Monday, 31 December 2012

A Review Of 2012

In all honesty, I'm glad to see the back of 2012. There have been some real highlights but there have been a couple of the most difficult moments of my life. 2013 begins for me with genuine optimism. I have this feeling that everything's going to be alright; that things will come good. And I can't wait to see what's going to happen!

Here are the things I am keen to forget:

Our miscarriage
We lost a baby this year. We remain heartbroken but we are trying to move on.

My dad spent three months in hospital in the first half of the year. He continues to recover well.

I spent five weeks off work recovering from a knee operation. I hated being off work.

Things have got no better financially. By the end of 2013 things should become easier.

Although our inspection was very successful, I'm glad it's all over.

But this year there have been some amazing moments:

Our daugher continues to make us feel happy every day. She constantly amazes us with all of the things she can do and say. She will be two in April.

Our successful inspection makes me very proud.

I've watched some cracking TV this year - catching up with some old programmes like Cheers, The Wire and The Sopranos, and getting hooked on programmes like The Apprentice, Homeland and Alan Partridge.

Olympics and Jubilee
Compared to the dreadful riots in the summer before, these events made me proud to be British.

My application for the NPQH was successful.

We enjoyed short holidays in County Durham, Wales and Somerset. They were all wonderful. There's nothing like a holiday to recharge the batteries!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

My Favourite Tunes Of 2012

There have been some great tunes in 2012. Without a doubt, my favourite is fun. featuring Janelle Monae - We Are Young. It became an instant anthem and it becomes more wonderful every time I hear it!

My list of 30 favourites, as always, reflects my completely eclectic taste in music.
In no particular order my favourite tunes are:

Olly Murs & Flo Rida - Troublemaker
It seems that each year he brings out a cracker.

Girls Aloud - Something New
Pure cheese.

Robbie Williams - Candy
A brilliantly catchy comeback tune.

Labrinth & Emeli Sande - Beneath Your Beautiful
Once I got over my issue with the spelling of your (it's because beautiful is being used as a noun, not an adjective) I quickly started to love the song.

Ne-Yo - Let Me Love You
A break from the usual tedium he releases, this is great.

Swedish House Mafia - Don't You Worry Child
Possibly their best release yet - Greyhound almost made the list though.

Taylor Swift - We Are Never Getting Back Together
Who'd have thought a Taylor Swift song would ever be so good. Amazingly catchy, this is pop at it's best. A guilty pleasure.

Of Monsters And Men - Little Talks
A really good indie tune.

Owl City & Carly Rae Jepson - Good Time
One of those songs that takes ages to escape from your head once it's there.

Paloma Faith - 30 Minute Love Affair
Talks like a baby, sings like an angel. This is great!

Gotye & Kimbra - Somebody That I Used To Know
I didn't get the hype around this for ages. After hearing it several thousand times this year I guess I had no choice but to like it!

Sam And The Womp - Boom Bom
The inner child in me loves this!

Public Enemy - Harder Than You Think
Although not released this year, this was used in the advert for the Paralympic Games. It is brilliant!

Karmin - Brokenhearted
This tune should have been bigger than it was as it is excellent!

Florence + The Machine - Spectrum (Say My Name) (Calvin Harris Remix)
What a remix! This is simply amazing! One of the five best tunes of the year.

Train - Drive By
Love it! Train release an amazing tune every few years. But this could be their best yet!

Rudimental & John Newman - Feel The Love
In my top five tunes of the year. This is a fantastic tune!

Nicki Minaj - Starships
In my top five tunes of the year. I love the fact that Minaj is mental. This tune sums up her randomness.

Matrix & Future bound & Luke Bingham - All I Know

Jessie J - Domino
Almost as good as Price Tag.

Jason Mraz - I Won't Give Up
Another soppy tune from Jason Mraz. But I like it!

Jake Bugg - Lightning Bolt
This gets better each time I hear it.

Emeli Sande - Next To Me
Overplayed, but worthy of appearing in my list.

fun. & Janelle Monae - We Are Young

DJ Fresh & Rita Ora - Hot Right Now
In my top five tunes of the year. Oh. My. Word. This is fantasic!

David Guetta & Sia - Titanium
When I first bought this in August 2011, who'd have thought it would go on to sell nearly a million copies the following year. Brilliant!

David Guetta & Nicki Minaj - Turn Me On
I love Guetta's album. This is a great tune from two of my favourite artists of the year.

Carly Rae Jepson - Call Me Maybe
How catchy? I love the tune. I love the parodies. This is a classic.

Alex Claire - Too Close
How good?!

Gary Barlow & The Commonwealth Band - Sing
My class sang this in the summer, and it reminds me of the Jubilee Celebrations earlier in the year. For those reasons, it just edges its way into the list.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Best TV of 2012

There have been a few programmes that I've loved this year.

Alan Partridge
Fifteen years after it was first filmed, my friends and I still quote Alan Partridge. His return this year was most welcome and it was brilliant! The documentary Welcome To The Places Of My Life was priceless. Open Books was great and it linked well with Partridge's book which I loved. And Mid Morning Matters was hilarious. I love the fact that each time Alan Partridge returns, it reinvents itself slightly. I can't wait for more!

The Apprentice
The Apprentice and Young Apprentice were both fantastic as always. I never tire of the programme!

The Sopranos
Only six years too late, I finally completed watching The Sopranos. What a series! A soap opera about the mafia. I think Tony got shot.

Boardwalk Empire
The third series seemed a little slow to get going. Then half-way through it kicked in! It was brilliant!

Cheers is being repeated on ITV4. It's thirty years old but it doesn't feel it. I used to love it when I was younger. It's even better now I'm older!

Modern Family
The best comedy on the TV. I love it.

Peep Show
Every time this programme comes back I worry that it won't be as good. I've not been disappointed yet!

Fresh Meat
Series Two of Fresh Meat was amazing! One of the funniest shows on TV.

Friday Night Dinner
Series Two was even better than the first. This really is hilarious!

I was a bit behind with Sherlock. I had to watch Series One before I could begin with Series Two. What a show! I'm really looking forward to Series Three.

I heard a lot about Homeland on Twitter last year but I hadn't seen an episode until September this year. I watched all of Season One before starting on Season Two. This is the best show of its type since 24.

Be Your Own Boss
I loved this programme featuring Richard Reed. It involved him selecting small businesses to give seed capital to and then invest in. It captured the entreprenurial spirit of Dragon's Den with the characters of The Apprentice. It was a great watch. I'm not too sure that the name of the programme is right though.

Whenever there's a programme about schools, I wonder how bad they will make the teaching profession look. Gates was silly but enjoyable. It didn't really focus on the teachers - more on the parents.

Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience
I love Rhod Gilbert. The episode in which he goes to work in a primary school for a week is the most honest look into schools that I've seen since Educating Essex. For anyone who isn't a teacher, this is definitely worth a look if you can find it.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Week 52: Your highlights of the year

My professional highlights from the year are:

  • The school's amazing achievement in being graded as Outstanding by Ofsted in November.
  • Being accepted onto the NPQH course.
  • Completing my first year in Year Four.
  • Organising our school Olympic Torch which visited lots of local landmarks!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Ofsted: My Experience

Just a week and a half after running from a long period of absence Ofsted called to say they would be inspecting the school. Dammit. I didn't feel at all re-adjusted to being at work. It was going to be an interesting couple of days...

The team that came to inspect our school were incredibly thorough but they were fair and approachable. At 8.30 on the first day of the inspection they asked for the whole staff to gather together. They introduced themselves to us all. They wanted to remind us that they will be observing all teachers teach and that they would be giving feedback about the lessons. But they were very clear - their judgements were based on a snapshot of one lesson. We were certainly not to let their words define our careers. Their words made an instant impact on the body language of the staff as you could see people relax slightly. They were inspectors but they seemed human at least!

In the two inspections I've worked through before, I had not been at all worried about what inspectors had to say about my teaching. I don't mean to sound cocky. I knew I wasn't perfect, but I was sure I wasn't unsatisfactory. This team, however, after being out of the classroom for most of the term before it, I hadn't established routines and expectations properly yet. For this inspection I found myself becoming quite worried. Despite what the inspectors had said in the morning I was nervous that my teaching would be found to be not up to scratch. This would also undermine all of the judgements and observations I had made about my colleagues teaching. I was desperate to do well. The inspector arrived to watch a maths lesson. It seemed to go ok. I was aware that a few children hadn't found the task easy. I was sure that the majority of the pupils had made progress. It was such a relief when I was told my lesson was 'securely good'. Confidence restored!

The inspectors only observed Maths and English lessons, including a significant observation of phonics teaching. We sort of expected this, but we were disappointed that they were unable to observe teaching of other subjects, which we believe is s strength. Of course, they observed Foundation Stage as well. They mainly observed lessons on the first day, but on the second day they walked through maths and English lessons, just hanging around for a few minutes in each. Despite us leaving a selection of books in the classrooms for them to look at, they only looked at Maths and English books.

They gathered middle and senior leaders together for a lengthy discussion of various aspects of the school - leadership, teaching, English, Maths and more.

They listened to readers throughout the school. They had a meeting with a selection of children from the school.

The inspectors were rigorous but they were fair and approachable. This made the process easier. I'm delighted to say that they found the school to be Outstanding - amazing recognition for our pupils, staff, governors and the whole school community. You can read our report here.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Week 51: What would you like to try in the classroom next year

The thing I'd love to try next year is to get some iPads into school so that they can be used by the children in lessons. 

I also want to get our new learning platform up and running fully!

Fingers crossed...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Week 50: Things you love about Christmas at home

Spending time with my beautiful wife and wonderful daughter.
Christmas lights.
Having too many Christmas cards and not being sure where to display them all.
Hiding presents.
Giving presents.
Receiving presents.
Christmas dinner.
Spending time with family.
Annual lads' Christmas curry.
Kind gifts from pupils and parents.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Week 49: What Christmas activities do you do in school?

My favourite Christmas card to make with the children is a 3D Christmas card. This worked particularly well with the older pupils but if your children can handle it - go for it!

Each child had a A4 page template with the net of a tetrahedron on it. All spare card left over after cutting the pyramid out was used to make features for the card!

We'd spend around 60 to 90 minutes on these and the children enjoyed taking them home!

Originally we would all make robins. But more recently I've seen snowmen, reindeer, angels, Christmas trees, elves, Father Christmases and even a Christmas pudding!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Monthly Review: November 2012

Getting started with our new school learning platform
I was given lots of support from the learning platform builder whilst I was off work. He helped me to get started with our new school website which I'm building using Google Apps. It will take lots of time but it will look great!

Returning to work
I began this month the same way as I'd spent most of the last month - off work, recovering from a knee operation. I'm beginning to get some strength back in my knee. I'm not using my crutches anymore. However, it really aches in the evening. I'm now back at work and my knee still bothers me. A couple of times I've hurt it by just 'forgetting' that I've had an operation and dashed around too quickly! It's a relief to go back to work.

Starting my NPQH
I had my my NPQH induction day in Trafford. I enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to making some good friends with colleagues on the course.

Preparing for Christmas concerts
It was strange to return to work right at the start of the silly season where we get ready for Christmas plays! 

I'd managed about a week and a half back in school when we had the phone call for our Ofsted inspection. They phoned on a Monday at 12.30pm and came in for the next two days. I found it particularly stressful, mainly because I didn't feel like I had found my feet after being off work for so long. The lesson they observed went ok! The inspection went superbly. We had a thorough and rigorous team but they were very approachable. We were graded as Outstanding which made me unbelievably proud.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Week 48: Resources you have used from

Gareth Pitchford's Primary Resources is the teaching resource site I have used the longest. I will never forget a friend introducing it to me during my B (Ed) degree. I was in my final year, so that would be 2000 or 2001.

I couldn't believe that someone was making all of those resources available for free! In fact, I still can't!

I love the site and I still use it, although, a little differently than I used to. In the early days I would find the resource which I would use to plan my lesson around. Quickly I learned to plan my lesson and then find a resource which would enable me to deliver the objective.

These days, I sometimes use the English and Languages resources, although, occasionally I find a Maths resource which I can adapt.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Parkinson's Law

Parkinson's Law states, "Work expands to fill the time you make available to it."

This means that the longer you are prepared to push the boundaries of work into the rest of your life, the more work will spill into your personal time.

This is why it is important to limit the amount of time you set aside for your work.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Week 47: What changes would you like to see in the new curriculum

The change which I believe is vital is the 'upgrade' of ICT to be a core subject. Technology has developed exponentially since the last curriculum was published. Being digitally literate is more vital as a life skill than most of the foundation subjects, in my view. If the government want our future generation to be employable on a worldwide scale, it is essential that children develop skills in ICT.

This quote from the re-elected President Obama sums it up pretty well:

"In a 21st century world where jobs can be shipped wherever there's an internet connection, where a child born in Dallas is now competing with a child in New Delhi, where your best job qualification is not what you do, but what you know - education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it's a prerequisite for success... I'm calling on our nation's governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity." 
(President Barack Obama at the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 10 March 2009)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Week 46: What three words sum you up?

I have written about three word branding before.

I'm going to update my own branding. The three words I would use to describe myself are:

Motivated because I am always active. I get quickly frustrated when I can't get on with things. I have plans for the future and I reflect upon things and try to develop and improve when I can. I am ambitious in the short and long term. I am fun, hardworking and I hate laziness.

Responsible. I believe that I can be relied upon to do a great job, relied upon to be a caring and loving family member, and a loyal friend. I take a responsible approach to everything I do.

Awesome! I belief in myself.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Be happy, live long

Spotted in The Week (27th October):
"People with a sunny outlook in middle age are likely to live longer than their grumpy peers, a large-scale study suggests. Levels of happiness among over-50s were found to have significant impact on the onset of disability, walking speeds and the incidence of coronary heart disease, even after factors such as gender and education had been taken into account, reports the Daily Telegraph. In fact, the link was so pronounced that psychological well-being could be used to predict which patients are going to develop serious health problems in their 60s, said the report from the ongoing English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. 'The difference between those who enjoyed life the most and those who enjoyed life the least was marked,' says the team, with the former 'more likely to still be alive nine to ten years later than other participants."

So I guess the message is - enjoy life whilst you can!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Week 45: Your favourite possession

My favourite possession ever is my iPhone.

It can be a little cheesy when people say that a gadget changed their life. But getting my iPhone certainly changed the way I relax, the way I work, the way, I remember, the way I photograph, the way I communicate, the way I learn and the way I buy and sell things on the internet. It's probably done more than that.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

"Transparency and Trust"

In an interview with Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter and Square), his approach to organising his company is explained:

"Key to the success of this organization is transparency and trust. Dorsey is insistent that everyone who works for him knows what the company is up to and why it's doing it. So he instituted an astonishing rule at Square: At every meeting involving more than two people, someone must take notes - and send them to the entire staff.

"It doesn't matter what the meeting is about: bug fixes, new partnerships, pending contracts, a new launch, important metrics. Everyone hears about them. Dorsey says he often gets 30 to 40 meeting notes every day. He filters them in his inbox and reads them through on his iPhone when he gets home at night.

"More incredible is that with such massive scads of sensitive information circulating to the 400-plus people at Square, not a single item has surfaced on the Web."
I wonder how a similar approach would work in schools?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Monthly Review: October 2012

This has been an extremely quiet month for me. I've been off work for most of it recovering from a knee operation. There have been lots of mention-worthy moments though.

The beginning and end of the month was all about the NPQH. At the start of the month I had my Gateway Day at CEL in Manchester. This was an interesting but challenging day. Whilst I doubted myself a bit as I waited for the decision about whether I was successful, I was confident that I could not have done more. During the last couple of days of the month I received confirmation that I have been successful and I am on the NPQH. I will be taking a place at Edge Hill who will deliver the professional development course. Working towards achieving the NPQH is the next step in applying for headship. I hope to start looking in 2013.

We had a lovely few days holidaying in Porthmadog. Despite hobbling around on crutches, we were able to visit Caernarfon, Beaumaris and a few other places. As I've not been able to drive, I was proud of my wife who drove the furthest distance she ever has during that weekend!

Michael McIntyre
We finally were able to use the tickets I was given for my birthday in January to go to see Michael McIntyre at the Manchester Arena. He was brilliant!

Catching up
I've used my time off work to catch up on lots of jobs that have been hanging around for some time. It's quite satisfying to be able to get on with some work whilst watching Sky Movies 007.

Knee Operation
As already mentioned, I had a knee operation earlier this month to reconstruct my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) which I tore 18 months earlier when playing football. My knee hasn't been right since and I was keen to get it corrected. Frustratingly I've been off work for quite a while. My knee is getting there but there's lots more physio, exercises and building strength ahead of me. Here is a picture of my reconstructed ligament:

Lessons from Apple 3: Working collaboratively

Jobs worked hard to foster a culture of collaboration at Apple. many companies pride themselves on having few meetings. Jobs had many. "Our method was to develop integrated products, and that meant our process had to be integrated and collaborative," Jobs said.
From Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography  

I think collaboration is really important. Education is an example of an integrated product. It's vital that senior management teams meet frequently, and often, with a clear agenda, to ensure that the team is collaborative.

This approach also applied to key hires. He would have candidates meet the top leaders rather than just the managers of the department where they wanted to work.  
It's important that everyone in the senior management team meets any potential new members of staff. The new employees have to fit in. They have to be right for the team. That means that all leaders need to meet them.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


I'm delighted to say that I've been accepted on to the NPQH course. I'm looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time!
Here is my feedback from the Gateway Day:

Leader or Manager

I loved this tweet today.

Is your headteacher a leader or a manager?

Ten Qualities that make a good leader

Sue Hoyle, director of the Clore Leadership Programme, highlists ten qualities that make a good leader:
  1. A passion for your job so that you enthuse and inspire those around you.
  2. Proven achievement in translating vision into action.
  3. A self-awareness that allows you to recognise both your strengths and your weaknesses.
  4. Motivation that gives you a strong sense of purpose.
  5. An effective communicator in writing, orally, in the use of technology, as a presenter and as a negotiator whilst always being sensitive to the interests of others.
  6. An enquiring mind that has the capacity to reflect and learn.
  7. Sound judgement that allows you to analyse complex information, assess risk and make appropriate choices and decisions.
  8. A team player who has the ability to motivate and develop others whilst setting high standards and expectations of yourself and others.
  9. Flexibility that enables you to think laterally and creatively.
  10. Integrity so that you demonstrate honesty, authenticity, humility and openness.
Taken from:   

Monday, 29 October 2012

Mission Statements and HUGGS

I recently read The IKEA Story by Bertil Torekull. I really liked reading about the mission statement and values of the company.

The official IKEA mission statement is so large and global that it seems impossible to achieve...

"Our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people." 

This reminds me of Andy Cope's message about setting HUGGS - Huge Unbelievable Great Goals. The vision statement should arch over everything an organisation does. It perhaps will never be achieved - but we work towards it as it guides everything we do. Schools should have a vision statement written as a HUGG.

That overarching mission statement is backed up, however, by a "business idea" which defines the IKEA brand to its customer and makes the IKEA mission attainable with the masses. The IKEA Business Idea is... 

"Offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them." 
I love the idea of setting a business plan so simply like this one. It adds substance and realism to your mission statement.


Kamprad wrote his nine 'commandments' in his book for staff, 'A Furniture Dealer's Testament'. These commandments constitute the spiritual basis of IKEA.

1 The Product Range Is Our Identity

IKEA offers a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices that are so low that s many people as possible are able to afford them.

2 The IKEA Spirit Is a Strong and Living Reality

IKEA builds on enthusiasm, a desire for renewal, thrift, responsbility, humbleness toward the task, and simplicity. "We must look after each other and inspire. Pity the man who cannot or does not want to partake."

3 Profit Gives Us Resources

IKEA will achieve profit - "a wonderful world" - through the lowest prices, good quality, more economical development of products, improved purchasing, and cost savings.

4 Reaching Good Results with Small Means

"Waste is a deadly sin."

5 Simplicity Is a Virtue

Complex regulations paralyze, "exaggerated planning is the usual cause of death to companies," and simplicity gives strength. IKEA people do not drive flashy cars or stay at luxury hotels.

6 Doing It a Different Way

"If from the start we had consulted experts about whether a little community like Almhult could support a company like IKEA, they would undoubtedly have advised against it." IKEA goes its own way, turning to shirt factories to make cushions and window factories to procure good frames for tables, charging more for umbrellas when the sun is shining but selling at bargain prices when it rains.

7 Concentration Is Important to Our Success

"We can never do everything everywhere, all at the same time."

8 Taking Responsibility Is a Privilege

"The fear of making mistakes is the root of bureaucracy, the enemy of development. Exercise your privilege, your right, and your duty to make decisions."

9 Most Things Still Remain to Be Done - A Glorious Future!"

You can do so much in ten minutes. "Let us continue to be a group of positive fanatics who make the impossible possible."

In schools, these nine commandments would be called our school aims. Every person working in the school should have an understanding of the aims and what we want to achieve as a school.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Week 44: A time saving tip for teachers

Think about the way you mark. Consider using coloured highlighters to show how the children have achieved.

Feedback should be given if the children don't meet the learning objective to help them to understand why.

If a child has met the objective, there's no point in writing well done. Tell them why you like it - be specific.

There's no need to mark every book in detail.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

More ways to be Brilliant

More powerful quotes from Andrew Cope's book, 'Being Brilliant: The Art of Being Everything You Can Be!'

Invest in relationships - it's the only way to keep them strong.

Hearing is easy, as it only requires your ears. It's a passive skill. Listening is much more difficult because it's an active skill. To listen effectively you need to use your ears, eyes, emotions, intuition, in fact all of your senses. You can listen at word level. This is when the words go in one ear and out of the other. You can listen at meaning level, which requires interpretation of words and body language. To be brilliant, you can listen at essence level. This requires you to have an excellent understanding of what makes people tick, a real understanding of human beings. What do the words really mean? What is the person really feeling? 

Think of 'efficiency' and 'effectiveness'. Efficiency is 'doing things right' and effectiveness is 'doing the right things'. You are living life as an emergency, trying to do everything properly, but you may be neglecting the jobs that really matter, those that will achieve long-term results. Stop living life as an emergency. Spend time reviewing how you work and ask yourself whether you are being efficient or effective. Do the jobs that matter and spend time with your people. Build trust and respect. Work on skills and attitudes. Support with coaching. Teamwork will naturally follow.

Any business is only as good as its employees. Invest as much time as possible in developing your people. Remember, leadership isn't about how high you can climb, but about how many people you can take with you. Coaching is a great way of drawing out true potential.

Andrew also talks about setting HUGGs! He writes more in his blog:
SMART goals that are basically the same as last year but 5% higher. I’m suggesting you get yourself some HUGGs. Huge Unbelievable Great Goals that stretch you and your team to the limits. HUGGs are eye-wateringly exciting and can only be achieved by creativity, passion, innovative thinking and teamwork. HUGGs require a working environment where people are actively encouraged to be their best selves,consistently. HUGGs are about being world class and, between you, me and the gatepost, that is the only direction to be heading.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Lessons from Apple 2: Quality

When returning to Apple, Steve Jobs insisted that the company drop many of its products and focus on just four great ones - for consumers, for pros, for desktop and for portable devices.

It is this focus on quality that later led to the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Some head teachers seem to go after every quality mark available. How can a school with ten quality marks (Artsmark, Inclusion Quality mark, etc.) be doing every one of those things brilliantly? How can quality be ensured throughout all of those areas. If a school has been awarded a kitemark for so many things, how much extra is expected of their staff? How can staff divide their time up to do every one of those things brilliantly?

No, I'd prefer to focus, like Apple did, on a small number of areas and make sure that they are delivered to the highest standard, than pretend to be an expert on everything.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Week 43: The best bit of advice that you've ever been given

As a teacher, the best bit of advice I've ever been given is:
"Have a conversation with every child every day."
This shows that you value your pupils; it shows that you want to nurture them; that you care.

As a person, the best bit of advice I've ever been given is:
"Do your best."
It's a good piece of advice for anyone.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Leading By Inspiration

I recently read Andrew Cope's book, 'Being Brilliant: The Art of Being Everything You Can Be! '. It really is quite inspiring. It also sums up what sort of a leader that I want to be. The following is an extract from the book which explains it.

Forget 'leading by example'. It's OK up to a point but has some serious side effects. For example, I know lots of managers who take pride in working long hours because 'it sets a good example'. One in particular used to boast about being the first in the car park and the last out at night, as if this automatically made him an excellent manager. Far from it; it just proved that he worked long hours. All he actually achieved was to make his staff feel guilty for leaving the office on time and daring to have a life outside work.

I knew another who made sure she could do all her team members' jobs to prove her worth to them. 'Respect' was her watchword. "I won't ask them to do anything I can't do myself," she boasted. All very laudable but what was the result? She spend so much time doing their jobs that she never actually 'managed' anything at all. Her team was totally reliant on her expertise. 

I'm not saying that 'leading by example' is necessarily a bad thing, just that the modern leader needs more. I believe the elusive ingredient is 'inspiration'. So, supplement 'leading by example' with 'leading by inspiration'. Now you have the ingredients for a mouth-watering leader that the modern workplace craves. This is someone whose presence inspires you to give your best, day in, day out, during good times and bad. They don't necessarily know exactly what you do or how to do it themselves, but they do spend time talking to you. They want to know your ideas for improving performance. They listen, coach and praise. They are calm under pressure. They laugh, sometimes even during the bad times. They have high expectations and you raise your game to meet these. You feel valued and you love your job. Most importantly, you grow.

Someone who 'leads by inspiration' can achieve all of the above and, boy, what a difference it makes to morale and performance.

Friday, 19 October 2012


I love Pinterest. It's a great site for finding inspiration. Usually the ideas are brilliantly simple! You might want to follow some of my boards at

Here are some ideas I have adopted recently:

Homework Bingo
Anyone who hands their homework in on time gets to choose a square for the Homework Bingo game. Each week two squares are chosen at random and the children who chose them are given a reward.

I've added this to the front of my classroom. I use it to add reminders for the children about what they are working on. Like a Working Wall, I guess, but I pick the messages!

Class rules display
This helped to inspire the class rules display in my classroom.

Book recommendations display
We will be adding post-its to our very own book recommendations display in school soon.

Reward chair
Our reward chair is used by the child who wins the class merit. They get to sit on it for the whole week!

Compliment Jar
Using ping pong balls, the class have been given a compliment jar to collect compliments from other adults. They aren't allowed to put in compliments from the teachers and teaching assistants in Year Four - they have to be from other adults, and each adult can only be added once. The compliment has to be directed at the whole class. When a compliment is given we write it on a ping pong ball and drop it into the jar. When it's full (it's likely to take a while) the class will be given a reward.

Effort grade
As part of their self-assessment at the end of the lesson the children also now give an effort grade to say how hard they worked in the lesson. 1 means they didn't really try at all. 2 means they tried, but not their best. 3 means they tried their best. 4 means they tried their best and they were an inspiration to others. It's been a useful way of seeing who is challenging themselves in class.

Rewards Treasure Box
The rewards in our treasure box are used to reward children in Homework Bingo.

Homework Books
When I return from my knee injury I'll be introducing some collaborative homework books. The children will be given a book, complete a piece of homework in it before passing it to another child next week. One of the homework books will be a secret mission book, a bit like this.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Lessons from Apple 1: Philosophy

 I recently read the biography of Steve Jobs. After reading the biography I came to the conslusion that I didn't really like Jobs much. He did some amazing things, but I don't like the way he seemed to treat people. There were a few important lessons I learned from him, lessons that could be applied to schools.

Apple's marketing philosophy is:
Point No. 1: Empathy
Apple should strive for an “intimate” connection with customers’ feelings. “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company,” Markkula wrote.
Thinking about pupils, parents and other stakeholders I think its important to have a real understanding of their needs. Everything we do is for our children. Listening to pupil voice is vital. Knowing the background to the pupils and recognising their needs is way that we can do our best for them.
Point No. 2: Focus
To be successful, Apple should center its efforts on accomplishing its main goals, and eliminate all the “unimportant opportunities.”
Focus means having a clear vision. Focus means all energies should be directed into achieving it.
Point No. 3: Impute
Apple should be constantly aware that companies and their products will be judged by the signals they convey. “People DO judge a book by its cover,” Markkula wrote. “We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.”
Impute is a clumsy word, but its meaning is perfect for Apple, and is perfect for schools too. We want our pupils to have the best and so the best must be conveyed in all that we do. It's about trying to make our school look good. But it's also about raising standards of teaching and learning too.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Exciting Sentences

I've recently got into using Alan Peat's Exciting Sentences in the classroom. If you've not read it then it's worth getting hold of a copy. It's a book of sentence types, with quirky names, which children can use to improve their writing.

Here are some resources I've found to help you use them:
This is a great guide to building up a progression of standards of exciting sentences in the primary school.

The Woodfold Primary English Policy has an appendix with a list of the types of sentences. You can find it at

Some amazing videos:

Also, some posters that I made:

Brilliant videos from Davyhulme Primary School

5B Super Sentences adverts from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

5A Super Sentences adverts from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

Do you know of any resources to help embed exciting sentences in your children's writing?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Files Not Piles

Here's a simple phrase to help you to keep a tidy classroom: "Files not Piles."

Planning: Never leave planning lying around - it instantly sends a message to anyone in your classroom that you can't keep track of things. It should always be filed. Of course the file can be open and used in the classroom.

Distribution: If you have things to be given out, keep them in letter tray.

Collecting things in: If the children need to hand in homework or anything else, make sure that you have created clear routines for the children to follow. Make sure homework or anything that needs marking does not hang around - show that you intend to action it.

Things to action: You're bound to be given things throughout the day that need attention. Consider organising these into files - things that need doing today, this week and sometime in the future.

Reference: Keep a file of data about the class. You might want to keep in there anything else that's relevant to your role.

Recycle: Don't let things accumulate - if it's finished with, put it straight in the recycling bin.

Always tidy up before you go home. It sends a message to your class that you want things to be tidy. It also means you get to stay on top of things!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Week 42: Something new that you want to try in the classroom

Due to the school's financial priorities being elsewhere, for the time being, the thing I'd like to try isn't going to be possible for a while.

I'm desperate to introduce handheld technology into my classroom, probably using iPads. I'd love the children to be able to access technology immediately, and whenever it's needed. The technology needs to be intuitive, simple and effective for pupils to learn so that the technology enhances the learning and doesn't become the focus for the lesson. Lots of teachers write about the benefits of iPads in the classroom. I want my pupils to find this out too!

One day...


Saturday, 13 October 2012

Reporting Vs Telling Tales

Using I made my own Reporting Vs Telling Tales poster. Feel free to download it.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Class Dojo

Since the start of the year I've been using Class Dojo with my class.

My class love it and I love it! If you haven't tried it yet, you should.

Class Dojo is a free system for recording behaviour in your classroom. It is a web-based tool, which also has an iPhone app meaning that it is really easy to use. When a pupil exhibits certain behaviours, you add it to their profile.

We already have an effective Behaviour Lights management system in school. Because of this, after discussing it with my class, we decided that Class Dojo would only be used for recording positive behaviour.

These are the behaviours we negotiated:

You can see that the Olympic values feature, but also creativity, participation, working hard and helpfulness. All of these were suggested by my class. 

It has made a real difference in the classroom so far, as pupils do their best to have their positive behaviour reported.

Do you use Class Dojo in your classroom? Has it made a positive difference?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Week 41: Comment on three blogs

Three excellent blog posts:
One of the most inspiring blog posts I've ever read. I learned such a lot about how to show you value staff, how to build a sense of community and belonging and how to look after people; all of which will help to drive a school on.
In a school that's just appointed five NQTs, with three teachers who have just finished their NQT year, I enjoyed reading this blog post which reminds us that we all have something to learn, whether we've been in the job for one week, or one decade. Enthusiasm is the essential requirement to be a teacher.
I loved hearing about the presentation pupils put together for their class. But, I don't just love this post, I love this whole blog! As a fellow Year 4 teacher I learn something amazing every time I visit the blog. If I was a pupil, I'd love to be in this classroom!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

NPQH Gateway Day

Today I took part in my Gateway Day.

It was hard work. All of this before I even get on to the course! I can't discuss the activities I took part in, as we had to sign confidentiality forms.

There's not a lot you can do to prepare, but it might be worth doing these things:

  • Read through your application forms one last time.
  • Meet with your sponsor to discuss what they said about you in their telephone conversation (just for support and inspiration).
  • Look again at the definitions of the NPQH competencies.
  • Think about your senior leadership role - forget about your work with children. On they day they are only interested in how you lead people.
  • Ensure you are familiar with EYFS profiles, RaiseOnline, Ofsted reports.
  • Take a look through your school's development plan.
If you haven't had your day yet - good luck. The assessors were friendly and put you at ease as much as possible. There'll be about 8 of you on the day but you are assessed individually. The assessors told us to 'enjoy it'. Do your best and good luck!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Monthly Review: September 2012

September was a month I'd like to forget. During this month, the baby we were expecting was miscarried. We were around 10 weeks pregnant when things began to go wrong. I'm not going to go into any more detail other than to say that the whole experience, which happened over nearly 4 long weeks, was horrible. I hope none of my readers ever have to go through something like this.

Visit to Chester Zoo
After rearranging our topics, we moved our visit to Chester Zoo to Autumn 1 as it fits better with our Animals Around The World topic. We had a great day, and it's well worth a visit if it's not too far away from you.

School Council Meeting
I love finding out the results of our School Council elections at the start of the year. As the lead teacher for the Council I'm always impressed by the maturity of the councillors in September. To see them grow during the year is a real privilege.

As part of our transition programme we reconsidered how we teach at the start of September. The first few days back do not have any 'proper' lessons as we learn work with the children to set targets, teach how to set out work in books, agree class rules, go over break routines and lots more. Hopefully we'll see the benefit of this over the year.

New teaching arrangements
This year I will only be teaching for 50% of the week. It's going to be interesting to see how this works out. I'm looking forward to having time I can devote to my management duties, but it will be hard to see my class for so little. In fact, with all that's gone on this month, I've hardly taught. Hopefully that situation improves.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Week 40: Your favourite book

My favourite book is a book called Holes by Louis Sachar. When reading this to my class in 2003 I fell in love with the story. 

Amazon's blurb is: "Stanley Yelnats' family has a history of bad luck going back generations, so he is not too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre. Nor is he very surprised when he is told that his daily labour at the camp is to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, and report anything that he finds in that hole. The warden claims that it is character building, but this is a lie and Stanley must dig up the truth. In this wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar has created a masterpiece that will leave all readers amazed and delighted by the author's narrative flair and brilliantly handled plot."

Fate brings about a series of events that had me completely enthralled.

My other favourite books are:
The Harry Potter series
The Hunger Games Trilogy
The Da Vinci Code
Duncan Bannatyne's Anyone Can Do It

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Chester Zoo

Our Year Fours visited Chester Zoo today. Chester Zoo is one of the largest zoos in country, with plans for further expansion. It's a great day out with your family, and also with your class. We visited as part of our Animals Around The World topic.

The children took part in the Amazon Adventure Rainforest Habitats workshop. The children enjoyed investigating the different materials to find out more about the animals who live in threatened rainforest habitats.

After the workshop we looked around all of the zoo. The children loved visiting the African Painted Dogs, cheetahs, bats and chimps. The dinosaur exhibition was popular too! I don't know if it was because the zoo was quiet that the animals all came out to show themselves, but we saw all saw the animals. They never did that thing where they hide from the visitors - they were there to be seen (apart from the black jaguar, who I don't believe actually exists. It was beautiful to see the lion roaring, the bear taking an afternoon stroll and the tiger snoozing.

After the visit the children have been learning more about Amazonian habitats in Science lessons, and exploring the geography of South America too.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Outstanding Teaching 4: Engaging Pupils

 I recently read The Managing Workload Pocketbook from the brilliant Teachers' Pocketbooks series. The book was written by Caroline Bentley-Davies.

In the fourth and last in a series of posts, I look at advice given about engaging pupils

Remember to do things FAST
F Focus - Get the pupils focused on the task in hand, settled and in the right frame of mind for learning.
A Activity - Get them going! Activities need to be simple, quick to set up, but sifficiently challenging to make them qorthy of completion
S Systems - Have well understood strategies for managing homework, forgotten pens, latecomers, etc.
T Teach! - Get on with the learning and don't waste time! Remember, getting them settled and quiet is a means to an end, not the end in itself.

Pupils are centre stage in great lessons. A silent lesson is rarely an outstanding lesson. In outstanding lessons pupils ate active in their own learning and engaged. The real test of a great lesson is what the pupils can do as a result of it. In the very best lessons, pupils learn a great deal; they absorb new skills and information and are able to do something for themselves - not just in that day's lesson, but days, weeks or moths later they can still recall it and put it into practice! Their progress is demonstrable. However, getting pupils to become independent learners can be a real challenge. Obstacles can include: apathy, lack of confidence, and an over-reliance on the teacher or teaching assistant completing the work for them.

Steps to ensure the pupils can demonstrate their learning/resilience:
1 Understanding the goal
2 Defining the challenge
3 Develop active and engaged learners
4 Lesson strategies - resources, display, teacher - think of 3 ways of finding out the answers before resorting to asking the teacher for assistance