8 things they don’t tell you about PLNs (Twitterversary post)

The power of the PLN.

ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

It was about three years ago I got involved with Twitter and connected with teachers (especially English teachers) around the world. It changed my life. In a 2012 post I detailed my decision to join Twitter and talked about some members of my PLN. Last year I wrote about some of the “wow” moments I’ve had as a result of being connected. In other posts, I have extolled the virtues of Twitter and tried my hand at proselytizing on the magic of PLNs. In this post, I will not do these things much but I’d like to try to share some lesser-known benefits of having a PLN. These benefits appear after the picture of my first tweet. Any benefits to add? Please feel free to share them in the comments.

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Educator network week #battt #ukedchat

One of my favourite sayings regarding CPD and training is this:

“What if we spend time and money training this member of staff really well and they leave?”

Response:

“What if we don’t and they stay?”

battt chatEvery school, every workplace has those members of staff that work hard; that continually seek to improve themselves by reading about their role or attending teachmeets; and that know that their job is not just 9:00 until 4:00. There are also the other members of staff that do the job and go home. They have no desire to read about work when they finish – why would they? It’s a fair question and often the response I get when talking about twitter for education purposes.

I use social networks to chill out, to chat with my friends, to see photos of my family or to see people getting soaked by buckets of water. Why do I want to spend my precious time seeing what other educators are doing? Besides, I’ve got lessons to plan and resources to find!

Well, what if I told you you didn’t have to spend ages trying to find resources online or trying in vain to find a specific document? That’s what Twitter is so good for. I use Facebook for sharing photos and seeing what old pals are up to; I use twitter as my PLN: Personal Learning Network . But there’s little point in preaching the positives of twitter and edunetworks to you, you already use them. We need you to target those members of staff that don’t use it.

So, how can you get them involved? How can you get them to convert? First of all, wax lyrical about it: get them hooked into the benefits of it. I have been asked a question in the staffroom before and have tweeted that same question. Minutes later, I’ve had an answer or a link. A great demonstration of how your PLN works. For this to work well, you obviously need followers – that’s where you tag someone else. Us. or @ukedchat or any of the people you follow that you will soon learn will help you.

Your job (the expert):

1: Show them the power of a PLN

2: Offer to set it up for them… they may not be that savvy or that inclined. It takes minutes to do together on a smartphone.

3: Point them in the direction of some decent posts to read. They need to be quick and easy to read but with relevant points. This one of @syded06 is one of our favourites.

4: Get them to tweet you at first, a question you can share. Make it useful. Make it fun. Show them #coolpoints – utterly pointless but amusing nonetheless.

5: Check back on them in a day or two. Just as you would a child who has learnt something new.

A few years ago, they wouldn’t have used Facebook because it looked too scary or would take up too much time. Now, it’s second nature – their use of twitter as an edutool needs to be like that.

Finally, if you sign someone up to Twitter or have encouraged someone to take hold of their account once more, introduce them to us @batttuk – we follow any educators back.

Remember, Twitter is for life, not just for this week.

Related Links.

Educator Networking Week – Word Doc Poster

Poster and digital map plus an A-Z of twitter.

Why Twitter?

Cup of Tea CPD

Things we wouldn’t know without Twitter

The wonder of twitter for teachers

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Tweachers – My advice for starting out with #CupofTeaCPD Trilogy Part 2

Fabulous blog further promoting the work we are also trying to encourage.

Wats-Education - from the inside looking out.

I am quite happy to accept that I wasn’t the first. But since I posted my blog on why Teachers should use twitter, it seems that everyone started sharing theirs and to be fair everyone who has, pretty says the same thing.

It all equates to my new favourite phrase “Cup of Tea CPD”.

So, here are my Top 10 things to do if you are going to start up with Twitter. They are in no particular order, they are the things I have done and while I am no @TeacherToolkit or @LearningSpy or @LeadingLearner – I am pleased with my first forays into the whole chasm of Social Media.

10: Choose your identity carefully.

Choose a good handle, this is the name people will remember and associate with you.

Keep it short and memorable, it might be your name or what you do or stand for.

Be careful. I…

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My problem with ability

Another thought-provoking post from Chris.

Teaching: Leading Learning

I’ve always had a big problem with grouping students by ability. The Sutton Trust EEF Toolkit shows that ability grouping, setting or streaming has a negative impact on student attainment.

Ability grouping slows progress down Ability grouping slows progress down

One of the first blogs I read and favourited when I began exploring the online educational world was Kenny Pieper’s Setting by ability: why? which used Ed Baines’ chapter on ability grouping in Bad Education: debunking myths in education to argue that setting and streaming was “self-defeating in the extreme.” Since then I’ve had a look at the research myself; there’s a list of some of the articles at the bottom of this blog. My favourite was Jo Boaler, Dylan Wiliam and Margaret Brown’s study Students’ experiences of ability grouping —disaffection, polarisation and the construction of failure. Susan Hallam concluded her study: “ability grouping…does not raise standards, and in some cases can…

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Sports Day madness by @skychaserhigh79

Another cracking post from our resident guest-blogging head.

Had your sports day or about to? This post is for you… Some statements here scarily realistic.

Sports day rules.

These are the rules for sports day, how to organise and how to oversee.

  1. Sports day should be organised by the least ‘sporty’ member of staff who shall groan and grumble and spend hours searching for sacks.

  2. Revolutionary new ideas should be tabled about how to ‘spice up’ sports day no earlier than one week before the scheduled day.  This is vital in ensuring that most of the preceding staff meeting is taken up formulating new plans, races and events.  It is then equally vital that the decision is made that a school should ‘do it like last year’ for ease.

  3. Following the above decision, promises must be made to ‘think about it earlier next year’.  Everyone must nod sagely and look determined at this point.

  4. Parents should regularly phone the school to ask about the date and time of sports day.  The original time and date on the three letters is not to be trusted at all and this needs to be checked personally.

  5. Parents should phone school at least a week prior to sports day to ask what the weather is forecast for the allotted day.  Parents are then required to express derisive disbelief when they are informed that school doesn’t know.

  6. The predicted weather for sports day is the only topic allowed to be discussed on the school yard in the week preceding the event.

  7. Every parent should make a great effort to inform their child’s teacher about how difficult it was for them to take the time off work to attend.

  8. Teacher’s should ensure that they have a detailed, to the minute breakdown of all predicted event times to ensure that parents can take the minimum time off work and get back promptly.

  9. At no point should parents ever acknowledge that teachers may well have to miss their own children’s sports days every year.  Parents should not acknowledge that their child’s teacher has any sort of life away from their child.

  10. The day of sports day will either be boiling hot, or raining.  There is no other weather that is acceptable for a school sports day.

  11. Most staff members will receive vitally important phone calls on sports day morning, meaning that they are unable to help set up. In most cases these phone calls will require follow up calls immediately after the events have finished, of course meaning that they are unable to help clear up.

  12. All staff will make it clear to the children that it is the taking part that is important and not the winning.  All children will look at their teachers and know that they are lying.

  13. At least five children in each class will not have trainers, at least four out of the five should ask in all seriousness if they can do it in bare feet.

  14. Under no circumstances should the painted lines for sports day be straight.  This would deny the parents the chance to complain about unfairness and begin sentences with ‘if it wasn’t for the wonky lines on her track, our **** would have won that.’

  15. The megaphone used by the head to address the parents should have batteries that will last for a maximum of half the time of the event.  The preferred life span is three races.

  16. The head teacher must ensure that they cannot be heard by at least 50% of the parents present.    This is very important as some rules are for only a select few parents and obviously the more important parents do not need to follow them.

  17. Parents should ensure that they complain to the teachers that it is too hot or too cold.  This is important as it encourages a teacher’ sense of omnipotence in their God like ability to control the weather.

  18. Parents should ensure that they take every opportunity to inform the staff which day would have suited them better.  Staff are particularly pleased to hear that ‘Friday would have been better for me as I have a half day and could go straight from here to have my nails done.’

  19. Parents should remember to complain loudly about the lack of organisation.  This is very important as it gives staff a clear idea of how they could do better.

  20. Many excuses should be listened to for a child’s poor performance.  Remember, it is never the child’s fault for failure, reasonable mitigating factors include: The wind blew them, they had a dodgy spoon/egg/sack/beanbag, the other kids are bigger/stronger/faster, they were up late last night, they’re not well, his hamster died, he has funny-shaped feet…  All excuses should be taken very seriously by the staff.

  21. Bins are for other people to deposit litter in, not parents.

  22. Staff should ensure that they arrive at school early, before their important phone call, and dig holes in the track, parents should be encouraged to point these out at regular intervals.

  23. All trips and or falls should be treated as severe accidents involving the use of stretchers and ice packs.  This is particularly important for the older children as this injury will form the major basis of their ‘I would have won if…’ rhetoric later.

  24. Mothers of smaller children should be actively encouraged to race onto the field of events at the sign of the slightest wobble and be encouraged to cuddle their child for no less than thirty seconds.  If at all possible, the onrushing mother should ensure that they knock over at least one other child so that more parents can take part.

  25. Parents should be encouraged to bring sugary sweets and drinks for their athletes, it is important to win the competition about who loves their child the most which is determined by the amount of ‘ket’ they can secrete upon their child, post-race.

  26. Parents are reminded that they should take every chance to inform their child’s teacher about their own sporting prowess.  This is particularly important for the fathers with young, pretty teachers.  Please note that no achievement is deemed too far back to be worthless, and teachers enjoy hearing about parents own infant sports day successes.  An egg and spoon win in 1984 certainly makes up for a pot belly and halitosis in 2014.

  27. It is vital that parents organise themselves to be split 50/50 and take ordered turns to complain that sports day should: a) be more competitive.  Then b) less competitive.  Most complaints should begin with the phrase ‘when I was at school…’

  28. Teachers should ensure that they keep a detailed record of which parents love their children the most, aside from the sweets this is also proven by how loud they yell during each race.

  29. Parents should be reminded to ask staff why the chairs are so small, we never get tired of explaining that the chairs are for children because we are a primary school.

  30. A parents’ race should be met with shuffling indifference or narcissistic enthusiasm, there is no middle ground.

  31. Any parents racing in the parents’ event should ensure that they have adequate trouser fastening, there are no bonus points for trousers dropping mid race.

  32. Fathers should be reminded that this race is vitally important and winning this race compensates for all other minor losses in life including having a worse job/car/uglier wife than the men you beat, having a tiny penis or living in squalor.

  33. Parents should ensure that if they have a full day off and are going to the local pub to sit in a beer garden all afternoon, then they must tell the staff of their plans.  It is vital to our peace of mind to know that you are enjoying your afternoon while we continue to baby sit your children.

  34. As sports day comes at the end of term, parents are advised that they should not forget to tell teaching staff how lucky they are to have six weeks off.  If they wish to add that they are dreading looking after their child for so long then this is welcomed.

  35. Parents should make sure that they enquire about the date for next year’s event, this keeps staff on their toes.

 Written by @skychaserhigh79

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Cross-phase teaching & learning.

For our 50th blog post, we are very proud to have Mr R Davies (@davies_mr_r) write a guest post on his now area of expertise: teaching and learning year 2 & 3 in a small primary school.

Trials and Tribulations of a Cross-Phase Class

It was around this time two years ago when I started thinking about my class for the next year. Numbers on roll in each year group were running through my head. That year we had had a nursery class, a reception class, a year 1/2 class, a year 3/4 class (my class), a year 4/5 class and a year 5/6 class. Numbers at the younger end of the school were high, we had two full year groups coming through, but numbers at the older end of the school were lower. It dawned on me that I may have a year 2/3 class…CROSS PHASE. Oh.

A couple of weeks later I was called the the Headteacher’s office and given the news. Year 2/3. What am I going to do? What is the Foundation Phase? Continuous provision. Continuous what now? I knew a bit about the Foundation Phase from university but not as much as I should have done.

At the time I was the teacher governor in school so I was at the full governors’ meeting when the class arrangements for the following year were discussed. Needless to say, some governors were not convinced. They asked for additional meetings with the head and myself to discuss how we would go about it. Once they had sat down with us and listened to our plans they were quite supportive.

Governors convinced, now just to convince myself that I was up to the task of almost completely changing my way of teaching. Fortunately for me, our deputy (and Foundation Phase Leader) is fantastic. I lost count of the amount of meetings I had with her and the amount of times I pestered her about this and that. I was beginning to understand.

Plenty of reading was done, plenty of friends were pestered but before the end of the summer term I was almost ready for the mix of Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2. Now for the planning…

Planning. Foundation Phase Framework. National Curriculum for Key Stage 2. Which document do I plan from? Both. Oh fantastic. Two sets of skills, two sets of outcomes/levels. This should be fun.

Is there a difference between the skills in the two documents? Yes.

Is there a difference between the outcomes/levels in the two documents. Yes but not much.

Right, head screwed on. Planning is being done from two documents, which isn’t too confusing but is very time consuming. Flicking back from one to the other to see which skills match and where do the outcomes fit the levels. As if we don’t have enough to do as teachers but now I am working from two documents, soon to be three with the new Literacy and Numeracy Framework in Wales. I know both documents pretty well now, I sometimes dream about them.

On the actual teaching side of things, I was looking forward to getting started. A completely new class, a new way of teaching and continuous provision. Continuous provision was the biggest obstacle for me. What is it? What are all these areas? Are they not just going to be playing? Again, the deputy head and her teaching assistant to the rescue. Both helped me out massively by spending time in my class with me moving furniture, gathering resources, setting up challenge cards, the whole lot. I can’t thank them enough.

Continuous provision is up and running. What’s that? They need to be updated every week? I never had to do anything like that in key stage 2. Right, better crack on with updating the areas.

The autumn term was flying by and almost done, it is now assessment time. No problem, I have done loads of assessments so this should be pretty easy, well, not easy but in comparison to some other things. Oh hang on, I have to assess from two documents. We assess the core subjects on a termly basis so I was quite used to assessing English, Maths, Science and Welsh. Personal and Social Development? Ah, another core subject for me.

All in all, assessing the children wasn’t as bad as I had been expecting. The Foundation Phase Framework and National Curriculum are quite similar but worded slightly differently so most of the time outcome 5 matches up to level 2 and outcome 6 to level 3. A few differences here and there but nothing to lose much sleep over.

Overall, I have to say that I have enjoyed having a cross-phase class far more than I was expecting. Having year 2 and changing my teaching style, much easier and much more fun than I was expecting. While I have had plenty of positives to take from the past two years, there are plenty of worries lying ahead for all of us in education. I love the time I am in the classroom doing what I do, I do not love the almost endless paperwork, the extra hours put in during the evening and on the weekend.

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Return of the tweet: guest post from @skychaserhigh79

Return of the tweet: guest post from @skychaserhigh79

Well, after a brief lapse, I have returned to Twitter…  What, no fanfare?  Granted I am not a prolific tweeter and, as I’ve mentioned before, am envious of those that can articulate points in so few characters…

I have discovered a worrying trend though.

I am concerned about the work life balance for many of my peers and colleagues.

I am astounded that the Govenator still believes teachers are work shy.

I am baffled by the diversity of promotion to ‘help’ teachers.

I am concerned about the quality of some such resources.

I am beginning lots of sentences with ‘I am…’

coopWe have returned to work today off the back of a three-day weekend (which the co-op worryingly stated was a third longer than normal?) which coincided with my return to Twitter.  I spent three fantastic days with my family, we went on long walks with the dog and ate ice-creams.  As you do.

Coming home and logging on to Twitter, I was amazed at the regularity of the tweets from the teaching profession, my timeline was full of regular rants, retweets, and statements all interspersed by time periods between five minutes to one hour.  One hour was the longest gap!  Err, why are so many teachers still thinking about school during their well-earned Bank Holiday?  This is, for me, a problem.  Having seen, first hand, the damage that the inability to switch off from the job can do, and reluctantly witnessed the loss of an outstanding (real sense, not OFSTED’s) teacher due to this, I was concerned.

Teaching, and training in particular, encourages martyrs, it is encouraged during training to spend as long as possible preparing and planning and marking and assessing…

‘I was up ‘till 1am getting my planning done..’

‘I finished at 1.30…’

I had an early night, I was done by 2am…’

Was a regular conversation I heard during my own four years at university.

Now it seems this has evolved onto Twitter…

Having checked my time line this morning, I found three separate teachers, in three different authorities had all tweeted about still planning and preparing at 1.00am.  This is ludicrous, how are they functioning correctly after so little sleep?  This is not healthy.  But we all are guilty, it is only very recently that I have been out on ‘a school night’ meeting a few pals to catch the game or even go to a gig.  For years my life was continually on hold until the weekend, or the next holiday.  I shudder when I recall the events I have missed due to feeling compelled to be back in my own house by mid-afternoon on a Sunday in order to ‘get sorted’ for school.

It simply isn’t a way to live.  Who has, or has heard someone say, ‘I use the first week to recover, enjoy four, then get sorted in the last week…’  Hands up, yep, I reckon everyone.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is commendable that people are so dedicated to the profession; that they want to share ideas and improve, although I fear that it is more out of necessity and expectation than desire.

It is very likely that I am wrong.  I often am.  But my own workload is becoming increasingly difficult to manage within my ‘acceptable working hours’.  For me, the problem seems to be that the support (authority) has the reasoning that, if you are doing ok, then you are fine and need no help.  If you are coping with all that is thrown at you then we’ll chuck some more… Help is only offered at breakdown or when you stamp your feet a little…

In December I embarked upon a project which would see a considerable amount of money spent on the redecoration of the school: carpets, wet areas, sinks, furniture and painting.  Having used the LA to source quotes, (well I do pay for it) we started looking at the best deals.  Convinced I could source cheaper, I invited a few companies in to quote independently.  Frustrated with the lack of commitment or urgency from the LA, I offered contracts.  The LA knew everything that I was doing, from December they had been informed of every company who came in, every quote was sent to them, every meeting had an LA rep present.  Last week I was informed that because I offered the contracts personally that I have assumed the role of ‘client’ and ‘project manager’ responsible for checking the competence of companies due to work on site, providing risk assessments and method statements for all work, making safe the asbestos around the school and independently checking the trade’s health and safety training, asbestos awareness and ‘competency’  Not only this, but I am now looking at being required to be ‘on site’ while the work is being done.  5/6 of the summer holidays. Yeah.

Had I known this in December, then the LA would have had a bollocking earlier and been made to take over.  Is it now too late?  Who knows?

The reason for not being told? ‘You seemed to have it under control.’  Well bloody bollocks to that.  What they meant was ‘we are severely understaffed, and if we can get him to take on the bulk of responsibility by not really giving him the full picture early on, then it will save us a lot of time and money, plus he’s already signed up for the ‘gold’ (sic) standard of support for another year so we have the £12k in the bank, screw him, he’ll do it, he’s new.’

Having had subsequent rants and apologies, I’m pretty sure this was not the case but it was how it felt.

Really the point I am (badly) trying to make is that as teachers, we do as we are told.  At school, with very few exceptions, I would imagine that we were the good boys and girls who listened carefully, worked hard and wanted to please.  I know I was.  Subsequently we were instilled with a feeling that if we didn’t succeed then we had to try harder, that failure was our fault.  I would never have told my parents that I got a C or a D in A levels course work or exams, that would have been my fault, not the teaching staff, yet now I miss my KS2 targets of 4b+ by 4%(one child) and I take the failure on board.  This is the attitude we have all brought to the profession, we do (pretty much) as we are told, and accept all responsibilities for failure of others.  Politicians know this.

On a lighter note, if anyone has any bright ideas about how I can get rid of a seagull that is currently camped out on my school’s roof, pecking and flying at windows, then please let me know…

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