forced in to the position of giving up teaching time to revision.

Is this to cover my back to make sure that the mocks reflect a true picture of the ability of the pupils? Is it to ensure that my data looks good for the me and the department especially as we are under intense scrutiny? Or is it because we have got so wrapped up in the fear culture of accountability we can’t let the pupils fail?

Hence, the upshot is I am scheduled for a two hour after school session for revision in the lead up to the mocks. This session I know will be attended by the more conscientious students, the ones who have been revising already through their holidays. Plus it will be the ones who feel that by turning up they are revising (not necessarily taking part but can say they were there) and that is enough for them. But, the ones who for no fault of their own, be it home circumstances, lack of quiet space, availability of IT, or the demands of caring for others don’t get to do their revision will miss out .

Therefore I will hand over numerous lessons where I will have to find ever more inventive and exciting ways to encourage students to revisit the material, to make sure I have given every student the same opportunity to revise. Also because everyone in the department is doing this, I feel I have to do it otherwise I’m letting the side down. I’m putting these students at a disadvantage.

This is the rub, I feel that in my lessons, students are all given the opportunity to succeed and thrive, I teach slowly so that they gain depth of understanding, not racing so that I have plenty of revision time. I provide opportunities for them to speak to me if they are struggling with concepts, have specified drop in times at lunch time where they know I will be in my room. But do they come? No.

Therefore when do we step back and say enough guys, it’s your turn now. Take responsibility for your own destiny, achievements, life and just get on with it or is our role to make sure that they never feel that sense of failure.

I worry that without they will never understand the feeling of true success of never giving up, trying again, and that feeling that you did all you could do no matter what the grade.

So the time has come… Revision it is……

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 940 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


I promised myself I would do this before the end of 2014, so here I sit and reflect on the year gone by again, far to fast for my liking.

This one will be a hard one to write. Some of you are aware of the tough year I’ve had personally and it still isn’t resolved. I think I won’t reflect on last years post but here goes for the best bits in no particular order.

My Best Bits from 2014.

When I read ChocoTzars blog about children who needed a holiday I joined in with the Twitter conversation with Carol Webb and some how agreed to send in a picture for her calendar to raise money for the Family Association,  I convinced a couple of other willing victims, Sarah Wright and Emily King to contribute and finally after much procrastinating and weighing what I might say is my heaviest for a long time, contributed my picture taken by my ever patient husband. It was fantastic to see it finally in print and feel in a small way I have contributed to a bigger cause. Plus it spurred me on to losing two and half stone, which is mostly been kept off.

I also attended this year as a representative of the amazing Nina Jackson the launch of Rachel Jones’ amazing Don’t Change the Lightbulbs collaborative book. I felt humbled to be among such leading lights in the education sector and is often my way felt out of my depth especially when people kept asking me what did I write, to which my reply was nothing sorry!

However I had my celebrity moment with Vic Goddard who was charming as ever and got to spend quality time with Christa Hazel, Gwen Nelson, ChocoTzar, Kev Bartle and of course the fabulous Hélène Galdin O’Shea. This was then followed by an amazing dinner with my special friend Sally Thompson. I felt especially grown up that night.

On an aside I am also grateful in assisting Crista Hazel in a very small way becoming an Independent Thinking  Associate.

Educationally I had fantastic results with my first cohort of Biology triple scientists, they excelled and I attended the results day with great pride in all they had achieved. On the back of this I was amazed to find out this December that I went through threshold and am now UPS1 which isn’t bad for 4 years teaching I guess, I feel that my school has supported all my madness and even though I have applied for two jobs outside of Dawlish am happy that I am still there.

On a personal level I have struggled this year with a visitor that I hadn’t seen for over 20 years but the #blackdog has been a constant companion since Easter (well maybe before) but I acknowledged his existence finally after a very traumatic time with my eldest. Unfortunately the situation with eldest deteriorated even further, but thanks to the support of some very special people both on Twitter and inside and outside of school. I have been able to deal with the situation and have remained somewhat stable, ( if I ever was!)

This situation went to show me how much friendships mean and those who truly care for you are there through good and bad. It was and still is a time where I asked for support and got it. Thank you, you know who you are.

Finally family. Jack turned 18 this year, Charlotte 15 and even though they have their moments they are my reason along with their Dad that I work,worry and laugh so much. My parents are still healthy and doing their own thing, my 95 year old Nan is still going strong. And finally a new addition to the household arrived in August in the form of Bentley the latest in a long line of German shepherds, he is absolutely adorable, (even though after the last three I said I’d never have another dog) he gives me hours of pleasure when I’m alone at home marking and preparing and it’s totally unconditional,I can’t imagine our home without him. (Don’t tell Alex!)

My Wishes for 2015

Gosh where do I start, as this is where I find it hard to consolidate all my thoughts. But here goes.

I want to say goodbye to my companion in the shadows, however we have a few obstacles to overcome with eldest first, so not sure that will be all that easy. But as long as it doesn’t impact on work then I can manage. Our relationship needs work and I hope that no matter what happens he know that I love him.

Again the work life balance is always an issue, I start with great intentions, spinning was going great but then illness took over at half term and I haven’t really got back on the bike since. So come the New year and new resolutions I will climb back up and see how long I can keep going for this time. It will be important to ensure I keep at it as I want to keep off the two and half stone I lost in September and October. I also want to be more available for Charlotte as she is in year 10, quite highly strung with dramas that only 15 year olds have. However with events of last year overshadowing her needs. I want to be there when she needs me either in time or tissues. She is a very special young lady and needs nurturing.

I want to make sure that my next teachmeet at Dawlish goes off with a bang so save the date for Monday 2nd March 2015 for some #TMPicknMix. We are very lucky to have the amazing Vic Goddard to be our keynote this year.  On the back of that I want to attend and present more this year at Teachmeets, Pedagoos and TLT’s having attended all three last year. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and I learn more from these events than I do from other formalised CPD.

My tutor group have been with me since I started at Dawlish in year 8 and they are year 11 now and I want to make sure that they all leave in the summer happy with their achievements, for some it will mean making it through a whole week at school, for others it will be the receipt of a string of A’s, but for all of them I hope they remember me with fondness and madness. I hope that I can be the quiet in the storm for them this year as pressure at home and in class builds, I want to provide an oasis where they can come and chill, cry, laugh and eat chocolate as each and every one has touched my heart in a positive way.

Finally I want to be a better me both teacher and person, as earlier stated, I applied for two new roles this year outside of my school, neither of which I got. However I do want to have more of an impact in the teaching and learning with in a school not just in my subject, so in order to do that I need to be the best me I can be; so think, another year of practice and risk will help.

I’d like to play a bigger role in the success of Dawlish Community College but not sure what that will look like,  maybe that will mean I will have to leave and in doing so I will be looking for that next step so any advice will be gratefully received.

So there it is folks, not as mind blowing as some but never the less important to me.

I wish you all a Happy, healthy New Year and well done for staying awake.



Last term we held an intervention evening for the year 11 students, who we thought as a school were in the ‘danger zone’.


You know the ones, the quiet kids, who are below their target grade because they don’t know how or are too scared to ask for help.

The noisy bumptious ones who can’t sit still and be quiet so never complete the lesson work, forget their homework, but  are good to have in a class because they aren’t afraid to speak up, share an idea, ask a question.

Then there are ‘those’ kids, the ones whose name is always mentioned at staff briefing and have been since year 7, always  get the blue slips to see the pastoral team, or the white slips for the lunch time detentions. They are late every lesson and walk in like its a badge of honor with the retort ‘I was with miss!’ No apology, no explanation.

We sent out letters for the parents to book appointments with the teachers who have concerns, and we all mustered at our various tables,evidence of infractions, books identified,  battle plans prepared for what needs to be done to improve, war was to commence.

The parents arrived one by one, looking worried, concerned, each 5 minute appointment became 15. Some parents I’d not seen at a parents evening before but had spoken to them on the phone numerous times before.

Some were ready for the war, to lay all the blame at the schools door, ‘you haven’t done enough to support my child with their English’, ‘I’ve asked for help but no one has come back to me.’  ‘What are you going to do between now and the exam to make sure my child achieves?’  These are the parents whose child doesn’t speak up, sits quietly, wishing they’d stop talking, as they know that we are doing every we can to help them, but actually they need to ask more, do more in lessons.

Next are the parents who come in knowing that no matter what their child has done, if only we understood them more, had more time, gave them more resources they’d do better. They are waiting for the school to do all the work.

Finally there are the parents who have spent more time in school since they left school, then they ever did when they were supposed to be there. They sit there apologizing to me for the behavior, attitude, but ‘there are issues!’ They are pleading with their child to realize their mistakes before it’s too late, willing them to do better, not repeat their mistakes or those of others they knew.

Explaining that they are at war with their children. They don’t listen to them, don’t respect them, are drinking, possibly doing drugs, on their gadgets for endless hours and when they aren’t they are out late when they should be revising. Their child sits there, slumped in the chair, sullen, refusing to make eye contact, not caring whether they are causing their parents pain, worry. Not wanting to be in school because ‘it’s boring’.

They are looking to me to provide the answer, not to give up on their child, because they need to believe that I care and that somehow I can get through to them. Make them see that education is the key to a bright future. It isn’t about the grades at this stage. It’s about relationships, understanding and making it through to the end. Surviving the dog fights, to prove that they are capable and worth something more.

I help by giving them the strategies to help with revision, the apps that might engage them, the revision sites that tell them everything they need to know to make it to the end. Parents thank me, leave with their heads low and furrowed brows, waiting for the next battle when they get home.

As the teacher I sat through this evening listening, understanding, reassuring  these parents. But, I was struggling with my own situation.

For some of  you, you are aware that I have a son ‘with issues’ and this year,  more so than others these issues have caused us not only to enter the ‘danger zone’ but be living in it continually.

I look at my now 18 year old son, who, for reasons to many to share has disengaged with education, family and society to some part. Which has led me to be ‘That’ parent, looking to the college to provide answers, support, guidance on what I can do to help, change or prevent total melt down.

But we are only human, both as parents and teachers, sometimes there is nothing more we can do, we have provided the framework of a good home, manners, respect, responsibility, we have scaffolded the learning so that each year they built on their knowledge, expertise. We have modeled the behavior that society expects. We fed, clothed, helped with homework, put plasters on knees, lent them the car when theirs was in the shop, loved them.

But there comes a time when we have to step away. We have to let them be who they are. Allow them to stand in their own skin.

Ultimately its’s their decision.

So as a parent and a teacher I won’t give up. But I won’t take on their issues, the excuses anymore. Now is the time to be counted. Interventions are part of what we do as professional teachers, but as parents sometimes we have to stop, walk away. Hope that all we have done is enough and that somewhere inside the right decisions are made in time. That they reengage.







Reflections on #Nurture1314.

I thought it was about time I revisited this post as the 6 month mark has passed and we’ll be at the end of the year in a blink of an eye.

If I was to write my own report for the last nine months, it would read something like this:-

Karen is a hard worker who always tries her best, with perfection being her main priority, however this is also her weakness and it puts pressure on her when it isn’t needed. She needs to learn that good is good enough and know when to take a step back.

She has made significant levels of progress with her classes and her results from the summer GCSE’s reflect this. But there is still room for improvement on some of the topics she taught and she needs to reflect on her teaching style for some of those units.

She is a valued member of both the science team and the pedagogy team with the revamp of the CPD having an interesting reaction among the school staff.

Targets for the coming year are she needs to continue to refine her teaching skills, and keep smiling, because she is doing well.

Right lets see how it stacked up…..

1. To get a handle on the parenting of two teenagers. I need to realise that my eldest is almost a man who is flourishing and doesn’t need his mother as much as he did before, except to wash dirty rugby kit and have bottomless cupboard of food. For my special lady accept that at the moment her friends are her haven who she now shares her secrets with and wait patiently for her to come to me when she’s ready. Acceptance is the key that my offspring are needing me in a different way but I will always be there when they need me.

A work in progress is how I would describe this one. My eldest broke his leg in February very badly and spent 13 weeks in plaster and for a very active young man, this caused major issues in the household both from the physical point of view of being in plaster up to his hip and mentally for him. It has resulted in some issues that are too long to go into here, but the stress that this has brought to the family by his choices he has made has brought it almost to breaking point. Daughter hasn’t responded well either, and spent even more time with friends so now working on that. However on a happier note, we have worked through many of them and he has now started his Level 3 course at college and has some direction back to his life, hence on going. Plus daughter in year 10 and seems more settled. Lets hope so.

2. To get back to spinning and make sure I keep going for the whole year and not let work get in the way. To stay slimmer, keep juicing and try to keep my chocolate addiction under control. This will require me taking more care of me, which I often neglect. I am happy to support others often to my detriment so need to give me the same care. 

Opps! is all I can say to this, health and well being took a back burner this year with issues at both work and home, resulting in me having to stop spinning, eating more chocolate and generally not looking after myself until about May, when I realised I had forgotten about me and have now started back on my own road to health again. So still working on it.

3. To provide a safe place for the pupils I teach. To be consistent, fair, supportive and provide them with the best chance I can give them, to ensure they are able to open every door they need to, ensuring they lead successful and fulfilled lives. To be there for my tutor group who are turning out to be wonderful young people who I am proud of more and more each day.

This one is happening I am happy to say, my tutor group are now in Year 11 with more of them coming to me for support, even those reluctant boys who feel I am harsh by setting boundaries and sticking to  them. Most have realised that they haven’t got much time left and it’s now time to step up and be counted. I will sad when they leave.

4. To accept compliments gracefully. I am still struggling with my daemons who often get the better of me. The person who looks back from the mirror isn’t always the one I see when looking at her.

Ongoing, is all I can say.

5. To keep learning, practicing the art of teaching, I still think that someone will come and catch me out and say that I really shouldn’t be in front of students. I really love my job and just want to be the best I can be.

Totally a work in progress and loving it more each day.

6. I want to develop my pedagogy leader role and make teaching and learning the buzz of the school where our teachers engage in conversations about their practice by becoming more open to sharing their successes and failures of their classrooms.

Mmmm, working on it but baby steps, I have the wonderful Sarah Wright to work with plus the amazing Nann Stimpson who provide me with challenge and keep me grounded often. Here’s to this academic year. We are focusing on ‘Growth Mindset’ and ‘Challenge’ within the lessons and the CPD will be based around those two concepts, plus many more ideas, poached from other great leaders around the country.

7. I need to blog more to share my own practice and accept the great and good who hopefully will comment and help to develop my practice making me a better teacher.

OK not done!

8. Get a school blog started to share our practice and pedagogy. It needs a catchy and informative name suggestion appreciated.

Blog started but needs more work.

9. Push myself further out of my comfort zone and present at more Teachmeets, hopefully will do Pedagoolondon with the wonderful Lucie. Plus have volunteered to help Mark Anderson with a Pedagoo event in the South West and along the way get to spend time with more of the people I have met with through twitter.

Managed to present at# TMTaunton, #Pedagoolondon and #TLT13 plus own #TMDawlish, attended #Pedagoosw however haven’t done as much as wanted due to number 1.

I’d like to work with Nina Jackson @musicmind, if she could put up with me, on what I don’t know, open to suggestions.

Still waiting for that chance.

10. This is a big one to admit to but I’d like to further my career, I have come to teaching late and feel that time isn’t on my side and I want to be able to develop, encourage teachers to be the best they can be. I want to see more openness between departments, celebrate innovation, encourage creativity, allow teaches to take more risks within their classrooms, support, motivate and help shape the future of the young people we have the privilege to teach every day.

Applied for a leadership role focusing on TnL but wasn’t successful, down to the simple point I taught a ‘pants lesson’ a little too left field I think, however I took away a lot from the experience and will keep looking.

11. I still need to dance more, have done some in class much to the embarrassment of my pupils. But need to do it more with friends, family, children.

Definitely dancing more, but more is needed.

12. Be a better, wife, friend, sister, daughter and in order to do this I need more balance between work and the rest of my life. think I had that last year as well.

This this will on every year, although I completely disconnected from teaching over the summer and we all had a wonderful time. Rested and ready for the new year. Best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time.

13. I need to worry less about money, housework, teaching, am I good enough, will I be better, well just everything.

Still worrying.

14. Finally I need to look upwards enjoy the sunshine, splash in the puddles, kick up the leaves and surf more.

Definitely done, I grabbed the bull by the horns a volunteered to be part of the 2015 Sweet Dreams Charity calendar so have submitted a picture; yikes! (you can make a donation at, this was created on the back of @ChocoTzars blog on sending pupils on holiday.

Also I have done more of this this year especially enjoying the sunshine and surfing, will splash in more puddles this winter as bought a puppy in August so this will keep me outside more. Mad I know, as if I don’t have enough to do.

Hence on reflection not bad!



On Saturday 14th June, I travelled up the M5 in the company of the lovely Emily King (@eking90), knowing that we were going to have a great learning experience at Pedagoo SW. What actually happened was even better than we were imagining.


It was one of the hottest days of the year, both literally and figuratively. As we arrived at Bristol Grammar School it was bathed in beautiful sunshine and were met by the wonderful @CristaHazell and the amazing @DOCTORMassey. We were soon roped into to filling lanyard pockets, with the names of the amazing attendees and workshop leaders, who were to give up their day to help us teachers get better at what we do.


I am sure that more eloquent people than I will write blogs about the day, but here are my reflections of the critical points for me.


Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) kicked of the day in the Grand Hall. To say that I felt as if I was in a Harry Potter set was an understatement. The knowledge that many great educators and practitioners had sat where we had eager and ready to learn, was a thrilling experience.


Rachel Jones  (@rlj1981) gave her keynote. She is full of humility and graciousness and talked about teaching being a force for good, and how we have impact as practitioners, but that we may never see or realise this in our own lifetime really struck a chord for me. (Link to her blog and keynote at the end). She ended her session with this (most popularsong at the moment with my year7/8s) but remixed for teachers.

This set the tone for the rest of the day. The recurring theme through many of the sessions I went to, was one of LETTING GO, and allowing the students to take charge of their own learning in ways that they couldn’t have done before; all the while providing the CHALLENGE of AWE and WONDER (to see this done amazingly you need to watch Nina Jackson’s (@musicmind) workshop  –  that learning can provide.

This theme continued throughout the workshops I attended, all of which have been videoed and the link is below.

So here is a brief summary :

Sesssion 1 – Better Teaching and Learning (Digital Stuff)

 David Morgan @LessonHacker

Gave us ideas about using digital stuff in the classroom and the power of harnessing the ICT in kids pockets. He suggested we ‘Get over ourselves’ and accept that we don’t know everything, so use Classroom Geniuses to support the ICT in the room so it frees us up to teach content. Utilise the connectivity of 24/7 that our pupils have to responded to the incessant beep of the notifications and their Pavlovian response to it, by using systems like Edmodo to send out homework tasks, reminders of test, and other classroom messages. Also the key to embedding this is to ‘USE IT MORE THAN ONCE’ so that pupils get the message (no pun intended) and that this is the way you are going to communicate with them. It was here that the theme of ‘Letting Go’ was reiterated by handing over to pupils the opportunity to hand in work via Google Docs or other VLE platforms so that you can mark on the hoof, no matter where you are! Feedback is instant and you can track those changes or responses from pupils.

Session 2 ‘Stretch and Challenge your Able, Gifted and Talented Students’

Robert Massey @DOCTORMassey

I was now in the amazing theatre and listened as Doctor Massey talked about ‘Shouting to the Top’, why are we teaching to the lowest common denominator and then adding in extra for those Gifted and Talented pupils. We should be Teaching to the Top and then providing the support for the less able. We should assume that everyone is capable of being brilliant and allowing pupils the opportunity to show us.

He reinforced that those we deem as G&T often feel different to the rest of the school and we need to recognise this and treat them with some TLC as they are often vulnerable themselves and feel the pressure of expectation. Remember that learning is a roller-coaster of ups and downs, not a smooth curve as the so called experts lead us to believe.

So how do we teach to the top, he talked about slowing down our teaching and providing more depth, proper lesson time for DIRT, using Big open questions, and revisiting work and creating this as a culture, not just a one off. David Fawcett has written some great work on ‘Layering and revisiting.’ (link below) He went on then to give some examples of how he does it in his classroom.

Session 3 Multipliers

Nick Dennis@NickDennis

This session was about the Multiplier effect. How do we look for successes of the team around us and build on those to improve the culture of the school? By giving people and students both permission to be smarter. This was a really thought provoking session, looking at the ‘Energy Vampires and Energy Radiators’.

The main question for me that came out of this session was ‘Are you the genius or a genius maker?’ which as leaders should be fundamental to developing great teams and multiplying the positives. Again the theme of Letting go resonates, but this time for your teachers and challenging the ethos by questions.

Session 4 Closing the Gap Marking

Chris Hildrew @chrishildrew

This final session was one where I was able to validate all the work I had been doing on marking and assessment. Chris spoke about the importance of marking and how using various techniques can improve quality, learning and outcomes for the pupils in your class. He amended the Ron Berger quote to one of ‘If it’s not excellent then it’s not finished’ which gave the phrase a more open ended feel as not all students can reach perfect.

Here is the list of ideas he talked about:

Peer/Public Critique

Triple Impact Marking

          Self Assess

          Teacher Assess


Code marking

There was great discussion about the grading of work and how this affects the feedback process and when it’s appropriate to give a grade or just feedback.

Once again, this resonated with my feelings on deepening the learning and response rather than, how well you do. Being a science teacher, I often find pupils fixated on why they went up or down a grade, but as we teach three disciplines they find themselves at  different levels and to master this and the understanding of the subject area this can also impact on levels, so feedback allows me to look at skills, and understanding, rather than a number.

The day was wrapped up by David Didau (@learningspy). He suggested that we should find what makes us happy and that we should question what it is that we like and remember that we are all wrong even if we are right!

I was one of the valiant that stayed for the evening TeachMeet, which was organised with amazing prizes and refreshments and more cake provided by @flymygeekflag that you could eat, nicely served by @bestysalt and Mark Anderson.

The evening presentations still rang with the ideas of ‘letting go’ and challenge your students’ It was great to see newbies presenting the first time from @MrsWood on SOLE to many others.

So it remains to say that I take away a sense of pride to belong to such a great set of educators and privilege to be part of such an amazing Pedagoo event.