So, let’s be up front about this. The author of this book is a pal of mine. More than that in fact. He was my primary partner in pedagogy during our pedagoo days. As a result, I already respected him massively as an educator and as a person. Rather than this fact hampering my review of his book, I actually think it only serves to enhance it. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to think more highly of Kenny Pieper prior to reading his first (of many, I hope) book, How to Teach Reading for Pleasure, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In this book, Kenny uses his fantastic humour and authenticity to argue passionately for the power of reading and the crucial role teachers have in leading and supporting young people to choose to read. Whilst Kenny generously and modestly shares many of the practical classroom techniques he uses to achieve this he also clearly articulates why this matters for our young people specifically, and society in general. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an edubook which was so entwined with the values and personality of the author. Reading it was like spending time in his company and I found myself frequently nodding and laughing along…the only thing missing was the pint!
If I had one criticism of this book it is that to some extent it is marketed as a ‘how to teach’ book with a particular slant towards secondary teachers of english. As a biology teacher, this book was very relevant to me and I know of primary colleagues who feel the same way. In many ways this book would and should appeal to any and all teachers, and parents, especially those who think that reading matters, not just secondary english teachers. I know if I was still in the classroom I would be doing a few things differently tomorrow as a result…
In case you haven’t guessed, I loved this book and highly recommend it to all. You can get your own copy here.
1. Social Enterprise Academy is delivering an Institute of Leadership and Management Award for teachers of Gaelic Education on 3 and 4 November 2017. If you require more information, please contact email@example.com. Social Enterprise Academy acknowledges support from Education Scotland in delivering this award and financial assistance from Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
2. The Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) is inviting views on professional learning for leadership. Practitioners of GME are encouraged to participate by completing a short survey. As a thank you, respondents will be entered into a draw to win a book voucher worth £100 for their school. Education Scotland has shared with SCEL the results of the CLPL Audit of the professional learning needs of practitioners in Gaelic Education.
3. Applications are now open for the Into Headship qualification which commences in June 2017. This qualification is fully funded by the Scottish Government. It is designed to prepare participants for the specific strategic challenges of being a head teacher.
Scotland (and many other parts of the world) is currently facing a teacher recruitment crisis. The crisis is currently the most prominent in the state education sector.
There are lots of reasons for this including:
Significant pressure on local authority budgets(leading to staffing cuts);
Lack of incentives(such as relocation expenses, help with housing or the creation of a rural living allowance);
Poor succession planning from Government (not enough new teachers in the system to replace an aging work force);
Teachers being attracted to more appealing jobs in the private sector (including independent and international schools); and
Some schools who have struggled to fill posts have turned to more imaginative ways of advertising to recruit the best candidates to the jobs at their schools.
At Kingussie High we have had success in recent years using Social Media to attract an outstanding group of teachers from a diverse range of subjects to our small rural school. This article outlines some of the things that we have learnt along the way about using Social Media for recruitment.
Lesson One: Social Media doesn’t recruit staff on its own.
Over the years I have heard lots of people say they are going to create a ‘viral video campaign’ to recruit a member of staff to their school. Yet when you look at the total YouTube views they rarely reach double figures. The reason for this is that social media doesn’t recruit staff on its own.
The schools that have success in using social media for recruitment will be the schools that already use social media well. They will have active Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as a modern looking website. Over time they will have built up a large social following of both current and past pupils, staff, parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents and members of the local community. This ‘tribe’ of social brand ambassadors will be the main reason that your video gets 100s, 1000s or 1,000,000s of views rather than just a couple of dozen.
Lesson Two:Your Social Media Campaign is only as good as where you directed people to on the web.
Importantly, where you direct people to is not necessarily the advert or the application form. Lets face it (particularly in the public sector) most adverts and application forms are boring and sterile. You need to direct people to a web page or a web page of links that really sells your school and very importantly, as a school leader, sells why people might want to work for you.
We use the simple www.kingussiehigh.org.uk/joinus holding page as the hub of our social media campaign. It links to supplementary information about each post, provides a nice statement about the school, links to some other fun content (to help people get a feel for the team they will be joining) and of course links to the more traditional job and person specification (hosted on www.myjobscotland.gov.uk - where all of the Scottish public sector teaching jobs are listed).
Lesson Three – if you want to increase your viral audience you need to push the boundaries just enough to not to get the sack.
Remember, on the web controversial is often king (that is why there are so many cat videos on YouTube).
I once advertised an English teachers post and on the web version of the supplementary information I purposely muddled up ‘their’, ‘there’ & ‘they’re’ and ‘to’, ‘two’ & ‘too’. The advert spread like wild fire with lots of people keen to point out how ‘grammatically incorrect’ it was and how ‘literacy standards’ must be very poor in the Highlands of Scotland. The people who understood the humour were also the ones who made it to the bottom of the advert and discovered the disclaimer!
Here is an example of some supplementary information that we sent out to accompany a Depute Head Post. The online chatter it generated called it everything from ‘refreshing’ to a ‘disgrace!’ We had tens of thousands of views and in the end 24 applicants (many of whom would have been worthy of the position).
Lesson Four – Pay for on-line advertising to promote & boost your posts.
We run our social media adverts thought Facebook. It costs me £150 - £250 to put a small advert in the local paper. I normally throw about £30 - £50 on any Facebook advert. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes I think the newspaper is worth it. This is particularly the case if I am trying to recruit someone locally for a support role (office, technician, etc.). But if I want to attract a teacher from outside the area then Facebook wins hands down every time for me.
It is really important not to forget the above lessons one, two and three though. The bigger your social reach the more reach you will get with your paid advert due to its magnifying effect. Also, don’t forget to make your landing page appealing – clicks are one thing but you want people to dig deeper and apply.
The great thing about Facebook advertising is that you can set a budget and also target where and when your advert will appear on other Facebook users profiles.
It is pay ‘per click’ so you only actually pay when someone clicks on your advert and they link to your landing page. You can target on a number of levels such as male or female, by age range, by geographical location, by interest or by a little bit of everything.
Once you have ‘boosted’ your advert and set it in motion you can track the amount of social vs paid views.
Lesson Five – Use your own social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to further promote your advert.
Basically, ask people to share within their networks. This will increase your social shares and add value to your paid advert.
The time of the year that you advertise is really important. This is particularly important if relocation is going to be required.
First impressions count – what shows up in Google when you ‘Google your School’.
Digital impressions are first impressions these days...
In 2017 I promised to write more on olliebray.com(which is also currently undergoing a digital overhaul in the background). I’ve committed to this new series of school improvement stories, which is really about the lessons I have learnt, mistakes I have made and things I want to share from my leadership of Kingussie High School. There will be twelve posts in total (published on the last day of each month during 2017).
The Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) is undertaking a survey of the profession to help better understand which forms of professional learning are most effective, what aspects of professional learning the profession aspire to participate in, and any barriers there may be when undertaking professional learning.
The survey should take around fifteen minutes to complete and as a thank you, respondents will be entered into a draw to win a book voucher worth £100 for their school. The closing date for responses is the 6th March 2017.
HOW DO WE INCREASE THE ATTAINMENT AND CONFIDENCE OF OUR LEARNERS ACROSS SCOTLAND? While there is no overall magic bullet, I believe that by creating a growth mindset culture within our schools; we can do much to improve children’s attainment and mental health. Let’s focus on the issue of closing the attainment gap. The link […]
What is Our Winter Wellbeing Calendar all about? Whilst the Christmas period is seen as the time of the year for joy and celebration, what’s often not recognised, is that it can be a particularly tiring and stressful time of the year for school leaders and teachers. The plays and special assemblies are all wonderful […]
This is a conversation which I’m increasingly having, and I wanted to try and capture some of my current thinking. It centres on the nature and role of practitioner enquiry in the various domains of the life and work of a teacher.
Through my work at SCEL, I am focused on supporting teachers to develop as leaders. Our view is that all teachers are leaders of learning and practice and as such can develop as teacher leaders. Once again for clarity, here’s is SCEL’s definition of teacher leadership…
Teacher leaders are passionate about caring for children and young people. Through informed and innovative practice, close scrutiny of pupils’ learning needs and high expectations they play a fundamental role in improving outcomes for children and young people. Teacher leaders are effective communicators who collaborate with colleagues, demonstrate integrity and have a positive impact on their school community. They model career-long professional learning.
Skills, qualities and professional actions demonstrated by teacher leaders can be identified under four main areas:
During our recent engagement on teacher leadership, there was broad agreement of this view of teacher leadership, and many teachers expressed a need for more opportunities to develop their skills and confidence as leaders of practice in this sense. It was apparent to me that a programme which used an enquiring approach to support teachers to develop as teacher leaders could be an important aspect of SCEL’s response. We are therefore currently prototyping an online teacher leadership programme with 40 teachers across Scotland, supported by a group of 16 teachers who have significant prior experience of practitioner enquiry. The programme supports teacher professional learning towards the GTCS Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning and is being highly evaluated by the participants thus far. More on this in a future post…
A question which has come up a few times since the launch of the programme is along the lines of how practitioner enquiry relates to leadership, given that others often refer to enquiry in the context of teacher professionalism. In addition, I’ve just started reading Mark Priestley’s new book, in which they distinguish teacher agency from the perceived definition of teacher leadership, but I would suggest that SCEL’s definition is closer to Mark’s definition of teacher agency. So how does practitioner enquiry fit into all three of these?
My developing view is that practitioner enquiry, and having an enquiring stance, is a key aspect of a teacher’s work and learning as a professional. I also see it as a route to developing the ecological agency in teachers and their contexts as defined by Priestley et al. I also see it as an approach for developing as a leader of learning and pedagogy.
What I’m thinking is that practitioner enquiry, and having an enquiring stance, can be a component of, and contribute to, all three of these domains of being a teacher. It doesn’t fit neatly into any of these boxes and can contribute to all three, and more…
This is just a short post to capture something that I’ve observed over recent months. This is a sweeping generalisation which obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s occurred to me that quite often in Scottish education we use the words ‘leadership’ and ‘promotion’ interchangeably. And by that I mean, we use both words to mean ‘promotion’. I know I’ve done this in the past.
It has become apparent to me over the last year or so that leadership is actually quite a separate concept from promotion. By promotion I mean the appointment of teachers to promoted posts such as PT, DHT, etc. However, leadership is a much broader concept which involves leading people and pedagogy. Anyone, at whatever (un)promoted position, within the system can, or can not, be leading.
I suppose the real issue with using the word leadership to mean promotion is that if you are not promoted, you can assume that you can’t be a leader. But also, if you are promoted you can assume you are already therefore leading, which may not actually be the case in practice.
So the message I need to help get out there is that leadership is not the same as promotion. People in promoted posts can be leaders, but so can classroom teachers and everyone else involved in Scottish education.
In my work to support the development of teacher leadership, it’s important for me to reflect upon how this relates to other contemporary drivers in Scottish education, a key one being the National Improvement Framework. I’ve yet to meet a teacher who doesn’t think that raising the attainment of the children and young people in their care isn’t important. This is equally true of closing the poverty related attainment gap. However, for many teachers, particularly those outwith the challenge authorities, the question often is more about what could they be doing differently in order to achieve these things. The first point I often make is that teachers in Scotland have been raising attainment and working to support children in poverty for years, and we should be seeing ourselves as working from a place of strength. However, it’s clear that for many of Scotland’s children there’s a lot more which could be done. So, what does this look like for teachers and what has it got to do with teacher leadership?
The point I’ve been increasingly making is that ultimately there is only one person who can raise attainment. In the context of this conversation I suspect that people think I’m suggesting that this is a teacher. However, what I actually mean is the learner. In my experience, the only person who can raise a child’s attainment is the child themselves. Only if a child is engaged, happy, ambitious and in possession of a growth mindset can they carry out the cognitive and physical processes required to successfully learn and then confidently share this learning. Attainment being a by-product of successful learning.
In this case, it is therefore those closest to the learner who can have the biggest impact on their ability to learn and succeed. Parents clearly have the biggest role here in terms of supporting and nurturing children, which is why schools are continually developing their approaches to involving parents in the life of the school and learning of their children. However, teachers have a big role to play here also. The relationships and interactions between the teacher and the learner can have a substantial impact on the learning, and the dispositions to learning, of the children and young people in that teacher’s care. And this is where teacher leadership comes in. Here is a section from SCEL’s definition of teacher leadership:
“Teacher leaders are passionate about caring for children and young people. Through informed and innovative practice, close scrutiny of pupils’ learning needs and high expectations they play a fundamental role in improving outcomes for children and young people. Teacher leaders are effective communicators who collaborate with colleagues, demonstrate integrity and have a positive impact on their school community. They model career-long professional learning.”
Teachers who are confidently developing their practice to meet the needs of their learners, and influencing the practice of their colleagues, are clearly going to be more likely to successfully support their children and young people to achieve. Leaders at other levels in the system are crucial also in creating the right conditions and support to allow these interactions between learner and teacher to develop and flourish, but in the end it is the development of these interactions which is crucial to raising attainment.
In this context therefore, teacher leadership is not “another thing” but a crucial element in our collective drive to improve outcomes for children and young people in Scotland.
What happens when Teachers and School Leaders learn to put themselves first? On Saturday 17th September, I was delighted to attend Pedagoo Hampshire 16 in Alton. This event, which featured a day of interactive seminars hosted by individuals across the educational landscape, aimed to discuss and tackle key issues in education and create a forum for speakers to […]