Monthly Archives: February 2014

Developing success

What a great week!

I have been re-inspired this week by colleagues and by students and by my team.

I am endlessly proud of the hard work my students put into their learning.

Developing Independence

I started the week wanting to be a little bit more creative with more students.  My year 10 set3 have just finished ‘An Inspector Calls’ and have really engaged with the text.  I absolutely loved watching them debate the idea of responsibility last week independently.  This week I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and get them to consolidate their learning whilst organising a new display.  The result is below and I think it looks quite pretty.  So not every finer detail was propped onto the board but watching the students work as a team to produce this was a lovely thing.



My task now is to put some exemplar paragraphs from their exam responses (all of them are currently working above target) to showcase how brilliantly they are doing.

Developing confidence in myself by hearing other people say what I am thinking

On Tuesday I had my 1-1 with a super head (having achieved four consistently outstanding Ofsted inspections).  This was like therapy for a very new, very tired and very pressured Head of Faculty.  No data was asked for, no learning walk completed, no work scrutiny undertaken.  I simply had the opportunity to sit and talk and talk we did.  What was so beautiful about it was that much of our conversation centred around lots of the thoughts I have been having over the past few weeks.  It was also incredibly interesting that often she would say something that would resonate with the book ‘TRIVIUM’ which I have just finished.  To hear someone support the thoughts I have been having about education, about change, about Ofsted was like music to my ears.  I came out of the meeting feeling confident, validated and inspired to continue thinking in my way.

On top of this I finished two books: ‘TRIVIUM and ‘Change’ – both absolutely inspirational books.  They have both motivated me and made my vision for KS3 very clear.  I am inspired and excited to begin our new curriculum design once the year 11s have gone. Next on the list ‘An Ethic of Excellence’

Developing confidence in my year 11

My year 11 English group were very nervous about approaching Macbeth at the start of this week.  I asked them (to demonstrate progress over time) to begin by thought showering everything they knew about Macbeth.  Most could only write down that it was written by William Shakespeare, and even then it was because I had written that on the board.  At various check points across the next two lessons they added to this thought shower as their knowledge developed and you could see their confidence grow.  We finished our introduction to Macbeth when I gave them a sheet that simply had the character’s names on and the key themes.  The students’ task was to make as many connections between characters and themes as they could, explaining them along the way.  Here are a couple of examples and one of my lovely students looking very happy with herself.  Her happiness at being a part of my lesson is what makes me the proudest.



Developing lessons that don’t tick boxes but instead inspire and motivate

This Friday I decided to do some kinaesthetic learning with my year 11s.  They have just finished studying the anthology and I want them to start thinking about the comparative element of the exam.  To begin our work on this, I covered one of my boards with the names of the 15 poems.  I then distributed string, coloured card (pink for theme, yellow for poetic techniques and green for structural devices) and asked them to find as many links between the poems as they could.  Well, the end result was a bit messy but they fully engaged with the task and had a lot of fun with it.  It certainly started their thinking about how the poems compare and contrast.



Developing confident, strong and supportive relationships

1) I love my head teacher. He did something so unbelievably nice this week and it just makes me want to get everything right for him.

2) My line manager who is great.  The brilliance of our working relationship is that we complement each other really well.  We often work brilliantly together BUT we equally constructively disagree and discuss which enables us to constantly move forward.   We work on total honesty and transparency and are equally supportive and challenging and demanding of each other.

So all in all a great week and now we only have one week to go before the half term break. Here’s hoping it is a good one 🙂


Developing new ways of marking

Marking is an essential part of any teacher’s diet.  It used to be that ticking and flicking the exercise books was enough as long as once a term an assessment was complete and saw raw data was compiled.

Then literacy became a focus for Ofsted and so marking for literacy was introduced.  Codes such as sp / gr / p / c and np were frequented in student’s exercise books in the hope that they might look at them at some point.

This didn’t feel quite enough, however, and so summative / formative commentaries were introduced and we ended up with something like this:



However, then came the new idea that students should respond to feedback. To work towards this, I introduced a quick literacy response to feedback strategy:


This didn’t feel as though it was enough though so after a conversation with a colleague, I agreed to trial a new strategy.


Working through the only part of the Star I did not like was the target box. So after seeing Sian Carter’s fantastic marking bag and speaking with her I changed the form to this:


Strengths and targets = traditional two stars and a wish
Things I have done well – in the exercise book, the student will find a highlighted green section – something they have done well. They must identify why this piece is highlighted in green – what is it about it that is strong?
Areas I need to improve: same as above but a piece highlighted in pink to suggest it can be improved and asking students to identify how they would improve it
Reflection: students personal reflection on their work – overall/summative
SPAG: direction to spellings and any literacy errors that are recurring.

(The forms are different colours for different year groups)

We are still in the process of trialling this strategy. I have asked two other members of the faculty to trial before we tweak, if necessary, and roll out.

If you would like a hard copy of the sheet, please email me or DM me on twitter.

Developing Leadership

I spent three hours in training today.  An hour and a half in a one on one meeting with an excellent head who has achieved outstanding inspection results four times in a row and then an hour and a half in a session with this head aimed at Middle Level Leaders.  Both sessions were great: my one on one was so timely considering my mood of late whilst the MLL was so good in terms of refocusing the priorities and motivation.

As we were discussing the faculty and I was talking about my leadership and reflecting on the past two weeks, I was told ‘You can visit Pity city, but you can’t afford to stay there.’  How true!  Usually I am a bright, energetic and positive person but post-Ofsted I have felt a bit flat and a bit sorry for myself and the situation I found myself in. However, I made a conscious decision to go out on Friday night and have a little alcohol which turned into a lot of alcohol and this was brilliant for clearing the negativity away and bringing the positive back.  If you, too, are finding work a little overwhelming I can whole-heartedly recommend this!  Anyway, I am now back on form and ready and am happy to share that my stay in Pity City was no real fun and the real world is so much better.

As MLL we were told that ‘the first task of leadership is to keep hope alive.’  How true!  It is my responsibility to ensure that we remain hopeful about the situations we find ourselves in as the journey becomes better when taken with positivity and hope.  If we did not have hope then we wouldn’t be working as hard to nail the Controlled Assessment I’m sure.

It is important that within our areas we are the ones responsible for transforming and energising learning.  We need to ask ourselves do we develop our students’ enthusiasm for learning within our subject area?  Are we motivating and engaging our learners?  Are we using a range of imaginative teaching strategies?  Are we planning exciting lesson starters?  Typing these questions out has already reinvigorated my attitude towards teaching and learning within my faculty – I cannot wait to plan the new KS3 curriculum, I cannot wait to write a new scheme of work – it is very exciting and this is exactly how I want the kids to feel when they come into my English faculty.

I nearly cried when she told us that leaders are reflective!  I am probably the most reflective person I know and the importance of always believing there is room for improvement was emphasised but so was the desire to always strive to improve.  I loved the fact that she talked about trial and error – as a new faculty everything we do is trial and error.  It is interesting to note people’s reactions when things don’t work out with some people feeling quite frustrated or critical whilst, in fact, my take on this when it usually happens is it didn’t work, let’s try something new.  I felt confident about my approach when we were told that this is a great process in finding out what is right and works for you, the students and the school context.  To quote ‘When things go right, head in the direction of the boardroom and not the pub.  Figure out what went right.  To repeat your success you need to understand how you did it.’

Then we were told about the five characteristics of outstanding faculties:

1) Trust within the team

2) Healthy, respectful debate and conflict

3) Common performance goal or clear aim is crucial

4) Joint accountability is essential

5) 100% commitment to the team

Reflecting I think my faculty scores a 3/5 so some work to do but we are most definitely heading in the right direction.

Finally, we were given a few last pointers

1) Our job is to keep the ship steady.

2) Translate change into something meaningful

3) Never stop trying to make it count.


For me, the time is now 🙂


Nurture #14 Week Four

People say January is the most depressing month.  I can’t remember what last January was like but this one has been tougher than I thought.

However, this week things are on the up and are getting better as I continue to think, reflect and reaffirm the things I believe in, the people I believe in and the priorities that lie ahead.  Over the past two weeks much of what I have felt has come down to two things

1) Time – if you want to do a good job, you need the time to do a good job.

2) Confidence – keeping the faith when others don’t or when you have moments of self-doubt about what you are doing.

As a consequence much of my reflection has focused in on these two things and this week I have made conclusions that will move me forward.

1) I don’t have the time to do everything I need to do.  I am not going to get more time so need to think about how I manage this.  This involves compromising.  To do this, I need to prioritise.  My priority is year 11 attainment.  My focus is on year 11 as they are my responsibility.  This means that I have to compromise on other areas – like my teaching.  Last week I was struggling with this realisation.  This week I am sure of it.  Sometimes I will not have the learning objective on the board, sometimes I won’t have the lesson planned to the minute detail, sometimes all the books won’t be marked up-to-date.  Do I want this to be my reality?  No.  Is it my realistic reality?  Yes.  Do I need to be easier on myself about this?  Absolutely.

I have realised that in striving for perfection all the time, you actually achieve very little.  You become both a mediocre teacher and a mediocre leader.  We all know the image of a person who is carrying too many plates..eventually they will drop one.  But what’s to say that we can’t choose to throw our plates down and smash them on the floor as the Spanish or Greek tradition would have it.  If we choose to hold on to the 1-2 plates that are really important to us, we regain control of ourselves and the direction we are going in.  We also end up making those 1-2 plates very sparkly which in the long run is good for all.

2) Reflection is key.  I reflect upon everything – conversations, people, events, lessons, meetings, relationships, the works.  Sometimes reflections lead you to expose your weaknesses and I do spend a lot of time on here reflecting upon things that have happened and how I can improve.  However, I don’t often comment on my strengths.  Sometimes, I can forget to do this.  For starters,  I am a great teacher.  I have amazing relationships with my classes.  We laugh and we learn together.  I love teaching my students.

I have learned this week that it is so important to take a step back and reflect upon your successes.  This week alone year 11 told me that their parents thought I was brilliant; year 10 spontaneously erupted into a fierce debate about responsibility in ‘An Inspector Calls’ whilst I took a seat and watched them with pride for 15 minutes; year 8 told me they have never been worked so hard (and it shows moving from 4b to 6c in four weeks); year 11 sat in silence as they sat a Controlled Assessment and many asked if they could do extra work in order to improve their attainment; my colleague has achieved great success with her year 11 class; so many staff have emailed me about how they are developing key vocabulary across the curriculum and the list goes on and on.  In reflecting upon your successes you are reminding yourself to have confidence in standing up tall and stating that you are making good.

However, this confidence is also what spurs you on to be honest.  I have confidence enough to be honest when I am reflecting on myself as a leader as well.

Am I brilliant leader?  No.  This is only the second time I have led a faculty and the first time I have done It by myself.  In addition to this, I have walked into some difficult circumstances – circumstances that the most experienced of HOFs would find tough.

HOWEVER, what I do know is that I am confident in my position because I search deep for clarity – being clear about myself, my role, my direction, my future and in doing so I have discovered this:

I know where I am taking the faculty.  And I do know how I am going to get there.  I have a vision and that vision has never wavered.  I am a thinker and thinkers are the best leaders (as long as it is followed by action).  I am strong and I have the strength of character to see that all that needs to be done will get done.  I am focused and will not let others steer me off course.  I will succeed because if I succeed, the kids succeed and I am not going to let them down.

Finally, being confident in yourself allows you to focus on what is important.  If you are confident and clear then you know what you can’t do which in turn allows you to focus in on what you can.  I know, for example that

I can’t be all singing and dancing all the time and that I don’t have the time nor the energy to buy into every teaching fad.  Knowing this allows me to quietly and methodically work on what is important for my faculty and my students at this point in time.  I can keep the main thing, the main thing.

I can’t rush the process of change; it isn’t something that happens overnight.  After all, it was the tortoise who won the race and not the hare.  Change needs to be thought through carefully and whilst there is a degree of urgency to improve outcomes, sustainable change is not something that happens quickly.  In saying I cannot rush, I am saying I am affording myself the time to make the right decisions for all.

I cannot be perfect.  I am confident enough in myself to admit to the mistakes I make and luckily enough to have people who will point them out to me as well.  However, my confidence allows me to smile and learn from these errors so that I can move forward. I have confidence enough to know of the impact I have already had and the impact I will continue to have as I get better and better at what I do.

I can’t work 24/7.  It isn’t healthy.  Instead I choose to have Friday nights off and at least one day at the weekend, guilt free.  This makes me a better teacher because it makes me a happier person.

And with these thoughts, the confidence I have in myself and my team, I look forward to the next working week.