With a week of the holidays left, it’s time to focus my efforts fully on the return to work and the new academic year. I must say I’m really pleased with the use of the summer break – I’ve spent time with my wife on holiday, but as well as planning for the new term, I’ve also spent a large amount of time reading all the educational books I’d purchased but hadn’t yet got round to reading, or finishing the ones I had started. The designation of ‘reading days’ allowed me to complete a book in a day on occasions, and at time of writing, I only have ‘Teach Like a Champion’ and the corresponding Field Guide left to read – all 800 or so pages!
As the summer has progressed, I’ve built up a greater idea of how I intend things to work over 2014-15, both at school and outside. I seem to have built up through the holiday a series of principles:
More – I realise my lessons can be improved by having much more: more purpose, more content (ensuring EVERY moment is utilised), more depth (rather than breadth), more organisation, more planning (short, medium, and long term), more challenge, more independence from students, and more student talk/discussion. Outside of lessons, more focus on my job and its roles (see below).
Less – This has been a huge revelation for me lately. One of the books I read, not particularly for educational reasons but just for a bit of general interest, was The Art of Thinking Clearly by Ralf Dobelli. In it, he talks about common cognitive biases that we all fall victim to on a regular basis. The final bias presented is ‘The New Illusion’. Dobelli’s advice is to ignore the news, and let friends and family be your news filters. I have given this a go, and can honestly say I have already felt the benefits. I am spending much less time (no time at all, in fact) reading BBC news, watching rolling news channels, or scrolling Twitter repeatedly for news. In fact, I’ve even stopped following BBC News and other similar accounts on Twitter. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. Much of the news is completely irrelevant to my day to day life. Of course, there will be things that I would benefit from knowing, but that information will reach me in due course, and I can investigate it as and when I need to.
Allied to this, I have also made a conscious decision to step back from those things over which I have little or no influence, and this includes school matters. It is a waste of my time or energy getting worked up about things I cannot change. Far more constructive for me (and my students) that I focus completely on what I am responsible for. This will also simplify my Twitter usage. Blogs about the role of SLT are now not relevant, irrespective of whether I might agree with the content or not. Articles about implementing a growth mindset culture are relevant to a point – I can control the use of growth mindset in my classrooms, but not beyond that. It’s time to be ruthless.
Selfishness – this is connected to the above points. I have, over past years, tried to be a teacher who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help others. In the short term, at least, my focus has to be on my teaching and my students, and whilst still remaining friendly and pleasant, I can no longer afford to help others to the detriment of myself.
Reflection – I have this year built in reflection time each evening when I get home. This is something I picked up from reading Daniel Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’ I have a teacher diary on my desk, which will be completed each evening. In addition, I also envisage more frequent, shorter posts about my day on this blog, alongside occasional longer features such as this and my earlier posts this summer.
My next blog will focus on specific issues around planning. And will, as usual, will include requests for help!