And so it begins again

We are now nearly at the end of the summer holiday and I have to say, mine has been wonderful but I have now started thinking about going back to work. I even popped in today but my classroom still hasn’t been built (I have been assured that it will be done for Monday but I am not so sure) so didn’t stay around too long.

This will be a hard year – we were put into special measures at the end of last year and our Year 11 results were disappointing to say the least. I have received several emails from the Vice Principal suggesting ‘new’ resources for us to try. We have given these all to the students but they just don’t use them. Student motivation is our problem and we are struggling to find a way to combat it. Do you have any suggestions that have worked in your school?

Knowing that it will be tough, I have written myself some resolutions in my bullet journal that I can keep reminding myself of. Here goes:

Keep the work at work (as much as possible)

I have always preferred to work at home but I am fed up of lugging big bags of books back and forward so this year, I am going to try and keep as much of it at school as possible. This’ll mean staying later at work but hopefully, when I get home, I’ll simply be able to relax.

Don’t take it all out on the husband

I am a stickler for this. He is a teacher as well so it is easy to rant at him when I get home but I know that this isn’t fair so I am going to try and cut down this year.

Try not to answer back (too much)

I hate to be told something and just be expected to get on with it, whether I think that it is right or not. I am expected to do this a lot at work and have voiced my opinion on lots of matters. It doesn’t change anything so I am going to try and keep my opinions to myself.

Laugh

This is the most important especially with the circumstances that I am returning to. It is not going to be nice and I want to make sure that I remember to laugh, and make this around me (staff and students) laugh, on a daily basis.

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Focus Groups – What is the point?

This year, my school introduced staff focus groups. These occur once a half term (hourly meetings) and are led by either SLT or middle leaders. The different focus groups are 6th form, teaching and learning, behaviour, rewards and more able.

“Great!” I thought. “This is great; they’ll listen to staff and we will get a say in what goes on.”

Now, I am not saying that this is the case in every school but, to me anyway, it seems as though these have been introduced to give the illusion of the above but actually, none of what is discussed in these meetings actually goes any further.

I started the year at the behaviour meeting after working at the school for 18 months and noticing that behaviour was on the decline. It was the most popular meeting amongst staff and was led by the Vice Principal of the school. Most of the staff were in agreement that the behaviour of the students was getting worse, not drastically, but it needed to improve quickly. A member of SLT (on secondment) argued that students only misbehave when the lesson is dull. This obviously had staff up in arms and then we came onto the matter of equipment. I expect students to bring a pen or pencil to my lesson at the very least but again, was told that I cannot possibly expect this due to the background of some of the students. I used to lend equipment as it was easier but after having most of it broke or stolen, I stopped. If students can have the latest trainers, phone, etc. then I don’t think that asking them to bring a pen is unacceptable. I am an outspoken member of staff but I had lots of other staff come to me afterward moaning about what was said by those higher up the chain. These staff will not say what they think in front of SLT as they think that it will make them appear weak.

Needless to say, I was advised to go to the 6th form meeting next time round which I did. This meeting was merely discussing issues with students, teaching time, intervention taking place, etc. and wasn’t actually a focus group as we didn’t discuss anything going forward or any changes that would take place.

After attending a couple of the 6th form meetings, we hired a departmental lead of KS5 therefore, it made more sense for her to attend these meetings. So I went back to the behaviour management meeting. This time, no members of SLT were there but a newly appointed Head of Year was leading. Again, there were approximately 20 staff there from all different departments, along with cover supervisors and TAs. The first question, “What do you think of behaviour?” was greeted by silence by everyone except me who quite abruptly announced, “Getting worse!” Well that was it…for a whole hour, all staff were discussing the issues that we were seeing in classrooms on a day-to-day basis. We discussed how the detention system is not working as detentions aren’t getting escalated properly and a new member of staff correctly mentioned that on the first day in September, a member of SLT stood in front of us all and explained that we could not use the consequence system as a behaviour management tool. She interpreted this as she would look bad if she did actually apply consequences.

Anyway, to get to my point. In briefing this morning, the final Monday of a tough half term where staff need motivating, we were ‘told off’ for voicing our opinions at the focus group and told that we were wrong. Detentions were not being escalated properly by staff (we have never actually been told what happens at an SLT detention) and that we are fully supported by SLT but we must work as a team.

Therefore, it appears to me, at my current school, that focus groups are actually a means of spying on staff and that unless our opinions match those of SLT, we are completely wrong.

I may not attend next time as they appear to be a waste of time when I could be marking or working with students.

Have you had a positive experience of focus groups? Are they similar in your school? I hope that they aren’t the same everywhere and some SLT’s are using them productively. I’d be interested to hear your experiences.

The Dreaded Mock Week

Actually, it’s two weeks but who’s counting.

It started yesterday morning with a science exam. Following this, the students arrived to their maths lessons where I had prepared slides telling them the topics that would be on paper 1 (they sat it today). I was shocked by how few of them actually took note of the advice that we were offering. Bemused, I spoke to two of the students in my set 2, “I don’t understand how I can make it any easier for you; I am telling you what topics to revise for tomorrow” to which they replied, “You could just give us the answers miss!” Now I know that we all have our cheeky students and we shouldn’t compare year groups but thinking back to last year, my group would have had all the books out and asking me, and each other, all of the questions that they could think of. Is anyone else facing total apathy this year? I just don’t know how to overcome it; I try to be encouraging, be positive, relate topics to their interests but the best way that I can put it is that they simply do not care. I am not for one minute trying to tar all of our year 11 students with the same brush but I can assure you that it is only a small minority who are willing to actually go out of their way in order to succeed. How do you overcome the lack of willing, the lack of independence?? (Answers on a postcard or in the comments at the bottom)

Anyway, after speaking to a few after the first paper this evening, all agreed that it was horrible. We gave them the Pixl Curve paper from last June as our school has just bought into this. To me, it looked a lot less complicated than the Edexcel papers that have been released but still much harder than last year. Did anyone of you do this last year? I would love to hear how your students got on and what you did after them.

Summer Holidays: Do They Really Exist?

We are now into the second week of the summer holidays where teachers get to sit back and relax for a whole six weeks. Like that really happens!

Last week, my OH (he is a teacher too) and I took a break in Amsterdam which was awesome. We had a fantastic time and it is a great city that I would recommend to anyone. This week, so far, I have been on the hunt for wedding dresses (still haven’t found one) but I will be working again this evening. I managed a whole 11 days before getting back to it and I am sure that many of you will have already been working this ‘holiday’.

The plan for tonight is creating the numeracy resources for KS4 form time. I would like to thank @CorbettMaths as I have gone with the 5-a-day idea, differentiated so that all students in a form can access at least some part of the task. The difficulty that we are having is that some staff will not be able to access the questions, even at the foundation end these days. This makes it difficult to be useful to all students. We don’t want them to be having a problem and their form tutor not being able to help them but think the we are going to have to just see how it goes. I have, of course, included the answers on the slide.

What do your KS4 students do in form, if anything? I would love to hear other suggestions.

GCSE Maths: Done!

And relax!! Well a little bit anyway. Personally, I still have 5 maths exams to go (2 GCSE Further Maths, Core 3, Core 4 and Decision 1) but the biggie is out of the way.

I have never seen so many students leave an exam hall with a smile on their face as I have today. They came out beaming apart from the ones who haven’t worked very hard and I was so pleased. They rushed to me to tell me the questions and the answers that they had got, the relief after the first paper and the pure joy at seeing a stem-and-leaf as the first question. Obviously, I was thrilled until the dread of grade boundaries sets in. “They all found it easy so it must be a high grade boundary. Do we think C will be higher than 65 for the first time?” Then we sat and realised that there is nothing we can do about that so there is no point worrying about it – it doesn’t stop the worrying though!

My HoD and I went to speak to our Principal and VP, discussing the paper and our thoughts on 3LoP, etc. We realised, hand on heart, we honestly couldn’t have done anymore for the kids and the majority of them have given us everything over the past couple of weeks. They have been an absolute credit to the school and we just hope that all of the hard work pays off. We have worked them hard in lessons, made them stay on Wednesday evenings, bribed them into Saturday and holiday schools (McDonald’s works wonders) and they have done it all without a fuss. So many of them came up to us thanking us today and that is appreciated more than they will ever know. Teachers up and down the country have worked tirelessly preparing students for their exams and now all that we can do is sit and wait.

For me, it is on to A level and Further Maths but I have definitely earned that glass of wine that I am going to have tonight. Cheers!

 

 

Exam Stress: It’s Not Just The Kids

I haven’t written on here for a while as I have simply been too busy; teaching 3 exam groups takes its toll (year 11, 12 and 13).

I am starting to get really nervous. My 11s sit first and we are nearly in single figures. I teach top set and have had most of them since I started the school last January. They have worked so hard and together, we have come so far. One student was getting U’s when I started and yesterday, he got his third A in a row. Proud is an understatement but I just hope that they can show it in the 3.5 hours that it matters.

They will also be in on Saturday again as they are so determined to succeed and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank some people whose resources I have used repeatedly. JustMaths has provided our homework all year along with ‘more interesting’ revision resources such as the fabulous Connect 4, Whodunnit?, etc. AccessMaths has also been an invaluable resource along with Miss B’s resources and Corbett maths 5 a day. Thank you so much for providing us all with these excellent resources and I just wanted you to know how grateful fellow teachers are that you find the time to create these and put them in the public domain!

Good luck to everyone’s exam students!!

2016: Teacher Resolutions

One more day before we all head back to work. Some may have a training day or two but I am straight back in and will be seeing my year 9’s at 8:45 on Monday morning. I still have no idea what I am meant to be teaching them but I have done all the marking that I brought home (it only took me two weeks to get round to it).

I was thinking about resolutions and thought that I should have some for my professional life so here they are:

1) Keep up to date with my marking

I know that this seems obvious but all too often, it is so easy to get behind and that is when I find it really difficult to motivate myself. I try to mark each set of books once a week (a different set each night) and I find that this keeps it manageable. It took me a long time to learn this but at the minute, I seem to be on top of it.

2) Go back to being adventurous

In my first 4/5 years of teaching, I would try all different styles of teaching and learning and I loved it. I remember having a lesson with shops and shopkeepers all around my room and the kids loved it. I have lost this recently due to different pressures but I want to get back to trying new things so I’ll keep you updated. If you have any ideas, please get in touch.

3) Not moan about CPD sessions

This will be the hardest by far. I have been teaching for over 7 years and am yet to attend a useful training session as they all seem to be literacy based. I am not going to voice my opinion and will even try to nod and smile politely whilst I am there.

Do you have any teaching resolutions?