GROW and Staff Wellbeing

For the past five years I have led a small team of teachers dedicated to supporting and developing staff in all areas of their professional needs, including teaching and learning. This year, as a team of 5, it was time to revamp our image and really makeGROW an impact. Over the years we have evolved away from the lesson observations and subsequent negative image of  ‘coaching’ towards the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options and Will.) So what does this include…

We provide support for:

  • NQT’s and RQT’s which involves one to one meetings, observations and pedagogical support.
  • Mentoring for new staff coming to college
  • All staff towards meeting PDR targets or CPD needs

We develop and enhance staff practice through:

  • CPD sessions: these are half an hour lunch time sessions split over the year, that staff can sign up for, based on developmental and professional needs. So far we have run sessions on Managing Workload and Differentiated tasks for Stretch and Challenge (see When ‘Stretch’ becomes too ‘Challenging’ for ppt, tasks and discussion pointers). We have also organised an external speaker to come in to talk about Autism and help staff in developing strategies to enhance an inclusive classroom (see Autism Awareness: How aware are you? for the highlights of the session).
  • Open Doors: my college no longer has graded observations or department audits (three days of door watching and writing excessively long lesson plans) to an Open Door system run by the GROW team. Each member of the team is allocated a quota of staff to contact to arrange a ‘drop in’ where they come for 10-15 minutes and complete a Praise Postcard of all the positive practice seen during that time. This is to focus on disseminating good/ best practice rather than focusing on passing judgements.
  • FB private group: We have set up FB group (Busy Brains Community) where staff can share articles, new ideas, issues, local events and pictures of what is going on in college.

We promote staff wellbeing through organising:

  • Staff events in college such as Pilates and Yoga classes, a Mindfulness workshop, a Christmas ‘Mince Pie and Mingle’, ‘Feel good Friday’ and charity fundraisers such as the Macmillan coffee morning (lots of excuses to eat homemade cake!).
  • Social events outside of college including a ‘Welcome Back’ meal in September and Mecca Bingo (because everyone loves Bingo…)
  • Local discounts for our staff including a massage package and restaurant savings.
  • Celebrate our Staff section on the GROW staffroom notice board, where staff highlight amazing achievements gained outside of college.

Finally at the start of this school year I took it upon myself (with the help of our Estates team of course) to redecorate the ‘spare’ room into a Grow and Staff Wellbeing space.

Before (the renovation was in full flow here):

After:

I would love to hear what your school/ college does as far as Teaching and Learning, Staff Wellbeing and Professional Development… so please do get in touch!

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When ‘Stretch’ becomes too ‘Challenging’

As part of my role within the GROW Team (a team of teachers who support staff with their professional development) we facilitate in-house themed CPD sessions. My session focused upon developing differentiated strategies to promote stretch and challenge. My aim was to discuss a variety of strategies that could be used with different students/ subjects, which meant that stretching all students in a lesson was less challenging on the teacher.

I started the session with a mix and match worksheet where staff had to link the key words to the online definitions:

diff

This opened up a lot of initial discussions over the terms and their meanings. What I found surprising when researching for this session, was that most of the definitions on a general Google search for Stretch and Challenge, focused upon the students stretching and challenging themselves not the teacher. This flipped how I saw stretch and challenge in my mind: it is not the teacher driving it but the students recognising what they want to achieve, taking ownership over their success by stretching themselves.

I then moved on to a short ppt which highlighted three main problems with differentiated tasks for stretch and challenge with possible solutions:

After discussing each one, what we would like to try/ have already tried etc. we finished  with a plan of action sheet – basically a check list of what are you going to do:

Continue reading “When ‘Stretch’ becomes too ‘Challenging’”

Autism Awareness: How aware are you?

world-autism-awareness-day-vector-9417568Alongside my teaching at Sixth Form, I lead a small team who are dedicated to developing teaching and learning, staff wellbeing and CPD in college. Part of our vision for CPD this year is to offer staff a selection of lunchtime sessions ranging from ‘managing workload’ to ‘wellbeing in the workplace’, which staff sign up to depending on areas they wish to develop. This week we were extremely lucky to have a specialist practitioner from the Inclusive Education Service within North Yorkshire to speak with staff about Autism Awareness.

Here are the highlights…

Students who have autism often:

  • Are good visual learners
  • Have good rote memory
  • Work best with routines
  • Have strong interests
  • Pay attention to details

However they might struggle with:

  • Delayed processing time
  • Distracted by seemingly irrelevant details
  • Understanding language and its meaning (often taking a literal approach)
  • Difficulties using and interpreting tone, inflection and volume
  • Unable to generalise learning skills
  • Difficulty reading social situations
  • Often struggle to understand what others are thinking and feeling.

How can you support a student in your class who has autism?

  • Focus on the Visual: Incorporate visual activities into your lessons, write activities and instructions on the board, use visual structures like planners or tables to help organise their thoughts and focus attention.
  • Routine: Be conscious of changing seating plans or sudden changes with routine such as an activity that involves moving around the classroom- if you know this is going to happen, speak with the individual student the previous lesson so they are prepared.
  • Idioms  – speak literally: avoid using idioms were possible (I use these far too much!) e.g ‘put your head in the sand’, ‘off the top of my head’, ‘on the right track’, ‘bookworm’, ‘brainstorm’.
  • Group Work: Be conscious about group or paired work, be mindful about who you put them in a group with and provide extra support with the change of routine and social interaction.
  • Too much stimuli: students with autism often have difficulty processing sensory information so be aware of asking them to look and listen at the same time or write and listen (such as with a PowerPoint) or look and speak…give them processing time. Also be conscious that colour, texture or touch can be overwhelming…e.g. check if things like PowerPoint backgrounds are okay.

This of course only offers pointers to consider when teaching students with autism. As Lorna Wing OBE (leading founder of the National Autistic Society in the UK) says “If you have met one person with autism…you have met one person with autism.”

Autism-Awareness.jpg

For more information, ideas, resources and research linking to autism check out: National Autistic Society and Autism Education Trust

 

Silent Discussions on Social Media!

so.pngThis school year I have thrown myself down the rabbit hole of reinventing the subject. One big area of development is through using social media, especially FB and Twitter as part of students’ learning. The spin off bonus from using a public forum = lots of promotion!

op20blogtoonparkerStudents’ lives are in-severable from the internet, their mobile phones are an extension of their arm and often now an extension of their personalities. It is the way they see the world. Rather than approaching this reality through the tainted view of an older person, who is stuck in their ways of ‘put your phone away’, ‘have a proper conversation’ or ‘social media is ruining teenagers’ – why not adapt to the undeniable changes of the millennia generation? With this in mind, what better way of promoting learning and satisfying students’ need to use their phones, than combining the two things… discussions with FB/Twitter.

Things you need:

  1. A FB page and Twitter page that students can join.
  2. School/ College permission to use social media in lessons.
  3. A way for students to access FB/ Twitter during lessons.

Setting up a discussion:

  1. Post a question that is relevant to the topic area being discussed in class. I often post between 2-4 questions over FB and Twitter, to give students a selection to engage with.
  2. Set ground rules- this is very important:
    • No memes
    • Full sentences – no one or two word replies
    • Use scholars and evidence to back up your points
    • Students do not have to join if they do not feel comfortable
    • This is a public forum therefore other people can read and join in with the discussion – do not use swear words, offensive language or display anything that may be misinterpreted.

Note: as the creator of the FB/Twitter accounts you have the power to delete/ block any students who are incapable of following these rules.

3. Sit back and enjoy the discussion (and silence).

Example from Facebook:

FB

Example from Twitter:

twitter

I highly recommend you give it a go. Not only does it develop students’ essay writing skills – they are formulating arguments in a way that doesn’t seem like work, they are learning different views from each other and there is a paper trail they can refer back to at a later point. It is also a fantastic way for other students in the wider community to experience what Philosophy is like, in a way that makes sense to them.

Let me know how it goes if you try it 🙂

Please feel free to join in any of our discussions posted on (or advertise to your students):

FB and Twitter

Just in case you are interested in other ways of using mobile phones to promote students’ learning, here is an earlier blog I wrote “Put your mobile phone away!”: Are you Kidding?.

If you would like more ideas of ways to promote Religious Studies see: Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?

Homework – who is it really ‘work’ for?

Anyone that knows a teacher, knows they have a shadow that follows them everywhere. That shadow is marking. A teacher is never far from another essay to examine, book to mark or piece of work to score. I’ve been marking between 100-150 pieces of work every fortnight for the last ten years, mostly on an evening or grabbing the odd five minutes here and there but rarely at college (otherwise when do you plan, prepare resources and answer an endless stream of emails?) However, this blog isn’t about marking because I accepted many years ago that it is just part and parcel of the job. It is an essential to ensure students’ progress, learn from their mistakes, develop their technique and understanding and recognise their current working grade. No, this blog is about homework or the lack of it.

Now at school, teachers have detentions whereby students complete the work that should have been done at home. At college you hope your students have learnt those life lessons and therefore do their homework. The problem is what happens if they don’t do it or at least can never remember to hand it in? The answer – more time is then spent by the teacher chasing up those students, asking for it, reminding them, sending emails, contacting parents…there must be an easier way.

Continue reading “Homework – who is it really ‘work’ for?”

First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy POE Question

I love deliveries from new spec text books to stationery. Today’s delivery: philosophy exam papers from the new spec exams (first years). Here’s a break down of a student’s answer for the question on Problem of Evil.

Assess the claim that natural evil has a purpose (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 15/15
A02 14/15

From reading the student’s answer there are a few noticeable points:

The structure is very clear and simple with an introduction, four main paragraphs and a conclusion.

intro aug 1.jpg

There are three simple things that make this introduction work. The first is the student uses the word ‘natural’ 3 times and ‘purpose’ twice. This shows that they are directly linking their essay to the question immediately (it is also a good way for the student to really clarify what the question is asking of them). Secondly the quote grabs the reader’s attention immediately. It is a short yet relevant quote from Augustine which the student then links into the question with a ‘this means’. Thirdly the student introduces the other key names involved Hick and Irenaeus. This makes it clear to the reader that they will be involved in this answer.

The four main paragraphs have a very clear theme and structure

Continue reading “First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy POE Question”