Nurture 16/17

Time to review the past year and look forward to the new one.

1. Teaching
I began the year as Head of History at the school where I had worked since I was an NQT, a post which had been made permanent but from which it was becoming abundantly clear that I need to move on. I had reached the point where I was starting to wonder if teaching was really what I would be doing for the rest of my life. Luckily, I applied for a new job – a sideways move but that was exactly what I wanted and I was delighted when they agreed to take me on.

Leaving the school that grew me as a teacher and that enabled me to pursue a dozen other roles outside of teaching at the same time as doing the job I loved was terrifying but I haven’t looked back. Sometimes I miss it but I don’t regret it and I feel like my teaching has a whole new lease of life.

There are some challenges: I’ve got new-to-me courses in Y10/11/12/13 and I’ve finally had to engage with the Tudors (I knew I couldn’t run from them forever) after a career of 20th century A-level teaching; I no longer have my own classroom so I am constantly missing bits and pieces I’m used to having to hand; but I am enjoying all of them.

2. Writing
In January I was going through the (sometimes painful) edits on the GCSE textbook I was writing. That was finally published in August and I am immensely proud. I even managed to smuggle my 92 year old gran in as a source. My new favourite thing to read on the internet is people complaining that it has too much detail. Like, who wants to drop nearly £20 on a textbook that has just the bare minimum in it?
I use it with my students. Some of them bought their own copies and had me sign them – surreal. I like the fact that most of the activities in it are ones I would plan for my own lessons – it has really helped cut down on my planning time.

I also wrote a Cunning Plan for June’s Teaching History on teaching the new thematic unit.

3. Presenting
#Bristhist finished its second year of gossiping about History teaching with a Teachmeet inset on sourcework in June, where I spoke very briefly about what I’d managed to do with sources last year.

I spoke at SHP this summer on the theme of Stickability, and in June I re-ran the Philip Allan “Preparing the Teach the new GCSE” that I first ran in October 2015. I was surprised by how many people attended this one: I anticipated that it would be cancelled due to lack of interest. As I mentioned last year, presenting to peers, especially those who have paid money for the privilege, is never going to get any easier. In October I was really pleased to be invited to run a session on assessment for the PGCE keeners at Bristol University. I’m really hoping we’ll be able to host a PGCE student next year.

Perhaps my proudest speaking achievement of the year, though, was speaking for Pearson on the new thematic studies at an HA conference in June, at the British Museum. The British Museum! My uni was just up the road from here so I am very familiar with the place. Here is a glamour shot of me being stupidly pleased with myself about it.

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This is after I’d finished, of course. Before, I was the obligatory bag of nerves.

4. Examining
As well as completing my 7th series as Assistant Principal, a job I have come to really enjoy, I applied for, was interviewed for, was offered and accepted a new role for the new GCSE. In a year of proud achievements, it feels like a big one to say this tops the list, but I think it might. The act of having to go through my first non-teaching interview since I’m-embarrassed-to-think-about-when (What? Only an hour? Don’t you need to watch me do something?) was quite nerve-racking. It was nice that all of that time I spent completing training courses last year actually paid off. I’m really excited about the new role, although I will miss being AP for my current Principal. I think I’ve held this examining role the longest out of any.

5. Other
What else? I staffed three foreign trips in the space of 12 weeks – Berlin in February, skiing and Naples in April. I ran the first two. My colleague Tom attended them as my senior staff member and ran the third. In April we only spent about 30 hours and the final weekend apart. I’m not sure how I’ll run another foreign trip without him.

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Easyjet FTW. Italian tans and it’s-nearly-time-to-rest expressions.

I did a few local trips with students at my old school: Parliament with Y9 and Y10; Farleigh Hungerford with Y7; the New Room in Bristol with Y12. I went on personal holidays to southern Italy (Normans), Vietnam (Cu Chi Tunnels; war museum; Communist art in Hanoi), Singapore (shopping) and France (Bayeux Tapestry, FINALLY) and got myself a National Trust membership.

I kept on thinking about assessment. I still don’t really like using 9-1 for assessing KS3 but I am getting closer to understanding what this really looks like.

The SHP website relaunched and I’ve been managing that this year.

CPD? I managed to get a ticket for TLT in October (stayed up until midnight to bag one, only to find they’d changed the ticket launch time to 6am…sigh) which was very enjoyable. I went to the Life After Levels conference in Sheffield in May, which was interesting but felt a bit too primary-focused to be relevant. The SHP conference in July was an obvious highlight: so good to share practice and hang out with like-minded History geeks.

Since moving to a school based in Bristol, and much closer to home, I’ve also been able to take advantage of some local resources, attending a twilight inset on teaching sensitive subjects at Bristol Museum and meeting with the local Heritage Schools rep to discuss building local history into the curriculum. This is how I found out Elizabeth I entered the city of Bristol down the same road I get the bus to school along every morning. This is a great comfort to me at 6.50am, as I wave regally out of the window.

Best of all, as was my hope last year, I have worked a bit less. I look back on last autumn and am mystified as to how I managed to squeeze in everything I did. I have consciously withdrawn from things this year, to the point where I said no to a writing project I really, really wanted to say yes to. It was the right choice: I have really enjoyed the headspace afforded by not juggling about 17 different deadlines.

So, onto 2017!

I have a couple of writing projects in the works, both of which I need to get moving with. I anticipated this sort of thing might dry up now that the new GCSE is basically resourced, but seemingly not. I’ve also got plans for a longer Teaching History article, though maybe 2017 will just be about prepping for it.

For the first time, I will not be examining GCSE this summer. I gave it a lot of thought, and decided I needed a break before the new role kicks in in 2018. It will be really weird. I have signed up to mark A-level, on the basis that this will be the first and last time I’ll be able to, but they haven’t offered me a role yet, so I might not be doing any extra marking. I will not know what to do with those long June evenings to myself. Between this and not having to mark Y13 coursework on May Bank Holiday weekend for the first time since 2010, I will not know I am born. My husband will be sick of the sight of me.

For the rest, I’m just working on my practice. Nailing down a great KS3 program of study and fleshing out the assessment mapping; developing and resourcing new schemes of work that feed into the new GCSE and A-level; reading even more about the Tudors; preparing the department for hopefully applying for the HA quality mark; building a solid enrichment program. It’s a really exciting (” “) time to be a teacher and I am really pleased to be refreshed with time and energy to put into it.

I’ll finish with a couple of pictures. The first is sunrise from my old classroom, which overlooked the school field to the White Horse. The second is sunrise from my new office, which overlooks Bristol. Both gorgeous in their own way; both make getting up in the dark a bit more worthwhile.

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