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charlie, computer cat

October 2017




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Oct. 15th, 2017


Listening habits

I realised yesterday that the Unbelievable Truth has been back on Radio 4 and I still haven't listened to any of it. That probably doesn't sound very interesting as a realisation, but it's because my listening habits have completely changed over the past five years. I seem to have written a short essay about this - mostly only interesting to me, I suspect! The short version is that I now listen almost exclusively to podcasts, rather than live radioCollapse ) There isn't really a conclusion to this, but it's really surprised me to realise how far away from radio I've moved in quite a short time, given what a central role it used to play in my day to day experience, especially given that it wasn't prompted by any change in the technology - podcasting's been around for ages. What next, I wonder.

Oct. 1st, 2017


(no subject)

We had our late summer fete at the new school yesterday. When I first heard about it, I thought it was an odd idea, but actually, it was really nice. It feels much easier to give up a Saturday afternoon early in the year, when I have reserves of energy and enthusiasm, than it does in the summer when I'm drowning in reports and play and so on. I was told that money we raised could stay in our class to be spent on something as well, so it means that the kids will actually see the benefit of whatever we buy. We ran a "Splat the Red Kites" (that's our class name!) stall and I promised them that if they made £50, they could splat me at the end, so of course we did really well and I got soaked :) Still, definitely got me a good rep from the parents as a good sport!

Still feeling like the move was a really, really good one - not sure how much of it is new job energy but I'm finding it much easier to get everything done, and I'm really liking the leadership side of things as well. Next week is the first session of my leadership training course, which will be interesting - I'm not sure how useful it'll be, but we'll see.

Sep. 24th, 2017

charlie, computer cat

(no subject)

I keep feeling like I'm going to post some sort of political rant here during the week and then by the time I get to it on Sundays, that's not what I want to talk about. I guess that's a good thing, but still, it feels slightly odd somehow. I guess it's not like I'd be saying much that isn't said elsewhere so if I don't feel the need to let of steam about it by the time I get to it, that's fine.

New school is still going really well - they are bizarrely respectful of my time! I was asked to go to governors meeting this week to talk about the new server and I was totally happy to do that - it seemed like a perfectly reasonable request. The head was so apologetic that it would take up my evening though and offered unprompted for me to take my PPA at home in exchange! So definitely still feeling good about the move :) Now that I've mostly got rid of the new workplace cold, I'm feeling pretty on top of things too and I am definitely feeling like I'm starting to get the measure of my class. I definitely need to do a seating move around at half term - now that I know them, there are a few personalities which could do with being split up - but it's nothing too terrible. I am even quite looking forward to the residential!

Sep. 17th, 2017

tiny kitn

(no subject)

Have been full of cold for most of this week but just about managed to get through it, thank goodness! I think my class are starting to get used to me and my expectations, which is good, but they've got a long way to go before SATS, particularly in calculation! I had a lovely, lazy day yesterday, sitting on the sofa with kittens, doing very little work, but it does mean I've left myself quite a few weekend tasks to do today - I need to think about rebalancing my workload a little bit to manage this 5 day week thing a bit more effectively. This weekend, I've been mostly conserving energy in the evenings due to the cold, but I am going to have to try to plan a bit more housework in during the week now that I don't have Friday to catch up with. I suppose in theory, there's the alternative of getting someone in to do some cleaning but I'll wait and see how the new salary settles in before going for anything quite so decadent :)

Sep. 10th, 2017

Queen of Cups

(no subject)

Well, the first week is done and I'm really pleased with how it went. The kids seems lovely - a little boisterous but very engaged with their learning. I'd forgotten how much they learn in a year though - they seem very young to me right now! All the staff were really welcoming, which was lovely and I feel like it's going to be a really positive working environment. I've got two TAs to work with (one 4 days a week and a different one on Fridays) and *they* both seem nice, so all in all, I feel like it's been a pretty good start. I was very knackered by Friday - I'd forgotten what working full weeks was like - but hopefully that won't last. I also picked up a mini-cold but that seems to have mostly gone already, fortunately. Slightly annoyingly, I realised that I needed to re-plan English for the week coming up because half the class had already studied the book I chose, but it didn't take much work, so not the end of the world. Next week is baseline assessment tests, which should be interesting!

Sep. 3rd, 2017


(no subject)

Am putting the finishing touches to plans for my first week at new school. Trying not to be too nervous - and being helped by the cats who have been doing lots of keeping me company while I work. Even as we speak, Clare is headbutting my fingers, suggesting that rather than typing, I should be stroking. Alex came in and helped me finish off the classroom on Friday and that is now looking really up to scratch. There's still a few things to sort out (and a few that I forgot to order) but there's two days of inset to get that sorted out in. I'm sure it'll all be fine, but I'm definitely in keyed up anticipation mode.

Have managed to have quite a good holiday over all - not much time definitively off, but quite a lot of time for being relaxed and doing reading as well as getting things done. I finished The Grace Of Kings and quite enjoyed it, although not enough to immediately start on the next one in the series. It definitely had charm, and I liked Kuni (although the book lets him off his collaborator past very easily). I could have done with spending rather less time with Mata, tbh, as he felt pretty lacking in redeeming features from the get go, although I did occasionally feel sorry for him. Still, it definitely had something to it. It felt not unakin to Song of Fire & Ice actually, in that it's attempting to tell a grand, sweeping story about a time of dramatic upheaval and to give you both an overview and a sense of active involvement in the action. It doesn't give you the same depth of character as SOFAI but, on the other hand, the level of gratuitous violence is considerably less and the story manages not to get bogged down and then lost up it's own arse, so I would say it's more successful. Actually, now I've made the comparison, I can definitely see this as a TV series - it's very episodic.

Aug. 17th, 2017


Knowledge and skills

I have been whiling away some of my holiday time reading around some of the knowledge vs skills debate that's been going on among teachers on twitter for the last couple of months. Most of the people I follow already have been on the knowledge side of the debate and I've felt like, more so than when looking at politics or similar, I've had to work quite hard to break out of that bubble to find the people with the opposing views (something I think I'm only beginning to succeed at). I haven't come to any conclusions or anything, or my own contribution to the debate yet, but my reading did spark the memory of an anecdote which feels relevant to me about my Year 13 mocks.

We studied Literature of Protest as one of our English Lit modules (that was where I first read the Handmaids Tale) and as well as our set text work there was an unseen texts paper. For our mock, the unseen text for that module was a poem called "White Poetess" by Musaemura Zimunya (I've looked, and sadly, I can't find a copy of the poem online) asking us to comment on how effectively the poet's protest was communicated to the reader. Briefly, the poem scorns the titular white poetess for her simple, superior view of Africa and Africans and for her romanticisation of the beauty of the landscape without acknowledging the Africans who live there. I wasn't particularly great at poetry analysis and I cobbled together a rough plan and had written nearly a page of it when I had one of the only genuine lightbulb moments of my own that I remember in my education. In the last stanza, the poem talks about the poetess going home and writing about "the Rhodesian veld". The word had been nagging at me for a while, and I suddenly remembered what Rhodesia was, and what the deliberate use of that word meant, particularly given that the poet had mentioned Zimbabwe earlier on. That one piece of knowledge unlocked the whole poem for me, brought the rest of the text into focus, to the extent that I remember actually crossing out the waffly essay I'd written so far and starting again.

When we went over the mock in class after they'd been marked, it transpired that I was the only person in my 12 person class who knew anything about Rhodesia or what the use of that word signified and quite a few of the other students claimed the question was unfair because there was no reason they should be expected to have this piece of random knowledge anyway. I have no idea where I'd picked it up - we hadn't studied the empire at all in the history I was doing at school, but I always have been a sponge for random information (although not science facts, oddly) so I imagine I read it somewhere and it stuck.

I'm still not entirely sure where this anecdote fits into the current knowledge vs skills debate. My knowledge unlocked the poem for me in a very powerful way. I only rarely connect to poetry as a form, and that sense of sudden understanding was exciting and precious. I kept a copy of the poem afterwards, which I still have today, and as you can see, the memory is fresh in my mind, so on the surface it seems to argue towards the teaching of knowledge.

I'm not so sure though. I do think there was some validity in the other students complaints that the question was unfair. The world is absolutely full of random knowledge like that - it was purest co-incidence that I happened to know of it and I don't think there could have been any reasonable expectation that our English Lit teacher would equip us with even a fraction of the possible historical allusions which might come up in the poetry of protest. And it wasn't that piece of knowledge alone which brought the poem to life in that moment for me - it was the skills of literary analysis which I'd been taught which allowed me to understand the depth of what the poet was doing with that word choice. Both knowledge and skills were vital to that moment. Most of the students knew a little about the British Empire - would it not have been reasonable to have included a footnote with the specific definition of Rhodesian?

Where I'm working now is at a very different stage in the learning journey of my students than I was at that point and I definitely think that there is value in exposing the children to a wide range of facts at this stage - who knows what will stick? But of course, as the possessor of a brain which is naturally filled with random facts, this is not so hard for me to accomplish and, given my teaching style, actually seems to be basically inevitable. Maybe the conclusion I'm coming to is, in this knowledge/skills tug-of-war, perhaps different teachers need to focus on different things. I often think about skills in my lesson planning but that's partly because I know that the knowledge content will be there anyway but that if I don't think about making the skills of using it explicit that won't happen automatically - other teachers are probably the other way around.

Aug. 11th, 2017

webdesigner - chez geek

(no subject)

It's interesting, moving to a school which is much more free about how teachers run their classrooms because it gives me space to think not "what do I have to do" when I'm getting ready for next year, but "what do I want to do". It hit me again just now, thinking about morning work - I started off by thinking "what shall I do about morning work this year" and then moved on to "hang on, is that even a thing in my new school?" to *then* thinking "well, do I want it to be a thing? Was it useful?" It feels odd that should be the last thought rather than the first one, but that was rather how I got conditioned by the old place - we had a huge "must" list which I would never have had time to do all of, so it was about prioritising which things would be most visible and/or would take the least effort; what was most efficacious didn't really come into it. It's the same with displays - now I don't have a list of displays every classroom should have which is longer than the number of boards I have, I'm starting to actually think about what I want my displays to be for.

Then again, I'm leaning on the side of having morning work (tasks for them to do when they come in for registration) - it's a good opportunity for short burst practice of skills and it really helps get them settled and in a good headspace for learning - but that's because, having been doing it for about 6 years, I know how to make it work well. When I started, I found it of very little value and time consuming to prepare and I resented it, but that was because I had no real idea what it should be for, other than keeping the kids occupied, and so I couldn't properly select tasks for it. So the must list did have some value too - it pushed me to try something and work to get it right that I might not otherwise have done. On the third hand, surely that could have been achieved by better communication from the people on my SLT and leading my team about what the point was and what good morning work looked like rather than me groping towards it. I guess that's the whole point of me moving up to SLT myself now - can I help people to develop good/useful practice without descending to the must list?

Jul. 9th, 2017


(no subject)

Friday was moving up day - my new class and I spent an hour together and I think that if they can curb their tendency to talk over each other then we'll get on fine. They were very curious - I spent at least half of the time answering questions like "what's your favourite food" and "which youtubers do you like" and so on, but I think that's pretty inevitable. Usually I'd know a bit about them already and they about me from our encounters elsewhere in school but moving to a new school means that they're total unknowns. As I suspected, they're a lot less culturally diverse than any class I've taught before - all white, although not quite all English as there are one or two European children there.

As I also had a meeting for maths leaders in the partnership in the morning, it was also a reasonable dip of the toe into the idea of working on Fridays again, and I am cautiously optimistic that I'll cope OK with it as long as I make sure I don't get to bed too late after games night. I had thought about what we were doing at Brownies on Thursday while I waited around for the governors meeting and as long as I make it out of the gates by 5pm, arriving on time to set up should be perfectly do-able so that's good. I think also, it will actually make Brownies seem less of a chore - currently, it comes at the end of a day off, which makes it tricky to use that for long weekends and also means that I can't just totally chill out on my day off if I want to. Having at the end of a school day felt much less disruptive/intrusive and hopefully that will happen again.

Am feeling practically green fingered because after having a weekly task to do some garden work since about February, I have *finally* got to the point where there are no areas where the weeds have taken over (there are still weeds, they're just more under control and smaller, ground cover type things) and all the paths are clear. I even dead headed the roses today and I have been actually remembering to water the garden every couple of days in this uncharacteristically dry summer, which means that nearly all the plants I bought at Gardeners World are still going strong!

Jul. 2nd, 2017

cat don't care

(no subject)

Went to training at my new school on Thursday and the positive vibe definitely continues - I have a really good feeling about the move. We sorted out my application for the leadership course they want to put me on next year and they're right behind the writing assessment project I've got planned which will take forward what I've done this year. Also, on a geeky note, they want to buy me what looks like an *amazing* smart TV thing to use as my interactive board for my classroom, which would be super exciting. I really hope it arrives before the holidays so I can have a play with it over the break as it'll be quite different from what I've used before. Obviously the shiny video on the product website is always a bit misleading but it does look like I should be able to do some really quite neat stuff with it eventually, including controlling stuff on the kids screens and so on.

I am really enjoying the garden at the moment and I can't get over how much more light it gets now that we've had the horse chestnut next door cut back. It does mean that the decking is in full sun in the middle of the day though so I might have to buy a patio umbrella to sit under - it's not good for the laptop, if nothing else! Generally though, it's all looking really nice and the kittens love playing out there. They're only allowed out under supervision at the minute, but soon they'll be having their ops and then we hope to retire the litter tray - not a minute too soon!

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