I’m on the final leg of an epic journey from the UK to Australia. It’s not that epic in terms of what’s gone on, but as this if the 4th flight, it’s an exhausting trip. It’s left me with plenty of time to consider some of my goals for next year. These are all classroom-based goals (I have other professional goals, as well as personal – but this is not the platform for those). Some of them are clearly achievable – I can specify a plan for achieving them. Some of the goals are a little more abstract and will need more work to incorporate on a regular basis.
I saw this on Twitter earlier in the week but can’t remember who tweeted it. Apologies for magpie-ing the idea, whoever it was! Essentially I want students in my KS3 English classes – and potentially my form – to give a quick chat about a book they’re reading at the time. I’ll give students a week or two as a head’s up, so that they can borrow a book if need be. I have 80 minute lessons, so spending 5 minutes on this has multiple benefits – it will help students work on their speaking and listening skills, increase their reading (and hopefully get them interested in a wider variety of books), and with any luck improve their organisational skills as they need to be prepared!
Paper airplane challenge
Essentially, I’ll set up a big archery-style target, and students need to create a range of paper airplanes and aim them from a designated point. I think I can make this work as a team challenge in one of my Skills for Learning lessons, but I might even give it a spin in English if I can somehow shoehorn in some learning. I’m thinking of perhaps putting some questions on the zones of the target so that students have to answer them based on what they hit. There’s some STEM work involved in the design of the airplanes, but I can build in some group work skills as well. Also? It’ll be fun.
Greeting kids at the door
I’m guilty of not always doing this. It’s funny, really – I always do it with Year 7 Skills for Learning groups
(unless we start with music, in which case I’ve whacked a sign on the door to tell them to come straight in and follow the instructions on screen), but I am often sitting at my desk before an English lesson and tap on the window to tell them to come in. I meet and greet from my desk, so it’s not like they’re completely ignored, but I think making the effort to say hello to them individually as they come inside is worth it.
I’m starting a trial at my school in September for this. I’ve included two Maths teachers, two Computer Science teachers, the Head of Art and myself. It’s something my head is crazy about but I’ve held back implementing much of anything to do with it due to a lack of infrastructure. Being at Pedagoo London and listening to Mike Gunn talking honestly about overcoming the issues they’ve faced has given me the impetus I needed to kick start a trial.
Recording verbal feedback
This one came from the SSAT Achievement Show. I was at a session where teachers were talking about the impact that recording verbal feedback had on students’ attainment. On top of being a time saving process, and on top of it being useful should Ofsted rear their heads, students had the feedback shared with them individually (which I can do using Google Drive as we have GAfE) and had to work through a criteria sheet as they listened to the feedback. I don’t remember if this was part of the presentation or not, but I’ll also be getting students to summarise the feedback and their targets in their own words. This will help them to process the feedback and hopefully it’ll sink it a little more than when I write copious notes in their books.
Spending time on the positives
It’s so, so easy to get bogged down in negativity in schools. Part of that is the politics of education, and
part of that is the fact that I think school staff spend so much time around children that we tend to act like them at times! I’ll only be in school three days per week from September, so I want to make that precious time as positive as I can. I’ve seen on Pinterest plenty of ideas where you write down something positive from each day and put it in a jar, and at the end of a month/year you read them back and remind yourself of how good things have been. I think I’m going to try something similar. I’m also going to try to avoid getting involved in the negative talk. To be honest, I’ll be so busy that it will probably be easy!
I’ve written about using Stage Interactive before. I want to use it a lot more this year, so that I can model not only good writing but good thinking to students. I’ve used it a fair bit for modelling, but John Tomsett reminded me at Northern Rocks (which is also written about in this post and this one) that modelling your thinking can be really useful for students. Show them how you’d tackle an exam answer physically, instead of just in theory. Show them how you’d proofread your own work – which is something I have to both teach and do with my own writing all the time. I want it to be an embedded part of my practice instead of a bolt-on when I remember it.
Teaching character as much as I teach English
Towards the end of the last school year ‘teach the whole child’ became a bit of a catchphrase with me. I dislike the idea of pigeon holing the knowledge and skills that I share with students in my English lessons, and I was starting to get frustrated with the element of surprise they had whenever I showed them that I knew about other subjects. The strange thing is that I taught them all in Year 7 when we did cross-curricular projects, so they *know* I can teach other subjects, but they end up pigeon holing me as much as anything else. I want to not only teach my students that their skills are transferrable across lessons, but I want to build on the social and moral aspects of teaching and learning. I want to ensure I have community links in my lessons and give students a sense of the wider world and their role in it. I want to teach them that being a good citizen is as important as being able to spell (if not more so).
Talk less, listen more.
Part of this is because I know I talk too much. Students know I talk too much and freely get me off on a tangent, especially when it’s the last lesson of the day. Sometimes that’s still really productive, but often we’re having a laugh and not necessarily focussed on the work!
I want to listen more to the students. They’re amazing tiny humans, or not so tiny in Year 11, and they have as much to teach me as I do them. I want them to direct the learning as much, if not more, than I do. Part of that is about building independence, part of that is to do with the flipped learning trial, and a lot of that is about getting them engaged with their learning – with them having ownership of it. I want them to learn because they want to do it, and not because I’m harping on about targets.
So there you have it. It’s a work in progress, it’s a bit of blue sky thinking mixed with cold hard reality, but it’s something of a manifesto for my teaching next year. Hopefully it’s as much about my teaching as my learning.
Now it’s time to kick back, fire up the Kindle and wish that the last hour and a half of this journey was already over.