Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Lesson Observation Privilege

Day-to-day, I hear and see wonderful things going on around the school. Also, learning walks offer an insight into practice. But, a lesson observation, seeing the entire lesson, gives a special insight. As a senior leader, it's a privilege to be able to go into colleagues' lessons and observe them and the children in that class at work.

Now, I'm observing colleagues, whom I work with and know are excellent teachers. I want their lesson to be a success. I want to see their best practice. I want to be able to give loads of good feedback. So, before the observation, I get a little nervous: for them! I don't want it all to go wrong. I don't want to have to come back. I want to be able to give loads of praise and a couple of pointers for how something could have been better. Also, I want to do my best to not get in their way, or the children's. I don't want to write too much, or too little. What if I frown at the wrong moment, smile too much or look away at a vital moment? It's a minefield! There's a possibility I'd rather be observed and observe (maybe).

In my experience, they've gone well. I've seen wonderful lessons, by excellent teachers and pupils who want to learn. I've been able to alter my own practices as a result, feedback to others about what they can learn from colleagues and get those observed to tell others about what they've been up to.  

It really is a privilege to come and observe another teacher teach. To see them at work, to learn from them and provide feedback. Remember, if you're a teacher, if I come to observe you, I'm (oddly) about as nervous as you are...

Friday, 14 April 2017

Give a Little Praise

In schools, we have a tendency sometimes to treat members of staff (colleagues) like the children. In the past I've received stickers, House Points, certificates and so on...

When a colleague is helpful, I often say to them, "Oh, give yourself 20 House Points". It's a bit of a joke and a bit light hearted; they have no where to record the house points, but it acknowledges my gratitude. 

In the past, Year Three children received marbles as a reward. When I wanted to thank a Year Three teacher, I sent a Year Three pupil to say thank you, with a marble for them - the pupils thought this was great!  

Now those certificates... I received my certificate of NQT induction in a whole school assembly, I've received attendance certificates at the same time as the children and other colleagues, and more recently I received (in a staff meeting) acknowledgement of my passing NPQSL. 

We often give each other stickers as a thank you or well done too. Many a time I've been in a shop or petrol station still wearing a 'Head Teacher's Award' or 'Brilliant' sticker. 

At times I've found this a little odd, but reflecting on it and now looking on it from a leadership perspective, we're not patronising each other, treating each other like children or 'being a bit silly', we're thanking and working with members of our team. It's important. We know how much the children value these things and use them to support and thank each other too.

Recently, I saw this Tweet:

So, the next day, I grabbed a handful of praise post cards and set off to find a child from each class. I asked the child to, 'Write something they wanted to thank their teacher for'. The comments were lovely. We sent them all out on a Thursday and they landed on most door mats on a Saturday morning. A nice surprise just over half way through the year. There was some mystery around how it happened for a little while and many teachers told me how much it meant.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Meeting Every Child

As a leader, how well do you know the children in your subject, year group or school? As a teacher, you spend 190 days in the company of your class and therefore get to know them quite well quite quickly.

However, as a leader, that's different: more children and not as regular contact. So, it's important to find a way to get to know them.

Our head runs weekly birthday celebration - on a particular day, those who have a birthday that week go along to receive a sticker and have a chat. The children think it's all about their birthdays (which of course it is), but it's also about seeing each child and getting to know them a little.

Something we've done, as assistant heads, is release each class teacher for a lesson to allow them extra planning time (important), but also, in turn, got to see each child in the school and teach in every classroom.

How well do you know each child?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

On Friday 27th January 2017, we attended the BETT Show in London and Liam presented at the TeachMeet that followed.

He presented about how his classroom practice has developed since writing 'Shoes Off If You Love To Learn' during the autumn term. 

 Image Credit: @pamelaaobrien

Do you keep your shoes on in your own house? Do you always work on a chair at a desk? Where would you choose to sit and read? Does how comfortable you are affect your ability to learn?

There a times when children need to be sat at a desk. But, how's about offering them a little more freedom about how and where they work? And, do they need shoes on in class if they're more comfortable without them on?

UKEdChat kindly captured the talk here & here (from about 15:30).

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Nomadic Staff Meetings

Where do you hold your staff meetings? School hall? Staff room? Meeting room? The person leading the meeting's classroom?

How about visiting a different classroom each week. We have 16 classrooms and therefore can visit each class about twice a year. So the staff meeting gains an extra focus. Everyone attending can learn about what is being delivered, but also can look at displays, classroom organisation and more.

Not got a system for where the staff meeting is held? Have a think...

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Grounds Treasure Hunt

Want to get your staff looking at how they can make use of all parts of the school grounds? Set up a treasure hunt. In each location you want them to visit, ask them what the area could be used for and include a riddle for them to solve. Engage them in the process? Prizes for those who are first back, with the most correct riddle answers.

When we did this, we placed a QR Code in each location that linked to a Padlet wall. The staff entered their ideas onto the Padlet wall and we've been able to read the responses since.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Art of Delegation

You can't do it all yourself! You can't. You can try. It won't work! 

I became a Head of Year at the start of a spring term. In the April of that year, I lead a brand new residential trip for four days with ninety odd children and twelve members of staff. Trip Leader? Yep, me. 

The day after that trip, I woke up at 14:30. Not got out of bed at, but woke up at! About 17 hours sleep...

I thought nothing of it. I'd been tired after every residential trip I'd been on and, this time, I had more responsibility. Of course, I needed more sleep.


It was earlier this year that I realised what had happened. For the fourth time, I lead that same trip. I returned home, cuddled toddler daughter, checked heavily pregnant wife was ok, slept and got up (07:00) - the same time as the rest of my family.


In the first trip, I checked every seat belt and counted every child every time we got on a bus, I spoke at every meal time, always ate last, was at the forefront of every activity. I've since learned how and what to delegate to others. 

And, like me, I think this is unfortunately just something that comes with experience...