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.