10. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

5 random facts about myself:

  • I have written several screenplays, nearly a whole novel and some monologues
  • I have different coloured eyes
  • I worked on BBC’s Hinterland
  • I have performed across the UK doing improvised comedy
  • My dad’s name is Will Power (seriously)

4 things on my bucket list:

  • To visit Italy
  • To get my book published
  • To have children
  • To launch a full range of illustrated products

3 things I hope for this year:

  • To get enough students together for a GCSE Media class
  • To get our TED style talk initiative to take off
  • To live up to my role and support others through the year

2 things that have made me laugh or cry as an educator:

  • Laugh: student logic and general awkward navigation of being teenagers. There are so many stories, I wouldn’t even know where to start!
  • Laugh/cry (in a positive way!): student enthusiasm for little clubs or idiosyncrasies in lessons. I have a Mario mushroom I throw around and use for quick fire grammar games. it was an off the cuff activity which has now become a permanent feature because of the boundless joy and excitement when the ‘Grammarshroom’ is brought out!
  • Bonus: I get weirdly emotional sometimes when speaking to parents about how well their child is doing and if they say anything nice to me. I think I just don’t really know how to respond and my body just goes into reaction overdrive and start welling up! I even get it if a child emails to say thank you or just says thank you at the end of the lesson as they leave. It’s all very strange!

1 thing I wish more people knew about me:

  • I am massively insecure, and worry constantly I am not doing a good job. I sometimes overcompensate for this and try to mask it with bounciness and cheer, but it overwhelms me every so often. I wish people knew that’s why I am the way I am and why I run things by people so much. I just hope it makes my habits less annoying, or at least provides a reason for them!

There you have it! If you are thinking of blogging, you could maybe try this one as a first post. It’s a pretty easy one to write, and it can be quite short too! That’s all from me, so thanks for stopping by!

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7. My Most Inspirational Colleague(s)!

It feels appropriate to write this post when #thankateacher is trending on my Twitter feed, as Tweachers are one of my inspirations. I mentioned in a previous post that, due to many factors, I very nearly left teaching two years ago. Then, to my utter surprise, I got a call from my current school asking if I was still looking for a job. I had questioned whether to accept, but to this day I think it was the best decision I have ever made.

I work in a school where I feel fortunate enough to count my colleagues among my closest friends. Not only that, I am in an environment where teaching talk is positive. It can be so easy to sit and moan and groan all day, and if you are in a more challenging school its probably cathartic to do that. But I am made to feel excited about teaching. I didn’t realise how valuable that was until it happened.

I now go to work feeling like I want to be a better teacher every day because of the inspiring people around me. We work in a 1:1 technology environment, and the enthusiasm of colleagues embracing this technology and really exploring its potential is simply amazing. I see people going above and beyond every day and doing it with a smile on their face without the slightest hint of resentment.

My department houses a head who leads by example and is one of the hardest working people I know. He is one of those people who just lives and breathes teaching, and students are consistently seen leaving his lessons in awe. He shares his successes and his failures, and throws himself in as one of the team. He is approachable and friendly, yet utterly professional and supportive when it matters. He is held in admiration by students and staff alike (though we can’t tell him too much, or his head won’t fit through the door!) and has shown me what a truly great leader looks like.

My department also houses a bunch of incredibly dedicated and hard working people. While I truly love them and am inspired by them all, one colleague in particular springs to mind. She fosters a love for learning and explores new ideas every day. Her dedication, organisation and spirit is something I admire and aspire to in my teaching, and it is down to her I revived this blog, have reactivated Twitter and and strive to be the best I can so I can give my kids even half of what she gives. I jokingly call her my work wife, but in reality I would be batting well above my weight.

I know this is an incoherent and sentimental post, and I know the people concerned will probably never read this. However, when #thankateacher is trending, I feel I should at least do my bit and thank the people who have made me fall in love with my profession, and make it my vocation.

Sincerely,

Thank you.

11. My Favourite Part of the School Day

I have two moments in the day which are my favourite. I love to get in early, and it’s a lovely quiet start to the day. Especially in winter, I like to go in and get a coffee whilst my computer boots up, then snuggle in my desk corner and catch up on emails and open presentations for the day. I also like it when my form group come in early and have little chats with me. I love these little 1:1s and I really feel like this had improved my relationship with my form no end.

My other favourite time is that moment when the last child in the the last lesson of your day leaves the room and you get that few seconds of silence before the meetings and the admin begins. I am fortunate enough to have a soundproof classroom door and the contrast of kids talking and utter silence is a beautiful thing at the end of a full day. I often had Y7 or Y8 at the end of a day too, which seems to make the maximum difference.

What’s your favourite moment of the school day? Thanks for stopping by!

2. Technology in the Classroom

Something I really want to utilise this year is the opportunities 1:1 technology in our school offers. It’s easy to brush technology to one side in English; after all, you don’t need a computer to learn reading and writing, right? But the thing is, we are training young people to go out and function effectively in the real world as working adults. And, in most jobs, communicating effectively with technology is an integral part of the day to day requirements.

Now, I’m not saying we should abandon pen and paper. I am a massive advocate of traditional methods, and am a proud owner of a paper planner and a guzzilllion Post-it notes in a paperless school. I do calligraphy, for crying out loud. But I also know the value of using online communication and the value of teaching with it. Our students use the internet to communicate every day. They use word processors, presentation software, email clients and social media to function. Tapping into this as a teacher is valuable for both parties.

So. This year I plan to get students blogging and vlogging. I plan to get them creating print and audio-visual media and considering how to make them effective. I even plan on doing a whole unit dedicated to generating an interactive e-magazine. I also plan to document it on Twitter and think about what works and what doesn’t when using the students’ iPad minis. Hopefully we will see an increase in creative writing engagement, an awareness of why correct grammar and syntax is important, and some enthusiasm for English which seems more vocational and tangible in terms of links to the workplace. I’ll keep you posted!

What are your technology based goals for this year? Are you thinking of setting up social media for your department? Are you using technology successfully? Share your ideas and links down below, and thanks for stopping by!

1: Goals for the School Year

What a way to start a challenge! I have thought a lot about my teaching over the summer and have a few things I want to change for the new year. This is the first time I have been in a school for a second full year, so I know the systems well and what works for the students and for me.

Establishing Routines

I know my classes and know the systems and pressure points in the year, so establishing routines from the first day is really important for me. Last year, I worked with the goal of learning, reflecting and coping with the year’s demands. This worked, but it meant things were established in the classroom and dropped or neglected a couple of months down the line. Rather than trying to do everything, I am going to work on the basis of doing the basics really well. I will have a marking schedule (which I already know will never work out, but I can try!), a feedback system and a homework schedule. Spending some time setting these up over the summer should save me some headaches when we go back. I hate to admit it, but I know I neglected one or two homework deadlines last year, and that took its toll on my time when I was marking stragglers’ pieces rather than moving on.

I’m also going to be  using the awesome ‘5 a day’ starter idea  that has been circulating on Twitter. The routine really appeals to me, and for my lower set Y10s will hopefully build confidence and retention.

Extra Curricular

I set up the Creative Writing Group last year, and whilst it was a success in some respects, I feel some aspects of it could be refined further. I hope to introduce non-fiction writing and journalism into the group and hopefully have it as a more holistic writing group. I also hope to use blogs more to showcase the writing and publicise it on social media.

I am also aiming to run and hold a Media Excellence Awards (MEAs) ceremony at the end of the year. We are a technologically advanced school and using that technology for creative means is something I am really passionate about. Students will be able to create film scores, short films, music videos and film posters, entering them for acting, directing, cinematography and a whole host of other awards. I am hoping we can get the hall set up in true Hollywood style, and will be hoarding trophies and decorations all year. I will be posting more updates on how this pans out later this term, as I plan to launch it at the start of November.

Social Media

We have a Twitter account, Youtube channel and blog as a department, along with a Media Studies channel and blog I run solo. I want to utilise these even more this year and encourage students to create their own blogs we can then share via these channels. It’s tough to find the time to do this stuff, but by allocating some PPA time each week I hope to keep on top of all of them. Getting students to create blog content also aids with literacy and creativity, so everyone’s a winner.

Balance

I look in the mirror at the end of the summer holidays and see some one who is well rested, well fed and relaxed. I know I feel good in myself and have taken the time to exercise, to reflect and be mindful. I am cynical about some of this stuff, but I know I think and work better when I am like this. At the end of a school term I don’t look like this. I look more tired, older and less…well. In short, I look burnt out. I do find it very hard to switch off in the holidays and rarely do for more than a couple of days, but I really want to work on this in the new school year to ensure I can give my all to the job when it matters, ie. when I’m stood in front of my classes. I know my mind will drift to work if I don’t give it anything else to do, so I’m making sure that I maintain exercising in some form every day (yoga, boxercise and running) to give my mind a chance to switch off, even if only for 15 minutes or so. I’m also getting back into illustration after taking a little break. I find when I am painting my mind switches off, so it seems like something therapeutic I can do of an evening. I want to try out watercolour and botanical illustration specifically, so I’ve been looking at inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest to prepare for that. Hopefully this plus some long baths with meditation will help me maintain my balance.

 

So they are my goals for the new year! What are your goals? Is there something really new you want to try out? Let me know, and share your goals or posts below. Thanks for stopping by!

Reflective Teaching Blogging Challenge

To kick off the new year, I thought I would attempt a blogging challenge. I am notoriously bad at these, so don’t hold out too much hope, but if anyone wants to join in then link your posts down below or under the relevant post so we can share ideas!

A Summer Reflection

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We are two thirds of the way through the summer holidays here, so now seems a good time to write a reflection of the year. I’m in a good mental space after having a month of more casual work hours, and have had some time to indulge in my creative projects outside of work.

This year has been a real rollercoaster. Around May last year, I was seriously considering leaving the profession. I didn’t feel good at my job and the pressures of the environment were compounding this. I was trying hard to be like the other teachers I saw and putting myself down if something didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to. I was getting more out of my writing and illustration at the time, so had pretty much decided to pursue those. I had course lined up and was going to go freelance. Teaching was not for me.

But then a new job and a new opportunity to make a fresh start came along. I decide to give it one more shot and to do things how I felt was best for me. Not to judge myself against others. Not to put myself down if something I trialled backfired. Give it a go, give it my all and hope for the best.

Fast forward to this year, and I am an entirely different person. I absolutely love my job (possibly too much) and am embarking on the challenge of a TLR in the coming academic year. I will have to manage people and make decisions affecting a whole key stage, which is terrifying and exciting all at the same time. I am also teaching Media Studies again which is my ultimate dream job, so things are looking good.

This has meant, however, my summer has been eaten up a little through preparation of resources and displays. I love this aspect of the job, so it’s no biggie, but I am a wary of the fact I have not had an awful lot of time switched off to work and this will hot me when we re back in the swing of things. Next year, I plan to spend a lot more of the holiday taking time for myself, so the evenings and weekends used up in term time don’t take their toll so much. I’ve learnt what works as a display and what is more work than it’s worth, so they will not be a task for next holiday at least. I will be posting pictures of my classroom in a later post, but I am really happy with the time I have spent on it this summer and I really feel like it’s a home from home. I have also spent some significant time getting resources ready for the new Media Studies A Level and GCSE English Literature courses, which has been really rewarding. I will also be writing a post about these soon, so if you are looking for something maybe that can help you out.

So, onto the summer. My husband has garnered a job as a Science Teacher and is SUPER excited, so he has been prepping for next year too and made some fabulous resources. I really do envy his classes; he has such great ideas for teaching scientific concepts. I was worried that us both being teachers would mean we never escape work, but it’s actually been lovely to share ideas and really understand each other’s workload and lifestyle. As with any job, you don’t truly get it until you do it and we have a respect for each other that naturally arises from walking in each other’s shoes.

As well as work, we have spent some lovely time with our friends, Dan and Lucy, and had a magical walking tour of London. I am a Harry Potter nut so we visited all the filming locations, as well as locations for Sherlock. We also got to see The Tempest in The Barbican, which was a groundbreaking production and truly mind-blowing. Closer to home, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with family, which is a luxury in term time. We have been boding with my little cousins: twins who turned one this summer. It’s been lovely to have the quality time to spend hours with them and the rest of our family without having curriculum and marking filling up our thoughts.

We have also done a bit of decorating. We moved into our first proper house just under a year ago, but with Stuart doing his PGCE and me adjusting to the new job we have not managed to do any decorating to make it our own. We decorated our bedroom and kitted it out Harry Potter style. It’s AWESOME! I really wanted that room to be a place we can go to when things get stressy and truly relax and switch off, and I think we have managed to achieve that.

Creative-wise, I have done a few things, but my focus on work has meant this has been neglected somewhat. I have done some crafting and scrapbooking to create my new Harry Potter themed teacher planner for next year, which has been really fun. I have done a little drawing, but just to keep my hand in practice really. I’m sure I’ll get back into it once I’m back at work, but I just wasn’t feeling inspired. I did do some significant outlining and planning for my second novel, and worked a bit more on my first. I’m struggling a little with tying all the ends together for my first, so I’ve been plotting for the second in the hope it will help something click. I’m really happy with the outlining I have done though, and it serves the extra purpose of being an example I can share with my Creative Writing Club when I’m back at school. You can read my first novel on Wattpad, and the second will also be serialised there, or you can check it out through the ‘witing’ tab on this blog.

So that’s the summer so far! Lots of other things have happened and we have had lots of adventures, but what’s been so great is that we can share them together. September is going to be intense for us both, but I feel like we are closer than we have ever been and things are just going to keep getting better no matter what life throws at us. It’s been a tough few years and things finally feel on track. Bring on the new term!