From Chaos to Order

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During the past two weeks I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how we’ve used OneNote in school.

The precursor to that is because I’ve been talking about that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it as well.

Moving our planning across was a leap of faith, and the truth is because I didn’t know anyone who’d done it before it could easily have been unworkable.

And what do I think?

Firstly, how odd to have become a person who talks about how to do planning. It has always been one of the weaker points in my armoury. I like thinking up ideas for lessons, I love teaching, I don’t mind marking but the putting it down on paper was probably my weakest point.

I said it in my previous post, but the ease of use combined with integration and collaboration are the perfect combination.

No more bulging files, unfiled bits of paper and missing notes.

Instead I have neat tabs and ordered pages.

I can search through them at the click of a button – it even searches through pdf documents.

Will I go back to a paper file.

No thank you




Forcing Change

Change can be hard.

People like to do things in the way they are familiar and comfortable with.

Innovation can be scary.

This term I implemented a change in the way we plan.
Out went the lever arch files, the printed sheets and the post-it notes. Goodbye to the memory sticks and drop boxes, files spread out in a range of destinations.
In came OneNote.

I wasn’t completely heartless, I built the Notebooks and populated them with everything needed from overviews to curriculum documents.

Without wishing to boast they were a thing of beauty! In my eyes anyway

And then I rolled them out.

My aims were ease of use, accessibility and transparency – all NoteBooks are shared with all teaching staff.

They can see everyones’ and comment on them. As the person who collects in and comments on planning I was very aware that while I always offered mine for scrutiny no one ever looked at it.

This week I asked for feedback and so far it has been overwhelmingly positive.

It has had a hugely positive impact, particularly as I share a classroom (and thus planning) with another teacher. I can quickly and easily access her planning as well as sharing classroom administration task

OneNote has helped me immensely to organise my planning, teaching and daily assessment. I no longer have to worry about missing pieces of paper in my planning file and being able to view other staff’s planning has boosted my confidence. It is also proving to be an effective way of working collaboratively with other staff, being able to share ideas, documents and other information quickly and easily. Having the app on the iPad also means I can add notes instantly to my planning before I forget. 

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. As always there are technical problems but we’re ironing them out bit by bit.
Some staff have found the transition fairly easy, others are still struggling with some of the features of OneNote.

On a personal level my planning has never been so up to date.

Up to date in two senses – I’ve planned ahead but also I am actually annotating and reviewing lessons.

My favourite comment so far was a conversation where a member of staff half jokingly said “you’ve taken away all my excuses – I can’t use I’ve left my file at home or the printer doesn’t work any more”


Looking Forward to Looking Backwards

It’s a funny time of year in school.

The final week looms – full to the gunnels. Trips, Leaver’s Assembly, Fund Raiser and when you teach Year Six all ‘the last times

But the truth is my eyes are already firmly fixed on next year.

During the past few weeks I’ve been working on our revised KS2 Curriculum.

We’re looking at taking a different approach to curriculum coverage. We need tor revise and adapt.
We need to take the new revised areas of learning and POS on board.
We need to be more pro-active in ensuring we have full curriculum coverage.

We need to get to grips with really focusing on a whole key stage approach to pupil profiles – after a staff meeting a teacher said “…it’s exciting, but scary”

And that’s good. Scary is good.

Scary should make you try harder. Be more aware. Think more carefully.

It’s easy to become complacent. To coast, perhaps even to coast badly, to slide downhill.

We need shaking up, to be held to task. We need to do things that scare us and make us uncomfortable.

But (finally getting to the point) we need to look back and reflect as well.

What does work? What doesn’t? What have I learnt this year? What didn’t do so well? What can I do more of/less of?

What are my aims for next year?

There are many, but as a starting point I’m looking to develop team work.

Better collaboration. More honest discussion. More sharing.

How will I do this?

Collaborative planning using OneNote is my first weapon of choice. That’s a bit scary – there’s no where to hide when everyone can access your planning all the time.
Key Stage meetings with clear defined agendas.
DIfficult conversations.

Will it work? Watch this space.

It’s alright to be wrong

If you want to create an environment where pupils can learn you have to give them the space and courage to make mistakes.

And it’s hard – no one wants to be the one who gives the wrong answer. 

All our natural inclinations tell us to keep quiet unless we are certain of the correct answer.

Who wants to be the person who spends ages on a task only to find the answers are all incorrect?

But if we are afraid of making mistakes, then we become afraid of trying something new, afraid of being creative and of thinking in a different way.

The pupils in our classes need to know that it’s alright to be wrong (I always add the proviso as long as you don’t keep repeating the same mistake again and again)

They need to be in an environment where it’s safe to be wrong. Where you aren’t defined by your last incorrect answer.

They need to be able to make mistakes, share them, laugh at them and learn from them.

As do we – if we can’t look back at our teaching in the same reflective manner then we’re not doing our jobs properly.  

Thermometer or Thermostat?

I’ve always liked the drains and radiators analogy.

The idea that some people drain us of energy and enthusiasm whilst others radiate such excitement and passion for what they are doing that it reaches out and infects you.

We’ve all worked with drains and radiators and we know how they make us feel.

I don’t think it’s as easy as X is a drain, Y is a radiator 

At different points in our career we are different things. My drain-ness or radiator-ness depends upon the subject in hand.

Give me an ICT challenge and I’ll radiate, a PE challenge, probably more drain.

I suppose the important thing is to be aware of

a) what we are doing to others

b) what effect others are having on us

But recently I’ve come across a leadership analogy that I think is equally interesting.

Thermometers and Thermostats

A thermometer reflects the temperature of the environment. It merely reacts to what’s happening around it.

If the temperature is hot, it tells you so. If it’s cold, the thermometer simply informs you of this fact.

All it does is repeat information. When things are going well that’s fine, we can all be thermometers and things are alright.

However, if things aren’t going well our thermometer isn’t much good in leading us onwards and upwards.

It’s a passive instrument in the sense it doesn’t influence, it doesn’t have intelligent, multipurpose functionality. It has one purpose and one purpose only.

A thermostat, on the other hand, regulates the environment.

It sets the desired temperature of the room and actively works to maintain it within a given range. If the temperature rises too high, the thermostat turns the heating down and cools the room down.

If the temperature falls too low, the thermostat turns the heating on in order to warm the room up. The thermostat is active in the sense it’s always monitoring the environment, and if the temperature gets too hot or cold, it decides what to do to correct the situation.

So – repeat or regulate?

If things are going badly in a work situation do you reflect that in your manner and attitude towards a task or do you try really hard to change it?

Thermometer leaders react to and reflect their environment. When things are going wrong tension mounts, tempers fray and blame is quickly assigned. Under stress they become irritable, tense, demanding, critical and angry.

Thermostat leaders work to define and create what could be, instead of  just reflecting what is. If things are going well they aim for better. If things aren’t great they aim to completely change things.

It sounds so easy doesn’t it …

Inside Out

Some days I like teaching.

Some days I love teaching

Some days I wonder why I am still a teacher

Some days I feel privileged to be a teacher

Friday was one of these privilege days.

#EmptyClassroomDay. It seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago but as the day loomed tempers frayed, sighs were heaved and it seemed like a burden.

All children outside, all day. Mixed age groups, lots of different activities.

Art, Nature Detectives, orienteering, sports, walking, maths trail, gardening.

My brief for the day was the Maths Trail and in a magnificently unprepared manner the evening before I trotted round the school grounds coming up with ideas.

Ideas that would be fine for 4-11 year olds.

Bucket of water for volume, timed activities on the adventure trail, measuring, problem solving, pattern seeking.

And the maths was fine – but it wasn’t the best bit.

The best bit was the cooperation. The Year 6 boys carefully coaxing 4 year olds along the adventure trail and praising them extravagantly when they got to the end.

Older pupils demonstrating how to measure, or count in sets or draw a map.

The loving care the pupils showed for each other.
Infinite patience, support and understanding when someone was finding something difficult.

A privilege indeed.

Ever Evolving

There has never been so much available, but how effective is our use of ICT in schools?

Recently I was asked a question by a colleague, an LSA working in Foundation Phase.

She’s young, keen, bright.

“How can I keep up when everything keeps changing? Mrs X knows so much and she makes it look easy”

That’s a big question.

When I started teaching I had a blackboard and a half share in a BBC computer. The biggest ICT difficulty I encountered was waiting for the tape to screech its way to the end and load the programme.

But today, in many schools there is a plethora of hardware and in many cases advances in technology have rapidly overtaken staffs’ ability to use it.

So what can we do to keep up?

Prepare Play
I think that we need to take time to play and explore. You have to be confident to use an ICT skill before you can teach it so you have to invest the time to explore and play.

If you’ve been on ICT CPD go home and use the software/app/skills that were covered.
Keep using them again and again until you are confident the knowledge and skills are firmly embedded.

Teach someone else how to use your new skills, write about it on your blog.

If you find something great or spot something that might work for someone else tell them – even better show them. Maybe blog about it.
If you’re in Wales use all the great features on Hwb+. Join a network, start a network, make playlists.

Recently on Twitter @ICTevangelist posted “Social Media as a teacher … the more you put into it the more you get out of it” – how very true

In some ways it’s never been easier to find new stuff – use twitter, follow people, join conversations, use hashtags and read blogs. All that expertise is available – use it.

Be Selective

You can’t do it all. I think it’s better to do something well rather than dabble in lots of things in an ineffectual manner.
What do you want to achieve? Make sure you are doing something that will enhance your teaching, don’t try and shoehorn something in because it looks fun. Bookmark it and save it for a time when it actually fits into your teaching.
Decide, select your weapon of choice, develop your skills, teach it.
And once you’ve done one thing well move on to something else (but remember to share your success or failure with your colleagues so they can learn too)

Ask your pupils

You have a room full of potential experts – encourage them to share ideas. Tell them what you want to achieve next and let them bring in ideas.

Next week I really want us to do some photo editing and present our poems using ICT – how can we do this?

Be Unafraid

Don’t be afraid of it. The number of times staff tell me “I would have done it but I was afraid I’d break it”
Obviously don’t do anything foolish but if you are sensible you aren’t going to do that much damage – honestly.

Ask for help

But only after you’ve tried on your own first.

Google is your friend.