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When it all goes wrong.

This blog has been in the making for a good few weeks now; it has been redrafted and edited and redrafted and edited. I always get my posts proof read by my long suffering wife, not for spelling or grammatical accuracy, but as my conscience – sometimes the blog becomes more of a rant and must be saved to file for another day. Anyway, I am in a good place, the initial despair and anger has now subsided and turned into positivity and drive and an endeavour to get it right.

Going into this academic year, I knew that it wasn’t going to be plain sailing (not that any year is). My amazing Teaching Assistant was experiencing some pretty horrific personal issues that prevented her from working from mid-September until December, and so I was left alone in class. I did have some support from my teaching partners, but all in all, I was left. I was at the start of my second year in teaching to manage a classroom with very little additional support. Furthermore, as a teacher out of my NQT year, I also had subject leadership responsibilities and was handed SMSC, a field I have great interest in but one that is of significance in our church school. To add to the challenge, my new Year 6 class came with some incredible challenges in both behaviour and attainment and of course, no longer an NQT and with no NQT time, I was on my own and teaching full-time without support – or so it seemed.

Many times during this period, my very supportive Senior Management Team would pop in, ask if I was ok and did I need anything, to which I would reply “I’m doing fine” and “No, I’m managing” which of course was man-speak for “Of course I’m not ok, in fact I’m struggling and really could do with a shovel to dig myself out of this black hole I’m in!” I wasn’t prepared to show weakness, I would survive!

My planning was sparse at best, marking was equally inadequate (‘survival marking’ was the feedback from a book scrutiny) and my enthusiasm had waned. I would sit at home thinking that I was a poor teacher, an awful role model, a grumpy daddy and a short-tempered useless husband (sadly most of the respective ‘victims’ would agree.)

Then came the aforementioned book scrutiny, the usual frenetic review of the books before taking them to the Co-Head’s office the night before took place: ticks here, comments there, a couple of stars, and a handful of wishes (which of course were not responded to) to show challenge. Of course the feedback was that my books were far from acceptable and that I was to meet with the rest of my team to agree a way forward. By this time, the only way to protect myself was to be offensive to those closest to me – my team made suggestions, I got grumpier, more apathetic and more defensive but most of all less effective.

As always, the follow-on from the book scrutiny was the dreaded lesson observation. The date was booked and the plan was in place, however, I had already started making my excuses. My observation was preceded by a week-long period of interrupted scheduling (extra assemblies, assessment days, subject release time) and exacerbated by losing three days (including the weekend) to the local stomach lurgy.

Monday morning came, I borrowed a TA from another class to support the children and I delivered one of the worst lessons ever; I knew that it had been a complete train crash. Despite my apologies to my head of year and the co-head, the feedback report had lots of development points and lacked any real positives. I had likened my feedback to one of the pieces of work where you struggle to find one star, let alone two and have to decide how you can incorporate the dozen wishes needed to reach the standard!

I had a chance to reprise myself a few weeks later, but in honesty, I was too deep in my troubles that I couldn’t get out.

As a result, I was promised support from a member of the SMT for a few weeks after the Christmas break. Whilst this was meant to be an offer for support and an opportunity for personal development, what I heard was “this is as close to the capability process as you can get, get out of teaching you imbecile!”

The mood got worse, the apathy got greater and so, like many others, I decided to get out.

Thankfully I didn’t and I’m almost completely back on track. Despite the many feelings of personal attack, I have received an astounding level of support from my SMT. I have had support in planning lessons, developing resources and of course delivering well-structured, engaging lessons.

As for my books?

I have a ‘sensible’ marking timetable that ensures that all books are being marked at a level above the expected standard of the school’s marking policy – I feel like I’m back on track.

In addition to the support from the SMT, my TA has returned, we have cried together, each for our own reasons but have laughed together even more and of course I have a very supportive wife and understanding children. It goes without saying that I am still a grumpy old git, but a lot less grumpy.

I’m yet to have a follow-up observation, but having had an assistant head in with me for some time now, her feedback and reports back to the co-head have been very positive and I now feel that I am in a good position to provide a lesson expected of me and that I am worthy again to call myself a teacher.

So, what’s the point of this rambling?

To teachers like me: You are probably a very capable teacher, your children love being in your class and you can provide engaging lessons. BUT, ask for help before it’s too late – get some time to plan with someone, ask for some guidance on your marking, tell people how you are feeling. If you are still new in the role, there are still mistakes to be made, don’t be afraid but do take advice and accept any support.

To senior management: Middle-aged men won’t ask for help – they aren’t “doing fine” and probably would appreciate a little bit of guidance (even if it is met with a little resistance).

I wrote some time ago about how not to do everything, it still stands but is balanced with the need to do something.

Everyone Has a Voice

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting London, not to take photos of architecture, nor to experience the pomp and circumstance of our great British institution. Interestingly, despite the fact that one of the biggest tennis tournaments was taking place in London, I wasn’t anywhere near Wimbledon either. I was a delegate at Pedgaoo London, a TeachMeet organised by Hélène Galdin-O’shea (@hgaldinoshea) that I hadn’t been aware of until quite recently and, honestly, if my ATW (@hayleyearl) hadn’t been presenting there (which now makes her the Most Amazing Teacher Wife!) I wouldn’t have attended nor would I be blogging tonight (sorry Hélène). However, I cannot express my delight in attending and my gratitude towards Hélène for organising the event, supported by Kevin Bartle @kevbartle, to the many speakers and to the delegates also, many of whom I have started to follow and extend my own professional network.

Whilst my ATW was nervous about speaking to her peers, I housed my own anxieties: I would be in a room with delegates with extensive levels of knowledge and experience compared to my 7 years as a TA, Unqualified Teacher and Student, how could I participate in the anticipated discussions? Listening to Phil Stock (@joeybagstock) and then Chris Waugh (@edutronic_net), I was filled with awe; these two guys could hold an audience with musings of wisdom, and evidence of practice that I hope to achieve one day in my career. Maybe I had a right to be nervous, these people were eminently worthy of their podium position at the front of one of the IoE’s classrooms, what could I offer in discussion?

However, these fears were somewhat alleviated when I entered the room and realised that everyone was there for the same reason, to learn, share and develop professionally, a common expectation. What’s more, when I shared opinions, I found I was not alone, nor were they dismissed, people were interested in my thoughts and could relate and, dare I say, agree.

The day was a resounding success for everyone involved, for my ATW with her new-found desire to speak publicly (see www.musingsofateacher.wordpress.com) but selfishly, for me too. I’m lucky enough to have lots of CPD opportunities, formerly as a Schools Direct student, now as an NQT and as a Teacher at a forward thinking, staff investing school. Notwithstanding the existing opportunities, I cannot advocate enough the professional and personal rewards available from attending TeachMeets. The TeachMeets don’t have to be as big as Pedgaoo London or Northern Rocks (which will be in the diary next year!): try to meet locally in cluster schools to discuss progress and experiences. Meeting with colleagues of various levels of seniority, form varying backgrounds (primary and secondary) and with different levels of experience is an invaluable form of CPD. I’d even go as far as saying that I would happily organise PedagooGlos if enough are interested (will book ATW first!)

Finally, from this weekend’s experience, never underestimate the value of your own knowledge too: everyone has an opinion, everyone has experience, everyone deserves a voice.

Life After Levels – An Assessment Revolution?   

I, like many, continue to be ‘baffled’ by this new life. Found this post from earlier in the year very interesting, informative and useful. Many thanks @leadinglearner

@LeadingLearner

Over recent months I’ve been involved in interviews for a number of posts across the Multi Academy Trust.  One of our favourite questions has been, “What will assessment look like once levels are dead?”  The answers have on the whole been a bit confused. 

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The Mystery of Blogging

I read a post yesterday from @ictevangelist encouraging everyone to write a blog, a concept that I have always pondered but never actioned, a concept that fills me with some trepidation. I know that the majority of the internet community are unlikely to read it, and of those that do, will probably discard it as “more ramblings” but nevertheless, a challenging concept. What’s more, less than twelve months ago, @hayleyearl, my very talented wife, began blogging her musings (themusingsofateacher.wordpress.com) to some, allbeit still small, succcess. However, a few weeks ago I was told, during a professional conversation, by a person I have the upmost respect for, that I am outspoken and needed to consider my outlet. This morning, having pondered @ictevangelist’s post and advice on the web regarding blogging, that the publishing of a blog (publicly or privately) was both cathartic and rewarding, on the proviso that the content was appropriately edited or not published!

Other than a ‘more considered outlet’ I have also considered the purpose of the blog, a common point of note on blogging advice sites. Ninteen years ago I set sail on the sea of enlightenment, the maiden voyage of a career, I had done well at school, had decided not to attend university but train ‘on the job’ under Tony Blair’s New Modern Apprenticeship scheme. My training was all encompassing, from engineering and technical inspections of mechanical components through to accounting and financial management witin a multinational. Thirteen years later, an established career and a relatively successful career path set, everything appeared to be ready for the next step, parenthood, until the toll of redundancy took hold and I became another statistic on the unemployment reports of the recent financial turmoils.

The blog, and this story is not an outlet for self-pity nor an opportunity to criticise the international institutions who directly impacted my family’s social standings. It is a celebration of the consequences, for it is as a result of the redundancy that I became a volunteer at a local infant school, was quickly employed as an intervention Teaching Assistant, retrained and am just about to embark on my new career as a qualified teacher in a school that celebrates diversity across it’s entire community, pupils and teachers alike. All this was achieved through the support of an amazing teacher wife, who has given me two wonderful children in this time and a very supportive family. This blog aims to provide people like me opportunities to understand how industry and education are vastly different, although slowly beginning to intertwine and maybe selfishly, allow me to learn more from the sages of my new world.

As for my vociferous character, I promise to ‘reign it in’ but also hope that readers of my blog can empathise with my ramblings and offer advice to this new teacher with simple ideals.