A reflection on my first half term.
As I write this, I’m trying to ignore the persistent tickling in my throat and odd muffling of my ears which tells me my yearly October bout of tonsillitis is due.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks since September: starting a new role in a new school is always a time in which you feel, to some extent, an outsider. But this September saw me leave the school I had done part of my teacher training, and my first few years as a qualified teacher in to join a very different kind of school: less than half the number of students, more rural, and (currently!) in special measures to boot. More: this is my first role with responsibility – leading KS3 in English.
To say it’s been ‘different’ would be an understatement – and as a person who tends to the hyperbolic at any given opportunity I can, with all honesty, say I expected it to be so. Having spent several years in some extremely tough schools up in Birmingham and Wolverhampton before I qualified, I thought I knew what to expect of a school in measures. And yet. I didn’t expect to be welcomed by groups of warm, eager, friendly children – and I was.
Obviously, being on a journey out of measures has its challenges, (and there are many!) but I really am trying to focus my eye on the prize here: my department, my interaction on twitter and the AMAZINGLY inspiring #TLT14 (more later) have helped me remember all the positives.
With that in mind, I want to set out a list of WWW/EBIs for the next half term. Apologies if this seems a little cathartic…
1. Implementing a whole new curriculum for KS3.
Well – I won’t actually detail all the thoughts I have had on this….! Suffice to say… I have faith (thankfully backed up by the first data set) that the new SOWs I have implemented allow for engagement and progression for all learners. Students genuinely seem to enjoy English and from my own teaching groups (1x Years 7-9) have embedded their learning.
Firstly, it was (ahem) ambitious of me to want to sweep in and implement a whole new curriculum for Years 7-9. In reality, this hasn’t happened, and there are many reasons why, but I guess the main thing I have learned is that it’s probably best to make smaller changes (even though it goes against my very nature!) but to make them as effective as possible.
My question (myriad, so I’ll try to keep it brief) is:
Have I been ‘challenging ENOUGH’ in my ideas? Jo Facer’s (@readingthebooks) incredibly inspiring TLT session on ‘teaching the tough texts’ really made me focus on the whole texts I have prepared SOWs for. In particular, one thing that struck me was this:
‘I don’t just want them to enjoy literature: I want them to be literary critics’.
Quite. In a way, I suppose, I have been guilty of putting ‘engagement’ over what will actually allow them to develop as literary critics. There is a place for The Hunger Games and Twilight – but I don’t think it will NECESSARILY be as a ‘class reader’ for my groups.
2. Trying to be positive EVERY day.
WWW: I’m trying to moan less. Really, I am.
EBI: I could probably be a little kinder to myself here – I know that I, personally, have started to tire of the endless negativity propagated in some blogs and columns *cough Secret Teacher*. I do remember, and am grateful, that I left my last school to come to somewhere I felt I could make a real difference. This was a CHOICE – and one I feel that I ought to remind myself of on some of the tougher days. The lovely Amjad (@ASTSupportAli) has a mantra: Positive Mental Attitude, which has many more positive connotations that my own (Work or Fail) and is one which we could probably all use, I think.
Again, here, the support of the Twitter community – and by extension, TLT – has been an amazing boost to me. If you haven’t, already, go and read this by Chris Hildrew. The chap sums it up better than I could, I think.
3. Dealing with data.
WWW: never having had responsibility for data analysis before, Thursday was a slightly brain-melting shock to my system. Data is interesting, it is useful and, perhaps most pertinently, it’s not going to go away. I spent a portion of the afternoon and evening getting to grips with the first data capture for KS3 – and although it was time-consuming it was fascinating, and extremely valuable.
EBI: We encourage kids to take responsibility for ‘going the extra mile’ in something challenging, so with that in mind I have called upon the support of Pete (@TryAgainToday) who pointed me in the direction of some SIMS videos on youtube and even helped me with some formula which I have already asked to be added at school.
There is absolutely NO point in being totally au fait with data if I don’t DO something with it. With that in mind, and seeing as our PP boys, traditionally, have lagged way behind, I have decided to implement a ‘Progress Premiership’ in the next half term (details to be thrashed out this holiday!) for KS3 lads.
There are SO MANY MORE things I could write about… but think it has to be these three things which I need to focus on before Christmas. Oh, and the plan to do a couple of hours of work each day this week, instead of ignoring a growing sense of dread and then doing ALL OF THE WORK next Sunday. Whilst crying. Which is definitely not my normal modus operandi. Kidding! Maybe.