Sunday, 3 April 2016

In it for the outcome not the income

I have a T shirt that says on it, ‘Teachers; in it for the outcome, not the income.’
Almost all of us know this to be true, otherwise we would be too busy swanking around in our penthouse apartments and feasting on caviar to leave for school each morning. And if this motto is true, as I believe it is, then we had better be sure that the outcome is worth it. Otherwise what is the point?

@headguruteacher 1200 reasons to love my school struck a chord with many of us I’m sure. And who would argue with the statement, “When all is said and done, it’s the students that make it all worthwhile”? Not me. I have lost count of the random moments when a smile has crept across my face remembering an anecdote or an incident affected by one of our brilliant pupils. On one particular occasion, I was driving home and succumbed to an uncontrollable urge to laugh out loud. Several times. In fact these fits came in waves for most of my journey home. And the punch line was an innocent comment made by a Year 6 pupil during the first lesson of the day. I won’t go into details. You had to be there. But my point is that these gems are our raison d’etre. 

Teaching is a marvellous, thrilling, soul searching, fun-filled privilege. The opportunity to engage in daily conversations and to build relationships with such interesting young people within the communities of our schools is, in my mind, unbeatable. We ought to tell more people this more of the time because my life has been deeply enriched by teaching over the years. So is the outcome worth it? Absolutely! And thank goodness for that because it looks like it will be some time before I can retire to the penthouse.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Well Read

What is your earliest memory of reading?
Definitely the solace of the local library; and within those sacred walls the Miffy books. At home I loved my Twinkle annuals, the Mr Men Books and What Katy Did.

When, and where, do you like reading?

On a sun lounger, in bed, pretty much anywhere!

What sort of things do you read?

Pretty much everything. Steven King, David Walliams, Ingrid Law, Jerry Spinelli. Newspapers, short stories, cereal packets...

What is the best book you have read in the past year?

The Children Act by Ian McEwan but there have been others too including The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams.

What is your guilty reading pleasure?

Roald Dahl but I don't feel guilty about this so maybe this is not the answer. I don't feel guilty about anything I read.

What do you read online?

I love my Kindle as I can read 100 books on holiday without having lugged them in my case. Blogs, Twitter etc etc

What is your 'Looterature'?


What do you do with finished books?

Uh Oh! I keep them. Help me... I'm drowning!

Where do you buy your books?

Amazon mostly but an hour long browse in Waterstones is a real treat. I should use the library more!

Finish the sentence: Reading is...

the answer but what is the question

Who would you like to answer these questions?


Thursday, 1 January 2015


Inspired by @EddieKayshun and also by the fact that my sum total of blog posts thus far has been two #nurture posts and only a couple of other random posts about days of the week and on teaching values I have decided to attempt a post on 'who I am and what I do.'

Trickier than you think... Who am I? Well I guess that depends on who's asking. 

To the pupils in my school I am, I hope: the warm welcome to their daily life in school; the guiding hand and voice of our weekly values assembly; the passionate English teacher; and the generator of many a zany idea which bring life and energy to our school. 

To the parents of said pupils, I aim to be: the knowledgeable and confident captain of our ship; the compassionate and fair ear; the instigator of school improvement initiatives; and communicator of all that we strive to achieve on a daily basis. 

To my colleagues, I hope I am: the calm and collaborative leader; the positive ambassador of all that we do well; the sharp eye upon the things we do less well; and the coach and mentor, who leads by example.

To my husband and my teenage children I am of course something else completely. 

I am a cosy, calm type who loves to snooze on the sofa with a couple of spaniels; the reluctant runner and heavy sleeper. But in addition to this, I am actually quite silly. In fact if I may quote my daughter, I am 'five inside.' 

Someone once told me that there was a big difference between being childish and child-like and it is the latter which I refer to here. Jokes that 5 year olds find hilarious make me howl with laughter and the behaviour which is so readily exhibited by most 5 year olds is certainly among my repartee. Obviously, when I wake up and put on my Headmistress costume each day, the five year old inside is quietened and kept in check. Having said that, when she feels safe to do so, she does make the occasional guest appearance, mostly because I have the attention span of... well, a 5 year old.

Many of us are I suppose a conundrum; a juxtaposition of characteristics- this is what makes life so very interesting. And it is most likely the 5 year old with the short attention span who informs the passionate English teacher, tugs at the hem of the compassionate and fair ear and waves her pom-poms at the coach and mentor.

And if this sums up who I am, then it must also give an insight to what I do because as teachers and educators we are what we do. We do what we love and the thing that I really love is when I wake up and put on the Headmistress costume, I leave the house and take myself with me- even the 5 year old inside. The days are long and the expectations are high but together we manage it; we teach, listen, engage, share, learn and grow and we do it pretty well most of the time.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Nurture 14/15 Five reflections and hopes

In ancient Roman mythology, Janus was the god of beginnings and new transitions. His two faces enabled him to look both back at the past and ahead into the future. It seems that the Nurture posts have about them, an air of this. The ability to reflect and project is an invaluable one in our trade and with my first term of headship now behind me one which I shall be striving to improve. 

Actually the first term as Captain of the ship- more of a tiny tugboat really- was more than survival; it was a surprisingly positive laying of foundations, upon which I hope to build in the coming terms. Having been internally appointed, my final two terms as SLT were... hideously frantic. The transition into the headship was a fantastic juggling act of teaching, leading and spinning around in metaphorical circles. A kindly Headmaster who had charted a similar course reassured me that nothing would ever be as bad as those terms ahead of the official commencement of post. I am grateful at this point to be able to breathe and believe that he may have been right! Leadership can feel a little like survival; I hope to survive until next year's nurture post at least.

One of the things that bothered me most during those two tricky terms prior to the headship was the sensation that I was not best serving my team. My teaching always comes first and it is likely that I will die delivering my best effort at an outstanding lesson. Trying to lead the team on top of a heavy teaching timetable was hugely challenging however and I felt...guilty, I suppose. Upon reflection, this was a good sign of what lies ahead; a sense of responsibility and loyalty to my team. 

Celebrating success has become a common theme of my weekly newsletters already and until I began writing them, I had not realised how much of it is out there. Football fixtures, entrance examinations, musical talents and so it goes on. In my personal life too, I have a marriage which continues to blossom and two beautiful children who strive at their own successes; AS levels, A levels and university applications. 
Estee Lauder once said, "I never dreamed of success, I worked for it." Wise words indeed.
I anticipate lots of hard work ahead.

One of my hopes for the year ahead in last year's nurture post was to look after my own wellbeing better. It began in the summer with an exercise and healthy eating plan and has enabled me to fulfil my first term with heaps of energy and minimal stress. I am also a bit lighter and wearing smaller clothes. It has not been easy, but nothing worth having ever is and the highlight must be my charity run dressed as Santa which was well supported within school and raised a significant amount for our local hospice.

There can have been no greater influence on life in school this year than this. Spreading cheerfulness and positivity among the staff, the children, the parents and the wider community has been tremendously impactful. The power of our shared positivity has undoubtedly contributed to such a successful and enjoyable term. Maintaining a positive attitude within any community is a challenging task and begins quite probably with the children. It also means for me, smiling through everything, seeing the silver lining in every cloud and breezing into the building each day regardless of personal circumstance. It has great power, in this I have absolute faith.

Asking the children, during my weekly values assembly, what they thought the word PEACE meant, I received the following comment from an 8 year old, 

"Peace is when nothing is going wrong around you or bothering you and everything is ok."

To all of my friends, colleagues, pupils, parents, Twitter followers, readers, I wish you PEACE in 2015. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Days of the Week

Today my Year 6 class used the writing prompt: 

Here is my contribution. Perhaps theirs will follow via the school blog.

Monday is a grump of a grouch with a bristly chin and dishevelled hair. His wrinkled face is further distorted in response to each arthritic crick of his aging bones. Lonely and bitter, he spends his evenings alone at his bare kitchen table reading yesterday’s newspaper and nibbling on leftovers.

Tuesday is a sober sort who takes life seriously and always tries her best. She dresses in plain yet smart attire and wears sturdy shoes with neat laces. Reliable and loyal, Tuesday makes an excellent friend but is ironically not terribly sociable, preferring instead to spend quiet evenings at home in her armchair with her cat, Frederick, curled in her lap.

Wednesday is generous and sociable; a party animal one might say. His house is a Piccadilly Circus of friends and visitors calling in at all times of the day and night. Optimistic about life, Wednesday is well liked and spends his spare time scheming and dreaming of the new places and faces he wishes to acquaint himself with.

Reliable Thursday gets things done. She arrives promptly for work each day with her lunch neatly packed in a Tupperware box. She is never without her diary and laptop and efficiently sets to work on the to do list, ticking things off well ahead of the weekend.

Friday is a ‘Mr Last Minute’ kind of a guy. He dashes from his bed to the tube, barely pausing to brush his teeth and sling a cup of coffee down his throat. Ask Friday what his plans are for the weekend and he couldn’t possibly tell you; he lives in the moment and has no need to plan ahead. His impetuous nature makes him jolly good fun to be around but his flighty attitude can be incredibly irritating to his close friends and family.

Saturday is a glamour puss who spends hours showering and dressing in sparkly dresses and well-polished stilettos. She rises early and spends her days in cafes with friends. Her favourite holiday destinations include New York & Las Vegas and her pets are a well-groomed poodle and a large goldfish called Percival.

Sunday is soulful and calm. He never sets an alarm and eats bagels for breakfast. He spends hours browsing in bookshops and second hand stores and strolls idly from his cosy and dishevelled town house in his faded jeans and baggy sweater.

Sunday is well known by his neighbours, who often invite him for supper but he prefers to feed the ducks in the park or to sip his Earl Grey from his favourite yellow mug in the warmth of his tiny kitchen. Sunday is a cat lover and always finds a treat for Simona, his faithful tabby who curls up on his lap when he tries to read the broadsheets.

Friday, 27 December 2013

nurture 2013-2014

Inspired by some of you blogging & tweeting educators, I have decided to take the plunge! It seemed rather mean to soak up all the wonderful ponderings of your brilliant brains without contributing some of my own so here goes…

2013. What a year! Here come some of the highlights:

1. Collecting the lush girl's (my teenage daughter) GCSE results. Being mum to two incredible teenagers provides many opportunities for immense pride. A night vigil on the night before the collection of the results and a speeding ticket en route to the school were both worth it to see the smile on her face. She had worked so incredibly hard and I felt privileged to be invited to share such a memorable moment. Whilst she has now moved on to A levels at a new school and embraced many changes in such a short time with courage and enthusiasm, we now face a rerun with the teenage boy who plods along a year behind her. I say a rerun but I sense a quite different experience in 2014; you never get two the same!

2. Planning & running a whole school STEM theme week. The energy and excitement with which colleagues and pupils embraced a Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics week was thrilling. Working with small classes (our biggest having 17 pupils) provides such incredible opportunities to take risks and to plan new and exciting activities- if only we dare; and dare I did!
The excitement of the whole school D&T egg drop challenge built through the week to a crescendo of cheers and laughter on the Friday morning. The children were far too ingenious with their parachute designs and left me with far too many survivor eggs to consume in one weekend. Off site visits to museums were a huge success and planning and risk assessing a visit to an aerodrome was ‘interesting.’ I don’t think any of my Year 6 pupils will ever forget their train & tube travel to the Science Museum, nor their visit to the aerodrome where the Aston Martin team just happened to be test-driving on the day of our visit.

3. This one is similar to the last highlight in that it hangs on having a great idea and the courage to run with it. For my Year 6 leavers in the summer, I planned an overnight stay in a yurt at a local farm. The planning and risk assessing laid the foundations for a successful trip but what evolved was something far more special. My small group of twelve amazing students couldn’t wait to settle into their yurt for what turned out to be two of the hottest days of the year while their first team challenge of setting up the teacher’s tent awaited. The special surprise was the warmth among our small community that this trip brought out. Three of us attended for the duration; for illustration purposes (you may recognise us) let’s call us Mr Strict, Miss Organised & Mrs Work Hard-Play Hard- No prizes for identifying me. While Mr Strict played French cricket with everyone in the shady orchard, Miss Organised helped Mrs WH-PH prepare the meals and set up the outdoor curriculum. Three other teachers arrived in the evening; Mrs Girl Guide, Mrs Deputy Head & Miss Neat & Tidy. These ‘Aunties’ set up a fabulous camp-fire with marshmallows and singing while the three ‘in loco parentis’ teachers took a break in their tent, or in the case of Mr Strict, in the local pub! The afore mentioned warmth was not that of the camp fire but of our ‘family.’ Our quirky family brought together, in their own time, overnight to share in this wonderful farewell. Getting away from it all at the end of a hectic and stressful term and being in the stunning countryside with some truly remarkable people was a special moment indeed and worthy of much reflection. 

4. Highlight of the previous highlight was the child initiated and completely unplanned transportation of tiny baby frogs on our bark boats that we made and launched on the lake. Children have so many wonderful ideas when they are given the space to explore them.

5. My reduced teaching timetable in 2013 saw me devote valuable time to my leadership responsibilities. Having the time and energy to coach & mentor my colleagues as well as an NQT and developing my management style was invaluable and not just for me.

6. CPD. Boy did I do CPD! I have been incredibly lucky to have had so many CPD opportunities in 2013 and have learnt so many things. From Performance Management to Pie Corbett’s creative writing, I have been a learner more than ever before and this is somewhere I love to be. I attended my first ISA Autumn Study Conference and realised how valuable our return to ISA was to be and discovered a whole community of passionate educators linking to each other via the wonder of the web. More about that next…

7. Social Networking. I finally persuaded the doubters that we could have a social networking policy and platform for our tiny school. Guess who had to write the policy and set up the accounts! My voyage into Twitter has truly taken off this year and I have read so many wonderful articles and met many wonderful tweeters. I also rather bizarrely shared lunch at the ISA ASC with two very interesting people and we parted promising to follow each other on Twitter only to find that we already were! Obviously the fact that ISA don’t print ‘Beanyface’ on my name tag was the hitch here. Something to think about.

8. I seem to have rather a lot to say for each point; maybe some brevity is due. High light number 8 shall be a brief nod at becoming a better teacher. I hope this is something that appears on future #nurture posts. The CPD has helped and my pupils have helped more.

9. Overcoming fears and discomfort. Being outside of my comfort zone has become an increasing state of being. I have learnt loads being there: planning and delivering inset sessions, addressing groups of parents, setting up a blog!

10. Ideas. I have had so many in 2013; an unsustainable amount. I wake with them dancing in my head and drive the wrong way dreaming and scheming. It seems that the more ideas one has, the more that form; a little like bacteria. Some of them have been brilliant! Even if I say so myself and not least because my audience receives them in such good spirit. From ‘Knock your socks off’ writing competitions where you can win a pair of socks (yes a pair of socks is all you need to motivate your reluctant writers) to a school Nobel Literature Prize with a snowy theme, cleverly named the ‘Snowbel Award.’ (Groan) The children actually approach me in the corridors now asking when I am going to have my next ‘crazy idea.’

11. Oh yes, I forgot I had promised some brevity. Pinterest. That is all.

12. Getting so far out of my comfort zone that I decided it would be a good idea (Damn those ideas!) to apply for the Headship at my school upon the current Head’s announcement that he would be leaving us in the summer of 2014. I got the job! Now what?

13. I am aware that teaching is a vocation; it is all consuming and at times overwhelming. Such is the passion within us that we allow this to be the case but my final reflection on 2013 must be upon the support of my long suffering husband and children. Having a teacher in the family must be terrible for them and they tolerate my tantrums, mop my brow and entertain my craziness readily, although I suspect there is much eye rolling between them. A quiet Christmas at home with these beautiful people has to rank above all reflections as they keep me sane- well almost.

Wishes for 2014

1. To share my vision more; with colleagues and with a wider community of educators. I am a keen ‘receiver’ of knowledge and ideas, particularly via social media but in 2014 I intend to make this a two way street.

2. Pretty much everyone it seems is intending to READ MORE in 2014. Me too but more specifically to read more novels and less articles. This should support intention number 3.

3. Look after myself and not feel guilty about it, knowing that other people benefit from a healthy & happy me. This should be supported by number 4.

4. Exercise and relaxation. I do not manage stress very well and this is no small part down to laziness in looking after myself. Proactivity in 2014 will be critical if I am to make a successful transition into Headship, taking my team with me in positivity and energy. 

5. Use the aforementioned energy to have more crazy ideas and get them up and running. 

6. Encourage other people to do number 4 and number 5. Our school will be a better place for it. 

7. Work/Life balance. Have more. 

8. To manage the conflict between number 1 & number 7. 

9. To grow a network of people that will help me achieve this aims. Not sure how this one will work out but it is a must if I want to reduce some of those feelings of ‘isolation at the top’ and inflict less of my troubles on my poor unsuspecting family.

10. Carry on learning. Hopefully Sid James won’t be featuring in this. More critically I need to learn the things I need to learn as well as the things I want to learn. Hope you can follow this.

11. Encourage other people to do number 10.

12. Accept that I often behave like the love child of Miranda Hart and Bridgette Jones and know that nobody else need know this as they are viewing my show reel not my interior monologue. Unless that is, I accidentally blog about it, thus revealing my penchant for failing to suppress sudden acts of random silliness.

13. Blog more; this should be easy as I couldn’t blog less with this being my first attempt.

14. Finally and quite simply (thank you to @mrlockyer for reminding me about this one.) Look up more; and not on Google.