Monday, 26 October 2015

Questions for music teachers.

As some already know, I may well be teaching a few hours of KS3 Music from January.  It's not confirmed yet but music is the closest to a second subject outside of MFL I have got and it's something I'm keen to try - with the right support of course.  Of course Twitter is the first place I turn to for these sorts of things, so the following are things I would like to find out from music teachers.  If I get enough responses I'll write up a summary blog.

To give you some background about me.  I am in my second year of teaching Spanish and French but my interest in music comes from my involvement in music at school.  I studied music up to A level and took grades in Saxophone and music theory.  I have some keyboard skills but they are not fantastic!  I've had involvement in school bands and choirs, both participating and leading but not for some years now!

The questions are listed below, please comment or tweet me with your responses to some/all of the questions.  They can also be found at the following address if you find that easier:

1) What would be your top tip for someone teaching KS3 music for the first time?

2) What would you say are the unique points about teaching music in comparison to other subjects?

3)What would you describe as the biggest challenges in teaching KS3 music?

4)What do you find most enjoyable about KS3 music?

5) What preparation would you recommend I do between now and January?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

#happyNQT100 2015 Launch (#HappyTeacher100)

After so many people joined in with #happyNQT100 this year I have decided to keep promoting it, despite the fact that I'll no longer be an NQT myself.  For anyone that has not heard about #happyNQT100 yet, fear not, I am about to explain all.

During the Easter holidays this year I decided to start the #100happydays challenge, something I had done during university and never completed.  The #100happydays challenge is about finding something that has made you happy every day.  I took this idea and came up with #happyNQT100.  This project allowed NQTs on twitter to not only share the high points from every day but to support each other through the harder times. I blogged here at the end of the summer term to showcase a selection of tweets from 2014/15 participants.

Who is #happyNQT100 relevant to?
#happyNQT100 is of course aimed at NQTs but there is no reason that teachers from all levels shouldn't join in.  May I suggest #HappyTeacher100 ?

Why should I join in?
Last year participants remarked that taking part in #happyNQT100 made them look much more positively on their day and felt better as a result.  It also gave them a great chance to build a network of both new and experienced teachers for support.

How do I join in?
Follow @HappyNQT so we can retweet your comments and pictures and get tweeting with the tag #happyNQT100 or for non-NQTs #happyteacher100.
No need to spend too much time on your tweets and photos - just show everyone something that has made you happy that day.  The aim is 100 days, but can you do longer?

I'll be dropping in to host #NQTChat and #UKEdchat at the start of the year and returning to #NQTChat during the year to check in on how things are going.

Please, pass on the word, bring some NQTs to twitter and let's see if we can have 100 happy days (or longer) together.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Books, books, books.

For some reason I decided it was a good idea to pick up all my education books from their various shelves and put them on the floor.  I think it was in the name of organisation (failed)... or finding a book I wanted for my essay?  I'm not totally sure if I'm honest, but either way they're still right there on the floor where I put them a few days ago.

Looking at them has made me think about how the books I have bought have changed since the start of my PGCE, through my NQT until now the start of my MA.  The books I have could probably be grouped into four or five categories, and that is how I am going to talk about them.

Books from my PGCE reading list

1) Learning and Teaching in Secondary Schools - Viv Ellis
2) Issues in Modern Foreign Languages Teaching - Ed. Kit Field
3) Teaching Modern Foreign Languages at Advanced Level- Ed. Norbert Pachler
4) Learning to Teach in the Secondary School - Capel, Leask and Turner
5) Learning to Teach Modern Foreign Languages in the Secondary School

Did I read all of these?  Not a chance!  As far as I remember I read number 1, glanced at 2 and 3 once or twice and used 4 and 5 for my assignments.  Worth buying?  Nope, I'm not adding up what I paid for them...

Books I was given

1) Successful Induction for New Teachers - Bubb
2) The Dyslexia Friendly Teachers' Toolkit - Pavey, Meehan and Davis
3)Reflective Practice for Teachers - Sellars.

I was sent these three by Sage before I started my NQT year and asked to review number 1.  I did that and I had the intention of reading the other two but I never did.  I think at the end of my PGCE I was fed up of the word reflection anyway!

Books I bought during my PGCE and early in my NQT

1) Getting the Buggers into Languages - Amanda Barton
2) 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers, Outstanding Lessons - Ross Morrison McGill
3) 100+ Ideas for Teaching Languages - Nia Griffith
4) Getting the Buggers to Behave - Sue Cowley
5) 100 Things Awesome Teachers Do - William Emeny
6) How to Survive your First Year in Teaching - Sue Cowley
7) How to Teach - Phil Beadle

These books were good references for ideas, suggestions and that boost from time to time when I felt like I didn't know what I was doing or why I was doing it!  One or two of them I'd consider useful to refer to again but they're not the sort of thing I see filling my shelves in the future.  I get most of this sort of support from twitter these days.

Books I am buying now

1) Teacher Geek - Rachel Jones
2) Don't Change the Lightbulbs - Rachel Jones
3) Teacher Proof - Tom Bennett
4) Why Don't Students Like School - Daniel Willingham
5) What if everything you knew about education was wrong - David Didau

I will admit that I haven't got round to finishing all of these yet, 4 I have had a glance at and then things got in the way and 5 I bought just as I needed to start my MA reading so all I have managed is the foreword!  These are much more like the sort of thing I am reading now, especially the latter three.  More critical, really thinking about teaching and education as opposed to just my classroom practice.  That said I needed a refresher and so have really enjoyed the first two books on the list.

Books recommended for MA lectures or for my assignment:

1) Seven Myths About Education - Daisy Christodoulou
2) The Expert Learner - Gordon Stobart
3) Knowledge and the Future School - Michael Young and David Lambert

Number one on the list could easily be in the previous category, I've been wanting it for a while and the fact that it was required reading for a lecture was just a great excuse!  The other two are by lecturers at IoE and being used towards my essay - which I don't intend to talk about until it's done.  All I will say is the module is called 'What is Education?' broad enough for a title?!

Then until now....

The picture somewhat gives the impression that I'm moving towards the light...

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

#HappyNQT100 - 100 days later.

Just over 100 days ago I started the hashtag #HappyNQT100, I blogged about it here.  When I began I thought I'd be the only one, or that I'd have a couple of people join me if I was lucky.  I was not expecting the response that came my way.  Quickly I had messages from between 20 and 30 NQTs in support of the idea and saying they'd join in.  Of course, many of these dropped along the way but a core group stuck it out until the end.

Before I reflect on #happyNQT100 and where it goes next, here are a selection of our 100 days:

'Teacher friends' from my PGCE are visiting, cannot wait to offload some stress and share our progress over some cocktails #HappyNQT100

There were many many more to choose from but there would be far too many to put them all here!  Sorry if your tweet didn't make it or if some people feature heavily - I've just picked a few of the best.

What #happyNQT100 has appeared to do is to help NQTs find the positives in every day, even on the days where it wasn't obvious.  Here are some of the comments:

Some people even said they intend to carry on as it so was so positive.  I'm so pleased that I could start something like this and see it grow and affect so many people.  Wellbeing/work-life balance/stress relief - whatever you want to call it, is so important for teachers at all stages of their career, so why not start as you mean to go on?

So where does #HappyNQT100 go next?  Despite not being an NQT myself any more I will be promoting #HappyNQT100 throughout the year and hoping to get lots of new NQTs on board, starting at whatever point they wish.  I really believe that it's just the sort of boost NQTs need and helps you to build your support network.  I'll also be speaking about it at PedagooHamps in September.

Take a look at #HappyNQT100 on twitter yourself if you need any more evidence!

Looks like we already have our next participant!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My #summer10

So I hadn't blogged for ages and now I'm writing again less than a week after last time.  This evening browsing on Twitter tonight I read this blog by Rachel Jones.  Having just finished reading her latest book I decided I'd join in too.  I won't explain it here, you can read the post yourself. Without further ado, here's my #summer10

1) Enjoy being a student again!  No, I don't mean the nights out, lie ins and takeaways... I want to get really stuck into my masters, especially these next two weeks of lectures.  I'm looking forward to learning again and getting back into studying education.

2) Read a book.  I know most of the reading I will be doing over these next 6 weeks or so will be to do with the Masters, but I would like to try and read something else just for myself.  Ideally I'll go for something not education related but I'll not promise that one!

3) Get clued up on Growth Mindset.  Having heard it mentioned loads at a conference last week I mentioned Growth Mindset to the assistant head for Teaching and Learning.  She's really interested and wants to meet me about it in September so I need to know what I'm talking about!

4) Do some exercise.  A while back I bought a collection of exercise activities for the Wii - dancing, yoga, cardio etc.  I've used them... once?

5) Learn more about photography.  I invested in a new camera last month, a step up from the last, but I don't feel I know enough about photography to get the most from it.

6) Get out and about with the camera.  I'll need to put the knowledge to good use!

7) I'll try and get more adventurous with my cooking.  Of late we're getting much better at the sorts of things we cook but I'd like to get better with ingredients and knowing how to do things.

8) Catch up with friends.  With so much going on I know I've not stayed in touch with my friends very regularly.  It's easier with some than with others but I'll be able to be a bit more flexible with my time for a few weeks.

9) Enjoy my holiday and explore.  I'm going on a cruise with my parents and we're stopping in a lot of Spanish cities.  Being able to speak the language gives me more confidence to explore and I should make the most of it.

10) Don't spend the whole summer thinking about September.  Obviously there are all sorts of bits and pieces that I will need to make sure I have ready for September, especially with the Masters and other things I'm getting involved in, but I need to make sure I don't spend my time worrying about or planning for September.

I'll blog again just before term starts to update you.  Please, if you blog - and if you don't then it's not too late to start, maybe try @staffrm - please join in with #summer10 !

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The NQT year is over, but it doesn't stop here. Reflections on Career Planning CPD

Last week my mentor wrote my final report and signed me off for my NQT year.  I expected it to be more exciting to be honest, instead I just put a tick in a digital box, added my comments and off it went.  I'm not going to write one of those posts talking about everything I have done this year, I've already used this blog as a way of reflecting on those things anyway.  I don't want to draw this blog to a close as it is something I enjoy and truly think helps me to improve.  Instead, I am going to write about my plans as I move into my career post-induction.

On Friday I attended a conference on Career Planning for teachers in their first 3 years of teaching.  It has left me with a lot of food for thought, some of which I am going to share now.  There were a range of sessions to choose from and I attended talks on Moving to Department Head; Getting Noticed for the Right Reasons; and Progression through the Pastoral Route.  The first keynote speaker was Jackie Beere who I found to be particularly inspirational and a great way to start the day. From her speech I have started to read into growth mindset, learning to learn and metacognition.  These are all things I have heard about before but never really looked into.  In fact, I've got so interested in this area that I've emailed my headteacher to discuss how it could be brought to our school.  My push for contacting him also came from Jackie and the other speakers.  Each one of them emphasised how important it is to volunteer for things and put yourself out there, I'll come back to that in a bit.  Jackie told us all about her career and how she has got to where she is today, she's a very impressive lady and really interesting to listen to, in fact I was disappointed when she had to cut off her speech as she was over running.  I could've listened to her for much longer.

The other keynote was by Alex Reppold, billed as NQT of the year 2008 and the youngest head teacher in the country, a tagline he was very keen to correct.  He was indeed NQT of the year, in Hull, and is no longer the youngest head having just been knocked off the spot by a 27 year old.  Regardless of all that I found his speech equally motivational.  Alex stressed a point also mentioned by some of the other speakers about 'getting to good and then working out what you want to be outstanding in'.  Alex talked about his personal experience of getting 'in the know' about a particular topic or issue and then sharing it with teaching colleagues and SLT.  He said that before you know it, you're known for doing that and become the go-to person.  Over time if a role opens up that is related, you're likely to be the one considered for it.  'Do something, share it and people will notice'.  Finally Alex talked about not being 'a mood hoover'.  He admits that this is not a concept he came up with but I really liked it and it's definitely worth a mention.  We all know a mood hoover.  They're the person that dismisses all the new ideas, finds obstacles to everything and is resistant to change.   Alex stressed the importance of not being a mood hoover.  That's not to say you can't question change, in fact you should.  Ask questions, give suggestions and always try things out rather than just saying no!

The key points that I've taken away from the day are:

  • Volunteer and just say yes.
  • Find what you're interested in and become an expert in it.
  • Do something and share it.
  • Focus your vision, work out what you're aiming for and the experience you need to get there.
  • Experience does not need to come in the form of a paid role, find something relevant to what you want to do.  Can't find it? Start it yourself.
  • Get involved with the good bits - especially with the students you don't teach.
  • Keep up to date with everything that is changing, make yourself the person in the know.
So now it's the end of my NQT year!   Slowing down and relaxing sounds like a good idea, right?  Nah, not for me thanks.  My Ma Education starts next week and I have loads of reading to do, I have a copy of David Didau's #wrongbook next to me that I'm itching to read and I've got lots of exciting things going on at home.  I'll slow down next summer.  Maybe.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Keeping up the momentum? Starting the new academic year in June.

On Monday, most students and teachers in the UK will return for the last 7 weeks of the school year.  We won't though, we're starting our new academic year.  New timetables, new classes and new courses for some students.  It's exciting, and as an NQT coming to the end of my first year I'm looking forward to the change.  Starting with new classes is just what I need around now.  I've learned plenty over this year and I'm ready to have the chance to start afresh and establish some of the routines that I've not been able to so far.  However, I'm still in two minds about the change at this time of year.

I believe that the logic behind the change is to keep the momentum going throughout the year rather than allowing things to drop off during the summer term.  It certainly has it's advantages.  With no year 7 or year 12 I am gaining a lot of time over the next 7 weeks that I can use to plan and prepare.  I didn't have any year 11 and only a few hours of year 13 so I didn't stand to gain much time on the previous timetable.  I hope this gained time will mean I can cut down the amount of work I need to do over the summer break.  With 2 weeks taken up with lectures for my first Masters module and sometime needed after that for my first assignment I want to be as prepared as I can be for September.  So from a  personal point of view, this year the change should be really positive.

That said, I know that it will be strange for any new staff starting in September.  Taking over classes that have had 7 weeks with someone else.  They will have settled into ways of working that suited the last teacher and already have books with their names on.  I know this happens to an extent anyway, but certainly as a new teacher last September I felt like I was stepping into someone else's shoes mid-year rather than starting anew.

So, what does it mean for the students?  It means that year 9 students moving into 10 are getting started on their GCSE courses earlier and in theory getting into new habits and routines before September.  It won't make much difference for 12 into 13 as starting the A2 course after the AS exam is pretty common practice.  The 7s are excited about becoming year 8 even though academically speaking I'm not convinced of the difference they'll notice and the same goes for 8s into 9.  For the 10s into 11 does that mean the pressure of their final year is going to start earlier and last longer?  Will it give them extra drive or will it have the opposite effect?

I'm not sure what differences I'm expecting to see, will we still have the 'end of the year' feeling or will it be overshadowed?  We still have Sports day, Sponsor day, trips planned and year 7 induction days, so it is bound to feel like the summer term still.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone else that starts their new year next week or anyone that has a comment to share on this practice.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

NQT- Not Quite There - but only 7 weeks to go!

I can't quite believe I'm already at the point in the year where the end of my induction is in my sights.  The finish line is so close now I can almost touch it. In some ways I'll be glad to see the back of the NQT year and the half termly observations, standards tracking, target setting and report writing but in other ways the NQT status serves as both a safety net and a comfort blanket. I know that in September I will still have great support from my department and I'm not being pushed out to sea to get by alone, I have no doubts about that, but there is still something significant about not being an NQT anymore. Gone is the 'I'm an NQT, I didn't know that' safety net, I've not had to use it very much but much like a real safety net, it's reassuring to know it's there. Gone is my 10% extra time, although I'm lucky to be a bit under allocation on our new timetable (we start in June, more on that in a minute). Finally, gone are the NQT meetings where we can compare notes and share ideas.

Something that comes along with the end of my NQT year is the start of my Masters.  At the same time as I take on a greater teaching load and take off the NQT stabilisers I am taking on a new challenge.  As soon as term is over I start two weeks of lectures at the Institute of Education for the first module of my Masters in Education. I'm really looking forward to it, but I'm aware of how tough it is going to be.  This year more than ever I'm going to have to keep totally on top of my planning and marking in school because my time at home will need to be dedicated to reading and assignment writing. There are a number of people that think I'm mad but I firmly believe that if I don't do it now I never will, no time like the present. As I've already got some masters credits from my PGCE this course should only take me a year, if it goes as fast as the last few have it'll be over and done with before I know it!

As I mentioned earlier we start our new school year in June. I believe the idea is that we're cutting out some of the 'dead time' at the end of the summer time and keeping momentum going.  This means that for the next 7 weeks we have no year 7 or year 12, excellent for me as it means I have loads of gained time for planning for September.  I'm looking forward to the change, I think it's just what I need this year to propel me through to the end.  I have mostly new classes so I've got the chance to start a clean slate with students that don't know me. I can apply all the things I've learned over the year to get new routines that I'd not established early enough on as I'd have liked with my old classes. I can keep on top of marking and behaviour and have more of an idea of what is ahead of me.  At least that's the dream, let's see how reality turns out!

So to all the other NQTs out there, we have 7 school weeks left, good luck!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

#100happydays take two! #happyNQT100

With term starting tomorrow I've decided to take another hit at #100happydays.  For anyone that doesn't know, the #100happydays challenge aims to make people take more notice of the things that make them happy in their lives.  When this challenge was launched 71% of people failed stating lack of time for their reason, I was one of those people.  Well, lack of time and just forgetting to do it.  I found my pictures to be repetitive and fairly mundane.  This time around I am intending to make more of an effort.

What I'd like though is for more people to join me, 100 days from now takes us right up to the end of term, seems a perfect time to do it doesn't it?  As for many of us we're on the home run to the end of the NQT year (and the point where I may need to reword my blog tag I realise!) I thought this would be a great way to do it.  I'll try and keep track of them through the #happyNQT100 and retweet them.

Obviously the more the merrier, this is open to anyone and everyone so let me know if you're taking part - NQT or otherwise.

You can register that you're taking part at but you don't have to.

Saturday, 14 March 2015


Drifting is the perfect word to describe how I'm feeling at the moment.  It's neither here nor there.  Work isn't feeling like an up hill struggle that's for sure, but yet there is something not quite right.  I'm drifting.  It's a strange feeling, I'm getting on with things as and when they need doing and I don't constantly feel like I have a to-do list as long as my arm.  I'm keeping on top of my planning by using TES as much as I possibly can and I'm getting my marking back up to date.  Sounds like I'm totally on top of things doesn't it?  But yet I have this drifting feeling.

Over the last 8 weeks or so I have been determined to strike a work-life balance, something that I hadn't had much of in the first term of my NQT year.  This has certainly had the desired effect on the life side of the balance, I'm claiming back my weekends before it's too late and I allow them to get swallowed up by teaching for the rest of my career.  It's been great, but I can't help but feel like I'm cutting corners to get to this point.  I get that typical teacher guilt, that feeling like I should be working, or that I should be doing something better, more in-depth, more like that other teacher does.  I compare the amount of work I'm doing with other people.  I find myself thinking that so-and-so spends this many hours doing that, why aren't I?  Am I doing it wrong?  Is mine not as good as theirs?   Of course, probably none of this is true.  Are the kids I teach still learning?  Yes.  Are they still making progress?  Yes.  Am I still planning, marking and otherwise doing what the job requires of me?  Yes.

So why the drifting feeling?  One of my theories is that I feel like I'm drifting because I'm just doing what I need to do to get by.  I'm not going above and beyond, I'm not putting all my energy into my planning, I'm not spending more time than absolutely necessary on my marking.  Does this mean my standards are slipping below where they should be?  I don't think so.  Does this make me a bad teacher?  It shouldn't, yet it feels to an extent like it does.

As teachers we are trained to put so much of ourselves into the job all the time, and it's draining.  From day one we learn that planning and marking is going to take over our lives and that we'll be living for the holidays.  Why should it be this way?  As a teacher that arrives at 7.30am and leaves at 5.45pm and often gets the laptop back out between 7.30pm and 9pm am I not entitled to my weekend?  Teachers (and any other profession come to mention it) should feel that the weekend is their time and their time only.  We shouldn't have to make this concerted effort to keep it free or feel like we're dropping our standards if we do.  I'd like to feel satisfied, not just drifting.

What's the solution?  I wish I had a clue.  Answers on a postcard please...