Tag Archives: Uncategorized

What are we about?⤴

from

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time.
I have a rough sense of what I want to say and I have tried, several times, to start to formulate it but I have failed.

Here, then, some unformulated
Ideas.

Last year I did the Scottish Into Headship course with the view to becoming a school leader. I loved the course and developed a sense of the leader I would like to be. Since doing the course, I have taken on the role of Acting Head of Secondary in the Joint Campus where I was appointed four years ago as Deputy Head of Pupil Support.
Prior to that I had been Head of Support Department and a Head of Languages Faculty in a school in the Outer Hebrides. Prior to that I had been a mum to tinies and prior to that I had taught, in various roles in schools in England.

What I want, or need, to say now, is that I don’t think most schools work.

I don’t think they can, unless we commit to a fundamental shift in what they are about.

Although they are first and foremost about teaching and facilitating learning, we also have to be honest and admit that they are about caring for and looking after the most precious things in other adults’ lives.

The care of children.

Childcare. Right up to when those big children are 16 or even 18.

And if our schools put other things at a stake above caring for children, we are getting something wrong.

We can pretend and make excuses that getting pupils to pass exams and achieve all sorts of other things that can be assessed is part of caring for them.
But I don’t really believe that it is.

I am not sure that I have ever really understood this until now.

Until now that I am in a situation where my own two children are in the school where I am a leader. And where I see every one of their peers as another child in need of care. Of love.

I currently have the privilege of working in a 3 to 18 through school.

And much as it is all it can and should be, my virtual tour may give you a sense of what I feel to be wrong.

“Ah welcome, welcome to our pre-5 unit, Mrs Leader. Here we will do our best for three year old Lucy, the love of your life and the apple of your eye. Yes, fifteen other lovelies will share the attention of our two wonderful nursery nurses but she will be fine. No no, they aren’t teachers but they both studied childcare at college.

Yes, she’ll be loved and cared for and we are a hug-friendly provider (see the notice on the door and our attachment-informed policies). Well, yes, only two pairs of arms and two laps to go round but we are training them to be ready for school so we don’t want to encourage them to be clingy. At three, we need to foster independence and a more formal relationship with care-givers.
Sharing attention is an important part of growing up and becoming an independent learner, after all.

And through here is our first year class. Yes! Thirty in here, some fours and some fives! We are nearly over-subscribed!
One teacher, one classroom assistant and Betty, who is split between this class and the one next door because each has a pupil with a special educational need. No, no,not a teacher. Not an autism specialist.
Yes, you may recognise Betty from her other part time job in the co-op.

Here we will do our best for five year old Lucy, the love of your life and the apple of your eye.

 

Yes, isn’t the uniform lovely! Confirming to a dress code is an early step towards learning about the world of work.

 

And how time flies and already here they are in the last class of primary, ready to spread their wings and join big school. Well, apart from the ones who aren’t. And then of course there are those who really were ready two years ago. But we have to keep them together on their age groups because…. well, how else would it work?
No, Mrs Smith is a temporary teacher because Mr Brown left to concentrate on his writing. I know, such a shame.
Mrs Smith can only do three days for us so the rest of the time is shared between other staff. It is quite okay though as it will get the children used to having several teachers; they will have up to 18 in secondary!
Here we will do our best for eleven year old Lucy, the love of your life and the apple of your eye.

And now we move round to the secondary department.
Yes, isn’t it busy! Oh yes, the canteen is the hub. Too noisy? No, no. There’s nothing teenagers like more than this type of environment.
Supervision? Well, a couple of teachers do lunch duty and the older pupils look out for the younger ones.

Yes, classrooms do look a lot like they did when we were at school, don’t they? All facing the front! All doing as they are told! You remember being taught by Mrs Reece? No, I bet you never answered her back! It never did you any harm though, did it?

Yes, thirty-three thirteen year olds!! In one room. All those hormones and sensitive, imaginative, rebellious teenage brains! Yes, it takes a lot of skill but our teachers are very experienced and our results are fantastic!

Here we will do our best for fourteen year old Lucy, the love of your life and the apple of your eye.

 

And finally to our most senior class. Oh, no teacher in the room here. We must have needed to put him with a junior class due to staff shortages today.

Luckily they are all excellent at independent study, though. We encourage them to be so from an early age.

Lucy, tell our guest what you are working on there. French? Excellent. And you are going to study it at university? Brilliant.

You think you know this lady from somewhere?
You live in the same house?
Breakfast and dinner and the odd weekend outing?
But she gave you away to the care of someone else when you were three?

I see.
Well, Mrs Leader. The end of our tour for today.

I do hope you will choose us.”

 

Let’s be honest.
What are we doing?
One adult in a room caring for 20, 30, 33 of those most precious things?

Caring.

Top of my list of values as a school leader. But maybe not compatible with a system that pretends it is about something else?

 

 


Pushing some more thoughts⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’ve been dipping in and out of the livestream and Twitter feed for the Pushing HE conference, and there’s a few thoughts that I don’t want to lose – they’re probably very ill-informed and random. Apologies in advance.

Digital skills. The NGDLE talks about Universal Design – technology so easy to use that it’s intuitive. Tony Bates talked about the extent to which we can help colleagues to change and helping them solve problems. Investing in digital skills is the glue in here, because even the most intuitive tools on their own aren’t going to work. Whatever ‘Digital Skills’ means, it probably doesn’t mean building more IT. What looks cool to us (tools! pop-up!) looks like work / administration to many of our academic colleagues. This is a problem.

Technology as tools. How do we push beyond a deterministic view of technology as a set of tools and get to the heart of how teacher agency can be inscribed into / onto technology. Values are key, as is ownership / control of the development of IT. This is the fundamental challenge and maybe why we keep going round and round in interative loops on the technology and why the metaphors don’t change? We keep talking about the “what” of the technology.

TEL wealth gap. I’ve thought about this a few times and failed to expand the metaphor. Sketching it out, it goes like this: There is a tipping point at which the wealth gap in society between the rich and the rest of us is so wide that it becomes pyschologically insurmountable. The Thatcherite thinking that allows the rich to get richer as an aspirational activity is the heart of this. To what extent does “innovation” and concepts like the NGDLE appear to many of our colleagues be an insurmountable gap? Perhaps what is do-able in terms of ‘getting there’ is working on (a) ensuring that the gap between innovators and the rest of us doesn’t get too wide (b) we keep the whole train moving – the long tail doesn’t get longer. We should aim high for sure, but do we need some reasonable measure of progress to keep us sane?

Using compliance activities to have conversations about data. I’m already negotiating GDPR compliant contracts, trying out Privacy Impact Assessments, writing GDPR compliant Privacy Statements. I need to think more about how to turn this into something I can work with further.

 

 

Pushing some more thoughts⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’ve been dipping in and out of the livestream and Twitter feed for the Pushing HE conference today, and there’s a few thoughts that I don’t want to lose – they’re very ill-informed and random. Apologies in advance.

Digital skills. The NGDLE talks about Universal Design – technology so easy to use that it’s intuitive. Tony Bates talked about the extent to which we can help colleagues to change and helping them solve problems. Investing in digital skills (training, working together – whatever this means to you) is the glue in here, because even the most intuitive tools on their own aren’t going to work. Whatever ‘Digital Skills’ means, it probably doesn’t mean building more IT. What looks cool to us (tools! pop-up! domains!) looks like work / administration to many of our academic colleagues. This is a problem.

Technology as tools. How do we push beyond a deterministic view of technology as a set of tools and get to the heart of how teacher agency can be inscribed into / onto technology. Values are key, as is ownership / control of the development of IT. This is the fundamental challenge and maybe why we keep going round and round in interative loops on the technology and why the metaphors don’t change? We keep talking about the “what” of the technology.

TEL wealth gap. I’ve thought about this a few times and failed to expand the metaphor. Sketching it out, it goes like this: There is a tipping point at which the wealth gap in society between the rich and the rest of us is so wide that it becomes pyschologically insurmountable. The Thatcherite thinking that allows the rich to get richer as an aspirational activity is the heart of this. To what extent do “innovation” and concepts like the NGDLE appear to many of our colleagues to be an insurmountable gap? Perhaps what is do-able in terms of ‘getting there’ is working on (a) ensuring that the gap between “innovators” and the rest of us doesn’t get too wide (b) keeping the whole train moving – the long tail doesn’t get longer. We should aim high for sure, but do we need some reasonable measure of progress to keep us sane?

Using compliance activities to have conversations about data. I’m already negotiating GDPR compliant contracts, trying out Privacy Impact Assessments, writing GDPR compliant Privacy Statements. I need to think more about how to turn this into something I can work with further.

 

 

Fancies⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 1 minute

Every now and again it’s fun to pretend the world around me isn’t in flames (metaphorical and literal) and engage in a little day dreaming. Yesterday it was “fantasy stately home”.

These are my requirements:

– A morning room
– A print room
– A Corridor (yes – the kind of corridor that is classed as a room in it’s own right – for showing off and swooshing about in)

Twitter chums reminded me that I would also like:

– An orangery
– A double height library with a ladder and an arcane catalogue system.

I’d like all of this probably in Georgian style, but somehow cleansed of the reek of Empire, if possible.

Below-stairs is often my favourite place. Tiled corridors are a must. Some sort of enormous kitchen with massive table goes without saying. A china room and a dry goods room and a larder are obvious. I care less for laundry rooms, butler’s offices, gun rooms etc.

Probably a bedroom is required for appearances, but to be honest I could probably nest in a good library quite happily.

Fancies⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 1 minute

Every now and again it’s fun to pretend the world around me isn’t in flames (metaphorical and literal) and engage in a little day dreaming. Yesterday it was “fantasy stately home”.

These are my requirements:

– A morning room
– A print room
– A Corridor (yes – the kind of corridor that is classed as a room in it’s own right – for showing off and swooshing about in)

Twitter chums reminded me that I would also like:

– An orangery
– A double height library with a ladder and an arcane catalogue system.

I’d like all of this probably in Georgian style, but somehow cleansed of the reek of Empire, if possible.

Below-stairs is often my favourite place. Tiled corridors are a must. Some sort of enormous kitchen with massive table goes without saying. A china room and a dry goods room and a larder are obvious. I care less for laundry rooms, butler’s offices, gun rooms etc.

Probably a bedroom is required for appearances, but to be honest I could probably nest in a good library quite happily.

Why we need to teach about Mental Health.⤴

from

 

On Wednesday evening I delivered a 7 minute talk at the Scottish Learning Festival Teachmeet. This is what I said.

IMG_1101
Today I am going to talk about why I believe we need to teach about mental health in schools. Some people like to argue that mental health education should be the remit of parents or health professionals or trained staff but I would argue differently.

I’m not very good at talking concisely. But I have to do so today. So if you are interested in hearing more of what I have to say, please check out my blog Lenabellina on WordPress.

IMG_1093
This is one reason we need to teach about mental health. I don’t disagree with reports like this when they are evidence-based and if they help raise awareness that we need to talk. But I also think that we need to be clear what we are talking about. Teenagers have always suffered from emotional difficulty; it is part of being an adolescent and it is really important that we acknowledge that and talk about it as teachers and as parents/carers. We also need to ensure that we don’t create a crisis of “mental illness” or teenage depression by somehow turning normal emotions into something pathological. In perhaps the greatest and most popular study of teenagers ever, Shakespeare presents adolescence in all its terrible, emotional beauty; “Romeo and Juliet” deals with the issue of teenage suicide.

IMG_1097

We also need to teach about mental health because of this. Because the world is confusing and hard to understand a lot of the time, not just for children, but for us adults too. And it’s only if we talk about it, that we will be able to manage it.

IMG_1106

So, I have tried to summarise my thoughts (aiming to be concise, remember!) in these four statements about why we need to teach about mental health.
1. Because there is still too much stigma surrounding mental health.
I did a twitter poll for teachers a while back and there clearly is still fear around judgement if you admit to sometime struggling with mental health issues.
2. Because we are role models and turnaround adults who shape lives.
When we choose to take on the responsibility of shaping children’s lives we become role models, like it or not.
3. Because by talking and teaching we can help to challenge the stigma.
4. Because children die when we don’t teach them to be mentally healthy. There is no expressing what you go through, as a teacher, when a young person in your care commits suicide.

IMG_1091

This is the World Health Organisation definition of mental health and I really like this. When we look at this, we have to question why there is stigma around talking about mental health. How is this any different to the broadest aims for education that any of us would aspire to achieve?

IMG_1092
And in fact, in spite of all the recent wranglings about the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence, there is a huge resonance between the WHO definition and these capacities. I would not want to work in an education system that has anything else at its centre.

IMG_1091

But just to return to this slide for a moment, although I love this, I do have a slight issue with one word here and that is the word “normal”.

IMG_1103

When we talk about mental health we need to remember that there is no normal; my mental health is not necessarily yours. What is important is that each one of us understands what we need to do to keep mentally healthy.

IMG_1104

So, where should you start if you are going to teach about mental health? Just do it! ask pupils what they think, look at the World Health Organisation definition as a starter; why wouldn’t we talk about it? Use these fantastic resources which are freely available and if you need more help, consider doing a mental health first aid training course which will give you both confidence and understanding of mental health.

 

Before I finish, I would like to return to the idea of us being role models. It is important that, as role models to young people, we show our own vulnerabilities as well as our strengths. All my pupils know just now that my dad is not well and that I’m struggling…but they will also see me come out the other side of it and manage the emotions around this difficult situation.
They also know that I struggled with anxiety and perfectionism when I was in my early 20s because I have told them; I want them to learn from where I went wrong.
They don’t know the full details but I can tell you that it was a pretty dire time for me and that I fought some really difficult battles to stay mentally healthy. I am 100% certain that if someone at school had talked to me about mental health I wouldn’t have had such a difficult time. When we do talk and learn about it we can feel better and children need to know that.

IMG_1105


Wanderings with a Wikimedian⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It being a lovely evening this evening, I convinced Ewan McAndrew, our Wikimedian, to walk to the station with me, taking a circuitous route to snap some photos for the Wiki Loves Monuments competition. Last we checked, we were getting properly humped by our UK cousins in the image upload stakes. Given that we are rubbish at football, rugby, weather, and healthy eating we need to have some sort of win for our national pride. Also we live in a city with UNESCO World Heritage status, so there must be the odd good shot or two out there.

Typically as soon as we stepped out of our office building the sun slid behind the clouds and then slowly sank down below the rooflines. Curses. Nevertheless, we persevered.

In our short 40 minutes we discovered many treats: a beautiful mosaic over the door of an otherwise unremarkable bank; an art deco style telephone exchange; St Cuthbert’s Cooperative Society; and our final destination – Gardner’s Cresent – a late Georgian Street, cast adrift from the rest of the New Town and now sandwiched in on all sides by a ram-jam mix of other architecture.

Gardner’s Crescent was built in 1822, on land feued by William Gardner, to a design by architects R & R Dickson. The crescent is an “unbroken arc of fifty-two bays” with a pretty little communal garden seperating it from Rosebank Cottages on the other side of the street. The gardens were refurbished and re-planted as a community space after a local campaign to return them to their pre-WW2 state (the railings were removed for smelting in WW2). J.K. Rowling apparently rented a small flat here for a short time and found it depressing.

Prior to William Gardner’s ownership, the land was owned from 1722 by the Society and Fraternity of Gardeners and a large building called Gardener’s Hall stood on the land. The Free Gardeners were a form of mutual aid and insurance society, quite strongly influence by Freemasonry. The first lodge was formed in 1676 in Haddington and the last lodge in Dunfermline closed in the mid 1980s.

A rare treat this evening to take a slow meandering route to the station and look a little more closely at this fine city.

Wanderings with a Wikimedian⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It being a lovely evening this evening, I convinced Ewan McAndrew, our Wikimedian, to walk to the station with me, taking a circuitous route to snap some photos for the Wiki Loves Monuments competition. Last we checked, we were getting properly humped by our UK cousins in the image upload stakes. Given that we are rubbish at football, rugby, weather, and healthy eating we need to have some sort of win for our national pride. Also we live in a city with UNESCO World Heritage status, so there must be the odd good shot or two out there.

Typically as soon as we stepped out of our office building the sun slid behind the clouds and then slowly sank down below the rooflines. Curses. Nevertheless, we persevered.

In our short 40 minutes we discovered many treats: a beautiful mosaic over the door of an otherwise unremarkable bank; an art deco style telephone exchange; St Cuthbert’s Cooperative Society; and our final destination – Gardner’s Cresent – a late Georgian Street, cast adrift from the rest of the New Town and now sandwiched in on all sides by a ram-jam mix of other architecture.

Gardner’s Crescent was built in 1822, on land feued by William Gardner, to a design by architects R & R Dickson. The crescent is an “unbroken arc of fifty-two bays” with a pretty little communal garden seperating it from Rosebank Cottages on the other side of the street. The gardens were refurbished and re-planted as a community space after a local campaign to return them to their pre-WW2 state (the railings were removed for smelting in WW2). J.K. Rowling apparently rented a small flat here for a short time and found it depressing.

Prior to William Gardner’s ownership, the land was owned from 1722 by the Society and Fraternity of Gardeners and a large building called Gardener’s Hall stood on the land. The Free Gardeners were a form of mutual aid and insurance society, quite strongly influence by Freemasonry. The first lodge was formed in 1676 in Haddington and the last lodge in Dunfermline closed in the mid 1980s.

A rare treat this evening to take a slow meandering route to the station and look a little more closely at this fine city.

Hacker head on⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 1 minute

The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. (The Principles of Universal Design)

In reading a little more about Universal Design I have learned that there are 7 Principals (first drafted in 1997):

Principle 1: Equitable Use
Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Each principal is broken down into 4 or 5 key points and one in particular leapt out at me.

5d. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

At the same time as reading about this I have been reading Tijmen Schep’s lovely book “Design my Privacy”. He has 8 principals including:

2. Think like a hacker. Many pitfalls can be avoided by better anticipating and concepting options for abuse.

Many of the big-data gathering social network platforms have had significant investment to make them as usable as possible by as many people as possible – they adhere to a number of the good practices detailed within Universal Design. These platforms are also explicitly designed to encourage unconscious action just when vigilance is what is most needed.

We need to get our hacker heads on.

Hacker head on⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 1 minute

The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

(The Principles of Universal Design)

In reading a little more about Universal Design I have learned that there are 7 Principals (first drafted in 1997):

Principle 1: Equitable Use
Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Each principal is broken down into 4 or 5 key points and one in particular leapt out at me.

5d. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

At the same time as reading about this I have been reading Tijmen Schep’s lovely book “Design my Privacy”. He has 8 principals in his book including:

2. Think like a hacker. Many pitfalls can be avoided by better anticipating and concepting options for abuse.

Many of the big-data gathering social network platforms have had significant investment to make them as usual as possible by as many people as possible. These platforms are explicitly designed to encourage unconscious action when vigilance is actually just what is needed.

We need to get our hacker heads on.