A twiddler, A dreamer, A silly-heart, A jabber-box – all round bad egg?

uncle_buck

People like to start with a quote – mine’s a biggie:

Buck Russell sits down and sees that Anita Hoargarth the Assistant Principal has a mole and begins to make a fool of himself before she interrupts him…

AH: I’m assistant principal here…as you’ve probably noticed from the indications on the door.
BR: This door?
AH: The outer door!
BR: The outer door.’Cause there’s nothing on this one.

AH: That’s about enough of that. I’ve been an educator for 31 point 3 years…
and in that time, I’ve seen a lot of bad eggs. I say “eggs” because at the elementary level we are not dealing with fully-developed individuals.
I see a bad egg when I look at your niece.
She is a twiddler, a dreamer, a silly heart and she is a jabberbox.
And, frankly I don’t think she takes a thing in her life or her career as a student seriously.

Anita Hoargarth drops her pencil in a dramatic and “I’m finished” kind of way.

BR: She’s only six.
AH: That is not a valid excuse! I hear that every day and I dismiss it.
BR:I don’t want to know a six-year-old who isn’t a dreamer or a silly heart. I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t even have a job.

Anita Hoargarth tuts and rolls her eyes in a “how typical” kind of way.

BR: I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re all good kids until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good. You so much as scowl at my niece or any other kid in this school and I hear about it, I’m coming looking for you.

Buck Russell makes some comments about a mole on Anita Hoargarth’s face.

BR: Good day to you, madam.

You can see this clip here

I have written and rewritten this blog 27 times since the writing exemplification materials came out. The above quote and video sums up how I feel about how the DfE, led by Gibb and Morgan, want 6 and 7 year old children to become robots. 6 and 7 year old robots who assimilate 100% of the taught curriculum and regurgitate this into their work.

“Each of the three standards within the interim framework contains a number of ‘pupil can’ statements. To demonstrate that pupils have met a standard within this interim framework, teachers will need to have evidence that a pupil demonstrates attainment of all of the statements within that standard and all the statements in the preceding standard(s).”

Interim Teacher Assessment Framework (2015)

This is a nonsense. Do they ask students at GCSE to get 100% to pass? A-level? University? Why…WHY are they going to brand children as young as 6 as failures for not putting a f*cking what/how+subject+verb in their writing? Even if they know to put an exclamation for effect…nah.

A child might be able to reason deeply about addition, mentally subtract two digit numbers from two digit numbers including regrouping because they have a deep knowledge of number bonds and how to use them, but god help them if they really struggle with time, they can actually be put down as working towards – a failure.

I will be fighting for action until this 100% bullsh*t is taken out. Test children – but to consider them a failure in their reading, writing and Maths because they don’t have evidence of 100% – stop taking the piss.

I am so angry, I won’t stop encouraging others and the unions to work on behalf of the profession to stop what is currently going on. Otherwise, the DfE are going to have to advertise for 1000s of ‘Anita Hoargarth’ style educators, drilling the fun, enjoyment, creativity, collaboration, understanding out of the 6 and 7 year olds.

How dare they label children as failures/bad eggs.

I, like (Uncle) Buck Russell will be standing up for the 6 and 7 year olds of this country and their parents. For the right to be silly hearts and dreamers. For the right to not have to take their learning career seriously and be convinced at a young age that they are no good.

I’ve seen the damage a school can have on a child by labelling them as a failure, and I’ve seen them come out the other side with a first from University.

Gibb. Morgan. You so much as scowl at the kid(s) in this school or any other and I hear about it, I’m coming looking for you.

 

 

PS. I’m too cross to even get started on the workload created for teachers of Year 6 and 3 times as much for Key Stage 1 teachers in making sure assessments against the framework/exemplification are dead on. Meeting the lead KS1 moderator involved the word maladministration 27 times – teachers will need to quintuple check data before sending it in due to fear about getting it wrong. Another issue with evidence of 100% of all statements and all in preceding band(s). ARRRRRGGGGHHH.

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Podcast with @Inspiration4T

My podcast with Kelly Long (@Inspiration4T on Twitter) – talking about how to build successful teams as a Middle Leader can be found here:

 

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/e/7/3/e738486c4f74c15e/52_Part_2_Educational_Leadership_Series_Conor_Heaven_How_to_be_a_successful_leader_and_develop_others_on_your_team.mp3?c_id=10704270&expiration=1453063805&hwt=dcc56bb743b082efa39b9c195db6883e

 

Enjoy 🙂

Why I changed my mind on what outstanding is

Jude Enright has inspired this post with her own on refusing to be outstanding. She puts into words her own story and influences on why she thinks it is wrong and I agree with every single one.

The facts and points she puts on her websites about percentages of schools being outstanding and what this means for schools trying to outdo each other in terms of exam results and intakes is worrying, but often what you hear about. School’s vying to outdo each other for a grade will compete for their own sakes, especially in this world of accountability. Linking this to Nancy Gedge‘s words here and you can see how this lack of collaboration is affecting the system’s improvements as a whole.

Personally, I spent my first two years in a school which was RI. Outcomes for children weren’t great. The culture and climate of the school was one of fear/survival. I got my head down and worked out what was on the ticklists, included them in my observations and got through. I hated it. Lesson gradings were used torturously for those who could not work out the ticklists OR who decided that SLT’s way wasn’t the way for them. When training, this was NOT how teaching was meant to be. I dabbled with thoughts of quitting, as this can’t be why I am doing this. Again, Jude tells us about the consultancy, CPD, programmes for getting to an Outstanding grade from Ofsted…really?! Not how to be outstanding but how to get a grade…

outstanding

I moved to my current school four years ago now and I couldn’t get out of my routine! I was getting consistently good…however it was in the same box-ticky way I had survived in my old school. My Headteacher spent that first year trying to free me from fear (that didn’t exist in this school) and focus me on improvement.

However, with every observation came a grading, and as some of my friends in other schools were getting an outstanding, I wanted one too! I checked the different lists, I desperately tried to shoehorn things into lessons. Still, no outstanding!

I am slightly ashamed to say all the above, but think it was the first environment that turned me this way. Towards the end of my first year in the new school, I begun to see that what I was doing was wrong, that I didn’t need to get ticks on lists, I needed to do the right thing for the pupils in my class.

I went on a 10 week good to outstanding course (ironic?) to try and move away from ticklist chasing. The school running the course had fabulous outcomes for children (like, out of this world), but children would shake your hand, eloquently describe their learning, were polite and studious. The area was one of social and economic deprivation. How on Earth did they manage all this?

The Deputy Head teacher who was running the course told us. Clear Vision. Clear destination. Clear path. But best of all? Ignoring grades. They had not graded Teachers in years (many years before the rest of us), they focused on improvement for teaching and learning. They also had that clear path and vision and constantly stuck to it, something I value in SLT. It’s that moral imperative, doing what we believe to be right for the children we teach. Not listening to everything Ofsted and DfE say and put half-hearted things into place that tick a box (sound familiar?) Again Sean Harford seems to constantly share similar messages. A man that many Teachers on Twitter will know and respect for his open discussions with the profession.

The school had three questions for anything they do:

Why do it?

Who is it for?

What impact will it have?

When implementing anything new, they would look back to their vision, path and destination and question why they might do it. There were heated debates but it meant all staff had a stake and were building the school’s pedagogy, curriculum, assessment themselves. There had to be a reason for it.

If the answer was ever Ofsted, then they didn’t do it. If it was for the Teacher to have a better knowledge of this or for children to be more aware of how to improve and they could back it up, then yes they would look at it, trial it, discuss it and decide on whether it was right or not. They had to do it for the people they work for.

Again, everything was backed up with discussions about what impact it could have and why that might be of benefit. If it will take huge chunks of time for negligible impact, then what is the point of doing it? It had to have impact worthwhile of the time and effort put in.

I absolutely love these questions and these are the questions I ask myself whenever I do anything in my classroom too. As a new Middle Leader and someone who hopes to be a Senior Leader at some point, these questions will be the mantra I will want to live by. I do not want to be a Senior Leader who loses the Moral Imperative and does things for the wrong reasons, which I guess is where the current accountability system makes it almost impossible in many situations. I do feel for SLT in these situations but it is clear to me, that the school I visited have reaped the benefits from the decision to strip back from ticklists and box-ticking.

Example: Debates would happen over simple things like success criteria, which are so simple but often get used as, yes you must have them displayed in this format and that’s it – tick or no tick for you in observation. Through discussion, they would share different examples of it (building every Teacher’s knowledge and capacity), discuss when and how they might be used (collaboration, evaluation and discussion in staff meetings not waste of time on admin), improve an area of teaching by a small margin (doing this all the time takes little but worthwhile effort and can lead to sustained improvement as seen as the journey the school went on).

I think an outstanding school, leader, teacher, governor is one who steps back from simply trying to achieve an Ofsted grade. I know the removal of the four categories could help this, but I really think we need to take the leap of faith back to why we got into this job in the first place. Please, question why, who for and what impact. 

It has revolutionised my teaching and I believe it can revolutionise Teachers, Leaders, Schools too.

I believe what Shaun Allison does with his 15 minute forums builds all of the collaboration, discussion and debate around what we do with his staff and my aim as a Middle Leader is to do something similar in Staff Meetings.

Allow 10 minutes to focus on on area; success criteria, differentiation, challenge, AfL etc for sharing of good practice that will lead to discussion, debate and hopefully sharing of good practice. I would hope staff can try something that week and reflect on it the following week. I hope this way, we can move towards outstanding by being outstanding at remembering why we do this and outstanding at building capacity together and outstanding at delivering on our vision for children. Results and grades (if grades still exist) can follow as a bonus if we get the vision, path and destination right.

PS. Further reading is embedded above within the blog.

PPS. I apologise for my blogs not being visual enough or for being too anecdotal and based on experience. I’m far better at speaking in person than writing! Hope to see you at a Teach Meet or conference soon.

Growth Mindset+ Part 1 (the PLUS being perseverance, challenge, expectation, enthusiasm, curiosity and inner voice) all at KS1

growth mindset

This is not a Growth Mindset call to arms. However, I do use Growth Mindset with the children in my Year 2 class. I have used it in Year 1 and 2 and have seen it developed in the Early Years too. I think we should be looking more at all of the things that help develop successful learners and Damian Benney blogged superbly on this recently.

My first experience happened in September 2013 when I went to visit Lyons Hall Primary School in Braintree, Essex for 10 days worth of Good to Outstanding CPD practice (prior to observations going grade free) and really enjoyed seeing all of the things that clearly worked for staff, children and parents. Growth Mindset was mentioned in the 8th session and only because someone saw a display of a brain, clearly not considered as the be all and end all for this school or the course we were on. I’ve read Dweck’s books, and read about The Wroxham School and Learning Without Limits too.

All makes a lot of sense to me. I found Primary School easy, incredibly easy. I was just…clever. I don’t remember struggling. Then I passed the 11+ and went to Grammar School, and was immediately threatened by the fact that 1) I wasn’t top of the class, 2) I had to work hard and 3) all I thought I knew of myself had changed. I spent seven years using my intelligence to lark about, make people laugh and generally avoid the issues around learning.

I cancelled a history lesson for the class that I couldn’t be bothered to work in, and told everyone to go to the Library. At year 7 parents evening that year, Mr Short informed my parents that I was “the spawn of Satan”. (Luckily, we got on for the last term of Year 13….) I got into a written debate with my Head of Year 7 on whether I could remove myself from religious assembly on the grounds that it was my Human Right (I believe I researched and quoted the Geneva Convention). When confronted with, it is up to the parent to opt the child out (which of course my parents would have done if I had asked), I eagerly looked forward to the detention I would get when giving the next installment of “I’m an annoying little git who is threatened by failure, so will use my (I thought wonderful intellect) to try and win the most ridiculous argument. My mother could list tens of things that she found out at Parents Evenings that I have forgotten.

See, I believe I had a completely fixed mindset. Based on experience, thoughts, beliefs and mindset, Primary School was a breeze. I should get it and do well through my intelligence – no hard work required. It took for me to scrape some A-levels together to get into a Primary Education BEd degree to decide I had a reason to work hard.

When faced with 5, 6 or 7 year olds who have (already) had similar experiences, I feel it is my job to give them difficulty, challenge and experiences which will build being knocked down, getting up and having a little bit of resilience as part of their school routine. So this is my….rationale for being interested in Mindsets. To be a successful learner though, there is more to know than simply believing that you can grow your learning, or that it is fixed and unchangeable.

On top of knowing this fact, they need to be able to persevere when their fixed or even false growth inner voice is talking. They need to overcome the thoughts, feelings, emotions that might inhibit and we have to be the one supporting them, not just labelling and telling them to sort it out.

We must provide challenge and expectation together. We must expect more and help and support them to expect more of themselves, more often.

We must be enthusiastic and excited about learning and what we find out and demonstrate this almost non stop. It is catchy for children.

We must be curious for what might happen, for us, for them. Be willing to go with the flow, adapt to what is happening and just run with new, better ideas, especially if we want children to be these spontaneous (almost to the point of combustion) learners we dream about.

We must model how to use the inner voice to combat the demons we have at certain times.

There is some brilliant writing already on this topic from folks such as Chris Chivers here, Chris Hildrew here, Stephen Tierney here, Alex Quigley here, and John Tomsett here. All are superb writers and the above blog posts have helped me form my views and ideas around using it in class. Shaun Allison has a wonderful website which just hums with the Growth Mindset ethos he clearly brings to his school. If Maths is your thing, take a look at this, this and this.

I also particularly enjoy reading these blog posts from Nick Rose here, Marc Smith’s response to his and Mark Healy’s recent double act work on Mindsets and enjoyed a discussion with Dr Tim O’Brien after his TES article on 26th June 2015 (no link). I think the fact that they often discuss the use of Mindsets as intervention forces us to really consider just what we are doing and the positive or negative impact we might unknowingly have.

I agree with Chris Chivers in his blog here that “Growth mind-set does not mean just getting better at doing, it means getting better at thinking, deciding, selecting, acting more and more independently.”

By the way, I have never once called it Growth Mindset to my children! I teach them about the elasticity of the brain, that it can grow smarter, if you will, and that they can learn more if they believe they can.

Part 2 will be coming very soon in which I reveal which Sesame Street, Disney, Scientific and real-life models/videos/ideas I use to develop Growth Mindset+ in my classroom. I hope any respect gained by this blog isn’t entirely lost when I explain how an animated Parisienne kitten creates believers in Key Stage 1.

Leadership vs Management: A journey through principles, models and strategies.

This year has seen me begin my role as Middle Leader in a small Infant school in West Essex. I am in charge of Maths but with an extra focus on developing general Teaching and Learning within the school. Last week I begun my long year Middle Leader Programme run by WETSA.

However, dear reader, you must hear my honest truth.

I feel unsure about every facet of my role.

There. Got it off my chest. Down on paper. Honesty is better than pretending in my humble opinion! There was a large amount of my role as defined on the job description that I didn’t know how to do nor what they actually meant. It’s a feeling I had in my first two years of teaching. There was a lot of pressure and I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Here is a list of how I tried to represent myself (but what was actually going on).
Wanting to do well (survival), enjoying 9-3 (was very good at building relationships with children but often poor teaching), observing a range of lessons and developing my own strategies (copying what I was told was good/outstanding teaching without any clue why they were done; again to ensure survival)

Returning to now, and I am pretty certain that my strong desire to learn, grow and develop are the main reasons that I received in-house promotion for this role. Within class, I plan, teach, assess, evaluate, keep/discard strategies constantly whilst reflecting on their impact on children. Question: How well do these skills transfer themselves to Middle Leadership and beyond?

The first step was filling in a 360 diagnostic to assess leadership skills. Being in this role for 14 weeks has not given me all of the answers I was looking for. I filled it in. Some colleagues, including SLT, filled in a diagnostic with their views on my leadership. It is obvious that we both agree that my leadership skills are at a basic level. Bonus: we both agreed on strengths and areas for development (or weaknesses in less PC money).

I have been to my HT a couple of times since September to ask if there are certain things I am not doing, should be doing, and if I don’t get them done by next Tuesday, will my backside be on the line? Every time, I am told to relax (the grey’s will take over otherwise), enjoy working in my new classroom and given a time frame to start taking over more of the responsibility of the job.

I am not daft(ish). I worked in my first school for two years and didn’t know whether I was coming or going (as above). Starting my third year at this school, I have been carefully guided down a well planned, personal CPD programme that I believe gave me the vision and skills to do my job well. Without my Head teacher’s intervention, I would not be where I am today.

Interestingly, the first session of the course focussed on the difference between leadership and management.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand what is very poor about this cartoon. I find it odd that it represents Management as mindless enforcing of reactive policies. It may become something like this in poor situations.

I am just beginning to dip my toe in to “Leadership”. Luckily, I truly believe in the wonder of growth, empowerment, questioning and enjoying challenge and change.

Again, I can’t stress enough how important the HT has been on my learning journey. I have always been taught to question everything – a father interested in conspiracy theories helped me there. What my Head teacher was able to do, was guide my focus and energy to the greater good of my teaching and children’s learning through building my skills but especially vision.

I can immediately see where she took the role of Leader, developing my values, innovation and questioning through coaching, literature and carefully planned opportunities for me to reflect and learn from (courses, observations and chances for collaboration).

At the same, there have been times where I have needed structures, specific training, analysis of performance to (hopefully) lead to better standards. These have usually been agreed on through a mentoring process but have also been invaluable. Putting on a Management hat, wouldn’t you agree?

Something to ponder:

Would you rather work in a school that is inspirationally led, but badly managed or a school that is efficiently managed with no vision?

Most colleagues from the course would prefer to work in the second one if they had to choose, as they felt individual teachers could bring their own vision to their teaching. Well, what about my first two years of teaching? Here the situation arises where the Class teacher has no vision and what happens now?!

Clearly, just like I have found in my current school and role, there needs to be a balance between managing and leading. Unlike the picture above, there needs to be (apologies in advance for the use of another vague buzzword) a synergy created. It shouldn’t be Leadership vs Management, it has to be linking the two together. My HT has clearly worked hard over the years to be this effective and combine the two roles.

I do not yet (and may never) have the answers, methods, models or strategies to be like my Head teacher and create a synergy between Management and Leadership, but…

Simple graphic – magic happens in the middle

I sure as hell hope that I have the principles to go some way to being half the Leader that she is.

The start of my learning journey

This is the start of my learning journey. More on that buzzword later …

I have only recently been exposed to the world of Twitter, blogging, BETT (and other) conferences, toolkits, online CPD and meet up groups such as Teach meet London. For some reason I just keep seeming to throw myself in. The power of collaboration has been unleashed.

In this blog, I will try to make sense of all of this information. I think a lot about my own teaching practice and in truth need somewhere to reflect and vent about things that work, things that don’t and everything in between.

Things coming up for reflection:

  • First meeting of NAHT Edge Advisory Council,
  • My first ever Teach meet at Teach Meet London,
  • The first WETSA Middle Leader Program CPD session,
  • The power of collaboration in and outside of school,
  • Oh and working out why my one year old thinks sleep is a game and what to get my wife for our third wedding anniversary? (garage flowers?) #Teacherproblems