Archive for the “Reflections” Category

I scheduled this post for one year after it was written? Has much changed?

Surprisingly, aged 33, I am about to embark on my first significant career change. All my previous decisions focused on accepting educational opportunities rather than purposeful career changes. It would be neglectful of me not to consider and reflect on what I have learnt during my employment at Tauntons College, predominantly teaching, but also managing and coaching. To reinforce the positive experiences, review the mistakes I made in an effort to benefit the new students and colleagues I will be working with and for at Hamble School.

Notable for me, there have been four significant learning opportunities;

  1. Through simply observing experienced practitioners teach or manage.
  2. Second, professional learning that took places as a result of my teaching mistakes or errors in judgment.
  3. Solicit feedback from our students, consider it and act upon it.
  4. What I learnt for myself.

Set as few rules as possible but enforce them consistently as possible (1).

Give quality time to students. Listen more than lead the conversation (1,3,4).

Written communication between student and staff can be very powerful (4).

Occasionally support students without them knowing you were the teachers that helped. An educational secret Santa so to speak.(4)

Discipline does not always work best when it is immediate, identify the misdemeanor, outline that the student will be sanctioned. Wait. (1. Howard Tear)

Not all expert teaching requires technology, in fact most requires very little technology but a very skilled teacher (1).

Do not do for a student, what they can do for themselves (2,4).

Challenge the students. The student, who is never required to do what he cannot do, never does what he can (2,3).

You can not accept every philanthropic challenge presented to you as a teacher. Be thoughtful as to those you accept. Ensure that it is the student that succeeds and not you, the teacher (1,2,3).

Complete few things, but very well (1).

Learning is not a spectator sport (3,4).

Rather than teaching, provide conditions in which the students can learn (1).

Let students teach. It’s demonstrates what has been learnt, its supports the development of others students and most importantly it allows students to recognise your craft (1,3).

It is not what you tell your student that counts. It is what they hear. More importantly, what they act upon (1,4).

Only make new mistakes (4).

Tell students regularly that intelligence and success is a learnt ability, not an innate ability. Develop a “growth mind-set.

Know what kind of teacher you are, and what kind of teacher you want to be (4).

As a Manager it is a little more difficult. To date the list is a little short. I would like to try and keep it that way.

  1. Hire the best staff. This is not a ‘chance’ process.
  2. Make the difficult decisions, decisively.
  3. It is better to be seen than it is to be heard.
  4. Learn from the staff in the Department and the school.

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Another inspiring student presentation with wow factor, I forget to mention the Pearl of Africa, impressive. A modern Step Up performance with great music and costume. An overview of the impact of federation was supported by series of shorter presentation by future leaders. Given the chance to lead early in their careers these presentation provided a number of take home messages for established leaders. For me the messages, although subtly different, were often repeated. Of course, this may have been the point?

This was supreme;y well supported by the final Keynote that had the audience agreeing, smiling wryly and nodding in agreement. This is one presenter to keep a track off! Richard Reeves was the highlight, the surprise package, of the SSAT 16th conference for me. Every bit a modern presenter. Great delivery, very enjoyable but also informative and a sophisticated presentation zen slide approach.

Now the highlight for me, was following the presentation I met with Jenny Lycett the web editor. The thought that a simple request may get the students performance uploaded to website was a positive end to my personal conference. There will be a fantastic resource to staff and inspiration to students at the possibilities available to them.

The conversation then progressed and we discussed how blogging the conference may help share the aims of the SSAT (I didn’t originally blog the conference for that aim, but for my own professional development). There was a potential opportunity for Hamble Digital Leaders to visit the Conference next year and cover the conference using some of the more current aspects of digital media, blogging as I have done, but also mobloging (blogging live) and Ustreaming some of the break out sessions. IMHO I was surprised that SSAT were not already considering Ustreaming this? All it would take would be low spec camcorders, operators (students) and the organisation of those students and the whole conference would be recorded and streamed live to a global audience. Did I mention it was free. Sir Ken could watch from California.

Just to challenge the SSAT here is a Ustreamed Keynote, where the presenter, Chris Lehmann talked about some of the fantastic ICT innovations and projects currently being used at The Science Leadership Academy.  Granted, the quality is not fantastic, but the message is and that message was – ‘that tools don’t teach. Teachers do.’ Enjoy.

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Its day one of the SSAT conference. The 3000 delegates. Impressive venue and the first two speaker set an enquiring tone. Sir Dexter Hutt, only introduced the conference but I felt that there was more I could gleaned from his approach to leadership and his experiences. IMHO it was a shame he was only introducing the Conference. A key reflection being that unless you change the ‘default setting’ for education, the outcome will rarely be changed. Change the default setting, the example given was to change the ugly 4 rows config of the ICT rooms classroom configuration, and outcome is changed. (I know I that Hamble College needs to challenge our classroom default setup, the ugly 4 rows configuration traditional in so many classrooms, to in turn impact on the way teachers and students and between student interact with one another, currently interaction is limited.)

The default system schools rely on, the way are schools are organised, doesn’t make it possible to make many special efforts, that’s why they are called ‘special efforts.’

What would you have your to transform to permit more special efforts?

Sir Ken Robinson followed and the audience warmed to his ‘slight of hand’ delivery and humour, did you know he now lived in California? And for the record he was never formerly known as Deardry or Angela? His key message was clear, he lives in California and creativity, ‘original ideas that add value,’ should be a central concern for educators. That creativity and intelligence are not divergent themes. (Ironically and only an minor observation, Sir Ken Robinson used the ‘default text font’ (TIMES NEW ROMAN text) in his Powerpoint, default habits die hard.) Again, a thoroughly thought provoking, expertly delivered, keynote. There are many possible soundbites to highlight, but…

‘The issue is not to reform education but to transform it into something else.’

So to the final point of the post. I am confident you are not interested in a second hand, vacious experience of the SSAT Conference. And thats is my exact reason for writing. Whilst we were listening to the Keynote from ‘up in the nose bleeds’ the video was being screen live on the back drop behind the speakers. So its being videoed LIVE. So it must be being streamed right? But it wasn’t? Why not?


I am pleased to say that the keynotes are available to watch? To reflect upon? To share with teachers all over the SSAT network? To share with our colleagues on our return? The presentations are being hosted and available for streaming, I am not sure for how long. Sadly the student presentation are not currently available. I have left a request with SSAT for higher quality DVDs be made available for purchase. I will keep you posted.

If you really wanted to get a copy of the presentation / video you should of course contact SSAT or read ‘When Right Click ‘Save Target As’ Doesnt Work.’ (A quick note SSAT presentation a SWF files, similar but a little different).

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Work is very demanding at the moment, on top of the curriculum, printer rationale, VLE, Website, ‘new build,’ and of course data management, we are currently hosting a PGCE student. The experience of working with a ‘teacher in training,’ has been very rewarding and today was the first day I saw education lighten up his face. The moment when his starter activity fully engaged the room and students were eager to contribute, excited and enjoying the lesson. The topic, ‘The Power of Images.’ The introduction, a simple picture reveal powerpoint slide created using disappearing shapes that revealed an image, deliberately obscure. Very simple but a real hit with the students. I wanted to publically compliment him on his starter activity today.

In the debrief the discussion moved onto question style, introductions and plenaries. There is a whole section on thsi blog dedicatied to this very topical, quizical. We noted some simple introductory ICT games, some new and some very dated, but they are gems! Following the discussion I realised it has been some time since I have made real good use of the tools posted here myself. It just goes to show you may not be able to teach a old dog new tricks, but you can remind him of those learnt previously. I hope to see them in some of his (and my own) future lessons.

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Expected difficulties can be managed. In terms of the curriculum; new staff, a new KS2 curriculum, a new Unit of work for Year 9s, in their new sets. A revised unit of work (well, almost) for Yr 10s and finally, a new course for low ability students in Yrs 9 and 10 (with a newly associated ICT staff, a Teaching Assistant, workign with a full time member of staff) and not being able to set in Yr 11. We knew that challengeing the expectations of students with 2/3/4 years experience at Hamble College would be professionally draining. We are also expecting a PGCE student, thats another 1st for the Department, but another strain on my time.

On a positive note, our new member of staff has made a very positive start. The lesson are prepared for each class ahead of schedule and a senior member of staff has prepared hard resources where appropriate. He has made an impact on the Department immediately, his professional IT knowledge and ICT skills are very strong and his enthusiam for ICT infectous, his open classroom at lunchtimes means rearely is there not an ICT facility open. Finally, having three staff members occupying the three IT rooms has improved security and overall behaviour within the rooms. What will it be like when / if we get a fourth?

Unit 4 has been prepared and scripted for all staff (revised as it is taught for the first time), Unit 1 was in the process of being revised, more of that in the ‘things we dont know, we dont know.’

In terms of the IT Management; a new network, AUPs, classroom management software, online registration, implementing wireless through out the site, mobile simms, preparing the new IT office and projectors in all classrooms. I knew that these tasks would drain time. It was going to be a demanding terms, did I mention my wife gave birth to our fisrt Son Harry at the end of August??? At least we knew to expect him!

So to the focus of what all young managers learn, I presume the hard way. It is not what we know and plan to manage that causes the most frustration, but the ‘things we don’t know, we don’t know.’

The new term has been really challenging, despite knowing it was going to be demanding, alloting overflow time, I will try and summarise the reasons for this;

  1. network issues, we expected some issues, but we got more that we had expected. User areas dropping out led to teaching being stalled.
  2. not having the expect AUP and classroom management software meant it was more difficult to manage students classroom behaviour. With just three days of ABTUTOR being installed, we are already seeing improved productivity.
  3. College website lost and community website lost in the network upgrade
  4. wireless not fully installed, impacting on registration. This was always possible outcome, but poor cabling / patch manangement, meant a delay.
  5. network and registration took priority, this meant other smaller jobs got delayed.
  6. no IT help desk / ICT room booking – that is purely my fault. I did not know that this was essential. Let me emphase how important it is. Without order to the IT Network management, jobs we not completed with forethought or planning. In term this meant more ‘time’ spent managing following up what was, or wasnt completed on time.
  7. Science were expecting a new IT suite. This was only confirmed in the thrid week of term. Another 2 days work unaccounted for.
  8. Unit 1 was not completed as proscribed. I did not expect to have to push a second SOW through aswell as Unit 4, (I was a little disappointed). Again the infrastructure behind the teaching should a serious concern for 2008/9.

I am sure that there were other issues, some small and others more significant, but the workload has meant that I have found it almost impossible to write to this blog regularly. I am conscious that I need time to reflect and  I am committed to this blog. Unfortunately, my professional reflection time has been almost completely eroded by a task list that keeps adding to itself.

Despite the fact I gave our teacher and network teams ‘overflow time’ I doubt if I will ever experience another year in Hamble College ICT like it? Everything was push push push it through. Yes we can, we will try, we hope to be. That is not to say I will not experience something similar in another role or College. So crucially, what woudl I do differently? Well I am not sure I could have done much differently. Only to learn from the experience, I dont think within the current situation we could have taken on less?

The network faults, the lack of wireless (cabling), the need for online registration, appointments (or lack of a network manager) were constants and were outside my control. I do believe that not having a help desk and the ability to record and prioritise ‘jobs,’ negatively impacts on IT management and staff time. Also I am sure it has negatively effected the wider College staffs overall impression of the IT management with College. With two weeks to half term, we still have jobs being actioned, we are looking to half term as our first opportunity to move the IT office and improve communication, to finalise the requried tasks and start to impact on the teaching practices within the College.

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