Lauren for Education Secretary (from the NME, probably 1997?)
So today I happened across Tanya Donelly’s Twitter account. I didn’t know she had one. Turns out she joined in mid 2013 and has released five EPs that I had no idea about (the Swan Song Series). I feel embarrassed to have missed this…as you can see from the pictures, my A-level revision file (from 1992-3) paid homage to Tanya in quite fervent detail. Quite the indie fanboy, when I knew I had tickets to go and see Belly in 1995 at the Empire in Shepherd’s Bush I saved up Smartie tops with letters on so I could make a “TANYA” necklace - I threw it on the stage during the encore and she picked it up. Made my night, though as I recall she had some sort of throat infection and wasn’t allowed to speak, only sing…
The tiny handwritten lyrics are a combination of Belly, Throwing Muses, Suede and Sylvia Plath poems…I was studying English Literature. I’d like to say it was a phase but 20 years later I’m teaching English Literature and still adore all of those artists! Though Smartie tubes are made of cardboard now, so I don’t know what I’d do for a Tanya trinket in 2014. What I have done is buy all of the Swan Song Series, each of which comes with notes explaining where the songs come from, and many of which include handwritten lyric sheets. Her voice and songwriting are as good as ever. I’ve grown up, but I’m as much a fanboy as ever.
My assembly for this first week back after Easter is based around the concept of Challenge. I’ve used the good old Chambers dictionary to help me. The Prezi is below; if you can’t see the embed, please click this link.
Challenge: 1. verb: to summon someone to settle a matter in a contest
In the first meaning of the word, we are encouraged to pit ourselves against others. These contests can be evenly matched, as in sprint races which are sometimes decided in hundredths of a second; sometimes the odds can be stacked against us. The difficulty in measuring yourself against the success of someone else is that you can never account for their level of preparation, skill or ability; your opponent is outside your control. Instead, I would like that “someone” to be yourself. Set yourself a challenge and test your own preparation, skill or ability against the standard you set yourself. What are you capable of?
Challenge: 2. verb: to subject to stress, examination or test
Seriously, this was the definition in the dictionary. To challenge something is to test it, try it out, see where its weaknesses are. In the end, this is how your education is assessed in this country – your learning is put under examination. Whilst it is possible to shore up your work with last minute revision, quick fixes and sticky tape, the only way to guarantee that what you have learnt stands up to the test is to make sure that it is securely, properly learnt in the first place. This has the added benefit of taking the stress out of revision as you are going over things you already know again, rather than trying to learn them for the first time. To use the old cliché, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Talking of which…
Challenge: 3. noun: a task, undertaking etc. to test one’s powers or capabilities to the full
This Easter holiday I enjoyed three great sporting events which saw competitors testing their powers of endurance and stamina to the full – and beyond. Firstly, the London Marathon; the water-based endurance test of the Boat Race; and the equestrian challenge of the Grand National. I was sat on my sofa for all three of course, but I haven’t been idle, pushing myself in my own challenges. I am continuing to keep up with my New Year’s resolution of accentuating the positive, and I made a concerted effort to get back on track with my reading pledge challenge, finishing Mick Waters’ Thinking Allowed: On Schooling and reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy cover to cover – both highly recommended.
Challenge: 4. noun: a difficulty which stimulates interest or effort
This is the kind of challenge that I’m really inspired by, and I’ve recently come across the story of NFL full back Derrick Coleman, celebrated in this advert for Duracell, which illustrates this idea perfectly.
Coleman was declared deaf at the age of three. Despite playing American Football through High School and college at UCLA, he wasn’t picked in the NFL draft and was dropped by the Minnesota Vikings when signed as a free agent. However, the Seattle Seahawks gave him a chance, and he scored his first touchdown for them in December 2013 against the New Orleans Saints. Coleman is now a Super Bowl champion following the Seahawks 43-8 demolition of the Denver Broncos in XLVIII.
Coleman is a true example of resilience in the face of difficulty. Not all of us face the challenges that he faced, but we all have difficulties to overcome, be they physical, emotional, social, or other. How we respond to those challenges is everything; we can let them overwhelm us, or we can use them to stimulate us to try harder, seeking help where we need it and resolving never to give up.
And finally, a word about challenging behaviour…
In the books I was reading for my challenge over the holidays, the main character in Divergent impressed me with her “never give up” attitude, but it is Mick Waters I want to return to. Mick Waters talks about challenging behaviour, what he calls “giving your teacher a hard time.” He says that most students, when asked what they would do to give their teacher a hard time, would try:
- Talk over your teacher
- Rock on your chair
- Leave your coat on
- Forget to do your homework
- Pretend you haven’t done your homework
However, what Waters goes on to say is that there are other ways to demonstrate really challenging behaviour. He recommends you try:
- Asking for a more detailed explanation
- Asking searching questions
- Asking the teacher to help you understand the subject in more depth
- Asking for detailed feedback on your work to help you improve
- Asking for books and websites you could study on your own to help you understand more about the subject
- Asking for places to visit where you could see the ideas and topics you are learning about in action
Try and challenge yourself to challenge your teacher this week. Push yourself to push them. You’ll both see the benefit.Assembly - Challenge My assembly for this first week back after Easter is based around the concept of Challenge. I’ve used the good old Chambers dictionary to help me.
Image courtesy of @TeacherTweaks – click for link!
Dylan Wiliam’s quote has become totemic for many teachers and school leaders as a driver for good quality CPD, and I am no exception. So much so, that we are reorganising our approach to CPD across the whole school in September, using teaching and learning leaders appointed from within our existing staff body. This is part of our commitment to be…
Everyone should already be familiar with the KS2-4 Transition Matrices. A staple of RAISEonline, they were the first thing our HMI asked me for in our last Ofsted inspection and form the staple diet of inspectors judging the impact of a secondary school on progress in English and Maths.
Framework for KS2-4 Transition Matrices
And quite right too. It’s common for secondary teachers to bemoan the…
The idea of becoming a growth mindset school has been over a year in the making. Our Headteacher bought each member of SLT a copy of Mindset for Christmas, and it was the main agenda item at our annual senior team conference. Today I launched the idea of becoming a growth mindset school to all staff at our INSET day. This is the basis of the presentation I did.
Our INSET session was for all staff…
Today was one of those lovely moments in teaching where you see an idea you’ve spend months planning come to fruition and do some good. Today was the day of the “Proud” letters for Year 11.
A letter of hope…but not delivered by owl!
Back in January, I wroteto all Year 11 parents and carers asking them to write a letter to their young person to show their support, offer them advice, and motivate…
I was reminded today of one of my career highlights. When I was a keen young second-in-English, I organised a creative writing workshop for enthusiastic students of all ages with a visiting poet, Anthony Dunn. He ran a great workshop which I have adapted and run myself numerous times since. Here’s how it works:
The shock of the unexpected – The Jaguar
The world rolls under the long thrust of his…
Cognitive science – how the brain works – is quite important to teaching and learning. So why is it that it’s only been in the last three years of my career (which started in 1996) that I’ve learned anything about it?
I am certainly not an expert. My science qualifications go up to GCSE level. You would think that a postgraduate certificate in education would include something on the functioning…
This week the DfE finally published the 2013 Teachers’ Workload Diary Survey. Primary teachers work for an average of 59 hours per week; secondary 55 hours. Headteachers put in 63 hours per week at secondary. In response to the survey, I had the idea of blogging my diary, to show what a typical week for a secondary deputy head was like. I soon realised that this had all the makings of a vanity…
Best Practice in English
In amongst all the “we’re not grading lessons any more…in fact, we haven’t for a long time (even though all the teachers who’ve been inspected recently have had their lessons graded)” fuss this half term, there was another mini-farrago when Ofsted published a Good practice resource – Engaging and inspiring learners in English, especially at Key Stage 3. It was a decent…
In describing the visit of selected edubloggers to Ofsted, Tom Sherrington drew parallels with the visit of Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard.
Image via @headguruteacher
“Scarecrow has a brain!” concluded Tom, and it certainly seems that the bloggers have done good work in pulling back the curtain to reveal the mere mortal presence behind the…
Sylvia Plath died on 11th February 1963 in one of the hardest winters on record. This is the last poem she wrote.
The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.