Building blocks of the year

I am not sure how you view your academic year, but for me, the first 2 terms are absolutely key (I split the 3 terms into 6 half terms – manageable chunks I suppose).

For year 11, the first 2 terms are the building blocks before an effeective and energy sapping sprint toward May. This year we have a few plans on how to make this ‘sprint’ better organised and have a clear strategy. One focus for myself is for white, British, working class boys – as they are the most underperforming group nationally.

For year 7, the first 2 terms are incredibly important. To settle in, make new friends, set expectations and build relationships with parents. We value relationships with our parents extremely highly and always try to involve the parents with our decisions about the direction of the school. If an ongoing issue arises, we always invite the parents into discuss this. I really like this as a secondary school- very personal.

For year 10, it’s the real start of the official GCSE (I teach the GCSE spec from year 7 onward in lessons anyway – you would be bonkers not too wouldn’t you?). Set the right foundations now, routines, expectations, important deadline dates and I always find that the KS4 years run relatively smoothly (famous last words probably).

Year 9 is important at our school. The students will choose options at the end of term 2. They have internal assessments in the beginning of term 2 as well. Some big decisions need to be made for these students so it is very important we provide the correct and most appropriate information for the students, and parents during this term. 

I love teaching the year 8. For me, it’s really the beginning of the ‘real’ GCSE curriculum. These students have settled in to the school and there is always a danger that these students have a ‘missing year’- not in my subject. We start to crack up the expectations again and we often find that the vast majority of students respond. In fact, the first 7 weeks this year have seen the year 8 I teach really start to stretch themselves. Behaviour, independent learning and clear focus in lessons has improved allowing the progress within these lessons to increase too. 

Overall, its been a good start to this academic year. After last years record breaking results as a school, we need to maintain a the momentum. With our great staff and students, I am sure we can have another successful year.

In addition, we have some very exciting changes afoot, especially in Teaching and Learning. And we all know, if we get this correct, then results will further improve as well as further developing a talented staff.

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Tough but rewarding year…

Ok, ok – I apologise. I have not blogged for a long time. There are various reasons but I know it is no excuse. It has been important to spend time at home, supporting my wife, who has suffered from an illness for period of time since 2013. I am pleased to say she is much better now.

I am very ambitious and have a clear idea and goal of where I want to go with my career – perhaps I am too obsessed with my goal?

‘Obsessed is what the lazy call the dedicated’

I have applied for a number of roles at senior leadership level during the last 18 months. I have now secured a post at my current school which fits my expertise and skill set perfectly. A huge success for me personally. Everything on the job description excites me, I still get to teach ( a lot!) and I am heavily involved with working closely with colleagues and developing teaching and learning – #mint.

I visited The Sunday Times Festival of Education last week and was blown away by the event and quality of speakers. I saw my good friend @KDWScience at the event and she inspired my to write about the journey I have been on over the last 12 months – so here it is.

At this point, I would like to say thank you to the following for supporting me on my journey so far. My wife and family, obviously, but also @jillberry102 @TeamTait @TeacherToolkit @vicgoddard and the Principal at my college – for the opportunity.

I was applying for various posts from September 2014 onwards. I was not being called for interviews and sought help from various sources including the above. I adapted my letter and kept applying. A role arose at my current school, which I went for. I was up against 3 quality staff members. I prepared well and tried my very best, and was very disappointed not to land the role. Feedback was very positive but the pain of missing out was really tough. Perhaps it is the competitive PE teacher in me, or the feeling of being a failure – but it did really hurt. I could not figure out what I was doing wrong or what I could do next – my feedback was very positive. In hindsight, the role did not match my skill set. And even though I believe I could do that role, my colleague and friend who secured the post, has greater experience and knowledge of that specific role. He was and is the right person for the role advertised.

It was demoralising, but supportive colleagues and friends, and a professional discussion from my seniors made me reflect and focus on the future. If I was serious about my goals and targets, I had to pick myself up and carry on moving forward:

MLK

I refocused and made sure I did an outstanding job in my current role. In addition, I picked up a Pupil Champion role to lead on Homework across the college. An area which I had never done before and would allow me gain further experience at a whole school level. I was asked if I would lead on the new Learning to Learn programme our college is starting in September 2015. My passion is teaching and learning and I was (and still am) very excited about this opportunity. It felt great to be approached and recognised as a member of staff that the leadership team felt they could trust with these two areas.

A few weeks on and I had secured an interview at another school. I felt very confident, but after a day and a half of a very tough process, I did not make it through to the final three. I think what I learned from this process was that you just don’t know what schools are looking for. There were eight of us on interview and I identified three others who I thought were strong. Two of the three went through to the final three but the post was secured by neither of them. For me, I learnt that you just had to be who you are whilst on interview, and if you fit, you fit.

Over the next few months I kept working hard and made sure I did my job to the best of my abilities. I also worked hard to make a success of the Pupil Champion role. Whilst we have developed homework and it has improved, there is still lots to do further, but the impact of using a new system and a refined policy has been high.

In late May, came an opportunity that would fit me, my skill set and where I am in my career. I had been told by a number of people that sometimes, you just have to be the right person, in the right place and the right time. I never liked this thought – I always believe in working hard and your time will come, but I found it tough that it was not happening on the time frame I had set myself.

I secured an Associate SLT post alongside some fantastic staff and this post and opportunity really excites me. It feels right too. I am so pleased – I always felt I had the ability to get to this level, and go on further, but just could not make the step. I have found it tough, but as a Growth Mindset fan, it was a case that I had to keep myself focused and moving forward, my time will come and I will get the right post, at the right time. I certainly feel like that now. The Power of Yet suddenly made sense.

If anyone reads this blog who is attempting to move to a new level with their careers my only advice is… never give up. It sounds cliche, it was advice given to me that was difficult to take and wait, but always work hard, and your time will come.

Leaders have feelings too.

It is simple…being a leader is tough! What ever your level of leadership, it is a difficult job. Dont get me wrong, I ABSOLUTELY love being a leader, in fact, my ambition is to become an assistant head within the next 3/4 years.

It is only from being a leader (Head of Faculty in my case) that I have learnt how difficult the job is. Being responsible for the subject, and the subjects in your faculty. For dealing with the incidents with students and interacting with parents; supporting your staff and also not accepting below par performance. But the hardest part of the job is the fine balancing act that all leaders must face. I really enjoy it, and I have learnt so much from being a leader at my current school. They really expect a lot of the middle leaders, and I thrive on this. Yes, I have made mistakes (and still do), but I do learn from them and adapt my practice. I really value my team, and try to praise as often and appropriately as possible – something that I still need to develop.

By far, managing people in an education environment is tough, but amazingly rewarding. Developing the different relationships with different people in the work environment has been a real challenge, but I love every minute. You have to lead from the front, ‘walk the walk’ as they say. You have to develop your team, challenge all staff toward top performance and raise aspirations and standards. This is always tough, and a great element of the job.

It would be safe to say, that I have a real interest in leadership and staff management – both The Schools Network course and my MEd qualifications are both in leadership.

I sought advice from senior staff and other leaders whom I have a relationship with. The advice I recieved was varied, but all was extremely beneficial to me developing my own style. This is key. You can model yourself on anyone you wish, copy as much good practice as you can, but you will always develop your own style – certianly in my experience. My personality and my values and ethics entwine with the leaderships skills and staff management and a new, personlaised leadership style develops – one that is my own.

I do hope that staff know that leaders are people at the end of the day – any leader worth their salt, just wants the best for the students, their staff and the school, in terms of experience and results. Tough decisions have to be made, that not all staff like, and leaders need rhino skin sometimes to get through these times. All staff have feelings, leaders too!

Back to school…

We have been back nearly 10 days now, and normal service has resumed. The manic days of trying to do 26 hours of work in 24 hours are back – and I have to say, I am loving it!

My concern was, that for the first time in my career, the first few days of the new term, with the eager students, were a real downer for me. We had an amazing olympic sports day (moved to September as the British weather ruined our 12 summer term attempts) and both students and staff were fantastic throughout the event – the atmosphere was truly London 2012, just transferred to our rural farming town in Devon.

I dont believe the wet summer helped my mind set, not the fact we were enable to get away for a short break (my wife has difficult pregnancies), and it was on tuesday last week that I realised why I was so down. I felt devalued, I felt my subject (Physical Education as you ask) was devalued. Not by my school, or my SLT (I have  very supportive SLT and staff at my school), but from the government and the media. This year, we achieved the best results ever, even better than we were predicted through our FFT Band D targets and our three levels of progress. My problem was that the charasmatic Mr Gove had once again decided that the whole world revolves around English and Maths and the progress children in these subjects.

Now please, dont get me wrong, I fully understand the importance of these subjects (my wife is an english teacher), and I am fully aware that EVERY subject at school has assisted and helped all the children to develop their literacy and numeracy skills. My problem was that Mr Gove continues to belittle the other subjects that make a school and develop the whole child. In my opinion, art, music, drama, technology and physical education, are the heart beat of a successful school. These are the subjects that drive and create an ethos and atmosphere. The last two Head Teachers I have worked with have said:

‘Head of PE is one of the most important subjects in this school. If the children enjoy PE, they attend school for these lessons. Once they are here and they enjoy school, we can teach them our other subjects.’ Head Teacher 2008

‘You can always tell when PE are on song, as the whole school is a calmer more pleasant place to be.’ Head Teacher 2011

Praise indeed, I thought so anyway!

You will be pleased to know that I shook off my ‘downer’ mood quite quick. I was concerned why the world did not value PE, why did it not see the positive effects and opportunities it provides for ALL young people. How could the world NOT see this after the amazing summer of sport. It then hit me, I do this, I give up so much of my personal time to provide opportunities for our young people for one reason – because I believe it is the right thing to do. Most importantly, their is a group of people who REALLY value what we do. People who enjoy the saturdays spent training the Ten Tors teams. Who value the late nights running fixtures or running study support sessions. Who value the early morning revision sessions. Who value the countless chances and support we give them. The people who value our work more than any other group of people are also the most important people in this scenario. The students.

This thought alone shook me from my ‘poor me’ state and galvanised my thinking. Be prepared world and especially you Mr Gove, as I love my job because the students value what my colleagues and I do.

Bring on 2012/2013…