Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Five useful ways teachers can help children transition into secondary school.

school dinners
There it sits in pride of place on every mantelpiece: the perennial snapshot of a nervous 11-year-old in an oversized uniform, smiling for the camera but not quite ready for their first day at secondary school.
It’s a huge responsibility for primary and secondary teachers, who must make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. As an assistant head in a secondary school and lead on transition, I’ve seen a lot of students go through it. So, as the new school year approaches and with many primary teachers getting their young charges ready for the next step, here are a few reflections on what works well:

Make contact with secondary schools

It is likely that all children will have heard from their respective secondary schools, but if not, primary and secondary teachers can make initial contact. At my school, all our new year 6 children join us for the last week of term for lessons, activities, assemblies and trips. The time we spend with them is invaluable, and any little niggles, such as being placed in a tutor group away from their friends, can be dealt with immediately.
There are other, less intensive, ways of giving primary students a flavour of what secondary school will be like. For example, year 6 primary teachers could invite ex-pupils back to give a talk or offer a Q&A session to current classes. Younger students could write letters or postcards to children in year 7, asking questions about what comes next for them. This makes a good literacy activity and can also give teachers an insight into the fears and worries of new starters.

Share information

From the perspective of the secondary school teacher, we want to know as much as possible about the new children – warts and all. The teachers doing liaison work – the head of year 7, for example – wouldn’t share this information with subject teachers but it would be known among the pastoral team. For example, we want to know about the child with a tendency to throw chairs and the ones who only eat Ready Brek or chocolate-spread sandwiches.
Pupil passports, in which the year 6 students record their thoughts, feelings and ambitions, are another less work-intensive technique. These can be sent to the new secondary school, making it a handy literacy exercise and useful preparation for secondary teachers to see the kinds of issues they’re likely to face.We host year 6 students at our sports day, where they have their own events and win points for what will be their house. Seeing children at sports day shows us a bit more about their characters – are they sitting back rather than getting involved? It’s a different kind of environment to that of the classroom, and how they react says a lot about their confidence levels.

Alleviate fears

Year 6 students are always worried about the same things: bullying, getting lost, where the toilets are and how to buy lunch. The much wider variety of staff is a real change from primary. Talking to the children about the different roles of secondary teachers will help them feel confident about knowing who to approach with questions. Nearly always there will be one particular person, such as the head of year 7 or another pastoral leader, to whom they can bring their initial worries. It’s also helpful for staff: sometimes the principal is a bit surprised to be asked about how to work the library system.
Of course, every year there are children whose fears are not allayed. Tell-tale signs might be frequent tears, increased introversion, clinging behaviour to members of primary school staff, frequent absenteeism or an increase in challenging behaviour. If children start showing these signs, it’s essential the two transitional teachers share this. It might be that it’s not too late to start more activities – such as lunches in the canteen hosted by the school, additional tours of the school and mini-lessons.

Teach resilience

Building the confidence of primary school children before they leave is of utmost importance: children with high self-esteem are better able to make difficult decisions under peer pressure, approach adults for support, and be self-sufficient in their learning. Primary schools develop this resilience through many activities that are traditional for year 6 students: showing visitors around their school, being part of the student council or parliament, and performing or having some other responsible role in a school production. Activities in class and homework projects that need to be completed independently can help prepare children for the new world of homework timetables and detentions for not meeting deadlines. Many primary schools organise a residential trip for year 6 pupils where they develop their sense of adventure and increase their self-sufficiency by being away from home and taking part in new and unfamiliar activities. These transferable skills will stand them in good stead as they move off into the unfamiliar world of secondary education.

Don’t panic

On the first morning of the first day at secondary school, we can guarantee someone will cry. Someone will not be able to tie their tie. Someone will have lost their money. Someone will do something silly, like calling the principal “mate”. Lots will refer to the male teachers as “Miss” because they have never known a “Sir” before. But throughout that day and that week, gradually, they will find their feet, drawing on the resilience they have developed through their primary school years. One of the most powerful things a year 6 teacher can do is to pop in and say “hi” to their former pupils after a couple of weeks. I guarantee they will all look so much older and wiser.
Vicky Horne is assistant head of school intervention and inclusion at Castle Manor Academy.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/jul/01/five-useful-ways-teachers-pupils-transition-secondary-school

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Green Fingered Teachers: How to Grow Fruit and Vegetables in School

Ruby Beauty mini raspberry fruit   
 If you don’t have much outdoor space, you could always plant mini fruit such as ‘Ruby Beauty’ which flowers May to June. Photograph: Thompson & Morgan

here’s nothing more satisfying than harvesting your own crops at school. As the first plums of the season ripen on trees and tiny cabbages appear between leaves, students can feast both their eyes and their bellies, on the fruits of their labour.
But there are also a wide range of educational benefits to going green, from teaching about photosynthesis and the life of a plant to seasonal poetry and creative writing, the topic can be explored in a variety of classes.
If you’re interested in greening up your classroom or designing a wild space somewhere on the school grounds, there’s a lot to consider. Here’s our guide for getting started:

How to grow in the classroom

When growing plants indoors keep it simple and start small, according to teacher Stephen Ritz from Discovery high school.
Growing lettuces in the classroom
 Photograph: Green Bronx Machine
Ritz, who is famed for his pioneering indoor farming project the edible classroom, recommends easy-to-grow crops such as lettuces, beans or peas, or growing your own classroom herb garden. These vegetables are the best choice and are easy to take care of. They can be grown in pots on windowsills where they can get plenty of sunlight and need regular water.
Cups and pots are great to grow in, says Ritz, but he also recommends the Tower Garden by Juice Plus – a vertical aeroponic growing system that lets you grow upwards, saving space.Beckie Taylor, a teacher from Manor primary school in Coseley, grows pumpkins which can be planted from April onwards in small disposable cups. They also need regular water and sunlight. Once they are large enough they can be moved to growbags outside.
To make sure your crops are tended to, Taylor suggests putting up a chart to keep track of what the plants need and when. “Children can mark off when they have been watered in order to avoid neglect or over watering,” says Taylor.
It’s also vital to make sure there’s someone to watch the plants over the holidays. Ritz plans ahead so things sprout during term time. However, if this doesn’t work out he says there’s nothing wrong with sending plants home for eager young gardeners to look after.
Taylor has some words of warning: “You will need to ensure the space chosen [to grow plants] is away from important work in the classroom, such as books and displays of work. It also may be hard to control the conditions needed in the classroom.”

Growing on the school grounds

Pupils labelling their plants
 Photograph: Poppies and Parsnips/The Mead Academy Trust
First find a good growing spot. This isn’t always easy but by law schools must have suitable outdoor space for playing team games. “If schools are committed to growing vegetables then they are not going to mind losing bits of their sports field for veg beds,” says Mel Jacob, who works for the outdoor education companyPoppies & Parsnips.
If your school does lack space, Jacob recommends quick-crops such as carrots that can grow in old welly boots, buckets and containers.
She adds: “I think that schools can apply for allotments and the council can be supportive of this but they need to be close by to the school or else too much time is taken up walking to the allotment .”

Once you’ve got the land sorted, she says, you cannot be too precious about the growing bit. “It’s not going to look like Chelsea flower show; children tend not to plant in straight lines.”
Fruit is a good choice for outside growing, and berries of various kinds (strawberries and blueberries) grow well. 
Felicity Plent, head of Education at Cambridge University Botanic Gardenrecommends a new dwarf raspberry from Thompson & Morgan called “Ruby Beauty” , which is suitable for growing in small spaces or a container and is likely to give crops before the end of the summer term.
Don’t worry too much about when to start planting because different vegetables grow at different times, says Jacob. Even when the growing season ends you can get active with things like minibeast hunts or making garden structures and Christmas wreaths with children in winter.
How to link gardening with learning
Leaf power
 Photograph: Green Bronx Machine
There’s lots of ways to link all this with the curriculum. With younger gardeners, key stage 1 and 2 English spoken language can be practised and vocabulary developed. “Encourage the use of adjectives to describe plants and objects around the garden, taste, sound, texture. Use of descriptive vocabulary as a class to create poems,” advises Plent.
She adds that you can use it in science class too, identifying living things and their habitats with primary students, getting your class to name a variety of plants and discuss simple food chains.
Gemma Cahill, a teacher at Blackburn Central high school, says that you can teach older students skills that can help their future job prospects.
For example, you can teach about science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers by getting your secondary class to run their own blind test of organic and non-organic foods to see if they can tell the difference between the two. Explore what it would be like to work as a product manager for a company growing herbs for major shops and supermarkets. Science & Plants has more information about this investigation here, and other resources for secondary students on their website.

Organisations that can help 

If you’re looking for teaching resources to help you link growing with the curriculum, you can find useful resources for teachers on the Royal Horticultural society’s website. Garden Organic also has lots of useful resources and tips for getting started as does Food for Life. If you’re keen on using the topic in science class then check out Science and Plants for Schools.Lots of organisations offer free tools to help you get started. Get in touch withGrow Wild to get free wildflower seeds– they have currently run out but will have more in the autumn next year.The Woodland Trust also has a free school tree pack. Thompson & Morgan, one of the UK’s largest mail order seed and plant company have put together some top tips on getting the most from a small space.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/jun/29/green-fingered-teachers-how-to-grow-fruit-and-vegetables-in-school


Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Secrets of CV Sucess

TES careers expert John Howson offers some advice on the basics that will help ensure your CV makes a good first impression
Most teaching posts are filled following an interview. Presentation is the key to success both at the interview and in the even more vital stage of persuading a school to shortlist you for interview. Too many good candidates fall at this first hurdle.
For the past year advisers at the TES have been helping candidates improve their applications and CVs with a view to ensuring they get a precious interview place. This article reflects our simple rules for making sure your application stands out from the crowd.

Choose your font carefully

The first thing to understand is that the more applicants there are, the less time you have to persuade the reader to put you on the shortlist pile. I know in this age of anti-discrimination legislation every application is viewed equally, but the larger the pile in front of reader, the less time they may devote to each. For this reason, first impressions do count. Consider font size and type; not too small or too outlandish.
A point once made to me by a recruiter was: “I am unlikely to read thoroughly anything with a font size too small or poorly laid out.”

Content, content, content

Assuming you survive the layout and presentation test, the next hurdle is the content. Recruiters are looking for applications that meet their needs. Present facts, whether in a CV or letter of application, that match your ability to do the job. The description of the post and characteristics of the person required are the best places to start. Any ‘must have’ or required’ characteristics you cannot meet will probably rule you out in the present job market unless they can be offset by some other very strong positive characteristics. For instance, must have taught mixed-age classes at KS2 might be offset by being an NQT whose placements were all at KS2 although not mixed age and can offer other requirements the school might need.

Don’t overlap

Don’t start a letter of application with information already on your CV and avoid the reasons why you came into teaching unless they are genuinely different to most other people. Enjoying working with children and young people, enjoyment of a subject and enthusiasm are things recruiters will take for granted. Try something original. ‘My last class made an elephant’ makes an interesting opening statement and can be the hook to explain how you fit into a main scale English teaching post in a multi-ethnic urban school.

Key points before chronology

You don’t need to put information in a chronological fashion, especially if key points that match the job description might be missed in such an ordered CV. Be prepared to use headings that match what the school has said. It will help focus the reader’s minds.

End on a high point

Finally spend a moment on the ending. What is the final impression you want to leave the reader with. And remember any letter of application or supporting statement should never exceed two pages for a job at this level. You are not applying for the headship of the school.
In the present job market, I cannot guarantee success but I can predict failure and a lot of wasted applications if you don’t take the process seriously. Happy job hunting.
CV Do's and Don'ts
Don't repeat information provided on an application form in a supporting statement unless really necessaryDo sell yourself
Avoid vacuous statements and clichesDo match the job description and person specification
Don't state the obviousDo be distinctive
Don't be insincereDo mean what you say
Don't be negative especially about former employersDo write about your qualities
Don't spoil a good application with a poor layoutDo show that you are a professional

Source:  http://newteachers.tes.co.uk/news/secrets-cv-success/45617

Friday, 3 July 2015

Top Tips for Teachers on Engaging Parents in Learning

From having parents come in to speak about their jobs to sending postcards home, education experts share advice on parental engagement
child painting
 Parents sometimes need advice on how to support children with their homework. Photograph: Alamy
Schools take a variety of creative approaches to involve parents in their child’s learning, from parent-student cooking classes to sending tweets about lesson activities.
We recently ran a live chat for teachers, heads, academics and parents to share their ideas on how to break down barriers, reach those who were reluctant to engage and ensure parents and carers feel that their voices are heard. Here’s a roundup of their suggestions: 

Make sure parents feel listened to

Schools must take the lead and be as flexible as possible. For me that should include, where necessary, a block of time during the school term where teachers and parents are brought together. Having two opportunities a year for parents to sit with a teacher for 45 minutes has been very well received at my school. It’s time for a real and focused conversation about the child, with both sides listening. Yes, teachers listening too. Parents now say they are feeling listened to, and all the technology in the world cannot replace this. It’s a big job for schools to make this work logistically, but it’s so valuable.

The simple things work best

One nice thing the secondary teachers [at my son’s school] do is send a stamped postcard home when my son does a good piece of homework. I may be a techie, but I actually quite like that old-fashioned touch, and it goes up on the kitchen noticeboard and becomes a talking point.
  • Tes Macpherson is a tech entrepreneur who set up the parent communication platform PTAsocial

Give feedback

I’ve been in more than one school where staff have said how many helpful ideas parents had given them, while parents said that staff never listened. School staff were listening, but they weren’t closing the feedback loop and letting parents know that their ideas had been taken on board.
  • Janet Goodall, a lecturer with particular expertise in parental engagement at theUniversity of Bath

Help parents to support homework

I’ve found through focus group interviews with parents that most are keen to support their child’s learning, but they seek comfort in doing so. Methods in maths is a common talking point. A simple video modelling an approach created by the class teacher or a pupil and uploaded on to the learning platform (with parents given access) can secure engagement.
  • Feasey

Be creative in where you hold events and who you invite

One thing I advocate a lot is having events away from school if at all possible. One headteacher did the beginning of the year speech for new parents not at school, but at places parents were already comfortable in. I know of schools that have done things like getting the manager of the local football team to give an address at a parents’ evening – it got a lot of dads in.
  • Goodall

Use social media to start conversations

My feeling is that sites like Facebook and Twitter have done a lot to allow schools to openly broadcast the great things they are doing, but at a fairly generic level (nothing too tailored to any given parent or student). For me the next step is to use technology to enable the more meaningful-level communications, securely, and on a regular basis.
  • James Whitaker is the founder and chief executive of ParentHub

Set up blogs

We run blogs for every year group and on specific areas (such as visible learning), and I keep a headteacher’s blog. As well as covering the curriculum and learning activities, we blog when out and about. The year 5 ski trip and year 4 residential trip to France blogs were very well received. Parents responded regularly so there was actually a dialogue between them and the children, even though they were hundreds of miles apart.
  • Feasey

Involve parents in action research

A few years ago, I did some research with parents where they chose one thing to work on with their child. For some, it was getting out of the house on time, for others it was a specific school subject. They did this for a term and then reported back. It was great talking to the parents – they felt that they’d taken control of something and dealt with it.
  • Goodall

Give a peek into lessons

One school I worked with – in a community where most parents didn’t have computers at home – arranged with the local supermarket to put a computer in the foyer, with videos of classrooms on a loop. Whole families apparently came in to see what was happening. That might be something that could be adapted. I keep thinking about all the digital displays I increasingly see.
  • Goodall

Invite parents in to speak

At the last school I worked at, there was a massive drive to improve children’s writing. In order to give pupils more purpose to what they were producing, we invited parents with different jobs into the school to talk about what they did, and more importantly, explain why writing was important to their role. About 40 ended up taking part, ranging from submarine engineers to scientists.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

I was talking to a fairly new teacher not too long ago and she’d phoned a parent and simply said, “I’m worried about [name]. You know your child far better than I, what can I do to help?” It was a bit of a breakthrough because the teacher was reversing the usual structure and asking the parent for information and knowledge.
  • Goodall
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/jun/28/top-tips-for-teachers-on-engaging-parents-in-learning

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Become a better teacher by getting more rest.

It’s a demanding job – do it as well as you can, but be kind to yourself, too

You’ve probably already broken the futile resolutions you made while pie-eyed, singing the new year in. But one unofficial “promise to self” still reverberates a couple of weeks on from your ugly awakening on New Year’s Day. Repeat after me: “I will be a better teacher this term. I will be a better teacher this term. Now pass the gin.”
Only it’s not as simple as just making a resolution. You can’t resolve to find the workload manageable; because it isn’t. You can’t resolve to find your mentor less objectionable; because they are. And you can’t resolve to not find your first year’s teaching an emotional rollercoaster; it just is. But you can resolve to be the best version of yourself it is possible for you to be.
So the first thing to do is take a fairly hard look at what your professional issues are and reflect on how you’ve done.
What have you been doing that is getting in the way of being a better teacher than you were last term? What is the worst thing the kids say about you? Are they right? (Clue here: they are right.) What is stopping you from being the best version of yourself that you can be, bearing in mind that you’ve been given the gift of spending your life surrounded by the developing sensibilities and passions of young people at their best?

Behaviour impact analysis

It’s worth doing what they call a “behaviour impact analysis” on yourself at this stage of your career. First, list the classroom behaviours you manifest that might be getting in the way of being a really good teacher, and write down the impact of these behaviours on the students. Then go through the process of deciding whether the impact on the students is acceptable or not.
If it is, you’re fine; if it’s not, you have to make changes to that behaviour. Write these down and implement those changes.
Having had a look at your own behaviour – because you can’t change anyone else’s unless you can model the ability to change your own – and having put yourself underneath the glare of your own critique, then resolve that, above all else, you will be kind to yourself.
The job will make all kinds of demands on you, many of them utterly unreasonable. You are doing a job in which the amount of work you have to do is obviously not possible to manage within a normal person’s waking hours. The phrase “normal person” is important here, in that normal might reasonably be thought a nomenclature for sane. In an insane environment, it is often those who display the greatest quotient of the prevailing moral of the arena who rise to the top. Consequently, some of the people handing out the expectations of you, have insane expectations of themselves and will blithely pass this illness down as a minimum professional requirement.

Teacher take care of yourself

But let’s get real here. There is no other job in which the minimum expectation seems to be that you will destroy all your human relationships, never get any rest and be in a continual state of panic. There is no other job that routinely and blithely expects you to run yourself so far past the point of exhaustion that you look back on exhaustion with overly fond eyes. So you must resolve to look after yourself.
If you are too tired to do any more work, go to bed. If there is nothing on telly, go to bed. If it is Saturday daytime, go to bed. Teaching leaves you permanently exhausted, running on emergency power all too often. It’s far worse if you haven’t had anywhere near what a normal, sane person would regard as rest worthy of the name. So, if you want to be a better teacher this term: get more rest. You can’t function properly without it.
On a related point, it is about now that you must decide whether you are going to be an early-morning grafter or an after-school drudge. The insane response to a job that it is not possible to do, is to attempt to do it by never, ever, ever stopping working. You can’t manage this lifestyle for any protracted time when you are a young teacher – it takes years of practice to be a proper workaholic – if you do try you’ll find yourself standing dribbling in a cold field, clad in your pyjamas, staring into space within a month.
A saner response is to do your level best.
This means either getting to school early (before senior management arrives) or staying after hours.
The former has an advantage over the latter. Do your marking in the morning, and you can’t give in to the temptation to bugger off home, as you’ve got to be in the building all day to teach. Yes, it is desperately wearing getting up at stupid o’clock, but when you are in work when everyone else is considering getting up, you get to feel a certain gratifying, Nietzschean moral superiority. 

Get in early. Grab a class set of books

Furthermore, if you can take the imaginative leap required to understand the statement that marking is actually the best planning you can do, then if you get in early, you can do the two things simultaneously. Get in early. Grab a class set of books. Go to town on them. Note down anything you notice that your class can’t do. Your lesson plan is now in front of you.
Finally, understand why everyone is telling you not to take things personally. It’s not for the reason you think: it’s not because the children are attacking the uniform and not the person. They are attacking the person. The reason you are told not to take things personally is that you are a trained graduate professional. Taking things personally is not a professional response. Wise up.
Source: http://newteachers.tes.co.uk/content/become-better-teacher-getting-more-rest