Friday, 2 August 2013

Schoooooool's out for summer!

And so we find ourselves at another summer holiday, thank goodness! It has been a varied year for me and I thought I'd reflect a bit on how it's gone for me.

It has been a year of real highs and lows. Arguably, my greatest improvement this year has been my approach - it is more refined, relaxed, and reliable. I don't worry about performance as much now since it feels so much more natural to me. I think this has best been reflected by the response I've had from the more renowned students in my classes: upon finding out I was leaving, one young lady reacted with, "Oh what?! You're leaving?! But I've actually been going to English this year - I barely went at all last year!!" In practice, I'm not sure what exactly it is she thinks she's been doing (she's been attending on and off but I've got one and a half assessments from her in between her visits to isolation and wherever the smokers go!), but the comment really did make me feel appreciated. I've had a Head of Year comment on how much one little tearaway likes me and how impeccable his behaviour is with me, compared to all of his other teachers (to be fair, this little one became one of my favourites this year - he was gobby but really rather sweet too... *whispers* on the quiet...). I've had various comments from parents too: one Year 8 whose Mum has been known to strike fear in the heart of some teachers informed me that her son thinks that I'm "right up there" and I was delighted to be able to say I thought the same of him; another parent bothered to email me and thank me for the time spent helping her daughter this year and how disappointed they both were that I was leaving but wished me all the best. Let's face it, these are the best things about teaching - it is these moments that keep us going through the boring department meetings, the CPD session that heralds the latest fad as 'the way forward' for the third time that term, or the times when the little darlings kick off and call you a horrible name... Still, totally worth it!

It was pointed out that my marking was an issue this year. I'm all for constructive criticism and I feel like, although I was really upset at the time, I learnt A LOT as a result from the outcome. I carried out a book monitoring activity for my department which allowed me to see the best and worst practice from my colleagues. The biggest thing I learnt was to write less and write smarter. My marking comments now focus more on level-based targets, feature higher amounts of praise, and encourage responses and interaction with students. I attended a training day in London on how to ensure every lesson is outstanding and learnt a lot of new marking techniques there too:

The Purple Pen of Progress: Students have time to go through and review my marking. Using purple pens, they go through and make changes and improvements to their work, as per my comments. The use of the purple pen allows everyone to see exactly where and what improvements have been made.

Bingo Markers: How many of you are sick of writing 'When do we use capital letters?' or 'Don't forget to use a full stop!'? Seriously, I could have retired ages ago if I had a pound for every time I had to write something like that. So now, I use bingo markers. Each colour represents a different basic literacy problem: sentence structure, punctuation, spelling etc. and then the kids have to go through their work and really interact with what it means. They can't just skim read and ignore what they don't care about.

So, in short, it has been a year of two halves. Lots more than just this has happened, obviously, but these are the two that really stick in my mind. How has your year gone - what advice could you pass on from what you've learnt?!

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