Sunday, 28 December 2014

Nurture 14/15

I have thought about this and there is no way I can describe my year in only 5 things without skirting over a lot of things. So I will do 14 and cut down my aims for next year to 5. 

It always seems that I do a lot, but this is because I say 'yes' to as much as possible. 

14 from 2014. 

1. Getting Married. 
We got married on the 30th August. It was quite a surprise when Richard agreed to tie the knot back in January. We have been together since January 2006. It was a lovely day and a fantastic experience to be able to publicly acknowledge our love, which we are not that good at doing. In October we had a blessing in Northumberland followed by a meal in the village hall, that was a really nice occasion with all the people I knew when I was little.

2. Exam Results
I suppose any secondary teacher's year is made (or rocked) by the results students get in the summer. More so when you are a head of department and feel responsible for them all. The GCSE results we got were spectacular. Much higher than I expected. I put this down to the hard work and determined revision of our students. There is talk of 'mastery' in the education world, but my students do aim to achieve it and often strop at my when they don’t understand something. Nothing less is failure to them. It is fantastic, but demanding. A-level results were not as exciting. All the Year 13 students got what they needed to get into university, but I was hoping for two A* grades and there is still work to do with Year 12. I have spoken openly to many people about As results and many have experienced a level of disappointment and feel there has been an impact of the loss of the January examinations. However, terminal examinations made no difference to Year 10, they probably helped improve them!

3. Commonwealth Games, Sport and Glasgow.
We often watch cycling and went to see the UK national road race championships as they weren’t too far away this year. We also went to see the last stage of the Tour of Britain in London, as the stage that came to Bristol finished to early in the afternoon to see it live after work. The Commonwealth Games were a great experience, we saw weightlifting, boxing (I have never see live boxing before), hockey, team triathlon and the marathon. It was a great few days, and we were able to catch a lot of it on TV when we weren’t watching it live. We also really loved Glasgow and had a one day visit during October half term. I really wanted to go back and see the world championship gymnastics next October, but it sold out before I could afford it. All of this sort of makes up for not being able to get to the start of the Tour de France (but not really). We did catch quite a bit of the world cup on the TV, and I loved the winter Olympics and Paralympics.

4. ICT - 1
I really missed the laptop that broke on me in the summer of 2013, and I bought myself a macbook air in January. I wanted to add this to the list because buying a laptop was one of my nurture13/14 aims for 2014. In June I found it necessary to replace my original iPad and I know have an iPad mini on contract when the school asked the girls to each bring an iPad. It continues to be a bug bear of mine that ICT is so vital now to my work, yet it isn’t something acknowledged by schools or government. At school the ICT is not suitable to someone who works in many different locations. I use my laptop all the time, but have to log on to the school server to print and use the MIS as it is internet explorer only. 

5. ICT - 2
In the summer I was really excited by the prospect of the 1-2-1 iPad scheme at school. It seemed extremely timely as I was invited to an event in Bristol about creating video and helping students to create video. It was a light bulb moment and has impacted my practice during the past term. I really feel that I am making massive strides in being able to use the iPads to help learning. Apps such as explain everything, nearpod, iDoceo, quizlet, socrative, keynote, dropbox, evernote, iDraw and iMovie have been extremely useful. The girls at school recognise me as having a strong grasp of ICT and how to use it, which probably means I am above average. Since the summer I have had a good think about what a 1-2-1 iPad scheme really means, and I hope to help guide the school. I have thank my use of twitter and those who connect to share their vast knowledge who have given me the expertise and confidence to embrace the 1-2-1 iPad scheme. 

6. ASE
I continue to be involved in the ASE, and started my final year as an assembly member this September. I am incredibly proud of the conference we put on in November as a region. The most important thing is that our new CEO seems to have a good handle on ASE finances and where ASE fits in the big scheme of things. Hopefully all of this will mean that ASE can do more to support science teachers and science teaching in the UK and further afield. It is interesting that strong subject knowledge has come out as being very important in the effectiveness in teaching. I think this makes part of the case for the presence of subject associations. I wish I had more time to devote to ASE projects.

7. Curriculum Change 
Deciding what to do about the key stage 3 curriculum changes was a big part of my 2014. We are following OUP’s activate scheme and so far we are really pleased with it. I am able to follow it without that much alteration, which means the most to me. If I spend money on a scheme of work I expect it to save the same amount of time. I am really excited though by the online aspect of the activate scheme, once the fibre optic broadband is installed at school it should be much easier for the students to use and we can really get to grips with assessment.

8. Trips
This year I took the majority of the school to the Big Bang Fair. I took ten Year 11 students to Krispie Kreme Donut Factory. I took Year 7 to the Super-league Netball. It is so time consuming to organise trips, even those that are in the evening, however I am planning to repeat the Krispie Kreme and Netball trips in 2015. The Big Bang Fair I will do again, but probably not until 2016 or 2017 depending on the location. These were all in an attempt to get STEM on a stronger footing within the school, I have more to do on this in 2015. 

9. Conferences/Events/Festivals
My year always starts with the ASE conference, which as always was fun and informative as ever. It was extremely useful starting point on my work on the KS3 curriculum changes. I also went to Pedagoo South West, Research Ed West MidlandsResearchEd, the Festival of Education the tweet up at York University in the summer and an event on creating and using video by Teachit. I have hear Jon Butterworth, Alice Roberts (twice) and Ian Stewart all speak. I also helped to organise our own ASE regional event at Bath Spa University in November. For the second year we went to the Cheltenham Science Festival and had another great day and we went to the cycle show at the NEC. 

10. My Kindle
This time last year I wrote that I had read 31 books on my kindle, this year I have 76, so I have read a lot more books. Although probably not more words as last year I read the ‘song of ice and fire’ books and this year I haven’t read anything as nearly as long. Although next year I think I will read the “wheel of time’ series. I LOVE my kindle, it is an opportunity to escape from teaching and make my mind think of other things.  

11. Discoid Eczema  
I have really failed to look after my skin this year. At the start of the year my eczema meant that I could hardly bend my fingers. If I didn’t go home to reapply the emollients then I wanted to itch my legs all night and my back is often red, itchy mess as I can’t see it to know when it needs extra treatment. I don’t want to use the steroids all the time, but at the moment it seems that I can’t avoid them. It has really been a big feature of my year as it has made my life so uncomfortable and it is such a pain that I can’t use soap of any kind.

12. Step-daughter
We continue to be delighted with the progress of Richard’s daughter. She started Year 10 this year and seems to be thriving. She informs us that she had the joint best report in the whole of her year, (with her two friends). At the moment she wants to go to Cambridge to study Linguistics. Although she is considering St Andrews. I bought her a book of short essays on the subject of linguistics, which she read in a week and it is being passed around her friends apparently. We are so relived that she is interested in things and making her own mind up about everything including her social life (a Eurovision party where she designed a menu based on foods from around Europe).

13. Last years resolutions
Err, not so good. The house still remains undecorated, my hair has an increasing number of grey streaks and I am not yet 9st 7lbs. I didn’t go the arboretum enough and I can’t describe myself as organised. Although I did get a laptop, Year 13 did well, went on the trips and we enjoyed the commonwealth games. 

14. Being Opinionated
My blogs on the Royal Society Vision and on the new arrangements for the assessment of practical work have got me noticed. A blog post on the financial commitment a teacher makes also got retweeted by the Guardian and viewed many times. I have been interviewed over the telephone for various things too. I do find myself quite negative and miserable, though. Although being asked to present to the governors at the end of the summer term was a great opportunity to be positive about all the things that we did as a department. I got a hug from the deputy head, so I must have been good. 
It is always a surprise when people want to hear what I have got to say, I hope that I represent science education in someway as I anticipate others face the same struggles. Although mainly I just want to represent myself. 

Aims for 2015

1. Writing with purpose
My blog needs more attention and direction. I would like it to show what I feel and my vision and I don’t believe that it does. I have strong feelings about things and I want to be able to describe them in a rational way. 

2. At home
We only have one plan for the this year - getting Richard qualified and ready for Paris-Brest-Paris in the summer. It really is the culmination of ten years of cycling so that he is ready for this challenge. My main hope is that some of his colleagues recognise the achievement, it will mean so much to him. I doubt it though. We did say that we would take Richard’s daughter to Oxford to see the city and to go to the Imperial War Museum as we haven’t been for a while. When Richard is out cycling I want to work on things around the house and get over my fear of gardening. 

3. Bringing a conference/an event to Westonbirt
The head has seen me help organise activities outside of school and has invited me to replicate this in school. We certainly have the space. I need to think about this in order to bring together something valuable. It is a real compliment to be trusted with this. 

4. More curriculum change
The next task at school is to embed the changes to KS3 and do more to look forward to the changes at KS5. I think that the department will need some help to develop the idea of a lab book as will the students. The changes at GCSE concern me greatly, I don’t think that the specifications will be ready towards the end of 2015, again giving teachers and publishers less and less time to prepare a good scheme of work. 

5. What is next?
I love my school and working there. But I also feel the pull of a new challenge. I don’t know what that is yet and I fully expect to see myself working at Westonbirt in a year’s time, partly because I want to see through the curriculum changes and develop my use of 1-2-1 devices in the classroom and partly because it is a fabulous school and I believe in what we do. But I need to prepare myself for what is next. Would I get an assistant head position from where I am? Do I want one or do I want to stay more closely tied to science education? Would being an assistant head affect that? Am I good enough? Do I want to stay as a teacher?
But I also think that to look to the future I also need to consolidate. Think about what we/I/the department do really well and make the most of those things. Ensure they stand out as excellent and don't get lost amongst all the change. 


  1. Interesting to read this, Helen, and I'd really like to meet you face to face in 2015 if possible!

    One of the things you could consider is the GSA's 'Moving from Middle Leadership to Senior Leadership' if we run it again. It might help you clarify your thinking about the future?

    I hope 2015 is a positive year for you, at home and at school.

    1. Thanks Jill, I wish you all the best too.

      I would definitely like to meet you too. I will look out for the course and discuss it with Natasha and Diane. My main dilemma is that moving to senior management might dilute my science work.

  2. It will, I'm afraid. I taught throughout my career (including as a head) and, certainly when I was a deputy head, I had a lot of exam teaching BUT the focus is different. You still do your best by your classes, but it isn't the only thing you're concentrating on as a senior leader. You're trying to work through ALL staff (teaching and support) to reach more pupils in all areas, not just your curricular area. When I taught as a head it was about getting to know individual pupils, and them getting to know me - it wasn't primarily about English (my subject) any more.

    Happy to talk this through with you when we meet.

    Best wishes to Diane. I don't think I've actually met Natasha yet, though hope to do one day!