Work is sick. Here’s the cure | London Business School

Hmmmm.. A 4-day working week? I can definitely roll with that! An interesting article.


Teacher – live life on purpose

I’ll be honest, I’ve sneaked a peek at my emails during this summer holiday. Okay some of you might be horrified to see that I’ve done this or even disagree with the fact that this should even be a possibility during the ‘sacred’ 6-weeks. A very good friend of mine doesn’t  have work emails on her mobile phone, good for her. Hopefully one day I will bring myself to remove mine but actually it’s aids my productivity and so I’m okay with that. That is until it becomes something that I keep automatically doing. So I took the time out to put that right and put a status on my WhatsApp to let others know that I would only be doing things that would distract me from looking at my mobile phone. 

The purpose of this would be to also allowed me to spend more time doing things that do not require the use on my mobile phone, or anything digital for that matter. I’ve even instigated a screen-free day with my own children so I intend to try to model that, after writing this of course. So today is going to be a day that I focus on living my life on purpose and what do I mean? Well, I suppose it means having a plan and allowing it to be delivered as it can be without putting the pressure or stress on it been done and enjoying every part of the plan of the day to fix bits that may start with me just remunerating in my bed till 1030 in the morning, I love this and deciding I’m getting up and spending the day with my family. With two days to go till the A-level results day and having in my mind that I need to be in school the next day I’m going to live my life on purpose today, starting with getting stuck into something I never have time to do, painting our out house as I write, my son is badgering me right now to do it.  

Hopefully I’ll carry on living on purpose for the remaining weeks of this wonderful summer holiday enjoy your day everyone. So like me, I hope all teachers living life on purpose during this time. Let’s enjoy the time you consider ‘wasting’ or simply enjoying, who knows what treasures the day will bring.

Reflecting On … Accessing and Conducting Research.

As we spoke about encouraging a culture of action research st our SLT meeting today, I find this article very timely.

I’d really like to see the culture in my school become one where individuals take it upon themselves to conduct action research to ignite their passion whilst moving the school into unimaginable progress and success in the quality of teaching and staff and student relationships.

Source: Reflecting On … Accessing and Conducting Research.

Please protect our profession 

” How are we supposed to learn properly if the curriculum keeps constantly changing?” (My son, number 2, age 9)

Reading this article

as a fellow deputy head, I became overwhelmed with sadness. Not because I feel sad at the potential loss of yet another fellow colleague from the teaching army, but this time at the sheer challenge of being a parent of a child in the Guinea pig year 6.

Only two days ago I had to comfort a tearful 11 year old who happens to be my son, and reassure him that the testing and the results would not make me love him less. Nor that the testing or result define who he is or will even become but are just moments in his journey through this confused education system.

Suffice to say that I considered just then, that the pressure and anxiety that my son was exuding, could only have been as a result of the current climate in many primary schools across the country. There must be an ever growing number of teachers sharing the same feelings of exhaustion, confusion, disillusionment and pressure that is inexplicitly, unintentionally yet subliminally transferring to the children.

 This also means there must be several mothers (and fathers), like me, consoling, comforting, encouraging and protecting their pre-secondary school children in the hope that not too much damage is being done to their child, their friends and in fact their whole generation. What has become of educating the whole child? I wonder how many other teachers of year 6 children are feeling the strain and making for the exit doors?

 Can the government not see that the profession is heading for a crises? We need good teachers and good head teachers. The prospect of gaining this seems to be slipping by and by with each new day and every new change of mind , idea and initiative. Considering my aspiration to be a head, I would like to think that I would be bold enough to protect not just the children’s wellbeing and state of mind to endure changes ‘in the curriculum’ as my 9 year old stated, but also to protect the status and nobility of the profession, the high regard it ought to be held by and most  importantly, the teachers who on the most part, deserve to be held in high esteem for what they endure in and outside of the school day.

‘Oh marking, marking, wherefore art thou marking’

Picture1I have just read a brilliant and refreshing post by Pragmatic Education entitled ‘Marking is a hornet’. I agree with the thought process entirely around this very (now) emotive subject for teachers across the UK. However, I do feel that two major ingredients are liable for the chosen strategy and approach that senior leaders may take; context and the head teachers.
online marking articlesThis is what happens when you type in ‘marking, feedback and progress over time. There is a movement out there towards the eradication of unnecessary workload driven by an agenda to have every book in the country marked ‘how Ofsted’ would like. Perhaps here is a good place to remind us all what Ofsted actually say:

ofsted marking sept 2015

Schools have to rethink whether or not their activities are in the best interest of the students in their care or not but would it not also make sense to guarantee the wellbeing and emotional and physical capacity of the ones to enable that to happen, the teachers?

who likes marking

I am certain that any other readers of said article right now are either in a position of thought which says ‘now why doesn’t our senior leadership team take this approach?’ or ‘how can I convey the contents of this article in the best way, and sell it so our school moves towards this framework for ‘not’ marking and feedback and yet still make rapid gains for all stakeholders?’ It is true that marking pleases the least, the people who have to engage with it the most, teachers and students. Parents love marking, it shows that their child has had a few seconds, if not minutes of undivided teacher attention and highlights the errors or areas to improve that they could not possibly find the time to investigate let alone discuss with their children, sometimes after a hard day’s work or even just due to the level of academic challenge in some cases. SLT like marking because it shows that teachers are obedient, they are following protocol and they are giving the magic word… everyone say it altogether now, feedback. Ofsted, love marking, or as they term it ‘high quality written guidance’ as it shows them what best practice looks like so they can then tell one poor school with hard-working teachers what this high quality written guidance ought to look like.

Well I say, good for you Michaela school. I am sure you are setting the right tone and culture by having your position clearly written and framed around the school so that when our friends with the big ‘O’ do visit, they will see the implementation of your practice and hopefully the huge gains in student progress as well as staff well-being and ultimately, efficiency and effectiveness.

Context: when you are a school which is RI and Ofsted are due to call any second this makes this bold move rather tenuous.

I remember about a year ago reading also a post by @teachertoolkit deputy headteacher who quoted  @MrLockyer who said; “marking is broken” in an article entitled the ‘Marking Frenzy’. Teachers are in a marking frenzy but little argument can be found here when  evidence suggests that feedback features as the largest effect size on impact on student learning. So does this in turn translate equally into the number one use of teacher time? I am not so sure.

Influence Effect Size Source of Influence
Feedback 1.13 Teacher
Student’s prior cognitive ability 1.04 Student
Remediation/feedback .65 Teacher
Challenge of Goals .52 Teacher
Questioning .41 Teacher

This is further compounded by the statement in the teacher’s standards, teachers standards for feedbackwhich brings me to the head teacher. It would be a dream to announce to the teachers in my school, “no more marking everybody, we will simply use the tools we have online and in lessons to provide regular and high quality feedback to students and make sure they respond to this’. The key issue is consistency. Ensuring that the quality of this delivery and use of various strategies for feedback would need to be consistent and make an equal measure of positive impact on every learner. Of course it can be written into policy and even posted around the school but this does not translate automatically into practice but would take time. Time which an RI school does not have. It would take a very brave and courageous step from the HT, who is probably nervous at an impending inspection any minute, to allow this to happen at such a time. One could also say it would take a certain amount of trust.

So it looks like this nirvana of ‘no marking of books’ can be something for my school to aspire to for the future. It would be interesting to know what other RI schools would do.

For now, let’s get back to the joy of marking!


Treat them well

It’s taken me a while to write on here. Firstly because I am never sure which blog my reflection may refer to most. With two, that are supposed to serve different purposes, I often feel that there are some areas in which the lines are blurred. I find myself stopping in my tracks just when I feel inspired to write and then, suddenly, I cannot decide where it best fits. The one about the working mother or the one about my journey to headship. Oh well, on this occasion I have decided to post here. Hopefully it is the right decision.

On commencing, I recall a conversation with a friend who asked me the outright question “why do you want to blog?”. Suffice to say, I was a bit taken aback. Not wanting to seem as though I have a big ego, that I want attention but at the same time, needing to have a purpose and reason, I mustered up the response that it was an opportunity to vent… share… learn… network and grow. However, it did remain in my mind that the urge truly came when I had heard about a woman who had blogged and became a bestseller due to the number of followers she had gained. Okay, so I don’t assume that I will do the same, but I must admit, this did inspire me so I guess a little bit of my ego did get nudged to ‘just do it’ like Nike says.

Image result for nike

Indeed, it really has taken me a while to write here.

That being said, I have spent this entire week telling myself, I must blog. So much has happened, so many thoughts have meandered their way into my mind, from the early, groggy 6am mornings until the evening shifts when returning home to do my second job. What has stayed in my mind is the impact the early days have had and I hope to hold on to them for the entire academic year until the next summer holiday.

First came the 3 Rs introduced. Changing a culture in any school is no easy feat, especially a culture around the expectations and management of behaviours. However, my senior leader colleagues helped us all to sleekly drift into a self-reflective mode, allowing us to dig deep and consider our own behaviours when dealing with those of our students. Powerful and necessary I say. Every school should make the staff do this every now and again. Needless to say, by the end of the next day, we had a whole staff ‘gang’ ready to take on the most challenging with the agreed mantra: All our students will be ‘ready, respectful and responsible‘; chants in the first assemblies,  echoes in the form periods and shouting it ‘quietly’ around the school has somehow made its way to the lips of all staff on site! Brilliant.

 3 Rs

Secondly, was the phenomenal input my colleagues and I had when preparing for these first and second professional development (PD) days of the year. I wondered, ‘how many hours collectively  had gone into that?’ It was met with a resounding happy-clapping audience, not sure how many schools had that, but I believe it was because of the fact that every message was delivered with passion, meaning and consistently. Our key word for this year being that, CONSISTENCY.

This leads me nicely and finally, to the encouraging way in which the new head of English and her deputy have embraced the ethos of my school and come in to rescue a department which had two leaders leave in the words of ‘Tommy Cooper’,  “just like that”. And I am the lucky SLT to line manage them.

What a pleasant surprise to read the positive post from @thosethatcan #emmakell in her post (Re-)finding my groove … as a new colleague and fellow leader, joining our school. The fruit of our fantastic PD days, demonstrating the effect of helping others to  jump on board the bus… you know, the right people in the right seats and all of that good stuff? Let the networking begin as thanks to her, I will venture into the #WomenEd world of female leadership.

So it started like this, with a quote from the infamous Richard Branson that my direct report, the AHT used to kick start the day. I felt like a proud mother watching her daughter or son, presenting at an auditorium filled with famous onlookers;

“train people well enough so that they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

As DHT for teaching and learning, we know how demanding this can be, but even more pronounced when you have come from a school whose journey has been from outstanding, to the new framework version of ‘requires improvement’. Which means CHALLENGE ahead. Getting it right is not easy, it is always being viewed, renewed and up scaled. So much so that the expectation can become unprecedented in terms of the work-load and life balance.

So, it was a lovely surprise to see the article from a new colleague who was able to quote the quote but also to see how the PD had given way to laughter, enjoyment, participation, shared delivery, learning and growth, through PD by ourselves for ourselves, in order to increase the life chances of our children. Let’s face it, we all know of schools where achieving in the upper reams of 85%+ A* – C at GCSE is the norm. Though many wouldn’t dare to say this, and we don’t like to talk about what I will term the ‘disadvantage phenomenon’, we are aware that for reasons such as the demographic, the employment status of the parents or even the background and nature of the population of the high performing school,  the students may be in a more privileged starting position,  one which promotes academia, style of learning, understanding of the purpose of education in the deferred state and hence can sustain the drive towards such success and results.

Are all schools on the same playing field? Certainly not! So it becomes even more crucial in a requires improvement school, to lead the improvement in the quality of teaching, to narrow the achievement gap between those who ‘have’ and ‘have not’,  whilst ensuring that the well-being of the teaching staff remains paramount. This we achieved well through the high quality PD.

As a head teacher, I’d like to think that I will be in a position in which all my senior leaders know they have a responsibility to look after the staff (and themselves). If we can succeed at this, we can rest assured that they will be on the journey for the long haul rather than the short haul where many colleagues will face burn out, negativity and the inability to fulfil my vision of outstanding teaching and a culture of excellence.

We are going for ‘outstanding’ by the way. Remember, consistently good is outstanding so I figure if we fall back a bit, we will hit ‘good’.