Reflection on preparation

I hope everyone has had a good summer break, a well deserved summer break in fact.

Preparation before starting school in September is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong way of doing it…or doing it at all.

For me, having worked in 4 schools so far (5 if you count my second placement in training year), I’ve built some strategies that have worked for me on meeting the students for the first time and what I do prior to meeting them in September, especially when starting a new school.

I have reflected and tweaked things every time, as different schools have different cultures, ethos, values and students, I thought I’d share some things with you, and more importantly what I will tweak/add in this year as I start my new school.

Please bear in mind, these are my reflections and what have done, and worked for me. Please feel free to use, or not to use 🙂 As I was writing this, I have realised there is a lot I try and do before meeting the students, I find as long as I am well organised and prepared it leaves me some head space to start managing my classes to get them off to a good start.

The evidence of how important this was for me came when I started a new school mid-year, where I had no data, no lists, no timetable…which came through late and the night before I was due to start the school… 7pm I was contacted to say where the students were with their topics and what I was teaching. No doubt I was up most of the night preparing. The timetable went through several changes, room changes, mix ups, poor communication, lack of communication of where I was meant to be as a new member of staff. My stress levels went really high and for the first time ever I found myself becoming anxious on a daily basis with this lack of organisation. However, I did learn some very important lessons and I grew out of the challenge. My preference is to return to being organised and prepared as much as I can…and that, to a certain degree depends, on how organised the school is. It is interesting when I ask for a lot of the information up front, how people are surprised and don’t actually understand why I need that information. Hopefully it will be clear now 🙂

Some teachers are hopefully still on summer holidays so enjoy as much as you can!

Pre-organisation 

As I teach science, I tend to go into school and clear the lab I’m working in and change the backing paper for displays so they’re ready to go. I’ve been into my new school already.  I had some help to do this. I used sprays, multi surface cleaners to get rid of dust and arranged tables the way I want to.

All the cupboards were full, I had no one to ask where to put stuff so I’ve piled it into 2 cupboards to create some space.

The books will go into allocated trays with labels not too far from the door and as students enter, books will be staggered and laid on the side so they put their bags/coats on one side, pick up their books and be seated, ready to learn.

Trays are ready so I  know where assessments will be placed when they are done, there is a cupboard to put work in that may be in progress.

My tea/coffee/chai tea and mug (need to get priorities right) are in a cupboard next to my desk. I know where my folders with resources will go, and folders for observations etc. will be locked away as they may contain sensitive information. (once I’ve ordered the key!). Drawers with stationery, paper, graph paper, glue etc. are ready and just need topping up.

I’ve checked the notice board in science to get an idea of year groups, last year results, it’s given me and idea of weak and strong cohorts, and a topic map has been stuck up for GCSEs so I have an idea of what the topics are for the new GCSE’s as I am moving from OCR to AQA now (though traditionally I have taught AQA).

I had already visited the school and have a clear idea of what I’m doing for KS5, however KS4 was not that clear. As I needed to know, I went in on results day, found the KS4 coordinator and now have clarification.

Standards and expectations 

This was highlighted to me in my GTP year. The department at the time used the same PowerPoint (PPT) created by a colleague (now a friend), and the dept. was consistent in its use. To this day that is still one of the strongest depts. in the school.

I suggested this idea to one of the new departments I worked in previousy, even to share my PPT with staff, to which the answer I was met with was, “You can do that if you like, we don’t do that here.” The idea was teaching time was very important and they could not take up time setting standards and expectations. Needless to say, behaviour was a massive issue. I’m not too sure why you would not make your standards and expectations clear to classes and students you have never taught before? I suppose that’s a personal choice.

In my NQT year I saw a great Teachers TV programme and the person said “If you don’t show the students where the boundaries are, they’ll look for them.”

Schools have different coloured marking/feedback pens. Once I have checked the coloured pen/feedback policy, I will order, and fund myself, the appropriate coloured pens for each student I teach. My rationale for this is in one of my schools there was so much time wasted in handing out these pens I made it clear to students it’s their learning time we are making more efficient, would they rather waste time with pens (as students mixed them up) or have me give one to one attention in that time instead? Once set, the standards very few forgot the coloured pens for feedback, more importantly, it saved a lot of learning time when doing peer/self-assessment and feedback.

So, I have my own standards and expectations PPT I create which I ensure sit in line with school policy. Due to the changing nature of students these days compared to 8-10 years ago I’m going to tweak it to explain WHY I’m asking them to do this and HOW it will benefit them. Don’t ever be afraid to raise the bar. Set expectations really high, and be highly surprised when students don’t meet them (apparently a colleague pointed out that is what I do). The students do come round (most of them do.). I’ve worked in two schools where SLT & departmental leaders have said my expectations are too high that I need to “adjust my expectations for their students.”  Another school said the students were very special and that I need to be aware of them as students will tend to blame teachers for all sorts.

I have therefore raised my bar even higher, because it I feel it needs to be.

Most schools (not all, in my experience), tend to have a long term (LT), medium term (MT) and short term (ST) plan mapped out, though I’ve not yet received it for KS4 in my new school, I have for KS5. Even if a school provides one, prior to me starting I map out my own LT, MT and ST plans, which I know may and will be subject to change. They key thing is it highlights for me is  where the difficult topics will appear, where more time is needed, can I set more homework/flipped learning for some areas and allows me to set a pace in my mind that is required. This year I will be teaching more Chemistry (my specialism is Biology) so it gives me an idea where I will need to prepare more . This helps me map out timings and clarifies things, as in a new school there is so much other stuff to get my head around.

Once this is clear, I will plan lessons for a couple of days, not much more as they will need adjusting depending on the students skills, levels and abilities  in each class.

INSET/Training day 

Ensure all stationery is topped up, glue, scissors, paper, A3 paper.

I’ll have all books ready, in the trays for each class.

Just incase there are any changes to the timetable, I will double check on those and double check what I’m teaching…again.

I have really learned a lot by working in schools not only in challenging contexts, but challenging times for an ever changing leadership team and policies (another reflective blog later). So double, triple check is what I need to do.

It is important to know where the groups ended up last year before I pick them up, though I’ll have a new HoD/AP, I’ll try and get a spreadsheet of results or access to the shared area and find out the PP & the focus groups for school. Furthermore, I need to know the LACS, and SEND children and any plans they have in my classes.

Once I have the list of pupils they will go into my planner at this stage, colour coded.

I’m better with pen and paper (I know some of you will cringe at that) I will draw out a seating plan for the classes, and my initial seating plan is alphabetical. The students love the game I play that by the end of the lesson I will try and learn all their names. It is amusing when they see me struggle and I forget. A class of 30 takes longer than one lesson to learn! I’ll pencil in the students as there may be some dynamics which are a no go so I can change them around on my seating plan.

Enter the students

They’ll be lining up outside in a straight line in silence. This time I’ll request they have their equipment in their hands ready to learn before they enter my classroom. The new school is a 6 lesson a day school with 50 minutes per lesson, so I don’t want learning time wasted.

They will experience the model of how I want them to enter so I’ll have books laid out on the side they put bags/coats to one side, pick up a (blank) book. Sit down and starter is ready on the board.

The initial starter is always questions to get to know them, their aspirations, hobbies, what they want me to know about them, the style of learning they like (at this point they have a selection like group work/independent/quizzes) etc. It is personal preference what questions you ask. It does give a good insight especially when the quieter ones say they want to be doctors, nurses, or teachers (yes…teachers!  very rare now but I’ve had some), others are into games and want to design them, some play football for the under something ages. It gives you talking points and in science when explaining a concept you can relate it to some of their interests. I recall I was told about behaviour in a particular new class in a new school in September. A year 8 class. When I read their aspirations I knew I had to raise the bar because there were some really ambitious students in there and I couldn’t afford for them not learn due to a minority. Hard work but it was rewarding when even the reluctant learners turned around. One of them thanked me at the end of the year as he was then placed into top set, which is what he wanted, yet at the start his behaviour was dire. So when doing this kind of activity, decide on what you want to know, but more importantly how will you use it to positively impact learning, relationships and atmosphere in the classroom.

Now I’ll deliver the standards and expectations PPT. In the past I’ve related it to Usain Bolt and how he trains for the Olympics. Based on the idea that he has 4 years to train and a 10 second or less window to prove he is the best in the world. Students however, have from year 7 five years of schooling and on average a 1 hour slot for an exam or two, to show what they’ve learned for their GCSEs. I have to think about how I’m going to do it this year as I have mainly 9’s 10’s and 11’s. Once I’ve done it if anyone wants a copy just DM me I’ll send it over so you can use/tweak. One thing I always include is how time wasting builds up.

In a 5 lesson a day timetable, 10 minutes wasted per lesson would build up to, if I recall correctly, about a terms worth of learning missed out in science (that’s off the top of my head, I haven’t done the Math on that for this blog), however it’s a lot of information they would not have learned if there was persistent disruption.

In light of the huge content for the new GCSEs I’m going to include something about flipped learning as homework and why. I did flipped learning for homework in my NQT year without knowing it was flipped learning. It was a failing group and I had to get them to do something, initial basic research at home, otherwise we were not progressing to higher order thinking, as every lesson was simply the basics every time. Yes there was moodiness, sulks, especially when I rang home and the homework was not done and they had to do more science in detention ….they thanked me for the results (at that time they’d done their GCSEs in year 10) and one very reluctant lad commented on now he understood why I was relentless with it. So I know it works.

What do the students expect from me?

Finally, they’ll make a table in their books with 2 columns. One labelled ” What Miss Jeetley expects from me” and the other “What I expect from Miss Jeetley.”

They need to put down 5 things for each. It’s fascinating how students can list what the teacher expects, however, when asked “what do you want the teacher to do for you” students get stuck. Some prompts help here when I say “What if I did not do xyz…” like marking, feedback planning lessons….and it gets them thinking. Even more so, these can be referred to at a later date if I have given the support they wanted, and they haven’t behaved the way I expected. Also, I can give clarification on some points and requests as I go around checking their books. Again, a good relationship building tool.

Students, in my opinion, should know where they were last year and where they need to be this year just so they have an idea of where they are heading. Again, that’s an assumption the targets are available, not all schools will have the targets clearly available at this stage. They’ll write this in their books if I have access to them.

I then will look at the books that night to get an idea and either make a comment or suggestion. Like some students will put ” no homework” and I have to adjust that .., usually by saying “that won’t happen” and explain why.

My tweaks this year based on reflections 

So, there was always an issue with the time it took handing out and collecting in glue sticks, scissors etc. Also, in my last two schools, it was a challenge to get students to my pace of settling down within 3 minutes of entering and start the starter. I was up against a culture as there was so much cover that some students would have had cover all day then come to me, sometimes the only permanent teacher in the day for them.

So upon reading something by @Doug_Lemov a while back, a teacher even practised  routines for collecting in and handing out things at the start of term.

Some of my tweaks are:-

*practice in first lesson passing glue sticks across the rows and collecting them in. Time them and do it 2-3 times to see the best they can do. I’ll give them some things to stick in, one of them being some useful websites with GCSE information.

*practice collecting books, put in trays on their way out.

*practise coming in, picking up their books and starting the starter immediately (I’ll change the slide to have a science starter now).

I’m sure I’ll think of more, as this is a work in progress of constant reflection, and it’s a lot to fit into the first session, so it may go over to the second session.

The next 7 weeks and term 

Be relentless in following up what standards and expectations were laid out. This is very tiring, however, the long term rewards far outweigh the initial tiredness. It’s good for relationship building, shows students the teacher is serious about having a good, engaging learning environment and the teacher cares about everyone’s learning.

School behaviour policy needs to be followed, and I use professional judgment if things need to be nipped in the bud by ringing home, having honest and frank conversations with students. Get pastoral teams involved if needed. Usually asking ” how can I help you to focus, what can I do to help” and if you show you care, the students are quite willing to work with you. It’s either they don’t get it, or they’re next to a person that irritates them. Or they’d like to be moved but doesn’t want anyone to know. There may be other things going on too though that are not so simple.

May sound obvious, plan for their learning journey in their lessons. I read this somewhere, and again I didn’t realise that’s how I plan. When something is inherent to you, you don’t know anything different. I like my PowerPoints, with each slide I look at what do my students know now by this stage…what else do I need to get them to know…how can I get them to understand it…then I look at the activities that fit. I don’t ever look at the activity first, it’s not a case of keeping them busy for me. It’s got to match where I want them to be by the end of the lesson so I can build on it. However, if I see or hear of a good activity I will see how it fits into the concepts I am teaching so my lessons flow. If it doesn’t, no matter how good or exciting it is I won’t use it. My teaching is no where near perfect..its always a constant reflective process that changes topic by topic, day by day seeing what works and what doesn’t as every class, every year, every cohort is different. My teaching has to match that.

For me, every day, planning well thought out lessons with a logical flow (I don’t always get this right especially in the early stages while I’m getting to know my class) is really important. If students see the effort I put in, they’ll be more inclined to want to learn. After all, they are giving me an hour (or 50 mins) of their life, I am giving them also not only an hour or 50 minutes of mine, but also the planning time that went into this.

What will I make happen, what do I want to make happen in that time I spend with my class? Learn knowledge? Be inspired? Build confidence? Every student needs to have walked away feeling they have progressed in some way. It may not always be the knowledge, sometimes it’s just feeling secure to have a go at answering a question even if the answer is wrong. Whatever happens in the lesson, the time once spent will never return. It is important for me and them to invest in it well.

However, be relentlessly consistent so they know exactly what you expect. My classes are not perfect by any means either. However, teachers tend to comment on how they’ll work, or majority are engaged .., yet they don’t see what went on when I first had them to get them where they are. It’s always a reflection and work in progress.

I don’t ever worry if I’ve spent two of the first lessons setting standards, expectations and routines. What I get in return will far outweigh what was put in and the students are thankful for it. I’m sure some teachers/leaders I’ve worked with, including @ottleyoconnor would have some comments to make about this.

Bear in mind, on reflection though this is what works for me, and how I like to work. If you start a school mid year, or pick up classes that have had constant supply, though this will still work, you’re up against a culture so some tweaks or other adjustments may be needed…longer time and patience being one of them along with pastoral team work and improved school behaviour policies.

I was in two minds whether to share this or not, however, some staff I’ve worked with in the past have asked me what I do at the start of a new term. So here it is, and I’d like you to reflect, share and collaborate on Twitter:-

  1. What has really worked for you in the past with new groups or starting a new school?
  2. What will you be changing/tweaking this year?
  3. Is there anything new you would introduce this year and why?

Have an amazing new academic year and I hope all your students are inspired to learn.

Regards

Amy Jeetley

@amyjeetley

Teacher of Science; T&L within dept/whole school

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Reflect and pledge

#reflect and pledge

Reflection at this time of year is so important as we launch into pledges for the new year. Before we pledge, I feel it is important to see what worked last year, and why. Furthermore, what didn’t work, why and if there are any challenges that need to be faced, lessons to be learned to move forwards, onwards and upwards. External challenges are usually signposts to our inward journey, and for me it is always important to see what’s going on inside me.

So, here are my reflections on 2016, and pledges for this year:-

#connect 2016 #reflect

Being able to connect to people, and with people is really important. We can only know who we are, and what we are, based on our relationships with one another. If we were alone on a desert island we would not really find out what we are about, our values or what we hold dear. Relationships with each other allow us to reflect on what we are willing to compromise, accept, or not accept.

Having established myself as a teacher in a new school that I had only started in Sept 2015, and handed out wellbeing bags, I endeavoured to spend more time with colleagues at lunchtime, and start a wellbeing club. On reflection, this didn’t happen. This was for several reasons, and without going into detail, let’s just say the culture did not resonate with me, and hence I made the decision to leave in December 2016 to pursue the kind of role I really wanted.

However, as #connect is important to me, I found a way. I took every opportunity I could to attend great, informative events like #pedagooHampshire16 organised by @martynreah, made lots of connections and met some great teachers from Twitter. I attended #NorthernRocks where I had the pleasure of meeting and being inspired by @Stephen_Logan and the #WomenEd event in Leeds where I met Sameena, @EquitableEd, an immensely inspiring woman. Furthermore, I gained much insight from attending the #BeyondLevels event in Sheffield and the Research led CPD event by @kevbartle in Canons Park to name a few. Furthermore, it was great to get involved in, and run #teacher5adayslowchat in the summer where lots of good ideas were generated by everyone.

#connect 2017

This year, I still intend to attend conferences and events where I can, having already signed up for the #WomenEd one in Coventry, and will be attending the #pedagooHampshire17 event. I will still #connect with my new colleagues and make an effort at lunchtimes to do this and at other times. Also I would like to start a wellbeing club of some kind. How do I know it will work this time? I know as I had a coaching session with the amazing and inspiring @vivgrant who coached me through some of the challenges and learning I had been through. Furthermore, I have come to realise, there just are people in this world who may not like you, or resonate with you, even if you have done nothing wrong. This is something I have battled with for years, always thinking it was me and that is why it is something I will let go of in 2017. Whereas I am happy to support people, and coach them, show them compassion, and tolerance, I will not be consumed by making another person’s problem my problem anymore, and neither am I prepared to be held back by others.

#exercise 2016 #reflect

My aim last year was to buy a Fitbit and ensure I exercise regularly. The good thing is the Fitbit appeared and my activity happened in bursts! One day ran into the other and at times, 2 weeks had gone by, the Fitbit had not been worn and no exercise had been done! However, the progress was that I was more conscious of doing the exercise, whether it was a DVD, dancing and prancing around the lounge to 80’s or bhangra music….or even simply going for walks. Furthermore, joining in the #teacher5adayrun for MacMillan (or in my case walk), I did 80km, in one month and managed to kickstart my regime. It helped me raise £250 for MacMillan, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

#exercise 2017

I need consistency this year! So, in prep for this consistency I worked out a routine over Christmas that involves a burst of High Intensity Interval Training, yoga, weights and going for walks. I have managed to keep this up apart from 2 days and I have now found exercises that suit me and that I will do, which don’t take up too much time!

#notice 2016 #reflect

I had pledged to #notice what was going on in my inner world, be more aware of the quality of my breath and notice all the positivity in my classroom. In all fairness, in some areas of my life, the #notice improved, some other areas were a little more painful so looking inside became difficult…and hence the quality of my breath did not improve. In fact it got worse and had time off for breathing issues. Though I had many reasons to be positive with things that were going on in my classroom, towards the end of last year, behaviour became very difficult to manage across the school, and in my own classroom, and I feel I let this affect me, and my focus, though people around me thought I was quite calm!

On some occasions, when faced with challenges, I was able to focus on my breath and become calm. Yet again, it was inconsistent and I really need to build more consistency. I did manage to go on more walks and take note of nature more.

#notice 2017

So, 2017 brings me to a key #notice….that is to notice what I am doing every day. Is what I am doing worthy of my time? Is it an efficient use of my time? How much time should I be giving it? Is it going to help me progress towards my goals?

Another key thing will be to #notice my fellow colleagues and make sure I acknowledge and value what they do, and recommend them for recognition as it is a basic human need to be valued and appreciated. On Twitter, I managed to nominate @ottleyoconnor and @MartynReah for a #Madvent award by @TheSumoGuy, well deserved by both.

Practising more mindfulness in all I do, and breath meditation…there is always room for improvement and I am nowhere near where I would like to be. So practise makes things consistent…not necessarily perfect, but I can get close! #Notice the good things in life, practising gratitude either in my journal, or reflecting daily.

#learn 2016 #reflect

I aimed to continue on my learning journey, which as mentioned before I managed to do through a number of the conferences and events I attended. An area I still need to improve on is taking time out to read. On reflection, if it is something I enjoy, I should hold no guilt in spending time reading, instead of doing school work all the time. Everything within reason, and a balance. Most of the reading or listening to audiobooks I do is on growth and development whether it is self or leadership. It will all come with time management.

#learn 2017

As souls, we are designed to grow, develop and learn, and so my learning journey continues. To overcome the issue of taking time out to read, I have agreed to the #fiftybookchallenge started last November! I’m already behind, however, I have many research books for my studies so hopefully I’ll catch up. Furthermore, I am training my mind and myself to accept that taking time out to read is totally acceptable and does not need to be done only in school holidays! I am excited to #learn on the Diverse Leaders course, and my new Head agreed he will support me to become an Olevi OTP Practitioner when the courses become available to the Acadamies again.

#volunteer 2016 #reflect

In 2016, I had volunteered to mentor a Yr11 student, which I did and enjoyed. However, volunteering staff wellbeing didn’t quite pan out as I had hoped, as mentioned previously. It did appear in the form of supporting with behaviour and coaching where required, sharing and collaborating. Volunteering to do the Macmillan Outrun was very enjoyable and fulfilling. Furthermore, contributing to the #teacher5adayjournal was a highlight, and even more to see the whole journal  in print.

#volunteer 2017

So with 2017 upon us, if there are ways of volunteering that come up, I would consider taking them up. Furthermore, mentoring or tutoring students is an area I thoroughly enjoy and would look for, or even create opportunities for in my new school. Furthermore, volunteering to support staff wellbeing and starting up other groups within school is something to look into.

 

We cannot succeed in our journey alone. It requires being surrounded by people you can be open with, honest and trust. Furthermore, being able to show your vulnerability and know a judgement will not be passed, and that whatever is discussed is always in the best interest of you.

I’d like to therefore take this opportunity to thank @ottleyoconnor for the immense patience for coaching me when needed and @vivgrant for making me feel comfortable during our coaching session. Furthermore, you don’t realise something is wrong until it is put right, so thank you to @martynreah for introducing me to #teacher5aday, giving me opportunities and helping me to realise what a worklife balance actually is.

I am grateful to have a connection with a number of teachers on Twitter who are ever inspiring and uplifting @MrMcloughlin_PE, @HLucas, @LFPassmore, @felizz7, @FloraBarton, @KAB21MAC, @rondelle10_b, @LesleyMunro4, @annanolani, @chrisdysonHT…to name a just a few.

 

Take a few minutes to reflect on:

  • How did your pledges go last year?
  • Did you achieve them? Reflect on why and why not.
  • Who do you surround yourself with? Are they people who you can be open and honest with and show your vulnerability? Do you trust the advice they will give you?

Wishing you an inspiring and successful 2017!

#challenges and opportunities

It’s good practice to reflect on the year gone by, the challenges, the opportunities and wisdom gained. In 2015 I faced many challenges, like many of us did, some were internal struggles, some external and at the end of 2015 I decided to focus on how I eventually overcame these, and the learning I can take forward from them.

I learned opportunities come disguised as challenges, of course I have always known this, but did I remember this when I was emotionally downtrodden with no support around me? Of course not. Often, as human nature does, we get caught up in the challenge aspect of the situation, but looking really deep, and hard, we will find the opportunity and potential that is arising from the situation. There are many times this year where I have only seen the struggles, yet overtime I am beginning to realise, or rather comprehend, that at every given moment, we have a choice of love or compassion. In everyday life, given that choice and making the right choice just makes life more bearable.

When looking around at people, most often they do not realise they have that choice. As humans we either become victims of our circumstances or martyrs. It’s taken me a while to realise it’s all about the heart, and the heart needs to direct the mind. By the end of 2015 I had worked through a number of family issues and came to realise that I had contributed to my own “suffering”. Having grown as a person, I have realised the present moment is all that matters, not projecting into the future to find peace, it is found in the here and now amongst all the challenges and struggles we are faced with.

I need a lot of time to myself, to recharge, re centre and reconnect to the love and compassion that exists within me, and each and every one of us has this within us. I know how I have to work at this every day, some days are easier than others. It also brings to light how people who do not do this cope. Just sitting and connecting to ourselves, to the love, compassion and grace within us can really start to enhance and empower our lives. You begin to realise you are far greater than the situation, or emotions that arise from it.

I try to sit and meditate regularly. Even so, there are days I get apprehensive as I know there are issues I am avoiding and will come to light. This is when I have to remember, just where there is the pain, there is also a part of me that is able to be in a state of love, grace and compassion and that there is a solution to everything.

Letting go in times of injustice and unfairness is hard. There are things that have happened last year I found it hard to do this with. Putting this into perspective, what about those who don’t sit down and look within, how hard would it be to let go then? I know as I have been there, you just reposition things, but they don’t go away, the hurt will just build, and sometimes we end up doing it to ourselves because we are not willing to let go.

I have found that even a small amount of concentration on the love and compassion within can start to make huge transformations. I can see the journey I have had to undertake to experience this and the challenges I have faced in order to create the opportunity for me to practise this. Some days were definitely easier than others, and my reading, the courses I have attended with (@suezange), my comprehension has now begun to teach me that at every opportunity, usually in meditation for me, to nurture and grow the love I have. There are no two ways about it, you have to work at it. There are things like family, that can “get in the way,” work issues, global issues, lineage issues, if at any point one or more of these could be triggering around you, what holds you together in your space? It’s the capacity to love, it’s the capacity to hold grace, it’s the capacity to have compassion in your eyes. How do you achieve this in an instant? It is because it needs to be practised and practised until you know it, you are familiar with it and it is you. It is a journey. Everyday this must be practised, sitting still and meditating, or even sitting still and just growing and connecting with the love, compassion and grace within so it becomes bigger and greater than any of the issues you are faced with. Let’s face it, it is all energy and energy can be transformed with light, a higher vibration of love, compassion and grace.

So, there was no point in me sitting at home and practising this, what about the real world? The test came when I had a family emergency and had to work together. Though I love my family I found I was able to hold a certain level of grace and compassion and make amends with certain members. At other times I attended get togethers which I would have avoided previously, because I was able to see beyond the struggles and see the love that also exists in the same space. There is a purity of love and compassion that comes with family and dear friends and that’s what I need to focus more on. I am grateful for all the people and situations in my life, though I saw them as huge challenges, it was these that forced me into seeing opportunities in each challenge and how to manage them.

It would be lovely  if you could also share the wisdom you have gained from your challenges and situations.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and sharing.

A reflective journey on behaviour management

Having been invited to speak on BBC 5 Live on 22nd July 2015 with Tom Bennett for a few minutes on behaviour management, it prompted me to write a blog on my personal experiences and journey. I trained to become a science teacher five years ago after a 15 year background in the commercial sales sector.

During my training year I was never trained specifically on behaviour management. More so it was the classroom pedagogy with comments like “…and if you were going around handing sheets, in those few minutes what would the rest of the class be doing?”

In reality, when I started my GTP my main group was a middling year 10 set 5. It was a shock to my system that teenagers do not sit still, or listen! It was now what we call “low level disruption.” Talking over me, failure to start the task when requested, getting mirrors out of bags to sort make-up.

I found myself fire fighting. I went a small group, got them engaged, and then moved onto the next group, by which time the first group had gone off task again. They were never rude, but how was I going to manage this low level disruption?

A few things started to unfold. One of the teachers said I need to be firmer with them. Of course the next lesson I went to the other extreme of setting 3 detentions with one warning only and sending a pupil out in the corridor to speak to them on one to one. I’d had enough. My tone was firm, I had spent hours planning my lesson (I was a trainee!) and as far as I was concerned this lesson was going to be completed, they were going to do the work, even if it went into their break time…I had a breakthrough! They all suddenly worked much better. Now the main focus was on learning and not mirrors and general chit chat!

On reflection, I quickly learned that what I had done was fine tuned my own focus. I was passionate about teaching and all I wanted to do was plan my lessons well and get my students to learn science which I am very enthusiastic about. I valued education (and still do) and knew the importance of it. I also knew the benefits of developing independent thinking skills.

So, what I had done was rather than focus on what they were doing, I had inadvertently refocused on what was important to me, my values and driven that from within me, out to my classroom. I held onto that strong belief of what I wanted them to achieve by the end of the lesson and they would get the support to achieve this. I quickly learned the power of parental involvement, not as a complaint but as support with what I was doing in the classroom.

I realised that once I had made that contact at home with a few parents, and in my experience they have really appreciated it, word gets around the students that this is what you will do. At the time of my training year I was also studying the DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Sector) and for part of that I carried out a “quasi experiment” on this particular group. I questioned whether some of the tasks are too long for them? I had been trying to get them to maintain and sustain their focus for twenty minutes, they lost focus after about 5 minutes. So my research was to find out if I set shorter tasks and then complete them, would it boost their confidence and self esteem?I started to use a timer, I set tasks 5-7 minutes long. We self and peer assessed them and discussed how we found them and what we had learned with lots of praise and reward where it was due. Then it became a race “Miss I’ve finished.” Suddenly most of them wanted to work. Was this the same group? Don’t get me wrong, there were days, and pockets of times where life became a bit overwhelming for some of them and no matter what I did wouldn’t help and this is where whole school intervention and support was in place. The main thing was that they wanted to work more than before and they realised they could complete tasks and be successful at them and they could see progress. This was the platform to start raising challenge.

Now, on hindsight, I realised I had got to know my students and so my tasks, activities and approach were suited to the dynamic of that particular class. Each classroom has a dynamic, which as teachers we need to manage differently. This comes with knowing your students.

So, how would I know my students and compare what each class was like? I set routines. Every class has the same entrance routine, the same expectations set at the start in September and same format of the lesson (I teach at the start, the work is scaffolded and then they do independent work). This is how I learned to teach in my first school and I like to allow discussions in my classroom. It was by observing my classes in this format that I started to learn which conformed and which needed a different approach slightly.

Recently in the school I have just left, a cover supervisor came to my lessons over 2 days as part of her training so observed me with a number of my classes. She commented that I used a different style and approach with all of them, and that was something she was going to bear in mind. I got to know my students. First and foremost in amongst all my trials and tribulations I was getting to know what works for them, what engages them and make it happen. What are the different personalities and what are their needs?

If I have a class on Monday morning first lesson, I would be able to get a lot of academic work out of them, same class last lesson on a Friday? No chance! I had to adapt. My lesson became a more practical based lesson, or consolidation or creating a model and using that to explain a concept. Learning still takes place but its adapted to suit where they are at that given time.

So, my personal behaviour management strategies involve seating plans, setting routines and high expectations, knowing my core values, driving them, planning lessons well, parental engagement, whole school engagement, care for my students, building rapport with them and having one to one conversations with them.

My classes are not perfect, not every student works to the standard I would like, I can still expect them to though. It is that high expectation that raises the bar. When I was a trainee, a teacher commented that my expectations were too high for behaviour, when I told my University tutor she said never to lower my expectations as the higher you raise the bar, the more you can stretch them to meet it.

Teenagers are astute. We don’t give them enough credit. On going for a college interview early on in my career, I was going to teach an A level Biology lesson. My cousin had attended that college and been on several student panels. He said within 2 minutes of a teacher walking into the room they had sussed out whether this teacher was a “strong” teacher or was a “walk over” (his words). This “strong” teacher is to do with having presence in the classroom. Presence comes from the core of you. Students will pick up subtle nuances in the energy from you like nervousness. You hold your presence according to how strong your energies are. If you have a lot of “stuff” bouncing around you and you feel “all over the place” it doesn’t build a strong core, or presence. Meditation on a regular basis helps me which is calming and helps discharge the stress and chaos from the day. This means the next day I have more to give to my students. More on this in a future blog maybe, in the meantime if you want to find out more about these subtle energies and keeping your personal space clear, which builds presence I highly recommend a book by Sue Zange called “The Energies of Your Life” which is available from www.energiesofyourlife.com or Amazon.

Thank you for taking time to read my personal reflective journey. Please free to share comments or your experiences of managing behaviour.