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.

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!

Friday 5: Alternative Feedback Methods

Being an English Teacher is tough for many reasons, but among the teaching community the primary source of contention is the marking. The never ending ever growing truly relentless marking.

Exam season seems to bring out the sadism of the job. Just how much red penning can you handle before you crack? It isn’t just English, but from my personal experience the constant correcting of repetitive mistakes and hours writing developed feedback can take its toll: especially when students get books or papers back and all they look at is the number, or the letter, or nothing at all. Certainly not your carefully crafted comments.

As I teach a lot of KS3 and my priority has to be shifted to examination classes this term, I have spent some time collating methods which reduce the teacher workload when it comes to marking books, exams or other forms of student work. These are not new or groundbreaking but they are things I didn’t think of until someone mentioned them or I discovered them online. I am still hunting for more ideas, so if you use something which works well please let me know through Twitter or by commenting below!

 

1. Whole Class Feedback Sheets

This gem of an idea came from @RSillmanEnglish, a fab colleague and fiend of mine. She saw it on Twitter and decided to try it with her GCSE exam class. I looked into it and became hooked. It gives you the opportunity to provide detailed feedback, praise and address concerns without writing the same thing fifteen times. I designed my own class feedback sheets with STAR (Solo Time for Achievement through Reflection. DIRT for most people) tasks so the next lesson I had with the students was already planned and differentiated accordingly. I love them so much, I even developed a student feedback and reflection sheet for my exam classes. You can download any of this stuff for free on TES

2. Stamping Approach

This has worked pretty well for my younger classes, but requires a bit of set up. My students have written the writing success criteria for any piece of work in their books, using their two hands as a key for the two main aspects of writing: content and accuracy. I have a stamp with two hands on it. All I need to do now is to skim read their drafts and RAG each of the fingers of the hand. Students can then look back at the hands and work out what they need to work on. Quick but detailed, and students love having little hands stamped on their work (for some weird reason).

3. Highlighting

This is a tried and tested method which works well with lower attaining classes as it focuses them a little more. It was first brought to my attention by my Head of Faculty and I have been using it ever since. We use an orange highlighter (colours are, of course, interchangeable) to run through work and highlight any errors. This can be done when books are collected or, more conveniently, can be done whilst students are drafting. Students then need to address each highlighted word/mark/area and tick when they have done so. This can then be verified by the teacher. As well as this, we use a green highlighter to identify some great moments in the work. A confidence boosting DIRT/STAR task can then be to get the student to justify why we have highlighted the particular line.

4. Student Selector

This is not a feedback method as such, but feeds into one nicely. It’s as simple as it sounds: select three to five students at random at the end of each lesson. I do it on a fortnightly cycle so I end up marking everyone’s book in a fortnight. I then highlight or do a simple book check checklist to see if they are on track. The fact it is random means it keeps everyone on their toes, but it also means you are not taking in 30 books to mark in an evening. Instead you have a maximum of 25 and, if you keep up the routine, a maximum of two weeks’ work to check through. On busy weeks, I simply stick a red, yellow or green dot on the front of the book to indicate how the student is getting on. I then have a DIRT/STAR card which corresponds to the colours, getting the student to reflect on work and presentation and improve them. This is often set as a homework or starter task.

5. Kaizena

This is another fabulous discovery from the wonderful @RSillmanEnglish and is a really exciting way to give feedback. It is a web and downloadable app and allows you to leave comments on student work, which is uploaded from a digital document or a photograph. But here’s the really exciting bit. It allows you to leave voice annotations and links to video tutorials. This means you can explain corrections, rather than having that frantic feedback lesson. You know, where you feel pulled in all directions by students who cannot be bothered to read you comments, or who don’t understand your illegible scrawl. Considering we make video tutorials for students already, it also makes sense to be able to link them to work where the content is needed and will directly help the student to improve. Best of all, it syncs with Google Classroom. Winner!

 

These are the methods I am trialling and experimenting with so far. I hope to update this post with pictures once I am back in school and can get hold of some good examples. I hope this is useful and you can take something away from it – what do you do to alleviate marking workload? What methods work best for yoU? Let me know, and, as always, thanks for stopping by!

Friday 5: Apps for the Classroom

I love a bit of technology in the classroom. For some reason, it really seems to click with students and some of the most trying students can be coaxed into producing decent work if they are presented with a keyboard and mouse. Maybe this is because of the novelty factor, or maybe it’s because I’m not asking them to handwrite things. And maybe that’s me being cynical. In any case, technology is more and more becoming a regular feature of our classrooms. Continue reading “Friday 5: Apps for the Classroom”