Making 2011 the Year of Positive Action

As the New Term kicks off I began thinking about how I am going to use all the new ideas Twitter keeps throwing at me! What resolution was I going to make in order to improve my teaching or help improve the teaching and learning environment for myself, fellow staff and students?

But you are the teacher, you have to go back to school!

And like school kids, the staff traipsed into their inset day workshops. Most were more concerned about the presents and the New Year’s Eve celebrations or who they were going to sit next to rather than starting the workshop. Slowly but surely they settled and so began the first workshop of the inset day…

‘Recording Behaviour Management on Sims’ – not the most inspirational of titles to welcome in the new year of teaching. However, the aim of the session was to ease the teacher workload. Surely this was to be the light in the dark dreary January morning. Surely no one could complain about this… The senior management were working for us to try and ease an imperfect system…

The complainer’s soliloquy

Alas no. Within 5 minutes complainants were flying in thick and fast with a very repetitive routine:

Teacher (T): “The report should show which teacher set the sanction”

Workshop leader (WL): “No it won’t – that is something the software just won’t let us do”

T: “Well that’s ridiculous. You mean I have to do this myself”

WL: “Yes but that’s why we have created this system to help you get around this problem”

T: “You mean I have to have another system”

WL: “Yes but we control this system and can make it do far more than the key database”

T: “But I need to look at 2 things. That’s just impractical. It’s going to take me more time. The report should show which teacher set the sanction”

 

And so it continued…

The complainers seemed to have the same thing in common – the desire to complain with no real desire of listening to possible solutions.

(By the way, my favourite comment from the whole soliloquy was ‘But that might mean we aren’t giving out enough sanctions!’)

‘What would they have said on twitter if I had been so negative?’

As I sat listening to the dialogue/monologue/soliloquy I began to wonder/doodle and my mind rested upon the idea of ‘What would they have said on twitter if I had been so negative?’

It struck me that one of the really positive things about Twitter is the inspiration for positive action. You only have to listen to tweets and you hear nothing but positive comments, support and praise for ideas and suggestions. If you don’t believe me, follow these people:

@CreativeEdu @DeputyMitchell @digitalmaverick @TheHeadsOffice @DigitalGodess @chrisleach78 @lisamonthie @MultiMartin @ShellTerrell to name but a few…

Their positive approach to education is infectious, you realise that the only thing that holds you back half the time is attitude.

Get involved!

I am more than happy to give my thoughts and be positive on twitter when I read someone’s ideas. Why should it be any different in the middle of a room full of teachers? So I praised the solutions being presented. Nothing major – I didn’t declare my undying love for the excel spreadsheet being proposed. I didn’t declare that the formulas could rival Stephen Hawking’s explanation for the universe. Simply that I thought it was a really good idea and looked forward to trying it. That simple. I looked forward to trying that.

140 Characters of Goodness

Did it stop the complainer talking? No.

Did someone stop me later that day in the corridor to say it was good to hear something positive said in that meeting? Yes

Twitter only gives 140 characters space and if you read many of the tweets involving education they are positive. If 140 Characters can spread such an infectious amount of enthusiasm (don’t believe me? Read here!) surely we can spread enthusiasm by taking this approach into schools. It is all very well being Mr. Positive online and then keeping quiet in meetings or not speaking out against some overly negative feedback. Twitter, if it is to serve as a CPD tool, has to impact on teaching, learning and my professional development. It has to change and improve who I am as a teacher. And so it has.

Preaching to the converted?

If you are on twitter I may be preaching to the converted. I think I am preaching to myself more than anything. The glow of the online staff room full of positive people can become lost in the day to day aspect of teaching, especially when you encounter other teachers, face to face, which aren’t so positive. But being positive and doing something to search for a solution (or at least try a solution) is something which will have an impact – however small or large!

New Year’s teaching resolution

So there it is – the New Year’s teaching resolution:

  1. Being actively positive in and around school, even in the face of complainers.
  2. Taking the time to say something positive to staff – we do it to students all day, why not staff as well?
  3. Being active/pro-active when faced with a problem. Complaining won’t solve anything! Time to get out there and ask people what their solutions might be.
  4. Introduce more people to twitter! The more people in the staff room the better.

New Year’s personal resolution?

And because I know you are desperate to know my personal New Year’s resolution…

  1. Read a book for pleasure for at least half an hour every day

And that is what I am going to do now…

The value of 2 websites and advice wanted!

I am very conscious of making sure I take advantage of the fact that each day ideas pour into the twitter feed. It is good to read about things which in fact you have already done.

It was with interest that I read the articles by published by @samrangelSITC and @CreativeEdu ‘Why every teacher should have two websites‘ (original post here) and principally the final lines: ‘Every teacher should have at least two websites. One for the class, and one for the world. Start today. I look forward to answering your questions and shooting down your excuses.”

I have already started writing on some of these sites but it was very much dabbling with ideas at the end of term. Now as the Christmas holiday provides a little more space I have decided to up the work on these so that they are fully functioning sites by next term! They may not be complete but they will at least be functional!

Hopefully these will mean much more blogging from me and far more technology in the classroom.

My personal reflection site –     www.reteach10.wordpress.com

My work sites for school:    www.religionartas.weebly.com

www.religionarta2.weebly.com

www.hbkgcsere.weebly.com (started today!)

I am conscious this also means that there will be a lot more questions! However – that is what twitter, email and the internet are for! Oh face to face conversations with people!!

I would always be keen to hear feedback on these sites (maybe in a few days as one only went live today!) – hopefully speaking to other teachers will mean there will be some really constructive advice. I would be very keen to hear where to improve rather than ‘it looks nice!’

Reflective teaching through Twitter and Marking

I have recently started using Twitter on a regular basis through TwitterDeck. I was not convinced when I first heard about it but then started to read more and more articles about professional communities being created online rather than people merely telling the world exactly what they had eaten for breakfast. The key principle benefit I have found is that whilst I sit here working, there is the constant beep from TwitterDeck from people who are doing the same as I am, thinking about teaching. All of a sudden I have found myself sitting in a massive online staffroom with people wanting to share ideas, tools and practical advice on pedagogy and teaching.

The benefit is already clear. Even without commenting, just listening to the conversation reminds me of the 101 things a good teacher should do when preparing, teaching or marking for the benefit of students. It is true what they say – enthusiasm is infectious. Even in the dying days of the Christmas term, there are still hundreds of ideas being shared which gives that boost to help my teaching. However, never one to be quiet, the possibility of sharing ideas and getting constructive professional feedback is brilliant. The day to day workings of a school can remove a teacher from the meta-teaching which is needed for good teaching. The teacher gets lost in a myriad of work surrounding duties, paperwork, updating databases, minor classroom behaviour management issues. Having the chance to take part in the debates such as #ukedchat puts any teacher back in the meta-teaching debate and therefore gives the teacher that chance to think about their own teaching and student learning.

I am sitting here on the second day of the Christmas holidays marking a set of 30 year 8 history books. One of the topics they have been looking at is the Reformation and the impact on the English Church. The marking I have done is different to what I would usually do simply by having access to TwitterDeck up and running in front of me. It’s like have another teacher in the room with you. Constantly reading really upbeat positive tweets about teaching and sutndet learnin has had a positive impact on my marking. Usually I would move through the work and comment on key pieces of work and comment on their presentation and provide some targets at the end of the marking in each book. However, rather than commenting I have this time entirely focused on questioning and getting the students to think about how and why they can improve their work.

A typical answer to one question set has been: ‘They would have needed to think about the rules from the Church and the Monarchy’. Initially my feedback would have included:

  • Write in full sentences
  • Careful with handwriting
  • Be specific

Having been reminded about the value of dialogic learning which can be in written as well as spoken form:

  • Does this response have all the information you wanted to say?
  • Where can you develop this answer?
  • Why are specifics really important when writing for an audience?
  • Do YOU understand what you have written here?

The value of learning has also pushed me back into thinking about exactly what I am teaching and why! Rather than writing about the standard of their writing I have been now focused on the HISTORICAL nature of the work they have produced. This has meant that every book marked so far has had historical related comments:

  • How diverse were opinions on the power of the church and monarchy?
  • What caused people to think about these rules?
  • Which do you think had more of an impact – the Church or the Monarchy?
  • Priests had to listen to the Church and the Monarchy. A) Which do you think the priest should listen to? b) Which do you think the priest did listen to? Why do you think there was this difference?

I am not going to lie – the marking has taking me longer but I certainly feel it is more detailed and, if I give the students a constructive task in the 1st lesson back in which they have to comment on the marking and set their own targets, I feel it will have definitely been a worthwhile task!

It is interesting then how both the marking and Twitter tie together and both provide me with a key review of my teaching and hence student learning. From Twitter there is the constant message of student activity and encouraging the students to learn for themselves. Tweets have pointed me to videos and blogs which have given me ideas of how to make the lessons more student focused. It is interesting then that I mark books and have seen some lessons where I have done all the work and the students have done little. They have had to listen to me talk and then write down ideas I’ve written on the board where I have got into the task they should have done for themselves. Twitter, marking and this blog are all pushing me to become reflective about my teaching. The next step is to become active about my reflection rather than just posting musings! I just hope that I organise my time wisely enough so that even in the middle of term, there will be time for preparation, teaching, assessment and reflection!

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