Returning To The TEACHING Promised Land

THIS Blog is about stepping into the unknown. Its about my future and what I hope to achieve in 2016. Its about looking after my family. Its about working hard to become a teacher again within 11-19 education. Most importantly its about helping to make a difference to the lives of young people.

I wrote two blogs in August (2015) titled ‘Becoming Me… A Teacher Again‘and ‘THIS Is About Being A Teacher‘ which has lead me to this blog. I am writing this because I am leaving my current role with an educational awarding body on the 23rd December to fulfill my aspiration of returning to the classroom. I only left the classroom in April of 2014 but every since taking on my current role which involves developing educational programmes, qualifications, teaching resources and delivering teacher CPD I have realised more and more that I miss teaching. I miss the day to day involvement in growing young people to fulfill their potential, guiding them to believe in themselves more, raising their aspirations to achieve and to help them become citizens prepared for life in the 21st Century.

The opportunity came about in October to take voluntary redundancy. I took it due to the burning desire to get back into the classroom. This is where I have taken my leap into the unknown. I have no job to go to at the time of writing this, becoming a supply teacher looks like my likely route for income to support my family. I have done this as I believe it will give me the best opportunity to return to the classroom and to become a full time permanent member of teaching staff within a school or college. My wife and I have also taken the decision to move back nearer our families in Scarborough, North Yorkshire from Bristol.

Ideally, and due to my achievements and experiences of 12 years working in education, I would like a role leading a department in a school or college as teaching and learning is my passion. I would also like to work in the North Yorkshire or East Yorkshire regions. To achieve this, for me, would be about returning to the TEACHING promised land.

I see this as a similar journey to what my local football team Scarborough Athletic (SAFC) is currently on.  SAFC started life again in 2007 after the previous club Scarborough FC folded. Since 2007 SAFC have been playing home games away from Scarborough, they are also trying to climb through the non-league pyramid to return to national league football. I similarly feel like I have been playing my home games away from where I truly believe I belong… in teaching! The last couple of years have provided a great experience and I believe through my current role I have developed and improved my craft through sharing educational ideas and pedagogy with other people working in education from across the UK.

THIS explains how 2016 will become my personal quest to return to teaching. I know I have the ideal skills and flexible experience of being able to teach Business, Geography, ICT and Travel & Tourism as my main teaching subjects. Much of the educational discussion in this country is that there is a lack of teachers to fill vacancies, especially in coastal areas. Well, I am here and ready! I accept there will be challenges along the way. I believe however that, like the SAFC motto, if there is ‘No Battle‘ from me to gain entry back into teaching… then there will certainly be ‘No Victory‘.


Featured Image: Courtesy of @safc supporters.

A link for gaining advice on that next teaching role (courtesy of @headguruteacher)

A link from The Guardian on the top 10 job interview questions.


Encouraging Growth Mindset

THIS following text has been taken directly from an article written for The guardian on the 15th November 2015 titled ‘Four questions that encourage growth mindset among students‘. It was written by Bradley Busch and I have not changed any of it. The main reason for producing it as a blog is to have it for reference as I continue in my own journey to be a better teacher.

I hope others may find it useful too…

Teachers have long battled with how to get their students to become more resilient and improve their mindset.

One popular theory, pioneered by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, is the idea of growth mindset. Dweck explains that some students believe ability is malleable and can be improved (a growth mindset), while others think it is set in stone, probably decided at birth (a fixed mindset). Evidence suggests that those with a growth mindset seek out feedback on how to get better, persist with work for longer and cope better with change – all attitudes teachers want to develop in their young charges.

How can teachers encourage a growth mindset?

When working with young people, choosing which behaviours to praise can have a profound impact. In one study, children aged one- to three-years-old who were praised for their effort were far more likely to develop a growth mindset five years later (pdf). This is because praising effort provides a template for young children to follow, whereas praising ability doesn’t give them any guide on how to behave next time.

As well as thinking of the feedback you offer your class, there are certain questions you can ask to get them thinking about their own mindset:

  • Is the effort today worth the reward tomorrow?

Get students to spend a few minutes writing down how doing well at school can help them achieve future goals. Combine this with teaching them that their ability can be improved, and you have a powerful combination.

This gets students to place more meaning and value on what they are learning, as well as increasing their belief that they can get better. It leads to students putting more effort and attention into their studies.

A recent study into this approach showed a significant improvement in student grades (pdf). Interestingly, it found the students who benefited the most were the ones who were at risk of dropping out of school.

  • Do you feel threatened by successful people?

Some students see tests as a chance to explore how much they’ve learned. Others use it as a chance to compare themselves with their classmates. Psychologists have found that constantly comparing yourself with others can have a negative impact on your confidence, motivation, self-management and academic performance.

Instead of feeling threatened by other people’s success, a more healthy approach is to want to learn from them. How do they do what they do? What is their mindset like? Ask students to choose someone they admire – for example Larry Page, chief executive of Google, Michael Jordan or JK Rowling – and encourage them to research their mindset.

This can be a simple weekend project. Ask students to research what obstacles they have had to overcome or their opinion on working hard to maximise their talent. On Monday morning, have your students present their findings in class.

  • Do you spend more time questioning the feedback you get or taking action?

Some people spend more time questioning the feedback they are given, instead of responding to it. This is because what they really want is praise so when they get negative feedback they feel personally attacked. But learning how to improve from your mistakes is an important life skill and is central to developing a successful mindset.

This doesn’t mean teachers should adopt a Simon Cowell approach of brutal honesty; however, guiding students towards being comfortable with receiving feedback and giving them the confidence to act on it will serve them well. This is often best done in private, on an individual basis, as it will remove the fear that some students have of being publicly judged.

  • You’ve had a setback. What would you do differently next time?

This question avoids any judgement on a student’s ability. It can also stop them from dwelling on the past because it allows them to have a sense of control over the situation.

Psychologists use the term “metacognition” to describe being aware and in control of your own thought process. Asking what you would do differently is a great example of this; it helps students to analyse and reflect on their thought process. Developing metacognitive skills has been found to be one of the most effective ways to help students improve their grades.

This is an effective strategy as it helps students improve how they plan, monitor and analyse their thoughts and behaviours. Students who have strong metacognition often have a growth mindset and high levels of resilience.

Many other questions exist that will help students develop both their metacognition and mindset. These include: who can I ask for help? What could I have done better?

A final thought

The growing research on growth mindset is an exciting development in education. But we are still working out what is the best way to help students. Facilitating a growth mindset is not straight forward, but, done correctly, it could help students improve how they learn, feel and behave.

Questioning; Challenge & Engagement

THIS is good advice for challenging and engaging learners through higher order questioning….

Gary King

Questioning blog

Questioning is a fundamental element of pedagogy, one you could read endlessly around, but the reality is using questioning to challenge and engage all learners is demanding and potentially problematic to get right. Recently I’ve been working with a team of teachers, shaping our CPD model in preparation for the new academic year. Engaging in dialogue around teaching and learning with colleagues is always a pleasure and extremely informative, and one aspect continually crops up; deep, challenging and engaging questioning. Firstly, I think it’s crucial to outline what we are trying to achieve when we think about the purpose of questioning, for me it includes the following:

  • Allowing students to develop a fuller understanding of a concept because they have tried to explain it
  • To easily recall existing knowledge
  • To be able to link the ideas in the lesson with existing knowledge
  • To tackle problems at a deep level and…

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Creating A More Supportive Education System

THIS blog revisits so many of my earlier blogs about the state of education and the incessant drive by the current government to test, drive teachers by accountability measures and to pigeonhole schools, teachers and young people into categories. By categories I am talking about giving a ‘badge of honour’ (for the best or elite) or a ‘tag’ (for the lowest achieving), for the young person as an A* to G (or soon to be 9-1 at GCSE) learner or, a teacher/school being outstanding to requiring improvement/special measures. As a teacher/leader I am totally in agreement that we need to have high expectations, we need to challenge young people and we need to continually engage with CPD to improve and provide the highest quality of teaching possible. However I am becoming increasingly perplexed by the perceived constant need to put people and organisations into categories. Why do we as a country continually feel the need to label everything. Well I know for sure that when we label people or organisations it stops us being the best we can be.

Let me explain…

When we give an child an aspirational target of say a B grade which is based on previous data etc, we are actually saying to that child that this is their ceiling. What is truly an ‘aspiration’ is saying to them that the they need to be the best that they can be. As teachers we should be challenging the learner to be better and consistently encouraging them to get the very highest grade that is available. Not all will make it but I believe that if you aim for the stars then as a teacher you are actually creating more of a chance that they will land on the moon! My teaching ethos has always been to continually focus on improvement through formative assessment without worrying too much about the actual grade. I would go so far as saying that it is my belief that I would only do summative assessments if it will genuinely ensure that it will move the child forward, which in turn becomes more of a formative that summative assessment. My success in developing learners to achieve higher grades than they ever thought possible pays testament to this theory. I am heartened to hear that many schools and colleges are now moving towards less summative assessment (possibly one a term) and concentrating on improving the young persons ability and skills to learn through peer and self assessment. I know that this does create better independent learners who take more responsibility for their own learning and achieve better academic success.

I am also heartened to read and hear more stories of schools abandoning lesson observations that have a grade attached. This is a great move forward in my view as it will create a much more collegiate way of improving teaching and learning through teachers and leaders having a genuine and constructive dialog of the teaching that is taking place. It has to be carried out in a way that encourages and supports the development of the teacher. Not giving a grade allows the focus to move away from the despair of a potentially negative grade based largely on a very subjective opinion. Of course even constructive feedback is subjective, but the more variety of opinions that are brought into the mix through a truly collegiate approach will raise the standards of teaching and help teachers to become better and create the highest standards of education. For leaders, if that is not encouraging them to improve or having high expectations of their staff then I don’t what would be?

An article written in the TES recently discusses similar principles to those explained in this blog. The article focuses on the theory that OUR education system should be built upon the values of support, encouragement and empathy.

THIS blog is about what I believe would help create a more supportive education system.


P.s. I make no excuse for missing out the word ‘rigour’ in this blog. The word means “the quality of being extremely thorough and careful“, “severity or strictness” or “harsh and demanding conditions” as cited in the Oxford Dictionaries. My feeling is that it is a word that is only being used when showing a punitive approach by leaders. The only meaning I can relate my own values to is to be ‘thorough’ in my work.

Marking is a hornet

A great blog for ideas on marking which could be used in any school or college with any type of learning…

These are the words that I read very early on in the blog which made me think most…

Feedback is a butterfly: Feedback is effective when it is timely (not too late after the task), frequent (not too scarce) and acted on (not ignored). Written marking often militates against this: teachers burn out and it becomes less timely, less frequent and less acted on by pupils and teachers.

THIS is the Blog, I hope you enjoy it and find it as useful as I have….

Pragmatic Education

Written marking takes up huge amounts of teachers’ time. If the average teacher marks for just over 5 hours a week, that’s 200 hours of marking a year. In a secondary school of 100 teachers, that’s 20,000 hours of marking.

Written marking is non-renewable: it’s a one-off. Each written comment I put in a pupil’s book only impacts once on that one pupil. What else could we do with that 20,000 hours, that would impact more positively on future pupils and other teachers? Marking has a very low ratio of impact-to-effort, and a very high opportunity cost.


There are much better ways to share feedback so pupils improve. There are much better ways to focus teachers’ limited time. That is why we no longer mark pupils’ books at our school – at all.

Feedback is a butterfly 

Feedback is effective when it is timely (not too late after the…

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