Well having spent the last few days reading through an ever growing collection of inspirational posts within the world #Nurture1314 I decided to attempt to write my own 13 highlights of the year (in no particular order) and 14 hopes for 2014.
With 2013 being my first full year as an Assistant Head its certainly been a year of challenge, learning and inspiration from some wonderful people and I hope that my reflections show that above all its been a year to be thankful for.
13 highlights of the year:
1. Results Days: As my first year leading on Student Achievement both A level and GCSE result days were always going to be a defining moment of 2013 one way or another. Leading up to them was a nervous anticipation not about the outcomes of our students, I never doubted them, but my own ability to fulfil my role within these two key days. Our wonderful students secured some fab results and it was a couple of weeks of high intensity, but complete joy. I also survived, managed to collate everything I needed to in a calm and efficient manner and at the end of it all managed to get through presenting the results to staff on the first day back too. It was also really lovely to celebrate again with students at our recent awards evening and hear all about their continued success both in A level and University courses.
2. CPD: Some of the biggest highlights of 2013 come under the umbrella of CPD. Firstly those sessions I’ve been lucky enough to experience outside of school all thanks to twitter. To name a few: Cannon’s pedagogy day (hosted by @kevbartle); #SLTCamp (hosted by @MrLockyer & @MsFindlater); #SLTteachmeet (Hosted by @MrLockyer & @teachertoolkit) and #TLAB13 (hosted by @nickdennis) and the great many conversations I had with people as part of these events took these to a whole new level that I never fully anticipated. What epitomises all these events was the great energy and infectious enthusiasm and love for the profession that was at the heart of them all. Secondly is all the in house CPD that I have attended or been part of the leading of, last count was nearly 50 sessions from term one of the new school year alone and that is a phenomenal thing to be part of and really shows the relentless focus we have on developing learning, teaching and people within our school. Regardless of my part in these CPD sessions I always walk away as a better teacher and for that I am truly grateful. Last, but certainly not least, is the amazing CPD that I get from working as part of a really fab Leadership team and with two people specifically (hopefully they should know who they are). Through their support, guidance, listening, questioning and challenge I have grown so much as a leader and person and have achieved far more than I ever imagined and for that I am truly grateful. It also makes the prospect of 2014 a really exciting one.
4. Twitter: Through twitter I have found access to the sort of daily CPD money really can’t buy, but more importantly to contact with a whole host of like minded people. It has introduced me to new ideas (SOLO taxonomy, 5minlessonplan), but also some new experiences in #TLAB13, #SLTChat, #SLTteachmeet and #SLTcamp and through this some really creative and inspirational people. It’s very easy for people to get sucked into this negativity that can surround our profession, but through twitter I have always been met with the real positive side full of creativity, inspiration, openness and most importantly one that keeps people (the students and other colleagues) really at the centre of it. I love my job and I love the fact that I can find daily reminders not only at school, but also at home via this network of committed and amazing individuals. They are far too many to name everyone, but thank you to you all.
5. Doing things outside of my comfort zone: This largely relates to public speaking, which I fast realised was a very big part of being on an SLT. So this year I have conquered assemblies to all year groups, presentations to whole staff, whole school CPD, a workshop at a learning and teaching conference (#TLAB13), attended a weekend away in the middle of nowhere with 40 people I met on the internet (#SLTCamp), hosted a nationwide chat between a whole host of SLT (#SLTChat) and set up its little sister (#MLTChat). If you’d have asked me if I’d have done any of these at the start of the year, the sheer thought would have sent a shiver down my spine, but it does serve to remind me that you really can achieve a great many things if you put your mind to it.
6. #MLTChat: It’s early days and isn’t quite where I want it to be, but with 1350 followers and regularly receiving 100+ votes it is certainly off the ground. Hopefully one day it will be up there alongside the great success of its big sister #SLTChat, but in the mean time I am keeping hold of the Margaret Mead quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
7. MLT Programme: Being on MLT is a rewarding, but tough job and I would never have got through it if it wasn’t for the amazing amount of support I got from my SLT line manager. She acted as my biggest support, but also my greatest challenger and it was through her guidance, support and inspiration that I grew to be an effective HOD. When I stepped up to SLT one of the biggest things I wanted to do was to try and give this back to the MLT within our school and design a programme that both trained, nurtured and supported my amazing colleagues within their role. I’m lucky enough to Line manager three of them and truly delighted that I get to work so closely with them the whole MLT as part of our weekly inhouse MLT CPD programme. Its still evolving, but they are fast becoming the powerhouse of our school and moving from the pack of love hearts to a bag of mixed rock!
8. Developing the ability to look for Rainbows: Teaching is a roller coaster it has incredible highs and tough lows. One thing 2013 has taught me is if you want some rainbows then you’ve got to put up with the rain and equally the importance of being the person who bring the sunshine to someone else’s rain to create the rainbow again. There has been a number of rainbow moments this year (including one at the end of our inset day in November) and above all its reminded me (with a gentle poke from time to time) to keep my head held high and looking for that rainbow.
9. Colleges & the school community: I’ve already talked about I am lucky to work with some great teachers and wonderful students within every level of my work, but never was that more true following the events of Sept.
10. Friends and Family: My family is very small and the person at the centre of it is my long suffering husband who without I would not eat, sleep or survive (he constantly tells me this, but in fairness he’s probably right). I have a very close knit of friends, who largely happen to be people I also work with. They are the people who I share adventures with (this year including a trip to the Bolshoi, a family day out to the Zoo, a trip to the James Herriot Museum to name but a few), the ones who put me back together again when I feel broken, the ones who looked after me during a difficult time when my husband was away, the ones who accept me for me and the ones who give me something to smile about each and every day. A number of them have also welcomed me to spend time with them and their families and these times have also been some of the highlights of the year and the times when I have probably felt at my most relaxed. They may only a small group, but they are a very remarkable and special group who I am truly blessed to have in my life.
11. Conquering a mountain: Despite not feeling well and my husband trying to tell me that I should not even attempt it in a cloudy day at the beginning of August I climbed Ben Nevis and it felt amazing. We couldn’t see much (in fact anything) at the top, it may seem small to some, but the sense of achievement in totally having to push myself mentally and physically more than ever before was a real learning experience and something I am really proud of.
12. OFSTED: In the penultimate week before Christmas late on a Tuesday, the phone call came. Although we’d been expecting it for some time, nothing can quite prepare you for that initial feeling and what the next two days would bring. Having been through four as a classroom teacher and HOD it is safe to say that I was apprehensive about how it would feel doing OFSTED as a member of SLT, but believe it or not it is very much one of my highlights of 2013. It really was two days of being on a roller coaster, but as with any roller coaster was a totally exhilarating experience and one which I am proud to say I survived. We’re still waiting for the final report to be published, but may be I’ll share some more once it has.
13. I won my first medal…
My hopes for 2014…
1.Read more: Having spent the best part of the year collecting a range of Education and fiction books (and have downloaded a further 18 on my Kindle in the last week alone) I now need to find time to read them. By read I mean fully immerse myself in their pages, not the type of reading that I tend to do in some stolen moments on a train or in bed when I am reading the words, but not taking it in. Top of the list is “Leverage Leadership” and Mitch Albon’s “The Time Keeper”.
2. Host and take part in a teachmeet: In the final morning of @SLTCamp, spurred on from some wonderful messages from @teachertoolkit, @RachelOrr and @jillberry102, we spent some time reflecting on what our changes the weekend had ignited. Top of my list of things I wanted to achieve was to host and take part in a teachmeet and thanks to @teachertoolkit steps are already in place to make this happen. I’m not a big fan of public speaking, mainly because I’m not too sure that I have a voice that wants or needs to be heard, but
3. Grow #MLTChat: I hope that it will continue to grow both in terms of followers and tweachers joining in the chat’s themselves. I also hope that we will find some guest hosts that will take the chat itself to the next level (thanks to @lancslassrach for being our first one and doing an awesome job) and that I will start to build the accompanying website and blog posts. My big dream is to host an MLTteachmeet associated with @MLTChat which will see out wonderful school host MLT from around the county and support them in the sharing of best practice. I’m a great believer that a schools MLT really are the engine room for change if nurtured and supported correctly and I’m fortunate enough to work with a wonderful MLT who are going from strength and am really excited about the possibility of sharing this with some like minded people.
4. Work/Life balance: The fact that it even features is a step in the right direct. Possibly a bit of a pipe dream, but one that is important to aspire too even if it just starts with very small steps like reintroducing Sunday evening baking or cinema trips.
5. Blogging: I’ve gained so much from reading a great and many varied blog posts and can see how useful a reflection tool it can be. That being said as far as twitter goes I’m largely been a listener than a speaker and in many ways I’m probably happy with this. A little while a go I started to build our school learning and teaching blog as a means of putting in one place a whole lot of useful teaching resources, but also tracking out journey to Oz. I haven’t done such a good job of keeping on top of it or even getting it fully going, but 2014 will hopefully be the year for this.
6. Continue to develop as a teacher and leader: I whole heartily believe that you stay doing something until it doesn’t challenge you anymore or you’ve given all you can. One of the reasons I love teaching is that I don’t think there will ever be a day when the above comes true. With each new year, new class, new day comes a new set of challenges and new reason to keep giving all you can. It may be idealistic, but I think the pupils that I work with are special and they deserve the very best and therefore I need to keep developing myself and others to enable that to happen on a day in day out basis. I want to keep looking for new ways of ensuring the best outcomes in my classroom, but also looking for how I can keep developing strategies that allow me to get the best out of the wonderful staff and students I work with and them to get the best out of me too. 2014, as ever, is going to be a very important year for us and as things keep moving forward I need to make sure my practice does too at every level.
7. Keep Learning: Sort of fits in with point 6, but also mean in terms of learning something totally new. There is nothing quite like the feeling of learning something from scratch, going through the difficult feelings of not being very good at something and the reminder that you practice really does make perfect. Currently I am learning to play the Ukulele thanks to the patience of some inspirational young ladies at school who are giving up a break time a week to teach me “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. Have only had 2 lessons so far and am pretty rubbish, but hopefully with some more time an commitment in 2014 I will manage the full tune by the end of the year 🙂
8. Develop in Confidence: If I’m honest I know this is a big thing that holds me back at times. Never more so than driving back from SLTcamp I remember feeling a real sense of frustration, not because I hadn’t enjoyed the weekend, but because I felt I could have gotten more out of it had I just relaxed, been a bit more confident and let myself go a bit. I am fortunate to have a number of people at work and home who constantly show and tell me the confidence they have in me and I need to try and find a way to Some days I feel like I fly, most days I feel like I have the wings, but they are clipped and in 2014 I need to try and discover how to unclip them when I need to.
9. Enjoy the present more: A couple of weeks back I spent a wonderful day in London with my husband and lovely friend @11_lmw11. One of the highlights of this day was when I found myself walking behind them just listening to them engrossed in conversation and enjoying just spending time with people I care very much for so happy and relaxed. I am a compulsive worrier, but I guess for the first time in a while I found myself not worrying about work or the next month, week or even minute, but just living in the moment and loving it. In a job that can be a little all to consuming in terms of thought and action it was a welcome, and equally painful, reminder of the importance of trying to live in the now.
10. Keep a positive book: A couple of years back I started to keep an alternative diary. In it I kept notes of emails, texts, cards or conversations that had made smile. At the end of a long day I sometimes go and have a read and am reminded of not only reasons to be smile, but more importantly of the wonderful and very special people that I have in my life. A couple of weeks back I was brought a wonderful new note book, which I think will be perfect for my new positive book. Challenge will be to end each day by finding at least one thing to go into it….
11. Continue to look for ways to use data creatively: I unashamedly love data, mainly because in as many answers as you can find from it, it serves to ask a million more questions. As a teacher and leader I believe that it can serve to have a real impact on students as long as it is used in a creative and child centred way. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so a huge part of my role to develop new ways to engage staff in the use of data in the classroom.
12. Give mindlessness and meditation a go: I was brought a book to get me started and reading through the first few chapters that it did resonate with a lot of what I feel from time to time. Got to be worth a try on both a personal and professional level and nothing like the new year to give it a go.
13. Continue to hunt for Oz and look for Rainbows along the way: Its the thing that often gets me out of bed in the morning and the focus that gets me through the terms. Not only because what it stands for, but because what it will ultimately mean for our students and because of the daily the reminder of what we can does and is making a difference as we pave our yellow brick road.
14. Keep smiling and learning to dance in the rain: Often the sign off from emails and texts from someone very very very (3 very’s so it must be true ;)) important to me, who constantly reminds me of this and gives me reasons to make it happen, along with some other equally important people in my life.