New Term here we come. Its been a great summer, much of which I have spent working on resources for 2016 GCSEs (more of which in another blog) I go back this week to a new role – Head of Humanities. Its been a long time since I have had such a role and am nervous and excited all at the same time. For the last few years I have had a yearning to get back to the classroom and teach the subject we all love on a daily basis. And here I am.
I am very lucky to be working alongside my good friend, the brilliant teacher Neil Bates. This makes it a joy to go to work. I also work with a great humanities team, all of whom are expert teachers, hardworking and committed. However, we do work in a school that is faces many challenges. It is not just a matter of turning up and teaching. Respect is earned. Behaviour is sometimes challenging. Literacy levels are relatively low. This is not a leafy middle class school where houses are filled with books. Not all or our intake can really see the value or power of education…
So to help ease my nerves at the challenges ahead, and help me into my new role, I have made some new academic year’s resolutions. Here they are my New Year’s Resolutions for the history teacher, in no particular order:
- The most important thing to remember is that the quality of the teaching in my classroom and my team’s classrooms has got to be top notch. We can easily get distracted by all the craziness, but this has to be my priority. This is our core business and it why we are all here. We need to stick to our principles. Luckily, working with Neil is a joy as between us we have 40 years worth of lessons. We mapped out our KS3 SOW and all of the lessons are resourced, so it is just a matter of tweaking. We are using many, many lessons for this site. AT KS4 we start Year 10 with America 1919-41, and we have these lessons ready. I am in the process of adapting an America overview lesson of Neil’s, so it feels comfortable enough for me. I think overviews are crucial at GCSE as well as at KS3 . We are teaching Controlled Assessment to year 11 on Weimar and Nazi Germany, so we are using our lessons on this too. This really eases the burden of planning great lessons as we have already done the thinking and hard work. We can just adapt these to our classes needs, add spice and work on new ideas when we have
- We need to evaluate the quality of the interventions that have been implemented. We are all working really hard. Last year the school demanded that teachers ran revision sessions all the time, made teachers mark in detail all of the time. How effective have these efforts been? Our GCSE results were good, pretty much the best in the school. But we need to be effective and have a decent work / life balance. I want us to work smarter, not harder.
- We are going to stick to our minimum expectations for marking. I expect my team to mark at least one piece of work at KS3 in depth with pupils responding to our comments every half term. If they want to do more, that is fine, but one is enough for me. If not our curriculum time will just be used up and no new learning will take place. Books should be marked and checked regularly, but this doesn’t have to be the 2-3 hour nightly slog that it is at the moment. I really do think that the whole marking and feedback agenda in schools has gone mad in recent years. I blogged about this earlier this year. Surely planning lessons is as important as checking books?
- Ensure that behaviour in our area is good. Teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn if there are distractions. We have our cross faculty golden rules and we are going to stick to them. Students have a right and a responsibility to learn.
- Spend time collaboratively planning. Planning and teaching lessons is our top priority. Some times, when people leave the classroom for more senior positions, they forget this. We need to sit down and discuss teaching. And we need the time to do this.
- To be clear about why we do what we do. This means a vision, a mission statement for our subjects.
- Create positive learning environment both in terms of attitudes to learning and the physical look of the classroom. Working across primary schools as an adviser opened my eyes to what a decent learning environment should look like. I don’t want to spend hours doing this. That is why we have lots of key words and connectives displayed that we can refer to in our day to day interactions. Kids be able to look around a classroom and know what subject they are in. They should also be able to use the displays to help them learn and have fun with.
So there you go, my 7 new year’s resolutions. I am sure that I have probably missed some important things off of my list. But unlike the resolutions I make on January 1st every year, I intend to stick to my magnificent seven….