Monthly Archives: December 2014

1000 Years of Experience⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

I returned to teaching in 1992, having only completed one year when I qualified in 1976. So I have some twenty three years of experience in education and another sixteen years in business and commerce. My last fifteen years have been as a headteacher and I have learned so much, and continue to do so, that I wish I knew when I started in teaching and leadership that I know now. I share these thoughts with you all and my younger self.
I have always been an idealist and a bit of a late developer in everything I have tackled in my career and am still developing now. My first thought would be:

  • Stay true to your values and principles. These will develop over time, but should be the touchstone for your practice and the demands placed upon you during your career. Stick with your instincts. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't. So, question what you are asked to do and whether it is the right thing to do.
  • Always remember why you wanted to be a teacher. For me it was to make a difference for all pupils, and because I love working with young people. When times are tough and you are facing challenges try to remember why you do what you do, and the difference it makes to so many lives.
  • Stay positive and ignore the negativity you will come across in individuals and some staffrooms. Find the positive people, who feel good about themselves and the work they do, and make sure they find you for the same reasons. 
  • Remember that in your classroom what is always the most important issue is learning. Not teaching, not curriculum, not the resource, not policy, or anything else, always learning. You probably only have a sketchy understanding of learning, so make it a priority that you get to understand learning and how your practice impacts on this. Everything else needs to be a support for the learning going on. If you find things impacting negatively on learning stop doing them and do something else.
  • Understand that career long professional development never ends and has no destination. It is best when focused on your practice and identified by yourself. It should be done by you, not to you. Resist the temptation to copy 'good practice' instead look to understand the principles that lie behind. Context is crucial and there are no 'one size fits all' solutions or magic bullets to school and individual development.
  • Beware of 'snake oil' salesmen offering to solve all your learning problems with the latest resource or programme.
  • You are in the best profession in the world. But, it's just a job so learn to prioritise professionally and privately. Work hard but play hard and have plenty of you and yours time. Stressed, tired teachers lead to stressed and tired learners who can't achieve their potential. Smile and laugh as often as you can. Accept that you won't get it right all of the time, but understand that is all part of learning. Don't try to hide your mistakes.
  • There is not a headteacher or senior leader who doesn't make mistakes or who has all the answers. If you are sat in a meeting thinking you must be the only one who doesn't understand what is being said, you are not.

No-one ever offered me such advice when I first started teaching. If they had, perhaps my development might have been a tad quicker at times, and I wouldn't have banged my head against so many metaphorical and real walls!

Own Learning⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

ol
I love teaching. I really do. However, like many other teachers I yearn for other experiences and opportunities as well. I’ve been lucky so far in my career to have had a few interesting out-of-classroom experiences, but to be completely honest with you I’m not sure where the next one is going to come from. Over the past few years there have been a number of potential opportunities but for one reason or another none of them have actually come off or been quite right.

So, in the spirit of New Year resolutions, my plan for 2015 is to see if I can create my own opportunities. Can I generate work outside of my classroom, not to make enormous profits, but to allow me to be able to reduce my teaching commitment and yet still support my family? It’s an interesting question and I suppose I have to ask myself what do I have to offer? I’ve come up with a number of things…

  • I feel that I have a deep understanding of the potential for practitioner enquiry in teacher professional learning and am able to facilitate others in the process. I’ve already run collaborative enquiries and supported individuals through the enquiry process in my own school and now I’m beginning to support teachers from outwith my school through enquiries, which I could build upon further with others. I could therefore lead enquiries in other schools, support schools to develop their own enquiry programmes and even branch this out to wider support for schools’ professional learning programmes.
  • I have a real passion for the development of pedagogy, particularly in the areas of involving young people in the learning process and the meaningful integration of technology into learning. I could support school leaders and their staff to develop aspects of pedagogy and the use of technology in a number of ways ranging from consulting, to speaking or even coming in and working directly with groups of staff.
  • I could also do a huge variety of other pieces of work such as organising educational events or consulting on policy or projects for organisations working in the education sector.

In order to dip my toe in the water and see if anyone is willing to actually pay me for any of these services I’m taking the step of setting myself up as a sole trader. You can find out more on my new website: ownlearning.co.uk

To begin with, any work would be in addition to my full time teaching role, however if it works I’d be hoping to be able to adjust this in the future.

So, does any of this appeal to you or your school’s leadership team? If so, please get in touch. I’ve come up with some rates but obviously these will be negotiable while I’m setting up in return for feedback and references.

Happy New Year!

14/15 Nurture⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

  2014 has been another busy, exciting and challenging year. Some of the highlights have included:

  • Continuing to work with some excellent teachers and colleagues in both the schools I lead. We have pressed forward with our practitioner enquiry approaches to school and individual development. Four and a half years down this road and we are more committed and convinced than ever that we have chosen the right path for us. We have seen impressive impacts for our learners, for each teacher and for both schools. The totality of the curricular experience we deliver has continued to develop and we all understand how this is a continuous journey and process of growth, with no destination or finishing point. Seeing teachers of all ages and stages continue to grow and develop even more enthusiasm for what they do, and the impact they have, is one of the joys of school leadership. Hearing laughter in the staff-room so often is a key indicator for me of school well-being.
  • Seeing the successes and achievements of all our pupils, continues to be a highlight for me. Sometimes it can be difficult for teachers to see pupil progress when they are working with them every day. I can see this progress more clearly at times when I visit classrooms and work with pupils. When this is combined with all the 'harder' evidence and data we have, this allows me to be confident in the progress the pupils are making. I am particularly excited by the progress made by the pupils who have faced and overcome the most difficulties and barriers to their learning and personal development. My role continues to be one of providing the right conditions to give staff the support and encouragement they need to ensure all pupils continue to make progress.
  • Personally, I have been very engaged with the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) and their initial Fellowship programme this year. This has been a terrific experience and has given me the opportunity to meet and work with some exceptional school leaders from around Scotland. As part of the programme, we have met with and engaged in professional dialogue and conversation with plenty of leading educational and leadership thinkers and practitioners. We started with Graham Donaldson and other stars of this year have included Alma Harris, Andy Hargreaves, Chris Chapman, Clive Dimmock, Margery McMahon and Sir Andrew Cubie. This engagement has helped me develop my thinking and understanding around school leadership and how school leaders can crucially create, or destroy, the right conditions for schools to thrive. More importantly, being part of this programme has kept my thinking and my practice fresh, up to date and in a continuous process of development, a crucial requirement for experienced headteachers. It has also allowed me to engage at a national level through meetings  and presenting at conferences across Scotland. My next step begins on Friday when I leave for the ICSEI in Cincinnati as part of a team talking about system development in Scottish education.
  • I have continued to Blog and further engage with educators all over the world on Twitter. This is an essential part of my professional development and collaboration. I am committed to collaboration and developing dialogue at all levels within education and leadership. I share and engage with colleagues all over the world from the comfort of my sofa at home, whenever I Have the time and opportunity, at no cost to me or my schools, apart from that time. I have learned so much more from these engagements than from most of the so-called professional development courses I have attended in my career. In a time of fewer and fewer resources, and increasing demands on my time, this on-line collaboration can only keep growing. One of the greatest pleasures of the year has been meeting some of my 'virtual' friends and colleagues and then continuing our conversations face to face.
  • Personally I have managed to keep a reasonable work-life balance, though this still remains harder to achieve at some times of the year than others. My wife and I spent six wonderful weeks in Western Australia visiting our youngest daughter and her partner in Perth. We had all sorts of memorable experiences and being 12000 miles away certainly helped me to switch off from the job and just remind myself again about what is really important, family. This is the first year as a headteacher where I had no contact with school until the week before we returned after the summer break. Guess what? The school didn't fall down and we have still achieved so much so far this school year. Who'd have thought? The extra bonus was that I returned truly refreshed and ready to go as we started school again in August. I won't be able to get down to Oz every summer, but I do hope to apply some of the lessons learned.
So what are my aims  for in 2015?
  • I will continue to focus on and use practitioner enquiry for development of schools and individuals. In 2015 I will hopefully be working with other schools to support them in their own journey. My staff are already supporting staff at another local school as they take their first tentative steps, and I will be working with headteachers and future leaders to help developing their understanding and practice around the use of enquiry approaches.
  • Hopefully, I will successfully complete my Fellowship programme with SCEL and become one of the first Fellows of the college. I would then like to maintain and develop my engagement at a national level to support others. I would like to present at more conferences and am hoping to present at my first teach meet in April. 
  • I will continue to Blog, though I might need to restrict my Twitter engagement a little if I am to achieve my aim of completing the writing of a second book. I am also hoping to produce and publish my first research paper with Dr Gillian Robinson of Edinburgh University around our work with practitioner enquiry. 
  • I need to keep thinking about the work/life balance thing, not only for myself but also for the staff who work in the schools I lead. One of my key roles continues to be the need to 'gatekeep' on their behalf and to look out for their wellbeing. Stressed teachers cannot achieve their best for the pupils they teach, they are only more likely to pass those stresses on to the learners.
  • I will remain determined to focus not on the things we don't get done, or achieve, but instead on all the brilliant things we do get done and do achieve!
  • Staff well-being will remain a priority, as will laughter.

Free school meals expansion- a boost for low income families⤴

from

In early 2014, Scottish Government announced that by January 2015, all children in Primary 1, 2 and 3 in Scotland will be entitled to a healthy and free school lunch and with a commitment of £55 million- £13 million in 2014-2015 and £42 million in 2015-2016- to help this policy become reality. Local authorities will begin rolling out their free school meals programmes from January 5th, 2015. In this blog post we hear from John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland about how important the expansion of free school meals will be to families living in poverty.

 

John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland

John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The introduction of free school meals for all pupils in Scotland’s P1 to P3 classes is a great boost for children and families at a time when household budgets are under huge pressure, but with increasing numbers of children being pushed into poverty, it is particularly welcome for those on low incomes.

When means tested free school meals are already available some people will inevitably question this important investment in our children. But the reality is that too many children living in poverty currently don’t get a free school meal – either because their parents are earning just over the means test threshold or they don’t take up their entitlement due to stigma, bureaucracy or peer pressures. Parents are left struggling to meet the extra costs of lunches as they move back into work or increase their hours when their children start school. Providing a healthy free school lunch to all pupils, as will now be the case for children in those crucial early years of primary, is the most effective way of ensuring children all our children, including the majority of poor children who live in working families, get a healthy meal in the middle of the school day.

The new approach will not just put money back into the pockets of hard pressed parents (up to £19 a week for a family with two children in the first three years of school), it will ensure all our children get the educational and health benefits of a nutritious lunch in the middle of the school day. Pilot schemes have shown that a universal approach not only increases take up of healthy lunches overall , it increases take-up amongst children already entitled – by up to 8.5 percentage points, and impacts ‘positively on the home environment of pupils’.

Perhaps most importantly, the universal approach improves children’s learning experience. With the attainment gap between better off children and their more disadvantaged peers remaining stubbornly wide the educational benefits of a universal approach to healthy school meals on educational outcomes are clear. Evaluation of a free school meals pilot for primary school children in Hull found a “significant impact in all areas of children’s schooling…behaviour, social relationships, health and learning” whilst more recent evaluation of the provision of free school meals to all primary pupils in Durham and Newham found that it was only by offering free school meals to all pupils that attainment levels were increased.

That all children in the early years of primary school will now reap the benefits of universal free school lunches is a very welcome start to the New Year, both for them and their parents.

The post Free school meals expansion- a boost for low income families appeared first on Engage for Education.

Nurture1415⤴

from

Inspired by the many uplifting and moving words of others, my small contribution to Nurture 1415. I awoke this morning and had to ask myself that wonderful question- “What day is it today?” I like that. Time no longer sets the agenda, the mechanical contrivance of two rotating hands can, at least for a short time, be largely ignored. Then. We don’t need to measure or define how much time we get to spend with our family, time becomes the family again. I love that.

Reflections

1. It’s been our first full year since we returned from Hong Kong and by far the most pleasing aspect of that has been how my children have become happier ‘little people’ again. They weren’t unhappy in Hong Kong yet the smiles and carefree laughter means only one thing; they are home. They have a glow of warmth that comes from being surrounded by their family- aunts, uncles, grannies, grandas and of course- ‘The Cousins”- all 24 of them. I love that.

2. This next part of their lives, I love, but with mixed and most probably selfish feelings- the teenagers grow less and less ‘needy’ of mum and dad and the umbilical cord though never broken, seems to stretch and stretch and stretch…Family DVD nights (Family Apple TV night doesn’t have the same ring even though more accurate) grow ever more special to me. I love that.

3. Our first full year of having my Princess live with Type 1 Diabetes …grit, resilience, perseverance et al? Was going to use them to describe how well my youngest daughter has coped with her new routines. But, they are now such a part of our daily life that they have almost become the wallpaper we don’t notice; she’s Ava not Ava who has Diabetes. I love that.

4. A very tough year for my wife…she has gone through so much this year and yet, she never complains. Many dark moments that all conspire to define her as a person, but she never lets that happen. Her family, her children, her matriarchal intuitions always manage to put life’s events into perspective and indeed, reinforces that family both defines her and she helps define it. I love that.

5. They started as 34 pupils who as one asked the same question; ‘What is Psychology?” When the envelopes were furiously ripped open almost a year to the day later, they must have known a little of the answers to that question- they did so well, and I was a very proud teacher. They were of course my pupils in our Psychology class, but I was the Deputy Head who had overall responsibility for the Year Group, and they grew so much in that year beyond a measure of grades. I love that.

Reflecting Forward

1. Spending time together as a family is so important to me. We always eat together around the dinner table and I tend not to say so much at those times (if you know me, you’ll understand the miracle nature of that comment)- instead, I like to just sit back and quietly appreciate every glance, every word, every smile, every frown…five becoming one is getting a rarer event and I want to slow that time down and stretch out every moment together. I’ll like that.

2. Saturday and Sunday becomes our time. Like all teachers, planning and marking consumes so much, way beyond a measure of time. For all the right reasons, it wrongly preoccupies. What can be done, will be done, but family and switch off must take priority on the two days when the automatons of our wrist cannot dictate the emotions of our heart. I’ll like that.

3. This may appear now at dissonance, but. I love Psychology and I love learning. It never has felt like a chore, in fact the opposite. It was moments of freedom and enjoyment. It felt liberating and empowering, a wonderful world of escapism- My Narnia in a world of growing up in times of chaos. The escapism part no longer rings true, but the rest still does. So, genetics and intelligence beware- I’m coming to find out more than I currently know about you. I’ll like that.

4. Speaking, Writing and presenting…I was very fortunate to be invited to present at a few high profile events this year. Unfortunately, circumstances meant that many I had to decline. My hope for the next year is that changes. It means I get to see more Twitterati in 3D and It also means that some of those high profile events may roll into my own city- watch this space, but many excitings in the pipeline that are very close to peeking through into reality. I’ll like that.

5. To appreciate the yesterdays as the future is merely an illusion we make in the now…not really an ontological perspective, more a reminder to me to appreciate what I have. Was once told that the world is not enough for Mark Healy, and maybe there in lies a degree of truth. However, the many smalls contribute to a pretty rich picture for me, and I want to appreciate and remind myself of that more. After my first full year back in the UK, I am so happy that my family are home- for me though, it has never really felt like home, and still doesn’t…so who knows where the tomorrows will take us.

Thank you for reading if you have managed to last this long. I wish everyone a wonderful 2015 and I hope that the many ‘tread softly on your dreams.’


Nurture1415⤴

from

Inspired by the many uplifting and moving words of others, my small contribution to Nurture 1415. I awoke this morning and had to ask myself that wonderful question- “What day is it today?” I like that. Time no longer sets the agenda, the mechanical contrivance of two rotating hands can, at least for a short time, be largely ignored. Then. We don’t need to measure or define how much time we get to spend with our family, time becomes the family again. I love that.

Reflections

1. It’s been our first full year since we returned from Hong Kong and by far the most pleasing aspect of that has been how my children have become happier ‘little people’ again. They weren’t unhappy in Hong Kong yet the smiles and carefree laughter means only one thing; they are home. They have a glow of warmth that comes from being surrounded by their family- aunts, uncles, grannies, grandas and of course- ‘The Cousins”- all 24 of them. I love that.

2. This next part of their lives, I love, but with mixed and most probably selfish feelings- the teenagers grow less and less ‘needy’ of mum and dad and the umbilical cord though never broken, seems to stretch and stretch and stretch…Family DVD nights (Family Apple TV night doesn’t have the same ring even though more accurate) grow ever more special to me. I love that.

3. Our first full year of having my Princess live with Type 1 Diabetes …grit, resilience, perseverance et al? Was going to use them to describe how well my youngest daughter has coped with her new routines. But, they are now such a part of our daily life that they have almost become the wallpaper we don’t notice; she’s Ava not Ava who has Diabetes. I love that.

4. A very tough year for my wife…she has gone through so much this year and yet, she never complains. Many dark moments that all conspire to define her as a person, but she never lets that happen. Her family, her children, her matriarchal intuitions always manage to put life’s events into perspective and indeed, reinforces that family both defines her and she helps define it. I love that.

5. They started as 34 pupils who as one asked the same question; ‘What is Psychology?” When the envelopes were furiously ripped open almost a year to the day later, they must have known a little of the answers to that question- they did so well, and I was a very proud teacher. They were of course my pupils in our Psychology class, but I was the Deputy Head who had overall responsibility for the Year Group, and they grew so much in that year beyond a measure of grades. I love that.

Reflecting Forward

1. Spending time together as a family is so important to me. We always eat together around the dinner table and I tend not to say so much at those times (if you know me, you’ll understand the miracle nature of that comment)- instead, I like to just sit back and quietly appreciate every glance, every word, every smile, every frown…five becoming one is getting a rarer event and I want to slow that time down and stretch out every moment together. I’ll like that.

2. Saturday and Sunday becomes our time. Like all teachers, planning and marking consumes so much, way beyond a measure of time. For all the right reasons, it wrongly preoccupies. What can be done, will be done, but family and switch off must take priority on the two days when the automatons of our wrist cannot dictate the emotions of our heart. I’ll like that.

3. This may appear now at dissonance, but. I love Psychology and I love learning. It never has felt like a chore, in fact the opposite. It was moments of freedom and enjoyment. It felt liberating and empowering, a wonderful world of escapism- My Narnia in a world of growing up in times of chaos. The escapism part no longer rings true, but the rest still does. So, genetics and intelligence beware- I’m coming to find out more than I currently know about you. I’ll like that.

4. Speaking, Writing and presenting…I was very fortunate to be invited to present at a few high profile events this year. Unfortunately, circumstances meant that many I had to decline. My hope for the next year is that changes. It means I get to see more Twitterati in 3D and It also means that some of those high profile events may roll into my own city- watch this space, but many excitings in the pipeline that are very close to peeking through into reality. I’ll like that.

5. To appreciate the yesterdays as the future is merely an illusion we make in the now…not really an ontological perspective, more a reminder to me to appreciate what I have. Was once told that the world is not enough for Mark Healy, and maybe there in lies a degree of truth. However, the many smalls contribute to a pretty rich picture for me, and I want to appreciate and remind myself of that more. After my first full year back in the UK, I am so happy that my family are home- for me though, it has never really felt like home, and still doesn’t…so who knows where the tomorrows will take us.

Thank you for reading if you have managed to last this long. I wish everyone a wonderful 2015 and I hope that the many ‘tread softly on your dreams.’


Is Twitter the Best Option for Online Professional Development?⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

@audreywatters :

Despite all the pushes to “bring Twitter to the classroom” and calls to have Twitter “replace traditional professional development,” I’m less and less convinced that’s a good idea — or at least, I’m more and more convinced that we should not rely solely on Twitter as the site for online PD or for online educator community. Both can and do exist online — PD and community — but I’d wager the best place to find both remain on educators’ blogs. I wonder if, in fact, “the future of professional development” might be a “return to blogging.”

via Is Twitter the Best Option for Online Professional Development? from the Hack Education blog.

 

That would be a nice development in 2015. I’ve blogged a lot about twitter and while it continues to be a good tool, I’d go along with the questioning of best. I suspect our professional standards are looking for a bit more depth too?

Pedagoo Christmas Party – Questioning⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

Welcome to the long awaited overview of the Pedagoo Christmas Party Questioning session.  I was fortunate enough to be facilitating a fabulously creative and thoughtful group of pedadogical paragons meaning that other than taking notes I was able to sit back and enjoy these marvellous people sharing things which made their classrooms special.  This blog […]