Friday, 8 July 2016

Continuing to develop professionally

Over the last few days I have seen a number of tweets and posts in relation to amazing courses and CPD opportunities that are taking place.  This is great.  I love seeing these things and love to see the messages about them.   BUT.   Why on earth do I never hear about these opportunities until they are actually happening?

I know that for people over in England - they might be able to see something one day and drive up to a conference the next day - but when you live and work in Northern Ireland you need to have done some serious forward planning to get flights, get transport, get accommodation sorted etc.  Plus, the earlier that you can do this, the cheaper it is - especially if you are having to fund this out of your own pocket.  

There needs to be some sort of repository of educational meetings and conferences somewhere online.  Maybe there is and I just have not found it yet - if it does exist - please let me know - otherwise I might have to look into setting one up myself.

CPD is essential for teachers.   Teachers need to be encouraged and challenged in their practice by seeing what things other people do and how they can work to inspire young learners.    We need to be able to make this easy for teachers to do and we should be looking for ways to help to fund those who want to engage in developing their practice further.   Its not just about those celebrity teachers - its about those quality practitioners who toil away at the front of classrooms all over the country who don;t even realise just how amazing they are.

So  . . . if a web site like this does exist - let me know, would you?

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Proud to be (Northern) Irish

In the midst of the EU Referendum political Tsunami that has been swirling around us over the last few days – one thing has really helped to raise my mood.    In France, thousands of Northern Irish and Irish football fans have demonstrated the attitude that groups of supporters should have while visiting another country.  

The level of support that the Green and White Army (#GAWA) and the Boys in Green (#COYBIG) have given to their teams has been phenomenal.  Their attitude and behavior on their travels in France has been awe-inspiring.   There has not been much for NI sport fans to cheer about this year – so the adventure of the NI football teams getting into the Euro Finals has been amazing.    The team themselves have played with a real sense of passion and togetherness that bamboozled their opposition and brought them respect from players who are in a totally different league (in more ways than one). 

The supporters though, knowing that the French people had been reeling from terrorist attacks and less than flattering run-ins with the English and Russian fans, decided to turn on that (Norn) Irish charm and win over the hearts of the people.    Supporters sung lullabies to babies, changed tyres, danced with nuns, picked up litter, put their arms around police men and generally behaved in a way that people wanted them to stay rather than to be out of sight as soon as possible.   In stadiums they arrived early, sang through half time and cheered off their players and sang with them again after the match – whether they had won or not.  

This is how to play the game.  To enjoy the event, the experience and not get tied up in the result.    Yes – we wanted to win but we wanted to have fun and make sure everyone else was having fun in the process.   Sometimes I do dispute it when people say that the Irish are the friendliest nation on earth  - but recently that has been proven to be the case.   We might not have got further than the second round but everyone wants us back and everyone wants us to do well so that we can bring the craic.  

I got my old Northern Ireland flag out again and with pride – was able to tell people that yes I was from the place where the crazy fans come from.  And no – we don’t really know much about why Will Grigg was on fire either. 

Looking backwards is the new future

This last week has been a busy one for me.   We have celebrated Fathers Day, a birthday, an end of Primary school, a school trip to Italy and an EU referendum.   Its been a strange week of celebration and some elements of stepping into the unknown.  

Late on Thursday night I sat in my Italian hotel room and managed to find the English Sky news who were predicting an exit poll victory for the Remain campaign.   As I shut off the TV and pondered the results that would come in through the night, I did not expect the political earthquake that was about to happen. 

As I flicked on the TV just before 7am the next morning I really could not believe what I heard.  The UK had voted to Leave the EU.   I could not believe it  - how could this have happened?  How could so many people have been duped by the less than convincing arguments from Johnston, Gove and Farage.    How could people trust what they were saying and trust a real sense of the unknown?   How could people go for the devil they did not know rather than the one that they did?   The pound was falling, jobs were moving, migration and borders were up in the air.   All within the space of a few hours.   

As a geographer my reflections come from the great sense of interconnectedness that we all now have.  Gone are the days when Britain can maintain a ‘Little England’ island mentality.   So much then for Globalisation.   So much then for integrated trading markets.   I do wonder if many of the Leave voters realize how much of our industry and trade is actually ‘owned’ by others across the world.   Gone are the days when Britannia rules the waves.   Gone are the days when British industry and commerce hold the rest of the world to ransome.  The EU shrugged their shoulders in some sort of Gallic gesture of non-commital.  ‘Well, off you go then’.  

Our Italian hotel manager spoke to me at Breakfast and asked if I was happy.   I wasn’t.  He told me I should be.  He said that Italy would be next.   What had Europe done for him?  It was time to take back control and stop the immigrants getting on boats.   I told him I liked being a European.  I liked being able to travel where I wanted.  I liked the idea of being connected to others.   He just gestured at me in that way that Italians do when they think you are talking nonsense (though he did not like it when I cheered when the Republic of Ireland beat Italy the night before). 

The political fallout continues – from #Brexit we had #Camexit and an attempt for #Jexit and suddenly even the most ardent Leavers are calming the language and back-pedalling on how much money will actually be flowing to make our NHS great again.  Amazing how many of these politicians are suddenly looking at their shoes and clearing their throats and starting sentences with the words ‘Well actually, you know I did not really say that  . . . . what I meant was  . . . .’ 

And so, we start the next week only knowing two things.  Politicians are liars and looking backwards to a world that was better 7 days ago is our new future.  

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Reflections from the Staff Development Day 12th Feb 2016

We have a special responsibility to the children in our care to make sure that we give them every possible opportunity.   We want to support them in every way that we can. 

We want to be involved in a forward-thinking school where the needs of our young learners are the most important.  This is is what makes our 2020 vision – our 5 year plan for the future. 

We want Cullybackey College to be an inspirational place.  We want people talking about what we are doing here.  We want to see our learners being stimulated and challenged to be the best that they can be. 

As teachers, we need to spend time developing our practice.  We need to be working on how we can become better teachers.   We should be thinking about how we prepare and provide AMAZING learning experiences so that we can become EXPERT teachers. 

Shuan Allison and Andy Tharby have identified some of the key aspects of what makes Expert teaching.

We can also put this into a ‘Growth Mindset’ context – Carolw Dweck teamed up with RSA to create a powerful animation about ‘How to help every child fulfil their potential’. 

This got me thinking about the different skills that we already have as teachers in the classroom – we create for ourselves a type of Teacher toolkit – but what are the different activities/ games/ tricks that we keep in there to use with learners to push them further and stimulate them?   How can we shake up what and how we do teaching?

The Cullybackey Learning Cycle

The main difficulty in developing a new Learning and Teaching policy for a school is to make sure that this is a useable document and not just something that gets dusty in a drawer.  We wanted to develop a tool that would infect all of our classroom practice.   We wanted something that would be common to us all, using language that we would be able to transfer from one subject to the next, from one classroom to the next.  

Much of the Learning and teaching policy has already been in the school for 10 years.   We took it and have tweaked it a bit to fit with where we wanted to go.  For example, in the past there has been a very important focus on independent learning.  

As professional teachers there is an expectation that we will plan and use agreed schemes of work;  that we would plan lesson carefully and that we would use daily planners and lesson plans to clearly sign post what we are trying to deliver. 

There are lots of different barriers to learning and issues with timetabling – whether you have one period, a double, a triple or six in a row!   Maybe your subject lends itself to 3 periods = 1 lesson or maybe you find that different phases add complications for your planning eg the differences between a Y8 lesson and a Y14 lesson.  

We are convinced that organized lesson planning leads to very good lessons where students will be engaged and ready to learn.   We want to see this tool embedded into departments over the next 5 years so that by 2020 – this is common and organic in all lessons and so that we don’t need to think about it!  

We will use this format to help plan our lessons – we are already building on good practice in school, I have already seen different departments using variations of this tool  - but we are now making sure that we develop our lesson planning in a consistent manner.

The key attribute in a CLC lesson should be diversity  - we need to understand that a lesson should not be just ONE activity but it should be a number of interconnected opportunities for students to learn. 

T Manson
Feb 2016