Saturday, 4 January 2014

Highs, lows and hopes

I realise it's a bit of a cliche at this time of year to write a post reflecting on the year just gone and hopes for the future, however here's mine!

High points of 2013
  1. Discovering twitter for CPD - Quite simply this has transformed my practice, made me more reflective and encouraged me to try new things. Started in April with no followers - ended 2013 with just shy of 500 - and I'm flattered by every one. To be honest though I don't care about the followers - for me what's most important is that hardly a day goes by that doesn't include spotting some kind of new idea that I can apply in my classroom or department
  2. Blogging for CPD - as with twitter, blogging has transformed my practice and made me much more reflective. Also with a growing readership and the feedback I get from it I have become more confident that the things my department and I are doing are good. In fact in many cases we seem to be right at the front of new developments, which is really exciting. I started my blog from scratch in April, and ended the year with over 16500 page views, covering literally every continent. I know this is small compared to some education bloggers, but in truth I'm amazed and flattered that anyone reads it at all! I find the reflective side so powerful that I honestly think I'd continue if nobody read it.
  3. Discovering the #RAG123 approach to marking. This was a late discovery in 2013, in fact I only started it at the end of November. However the benefits I have seen and the positive feedback I have had from everyone who has tried it makes it one of the most important things that has happened to my professional practice since I started teaching. My books are now better marked than they ever have been, students, SLT and Ofsted have given positive feedback on it and I've not had to take a single book home to mark since November (AND I actually feel more in control of my workload than ever as a result of this).
  4. Delivery of a second consecutive year of school record GCSE results, breaking into 70% for the first time in the school's history for A*-C (by reaching 76.8%). This was a real vindication of the hard work my department have been putting in, and the improvements in general morale and confidence within the team since this result has been delivered just can't be beaten.
  5. Life beyond school. I've taken better control of my work-life balance since September, though a recent Ofsted visit didn't do it any favours! As part of this I've been able to spend more time with my family, and have even managed to take part in my first cyclocross season in 20 years. I'm now looking forward to more family time and cycling through 2014 and hopefully will be able to be a bit more competitive in next winter's season!
Lows of 2013

Fortunately I've had very few of these at a personal level.

All teachers will be able to identify a student or students who didn't quite reach your hopes for them. If you can't do this then either you're truly awesome or you're not being optimistic enough for the students! I can think of a few this year... An A-level student who had the potential for an A if they performed to their true best in an exam, but who misread a question and dropped to a B. A GCSE student who turned a corner in attitude and behaviour just too late to make enough difference and just missed out on a grade C. There are a few others in a similar vein too.... I know I did my very best for them, but it's always a little disappointing when an aspiration doesn't quite match the reality. I wish them all the very best for the future.

I was disappointed when a poorly judged briefing by some of our senior team caused a big setback in the morale of my department at the start of the summer term. Fortunately the other good things that we have been doing meant that we bounced back faster than most in the school. However it was truly shocking to me how quickly the team morale nosedived following only a few misjudged words, and how much conscious effort it took to turn it back round.

A bit left field this but I was also really disappointed when Lance Armstrong finally admitted his doping offences. His initial story of cancer recovery to win the Tour De France the first time was incredibly significant to me due to it coinciding with the diagnosis and recovery from cancer of one of my very close family. While in the end I can't claim that I was still a believer in Armstrong's "squeaky clean" status, the breadth and depth of his admissions and the clear and blatant lies he told in such a public way to so many people was astonishing and extremely disillusioning.

Hopes for 2014
With headings as per my resolutions proforma (see this post), here are my intentions for 2014...

  • Continue: Blogging and using Twitter for CPD - it has had such a positive and energising impact on my professional life that it's definitely worth the time it takes.
  • Stop: Working so much at weekends. I still spend too much time on work tasks over the weekend, and this harms the time I spend on other activities and with my family - I started cutting this down from September 2013, but it needs to reduce further through this year.
  • Start: Really embedding SOLO into my practice - initial experiments have been positive, I now need to shift it into core practice rather than something just touched on every now and then - it'll be more meaningful and relevant to the students that way, and I'll get better at it too.
  • Take a risk by: Organising a teachmeet or other CPD event for people beyond my department and school. If you're interested in attending then watch this space....
  • Improve: My marking dialogue by further developing RAG123 with my classes - I've noticed that students interact with it more as they become more familiar with it. I want this to continue.
  • Persevere with: Trying at least one new thing in my classroom per week - it's too easy to slip into old tried and tested methods, and at times it takes a concerted effort to do something different. There are loads of ideas out there - I need to make sure that I remember to keep doing this.
  • Enjoy: Life in all it's guises! It's about more than just work..!

I hope you had a good 2013 and that 2014 will be successful for you too - I'd love to hear of your resolutions and how you progress with them!

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