Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Engaging staff

I love this post on the Leadership Daily blog. 
As a leader, how do you engage your staff?Engaged employees are essential to a leader's - and organization's - success. Without staff who care about, participate in, and take ownership over the work, even the best leader will flounder. Here are three ways to win your staff's engagement:
  • Be modest
  • Share both your mistakes and your successes. Staff will see that you're both human and don't have anything to prove.
  • Show that you're listening
  • People tune in to body language. Manage where you look and what you do with your hands so that staff know you're paying attention.
  • Don't have all the answers
  • Leaders should catalyze problem solving. Be willing to admit that you don't know what the answer is and invite your team to toss around ideas."
This sounds like great advice to me. Leading your staff is one thing. Engaging them is another. This straightforward advice is the sort of thing that would really motivate and interest the people you lead.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Good Leadership 2: Gordon Ramsey

This is the second in my series of posts about leadership skills in people I admire.

Gordon Ramsey
I love to watch Gordon Ramsey on TV. Here are leadership skills he displays:

High standards
I'm not sure that the language he uses to insist on the high standards from the staff in his restaurants but it's not hard to see how important he believes having high standards in all aspects of his businesses.

Listens to complaints
He has written in his books about the way that he loves getting complaint letters about his restaurants. These inform any part of his action plan.

Keep it simple and effective
In his Kitchen Nightmares programmes I've often seen him criticise a menu for the amount of choice it contains. How can the kitchen staff prepare so many dishes to the high standards needed? How can the house staff build up product knowledge about so many dishes? Put simply, they can't. Often the first change he makes is to redesign the menu - keep it short and simple and high quality and the customers will keep coming back.

Recognising strengths
Ramsey can quickly spot the strengths and unique selling points of people and places. It's so important that leaders can spot these and use them to make their business/school strong and different.

Everyone know the expectations
Regular meetings and liaisons with all staff allow expectations to be shared and maintained.

Image: http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/four-essential-business-lessons-from-chef-gordon-ramsey/

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Week 5: My Favourite Film

I have tonnes of favourite films and it's hard to pick just one. Not one of them is to do with teaching by the way!

Probably edging into the lead is Bad Boys. Will Smith is my favourite actor. This was the first action film that I really got into and I can watch it time and time again and still love it!

Other favourite films:
The Social Network
The Pursuit of Happyness
Back To The Future
Die Hard
Star Wars
The Dark Knight
American Pie
The Bourne Trilogy
Old School
The Fugitive
There's Something About Mary

Friday, 27 January 2012


Since our baby arrived back in April, I've quickly begun to see the importance of sleep. It's not that I never knew it before. It's just that seeing the difference a few minutes' snoozing can make to a baby is fascinating to watch.

It's amazing to watch our baby get herself upset and worked up seemingly for no reason. Then she goes to sleep, sometimes for just a few minutes, and then she wakes up happy and smiling! Powernapping seems to be the way forward then!

It's helped me to understand why children can sometimes underperform in class. If they've not had enough sleep their body and brain can't cope. I wonder if schools should have a nap room!

I'm more guilty than most people for not getting enough sleep. One of my new year's resolutions was to go to bed at 11. It's proving to be impossible. It's more like 11.30 each night. I set my alarm for 6 each morning but I'm struggling to get up and the snooze button is both the best and worst invention ever. I realise that many people get far less sleep than I do and cope just fine. But personally, I'm finding that I need at least seven hours!!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Week 4: A funny story from your classroom experience

When I taught in Year Six I used to teach the children how to calculate speed of travel. A few lessons would culminate in the chance to create our own speed trap outside school. There has been a debate for many years about whether or not we should have speed bumps on the road alongside our school. Most cars stick to their speed limit, but some drive quite dangerously fast. The challenge for the lesson was for the children to find their own evidence to decide whether or not we needed speed bumps.

The children measured the playground. We then worked out how quickly vehicles must drive past the playground in order to break the speed limit of 30 miles an hour. The children then worked in teams to time how long the cars took to drive past and then worked out if the car was going too fast or not. If it went too fast a member of the group held up a 'Slow Down' message (which they'd written on a whiteboard). They found out that most cars kept to the limit, but there were a few who needed the warning.

It was in the middle of their investigation that the poor postman came along on his bike. The children thought it would be funny to time him as he rode past. I felt sorry for the man as he rode along whilst the children started running alongside him. He started to speed up to try to get ahead of them! Luckily the children worked out that he wasn't speeding and so he didn't get a warning. But his face as thirty children ran along with him suggests that next time he came past, he would probably go as quickly as possible!!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Roman Health and Safety?

On our visit to Chester Grosvenor Museum this week to learn about the Romans (I'll blog about this another time) the children had the chance to be archaeologists and sort through various stones. There was a display on the wall showing a cross-section of the ground. Of course, it was layered - remains from the Roman era at the bottom, rising up to a layer of washing up liquid bottles and carrier bags nearest the surface. It showed the children how we have to dig for clues about the past.

I happened to ask one of the children why they thought things were buried. He told me that the ground was lower in Roman Times. I asked him why. He said, "Because of health and safety!!!"

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Ofsted Unsatisfactory

After the news announced by Michael Wilshaw that he plans for the word 'satisfactory' to disappear from the vocabulary in Britain's education system I loved read this blog post from Michael Rosen, the author.

I sort of see Ofsted's point. Sort of. I mean, we want to have an education system that is better than satisfactory. One that releases the potential of our pupils and offers the best future for them. But to say that satisfactory is unacceptable surely completely changes the meaning of the word. Satisfactory means that it does what it is supposed to. What's wrong with teachers and schools doing what they are supposed to?

On a separate note, it's typical for the government (Wilshaw's a politician's puppet, despite his background in teaching) to  make unbelievable proposals like this without putting in time and training for teachers to improve their skills. To make demands on the profession and simply expect it to happen without providing any funding or training is not on at all. Funding to local authorities has been cut to such an extent in our area that training courses and the advisory service has virtually disappeared overnight. It's a great time for consultants who must be raking it in!

But what a missed opportunity for the government to look like good guys for once. As Michael Rosen says in his blog post, " All that money on inspection rather than advice. Bullying rather than co-operation." Couldn't Ofsted have rebranded itself as a sort of advisory service? Couldn't there be a balanced of inspection and offering support and guidance to schools to help them to improve? In the absence of much of the advise offered by local authorities, perhaps there's a gap in the market for someone to regulate the advice given.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Week 3: Your favourite lesson when you were at school – what is it like to teach it now?

When I was at school I adored Maths. When I was at primary school we learned maths by working our way through various text maths. The teacher would mark our work and periodically go through something. I can't honestly remember any teacher in primary school teaching me any maths. I'm sure I learned it all through the text books. It was great because you could work through the challenges at your own pace. Being a book ahead of the other children raised your self-esteem quite nicely! I wish I could remember which books we used...

My love for maths continued into high school and I relished every challenge. I loved my high school maths teacher and looked forward to every lesson. We were often set problem solving investigations for homework and I used to love exploring these with my mum. I took my GCSE a year early and scored a B. I took it again the following year and raised it to an A. Until GCSE, maths was without a doubt my favourite subject.

I then opted to do maths at A-level and it was at that point that it ceased being my favourite. Until GCSE I could always see a purpose and an application for everything I was being taught. A-level maths was just too abstract. I couldn't see the point. It was divided into two modules, pure maths and statistics (each module ending in an exam). I hated pure maths with its calculus, integration and differentation. I didn't find it at all easy. I loved statistics however. I could see how useful statistics could be (I am still a nerd for statistics now). I did so well in statistics that it brought my overall mark for maths up and I scored a D in the A-level.

For some reason, and I still can't quite figure out why, despite maths being my lowest A-level result, I chose to study it in University. It was probably a good choice in the end though, as it restored my love of the subject somewhat as things started to make sense.

Now, as a Maths teacher, I teach Maths every day. Children's 'textbooks' are often used but pupils are never left to just work their way through. I think the newer way is a much better way to teach. But I do wonder whether more able children would, as I did, love the chance to just work their way through a textbook. In primary school we were taught to 'do' things in maths. Now I like to think that I teach children to understand what they are doing.

I love teaching maths, just like I loved learning it!

Friday, 13 January 2012

ICT Curriculum

Wow, there are big changes afoot for the ICT Curriculum. Michael Gove has announced that the programmes of study for ICT will be scrapped. Schools will be able to devise their own curriculum for the subject.

The plan is that, "Britain should revive the legacy of the mathematician and wartime codebreaker Alan Turing by creating a generation of young people able to work at the forefront of technological change. Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years, once we remove the roadblock of the existing ICT curriculum."

The national curriculum for ICT has been out-of-date almost from the moment it was written. The very nature of technology and communication means that things are constantly changing and evolving. Yet the government has never even looked remotely like it intended to evolve the ICT curriculum. So schools have already started to devise their own programmes of study and ICT progressions.

Matt Lovegrove
Simon Haughton
Chris Leach
Claire Lotriet
Ian Addison
I'm sure there are many others too.

These are all brilliant, but they have one thing in common - they have all been planned by outstanding teachers who have a passion for and a real understanding of the technology. What will happen in schools where a teacher with these skills isn't employed. A digital-gap could form where pupils have vastly differing abilities.

This opportunity is the private market's dream as many skills will need to use commercial schemes to support them.

I intend to be brave and have a go at developing a new ICT curriculum in school. I'm bound to use ideas (all credited, of course!) from the many schemes listed above. I want to try to develop a progression that children and teachers in our school will love.

Here's a very interesting blog post on the change. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


Today we had a superb social media training session for our staff with Jonathan Bradley from StaySocialSafe.

Staysocialsafe is a social media service provided by Participate. It is here to help professionals use social networks and remain safe with their reputations untarnished. This service has been designed to give professionals the training and expertise they need to use social media at work without getting themselves or their employer into disrepute (often by accident).
The training and briefing service is designed to ensure that:
  • Staff understand how they should use social media at work and at play
  • Staff know how to manage security settings and behaviour to protect their private lives
  • Organisations to do not lose key staff through a lack of understanding of safe behaviour in social media
  • Organisations protect themselves from inappropriate social media broadcasting by staff.
The Staysocialsafe courses are designed to ensure that employees and employers are up to date with social media policy, security and safety requirements. Fundamentally it’s about making sure employees know how to behave and the risks they are potentially exposed to. 

The briefing was excellent and there was something for everyone to learn - from the Facebook addict to the people who barely use the internet!

Here are some of my learning and action points to take away from the session:

Using Social Media
  • Employees can be held legally responsible for online content written about their employer
  • Remember - it's SOCIAL media - like gossip!
  • Search for yourself and clean up!
  • Add a disclaimer - your tweets are your own.
  • If you make a mistake - correct, acknowledge, apologise.
  • Choose friends and followers carefully.
  • Don't use social media when you are drunk!
  • If you are in a position of responsibility you have given away some of your social media freedom. Employers have rights to act on what you do. They probably don't want to - so be social safe.
  • Keep track of tags, retweets and mentions.

ICT Leadership
  • We need a Social Media Policy (separate to the Acceptable Use Policy)
  • A training course should be given to new members of staff
  • The Social Media Policy should:
  • Be about DOs as well as DON'Tss
  • Explain the type of information employees can share and what should remain confidential.
  • Cover personal use of social media during working hours.
  • Give guidance on using social media as part of a professional role.
School Leadership
  • Treat electronic misbehaviour in the same way as non-electronic behaviour - with pupils and with adults.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Lesson Structure

I enjoyed an article in Primary Teacher Update January 2012 edition. Sue Rogers writes about the 'standard' lesson structure. She writes that your lesson structure is going to look something like this:

  1. The big picture
    • What is the lesson to be about?
    • What are the learning objectives?
    • How do long-term objectives link with short-term objectives? Put everything in context.
    • Make links with prior learning and learning that is to take place in the future.
  2. Focus on the day's learning objective
    • Discuss.
    • Explain.
    • Ask question.
    • Encourage questioning.
    • Assess continuously.
  3. Have a whole-class demonstration
    • Look at examples.
    • Make success criteria clear.
    • Model the process(es).
    • Ensure any support staff are utilised fully. Involve them in the demonstrations.
  4. Independent session to practise skill(s)
    • Make expectations clear in terms of time, amount and quality. What are you looking for?
    • Scaffold/guide a focus group.
    • At intervals move round and check on the progress of the others.
    • Show learners how to scaffold/guide each other.
    • Continue to mediate, ensure understanding of the task, assess and get learners to self-evaluate and assess each other.
    • Use mini-plenaries or feedback sessions for the whole class where you notice common misconceptions or strengths.
  5. Plenary where learners discuss learning
    • Help pupils by bridging - connecting - the learning with the next lesson.
    • Did they meet the success criteria?
    • What have they achieved?
    • How successful were the independent groups?
    • Where can their new skills be consolidated and applied?
    • What do they need to do next?
    • Is there any aspect that needs more practice?
    • What support do they need?
The article is interesting and is worth a read.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Week 2: Make a bulleted list of every lesson taught this week

We returned to school on Wednesday for an INSET day and taught on Thursday and Friday.

  • English: A lesson on using commas to add extra detail to sentences.
  • Maths: Revision of the six times table.
  • English: More work on using commas, finding the right places to add the extra detail.
  • Maths: A times table test.
  • ICT: Finding websites about the Romans in preparation for research for building a Roman Wiki. We used linoit.com to collect good links.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


I have attended two Teachmeets and I have found them fun and inspiring. I've never had the confidence to present and admired anyone who does. So much good practice is happening in schools all over the country. We decided to use the Teachmeet model to share this great work in our own school.

Our 'rules' were:

  • Give it a go - there's no pressure
  • You should share something that works well in your own classroom
  • It doesn't have to be ICT-based
  • You can share a commercial resource if we have it in school
The whole thing took an hour and a half and everyone felt proud, enthused and inspired!

Here are the notes from the mini-Teachmeet:

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Monthly Review: December 2011

December has been busy for me, just the same as any other teacher. Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, although it can be quite stressful. So much takes place that it is nice to get back to 'normal' (if there is ever such a thing) in the new year. Here is what I've been doing:

Christmas Concert
This year we performed Scrooge - a classic Christmas tale if ever there was one. We have a concert for children in Years 4 to 6, with the children in Y6 taking the acting roles and children in Y4 and Y5 performing dances to the songs. After nine years in Year Six, it was strange to 'only' be involved in putting together dances. In the end, though, I did lots of other things too - helping with some of the acting, the technical stuff (sound and lighting), the programme and other things I've forgotten about. I really enjoyed it and many parents commented that this year's play was the best one ever!

Christmas Events
Other school events included our Christmas parties and our traditional carol service in church which I work with Year Six pupils to put together.

Treating ourselves to a new TV
We've had a gigantic box of a TV for the last seven years. We've been desperate for it to 'go wrong' so we could get a new one. In the end we decided to treat ourselves. We found a good deal and bought a huge TV! It will help for when we are watching films. This year has been prolific to say the least for our film watching. I've kept a list on my phone for the year, and we've watched over 140 films in 2011!

Enjoying our first Christmas as a family
It was wonderful to spent our first Christmas with our baby. Lily loved the whole day, without ever understanding what the fuss was about. We could have saved lots of money and bought her a roll of wrapping paper and gift bows as that's pretty much what she played with on the day!! With the aid of some of her toys (like the baby walker) she has started to take her first few steps! With a baby in the house, we didn't have our usual New Year's Eve party, and so for the first time in nine years no one came round. For the first time ever I stayed in to bring in the new year! But our baby makes it all worth it!

I've pretty much eaten and drank my way through this entire month. I need to do more exercise in the new year!

My targets for 2012

I guess my targets for the year ahead should be split into personal and professional promises. Here goes:

Be a good dad and husband.
Keep the house tidier.
Go to church more regularly.
Spend less.
Decorate the hall, bathroom and bedroom.
Landscape the front garden.
Keep a photo every day.
Get my knee sorted.
Swim once a month.
Start running again.
By the end of the year I want to be able to play football more.
Go to bed no later than 11.30pm each night.
Read a newspaper each day.

Enjoy teaching Year Four.
Get my classroom (and storeroom) looking like I want it!
Develop our class blog more.
Use resources like Purplemash more.
Redesign the Year Four website.

ICT Co-ordinator
Establish our new ICT scheme of work.
Update the ICT inventory.
Improve the resources available on our school website for the children and teachers.
Promote the use of email within school.

Deputy Head
Successfully apply for the Investors In Pupils award.
Continue to develop our performance management process.
Develop my understanding of using data to monitor progress in KS2.

Involve myself in Twitter more.
Write more! (My use of Twitter and Blogger has dropped over the last few months).

Week 1: Introduce yourself

I'm a Deputy Head Teacher in a school in Cheshire. I've been teaching since 2001. I love my job (most of the time). I can't imagine doing anything except teaching. My ambition is to become a head teacher within the next five years.

I currently teach in Year Four. Last year I worked in Year Three and I taught in Year Six for nine years prior to that. I teach for 60% of the week, with 10% PPA and 30% time for management duties. Due to my timetable, I teach Maths, English and ICT only this year.

I am a Deputy Head and I am responsible for KS2. My role is incredibly varied and every day is different to the one before it.

I am the ICT Co-ordinator for the school. This year I plan to put together a new school curriculum for the subject.

I am married to my wife of nearly two years. I became a dad in April and it has changed my life (for the better)! We have a cat. I like to play football and run (when I haven't got a knee injury). I love to use computers. My iPhone is the best gadget I've ever owned. I am 33 later this week. I think Lost was the best programme ever and I love The Apprentice. My favourite film ever is Bad Boys.