Is it time…?

HS_WatchGuide_Watch Movements_Header I have just returned from the annual trek to Birmingham to the “Inspiring Leadership Conference” which is attended by 1500 headteachers from around the country. What were the take-away messages and what will I try and do differently as a result of it? I have looked to summarise it as a top 10…

  1. Teach less, learn more – how do we shift the focus to facilitating learning and expecting more of students at every stage and age? Remember education is the human enterprise of “paying it forward” to the next generation.
  2. Think about FED – Future (where are we going?), Engage (how do we get people on board?), Deliver (how do we get on and do it?!) Leadership is not the reserve of the “chosen few”, we need to develop it in everyone.
  3. How do we develop and train the brain? – finding time for plasticity and detaching from screen-time to shift from virtual reality to reality… perhaps a challenge for family life as much as education!
  4. We need to have connected leadership and shape the system we are part of… how can we see beyond our individual needs as a school to be a strong, cohesive and compelling voice to shape the future of education.
  5. Develop the habits to be a great school and great leader… we need to focus on classrooms not schools. The key to this is engaging discretionary effort and motivating people.
  6. Learn from winners – what makes them unique, successful and compelling but remember to be the person you are “called to be”… 
  7. Spot the trends and understand how society changes as it informs our understanding of what makes people tick!
  8. We need to broaden education to recognise the significance of EQ and IQ. When we accept our imperfections we are ready to learn.
  9. The biggest challenge we face is population growth – if the human race is to survive we need creativity…
  10. Never give up on the power of education to transform lives – deal in hope and nourish potential. “We shouldn’t throw away trash or peoples’ lives either…”

In essence it was an opportunity to reconnect with the reason that we teach, learn and lead. Having the opportunity to spend time with “world-class” people who challenge you to think learn and grow is significant. It is equally important to find the time and space to think and be challenged by people you respect, as other school leaders, whilst you are there. So thanks for the vitality, friendship, passion and care of those we got to share the journey with. I believe it is your responsibility then to do something with this… to drip-feed the messages of what you have learnt to others in a meaningful way. So come on… what are you waiting for? It’s time to be inspired!

“To be born at all is a miracle… what are you going to do with your life?” Dalai Lama

dalailama Some books to consider…

  • Practice Perfect – Doug Lemov
  • Teach like a champion – Doug Lemov
  • Visible learning into action – John Hattie
  • Student Centred Leadership – Jossey-Bass
  • Flip Your Classroom – Bergmann
  • Winners – Alistair Campbell
  • Nudge – Richard Thaler
  • Creative Schools – Ken Robinson
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How can we be Christ in the world?

Please read the reflection for this week and say a prayer for Mohammed…

stpaulslearning

Christ-of-the-Abyss

The theme for this week in school is “The Body of Christ” – we are currently deep into the season for Confirmation and First Communion celebrations which mark a new beginning in the lives of those who receive these sacraments on their Christian journey…

My daughter is excitedly preparing for her First Communion celebrations this weekend… this ranks as highly as the anticipation of the BGT final and the longing for Christmas or Birthday celebrations (pretty high overall!). Initially the focus for her was the prospect of a new dress and shoes – we had to persuade her high heels, a veil and lace gloves may be a little bit of a distraction on the day and were pleased when the Priest suggested simplicity was the way forward for them all.

The Eucharist lies at the centre of Christian faith in an act of thanksgiving. The distinctive belief in the…

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5 reasons to go into teaching

Proud to see other’s sharing their #5reasons for getting into teaching. Thanks for sharing yours Cav!

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This post, like many others I’ve read over the last day or so, is inspired by Rob Carter (@robcarter2012) who wrote this post on a similar topic. It’s been a joy to read the posts which have provided much needed respite from the negativity pedal in some areas, such as the dreaded secret teacher.

1: You get paid to talk about your favourite subject.

I love maths, I love talking about it and I love doing it. All things that happen as a natural by product of my job. It keeps me engaged with a subject that had been vanishing from my life in the years between university and teacher training and it certainly keeps my brain sharp.

2. You meet a lot of amazing people.

Some jobs can be lonely, you can spend the majority of your time in a solitary relationship with your computer. Teaching is…

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5 reasons teaching is the one for me…

Balloon-Release

I was recently asked by the University of Sussex (@UniofSussex) to speak briefly at a local recruitment event. In essence I had to get across why teaching was so special to me and I entitled the talk “The best job in the world…?” As we prepare for the next round of School Direct recruitment which opens on UCAS tomorrow I thought it was worth sharing my thoughts.

  1. You make a difference every day – so many jobs seem to become routine and mundane. People get bored of the monotony or lack of challenge. In teaching we have a unique responsibility and opportunity to genuinely make a life-changing difference every single day. When life gets tough for young people often it is school that provides the “glue” to hold it all together. We can provide the consistency and care that can inspire our students to make the most of their potential. When you think about it what could be better?!
  2. Young people give you vitality and energy – I secretly still feel as if I am 25 and believe at the heart of this is the joy and vitality I take from being with young people each and every day. They make you laugh and cry and brim with pride when they do their best. I would feel a bit lost without this buzz each day in school. I am really grateful to staff and students at our school for creating an environment and culture that is so alive.
  3. You need to have a “growth mindset” and willingness to learn – to be happy and successful in teaching you need to be committed to still being a learner. Stephen Tierney @LeadingLearner lives this out well… as a Headteacher you need to be open to learning. If you feel the journey is over it is time to give up!
  4. You will be inspired and supported to be the “best you can be” – all through my career I have been blessed by having people around me who challenged, supported and inspired me. I firmly believe you are only as good as those who you are working with. You cannot blueprint the perfect teacher or the perfect leader in school but you can be changed by walking alongside some of the best.
  5. You will find a world of opportunity and talent is nurtured at every stage – in the “old days” you only got opportunities if you had sat in the seat for the longest. You were expected to “do your time” as a teacher before you took on responsibility. I believe teaching is now a meritocracy… if you are good enough you are experienced enough. Last year we had three experienced staff on maternity leave. The trio who took the reins were young but truly brilliant. I know they will make outstanding school leaders and we have a duty of care to nurture, support and develop them now and in the future.

School direct is the most wonderful and inspiring route to teacher training that we can be involved in. We work in partnership with two universities, Sussex and St Mary’s University College, to develop a programme that inspires and develops some amazing teachers to work in our schools and beyond. We market the programme in exotic locations from Brighton to Dublin and then go on to interview and recruit teachers onto the course. The quality and the calibre of those training over the last two years has been excellent and I am proud that a number of them work in our school and in Inspire, the Teaching School Alliance we lead.

So if you want an opportunity to do something that means something then this could be your chance. I have never regretted the decision to teach for one single moment. Tomorrow marks the opening of the School Direct recruitment round for 2015/16… so what are you waiting for?

Musings of a Working Mum

A wonderful reflection by Katie – thanks for giving us an insight on how to balance parenthood and teaching.

stpaulslearning

time

Katie is a fantastic English Teacher who has also juggled the challenge of a young family too… I recently asked her to share her thoughts on how she held it all together. I am sure, like me, you will find her reflections touching and inspiring. Thank you for sharing them with us all. I am sure there are lessons for us all about how we do what’s right for the people we love.

Musings of a working Mum

When you asked Stella and I what the secret was for working happily as a teacher and also being a mum, I initially thought that I knew the answer: working two days a week.

Since then, I’ve been thinking, ‘what is it that’s made it ok?’ And so, as I’m sat listening to Mabes complaining from her cot that I’m not feeding her to sleep, (I’ve done my time and feel that…

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Are two Heads better than one?

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I have recently been asked by my old school to write something on Headship as I am blessed by the fact that I have been privileged to have worked with (and for!) my brother in our career in teaching. So how did we both end up as Catholic Headteachers in the same Diocese, therefore having a family representation of 18% of the total of Catholic state secondary heads?

What was it in our experience at Worth that led us in this direction? I have thought carefully about what led me towards teaching. At the heart of this are three core formative aspects of this journey.

1. An inspirational role model – one of my English teachers, called George Daly was a person who “lit the fire” for me when it came to learning, motivation and identity. He was someone who was passionate about all he did ranging from his teaching to drama to sport. He had a sense of drive, conviction and focus that had a profound impact on me. In essence I could see unless you gave everything in life you might as well not bother! I hope I have echoed this and lived it out in a small way in how I have taught and led. I also have pledged in writing this to tell him the impact he had on me.

2. A sense of moral purpose – we were privileged at school to have opportunities to do voluntary service. This helped us see beyond the insular life at school to be challenged to take our place in the world that we live in. Two examples of this for me were volunteering in a special school and at St. Botolph’s in Aldgate, a homeless crypt . This awoke for me a sense of purpose and direction where I knew I couldn’t live a life solely focused on a career without it making a positive difference to the world we live in.

3. An independent spirit – staying away from home gave you skills to live independently. Looking back having a 24/7 school experience encapsulates the best and worst of school days. You had the freedom to be with friends, enjoy sport and a sense of adventure as well as the challenges and intensity faced in school when all isn’t going to plan. During this time my faith was nurtured and developed through pilgrimages to Lourdes, cross walks at Easter and other experiences. I also became politically aware and was drawn to the Justice and Peace group which included the work of Amnesty International. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “Whoever thinks religion and politics don’t mix must be reading a different Bible to me.” Sometimes this meant sticking up for your beliefs even if nobody else shared them. I hope to engender this sense of conviction and character in the students I serve today.

And finally… it has been an immense privilege sharing my vocation as an RE teacher and a Catholic Headteacher with my brother. To have worked together, and now alongside one another, in Catholic secondary schools in the diocese is fantastic. He is my best friend, confidante and an inspiration and I couldn’t think of anything better to bind us together. When we are in school together we are often mistaken for one another – physically there may be some similarities but at the heart of it I hope I share in his vitality, energy and commitment to a job we live and breath. I believe in this we are in our “element” and for this I give thanks each and every day.

My Brother’s perspective…

The prospect of me speaking in front of a thousand or more students and staff, at one stage of my life would have been totally unthinkable! I was a shy boy, keen to avoid putting his head above the parapet and not one for the limelight (although possibly my parents and teachers at Worth may have different recollections!) I now find myself as Headteacher of St Philip Howard School, a Catholic 11-18 secondary school near Arundel, working in the same Diocese as my brother, another ex-Worth boy, who is Headteacher at St. Paul’s Catholic College. How on earth did we end up here?!

I’ve been blessed to have had some wonderful role models in my life, whom I have aspired to be more like.  Three have made a particular impression on my decision to teach and my journey to Headship.

We remember our very best (and worst!) teachers. The TES used to run a feature on “My Best Teacher” where a host of celebrities spoke of the teachers who had made an impression upon them. The common theme throughout was about inspirational, passionate teachers who had a love of their profession and a selfless quality to the approach they took to their work. I was very fortunate to have been taught History at Worth by Alex Farquhar. What a dedicated, caring, patient and hard-working teacher he was. His passion for History was infectious, his desire to walk the extra-mile endless and his commitment to ensure you realised your full potential made a huge impression on me. Education has the power to transform and make a life-changing difference to others. It was Alex Farquhar who demonstrated that to me most.

Nothing worthwhile in life is achieved without commitment, hard work and sacrifice. Bringing up five children, running your own successful business and still having time to take care of everyone else’s needs, is no easy job, but something my mother did and continues to do with aplomb! Her example to me has without doubt led me to want to teach and serve others.

My vocation into teaching wasn’t immediately obvious to me despite the fact I’d spent 6 months in Canada during my Gap Year doing just that. It took four years of accountancy following my graduation from Newcastle to realise it was time to take the leap of faith. That leap was very much more the easier for having an older, far wiser and very supportive older brother who to this day inspires me in my work. Rob wasn’t one to avoid putting his head above the parapet and his courage, commitment and integrity to do what’s right was the single most important reason for choosing to change career.

Teaching has been the making of me. I haven’t looked back once and feel extremely fulfilled in my job. It is an enormous privilege to serve the young people entrusted to our care. Young people are an endless source of energy, enthusiasm and vitality. We are challenged by Christ to witness the world through the eyes of children and we have a lot to learn from them. At the heart of it is that we are all teachers whether we know it or not – let’s hope we can all rise to that challenge!

Time to decide on my own professional development: how do I need to develop as an assistant head?

This is a really honest and inspiring reflection which I will definitely share with our leadership team too!! Enjoy the Greek sun and refreshment to nourish the journey in the year ahead.

teachertweaks

In the summer term, my head informed me that an ex-headteacher who he used to work with is going to work with our SLT with the remit of developing our own leadership competencies. The reason for this is partly because we have restructured some of our roles and responsibilities for the upcoming year. The head believes – quite rightly – that the way SLT has been structured is very much based upon procedures and tasks rather than clear outcomes. As an example, one of our assistant heads is responsible for trips and visits but this is mostly an admin role; time he spends on this is time spent away from his other major responsibility which is developing and evaluating our assessment and feedback processes.

To be honest, when the head came to my office to say that someone from the outside was going to come in and work with us…

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