Saturday, 19 November 2011

Data Handling

We made great use of two of my favourite Purplemash tools in our Maths lessons this week. 

We began by exploring the database on aliens that is included in Purplemash. The children found this lots of fun. They were able to create some nice graphs on paper and also by sending the data through to 2Graph which they used to interpret information about the aliens. Next time we do this we will design our own aliens and then create our own database. I want to link it to our Sci-Fi topic which we will be featuring next year.

We then created designed our own forms for collecting information. We wanted to find out things like our birth month, favourite football team and any other questions they thought were appropriate. We created a collaborative database in our table groups. The children then went to their own computers to enter their info into each database. I was pleasantly surprised that all of this took one and a half lessons and no more. That's how easy 2Investigate is to use!

We then decided we wanted to gather data from other schools. Our headteacher challenged us to find out how our class compares to others around the country in how we get to school. I decided to use a Google Form. I have never used Google Docs before (for no particular reason) and I couldn't believe how simple the process was. The children chose the questions that they wanted other schools to answer and then I used the power of Twitter to send out the link and see how many schools we could get to complete the survey. In the end nearly 20 schools did, from schools all over the country!! We used the data to make graphs and compare the information to our own school.

The maths we were doing in the project was not exactly earth shattering. But the children were enthused by data handling and the idea of working with real data!

I can't wait to use 2Investigate, 2Graph and Google Forms again!

Leadership Lessons from Henry V Part Five: Motivation

Part Five: How Henry motivated his troops towards victory

I recently attended a superb training session on Inspirational Leadership from Ben at Contender Charlie. The messages on leadership were based on Shakespeare's Henry V.
You can find handouts from the course here.

In this final post of a short series, I''m going to share some of my learning from the course.

Henry's most famous monologue goes like this:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility,
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage,
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect,
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon, let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a gall├Ęd rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English,
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof,
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument.
Dishonor not your mothers. Now attest
That those whom you called fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture. Let us swear
That you are worth your breeding, which I doubt not,
How can we learn from Henry's motivational skills?

  • He was one of them - we're in this together! You're problems are my problems.
  • He believes in his troops - if you don't believe in someone you don't motivate positively, only negatively.
  • He displays real passion.
  • He creates a common identity behind which you can unite.
  • He honours his troops - he calls them 'friends'.
  • He reminds them of the big picture - why they're doing what they're doing.
  • He's realistic and says it like it is.
  • He uses vivid images, stories and metaphors. These can be worth far more than data.
  • He chooses his moment to inspire.
  • He also uses some negative motivation skills by saying if we don't do it well, this could be the scenario we face. The choice is yours.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Leadership Lessons from Henry V Part Four: Henry's Dark Night

Part Three: Henry's Dark Night - or the night before the battle.

I recently attended a superb training session on Inspirational Leadership from Ben at Contender Charlie. The messages on leadership were based on Shakespeare's Henry V.
You can find handouts from the course here.

Over a series of posts I'm going to share some of my learning from the course.

So, in the play...
Landing in France, Henry achieves some early successes before setbacks lead to his 8,000 exhausted men being surrounded by 40,000 mounted French troops. The French offer Henry the choice of surrendering (and paying a huge fine but he and his troops being spared) or fighting the following day on the field of Agincourt and being killed.

Like so many leaders before and since, Henry faces his own dark night of the soul. He confronts the possibility of failure and the crushing loneliness of his responsibility as he faces a decision that could lead to most of his men lying dead on the field of battle and his vision destroyed. It's a night of soul searching which is a metaphor for leadership in general.

Henry's night goes through the following stages. I've tried to describe how the lessons can be applied to leadership.

Visible Leadership: A leader should always be visible - particularly when facing a real challenge.
Private Truth: If you reveal your inner truth publicly it can have a damaging effect. Put on a front.
Time Alone: Take time out to think when necessary. Spend some time with your family.
Listen To The Troops: Without taking it personally, learn the views of your team. Have the strength of character to accept criticism.
Unload Burden: Where do you go to unload the burden? NOT in the staffroom. You need the chance to vent off, but shout at the car, not at a person!
Acknowledge Shadows: Fully recognise the challenges that are faced. Keep it real.
Core Values: Come back to your core values - your vision. This is what matters in the end.
Inspire Troops: Inspire the team - go for it!

Friday, 11 November 2011


I recently read 'How Successful Head Teachers Survive and Thrive' by Professor Tim Brighouse. It's available here. It's a really interesting read about the key tasks of being a headteacher and ways to manage the job.

There are nine levels of delegation:

  1. Look into this problem. Give me all the facts. I will decide what to do.
  2. Let me know the options available with the pros and cons of each. I will decide what to select.
  3. Let me know the criteria for your recommendation. which alternatives you have identified and which one appears best to you with any risk identified. I will make the decision.
  4. Recommend a course of action for my approval.
  5. Let me know what you intend to do. Delay action until I approve.
  6. Let me know what you intend to do. Do it unless I say not to.
  7. Take action. Let me know what you did. Let me know how it turns out.
  8. Take action. Communicate with me only if action is unsuccessful.
  9. Take action. No further communication with me is necessary.
Being consciously aware of this spectrum is a helpful guide to the need for extended professional development for others - or oneself.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Educating Essex

I'm never that keen on watching programmes about schools. They always seem to have some sort of gimmick, which usually tries to make out that there are issues in school that they are trying to hide from the public!

I did, however, watch and thoroughly enjoy the series of Educating Essex. I've never seen a programme about schools before which is so honest and real. This is surely the benchmark for all teaching programmes ever to be made. It was heartbreaking, funny and inspiring all at the same time.

I have such respect for the teachers at Passmores Academy who seem unbelievably dedicated to their children. Mr Drew, the deputy head, was my favourite 'character' and his consistent approach to discipline is sublime to watch. The pupils hold him with such high esteem. The head teacher, Mr Goddard, was an inspirational head. It is easy to see why the pupils and the teachers all have such respect for him. It's great to watch a head who is able to have fun with his staff.

I hope my little girl grows up to have teachers like Mr Drew and Mr Goddard.

I enjoyed reading this interview with them.


I've really started to get into the habit of recording quotes that I like. The quotes I like tend to offer advice, inspiration, interest or humour. I record my quotes at my Quotables page.

Monday, 7 November 2011

NPQH - What do I do now?

It has been announced that the NPQH is being overhauled. My understanding is that, from spring next year, the qualification is no longer statutory for headteachers. Instead it will become optional and will become almost like a status symbol where only, "The most talented candidates will get through."

This leaves things up in the air a bit for me. I'm giving my career plan a lot of thought at the moment. I really want to become a headteacher and I feel like I am ready to start exploring the next steps in the process. But do I need the NPQH? Am I automatically going to put on the 'no' pile because I haven't got it? Is anyone out there able to offer any guidance on this? I'd be very grateful!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Six Secrets of Change

I read about the six secrets of change at the Leadership Daily Blog. The writer poses the question, "As a leader, do you know the six secrets of change and do you know how to use them?" Let's have a look at how the secrets of change could work in a school.

1. Love your employees
Staff should be looked after and feel happy in their work. Meetings should be reflective and staff should consider what is working well and what could be improved. Roles and responsibilities are given according to strengths. Pride and satisfaction must be felt by every colleague and each person should feel valued. Everyone should see why and how the change will work.

2. Connect peers with purpose
The senior management team should build a vision and allow every member of staff to be part of it. Promote an understanding of the big picture - why do we do what we do? Bring everything back to this question.

3. Capacity building prevails
Audit the learning and development needs of staff and then plan training, create opportunities to develop skills and share expertise to build the capacity of every person.

4. Learning is the work
Training should be practical and must always be relevant. Opportunity must be given to share ideas/expertise with each other. We often learn more when in the classroom than in a staffroom. How will our learning make a difference to the children?

5. Transparency rules
Achievement and attainment (of pupils and staff) must be shared and celebrated. It should be regularly demonstrated how staff learning and development is having its effect in the school. Good practice should be shared. Keep people informed.

6. Systems learn
Systems and processes should be based on learning and a clear understanding. We learn by making mistakes.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Leadership Lessons from Henry V Part Three: Leadership Styles

I recently attended a superb training session on Inspirational Leadership from Ben at Contender Charlie. The messages on leadership were based on Shakespeare's Henry V.
You can find handouts from the course here.

Over a series of posts I'm going to share some of my learning from the course.

Part of the day was spent considering leadership styles. Whilst not directly related to Henry V, this was one of my favourite parts of the day. 

Parts of my research for this post is based largely on:

Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss Psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology,believed that deep underneath our unconscious mind, lie character traits that can be certain models or roles derived from fables and mythology. He called them archetypes. Of all the archetypes he proposed, four are well known:
  • Great mother
  • Warrior
  • Good King
  • Medicine Woman/Witch
Jung was heavily into Eastern and Western mythology and believed these archetypal characters represent humanity's collective unconscious. Knowing our archetypal influences really helps to understand our leadership styles and our personality in interacting with people and teams.

A leadership continuum

The Autocratic style is more the warrior archetype and the Democratic style is akin to the Earth Mother approach.
Truth is, neither style is a perfect one. To be a good leader is to be polyphonic. You need to way up your situation, weigh up your team and the task, assess the immediacy of what needs to be achieved and then pick your approach.
Another way successful leaders execute tasks is to incrementally move from one end to the other. Some may start as Democrats and then move to autocratic approach as the deadline approaches and task completion needs to be imminent. Some may adapt a more autocratic approach initially and then offer support and counsel after the task is completed.
This approach is called Situational Leadership.

The Situational Leader

The Situational Leader knows the mood and the efficacy of the team. They observe, reflect, analyse and act. They have a variety of tools at their disposal. some they may be naturally good at, others they have learnt as a necessity.

Situational demands should influence a situational style. Sometimes a mixture of styles may be needed for the task to be completed, or for different team members!
Most leaders find one or more roles more comfortable to wear and may feel uncomfortable with the others. Therein lies the development of a leader.

They can choose to assume the traits of one of the leadership styles. Be aware that each style has a shadow - an extreme of the trait where good intentions may lead to bad results by overdoing it.

Leadership Style Positive Traits Characteristics Shadow (Negative) Traits Poor Leadership
telling, instructing, ordering, punishing, leading, visioning and ruthless in achieving the task, takes action, leads from the front, likes competition
Powerful, Decisive, Leading, Visioning, Determined, Successful, Inspiring, Rewarding, dynamic
Destroyer, collateral damage, others are expendable, win at all costs, selfish, Punisher
Great Mother
nurturing, guiding, mentoring, training, helping to grow, rewarding, emotionally intelligent, has rapport
Nurturing, supportive, encouraging, pastoral, protective, kind, shows empathy, listens
Overnurturing, supportive when challenge is needed, no discipline, no completion, poor growth due to low challenge, lazy team
Weak Mother
Medicine Woman
giving ideas, creating, visioning, inspiring, dazzling, mercurial, quick witted, lateral thinking, loves blue sky thinking, stretch/bend the rules
Mercurial, full of ideas, creative, visionary, lateral thinking, outside the box, innovation, thinks "what if?", innovative
Too many ideas, none completed, transient, incomplete, flitting, random, restless, distracted.
Mad Woman
Good King
delegating, sharing, participating, democratic decision making, involving, encouraging, strategic, considered
Democratic, Decisive, inclusive, benevolent, sharing, involving, encouraging, calm, balanced
Indecisive, slow, overindulgent, consults too many, insecure
Weak King
(Ideally I would use different colours to organise this table better, but I don't know how!!)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Work-Life Balance

I recently read 'How Successful Head Teachers Survive and Thrive' by Professor Tim Brighouse. It's available here. It's a really interesting read about the key tasks of being a headteacher and ways to manage the job.

Seven ways to hold on to your sanity when all around you are losing theirs:

  1. Manage your diary
    • Build 'down time' into your diary so that you can choose what you do in this time.
    • Make sure that every half term you spend some time off site to go and talk with another friend or acquintance doing a similar job.
  2. Find allies
  3. Have a 7-10 year service
    • Then take some time out before returning with a fresh pair of eyes, or consider moving on to another headship.
  4. Stop doing one of your regular tasks for a term to allow someone else to do them. Keep our of their hair and review things once at half term and then at the end of term.
  5. Remember to be the 'Jack' or 'Jill' of all trades and master of none
    • You need to be the utility player, who can fill in to do a leadership task in an emergency and you need to grow that capacity in others. Being the 'expert' can be very disabling for others and exhausting for yourself.
  6. Become an expert 'driller' and a lepidopterist
    • Drill right down on a particular issue that will allow you to see the whole operation of the school from a different vantage point. When you do you can find the things which cause irritation and loss of energy, both for you and others.
    • Spot the small things that make a disproportionate difference - 'high leverage and low effort practices'. The drilling down process exposes the reverse.
  7. Collect hyacinths
    • The explanation for this comes from a short poem:
"If of fortune thou be bereft,
And of thine earthly store have left
Two loaves, sell one and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed the soul."

    • Successful heads avoid stress and burn-out in themselves and their staff by being keenly aware of their hyacinths and ensuring they have enough of them.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

LEGOland Discovery Centre

Today we had a good day out with our Year Fours at LEGOland Discovery Centre at the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

The day began with a short tour of the 'factory'. We then had a go at Kingdom Quest, which is a shoot'em up game. This was my favourite ride of the day!

We had a workshop which was intended to teach the children about the forces of friction. It was a bit rushed for me and I didn't feel it stretched the children. They built race cars and then raced them against each other on tracks.

After lunch we explored the other ride - Merlin's Apprentice and explored Miniland. Miniland is a world of UK attractions built out of LEGO. The attention to detail is fantastic! We also watched a 4D film and gave the children chance to try the soft play area and complete a Master Builder course where we made a Red Arrow plane.

The members of staff were really helpful and looked after us well.

It was a good day out but I'm not too sure about the education value of the day, at least for our Year Fours.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Classroom Management

Ten Tips for Classroom Management is an interesting read. You can download it for free here.

The ten tips are:

  1. Build community
  2. Design a safe, friendly, and well-managed classroom environment
  3. Include students in creating rules, norms, routines and consequences
  4. Create a variety of communication channels
  5. Always be calm, fair and consistent
  6. Know the students you teach
  7. Address conflict quickly and wisely
  8. Integrate positive classroom rituals
  9. Keep it real
  10. Partner with parents and guardians
The advice is practical and there are links to resources for further support. It would be particularly useful for NQTs and trainee teachers.