Half term report (or simply: breathe!)

As I alluded to previously, Christmas 2014 saw me change jobs after 4 and a half years. Having reached the end of 6 hectic weeks, I thought it might be a good time to document my experience, thoughts and fears, not least because hopefully putting my thoughts down in print will allow me to mentally declutter!

  • Change is difficult at any time, but especially part way through the year – I guess this is obvious, but even now I still don’t think I am fully ‘there’. I was so comfortable at my old school – too comfortable, in fact, which was one of my reasons for leaving – and the first week in particular was a huge shock to the system. In fact, it became a simple case of survival at times. But a rough plan of what I was doing, and supportive colleagues who helped me bed in quickly, got me through to the weekend, where I could regroup.
  • Schools which appear quite similar can be very different in practice – both my old and new schools serve predominantly white, working class intakes from ex-mining communities. But that is pretty much where the similarities end. The ethos of my new school, the behaviour management systems, and the aspirations are all very different (in a good way). I know this was a great move for me. I can’t wait for that day when I finally feel like I’ve arrived and am fully comfortable in the post.
  • Expectations on all levels need raising  – both in terms of behaviour and in work ethic, it’s clear standards for some of my students were a little low. My year 8 class admitted earlier in the week that the previous teacher was soft on them in terms of the BM system in place – which all staff are required to follow religiously. I feel like I’ve made some progress here, although there is still a way to go.
  • I have a large/scary amount of control over my class AND my environment – the freedom I have is something I have found difficult to cope with at times, and has led to me having crises of confidence on many occasions. We have no scheme of work at all, so I decide what to teach and for how long. This can be quite a daunting prospect, although I also recognise the huge opportunity it provides. Similarly, the fact I now have my own room is a great opportunity for me to impress my values and expectations on students – it had been my aim to get a display put up this week, but the replacement of windows and the associated removal of asbestos prevents this from happening.
  • I just need to focus on the process and not worry (too much) about the outcomes: like George Michael, I gotta have faith – in my running, I’m all about the process – running consistently, through all weathers and good and bad runs alike, will deliver the outcomes I want. Similarly, I need to be confident in my methods and strategies of teaching, and know that if I am producing the goods day in, day out, students will make the desired progress.

Although half term hasn’t really started yet, I’m looking forward greatly to the second half of the spring term. I feel in a much happier place, and feel this is the time to start kicking on and making big inroads on student progress. I look forward to catching up with old blogs to inspire me as ever!


Reflections, week 1 HT4 (or in praise of RAG123, again)

So I am at the end of my first week of half term 4 (unless many other teachers, who had half term a week before my school). And actually, I’m feeling pretty positive. Of course, this is unlikely to last too long, but there are grounds for optimism based on my week. So here is a reasonably brief review of how things have gone, and what I intend to do to make next week (and weeks thereafter) even better:

  1. RAG123 I am sure I have mentioned this in every blog thus far, but once again I make no apologies for extolling its virtues. It’s a really powerful tool! I wrote last week about my intention to roll this out with my year 7 class in addition to my year 9s. This I have done, and it is proving really useful. My year 7 class is one with which I have struggled, in part due to the scheme of work prescribed for them. Having freed myself from the rigid shackles of that, however, marking their books after each lesson has quickly identified some students I need to focus on, as well as, most importantly, providing me with feedback on what they know, and where to go next with them. Some of them do not, I suspect, appreciate the greater scrutiny (as it removes a hiding place for them), and I welcome this. In the end, it will only be to their benefit. My other RAG123 group, my year 9s who I see every day, have moved through Pythagoras work at a faster than anticipated pace due to RAG123, and here I have picked up those students who have needed a little more help, as well as seeing the excellent work of some of my quieter students on a day-to-day basis. One asked me on Wednesday “Sir, don’t you get bored marking our books every day?” The truth is no, for it allows me to see really closely and really quickly how well students are making progress. And for a class I see every day, it’s vital to me that I see how the situation changes on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Work-life balance Ah, the perpetual struggle of the teacher. I spoke in my last post about the improvements I had had last half term, and yet even in the first week of this one, I believe further progress has been made. I have resolved to adopt working hours of 7.30-5, other commitments permitting, and this has served me well so far. Despite a parents’ evening and a traffic jam delaying my commute this week, I have had 2 work free nights at home, and managed a run last night. I feel relaxed and prepared, thanks in no small part to the medium term planning I had completed over half term. So positives here, with room for even more.
  3. BfL/behaviour management This week has seen the implementation of our new school BfL system. I have to say I have found this to work really well. The new system is working really well for me so far, providing a clear structure for staff to follow and ensuring that I deal with issues myself. It is time consuming (most days this week I have spent around an hour dealing with behaviour issues) but I anticipate this to reduce as we move through the rest of the year. Indeed, with RAG123, and clear expectations set out to students, I can see everything coming together nicely. 
  4. More of a carrot teacher It might sound as though I am still focused on the stick, yet this week I have handed out more rewards than for a long time. I also tried ringing a number of year 9 students this evening in praise of their great work this week – although it was sad that I failed to get hold of so many for one reason or another! 

So week 1 done. Lots of positives and room for encouragement for the rest of the year. I’m getting there….slowly!