I have never written a blogpost before and to be honest I am not that keen on writing – the memories of writing my PhD thesis are painful. I have been inspired by the #Nurture1314 posts by others and thought I would have a go.
Reflections on 2013
Last year, I didn’t have my own classroom and I moved my stuff around on a trolley. This meant that I didn’t have a space to call my own and it was very difficult to display student work. This year I have my own room and it has made a huge difference. I spent a lot of time over the summer thinking about what I would like to put up on my classroom walls and took inspiration from twitter and Pinterest. I’ve had a lot of positive comments about the displays from staff, students and parents and I’m really pleased with how they have worked out. My favourite display is the women in science display – this one got promoted to the corridor and it has been lovely to see students and staff taking the time to read it. The other display that has had a big impact has been my Pinterest board. This is regularly updated and each class has their own section where I put questions, images, news articles and jokes relevant to the topic that they are currently studying. I love Pinterest and have found so many things that I want to share – but don’t have time for in lessons, this is perfect for that. Some students have started bringing in things that they think might be interesting too.
I have a fear of being observed. This stems from my PGCE final placement where I received a lot of negative feedback. I’m sure that a lot of the comments were justified, but it felt as though everything I did was wrong – there was very little in the way of praise. Despite passing my PGCE I felt as though I was a fraud and that I wasn’t good enough to teach. Since then each time I was about to be observed I would focus on the negative experiences I’d had as a trainee and would work myself up into a state. This year we had ‘The Call’ in October. Initially this filled me with fear – this was my first experience, but I then began to think of it as an opportunity to show what I could do. I was observed twice and the feedback was hugely positive – the inspector said that she’d come back to see me again because what she’d seen in the first lesson was outstanding – I was waiting for the ‘but’ but it never came, she said that the second lesson had confirmed her original view. She was very positive about lots of the things that I’d done – some of them I didn’t even realise I was doing. Where I thought my lesson had gone horribly wrong she had seen consistent, firm behaviour management that pupils responded to. I was observed recently by SLT and this time, instead of getting into a panic and focusing on the negative I managed to keep calm and deliver the lesson that I’d planned to.
This was a target for improvement at the end of my NQT year. Last year I worked hard to develop this area. I read blogs, took part in coaching, asked others for advice and tried out lots of different strategies in class. One of the most useful was the questioning grid by @JOHNSAYERS. I’ve used this during planning but I’ve also got students to use it as a way of generating questions. In my last few observations this has been listed as a strength.
I was very happy at my NQT school but the post was a temporary maternity cover and I had to leave at the end of the year. My new school is lovely, but it took a full year for me to feel as though I belonged there. A lot of things changed for me during my RQT year – new school, much longer commute, we moved house, youngest started school, I didn’t have my own room – just a trolley, I was a form tutor for the first time, full timetable and I’d taken on another subject (Maths). In hindsight this was a lot of change and it’s no wonder that I felt so unsettled. I found last year much harder than my NQT year and felt ready to walk away several times. My HOD told me that things would be much better this year – he was right.
When I moved school my new job also involved teaching KS3 maths. I’ve never taught Maths before so I was worried about doing a good job. I spent a lot of time collecting resources from blogs, twitter, TES and colleagues and had a lot of fun trying out different ideas. At the end of the year my pupils were all where they should be and I had enjoyed the challenge. At the start of the year one of the other Maths teachers told me that she had inherited my class from last year and she told me that when she had asked them what they had thought of Maths last year they told her that it had been fun and that they had enjoyed the different games/challenges that we’d done throughout the year. I was really pleased – especially as they never let on to me that they were enjoying themselves.
When we went back in September this year I went part-time (4 days a week). Teaching is a demanding job – but with a young family I was finding it a struggle. My husband is away a lot and we have no family nearby to help. My HOD and head teacher were both very supportive of my decision. Initially I was told that timetabling meant it was impossible, but then a miracle happened and I found out I’d been given my day off. It’s impossible to explain fully the impact that this has had on my home life. I get to take the boys to and from school once a week (there is nothing quite like the guilt trip you get from your 5 year old telling you that you are the only mummy who doesn’t take their child to school!). I’ve also been able to keep up with housework and marking. I am more rested and hopefully a better mum and teacher. Fingers firmly crossed that they will be able to make this permanent.
I have found so many wonderful ideas that I’ve been able to use with my classes and share with my department. I don’t know where I’d be without this virtual staffroom. I’ve met so many supportive people. #asechat has also been really helpful when I’ve been able to take part (clashes with bedtime stories).
I’ve had the opportunity to take part in lots of subject specific CPD this year. ASE regional conference, IOP workshops and a molecular biology workshop. I’ve found lots of great ideas that I want to try out in class. I also attended my first teachmeet.
9. Moving house
This year we finally moved house. It was a very long process – we moved more than 5 months after selling our house. We finally have enough room for the boys to have their own rooms and a garden big enough for the big one to play football in. This is the house that they will grow up in and we’ll grow old in.
I was bored of the students telling me that they couldn’t access the VLE and they didn’t know their school email – so I set up a website with my revision resources on. I’ve used the quiz card template by @LGolton and my students love them. I can see that students have downloaded resources and I hope that they will be useful.
It has been lovely to see how my children have grown up. My eldest is doing really well in school and is obsessed with football. He is currently the leading scorer for his team -although I think this has a lot to do with his habit of hanging around the goal area like Gary Lineker. My youngest started reception last year and he is also doing well. He is a cheeky little boy and he’s made some wonderful friends. I’m very proud of both of them.
My husband continues to be a huge support. He had to take on a lot more childcare/household duties when I decided to retrain as a teacher and it would have been impossible for me to do this without him. It has been hard work and is difficult as family are too far away to help.
When I joined my new school last year I became a form tutor for the first time. I had inherited a Year 10 form with some interesting characters. They have had a lot of different form tutors and as far as they were concerned I was going to be moving on too. It was hard work and there were many mornings where I started the day in tears. Eventually a couple of students were moved elsewhere – the whole dynamic of the group changed and things started to improve. At the end of the year I was asked if I wanted to keep them as I was moving to part-time – I said that I did. Despite the problems that I’ve had with them, there are some wonderful individuals too. Thankfully things have continued to improve this year and I’m mentoring one of the students that gave me such a hard time last year – it seems to be having a positive effect on both of us!
Hopes for 2014
1. Marking and feedback
This year I want to improve my marking and feedback. With this in mind I signed up for #twittercoaching organised by @ASTsupportAAli. I’ve been paired with @KDWScience and she has been very supportive and pointed me in the right direction. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops.
2. Controlled assessment
Last year the marks for this were disappointing. This year I have been working hard to improve the marks for this aspect of the course. With my year 10 students we had several lessons aimed at improving the skills that they would need for the case study. I used the ASE publication Science Newswise 2 to help introduce them to some of the skills that they would need. I was really pleased with how well they responded in class – time will tell though if it has made a difference. I’ll be trialling the use of SOLO hotmaps with my Y11 class helping them to (hopefully) sum up their ideas for the practical investigation.
This year I will be applying for RSci. I need to get a move on and start filling in the forms properly.
I would like to encourage more independence in the way pupils work in lessons.
5. Whole school
I am not really involved in any whole school activities. There are not many after school clubs (too many school buses) and some of the ones that do run are on my day off. It has been difficult to volunteer for trips away as along with having young children who don’t want me to go, my husband frequently works away and there is no one else to help out.
6. Turning 40
Both my husband and I turn 40 this year. While I am trying not to think about it, I guess we should do something to mark the occasion. We didn’t really do anything for 30 – our eldest was born 6 days before my birthday and we had our hands full!
I’m hopeful that my part-time status means that I will get to spend more time with my children and husband. So far that has been the case but there is still a long way to go to improve my work-life balance. I find it very hard to switch off. My husband is due to start a new job early next year and hopefully that will mean less long trips away and more time for us all to do things together.
We haven’t had many holidays as a family and the ones that we have had have been in the UK. The kids are desperate to fly somewhere – hopefully this year we will be able to do that.
I’d love to attend more teachmeets. The one that I went to this year was really good and I’d love to do that again and maybe even think about presenting – although I don’t know what I’d talk about.
I need to be more consistent with setting homework. This year I have tried out some different types of homework that have been popular with students. I used the Destroy homework idea by @rlj1981 for a year 10 homework on vaccines – this produced some really creative work and everyone handed it in. I’ve also used the Take Away homework idea by @TeacherToolkit. This was well received by pupils and I had pupils who never hand their work in handing it in early – amazing! This year I am going to be experimenting with this at KS4, particularly for revision homeworks.
I love knitting but don’t get much time to do it – I should make time. Recently several friends have had babies and I’ve had the opportunity to make some lovely things. I find it very relaxing.
This year I have the support group in year 7. This is a completely different challenge from having the top group last year. I’m working hard to find ways of making my lessons engaging and keeping them on track with their learning. Some of the students get very disheartened if they don’t get it and sometimes it has been a battle to even get them to try but we are getting there. I work with some wonderful TA’s who bring wonderful ideas and I am very lucky to be working with them.
13. Solo taxonomy
I have read lots and already use some things in class but I want to use this more effectively. I need to stop thinking about it and just do it!
I need to find more time to do exercise.