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#Nurture1314 – Forward Reflections for 2014

Right – so my last post was looking back on 2013 and now it’s time to look forward to 2014. I am extremely aware that next year is going to be one of the most challenging years I might ever face due to personal circumstances which I will explain but not in detail. If it ever becomes appropriate to write about it I will – but now is not the time.

1. My first and main priority for the first half of the year will be to teach like a champion to ensure the best possible outcomes for my amazing Y6 class! We need to work flat out for Spring Term – Autumn Term delivered outstanding progress for them because they suddenly “got it”! They began to develop growth mindsets, enjoy their learning, stopped sulking and started to mature. Lovely to see! It’s like watching them on the edge of the cliff ready to fly!

2. I will continue to work hard to develop Teaching & Learning across the school. One of our best teachers, who was also our other senior leader, left at Christmas. A huge loss which decreases our capacity for leadership but which also brings the excitement of a new recently qualified teacher who will need supporting and nurturing. I will also be taking on the mentoring role of an NQT – I love this part of my job. She will be the 4th NQT I have mentored since Jan 2012. It feels as though you are “growing your own”.

3. I will continue to attend my Future Leaders training days. I really look forward to these days as I get to meet up with all the wonderful members of my cohort, touch base, share ideas and experiences and learn loads!

4. In March I get to go on a tour of inspirational schools in the Midlands as part of Future Leaders Study Tour. This lasts for a couple of days followed by a weekend away to reflect on what we see. I can’t wait! I am very aware that apart from my own schooling in Essex I have only been in London schools. Part of my fascination with Twitter is reading about the experiences of teachers in other parts of the country and other settings. Being able to tour schools in a different place and ask questions and learn about the different contexts, challenges and solutions really excites me.

5. When Future Leaders asked for applications to become a Peer Mentor for the Cohort ’14 participants I jumped at the chance. I was thrilled when I received confirmation that I had been accepted! The training and support I have received is second to none and so I want to be a part of making the experience as positive for others. I will get to go away for 2 long weekends and then 2 weeks in the Summer holidays again. A huge commitment but such an opportunity to be part of the whole training experience again from a different perspective. I remember well feeling very out of my comfort zone on that first weekend – we were the first primary cohort and there were only 8 of us plus our mentors in a room of about 70 secondary colleagues. By the end of the second week I found there were no barriers – we are all in it for the same reasons and we all do the same thing because we are passionate about changing lives and closing the achievement gap. I want to support primary colleagues in quickly conquering any fears or apprehensions that I experienced.

6. I am looking forward to taking my Y6 class on their residential trip in June. Last year was so fabulous and I can’t wait to do it all again – and as it is my second time I will know how to go about it all with increased confidence. The only problem will be either leaving them with the other adults on the Thursday night so I can come home to pack and go to the first Future Leaders weekend early on the Friday OR stay with them, get them back to school for 3pm and then make a mad dash to the train station and arrive a bit late! The logistics need to be sorted!

7. So far I have only really written about my professional life – it really is a massive part of who I am. But I do have a life as well (as I have to keep reminding myself!). I have the most amazing partner who I have shared my life with for over 18 years. We do not have children – we were not lucky enough to be given that blessing. I know 2014 is going to be hugely busy for me but I also have to start spending time with ‘himself’. He is unwell (this is the part I am not going to go into detail about) potentially seriously and so we are in a place of contemplation about the next few months. The word tough does not even come close to describe our life together at present. This holiday has been the first opportunity we have had to spend quality time together since his diagnosis and I have had time to just think. I have to work (he is unable) in order to keep us afloat but I have to find a way of also having ‘us’ time. Autumn term taught me how much work keeps me going and supports me.

8. I want to find the time to blog more – definitely about teaching & learning and maybe as the year goes on and if my personal situation needs an outlet then also about how I cope. I wrote a diary every day from the age of 10 to the age of 21 and I still have every diary under the bed! So perhaps blogging is similar – just with the possibility of others reading what you write. I need to be sure I am ready for that.

9. I have been much better this year at keeping in touch with friends – maybe not seeing them as much as I want but at least phoning for chats. I want to continue this in 2014.

10. Health. Mmmm! Not my best thing – looking after myself! I was extremely ill in 2005 and spent a year in and out of intensive care and hospital. This has left me with 2 herniated discs in my back which have caused problems for years. I now suffer with daily back, neck and shoulder pain. I must find time to get it sorted. Working 12 hour days leaves very little time to make and keep appointments with doctors and I hate taking time off work having had to take so much time in the past.

11. Read! So many books on my list – all educational of course.

12. Oooh just remembered – having been given Requires Improvement grade in June this year and having been visited by HMI in October, we know we are expecting Ofsted again in Autumn 2014. I am determined to be so much more prepared when they arrive and feel totally confident to fight our corner. We deserve that ‘Good’ grade!!

13. Although I adore teaching and having my own class, as a Deputy Head in a one form entry school the capacity I have for my leadership role is constantly being compromised. In September I will hopefully not be in class and will be able to lead my school much more effectively. I know how much I get done in my DHT role now while also having a class – the thought of what I could achieve being out of class excites me beyond belief!

14. A frivolous aim – I had never worn a dress or skirt since my schooldays really until September. As I left Future Leaders on that last day in the Summer hols I promised my colleagues I would buy a dress and wear it on the first day back in September. This I did although I felt very self-conscious! I have worn it twice more and then stopped. So – I must buy more dresses and wear them more. My suits are my school uniform!

So there we are – all done. This feels a little strange having read it back to myself. Feels like I am putting myself out there more than I have before. But hey – it felt good writing it!

May I wish everyone a very happy and (most importantly) healthy New Year.

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Nurture1314 – my first attempt at blogging!

Well here goes! Having seen my NQT mentee publish her first blog this week and then seeing @ChocoTzar’s Nurture1314 idea, I felt compelled to have a go at blogging. This has probably been the most incredible year of my career so far – I’ve been teaching since 1997. So I will start at the beginning of the year.

1. I joined Twitter. I could stop there really. What I have learned from all the wonderful people on here is too extensive to go into but I do know I am a better teacher for it.

2. My first TeachMeet was at Bridge Academy. I took my NQT along with me and she just got it immediately. The two of us were off in Twitter Teachland – the 2 of us have had significant impact on the rest of the school as a result.

3. At the Bett Conference I saw Heath Monk speak about Future Leaders – my Head Teacher turned to me and said “We want you on that! Find out about it!” So I did.

4. Applied for Future Leaders – tough selection process which challenged me from the outset. Online tests, essay questions, half day of interviews at the Assessment Centre.

5. Accepted as a 2013 Primary Cohort Future Leader!! Could not believe it in one way but also just felt that this was what was meant to happen on my journey.

6. Throughout all of this I was/am still teaching my Y6 class. It was my first time having my own Y6 class and I loved every minute! So many things that were as new to me as they were to them. I was excited every day by the progress they were making – I knew they were going to do well but I wanted so much for them and wanted to give them as wide and varied experience as possible. I was stimulated every day by the discussions we had and the learning journey we were on together.

7. My first experience of seeing my own class take their KS2 Sats – I had been part of the process for so long but never fully realised what the Y6 teacher goes through during that week. Emotional is the only word for it! They did amazingly well and achieved the best set of results the school had had for many years (except in SPaG!!!)

8. Took Y6 away for a week on their residential trip. I had always dreaded this – again a first for me – because I hate being away from home but I loved every minute. I cried several times (children didn’t see!!) when specific children achieved their goals and did things they thought they never could. It was life affirming and just added to my passionate belief in what we do for these inner city children living in poverty.

9. Spent 2 long weekends away as part of the Foundations course for Future Leaders. I won’t go into details here but suffice to say it has changed my life. (another blog that needs to be written)

10. Ofsted came knocking in June – school placed in Requires Improvement. I realise now that this would be a whole blog on it’s own. It flattened us, not because of the grading (we expected that) but the way we were treated.

11. Spent 2 weeks of the Summer holidays at Future Leaders Foundations. I met so many new colleagues – a network of people who I know are going to be my support system for the next few years as I move toward headship. Again this is a whole blog of it’s own!

12. September saw the new school year start. I began with a renewed passion and vigour for the job I already loved. Nothing will steer me from my path now. I know I can make a difference. I know I am making a difference and I want every teacher and TA in my school to know and feel that like I do. I want to banish the low morale which followed Ofsted and lead everyone to Good and beyond. I have no doubts that we will get there. By Christmas the % of good or better teaching had risen from 40% to 67% and we will get to 80% by Easter! The rise in progress of the children across the school at the end of this term compared to this time last year is significant and teachers have realised how good they really are.

13. I applied to be a Peer Mentor for Future Leaders in 2014 and was accepted! I will be able to support the new cohort in having the same amazing experience I had and helping to expand the number of primary colleagues who are going to spread the excellent training that Future Leaders gives.

So – that was the year that was! As I was writing I realised how easy it is to just write about these things that I love! I could have gone on and on (Lol!) I also realised that perhaps I do have some more blogs in me! I need to take some time to think about my 14 things for 2014 – please excuse the gap! Please please comment on my blog – let me know what I have done well and what I could do to make it better. Future Leaders told us that “FEEDBACK IS A GIFT”!! I have this on my feedback forms to staff now – they thought I was bonkers when I said it the first time in September but now our school is developing a culture of feedback being a gift and that it should be received in that way. I want to lead in this way and so seek feedback for myself whenever I can – however hard to hear. Thank you for taking the time to read this.