Friday, 18 March 2011


Each year in school we have a fancy dress day to celebrate our book fair. And each year I try to arrange a course for that day so that I don't have to dress up! This year I managed to arrange one for the afternoon meaning that I still had to dress up as James and the Giant Peach in the morning and then get changed to drive to Cranage Hall for an ICT event.

eCAPH was a mini-Teachmeet intended to raise the profile of this form of CPD to headteachers and senior leaders in East Cheshire. There was also the opportunity to hear about Uniservity's learning platform upgrade and Microsoft's new software licensing plan.

Here are some of the ideas from the afternoon:

Google lit trips
This site brings books to life by using Google maps to direct you to the places where each part of the story takes place.

Prezi was recommended - it's a tool for creating online presentations, as an alternative to PowerPoint. - great for recording screencasts.

The Uniservity learning platform is due to receive a massive overhaul in September. The new version, called Life, looks so much easier to use, especially for non-techy teachers and will make it much easier to embed things like YouTube in the platform.. A migration plan will be rolled out soon with a view to beginning upgrades from September.

Songsmith is available for free from Microsoft's Partners In Learning website. This interesting piece of software generates a backing track in the key that the person sings in.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Leadership Styles

At a recent leadership development course I enjoyed learning about leadership styles. Kurt Lewin (1939) identified three major leadership styles:

  • Authoritarian or autocratic
  • Participative or democratic
  • Delegative or Free Reign
As a school leader, I think that all three styles need to be used at particular times. A good leader need to learn when to use them for maximum impact for achieving results and maintaining good morale.

"I want you to..."
As a school leader this is the style that would perhaps have to be used when a change has to happen. When a new government or local government policy or initiative is introduced, a leader needs to use this style of leadership to instigate a change. This style would be used in discipline cases.

"Let's work together to solve this"
A school leader would be part of the leadership team where decisions could be made together. But involving all staff in decision making processes is a really powerful way to bring a team together.

"You take care of the problem.."
A school leader can empower employees to make decisions. Although the leader is still responsible for the decisions that are made, they cannot do everything. Employees can be empowered can can gain confidence when you demonstrate trust and confidence in them. 

Seth Godin aludes to these leadership styles in his blog post:
"A friend sent me a copy of a new book about basketball coach Don Meyer. Don was one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time, apparently. It's quite a sad book—sad because of his tragic accident, but also sad because it's a vivid story about a misguided management technique. 
Meyer's belief was that he could become an external compass and taskmaster to his players. By yelling louder, pushing harder and relentlessly riding his players, his plan was to generate excellence by bullying them. The hope was that over time, people would start pushing themselves, incorporating Don's voice inside their head, but in fact, this often turns out to be untrue. People can be pushed, but the minute you stop, they stop. If the habit you've taught is to achieve in order to avoid getting chewed out, once the chewing out stops, so does the achievement. 
It might win basketball games, but it doesn't scale and it doesn't last. When Don left the room (or the players graduated), the team stopped winning. 
A second way to manage people is to create competition. Pit people against one another and many of them will respond. Post all the grades on a test, with names, and watch people try to outdo each other next time. Promise a group of six managers that one of them will get promoted in six months and watch the energy level rise. Want to see little league players raise their game? Just let them know the playoffs are in two weeks and they're one game out of contention. 
Again, there's human nature at work here, and this can work in the short run. The problem, of course, is that in every competition most competitors lose. Some people use that losing to try harder next time, but others merely give up. Worse, it's hard to create the cooperative environment that fosters creativity when everyone in the room knows that someone else is out to defeat them. 
Both the first message (the bully with the heart of gold) and the second (creating scarce prizes) are based on a factory model, one of scarcity. It's my factory, my basketball, my gallery and I'm going to manipulate whatever I need to do to get the results I need. If there's only room for one winner, it seems these approaches make sense. 
The third method, the one that I prefer, is to open the door. Give people a platform, not a ceiling. Set expectations, not to manipulate but to encourage. And then get out of the way, helping when asked but not yelling from the back of the bus. 
When people learn to embrace achievement, they get hooked on it. Take a look at the incredible achievements the alumni of some organizations achieve after they move on. When adults (and kids) see the power of self-direction and realize the benefits of mutual support, they tend to seek it out over and over again. 
In a non-factory mindset, one where many people have the opportunity to use the platform (I count the web and most of the arts in this category), there are always achievers eager to take the opportunity. No, most people can't manage themselves well enough to excel in the way you need them to, certainly not immediately. But those that can (or those that can learn to) are able to produce amazing results, far better than we ever could have bullied them into. They turn into linchpins, solving problems you didn't even realize you had. A new generation of leaders is created... 
And it lasts a lifetime."

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Just Do It +

I enjoyed a leadership development day today, learning strategies about how to develop our leadership skills.

One of my favourite messages from the day was "Just Do It +".

How many times have we asked a colleague to do a job and then let them get on with it without clarifying exactly what is meant?

Just Do It + means to agree a shared understanding. What exactly did we mean when we asked them to do it? It means that expectations are clear and both parties understand what is involved. Just Do It + means that deadlines can be agreed. It means that problems can be pre-empted before they surface.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Liverpool World Museum

As part of our Ancient Egypt topic we took the children to World Museum Liverpool.

The day was very busy but we crammed in such a lot. The children had a fabulous time learning all about life in Ancient Egypt and they also had chance to explore other parts of the museum.

We took part in these activities:

Natural History of Ancient Egypt

This was a museum-led presentation and the children really enjoyed learning all about the animals and natural resources in Egypt. 

"It introduces their rich ancient world by looking specifically at habitats, animals, plants and rocks. It uses images and real museum specimens and begins by looking at how Egyptian civilization and life was shaped by the environment of the desert and the River Nile. It then looks at the Egyptians’ relationship to the natural world not only in terms of their gods and myths, but also in terms of their practical use of natural resources, farming, fishing and hunting. Some of the specimens used in the session include snake skin, crocodile skull, peregrine falcon, scorpions, and scarab beetles.
Students then look at some of the plants that were important in the life of the Ancient Egyptians, including wheat, barley, papyrus and flax. The session ends by looking at some of the geological materials used: for example, granite in sarcophagi, limestone in the pyramids, and gold in jewellery."
We tried an Ancient Egypt trail around the vast collection of artefacts from the period.
"Lead your class round the Egypt gallery with our free activity trail leaflet looking at themes such as everyday life, jewellery, writing and mummification."
Finally we watched a theatre show called 'Death on the Nile' which explained to the children the value of historical artefacts and it gave them chance to learn more about mummification.
"An interactive presentation in the Treasure House Theatre - looking at life, death and mummification in ancient Egypt."
All of the museum-led activities were free meaning that the cost of the visit was kept relatively low. The staff at the museum were incredibly friendly and were always helpful.

You can learn more about the education provision at the museum here

Quotes taken from

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


I've been thinking - with his obsession with facts, does Michael Gove want our schools to prepare our children to be pub quiz champions?

I appreciate what he means about learning facts, but surely the importance of developing the skills to learn and understand these facts is critical.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Monthly Review: February 2011

Another busy month has seen me do various things at home and in school. Here are some highlights:

Antenatal Classes
Our classes were nothing like the ones you see on TV. The midwife who delivered the courses was lovely and it certainly helped to put some of my worries at ease (and hopefully my wife's too!)

Working with a new student teacher
I love working with trainee teachers and over the last six years I've worked with around 15 of them in one capacity or another. Of course, I'm doing my best to work closely with my new trainee, but I don't feel that I'm supporting her as well as I could. That said, she has made a fabulous start to her placement and is doing very well. My role is so busy at the moment that I think it's best that this is my last trainee for a year or two. 

Horrible Histories
We took our Year Threes to watch Awful Egyptians at the Regent Theatre in Stoke. If you teach about Ancient Egypt and you get the chance to go to see the Horrible Histories then do it - the children will love it!

Missing a visit to France
I was gutted to miss the Year Sixes' visit to France. This was the first time I've not been able to go. It was amazing though to see that the use of the blog and Twitter that I started a few years ago was used to massive effect to communicate with parents back home. It was great to actually be in school to see the reaction from parents! Positive is not the word - they loved it!

French course
This month I finished a French Language and Methodology course. We began the course back in October, and it's without a doubt, one of the best CPD courses I have ever attended. My enthusiasm for a subject I do not find easy to teach has been renewed and my confidence is high. I've got so many things I want to try to put in place in my classroom that I think I'll continue to enjoy teaching French forever.

Visiting friends
Not that having a baby will mean the end of catching up with friends, we wanted to make a point of catching up with a few people at half-term before the baby arrives.

Sorting out my office
My office at home is now looking fantastic and I've cleared the hundreds of jobs that had stacked up on my desk. It was a very productive half-term!