Saturday, 25 January 2014

What I want for my students from the science education I provide

Last Monday my Headteacher asked me to write a little bit about what we are doing in the department. I wrote a long list of the things we have done to engage students in lessons and homework and another long list of all the extra curricular things that we do. At the end I felt compelled to write my aims for the education of the students at my school and I thought that I would share it here. (The only editing I have done is to remove the name of the school. )

The recent science subject ofsted report was called ‘maintaining curiosity’, this absolutely my aim for the science department I lead. I want students to ask questions about science and scientific ideas. I want them to wonder about how the world works. I also want them to have an idea about how science works, how scientists collaborate more and share ideas in an effort to come to the best conclusion possible about the area they are investigating. I teach about the hole in the ozone layer – a fairly recent discovery – and how scientists checked their own work and then other scientists checked their work to be certain and then those discoveries lead to a global change in how we behave. I find it incredible that science can have so much influence, especially when in other areas like global warming humans chose to ignore it, and I hope this comes across to the girls. I want my students to be as aware of the failures and politics around science and not just regard it as a body of facts. But also I want them to see science as a human endeavour that has spanned centuries building on the knowledge and ideas that have gone before and that it is never fixed, and one day they could be one of the people who takes science in a new direction.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Dealing with the awkward teacher

John Beighton once told me that he'd never met a teach who wanted to ruin a student's education. It is something I remember as a middle manager and leader.

At your senior management interview you were probably asked how you would deal with an awkward member of staff, and due to advice from colleagues, feedback from failed interviews and reading a few choice management books you know the answer.

So, why is the awkward person you were asked about still awkward? Possibly even more so.

Have you tried to listen?
Have you showed compassion?
Have you tried to empower?
Have you laid down the law? And I mean stood your ground when you feel you are right.
Have you included this person?
Do you understand the source of their frustrations and awkwardness?
Have you tired to model for them why you think they are wrong?
Have you wondered why they aren't isolated in their thinking and are able to take other staff with them in their dissent?
Have you praised that person personally? Have you praised that person publicly? Have you praised that person at all?
Have you found anything good in what they do?
Have you listened to them?
Have you shown any empathy to them at all?

Have you really done all the strategies you talked about in your interview and read about in your books? Or instead you have ignored that person, gone around them, been frustrated that they can undermine you so easily, so have resorted to a level of bullying?

Consider, that person is probably lacking in confidence, frustrated and consider that this person probably cares passionately about their school and their students. Otherwise, why fight you?

Maybe, just maybe, your awkward character is one of the best teachers to walk into a classroom. Maybe, just maybe, your management and the management of your predecessor has destroyed that person's confidence. Maybe, just maybe, including that person by listening to them, praising them and recognising their strengths and expertise, and then involving them fully in a project will start to bring that person around. And maybe, just maybe, after some time that person will be a real asset to your school.

Or maybe you should just continue to waste your time and energy being frustrated with them.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 6 January 2014

How did you start the term?

Support: helping a colleague because you care how they are coping.
Support: something you are threatened with when things aren't going well?

It is (usually) good to hear about good practice in your teaching and hear about an initiative you might want to incorporate into your teaching. However, the pressure on teachers is huge at the moment. We can't work hard enough, we can always do more.

All of this is really important because ofsted will put you in special measures or in our case we won't be able to attract new students.

Focusing on targets, exam grades, attracting students etc can seem like a treadmill you can't get off and every step takes more effort than the last one. I know that there is a lot of people feeling pressure in schools at the moment.

How did we start the term? A focus on the strategic plan and some ludicrous suggestions about how we will track students without using levels?

We started with the school vicar asking us to consider each other and not to be afraid to show our vulnerabilities. This is just not something I would ever expect to hear in the previous schools I have worked at. As with every body of staff there are teachers facing issues bigger than being three weeks behind with their marking. To start the year with a focus on each other and supporting each other is a real comfort to me and my colleagues. Having worked at schools where competition between staff is encouraged and requiring support is a bad thing the presence of the vicar is very welcome.

Of course, the vicar isn't necessary for this to happen, a school that encourages support and honesty between staff doesn't have to be religious. Perhaps it is the presence of the outside/non-teacher that helps. Yes, she sees her job as trying to evangelise us so that we can gain eternal life through belief in Jesus. ("I am the way..." etc was quoted today). Yet, compassion and consideration for others is also something she brings as part of her job.

As someone who is not religious I am not sure I would go to the vicar directly for support and comfort, but it is nice to know someone has our welfare as her priority.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad