Such stuff that dreams are made on.
Lena Carter · 1 year ago
This week has been one of the hardest ever in my professional life, even though we only had three days in school. Suffice to say that our community and school community are struggling.
My job has been to support staff and pupils as best I could.
On Friday we also had Active Girls Day (http://www.sportscotland.org.uk/schools/active-girls/active-girls-day/) which meant all of our girls were in sports activities while all the boys stayed in classes.
Period 6 came and I had planned a Halloween themed drama scriptwork activity with my second year class. I felt tired beyond belief and had to dig deep to find the energy to teach the class.
The group of eleven boys were unsettled when we started the lesson, entirely understandably. A room displacement from our usual space added to the disruption and of course the lack of girls created its own dynamic.
I explained the task but their attention wandered and I was not optimistic that they would be able to achieve what was required: small group rehearsal followed by a performance without scripts.
A couple of the boys seized on the fact that there were guitars in the room and asked whether they could create some spooky music to go with the script. I reluctantly agreed.
The rehearsal began. Noisy, chaotic with guitar music providing distraction. Boys falling out and blaming one another for not getting it right. Piercing screams (as per the stage directions) which had concerned colleagues looking through the door to check if all was ok.
(I have ongoing issues with colleagues judging me because of my noisy drama lessons when I am supposed to be a DHT with exemplary discipline. But that is probably for another blog post)
I sat at my desk, feeling anxious about the chaos, berating myself for my lack of classroom control. But then I looked again and saw, within the chaos, boys playing, interacting, being creative and imaginative. And I remembered why I am a drama teacher and why these creative spaces are so crucial.
And then it was time for the performances.
Pure gold. Funny, confident, with all engaged and doing the best they could. Lines almost perfect and with added improvisation. A dream rather than a nightmare.
“And Miss, we never giggled once! That was our target from last time.”
Life is messy. Learning can and should be messy. Let’s never forget that, even when out internal chimps and the external critics try and tell us otherwise.
When everything is awful.
Lena Carter · 1 year ago
This post is an edited version of today’s Friday Thoughts email to staff in my school.
A slightly disconnected series of thoughts today. Please forgive and bear with me. It has been another hard week.
A university friend, Charlie Harthill, took his own life some years after we left university. It shook those of us who remained very much, particularly those who had know him since school days. His death made many of us more committed than ever to get mental health, depression and suicide talked about. This PDF was shared by one of those friends a year ago today and it popped up in my memory feed today. Please read it, use it, share it. If it does not resonate with you, there may be colleagues or pupils for whom it will make perfect sense:
Next week is dyslexia awareness week and I am doing awareness-raising on dyslexia and different ability throughout the secondary school. Please look here to remind yourself about what you can be doing to support pupils: www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/page…
But please also remember that differentiation is about more than bits of yellow paper. It is about not judging, about using labels discerningly and about seeing, hearing and knowing every child in front of you to help that child thrive. No two dyslexics are the same. No two children are the same.
This is a charity that works to promote this message. Have a look at the home page and individual pen portraits: www.mindroom.org/
After our difficult event this week, I set about getting on with work. I was told that two pupils were looking for me to give me ‘my hugs’. They were seeking out all the members of staff who had been involved to check they were ok and to give them a hug. I was so impressed and touched by their mature, caring, thoughtful attitude and actions and reminded of the importance of watching out for one another.
Take care of one another, today and every day. Take our pupils’ example and check that someone is ok. Give them that hug (or metaphorical hug.)
Lena Carter · 1 year ago
Today’s weekly Friday thoughts email to staff.
So, the news from the US has been a little unsettling this week. It has been quite hard to know what to say when pupils have asked about it.
On a positive note, I heard an incredibly inspiring American educational speaker last Saturday.
Her name was Karin Chenoweth and she talked about schools which had achieved success for all pupils. Her ideas are based on work in a range of schools across the US.
I wrote up my notes for my blog.
Although they make for a long read and are partially about what school leaders can do to turn schools around, they are fundamentally about teaching and school ethos.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to read them, here are a few key ideas:
The 5 factors that make schools successful in raising attainment (based on observation and evidence from schools studied over 20 years):
1. What pupils need to know is clearly defined and teachers agree on this.
Karin said that often, there is too much confusion around this- teachers teaching what they want to teach and what they are comfortable with. The timetable must be structured around what pupils need to know in order to succeed in life.
2. Teachers collaborate on what they need to do to improve teaching and learning.
The most important factor in learning is the class teacher but the paradox is that no one teacher can do it all. C.f. the world of medicine- no one surgeon can do all surgery. She may be able to do heart surgery but not knee surgery. Teacher learning communities are key.
3.Teachers assess frequently- not to grade but to get feedback. AIFL all the way.
“Did they learn what I taught?” If 50% did not get it, you are not a bad teacher, you just need to try again. The “I am a bad teacher” approach allows excuses.
4. They use data to inform instruction.
Do not stick with what is easy / convenient. If it is not working, do something different.
5. Relationships are key.
Adult to adult. Adult to pupil.
Some other important ideas and challenge concepts:
· With the exception of pupils with complex additional support needs, we should believe that 100% of pupils can read to a nationally agreed standard. If they don’t, we need to teach differently. Educating 70% is not enough. Many who cannot read end up in prison.
· Differentiation can be the enemy of equity. (!)
· Belief that every child can learn and succeed is crucial but not enough. Belief needs to be backed up with hard work and a constantly reflective mindset.
· Teaching and learning can change a society.
· Keep trying and trying and trying.
One last thought from another inspiration from across the pond, though Canada not America:
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”
RIP Leonard Cohen
The full post is here: https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/it-can-be-done-inspiration-from-karin-chenoweth/
Can I talk to you?
Lena Carter · 1 year ago
Next week we launch our “Can I talk to you?” campaign in school.
This is the email I sent to staff today. Feel free to use/adapt:
Following discussions at the last parent council meetings and discussion with some other parents, we are going to have a “Can I talk to you?” campaign next week.
We all know that our pastoral team do a phenomenal job when pupils ask them for support.
However, there are some pupils who will not feel able to talk to someone in school, maybe through a fear of stigma, maybe through shyness. They need to know that there are other options and so we are going to issue all pupils with the information below on a flyer on Tuesday during period 2.
The information will also go on the school facebook page and I hope that it will get shared on other social media platforms.
If you are teaching a class on Tuesday when the flyer come around, can I please ask that you read it aloud to your class. It does not need any other explanation but please ask each pupil to take the flyer and keep it safe. They may not feel they need it just now but they may in the future.
Many thanks for your support in this matter.
Can I talk to you?
Sometimes we all get worried or feel down about things. You will know that talking things through helps but it is important that you talk to the right person.
The best people in the first instance might well be your parents/carers. Although it might not seem like it, they probably understand you much better than you think they do!
If that doesn’t feel right, you could talk to someone in school: your guidance teacher or any member of staff with whom you feel comfortable. They may be able to help you and if not, they can find someone else who will.
If that still doesn’t feel right and you want something more confidential, there are a number of excellent organisations who can help – either via a phonecall, email or text message:
• Breathing Space is a free and confidential phone line for anyone experiencing low mood manned by trained advisors with mental health, counselling and social work backgrounds, who provide advice, support and understanding. Also provides support to family members, partners and friends who are concerned about the wellbeing of their loved ones. 24 hours at weekend, 6pm – 2am Monday to Thursday Tel: 0800 83 85 87. http://www.breathingspacescotland.co.uk
• Childline is a 24 hour helpline for children and young people needing help with problems however big or small. Calls are free and confidential. Tel: 0800 1111. http://www.childline.org.uk
• Samaritans provide a confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people who are distressed or experiencing feelings of despair, including those contemplating suicide. Tel: 08457 90 90 90 (UK). http://www.Samaritans.org
The hardest thing can be starting the conversation. Just try “Can I talk to you?”
Let the music move you.
Lena Carter · 1 year ago
We are off work today and Monday. A quirk of the Scottish holiday system.
For me, some much needed family time and catch-up.
Those familiar with my blog will know that I send a weekly “Friday Thoughts” email to staff. Usually it contains a bit of reflection and it challenges others to reflect; CPD on a budget. This week it was Thursday Thoughts and took a slightly different turn. I got a greater number of responses than I have ever got from an FT email and spent my day sporadically dancing in my office as each response popped in between the phonecalls, classes, crises and attempts at strategic thinking. I could hear odd snippets of Justin ringing out through the school and even witnessed an S5 class allowing themselves a little shuffle as their teacher shared it with them……
Magic stuff. Creativity unites.
This is what I wrote:
What? Friday thoughts on a Thursday?
I’m a rebel, me.
Something a bit different this week. Here’s how it works:
· Think of one song that makes you feel happy and/or motivated.
· Send me the title or, better still, a YouTube link.
· I will put them together into a playlist and share, ready for us to listen to when we come back in January (oh, to have a whole school tannoy like we did in my last school!)
A chance for us to share a bit of joy with each other and share a bit of ourselves.
Here’s mine; it makes me smile and want to dance every time I see it. Much to the embarrassment of my daughter.
(Justin Timberlake Can’t Stop the Feeling)
Have a restful and incredibly well-deserved long weekend.