The holiday of a lifetime?⤴

from @ lenabellina

Holiday.

And we are off. In the car, en route, unterwegs.

On a journey that we had hardly hoped to dare might happen.

Not the “normal” summer holiday trip in so many respects.

Not the usual first day of the holidays departure, ahead of three weeks away.

Not sitting in the front of the car as the première étape driver…. But sitting in the back while my beautiful learner daughter clocks up miles and experience.

No separately packed bags in the boot for our usual week in France.

And with me not quite the person I was last time I saw family and friends outside Scotland.

But in the car nevertheless. On the way “down south”, lateral flow tests having allowed us an exit pass and with plans to see loved and familiar faces and places.

So much has happened since we last met, as it will have for so many families who experience the first pandemic-delayed re-unions after almost two years, or maybe more.

How will we be with one another? How will we catch up on those conversations round dinner tables and on walks that haven’t happened? How will we fill the gaps left after Zoom calls and WhatsApp calls didn’t quite hit the mark?

I am almost impossibly excited.

I know the danger in this. I know that my tendency to become overexcited and set my hopes too high (which ended up with many a birthday or special occasion of my childhood ending in disappointment) needs to be watched.

I am counting up the things I can tell them about that I am proud of and that have also happened in those 20 months:

The parent, wife and friend I have been; far from perfect but good enough in challenging times for all of us;

(The three people in the car right now, as I write this, will probably never know the depth of my love for them.)

The work I have done in my day jobs to help children who need our professional love the most;

The connections I have made and the invitations I have had, to engage in projects that have helped make Scottish education more equitable and trauma-responsive;

The recognition that I have been granted by the GTCS for values based leadership;

The section of a book that I have written on disability awareness in education, which incorporates my knowledge and experience gained across almost 30 years as a teacher and my recent ADHD diagnosis;

The work that I have done on my Masters in Critical Enquiry;

The Teacherhug radio show that I have curated and presented around teacher wellbeing;

My continued co-leadership, alongside the inspiration and rock who is Christine Couser, of WomenEdScotland, which has flourished as a network and brought increasing numbers of women from across Scotland together, to help one another thrive and connect through values.

I write this not to brag, not in the interests of self promotion. I write it because, for some parts of this year, I couldn’t have brought myself to write it.

I could only have talked about the difficulties, the challenges. Or worse still, not talked at all.

But life is never all good or all bad.

It is both.

The last 20 months have been both.

I have to admit that if ever I have needed to see people who love me for what I am, who won’t judge me and who will still see the parts of me that they have loved and lived with for my lifetime, it is now.

And so for now, I am going to put some things that I can’t control, or solve by endless thinking or worrying, into a box, leave the box on a high shelf and allow my ever busy, curious and intense mind to be intensely busy with other things.

Like dreaming about those hugs, like pondering which beach to swim from first, like deciding what colour to paint my toenails, and like picking which yoga routine to start the day with.

And like remembering to breathe.

Whatever this summer brings you, however you spend it, I wish you peace, joy and rest. If you have been a helper this year, I hope you know how grateful I am.

You do you⤴

from

Over the last week or so, many teachers finished term for summer. Others will finish in the next few weeks. A well-deserved rest after a year in which the goalposts just kept on moving! It’s been extremely tough and everyone – both young people and staff – need a rest. Many of us are looking forward to chilling out. But this blogpost is a reminder that ‘rest’ looks different for everyone. Each of us will approach our holidays differently. And that is absolutely ok.

For some of us, holidays will mean a change of pace. Some people cope well with going from 100mph 5 days a week, to slamming on the breaks and experiencing opportunities for long lies and lazy days. For others, the transition may be more problematic. It can be really difficult to fill long days when you are used to the routine of school keeping our minds occupied. It can feel strange to slow down and spend time in different ways. To give ourselves permission not to be thinking, doing, or being busy. But instead, to just be. It may be lonely for some. Not everyone is surrounded by friends and family. For many, life might not slow down despite the break from school. That might be appreciated or unwelcome. Parents, carers, or illness might all affect our responsibilities and our experiences of summer 2021. Being tolerant of others’ situations which we may not fully understand, is so important to allow everyone the rest they deserve.

Some teachers need to keep busy despite the break – they like to continue to work, to think about lessons, and use summer as an ideal time to learn. There might be those who want to do planning, buy stationary, set up their new classroom, make posters and create resources. Those like me, who channel their active minds into listening to podcasts, professional reading and webinars because time is limited throughout the year. I find summer a great opportunity to re-energise my practice, challenge my thoughts and develop as a teacher because I have a bit of capacity which isn’t always the case during the intensity of the school year. Please don’t judge those who need this. They are doing what feels right for them.

At the opposite end of the continuum, there are those who don’t want to think about school, education or learning. They need this break in order to recharge. Those who won’t check emails or won’t want to be contacted about school unless a complete emergency. Those who will indulge in life outside education; meals out, holidays, seeing friends and avoiding all talk of when we return to the classroom. This complete detox works for them. And I understand that completely too.

I’ve had various ‘discussions’ with my husband about this. He reckons that I’ll crash and burn. That I’m not giving myself time to switch off. That come August I’ll be exhausted. That others will feel they should be doing more. But I can’t affect how others feel. I can only control the controllables. And I’ve learned that this is good for me. This is me. I find that this time of learning and doing very different from school – it actually reinvigorates me and reenergises me so that I can be in a better place for the new school year. I do enjoy doing other things too – drawing, paddle boarding, running, reading – things which keep me doing but allow me to escape elsewhere.

What is important is that you do what’s right for you. Do what makes YOU well this summer.

One of the things which often makes this difficult is comparison.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt

Whilst social media can be a really excellent way of connecting and collaborating in the world of education, it can also lead to a great deal of unhealthy comparison. Teachers regularly post photographs of resources, preparation, planning and ideas they have been developing. More often than not they unintentionally generate a negative reaction despite being posted from a place of positivity. This can be for many reasons but reflecting on the times when my own reactions to social media have been rooted in comparison, I’m almost certain this has landed this way because of my own feelings of insecurity. The way I’m feeling at a certain point, influences my reaction to what I’m scrolling past. But, if as the voyeur, I observe and instead

‘Believe in the goodness of all people. Assume positive intent…’

Mary Frances-Winters

I find social media to be a far better place. It also helps me to remember that Instagram or Twitter only show a snapshot of someone’s summer – the photo worthy, best bits. Beware of this, as it can mask a whole host of other experiences and emotions. It also helps me to filter what and when I choose to post.

Finally, this word. Should. ‘I should really do the dishes.’ ‘I should be seeing more of my friends.’ ‘We should be exercising more while we have the time off.’ ‘I should cook dinner instead of ordering another takeaway.’ ‘I should be starting to think about school preparation.’ It’s hard, but when I consciously tried to remove the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary, I gave myself permission to do what’s right for me.

We are all different. There’s no right way to ‘do’ summer. Please don’t judge how others are spending their break. Please act with kindness and appreciate we all need different things this holiday.

You do you. Whatever helps you to feel recharged and ready to be the best for the young people in August…. Do that.

Listened: Lessons from Scotland⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Listened Episode 46: Lessons from Scotland by The Impact Podcast from anchor.fm
The OECD has published its long-awaited report into Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). With Curriculum for Wales sharing many similarities with CfE, Jane and Finola discuss whether Wales can avoid some of the issues raised by the OECD.

Given I am pretty unlikely to read the whole of the OECD report on CfE I found this podcast very interesting. It also encouraged me to read at least the executive summary in the holidays. The hosts discuss CfE from a Welsh perspective of following in the footsteps of CfE and avoiding the pitfalls.

Both the report and the podcast hosts made the point about lack of time being a main barrier to staff involvement in curriculum development.

One of the areas discussed was the difficulty in communication the vision of CfE or Curriculum for Wales. This leads me to think a good way, given teachers are time poor, would be a series of podcasts which can be consumed while commuting or dish washing (if anyone washes dishes by hand any more). I certainly found this podcast easier to digest than I would reading the whole report.

Sidenote, the podcast is on spotify/anchor. I spent a bit of time playing with anchor as it developed but lost touch as it pivoted one time too many.

Power Up your PowerPoint Presentation with inbuilt Designer for Design Ideas⤴

from @ Digital Learning & Teaching in Falkirk

Do you want to present with panache, style or flair? If you or your learners spend a lot of time trying to make your PowerPoint slides look good, then welcome to PowerPoint’s inbuilt Designer or Design Ideas to power up your PowerPoint presentation in the click of a button! With just a few clicks in …

PowerPoint Presenter Coach to help become clear, confident and expressive when communicating & presenting⤴

from @ Digital Learning & Teaching in Falkirk

If you are looking for a way to support learners (or indeed, yourself!) to be clear, expressive and confident when communicating & presenting to others using digital tools​, then Microsoft PowerPoint Presenter Coach is a handy feature of Microsoft PowerPoint. It’s built in to PowerPoint whether on the web, on desktop/laptop or mobile device, and …

A response⤴

from @ lenabellina

I read a post yesterday by Professor Neil McLennan. Neil is an education leader, former Young Programme delegate and previous Institute of Contemporary Scotland Young Scot of the Year. The piece is here:

https://www.scottishreview.net/NeilMcLennan578a.html

This is my response to that piece.

If you want to know who I am, you can read back through my blog. There is a lot about me here. When I write in this blog, I do so as me; as the voice of the human who has learnt through all of the experiences that I have lived.

If you think that I am writing about you in this piece and feel upset by it, please get in touch with me and tell me how or why. I am very accessible, I believe. You can get me via Twitter, Facebook, probably even my email. If you you are a friend or relative, talk to me next time we meet. Or ask someone else to get in touch with me on your behalf. But all I ask is that you are very specific with what you say and ask me about. Which words, what you think I am inferring and how we can resolve it.

I think that Neil’s piece is very important. Over my almost thirty year career in education, I have worked in many schools and systems. I have had many, many experiences and I have heard many, many stories. I seem to be someone in whom certain types of people confide.

I do agree with Neil that Scottish Education right now needs scrutinising in terms of the power relationships, professional relationships and personal relationships between various actors and agents. Lots of other people agree with this. The recent OECD report has much resonance in terms of its observations on actors and agency.

I spent much of the last two years trying to understand the issues addressed by Neil through work at national level on trauma responsive systems and leadership. I even had my half hour of attention from John Swinney around this.

For those who don’t know, creating trauma responsive systems is not simply about doing training on the effects of trauma on the brain, or having co-regulating adults in schools to help children calm down. It is about addressing exactly the same issues that Neil highlights.

I am not doing the work around trauma responsive systems any more, however. It seems as if I wasn’t quite what people wanted after all. Am I a bit sad about that? Well yes, as I thought I was doing a good job.

But my sensitivities aside (although I will say that I don’t apologise for being sensitive) I want to finish by sharing a piece I wrote a year ago. I stand by all I wrote then and I think that much of it offers a curious reflection as to why the systemic change we need isn’t going to be easy to bring about. But it is necessary. Because if the adults take too long to understand what is going on and change, the consequences for the children of Scotland will be unforgivable.

Here is my piece:

https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2020/08/15/and-the-haters-are-certainly-going-to-but-why-do-you-hate-so-much/

Ps In the interests of openness, I know Neil through mutual friends, through meeting him at conferences and through the Remembering Srebrenica Project which explores how we learn from what happened in Bosnia in the 1990s and prevent atrocities happening again in plain site.

Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award – iDEA⤴

from @ Digital Learning & Teaching in Falkirk

The Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, known as iDEA, is an award programme which provides access to a range of free on-demand online courses. In completing courses from the wide range available they not only aim to support developing digital, enterprise and employability skills, the completion of the assessments built into each course provide the means …

Read: Outdoor learning has improved our pupils’ attainment⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Read Outdoor learning has improved our pupils' attainment by Jay Helbert
Children here at early level experience 50 per cent of learning and play outdoors, those at first level have 33 per cent and second level children have a quarter of their school time outdoors. This has enabled the school to use a mixture of formal and informal learning outdoors to build in play-based and pupil-led learning, which, in turn, has helped to reduce anxiety and build resilience.

Really positive article in TES by Jay Helbert💙 (@learningjay) .

Our Forest School (in the grounds of Argyll Estate) and Beach School (on the shore of Loch Fyne) provide opportunities for a blended experience. These lessons take place weekly over the course of a school term and are child-centred experiences where teachers set up learning “provocations” and options for activities ranging from den-building and mapping to creating artwork and storytelling.

I’ve done a bit of outdoor learning in school but nowhere near the 25% the second level classes are managing here. I was interested to see this maths idea:

where children survey plant and animal species to gather data

I sometimes struggle to think up second level ideas for literacy & numeracy. I’ve mostly found early and first level ideas online.

The outdoors a great stimulus for writing, reports, narrative and poetry. Talking and listening seem built in. In maths we have done a fair bit of shape & measure and I can see the potential for data and related activities. It would be good to see a bank of ideas. 25% is more than once a week.

Bonus thought, has TES Scotland become a sort of medium for educational blogging. I am reading a lot of good stuff on TES.

Trust me, I’m a doctor⤴

from

viva

On Monday I passed my PhD viva. This thesis has been a long time cooking – I began on Jan 7th 2013, took a year out due to ill health, had two changes of thesis title and lost three supervisors along the way. At times I thought I would never finish, that my research was not serious enough, that I was not cut out to be an academic. I’ve been through redundancy and two job changes, I’ve got married and moved house. And, despite a pandemic, I finished. Somehow, over the last few months, I have cobbled together enough words of sufficient quality to be able to call myself a doctor. I have a few small revisions to make (including far too many typos!), and then I can work out what I want to do with all this research.

But for now, as I want to thank the community that made it possible. Thank you CLMOOC for all the fun and inspiration. As soon as my revisions are approved I’ll share a copy of my thesis with anyone who is interested.