Tag Archives: Reflection

Beginning the World Over Again⤴

from @ robin_macp

I was encouraged to write this by Jill Berry and Lena Carter, who both wrote excellent reflective blogs recently that show why they’re two of the most important voices in education, and are people that I respect greatly (links are at the end). It’s been far too long since I wrote something for my own website, but I’ve been able to contribute pieces to various other blogs and media outlets this year. If you’ve never taken up writing about education, but have always had an itch to do so, I strongly recommend it. The thought process that goes into blogging is, for me, the best and most therapeutic form of professional reflection. 

James Furlong and Owain Bristow

There can be no doubt that 2020 was a year that brought many lows, but for me the loss of two colleagues far outweighs anything else that happened. When I was Head of History at Wellington College, James Furlong was in the same role at the Holt School in Wokingham. He was a lovely guy, with a sharp intellect and superb subject knowledge. I got to know him through professional learning events that we ran for history teachers, and he very kindly took on School Direct trainees from my department. They always came back full of praise for the wisdom and advice that he imparted. James was tragically killed in a senseless terrorist attack in Reading, and I can only imagine how that would have impacted on his school community – who, it must be said, gave wonderfully compassionate support to their staff and pupils. James was an active member of the LGBTQI+ community who went out of his way to help people; he was the very epitome of kindness. The Holt are raising money for a memorial garden in his memory, and you can make a donation here.

In August, our Head of Biology at Robert Gordon’s College, Owain Bristow, died in a tragic accident just after we had returned to school. Owain was a brilliant scientist, with a quirky sense of humour, and the tributes that poured in showed just how much he meant to everyone in our community. He loved the outdoors, and dedicated much of his spare time to volunteering with Aberdeen Young Walkers. He was also a top-level athlete, an enthusiastic pantomime performer, and a much-loved son, boyfriend and uncle. The book that we put together of all the letters, cards, pictures and messages we received shows just how many lives he changed for the better. 

Both men gave so much to their schools, but also to wider society. As teachers, we know what we do is important, but we perhaps underestimate just how much. The legacy left by James and Owain shows the true value of the teaching profession. They are greatly missed.

Life as a new headteacher

I started my first headship in August this year, and the phrase that I have heard many times is that I’ve had “a baptism of fire”. True, crisis management has been a consistent feature of my first few months, but ultimately you know what you sign up for when you become a head. It is undoubtedly hard, and it’s not for everyone, but the support you get is amazing. My advice is to try to build up a strong network around you; people who can advise you, provide a sympathetic ear, and also be a critical friend. The better your network, the more able you are to do your job. 

I wrote this blog a few years back about senior leadership, and reflecting on it now I think it holds up pretty well. The tweet by Amy Fast that inspired it is, still, excellent advice:

I did the Scottish MSc level qualification ‘Into Headship’ in 2019-20 at Stirling University, and I can very much recommend it. Everyone I know who has taken it has been full of praise, unlike many people I know who have done NPQH. The reading part is the most challenging for many, but I loved that aspect and picked up a few things along the way. The work on the Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT) by Uhl-Bien et al (2007), although not on the prescribed reading list, was perhaps the best thing I read so if you have time then try to delve into it. I think it’s the closest thing to my experience of senior leadership so far.

Lockdown and remote learning

I described the second lockdown in a message to parents this week as “the sequel that nobody wanted, to a movie that no one enjoyed.” However, it won’t last forever and it has at least forced us to find creative solutions to problems that we’ve never faced before. Another colleague made a great point to me this week, namely that the paradigm shift that we’ve experienced has done much to destroy the ‘aye beens’ culture that affects not just Scottish education, but global systems too. That is to say, that we do many things because that’s the way we’ve always done them, without questioning why. I’ve never bought into that; I think we should do things because we know it’s the best way to do them. That’s now throwing national assessment into sharp relief, and I’ve been involved with other leaders in Scottish education in trying to open this debate up since before lockdown, as you can read about in this TES piece. We might, at last, be getting some traction. 

I wrote a piece when we entered the first lockdown about remote learning, and I think much of it still holds true. However, things have moved on, so there is scope to update this based on what we’ve learned over the last few months. It’s been interesting to see this blog getting a lot more hits in the past fortnight, so if you have fresher thoughts about what makes for effective remote learning then please do share them.

Srebrenica – the 25th Anniversary

Two of the things that I’ve been very sad to see fall by the wayside due to COVID were events for Remembering Srebrenica Scotland. I was supposed to lead a delegation of Scottish educators to Bosnia last April, and we’ve had to put this on hold until we’re able to travel again. My colleagues at RSS, especially Marsaili Fraser and Robert McNeil, put a huge amount of effort into curating an exhibition at the Kelvingrove to mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica. I hope that their efforts will be available to the public in due course. I did manage to record a podcast with Jasmine Miller (who I’ve been privileged to work with on many different educational projects), and her full Srebrenica Stories series is well worth listening to.

The point of what we do at RSS is not to vilify any groups of people, but to challenge toxic ideology. We’ve seen far too much of that in 2020, and the recent events on Capitol Hill show that misinformation and demagoguery holds the capacity to rip apart the fabric of civil society. We are in the midst of a struggle to establish the values that we want for the future, and I sincerely hope that the consequences of the death of George Floyd will lead to the better angels of humankind rising above our demons. If we are going to live in a world that is just and fair, we need to see diversity as strength, and build a culture that actively celebrates it, and doesn’t just acknowledge it. As one of my colleagues says, tolerance is a weak virtue. Let’s take allyship forward this year, and champion the causes that matter. 

Professional learning – a golden age?

One of the definite silver linings of the past year has been a flourishing of professional learning. I ran a series with Mark Healy called the Professional Learning Gaitherin’, which brought together some of the leading voices in Scottish education to give weekly talks and twitter chats each Saturday morning during the summer term. It developed a strong following and it’s been interesting to see people watching these long after the series came to an end. A key feature is that the PL Gaitherin’ was free, and the same applied to excellent collections produced by researchEd Home and the Teacher Development Trust, and new events like ScotEd 2020 (you can find me at the end, but you’re much better off starting at the beginning). Some have called this a ‘golden age’ of professional learning, which is correct in the sense of the opportunities out there, but perhaps less accurate in that teachers struggled to engage with anything beyond upskilling on technology. Still, the legacy is there and I hope 2021 allows people more opportunity to become research informed in their practice. 

Coming out of the curve

There will be a post-COVID world in which there will be incredible opportunities. I’m trying to use any spare energy and time to plan for that world, because it will be a unique moment in time in which we can capitalise on the gains that we have undoubtedly made. I’m genuinely excited by that, and what I’ve written above shows, I hope, that it has never been more important to be involved in education. As Tom Paine said, “we have it in our power to begin the world over again”. Let’s get it right this time.

Further reflective reading

Nurture 20/21 – Jill Berry

Pride After A Fall – Lena Carter

The sun is still is still shining…⤴

from

The sun is still shining and the music keeps playing. It must be the summer holidays. As I jet off to the south of France for a final week of rest before returning to school, I reflect on the seven weeks of the summer and look forward to the year ahead at school and beyond.

At the beginning of the summer, I jetted off to Mozambique, the Kingdom of eSwatini and South Africa for a world challenge trip with school. Twelve students and three staff made the 3 week long trek across Africa experiencing a marine conservation project, trek, Kruger national park, supporting a neighbourhood care point and some much needed rest and relaxation. It’s hard to believe now that the summer is nearly over. But what has been learnt about my time in Africa. Well, for one, how fortunate we are in having access to clean running water, access to free comprehensive education and free healthcare. It is hard not to feel a certain sense of guilt that I and many other people take all of the above for granted.

During the holidays a major task has always been to ensure that I completed my 8000 final assignment for the SCEL Into Headship programme. Due date: 19th August. I am pleased to say that I have now completed that assignment and after many redrafts and poorly constructed sentences, it now reads rather well. I never thought at the beginning of the holidays that I would have come to this point. What has struck me about my learning, I definitely need a deadline to motivate me! I also feel as though this summer, my work life balance has not been as balanced as it would normally be. I have always advocated for a holiday to be a holiday as I recognise the important work staff do throughout the year, including evenings, weekends and feel that holidays are a safe zone for work.

As our political landscape becomes even more scary, with the prospect of an early general election, crashing out the EU and a second independence referendum, I feel that the time is right for some optimism. The benefits of the holidays are always the increased time for thinking. But what positive rays of sunshine are there?

Well, for one the start of a new term is always enjoyable. Meeting new staff, new pupils and parents. It also provides an opportunity for a fresh look at aspects of the school improvement plan. Staff and young people are always much more up for it in this first term when compared to other terms.

What will be interesting to see is the development of some developments this year on a political front. For example, what will happen with the review around jobsizing toolkit which was promised as part of the pay review. Or indeed, how will the GTCS standards review impact our work in schools including the recommendations of implementing a lead teacher role within the existing career structure. Furthermore, how will the rhetoric of collaboration and empowerment play out as we continue to see the regional improvement collaborative embed themselves. Will the headteachers charter delivery empowerment for school leaders to develop their own curriculum and staffing structures. And will greater financial freedom lead to greater decision making?

I want to end with a key learning point from this year’s into Headship conference, led by Gayle Gorman.

Gayle highlighted the desire to move from a politically-driven system to a professionally-led system.

If realised, this will lead to a sustainable, embedded change out with the reach of changing government priorities. It may also lead to a greater clarity of purpose across Scotland rather than interpretation of policies being adopted by groups of politicians of different persuasions.

As the summer holidays draw to an end, please keep smiling and stay optimistic.

EduBlether

Reading this week…13th January⤴

from

The first piece is by Mark Ensor, and it’s about parts of teaching which are not seen, but happen all the time in a reflective classroom. The piece discusses lesson observations at one point. I’ve had a few of those and I wouldn’t rate them highly as something that has improved my teaching. The things that have improved my teaching are reading websites, tweets and books, high quality training and casual observations and chat with the wonderful folk I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

Here is teacherhead revisiting Dylan Wiliam’s formative assessment strategies. When I’ve heard or read Dylan, it is a good reminder that his key principles of formative assessment have become many things to many people. He doesn’t think all of them are a good fit with his initial ideas.

If you’re wanting some podcasts for the new year based on education Third Space has this list.

I’m very interested in the use of retrieval practice to secure pupil learning and I’m always looking for ways to use it in class. Here is one teacher’s ideas.

And here are some more ideas of how we can use recall in class.

A simple sketchnote to help develop depth in questioning from Impact Wales. And another one.

Day 24 of 365

Gordon McKinlay

Day 24 of 365

Career Education Standard 3-18: Reflection tool and self-evaluation wheel⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

In order to reflect on the entitlements of learners outlined and the expectations on teachers and practitioners outlined with in the Career Education Standard the following toolkits have been developed:

  1. self evaluation wheel on the CES 3-18 expectations
  2. CES 3-18 reflection tool L Entitlements
  3. CES 3-18 reflection tool L Entitlements and infographics

These can be used in conjunction with a wide range of other resources and exemplifications collated for easy access on the DYW Summary Page of the National Improvement Hub.

 

Visiting as metaphor – developing a framework for reflective practice⤴

from @ Cat's eyes

Gillies, D., 2016. Visiting good company: Arendt and the development of the reflective practitioner. Journal of educational administration and history, 48(2), pp.148-159.

 

 

 

Hannah-Arendt by POLISEA – CC BY-NC-SA

This paper offers a critique of the notion of ‘reflective practice’ in the context of initial and early-stage teacher education. Reflective practice is a term which is frequently used throughout the career of a teacher; it is a practice which is encouraged in teacher education programmes on campus and in school experience. It is also a requirement of students and serving teachers if they are to meet the standards for registration, as stipulated by the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS). They are exhorted to: ‘reflect and engage in self-evaluation using the relevant professional standard’ (GTCS 2012a), and for the standard of Career-Long Professional Learning, to ‘develop skills of rigorous and critical self-evaluation, reflection and enquiry’ (GTCS2012b). In spite of this central focus on reflection, aspects of teacher development and practice may leave some students and serving teachers feeling that there is insufficient discussion in their instructional and practical experience of what reflective practice is or how it might be achieved. Neither do systems and cultures best support reflection in context: the current emphasis on the evidence-based, best practice or ‘what works’ agenda supports the technical-rational–instrumentalist emphasis on craft, skills, and a cause and effect approach to practice, which leaves little room for consideration of wider aspects of pedagogical approaches.
Gillies (2016) draws on Arendt’s theory of enlarged thought –a theoretical concept with considerable philosophical pedigree, as it relays back to Kant and Aristole – to offer a conceptual framework which supports a progressive development of reflective practice, especially with regard to early-stage teachers and student teachers. This, to me, seems to be an extremely helpful mechanism in teaching and learning about the practice of reflection, developing experience in the consideration of alternative perspectives (‘visiting,’ loosely, in Arendt’s terms), and coming to judgement, as a key component of reflection, of the value and merits of the perspectives under consideration.
Engaging with these perspectives, in Gillies’ and Arendt’s terms, is the ‘company’ we keep; however, there are caveats. Keeping company of only known perspectives might limit our reflections and leave us in an echo-chamber, where our own biases and beliefs are confirmed and justified. That might be a comfortable environment for some, but for others this is an opportunity for challenging, professional conversations and debate; for contesting accepted beliefs and for ‘enlarging our thoughts,’ in  Arendt’s terms.
Here is Gilles’ framework for reflection, based on the ‘visiting’ metaphor, offered by Hannah Arendt (Gillies, 2016, p157).
gillies

I’d urge you to read the article if you have, like me, wrestled with the disconnect between expectations and support for the development of reflective practice in the early stages of learning about teaching.

P.S. Hannah Arendt was a political theorist known perhaps most widely for her analysis of the origins of totalitarianism. This Open Culture link provides useful insights to her thinking via an interview and further links.

References

GTCS. 2012a. Standards for Registration. Edinburgh: GTCS.

GTCS. 2012b. Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning. Edinburgh: GTCS.

Gillies, D., 2016. Visiting good company: Arendt and the development of the reflective practitioner. Journal of educational administration and history, 48(2), pp.148-159.

 


Educational reforms.⤴

from

As soon as the PISA results came out, the questions, accusations and incriminations began. Blame it on the CfE, blame it on the SNP, blame it on the boogie. I’m not going to blame anyone, there’s plenty of stuff written by plenty of people on the internet already, indeed I’m not sure the PISA results are something to aim for or worry about – Finland seems not to be too concerned – but I am going to write about working through major education reforms in my career to date.

The two major reforms which took place whilst I’ve been a teacher occurred in England and Scotland. In England, I taught through the time of the National Literacy Strategy, the National Numeracy Strategy, the QCA units, the QCA unit plans, SATS tests and OfSTED inspections every four years in a range of schools in England.  In Scotland I’ve taught throughout the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence, and seen at first hand via The Girl, the national assessment procedures.

The reforms in England were massive and to a large degree micro-managed. The Government wanted improvements in literacy and numeracy and wrote strategies to make sure this happened. If there was debate around what ‘good’ literacy and numeracy should look like, I wasn’t part of (I was in my 20s though, so I knew everything anyway). The strategies were written by a group of literacy experts and then rolled out to schools in the autumn and winter to be put into place for the start of the next school year.

I recall the literacy strategy being rolled out in 2 hour staff meetings after school – I hate after school meetings, I’ve done a day of teaching, there is assessment to do and I’m tired: You’re not going to get the best out of me. These meetings were scripted by the government, the trainers read out what we needed to know and we worked through units of work which explained how the strategy worked, how we should plan, how we should teach reading,writing and spelling. We soon spotted that the answers to the trainers’ questions were usually on the next page of the document! For this training we were given a complete strategy, various unit breakdowns of our own, resources (which we needed to make up in school) and some examples of expected work. It was a slog but by September we had stuff in place and away we went with it. The lessons I taught from the strategy weren’t perfect, but there was a structure in place to help me.

Of course, your school didn’t HAVE to follow the literacy strategy, but if you didn’t and the OfSTED or local authority came a calling, your school literacy strategy had better be an improvement on the national strategy. If your SATS results weren’t up to standard then OfSTED might make an extra visit and again, you’d better be getting the national strategy in place or else (or else usually meant your HT retiring or resigning).

Once we had successfully implemented that – well actually by October of that same year – the National Numeracy Strategy was launched. If you’ve had the misfortune to chat to me about this, you’ll know I love the NNS! The Government spotted some of the problems with the literacy strategy and made some key improvements.

The NNS contained examples of questions and ideas you could use, straight out of the folder. The document, like the NLS had learning objectives for each term of each year group (meaning for differentiation there was a progression mapped out). However, the NNS was supplemented with two things I thought were brilliant.

Firstly, there was a 5 day maths course for every teacher in the UK. 5 days out of class (in a hotel at times) to discover the document, talk about it with colleagues from other schools, plan how you would implement it with your class, look at all the resources. Like the NLS it too was scripted, so the Government really were leading this change in EXACTLY the way they wanted it to go. The 5 days were back to back. A full week thinking about nothing more than numeracy. It changed my teaching approach to maths from ‘here’s the book kids’ to something I love to this day. And really it bloody well should have done, bearing in mind the cost of this to the UK taxpayer.

The other wonderful thing was the resources the NNS team made and shared. They created some wonderful teaching programs which I use to this day and they wrote the unit plans. These were highly detailed documents for each unit of work. Unit one was place value it contained 5 plans, one for each day of the week. Each plan was A4 and was pretty much a script for the lesson. There in the same folder (and latterly on CD-ROMS) were the resources (including worksheets) you needed for the lesson. Differentiated. The idea was that these plans were a start point, you changed them to suit the needs of your class. Lots of teachers did and that was great, but even if you didn’t (because you were, like so many teachers lazy ? what you delivered was good quality, written by numeracy experts, lessons. If you were new to the job it allowed you to know where to pitch an average lesson and how to piece your maths teaching together over a term. I loved them and still did out the ideas for a concept which my class find tricky to see if I’ve missed anything.

After a year or two, the Government did it again. They released the QCA topic documents. These detailed the teaching for all of the non-core subjects on a lesson by lesson basis. Again, all the information you needed to teach the lesson was contained in the folder. You adapted it, changed the order, added bits in, took bits out but the basic lessons for all your Art, DT, History, Geography, Music, Science, RME and PSE were there. Concurrent to that, the Government noticed that problem solving and investigations was not progressing as well as they wanted, so they created more problem-solving resource and ran another 5 day maths course for two teachers in each school to upskill them in teaching this. Again, resources and knowledge I still use to this day.

Looking back, it seems a great time, with resources aplenty, cash aplenty, but it was hard, hard work at times, with the pressure of OfSTED ready to pounce and the pressure of SATS scores needing to meet targets for school and local authority. For me, giving me start points close to a finished article of a lesson plan or termly plan allowed me to focus on the delivery of the lesson, moving children to their next target (of which they had many) and how I might make these at time dry lessons interesting and meaningful for the children. For teachers, new to the profession it certainly offered a proven scaffold to begin their careers. I loved the support the strategies and unit plans gave me and the time it freed up to think about the needs of the children in my care.

I will discuss the education reforms since I’ve moved to Scotland in my next post. I think it’s possible I moved out of England before things took a turn for the worse, but I’m happy to hear comments from people who disagree with that thought or with things as I recall them from the late 90s and early 2000s

My Reflections on a Wonderful #PedagooHampshire16⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

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 […]

My Reflections on a Wonderful #PedagooHampshire16⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

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 […]

A big move…⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

road-259815_640

I’m making a bit of a professional move over the next couple of weeks. If you’ve looked on this blog at all recently, you will already know that I have been on a secondment to the Scottish College for Educational Leadership to engage on teacher leadership across Scotland. This secondment came to an end at Easter, and the report from this work is due to be published in time for the SCEL Conference on the 12th May.

My intention had been to return to school on completion of this secondment, but continue working for SCEL on a part-time basis. However, over the Easter holidays I finally had a bit of time to reflect and realised that I was really enjoying working for SCEL and that following on from the engagement there was a real potential to meaningfully contribute to the development of teacher leadership across Scotland. That’s not an opportunity that comes along very often! I therefore decided that if SCEL would have me full-time, I would be up for staying on. I was delighted to learn that not only was I keen to stay on, SCEL were equally keen to keep me.

For various reasons however, the best way to make this happen was for me to resign my current teaching post and take up a contract with SCEL…which I’ve done. So, I’m currently in the process of working out my notice with my school, with only days remaining. Leaving school is obviously not an easy call to make…especially Preston Lodge High School, which really is a great place to teach. However, being back in school these weeks has really shown me that due to my recent surgery, a secondary school is quite a difficult place physically for me to teach in just now still. So the move makes sense from the perspective of my health just now also.

So, what am I going to do? Well my job title will be ‘Lead Specialist: Teacher Leadership’ and my role will therefore be to respond to the outcomes from my recent teacher leadership engagement work and put things in place to support teachers. Due to the variety of needs expressed during the engagement, there will need to be a variety of activities put in place. SCEL have already focused their first upcoming conference on teacher leadership, but there will be much more happening beyond that. I’m hoping to continue to use this blog to reflect on my practice in my new role…

I don’t know if and when I’ll be returning to the classroom, so I’ve been enjoying these last few weeks with the students…and I’m especially grateful to have had the chance to do lots of heart & lung dissections with one of my current classes in particular! I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t go down too well in the SCEL offices…

TES Resource⤴

from

“Hello, Just following up on the last message. We would love to hear back from you to see whether you are interested in the £50 reward for uploading…”

 

The TES came a calling. Offering cash incentives.

 

“£50 reward for uploading 3 premium teaching resources to our website. “

 

I had a look.

 

What is a premium resource? It’s a resource on the TES site that you pay for.

 

I have enough problems remembering my login for the TES site.

 

I had a read of this post again. It’s about why i teach. I’ve done it for a while now. I still love it. It’s about the changing, the learning, the everyday being new, the unlocking of potential. It’s not about the money.

 

I am more than happy to share any knowledge, resources I have with anyone. For free. Get in touch and I’ll send you what I can.

 

I feel that the sharing of ideas, resources, skills and knowledge is a key part of teaching. It’s how we are going to improve our education system, our curriculum. It’s how we are going to prepare our young people for the future.

 

It’s also what we ask the children in our care to do when we plan group work.

 

As well as an ethical issue in getting paid for sharing my resources, there’s a further issue.

 

If I make a resource on my council computer, in my council lit, council heated classroom and maybe print out a few test copies on the council maintained printer, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

If I use the knowledge that I have developed through the inspiring, knowledgeable teachers I have worked with, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

If I use an idea that I have seen on someone else’s resource, even if I have adapted it, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

I am lucky.  I work, and have worked, with some wonderfully knowledgeable, inspiring people. I learn loads from them. I see how they do things, I improve my practice, I incorporate their ideas and I steal a copy of their resources from them and use them with my class. Should I offer them money when I do this?

 

Sharing. It’s a fundamental part of education, it’s how we personally improve and it’s how we are going to improve the lives of our young people.

Hopefully I do it.

And it’s useful.

And I do it for free.