Monthly Archives: September 2010

Making the ordinary extra-ordinary

If you chose a career in teaching, it’s important to remember that it is not a 9-5 job. It’s a vocation, a calling if you like. It’s not a job you can switch off as you walk out the door.

What teaching is though, is a chance to enthuse and motivate learners, to give them a sense of wonder, to make the ordinary, extra-ordinary. To make a difference in a world of difference. Teaching is about shaping tomorrow’s world, the fires we light today will burn long into the future.

If you want an easy life free from stress, worry and long hours teaching may not be for you. But if you like a challenge, being creative and innovative in your work. If you strive to inspire, regardless of praise and gratitude, if you have a passion to better the lives of others and give selflessly of yourself. If you can do all this in the uncertain times ahead, you’re made of the stuff the profession needs.

No doubt we all started our journey in a similar vein. Damian Hughes in his book ‘Liquid Thinking’ urges us to look back at our CVs and job applications regularly and to be that person more of the time. To be our ideal self, the person we described when we described ourselves at our best. That’s our challenge everyday.


How do you tweet?

A recent conversation with an inquisitive friend about twitter prompted the following Q&A script. It’s pretty much our chat but I thought it worth sharing to see if others have had the same!
1. So what is twitter?
It’s micro blogging. You can speak to people all over the world and join conversations with fellow educators, or anyone for that matter. But you can only use 140 characters.
2. Isn’t that a bit tricky?
Not really, once you get into it. If you want to say more you can always start your own blog. You can then post your link in twitter so people can read more.
3. So who do you tweet with?
Well, you can build up a Personal Learning Network quite easily. I started following educators who posted interesting stuff and then checked out who they were following and who was following them. You can quickly build up a PLN of likeminded thinkers.
4. So what do you talk about?
Anything and everything! There’s always a conversation going on about some educational matter that you have an opinion on or experience of. It really builds up your understanding. Not only nationally but globally. Then there’s hangtags.
5. There’s what? What are hashtags?
Well, if you see a hashtag and you click on it you can follow that conversation thread. For example on a Tuesday night it’s #edchat. You can follow and join in that conversation every week by simply clicking the hashtag. Every week there’s a different question posed and you can contribute by using the hashtag before you tweet. It’s very straightforward. Thursday night there’s a #edchatuk too.
6. So, how often do you tweet?
I have to admit I am on twitter most days, 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. There are certain times I try and go on. Tuesdays and Thursdays obviously. Then there’s Follow Friday.
7. What?
Every Friday you’ll see people recommend people to follow using the #ff hashtag. It means they’re saying interesting stuff, or maybe the been really helpful to someone, shared some helpful advice or written a great blogpost. It’s another great chance to build up your PLN.
8. Right. So if I want to get started?
Just google twitter and you’re away! There are lots of twitter clients like tweetdeck and echofon but you can explore all of them and see which you prefer. You can tweet from your phone as well. Either via text or over the net.
Sound good. So is it a bit like Facebook then?
Err, yeah sort of!!

An ABC for learning

Three key qualities for successful learners are attitude, belief and curiosity. In the past there was little cognizance given to such ‘unseen’ factors but it is hard to look at learning today without considering these three determinants.

In the past very little regard was given to the attitude and state of mind of learners. They came to school, they either learnt or they didn’t. If they did they were clever, if they didn’t they weren’t. Today we have greater lines of communication, if a child has witnessed scenes of domestic violence in the night we know, if they are being exposed to extreme lifestyles, neglected or abused a multi agency approach should help keep school in the loop. We are far more informed today than ever before and this can help us support children in meeting their needs and fostering the right attitude. We are able to respond to extenuating circumstances and ensure the attitude is right before learning begins.

‘Let’s play house. You be social services knocking on the door and I’ll hide behind the sofa!’

The episode above illustrates how different children’s life experiences can be before they begin school. Those who have positive, supportive environments around them are encouraged to talk, inquire, participate and learn. When they begin school they have a belief, in themselves and their ability. They are confident and engage well in their learning. They seem to settle easier into school life. Those who have had little interaction or stimulation at home can have difficultly as they begin school. They can find routines and procedures difficult and can find it harder to develop a ‘learning attitude’.

Sir John Jones, and Damian Hughes in his book ‘Liquid Thinking’ both refer to studies carried out with children that recognise the profound impact positive comments can have on their future learning. Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers‘ reiterates the importance of parental support. Belief and self esteem are hugely important to learners and a supportive family background that has a respect for learning can give them the confidence they need to grow. It also lets them know that education and learning are important and worthwhile.

Both attitude and belief are key qualities of successful learners but curiosity is crucial. It gives you the desire to want to know, to learn, to understand and to master. Successful learners are inquisitive and curious by nature. In his book ‘The World is FlatThomas Friedman claims that passion and curiosity are greater than intelligence, he presents the formula CQ+PQ>IQ to illustrate his belief that someone passionate, with a curiosity to discover is a more desirable learner than one with a high IQ. What curiosity certainly does is foster self motivated, independent learners. In today’s world, where knowledge is easily accessed, and learning often a passive experience, the curious learner will be driven to explore and to investigate, to make learning an active process.   Attitude, belief and curiosity – an ABC for learners in the 21st century.

The right return

Term began on Wednesday with the first of three Inset days.   We decided at the end of last term that we would get together on the first day back and share our favourite mental maths activities.  I like this sort of session at the beginning of the year, it’s a great way of involving everyone after the long break, it isn’t too heavy and it’s a lot of fun with plenty of practical emphasis.

This year we welcomed several new members of staff and the sharing good practice session is a nice way for them to get involved with the team (their mental maths example activities were also the best prepared by the way!)   Following introductions and welcomes we got ourselves into a large circle  and each person shared/modelled an activity that they like to use in class, that excites and motivates the children.

Some great examples were shared and we all had a lot of fun making string shapes, playing quick draw maths, loop cards and finger sums, amongst others (when they’re all written up I’ll post them here.)   This year we are introducing an additional short daily maths session to play these games so we’re going to have a booklet with loads of examples in as a resource we can add to throughout the year.

The first day back can be a tricky one, there’s always so much to do, so many things that need sorting out before the children come back and so many things you thought you had covered only to find they need more attention!   Yesterday got us all back into the swing of things though, it gave us all a chance to get straight back into looking at learning and enabled everyone to contribute and feel involved.   Long may the mood continue!