Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Bex Trex gets a new home!

Bex Trex is moving on - Click here to visit the new site. 

A fresh start for a new chapter.

Now I'm no longer reflecting on my ITT and NQT years and the process of studying for my Masters I feel it's time for Bex Trex to move on.

I'll still be blogging, but hopefully with more teaching and learning content and potentially resources.

The new link is:

Teaching and Learning Missions. Mission 1

Inspired by @MrsHumanities I am going to be introducing something new to the MFL department tomorrow. Taking her idea of teaching and learning mission cards I am going to be challenging the department to try new ideas each week.

My plan is to send a mission to the department on a Friday afternoon, they apply it to their teaching, give me a quick bit of feedback (email, post-it note on my desk, chat at lunch - however they like) and I will share the feedback around when I send out the next mission. This year we are trying much harder to share as a department, motivate students for MFL learning beyond what's compulsory and adapt teaching to the new specification. I'm hoping that this will be a way of doing it.

As well as serving the aims set out above, preparing the missions is also really helping me.  I'm reading lots of interesting blogs and articles and getting back into reading about pedagogy in a more informal way again after my dissertation.

This week I have taken inspiration from Gianfranco Conti and his 6 things he always does in lessons ( I have asked colleagues to try to 'Prevent the so-what? effect'. Starting the year with students knowing exactly why what we are teaching is worth learning is really important, but will only be effective if we continue throughout the year.

My intention is to start by showing year 7 the importance of learning languages, remind other year groups and put their current learning into context.

I'll let you know how we get on and what we're going to focus on the next week.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Ride the coaster

Joining in with NQT Chat last week, I suggested that teaching was like riding a rollercoaster. I'm going to stretch that analogy a bit far now when I tell you how it maps onto my story so far. Stick with it trainees and NQTs, you'll get there.

The start of my ITT felt very much like climbing a very long hill, knowing there was only going to be one way down. I felt like I was waiting a long time, others had overtaken me and I was still hanging around, wanting to be given more responsibility. I was enjoying the view and gradually getting higher as I picked up more teaching hours. I guess a lot of the year went that way. Then a member of the department went on maternity leave earlier than expected, I reached the top and started flying downwards. Lots more teaching hours, more marking and planning and everything else that came with it. I enjoyed it, for the challenge I guess. In September I started at my new school, everything drifted along ok, there were some ups and downs as I got used to things, but the ride was good. Then in the October of my NQT year I got stuck in a big loop-the-loop, I was stuck and I wanted to get off. I started to think about other rides I could be on, ones that would be better, even bought tickets for these other rides (yes, I told you I'd take the analogy too far...). But I didn't get off, I came out of the loop, worked out what was going wrong and fixed the problem. Soon enough I was enjoying myself again, the ride had changed and things were better. It was worth the loop-the-loop to get to this point. In January I went to a different theme park, its very different to the last and I've just had an upgrade. I think my upgrade has probably given me a queue jump to the bigger, scarier rollercoasters, but I won't get stuck in the loop-the-loop again, and if I do, I know how to get out without getting off of the ride.

I think that what I'm trying to say, is that for anyone starting their ITT or NQT this year, you should expect it to be a rocky ride, and that's actually nothing to be scared of. You just have to go with it, make changes when you need to, but don't scream to be let off of the ride. Not just yet, it'll get better and you'll be pleased you did!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Ambitions for 2016-17

Inspired by a photo someone posted earlier (although I must now admit that I can't actually find it again) I jotted down my ambitions for the new school year. This year is different to previous ones I think because I'm at a different stage in my teaching

2013-14 --> Get through ITT
2014-15 --> Complete NQT
2015-16 --> Manage on full timetable, settle into new school, finish MA.

So what does 2016-17 bring? The first thing I have to do is finish my MA, the dissertation is due in on 1st October so that doesn't really count as a huge part of my year (unless it fails of course...) so there are other things for me to think about this year. I reckon that this year is going to be more about (and excuse how cheesy this is going to sound) finding who I am as a teacher.

What I mean by that is that ITT was about ticking boxes, learning all things that you need for the PGCE, NQT was about learning what parts of the ITT training were worth keeping and what was mumbo-jumbo to be ignored and then getting used to things. I suppose last year could've been about me, if I hadn't taken on an MA and moved schools, so last year was still about the academic and getting used to things. This year is, as I've said before, a bit different. Or at least I intend it to be.

This year I intend to vary my teaching a bit more, step out of some of the safe teaching I've let myself get into. I'm hoping this is something the new GCSE specification will help me to do, I'm also introducing something to my department to help us with this that I'll explain later. I intend to set myself a marking timetable and stick to it properly as well as making sure I'm setting more worthwhile homework. I want to make the most of form time, with a year 12-13 group I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do that yet, but I'll find something... I want to work on all the exciting plans I've talked about with my head of department for raising the profile of languages in school. I hope to be a good NQT mentor, a slightly scary responsibility that I hope I will be able to do well in, I'm really looking forward to it. I can't wait to get blogging again, although what form this will take I'm still not sure, I enjoy the space blogging gives me for reflecting on things but the opportunities aren't quite so frequent as they were in ITT/NQT so maybe I need a new focus. Finally, I want to take part in #teacher5aday again, I started a couple of times and failed, I think this may be my chance, but I'll need a push to do it.

Going back to what I'm introducing with my department to vary teaching - I'm taking the idea of Teaching and Learning Missions from @MrsHumanities and adapting it. I have been compiling a list of 'missions' or challenges that members of the department could complete that week (it's not compulsory). The challenges will be linked to varying our teaching and coming up with new ideas to fulfill the requirements of the new specification for GCSE and A Level and transferring this down to KS3. Each week I'll send out a mission, at the end of the week I will ask for feedback and will share what I get with the department. Hopefully it will be good for us not only as individuals but for sharing best practice across the department.

The exciting plans I mentioned are ongoing, with the aim of raising the profile of MFL within the school. We're looking at a range of extra curricular activities to motivate students to study MFL (the subject of my dissertation, which is why I'm so keen to get on and do it!). We've talked about our use of display boards in corridors, the way we praise and reward students, the activities we do in class, the activities we provide at lunch times and the way we are going to celebrate European Day of Languages. There is so much buzzing around that I can't blog about it yet, I will do once we get things going!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Motivated for MFL study?

As most who follow me will know, because of my frequent moaning, I am currently writing my dissertation for my MA in Education. What you may not know is that I have been looking into how the extended curriculum (including trips in the UK, trips abroad, lunch and after school activities, contact with native speakers etc) affects student motivation to study MFL.

In the course of my research I have surveyed students and teachers about the various activities on offer at their schools and how they think it has influenced their motivation to study MFL. I'll post something more detailed at a later date once the data is analysed, the dissertation is all sent off and it has been marked but it's got me thinking about what I might do differently in September and the sorts of things we could introduce as a department.

I'm going to blog my ideas soon but I'd like to gather together some information on what you all do in your schools. This won't be used at all for the dissertation but will be used in a blog to share the best of what we all have going on. (This is nothing official and please do not take this as a reflection of my approach to my dissertation, this is not linked to my dissertation, just inspired by it).

If you wouldn't mind taking part I'd really appreciate it, I think we can all get something useful from sharing what we have planned.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Dissertation, trips and new opportunities.

Yet again it's been ages since I last posted, every time this happens I promise myself that I'll write more often but I think I'll face facts now that it's not going to happen.  It's not that I'm not interested any more, that couldn't be further from the truth.  I've bought my ticket for the ResearchEd national conference in September, had exciting talks with colleagues following CPD from Tom Sherrington and still have a list of books I want to read that is as long as my arm!  It's just that blogging isn't the first thing that I leap to do anymore.  That said I still want to keep it up, maybe I'll get more regular again one day...

There has been a lot going on of late, not least of all my dissertation.  The ideas and things seem to be coming together now, thank goodness, and I've got enough survey responses to work with from both heads of department and students. I've still got a long way to go with it, that's for sure, but things are looking up.

Last weekend I went on my fist residential trip abroad, taking 72 year 7s to France. Wow, I've never looked forward to a weekend so much as this one.  The trip was great but exhausting so I was ready for Friday night.  It was a really good first trip to go on and I have another coming up in 2 weeks time, this time with less children and a wider age range as it's the music department tour.  Paris here we come!  I'm seeing both of these as great practice as come October I'll be leading my own trip with 30 year 11s to Andalucia, Spain.

My most exciting piece of news though, is that as of September I will be Second in MFL and Curriculum Leader for Spanish.  I can't wait to get started and have loads of things that I'd like to see happen to raise the profile of languages at the school.  The great thing is that I get on really well with the Head of Department and I think we're more or less on the same wavelength with most things.  The question is just which idea to start with first...

The last thing to mention is the one that I think is probably the most important.  We have a new member of staff starting this week, she's an NQT and I'm going to be her mentor.  I'm really looking forward to the opportunity, but it's such a responsibility that I'm starting reading up already.  If we get on as well as I did with my NQT mentor then I'm sure we'll be just fine.

This post seems to have turned into a news update as opposed to a comment on any issues this time but I'm sure the things I've mentioned are each going to throw out their own issues for discussing soon!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Note from a Recently Qualified Teacher

'The worst time to be in teaching' it has been said to me,
Things are dark and dismal, 'no time to drink our tea'
The piles of books are growing, more data sheets to fill,
There's progress to be made, resilience to instill.

We're working longer hours and our performance manages our pay,
And that MP on the tele wants to extend the school day?!
The arts are disappearing with that Ebacc on the scene,
Do they think that rigorous studies suit each and every teen?

The answers that we're searching for, no one really knows,
We're all quite frankly in the dark, and honestly, it shows.
But I think we're forgetting something, a concept that is key,
This isn't only happening to teachers, can't you see?

Time changes things for everyone, not always for the best,
And no, we didn't come into the profession to teach them to the test.
Performance management is rubbish, but it was only a matter of time,
With other professions we've been brought into line.

I'm not saying it's all fine and dandy, I acknowledge it's not ideal,
And yes, some of these reforms are like reinventing the wheel.
But maybe it's the future and we have to make things work,
Don't forget the holidays, they must remain a perk.

It's a time of opportunity, a time to influence change,
Even if some new ways may at first seem strange.
Eventually things will be better,
We'll get there one of these days.

I know this view's not popular, and I know that things aren't fair,
Just think of us newer teachers, we cannot stand and despair.
This is the profession we're entering, however it may be,
Even if it's not quite the one that you used to see.

We'll have to make the best of it, we'll do whatever we can,
And don't worry, we'll stick up for ourselves, we'll come up with a plan.
But don't stand there and tell me how bad it is, how my career will turn out,
I'm already nervous of what is ahead without you shedding doubt.

Please keep fighting for what is right, and make your opinions known,
But let's not give the impression, that all we do is moan.
It doesn't do us favours, it will not help our cause,
So when times are getting hard, maybe we should pause.

Remember teachers, you're not alone working late tonight,
Keep the faith, that moving on, things will be alright.
The road ahead is long and rough, that I won't deny,
Things though, they can get better, as the months go by.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Saying yes to everything

The first 6 weeks at my new school have flown past, I could've blinked and missed it.  At the moment it seems a little like I've imagined it, was that just a placement?  Am I returning to my 'normal' school after half term?  I'm pleased to say I'm not.  That's no reflection on my previous school I must add.  I've had a good first 6 weeks, it's been a whirlwind really, but I've really had to embrace saying yes to everything that has come my way.

'Could you come on the year 7 French trip?' - Yes.
'Will you be a joint form tutor for this year 11 group?' - Yes.
'The music tour in the summer holiday needs more female staff, as you're a female, French-speaking musician will you go?'- Yes.
'Will you go to the outdoor activity centre with year 11 in the first week back?' - Yes (although goodness knows what I've got myself into with that one!)
'Will you help out with the trainee when she comes back from her second placement?' - Yes.

I'm pretty sure there are people that think I've gone a bit mad, I've not long moved out of my parents house, bought a cat and am still trying to get through my MA and yet I'm saying yes to everything.  The way I see it, and I know this is something a lot of teachers will empathise with, is the more I say yes to the more experience I'm going to get.  A course I went on at the end of my NQT year about career progression made this exact point and I can really see it now.  If you want to progress, and I do, then you have to get noticed by the right people for the right things - and anyway, it's enjoyable too!  If there is ever a time for me to get involved with anything and everything it's probably now. Now just isn't the time for standing still.

Something else that is on my list is to really start thinking about my teaching more, sharing online and sharing more with my colleagues.  I've started a bit this half term but I think it needs more, when I was training I always liked doing new things and of late I think I've got a bit boring.  It's time to get creative again and see where it gets me...

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Starting a new school in January.

January, a time for fresh starts, resolutions and all things new.  But not usually for teachers, January is an odd time of year to be changing  schools. Just one term into the year but not into the manic term that is the summer. Students have got used to their teachers and settled into their ways of working,they know what's what and who is who.  Even the year 7 aren't really new anymore. Then you walk in, the newbie in the school, in fact, the only new teacher starting in January. What should you expect?

1) As the only new member of staff there may well be no formal induction. You will have to glean what information you can from your department and the computer system, if you're lucky enough to be able to get onto the relevant parts and have all the right logins.

2) There will be all sorts of things going on that you will be expected to know about and deal with like mock exams and assessments. These will stop you getting to know your classes as quickly as you would've liked and mean you may get off to an odd start with some.

3) You'll need to pick up where someone else has started, this might entail a few cries of 'Miss, we did this last term' but if you're lucky these won't be too frequent.

4) You'll have so many names to learn and there will be a fair few people giving you strange looks as they try to work out who you are and what you're doing there. When you teach 4 classes of year 8 girls they will all start to look the same and the names will roll into one... You'll get there.

5) You'll need to slot yourself into a department that has probably learned to cope being understaffed or has been left at an odd time of year.  It might be hard but they'll really appreciate it.

As you will have gathered, I started a new school this month. The school is quite a contrast from my last, an all girls grammar school, and I've got a little journey in the mornings but it's not too bad. I'm getting used to different expectations from the students, different ways of planning, getting more efficient at my marking and generally taking every day as it comes. Every day I'm finding out something new, being given another document I need to take in or meeting another student that has been absent for whatever reason.

I've been very lucky to have landed myself in a department with lovely staff who are so helpful and kids who are (on the most part, as ever) happy and enthusiastic to learn.  I've got a way to go until I work the place out and really know what I'm doing, who knows if we ever really manage that?! But, so far, so good!

Next challenge: work out what on earth I'm doing this dissertation on and get on with it!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

#teacher5aday 2016

When I started #happyNQT100 - which I totally forgot to mention on my #nurture1516 post earlier on this weekend, I dropped the ball when it came to #teacher5aday.  Now that #happyNQT100 is over and the new year is with us it seems like a perfect time to start #teacher5aday again and make my pledges to #connect, #exercise, #notice, #learn and #volunteer again.

So, on the eve of starting at my new school my 2016 #teacher5aday pledges are as follows:

My connect pledge is to get to know the other staff in my new school better than I did in my previous.  With MFL being in a different block and having my own classroom to be based in, socialising with other staff was more of an effort and so I didn't do it.  In my new school I'll be sharing an office with my department and will make myself get out and about more.  Make the effort to get to know people in different areas of the school, you never know when you'll need to be on the right side of the reprographics lady!

Oh dear... exercise is not something I've been good at in a very long time.  I have a wii and various fitness programmes for it including cardio and yoga which I have been recommended a lot now.  The next task is to actually use them!  I know I need to though so I'll have to make that conscious effort.

Running along the theme of my #happyNQT100 I aim to notice the positive things every day.  I'm going to think of a hashtag and post a tweet or a picture every day of something positive.  If anyone wants to join me feel free.  I think I'll go with #postitiveteacher or #positivetweacher maybe?

My #learn is the same as last year, not because I failed at it but because it continues.  I started my MA Education back in July and need to get to the end of it!  I have an assignment due soon and then onto the dissertation - I seriously need some inspiration on that front!

Although I'm going to hold back and not #volunteer straight away I plan to get involved at school.  Whether that is running some MFL related activity or joining in with the music department (who I am already due to support for a few hours a week) I don't know yet.

Friday, 1 January 2016


I ought to start this with a big apology really, I've not blogged in an age - something I intend to rectify asap. It's been a very busy few months, I think what follows will go someway to explaining why! If I've understood correctly then the #Nurture1516 posts are about reflecting on 2015 and looking into 2016. I'm going to attempt to reflect on 5 things and list 6 for this year...


1) The main reason for my lack of posting in quite sometime - I bought a flat.
It took it's time, I made my offer back in July and finally completed at the end of the October half term break. This meant that every spare bit of time I had running up to just before Christmas was spent shopping, decorating and moving in. I moved in just a couple of weeks before Christmas. I had a lot of help from my parents, grandparents and boyfriend, I couldn't have done it without them. I'm so pleased with it - and will be even happier next week when I have a real sofa!

 2) I passed my NQT year! Wow, well that seems like a long time ago now, but that happened in 2015. Anyone that has read my blogs for a while now will know that my year had its ups and downs just the same as any NQT does, but I got out of it in one piece in the end!

3) I've met and connected with lots of new people. 2015 has been a year of new people for me. From new twitter friends, to fellow MA students, to my boyfriend and his family and friends, to new colleagues. There have been new people in pretty much all aspects of my life. That said, it's not just about the new people. Walking into ResearchEd and bumping straight into my secondary school English teacher and catching up with him or being able to go to sessions led and attended by faces I recognise from twitter was also quite an experience.

4) I started my masters
In July I started my MA Education at the Institute of Education.  I've done the first module called 'What is Education?' and I'm onto the second compulsory module (for which I should be writing an essay not this blog) Understanding Research.  I had some credits from my PGCE so they're the only modules I need to do other than the dissertation.

5) I got myself a new job.
This fits more into the things I'm looking forward to really but it's kind of an overlap.  Back in October I saw an advert for a Spanish teacher that must teach up to Key Stage 5.  With the sixth form numbers dwindling at the school I've been teaching in, to the point where we had no year 12 this year, I thought it was an opportunity I couldn't miss.  I applied, interviewed with three others and came away with the job!  I was sad to be leaving of course, I've left my first school where I completed my NQT year and where I had my first tutor group and a class of year 13s who I am really going to miss.  Despite this, I know this is totally the right decision for me though.


Ok, so I acknowledge now there is going to be quite an overlap between last year and this year...

1) I start the new job.
On Monday I'll start at my new school.  It's going to be a total contrast to where I've been as I'm moving to an all girls grammar school.  I've met my department, had the low down on who's who, got my timetable and planned a weeks worth of lessons which will go out the window when I've pitched the whole lot wrong I'm sure!  There are going to be lots of different things for me to be getting used to, where behaviour was a challenge before I anticipate the intelligence of these girls is going to be my challenge here.  The marking workload is higher so I'm going to have to work smarter when it comes to how I manage it.  I've been on a really light timetable recently due to the lack of year 12 so having a real timetable again might be a shock, that said I'm doing a number of hours of support in GCSE classes and some KS3 music so it's a little less planning.

2) I should complete my masters.
I'll jinx it if I say I will complete my masters, but all going to plan then that's what will happen.  Small issue being that I currently haven't got a clue what I want to do my dissertation on and I really need to start my reading soon...

3) I'll meet even more new people.
I intend to try my best to get to know even more new people.  I'll start with my new colleagues on Monday and see where to go from there!

4) I'll figure out a bit more about my teaching
Changing schools to one that is so different is bound to make me realise where some of my strengths and weaknesses lie that's for sure.  Beyond that, I want to keep trying new things, seeing what works for me and what doesn't, reading blogs, writing blogs and generally changing the way I do things.  I don't have the pressure of the NQT year any more, but equally I don't have the structure it provided either, now is when I find out more about my teaching than I have in a while.  In February I'm going to be working with the PGCE trainee when she comes back from her second placement and I'm sure that will make me think about my teaching again.

5) I'll settle into my new home.
Things have been so manic of late with Christmas etc I've not really had a chance to appreciate my new flat.  I'm looking forward to getting into a routine again and getting used to things.  Have I mentioned that I'll finally have a sofa on Wednesday?!

6) and just as I finish all of the things that have made my life manic? I'll find something else to keep me busy and fill up the time I don't have!
I don't know what it is yet, but you can bet your bottom dollar that once I'm used to the new job, settled in the new flat and submitted the dissertation, I'll find something else to fill my time rather than letting me relax, spend time with people, get out with the camera or even play the sax like I keep saying I will!