Autumn Wins

I have really enjoyed reading a broad variety of #nurture1314 blogs over the holiday. I intended to write one for myself, but I find it difficult to consider the new year as a turning point at work. I like to keep my January new year for focusing on my life outside teaching, such as it is, and then enjoy all the freshness of a second new year in September to consider my teaching.

Before I realised that, though, I did spend some time thinking about what I would write in a Nurture post. Thirteen things I haven’t already mentioned? Fourteen goals? That’s quite a lot of stuff. It did make me consider what I am pleased with since September that I haven’t blogged about yet, though. Here we go:

1. Purple pens

There’s nothing in the colour. I just like purple, and History was purple on the NC when I started teaching; and I like stationery. I bought a set of purple pens (and a really snazzy pen tidy so I know when I’ve got them all back at the end of a lesson) to use for peer assessment, in the first place, and then I decided I would use them for DIRT. To save you having to Google that, like me, that stands for Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time. I read about this on Twitter (presumably) and it chimed in with the work I’ve been doing with Neal Watkin’s TOWER model to some degree; so, beginning with my year 10s, students started using the purple pens to improve their work based on my feedback, using DIRT given at the start of a lesson. Now my KS3 students respond to my green marking in purple. They are eager to do this – more so than before they had the purple pens, oddly. They work for 30 minutes in silence on it with minimal coaxing, and I feel all smug knowing that they are working independently on personalised targets. Then when I red mark their books* it takes me half the time and they’ve almost always improved by a sub-level **.

I shared this at a Hums faculty meeting last term and, on Tuesday, my HoF went round the faculty handing out boxes of purple pens. I hope it works for everybody as well as it has for me. I was chatting to my very experienced History colleague on Thursday and he said, “It makes such perfect sense! Why haven’t we done this before?” He’s normally seen every new idea at least twice during his career (and not in a smug way) so I was quite pleased about that.

2. Writing more

Steve Mastin suggested at SHP in July, getting students to complete tasks that are much more challenging than those they might encounter on their exams, thus making the exams look like a cakewalk. Brilliant. Last year I did this throughout year 10 to encourage them to plan and write longer essays , which has helped them to cope with the demands of the controlled assessment this year, so I have continued with that; I have also started setting my year 12s long essays based on exam board questions. The feedback they get from me on this is not specifically tailored to the markscheme; but then they take the essay, and my feedback, and write a timed exam answer using only the best bits. It has helped them, I think, to focus on maintaining their analysis, and I can correct factual inaccuracies and misunderstandings in a more meaningful way.

3. Democracy Unit

Blog post pending on this one; I am now onto my third time through of a year 9 chronological unit about the development of British democracy we first trialled several years ago and I feel like I’ve finally cracked it. I’ve also LOVED reading more about the various events we cover.

4. Rise of the British Empire

We restructured KS3 a bit this year and I was in the middle of floundering around with a Rise of the British Empire topic when I went to SHP London in November. I was really taken with the enthusiasm shown for the 18th century by Alison Kitson and it really helped to crystallise the topic for me. Unfortunately time limitations meant that I wasn’t able to do everything I hoped with it, but I feel like my year 8s are experts on the impact the British Empire had on Britain and now have masses of context for their study of the Industrial Revolution. I am really excited about teaching this topic again in the future.

5. Achieving UPS3

Just squeaked in before it went. It might not last: the amount of boxes that need ticking to maintain it feels quite challenging, and if I move schools….but, anyway, it was nice to pass.

6. Being a teacher

A restructure last year deprived me of my TLR for AGT. I was anticipating it and remain quite stoical about it; no other local schools have had a paid AGT post for a while and we’re all facing a challenging financial climate. From September I returned to being officially mainscale. I was quite worried about the significant bump in hours: a combination of losing management time and the increase in teaching load across the whole staff which came this year. It hasn’t been a problem though. Not really. It’s just making the year go so quickly. Meanwhile I have loved concentrating on my teaching and on development within the History department: it has felt like a real treat. Sometimes it’s frustrating being so out of the loop but then AGT is a funny post and so I was never quite in the loop, anyway. I remind myself of the advice of an outgoing AHT: “What it comes down to is, when you kick the door shut and it’s just you and your students and your lesson…that’s what it’s about, really.”

7. Revision App

Following on from the revision guide I wrote for Hodder, which was published in January, I spent the autumn working on the content for an app to accompany the SHP series; it’s not published yet but here is its twin for Modern World. It was very exciting because it covers the Crime spec, too, which is quite unusual, there being not enough Crime entries to make it worthwhile publishing paper materials. I also got to work with the mighty John D Clare, who wrote the Germany content. I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished article and sharing with my students something I wrote that they can use for their revision. Other than the GCSEPod content, of course.

That’ll do, I think!

When I started my work blog I did try, for a while, to post weekly wins. Then, when I couldn’t keep up with that, I tried to at least tweet for Pedagoo Friday. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to find the headspace to clearly see the wins at the end of a long Friday. There seems to be a penchant in my social circle at the moment for jars, into which one pops nice things and wins as they happen; perhaps I should start keeping on of those.

* Look, I think it might be mild OCD. I like to do my formative marking in green and my summative marking in red. I am extremely picky about the type of pen I use, as well as the colour. I like homework tasks to be written in a yellow box on the right hand side of my slides, and I am unhappy drinking coffee at work out of anything other than my Scrabble mug. I find it better just not to pick at this thread.

** Yes, still using those.

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