2011 has been a good year. Starting the blog has been life changing and after reading A Year in the Life of an English Teacher I’ve decided to take up the challenge and provide you with a smattering of what’s been happening for me over the year. Also, it provides a useful shop window to garner votes in the Best New Blog category of the Edublog Awards. If at any point whilst reading this you are overcome with a powerful urge to vote for me, just click the link on the right.
Even though I’ve only been blogging since July (which leaves the first six months of the year a blank, silent void) I still managed to rack up 72 posts.That feels like a lot. I’ve had an awful lot to say (some of it has even been coherent and worth saying) and and now, heading into the final week of school, seems like a pretty good time to reflect on my favourite posts. These are my favourites, not yours so if you didn’t happen to like ’em: tough.
The thought the thought of organising this into some sort of hierarchy has the anal-retentive in me salivating, the thinking involved has made my head hurt. In order to save myself a lot of pointless grief I’m going to wheel out my selection in boring old chronological order. Here goes:
My first post. More or less. This sums up my journey as teacher over the past few years and the struggle to reinvent myself as more thoughtful, more reflective and more focussed on students’ learning. Also, it provides a glimpse into the reasoning behind my Twitter moniker.
Looking back, I really hit my stride with this one. Having just read Phil Beadle’s Dancing About Architecture the night before and having had very little sleep, I was full to bursting with vim and vinegar. I still feel excited about this sort of teaching and, even though it’s hard to justify in terms of students making visible progress, they had a hell of a lot of fun.
This is a topic that’s bothered me for some time. We would never (I hope) approach student assessments in the way we approach teacher assessment: either well done that’s outstanding; or see me, that’s inadequate. Since writing this post and talking about it to others I find I’m not alone. My school is in the process of launching a coaching culture which should make a real difference in helping teachers focus on improving the parts of their practice they want to improve without any fear of criticism or reprisal. This can only be a good thing.
Quite a personal one this. I reflect back on the process of going for promotion last academic year. Needless to say, it didn’t happen but I learnt a heck of a lot and am definitely much clearer about what I do and don’t want.
Taking part in #UkEdChat on Twitter every week on Thursdays between 8-9pm has had a big impact on my professional development this year. I can’t remember what the topic of discussion was about now but I, ahem, hijacked it by getting into what has been referred to as ‘the Rows Row’ with Andrew Hall. Sometime later I was interviewed by a TES journalist about my views on classroom seating and found myself quoted out of context and made to look slightly foolish in the TES Pro magazine. Ah, well. We live and learn.
Without doubt, reading Carol Dweck’s book Mindset has made a massive difference to my approach to teaching. This post was an attempt to communicate why I think fostering a growth mindset in our students is so crucial.
Two post is one here, which is a bit of a cheat. Kenny Pieper is one of the best people I’ve connected with since becoming a convert to Twitter. He wrote about how he had applied Sugaga Mitra’s amazing research on self directed learning in his lessons and I was riveted. I had to try it. Kenny very kindly gave me permission to repost his article and I followed it up the next day with my own findings. I’m still getting to grips with the style of teaching but I am absolutely convinced that it’s the right direction to be travelling in.
This post has generated more discussion and site traffic than anything else I’ve written. I’m still getting 5-10 hist a week and there was even a #UkEdChat devoted to it. I have to confess that I’m mainly repackaging Phil Beadle’s points from his masterful, and very funny, How To Teach. It seems I’m not alone in finding successful differentiation a real bugbear,
9. Easy vs hard
This is the post I feel most strongly about. I’m absolutely entrenched in the view that hard work can accomplish almost anything and am frustrated beyond reason that hard work is viewed as something to almost be ashamed of. Communicating this message to my students is starting to make a dent in their stolid belief that trying hard is for losers.
The week I spent experimenting with different ways to introduce learning objectives was exhausting. I wrote this post of the beginning of the week when I was still really excited about all the amazing new things I was going to try. By the end of the week I remember how shattered I felt at all the thinking I’d had to do. It was such a useful thing to do though and it’s still resonating in my lessons months later.
11. But is it art?
This was the post I enjoyed writing most. I’ve read some superb education books this year which have really added to my repertoire of new skills and knowledge. I loved finding out and experimenting with SOLO taxonomy and Daniel Wilingham’s ideas on knowledge as well as connecting more closely with Dylan Wiliam’s writings on formative assessment. But the book I’ve probably been inspired by the most (with the possible exception of Dancing About Architecture) is Seth Godin’s Linchpin. It is well worth a read.
Well, that’s it. There are many other posts I enjoyed writing and some which you seemed to have enjoyed reading. I wrote a lot about assessment, none of which makes it into my top 11 and had two posts picked up by the Guardian Teacher Network which was kind of a big deal.
Thank you very much for all the feedback whether it’s been supportive or critical. I leant so much from arguing with my adversaries that I’ve even begun to think of them as friends.