Leading anything takes courage because of the many varied situations it puts you in. You will be dealing with wider issues than before, with a likely wider impact too; that's the whole point of leadership (in my opinion), broadening your impact. You'll be a mediator, a presenter, a point of safety, a critical friend; all of which involve complex emotions. Leaders must take calculated risks, with as much considered as possible. Bravery and innovation are paramount to promoting positive change.
I find emotional intelligence is a dying language these days. In a world fuelled by self-centred excuses stemming from too much enjoyment of playing the victim, often we forget that relationships in life are interlinked and that there are other feelings involved. Part of being visible (above) is to gather the sensitive data to find the most empathetic way to move forward. Having said that, part of being brave is understanding that there will be barriers, but it's the relationship built over time that will help you overcome them. Have a human side that ultimately makes the deciding call, but also calls out the snowflakes when needs be.
These lessons further interlink when you consider that absolute clarity - formed from how much you see and engage with - coupled with bravery and an understanding of likely human reactions, all combine to help create a route towards your vision. Knowing what you have, and knowing where you want to go are 2 completely different entities, but one very much relies on the other. Create a plan that gets you moving, but be realistic about the time scale and patience required. Your own communication skills are tested here. Don't forget to put yourself in other people's shoes, consider your own reaction to what you're asking for. Don't turn it into payback for what you may have gone through.
The journey towards, on onwards, to leadership can be tricky. You'll face undesirable reactions, misplaced fear and simple playground jealousy. Work hard to keep a level head and find strategies to deal with all eventualities. As part of a comprehensive wellbeing-centred approach, seek out supportive friends and colleagues that you trust. You need honest feedback to move forwards, comments from the ground on things you implement or want carried out. Make good judgements, understanding your definition of good may differ. Be prepared to be wrong, be prepared to be argued with. Count on all the lessons you learn to support you in making the best progress for your school.
It's a careful mix of goal-setting, mindfulness, healthy living and holding yourself to account for the choices you make. Hal accurately describes your thought process as you talk yourself out of doing something great, with the simple conclusion of, 'why aren't you bothering?' Did you know that 95% of people settle for mediocrity? Would you like to be one of the 5% that goes above and beyond?
He sets out a simple acronym, S.A.V.E.R.S as a way of starting each day right, organised in a way that could last 6 minutes, or 60 minutes, depending on how busy you are!
I can't recommend this book enough. It really will motivate you to deliver your best self.
Know your strengths and weaknesses - and understand everyone has them!
When you first start out, and even as you continue, it's easy to believe that everyone is doing a much better job than you. Truthfully, there will be some things that people are more successful at than you and I, but there are also things that they struggle with. Get to grips with your strengths and weaknesses as your first step in building yourself.
Ask questions, but expect no concrete answers.
My entire career, I've maintained the very evidence-able fact that, with the thousands upon thousands of teachers that have existed, we still haven't found the 'best' way of doing this. This is a beyond clear indication that a mixture of approaches is paramount, and that the only way to tease out successful ideas is through discussion, yet there won't be a stand-out winner.
Trial and error will be your best friend, and your worst enemy.
You've spotted what you want to improve, and your colleague has suggested (and maybe even modelled) something different to try! However, much like Chinese Whispers, language often changes and instructions are open to interpretation. It should be common practice to test out theories with the reflective behaviour to analyse it afterwards. But the insecurity of failing often holds us back. Consider this, what if you quit too early on the most successful plan?
Give back - because you have a lot to offer.
As much as you should want to learn from others, put yourself in a position to teach as well. Imagine an ethos so open, that any person could go up to anyone else for advice or feedback. Take feedback with the action it deserves and make good use of it. Again, trial and error will let you know whether it was quality feedback or not!
Keep positive and trust your gut.
Negativity is infectious and by associating too often with a negative mindset, you can undo all of your hard work. Have a vision and stick to it - but understand the method of achieving it is malleable. Your immediate teaching idol may turn out to be someone different. Experience will shape how critical you become, the kinds of ideas you take on board and therefore decide what opportunities you might miss. Keep an open-mind when it comes to building your artillery. Everyone has something to offer.
January's #LearningFirst conference is but a distant glimmer in the past, although new dates have recently been added! Watch this space. Today's entry reveals the second part of my workshop. If you missed the first, you can catch up here.
Under a levels culture, the process of assessment often felt like it was forced upon you; everything geared up to an 'Assessment Week' where a set of numbers would be generated, pigeon-holing both you and your children. It connoted judgement, fear and malpractice. However, by putting learning first (within the new curriculum), of which assessment is very much a necessary part, you can genuinely do a better job.
Strangely, I considered asking the children what they already knew, before teaching them anything! By this, I don't mean a fluffy 'KWL' grid (or whatever they're called). I decided I would sit therm with a set of questions that I would have originally planned a series of lessons on, to see what would need more attention. I call it an 'Entry Quiz', and the findings are invaluable to me as a teacher:
Finally, to the lovely person who requested them after the workshop, I have compiled a collection of my Entry Quizzes, and you can download them below. I hope you find them as useful as I do!
Believe in Life After Levels!
Despite the new assessment regime being in action for a couple of years now (and the first round of 'the new SATs') many still struggle with the disappearance of beloved levels. In a strange way, they gave people a sense of safety. However, in order to put learning first, a life beyond levels needs to be embraced and taken full advantage of. Here's a rundown of my actions in a world where levels existed (some of this was the result of of me being an inexperienced teacher, but I strongly believe you will likely relate):
Simple. In a climate where we would be judged on an "average points score", if we pushed the uppers as far as they could go (moving further to the right on a grid with a similar design to below), their accelerated progress would make up for the lack of appropriate teaching the ones in the red still weren't making.
Genius! Although upon reflection, also an embarrassment. For those struggling to understand Life Without Levels, how about we swap images like above, for ones like this (for clarity, I haven't designed this because I think diagrams are a necessity. I'm hoping it could illustrate my ideals):
Within your year group, you focus on your designated programme of study.
You teach your programme of study to such a high standard that there is little way your learners can get it wrong.
As you teach, you spot those who find it difficult and you focus on them, while you supply those excelling within your standards with a variety of problem solving activities in which to apply the learning. Change the question, flip the approach, apply a real-life context. Constant revision.
Under no circumstances do you move them on to the next set of criteria, as this risks losing understanding for the sake of pace, leaving them insecure for the next teacher. It also means you're taking yourself away from the ones who need you the most.
Don't refer to it as 'holding them back' - grow up.
Assessment - you're looking for evidence to tell you, "To what degree are my learners able to..." and then you use this information to plan ahead, to delve deeper into the concept - which will bring me nicely onto the second point next time.
When I first committed to the #WeeklyBlogChallenge17, I was concerned about running out of inspiration. Yet, another week has gone by, and another series of thoughts have raced through my mind. As usual, @thatboycanteach was correct. I begin writing today, with an idea of what I want to say, but no idea how to say it.
We recently received our Staff Group photo, and my class also received theirs. Lining up in height order, some poor photographer attempting to position 31 small people (and myself), keeping all participants in order, until the first flash of the blinding bulb, soundtracked by the call of any word that uses the /ee/ sound, in the hope of a dazzling smile.
This time last year, I was recovering from an operation. I missed the photo. While I remember my class fondly, I'm irritated I don't have the picture, and I was saddened not to be part of the staff photo in my first year at a new school.
It sounds ridiculous, but I'm coming to believe that these images are more than just photos. When I look around my classroom, my staffroom or my school, I see more than people. They are becoming family. As much as we discuss our varied work lives with friends, it's only those inside the grounds that really understand. And for many, it's these people that we spend most of our time with!
We support each other, make each other laugh, be social and look after each other's well-being. The loss of one of our own, through whatever means, creates a lasting ripple-effect, thus signalling the strong connection we have as a group of beings, of all ages and all backgrounds. I will confidently say that it's this variety that makes our family so successful.
While I've always known I'm extremely lucky to work where I work, with the people I'm with, and the children and families I have, occurrences in recent history have further highlighted how fortunate I am.
A photo, a school-photo more specifically, is more than that.
It's a memory.
It's a list of faces that you'll recall.
It's a series of stories that will make you smile.
It's a group of people that have had an impact on you.
It's a reminder of those you loved, and some you may have lost, but will never forget.
It's a symbol of unity, strength and team work, moments of hardship and stress, culminating in a year of education or work that adds to the jigsaw of your life; a series of experiences that didn't make sense until the moment you needed them.
I imagined that I would eventually reply, having so proudly told people I'd been invited, but be told it was too late. It was the perfect get-out clause to all the people I'd told about it, concealing my cowardly fear. However, the team at @BeyondLevels had other ideas, and I am so grateful they did! That very same day, I received another email, signalling that someone was still considering me. It was a sign. Firstly, of my apparent need to grow and pair and give it a go, and secondly that I might have something of value to contribute.
I arrived to hear someone call my name - it was Dave, my minder for the day.
"I've been following your Twitter and reading your blog for ages. You've got some great stuff coming out!" I felt immediately calmer, everyone was so welcoming!
I walked into a room (where the biscuits were kept) to see that people had actually signed up to see me, and the list was growing!?! I can't describe how strange that feeling was. (I hope it was worth seeing!?!)
I listened to Doctors, Senior Leaders, well-travelled researchers and authors. People whose papers I'd read, or videos I'd watched. There was a strong sense of community in the room; strength in ownership.
1pm. Workshop time. People walked in. I'm proud of myself for not passing out instantly. I'm still shocked they were there. With a limit on each workshop, we were at full capacity.
Unsurprisingly, the workshop went by in a blur, but like all good nights out, it begins to come back to you the morning after.
Thank you so much to everyone at #LearningFirst for their kind words of encouragement and support. I want to have another go, just so I can right my wrongs:
To everyone I met, sat with, ate chocolate with...
To all the names on my sign-up sheet...
To the likes of Kerry Jordan-Daus (for the best hugs), Mary Myatt (whose voice I could listen to for hours), Binks Neate-Evans (whose presentation on learning from the Early Years was one of my highlights), Ruchi Sabharwal (one of most encouraging speakers I've ever heard), Lucy Rimmington (telling it like it is), Julie Lilly (for whooping at my name during the role call) and Dame Alison Peacock (who was the best first person to be greeted by as I walked in)...
Learning has no limits. And, slowly, I'm discovering that neither do I!
Thank you! Mr N. x
I must confess to my love of sticky notes. You know, the non-specific, unbranded, squared sheet of paper with an adhesive strip on the back. They're perfect for posting ideas and attaching them to the wall. For a couple of years, not consecutively, I would write down my ambitions for the coming 12 months, and have them displayed in my bedroom. Interestingly, the years I didn't do this were far less successful, just generally.
Now I have this platform. So here we go:
1. #WeeklyBlogChallenge17 - I am aiming to post one blog every weekend in 2017. This is likely my biggest target for the year, and I have a few titles and creative ideas in mind. However, I worry about my commitment. Is it possible to run out of words? Fortunately, there's a glorious network of aid out there! Friends, family, colleagues and pupils, who have been there since the very beginning of teachmrn.com, have been so generous in their support and constructive feedback, leading to the exciting directions this could go in. I'm also proud to be part of a growing network of teaching-types on Twitter and Instagram. If you're ever questioning this profession, head there; it's astounding.
2. Share More - As part of my target above, I want to offer more to my audience. I quite enjoy making and designing solutions to problems and, I imagine, with both you and I in the same field, you might find similar issues. So it would be silly of me not to share my solutions (because I'm always using yours!). At the request of some lovely Twitter followers, I am already preparing to post examples of my planning, and I also want to start sharing opportunities for our school communities to collaborate. We can start with these:
3. Take More Risks - The trouble with the 2 targets above, is that you leave yourself open to a lot of criticism, but in a game of self-improvement, that's a risk worth taking. Many of my resources, in various media, have taken hours to create, so a bad response would be crushing. But the idea that it helps even just one person is far more valuable. I'd like to create a new app this year. I still can't get over each sale of Booked, especially from around the world, and I'm so grateful for the feedback. I'm also presenting a workshop at #LearningFirst later this month. Again, I think I'll learn a lot more from the experience, than anyone sat there will learn from me! (Get the apologies in early!)
4. The Rest - In a time where health and well-being are much publicised, I am looking for more instances to travel, meet people and broaden my horizons with regards to professional opporunities and personal experiences. I am in a lucky position where a lot of my personal worth comes from my professional life, becaused I enjoy what I do. Although, in many ways, that's probably not the healthiest way to be. If anything, I'd like to find a way to encourage others, regardless of what they do, to show passion, spread positivity and be more nuturing to the talents of others, like I have found since the launch of this site.
You have a lot to offer, and don't you forget it.
What are your targets for this year? And how will you go about achieving them?
2017 absolutely terrifies me, but in the best possible way.
That was a LONG sticky note!