Posts Tagged With: teaching

Preparing for Ofsted 2013

Last year I gave a presentation at the education show entitled ‘Preparing for Ofsted.’ I sifted through lots of Ofsted reports, founds patterns of ‘behaviours’ and looked for things inspectors seemed to be consistently asking for. I then created a slide show based on my findings.

In February 2013, Ofsted visited my school. As a result I’ve recently updated the slide show and below is the new updated version. I hope it will help you when your visit is due.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson/preparing-for-ofsted-2013-v2&#8243; title=”Preparing for ofsted! 2013 v2″ target=”_blank”>Preparing for ofsted! 2013 v2</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson&#8221; target=”_blank”>paceanderson</a></strong> </div>

The Though_Weavers

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WHEN TEACHERS LOSE THEIR MOJO!

WHEN TEACHERS LOSE THEIR MOJO!

“What’s the difference between a rut and a grave?”
Answer: The depth of the soil,
This phrase was rather eloquently coined by the American Novelist – Ellen Glasgow in the early 1900s; although it’s over a century old the sentiment is still as fresh as the day it was first written.

Those of you who are teachers will know that the job can sometimes be a series of extreme highs and lows.

The highs occur when the light flickers within the eyes of a child and they say:
“Oh I understand now!”
That ‘Bing’ moment when the imaginary light bulb appears above their head. An additional high point can be when you bump into a former student/pupil and they inform you that their chosen career path was all down to a comment or a bit of advice that you gave them when they were younger. (As you can imagine this can also work the opposite way round and become one of your low points.)

The lows are, all too, familiar to many teachers that I speak to:
An ever increasing workload.
High and sometimes unrealistic expectations of parents.
Demands from the Head Teacher and Senior Management Team.
The ever changing nature of education due to change in government.
Unsupportive colleagues.
‘The Class from Hell!’
Ofsted.

So the question is: How can we stay out of the rut, or better still how do you get out of the rut once you have fallen in? Here are a few Thought Weaver suggestions that may help.

1. Talk to colleagues.
Many of the old sayings that our grandparents came out with still ring true today:
‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’
Perhaps if we share the problem a second time that would take care of the remaining half; therefore the problem would be dissipated. It’s always good to get the opinion of another professional whether it be in your own school or another.

2. Try some summer reading.
Some of you may think that books about education are high brow and too academic. There are many out there which are exactly that. However, if you choose wisely you’ll be in for a treat. Here are a few suggestions, they are great for a read or something you can just dip into:

GUY CLAXTON: What’s the Point of School?
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Whats-Point-School-Rediscovering-Education/dp/1851686037/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1221064489&sr=1-2
This book will help practitioners to reflect on what they feel the purpose of school really is!

IAN GIBERT: Essential Motivation in the Classroom.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Motivation-Classroom-Ian-Gilbert/dp/041526619X
A book of brilliant and inspirational ideas to promote intrinsic motivation in the classroom.

IAN GILBERT: Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Need-Teacher-When-Google/dp/0415468337
A forward thinking book, considering the changing role of the teacher within 21st Century education

SIR JOHN JONES: The Magic Weaving Business:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Magic-Weaving-Business-Learning/dp/0956376002
Inspirational stories that help capture the essence of why we do what we do!

3. Get on Youtube and be inspired; here are few of the gems we have found!

SIR KEN ROBINSON: Changing paradigms.

SIR KEN ROBINSON: Do schools kill creativity?

NICK VUJICIC: I Love Living Life. I Am Happy.

MATT HARDING: Where the hell is Matt?

BOBBY McFERRIN: A demonstration of the power of the pentatonic

DAVID HOLMES: The Rapping Flight Attendant – Try to love your job this much!

4. Get on Twitter!
We assume that by reading this blog you are already aware of Twitter. However, if you received this link from another source, and as of yet you haven’t got a Twitter account, we strongly suggest you set one up. From our perspective it will be the best continual professional development tool you’ll ever use! It’s easily accessible 24/7, user friendly, highly informative, humorous and more importantly its FREE!

The Thought Weavers.

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What Kind Of Restaurant Is Your Classroom?

Myself and David (AKA the Thought Weavers) love to play around with analogies, sometimes they help us get a point across and at other times people look back at us with glazed eyes. However, we really feel this one works and will hopefully help you think about your practice.

So here goes.

We think classrooms are like (or perhaps even should be like) a good restaurant. However, this is not always the case, sometimes they are more ‘fast food’ than ‘gourmet’

Let me explain some of the classic features of a ‘fast-food’ model of the classroom:

  • Pupils walk in with no-one to greet them
  • Adults talk really quickly; they’re impatient and want answers quickly.
  • The menu is always the same.
  • A diet of uninspiring food learning is supplied daily. (it does however hit all of the APP outcomes)
  • Pupils will never remember their favourite or lesson when they’re older
  • Standards are high because the criteria for judging them is so narrow. The ‘fast-food’ restaurant makes and healthy profit and the classroom produces high ‘standards’
  • The tables and chairs never move.
  • All posters and displays are professionally made by adults.
  • Differentiation is made by the words ‘small,’ ‘regular’ or ‘large,’ or in classroom speak; ‘poor,’ ‘average’ or ‘bright.’ (Although occasionally ‘G&T is on the menu)
  • Sometimes special menus/promotions are created, in schools these are known as ‘theme days,’ this is the only time when the menu is slightly more interesting.
  • Feedback is standardised and irrelevant. In the classroom this might be ‘Good Work’ or ‘Well Done’
  • No tips are given; the children will never go the extra mile.
  • Customers can never change the menu and ask for something a little different; in the classroom children get what they’re given.
  • There is no overt way of expressing pleasure or disappointment at the service provided.

On the other hand, a gourmet restaurant (or perhaps country pub!) model for the classroom might read as follows:

  • A friendly smile when you walk in.
  • Small talk at the table with staff.
  • The menu changes regularly and there are lots of daily specials
  • The meals (learning) are well deigned by experts who truly know what they are doing.
  • Great memories are created by the quality of service and friendly atmosphere.
  • Relationships with all adults and children are positive.
  • ‘Difficult’ customers are treated with dignity and respect
  • Standards are exceptionally high, because of the attention to detail at every step of the process.
  • If something special is required or someone wants to deviate from the menu it is celebrated and explored
  • Differentiation is the choice of the customer/pupils; there is a wide variety of activities/meals set out in a variety of ways.
  • Feedback is personalised and unscripted, it feels natural but authoritative.
  • Plenty of tips! Children bring in masses of things from home because they’ve been inspired in school.
  • Pupils can personalise the menus, giving feedback to the lead adult about their performance.
  • Pupils are encouraged to think about their decisions; they have time to evaluate the menu before making a decision

And so on…

Let’s make it clear. Classrooms are not restaurants and certainly shouldn’t be run as a business; pupils are not our customers, they are learners and we should be proud to facilitate their progress.

But, we feel the comparisons can be made. We believe that too often, the standards agenda pushes schools into a ‘fast-food’ model of education. Children deserve better! Whilst a ‘Gourmet’ classroom means hard work, it does mean that the children are the most important people and they will remember their experiences.

So how do you make your classroom ‘Gourmet?’

The Thought Weavers

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How does the Government support education? mmmmm…

Michael Gove often talks about leaving the running of schools to the professionals. We agree!

Below are headlines from the BBC website over the last few months. We suggest what Gove actually says and what he actually does are two different things!

‘Schools minister cracks down on league table incentives’

‘Ofsted plans to scrap ‘satisfactory’ label for schools’

‘Poor teachers face tougher system under shake-up’

‘New Ofsted chief takes aim at incapable teachers’

‘Third of schools in Wales not good enough, says Estyn’

‘Labour ‘would have cut school building scheme’

‘Ofsted head to tackle coasting and incompetent teachers’

‘Schools in England will face no-notice inspections’

‘Ofsted inspections to scrutinise teaching quality’

‘Michael Gove queries schools’ Ofsted ratings’

‘Education Bill outlines shake-up for England’s schools’

 

The great thing is that teachers are breathtakingly resilient! We are the eternal optimists! We get on with our jobs despite the headlines above! This is what makes teachers great!

The Thought Weavers

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What is the point of SATs?

What’s the point of SATs?

What’s the point of SATs?

In short: Very little!

Firstly, I’d at least try to provide some balance to my argument. The main arguments for SATs are:

  1. They provide the data for the ‘standards agenda’
  2. They provide an objective snapshot of children’s progress.

In 2009 I sent an email to Ed Balls at the Dept of Education and below is a quote that sums up the Government’s position. (A position that still holds true in 2011)

‘The majority of parents value the information our system of testing and assessment provides to help them choose the right school for their child and to have objective information on their child’s progress.’

From this quote there is, could I add, one more argument for SATs:

The fact that the Government feels that teachers are unable to offer an objective assessment of pupils.

I’ve facilitated learning with my class for the past two years, taking the children at the end of Y4 and all the way to the end of their primary education. It may seem odd to say that ‘Standards’ are one of my lowest priorities; learning and enjoyment are my top priority, with the belief that ‘Standards’ will be one of the many outcomes of my pedagogy. Children in my class have excelled in SATs this year and the cries of, “this should keep Ofsted of our backs!” have reverberated around the staffroom. I therefore feel in a position to add my two penneth’ worth

I suppose I should be happy then, my children have done great in their SATs! Ofsted (even if they do turn up), will be drooling over RAISEonline…I am not happy though. In their current form, I despise SATs with such a passion that I’d happily see them abolished yesterday.

The simple truth is that SATs do great harm to children. They fix their ‘ability’/mindset in maths or English. The ‘level 5’ children think they’re great or clever, the ‘level 4s’ will spend their secondary education in what we call ‘an average kind of hell’ and the level 3s will feel so stupid they will want to finish school now!

From the beginning of Y1 until the end of Y6 children spend over 6000 hours learning in the classroom . These youngsters put in a lot of effort in that time; they laugh, love, cry, complain, question, find friends (and enemies), have chicken pox and lose teeth along the way. In that time we hope they have become a child with the potential to flourish now and in the future.

Towards the end of primary school, the children sit ‘Standardised Tests’, in less than four hours, the Government decide whether the 6000 hours was all worth it! Children are then pigeon holed into the ‘bright ones’, the ‘average ones’ or the ‘slow movers’. All this assessment based up on two principles, maths and English. (see our blog on Multiple Intelligences http://wp.me/p1upWt-1S )

Imagine this: Ofsted, come into a maths lesson, maybe yours (I can feel the shivers down your spine as a write this) and you decide, based on your understanding of ‘Standards’ that:

  • There will be no differentiation.
  • Any word problems will involve the same three people and involve sweets or buttons.
  • Children will, under no circumstances, be able to talk to one another, reflect upon their learning, collaborate with each other or think creatively!
  • The lesson will be 45 minutes, not a second more, not a second less
  • Pupils will not be allowed to apply any ‘help’ strategies if they get stuck; if they do get stuck, the MUST stay stuck
  • All learning prompts will be covered up or removed from the pupil’s desks
  • At the end of the lesson each children will be explicitly told they are either
  1. Above average
  2. Average
  3. Below average

After the lesson, you sit down with the inspector and confidently ask “Did you like the way I really focused on standards today?”…

Why assess children in a way so detached from the learning process? It’s like asking Lewis Hamilton to complete his next race in a submarine! SATs bear no resemblance to the learning process – the only thing being assessed is how good the pupils are at sitting a test, or as one little boy (Niall) said to me, “SATs only prove how well you do under pressure don’t they”

Chris, who had the highest raw score in the maths test, also happens to be the one boy who struggles most with problem solving! I also have a wonderful writer, she writes with such vivid description, creating wonderful pictures inside the minds of her readers – she ‘scraped’ a level 4 in the writing because her handwriting was poor and in this extremely unnatural situation, she failed to show the wonderful figurative language she shows day in day out in class. For the past two years I’ve shared my admiration of her writing with her, her parents and colleagues, only for the ‘Standardised’ test to inform us that she’s average! Sadly she’s not so sure she’s such a great writer now.

SATs are also used to put schools into a league tables. The only conclusion I can reach from this is that schools move from being collaborators to competitors. Teachers look to see if they’ve ‘beaten’ the nearest rivals and schools from economically challenging areas are looked down upon.

By creating league tables an ethos of competition, winning and losing, comparing and contrasting emerges; the motivation to collaborate slowly ebbs away. Self perseveration rules!

If it were a football team, the Y6 teachers would be the strikers who score the ‘goals’, they too often carry the weight of the team on their shoulders and should they miss the target, they are forced into finding excuses to save their skins. The Headteachers are the managers who watch on helplessly as the results come in, hoping they’ve beaten the school up the road for the kudos it supplies at the next meeting. And the sharing of ideas is something that can’t be done, after all why would you give your competitor the edge?

Would Chelsea and Manchester United ‘share’ players and tactics whilst performing in their ‘league?’

The Government and the media have hyped-up SATs to be the pinnacle of excellence, the gold standard for primary education, a system that gives bragging rights to some and embarrassment to others. SATs bog the education system down, skewing its purpose. The recent uproar relating to the marking of writing assessments illustrates our point; the anguish and anger caused by this cannot be good for children’s education.

It may then seem odd that we think getting rid of testing is not the answer. What we argue is that the significance attached to them is disproportionate to the data they produce. In short, good SATs results do not mean a good school and vice versa. They are the wrong criteria to use.

The ThoughtWeavers

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Knowing me, knowing you! Building Positive Learning Relationships with Children

Knowing me, knowing you!
Building Learning Relationships with Children
Is there one child in your class who gets to you for all the wrong reasons? That one child who pushes all the wrong buttons. The one that makes all your behaviour modification strategies look futile. My friend Katy once described such a child.
She said “He just takes me to a place where I don’t want to go!”
We’ve all met the little terrors! They come in all shapes and sizes from 7 to 17. However, despite their differences many of them share very similar features.
The similar features/traits means they are:
Usually boys
Usually bored
Usually on the SEN register
Usually come from the same area/estate /neighbourhood
Usually have siblings with similar traits
Usually from dysfunctional families.
Right! We all know the sort of child we are talking about by now – don’t we?
Think about their behaviour in your lessons. How do they make you feel? What is it that they do that makes you feel so hostile toward them? Usually if you could have one wish it would be for them to move far, far away (this is totally natural as we have felt this way many, many times ourselves) However, the Likelihood of them moving away is about as likely you winning the national Lottery three weeks in a row. So what is the answer? Picture this little angel in your head and ask yourself some of the following questions:

What makes them happy? Scared?
Where do they go on holiday?
Who is their hero?
Who do they look up to?
What do they want to be when they are older?
What’s their favourite colour?
What’s their favourite drink? Food?
Do they have any pets?
If they had a super power what would it be?
If they ruled the world what would they change?
What do they think of your lessons?
What do they think if you?

If you can answer ‘I don’t know!’ to more than three of the questions above, then you are doing that child a disservice! You’ve almost written them off before you have even got to know them. We know that it’s very difficult, at times, to find something endearing about the disruptive little whirlwinds, who attempt to sabotage your entire lesson every week. But if we give up on them – who will believe in them?

The key to getting them on your side is building positive, appropriate relationships. It’s truly amazing what you find out about them once you start asking. The trump card you have up your sleeve is yourself and your life outside of the classroom! They love to know all about you! It’s a brave thing to do but done correctly it can move mountains.

You don’t have to share you home address, credit card details or the names of your first ever boy/girl friends. But let them know the name of your dog, your favourite food, football team, where you like to go on holiday, what you wanted to be when you were their age.

For the bravest amongst you; you could (God forbid) tell them your first name; the names of you family members; where you went to school. It goes without saying if the information you share is going to compromise yourself or close friends then keep it to yourself.

Once they know you a little better you become more three dimensional. You become a real person not just a 2D image of a name on an exercise book or on their timetable.

When they enter your classroom next time hit them with:

“How did your game go this weekend Jake?” or “Sarah did you go your aunties’s party last night?”
It’s way better than “Jake stop that and sit down!” or “Sarah did you write up that experiment like I asked you to?”

Don’t get me wrong they still have to be accountable and ‘write up the things like you asked them to…’ but the odd friendly ‘humanistic’ comment does break the ice.

“Where do I get the time to ask all these questions?” We hear you cry: the answer is direct and simple ‘make time’ think about the wasted minutes some of us use trying to redirect negative behaviour. You can create chances walking along the corridor, whist on playground duty, on the bus during school trips, diary entries, play scripts in literacy, planning and budgeting a day out (Maths), circle time or the 3 minutes packing up time at the end of the day. Say to yourself I’m going to find out one thing new about ‘x’ today and I will impart one piece of information about me. Try it the results are astounding!

Lee and David (The Thought Weavers)

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

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Praise and Motivation within the Classroom

Here’s a question:  CAN YOU RAISE A CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM?

The answer is No!

Ian Gilbert (Independent Thinking Company) says:

Be aware that we cannot really raise someone’s self-esteem for them, as it is not yours to raise in the first place, hence the word ‘self.’  All you can do is to work to create an environment in which their capability and lovability starts to come through. [1]

So what are you doing within your class/school to promote lovability and capability?

The answer is all in the ‘praise’ that we give the children.   Almost everyone enjoys praise; whether you are 7 or 70.  It’s a pleasant experience to hear you have done something well; but praise should come with a health warning:  If too much is used or it’s not targeted correctly it can be ineffective.   Some practitioners give out praise like confetti but as you have no doubt guessed four fifths of it is wasted and falls by the wayside.  Therefore (In keeping with the wedding theme) effective praise should be issued like the bouquet: directed and caught by just the one person.  However, it goes without saying that we don’t face away from the children and throw praise over our shoulder.

When issuing PRAISE think:

P = PERSONAL: Aimed at just one individual

R = REFLECTIVE:  The learner should be able understand they’ve received it.

A = ASSESSED: You, the teacher, should know why you are giving it.

I = IMMEDIATE:  Catch them doing the right thing and praise immediately.

S = SENSITIVE: Not all children like being praised in front of others.

E = EFECTIVE:  It should have a lasting impact on the learner.

There is nothing wrong with the Jim Bowen school of thought: lovely, smashing, super, great but if you want to promote effective sustainable learning you have to be concise with your choice and use of praise.

There’s a subtle but massive difference between:

 “Well done Sally super writing.”

and

“Sally the adjectives you have used to describe your character are super.”

 Sally will feel happy and contented with the first statement.  However, in the latter statement she knows exactly what she needs to do next time if she wants to receive that sort of praise.

The giving out of ‘stickers’ to reward children for the learning is also beneficial but remember that gratification I child receives from a sticker lasts about as long as the adhesive on the back.

Knowing the difference between ‘Intrinsic’ and ‘Extrinsic’ motivation was our starting point for issuing praise.

Dealing with children who were extrinsic learners, I soon came to understand that they were mostly motivated by external factors: stickers, certificates, house/table points, postcards home or the weekly mention in assembly.  Nevertheless, if (God forbid) they went a week without any recognition, this would have a major impact on their motivation and their ability to grasp new concepts within their learning.

On the other hand the intrinsically motivated learners sought their motivation from within – enjoying learning for learning’s sake.  They got their excitement or ‘buzz’ from learning a new piece of information, a new skill or after successfully revisiting an item with which they previously struggled.

To summarise we have found it most beneficial to be more succinct and to the point with our praise.   I’m not saying that we don’t, slip into the Jim Bowen role,  you may still hear the odd well done, great answer, lovely explanation within our classroom.

But we now have a greater awareness and you are more likely to hear:

“Thank you Harvinder for that great question, you really got me thinking then.”

“Super Idea Joel, I can see you’ve used the text that we’ve read earlier.”

“James that’s the second time you’ve used that strategy to solve that divisional problem well done,”

How do you praise and the reward the children in your class?  We would love to hear from you.

Lee & David (The Thought Weavers)

Check out the ‘Thought Weavers’ on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002543044514

[1] Source of Quote:  Gilbert, Ian, Essential Motivation in the Classroom.  (Routledge, Farmer,London) 2002. p.136

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Letting Go – Letting Children Learn.

Giving Them The Wings To Fly – Letting Go And Letting Children Learn.

I can remember a few years ago I was complaining to a friend how tired I was with all the effort I was putting into my planning and the difficulty I was experiencing planning exciting lessons.  I began to moan about how time consuming the whole process was.  He smiled and casually asked,

“Are you busy planning for teaching or learning?”

The question hit me like a brick:  What was I actually doing?  Was I just actively keeping myself busy to justify my Local Authority salary or was I facilitating challenging, exciting, thought provoking learning?    His comments caused me to question my whole existence as a teacher.  I had to ask myself the question:

‘Within my classroom was I the fountain of all knowledge or was I the lead learner modelling the skills of how to seek knowledge?’

Was I the proverbial ‘Sage on the Stage?’ or was I endeavouring to be the ‘Guide on the side?’

I realised immediately that all I had done since I became a teacher was to act out the role of the teacher; in exactly the same way I had experienced it as a child.  As Ian Gilbert(Independent Thinking Company) says “I had learned to do as I was told and do it well.”   I had taken on the mantle of the expert – a role where the children had not only to guess what was in my head but more importantly what was contained within my planning folder.

The dilemma I then had was: How do I plan for learning?

I had sailed through a history degree and a PGCE in Primary Education and during this time  no-one had told me the difference between teaching and learning.  I must have also missed the seminar where they explained how exciting learning could be when the teacher ‘lets go’ and allows the children to become the co-authors of their own learning journey, of their own identity.

So how does one “Let go, so to speak?”

Firstly you have to remember that as the adult in the learning relationship we are naturally the ones with the knowledge and indeed most of the answers.  However, its not our job to dish the facts out willy-nilly – our job is to empower the children to develop skills so as they can seek the knowledge and facts for themselves.

A few practical tips that I suggest in helping practitioners to ‘let go’ is to immediately hand the lesson over to the children within minutes of starting. There is nothing as boring as hearing a teacher harp on and labour the point for 25-35 minutes of a lesson.  Let the learners know where the following lesson fits into the big picture and what they need to be looking out for throughout the lesson. Then explain the lesson objective: ‘We are learning how to…’   I am learning how to ….’

I usually start with “Today your going to learn something that’s going to transform your life!”

Whether is does or not; I guarantee you’ve got their attention.  Then throw the lesson open!

“Right two minutes with a partner; tell each other everything there is to know about 2D shapes…!”

You have engaged the children instantly and also assessed their prior knowledge.

Once you have them back; ask them to think of a few ‘High Order Questions’ (see our Blog from the 22nd May 2011 – Using Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Classroom.)  Again this is another speaking and listening; collaborative learning exercise.

Following this your teaching input could then last for approximately 10 minutes – This is where you demonstrate a concept or introduce and new piece of learning.  Once you have completed this its back ‘letting go.’

“Okay on your wipe boards create a few irregular heptagons; but they must have at least one set of parallel lines and one perpendicular line containing within them – off you go!”

After 10 minutes convene and share your ideas!  Address any misconceptions or misunderstandings – at this point you’ll know who is flying or who is struggling to take off.

Encourage the children to ask questions to devise a new set of criteria for the next shape (AGAIN IT’S THEM! AND NOT YOU!)   Trust me they will come out with some gems.

“Thank you Sophie – Sophie would like to see how many octagonal shapes you can create that are symmetrical and have no more than two obtuse angles – okay off you go!”

Finally the plenary can be used to sum up the learning; iron out any problems that are still arising; ask questions about how you can apply the learning into an everyday life situation.    Another superb way to achieve a quick assessment of a child’s learning is to say:

“Hamzah you are at a bus stop and the bus is coming and you’ve got thirty seconds to explain to Sheeva what you have learned today.”    The children love this and ninety five percent of the time if they can articulate it;  they can apply it using pen and paper.

I hope that has helped some of you!  If you are thinking you cheeky toad I knew all this already. However, so many times I have seen teachers with the best will in the world helping children to such a degree they actually protect them from failure and stifle all learning. So, whilst this blog may not be for you, the ideas may help colleagues within your setting.

There is a beautiful analogy about a small child helping a butterfly that was struggling to escape from its cocoon – click on the link below.

Remember all we do is help the children to develop their own wings so they too can fly.

Cheers David & Lee (The Thought Weavers)

There is a lovely story of a butterfly struggling to get out of a cocoon – check the link below:  http://www.brianchong.net/2011/04/the-butterfly/

 

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I get knocked down…

Imagine the scene: You’ve at last got your interview for that Deputy Head post the one you’ve always wanted. You sit there in your brand new suit and tie, wriggling uncomfortably; is it the new shirt digging in? Or is it the fact that the suit lies dormant on your Visa account still waiting to be paid for; lying there unloved like a tube of after sun in Cold November. Hands are clasped, tight, sweating, slightly trembling – you casually but cautiously look around at the assembled panel of seven! Yes seven of them!

The lead assassin from the Local Authority stares at you with steely, slate grey eyes. Uncannily he looks a little bit like Bill Oddie but has the compassion and tenderness of Hannibal Lecter – he makes his move and unceremoniously, unsmilingly, unsympathetically draws the first blood. No soft sweetener to put you at ease; No! He goes straight for the jugular; asking a question so alien from the ones you have practised in your head previously; the ones that you have practised with your colleagues; with your family; even the dog had to go through the benefits of collaborative group work, safeguarding; rigorous monitoring and pupil assessment. The question! Oh the question – it still has to be answered! The neurons are screaming frantically in terror as they race around your head looking for the opening line, that ‘Obama slickness’ that will have them eating out the palm of your hand within seconds.

But nothing occurs! The line you are searching for refuses to materialise – that one precious line that could, so easily, save you from the degradation that lies ahead. What happened next is unforgivable and beyond reproach; the elastic band that attaches the brain to you lower jaw suddenly snaps! You’re now the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, in career free fall; falling faster and faster into the abyss. Into the cesspool of self doubt and uncertainty.

The opening question (still insufficiently unanswered) is followed by question after relentless question; each ones picks you up and slams you against the ‘metaphoric’ wall that has just been self erected within your psyche. You once again scan the room looking for a friendly glimpse of humanity, of empathy – but you know you are alone! Alone with only the two evil horsemen of humiliation and indignity for company.

Suddenly from behind the heads of the malevolent septet of distaste gathered before you; a glimmer of hope can be seen – a lifeline. Outside the window a small blue tit hangs upside on a branch, he pecks away nonchalantly at a lush green leaf completely unaware of the torture that he is witnessing through the window. I close my eyes for a brief second and wish we could change places; as I slowly open them again I look for him but alas – he has gone. Left me! Left me alone to be savaged by the baying crowd. Hungry for blood; hungry to stamp out the very last crumb of hope that is contained within my poor, dilapidated, decrepit ego.

Well that was the experience I had of my first ever interview for a Deputy Head post. Can you beat that? If so. I’d love to hear from you.

Oh by the way; ‘On this particular occasion I was unsuccessful’ – And the blue tit? Never saw him again!

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