Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life


The term is over and so is the teaching year. I wrote a ‘Top 10 of 2013‘ at the end of term but then I saw that everyone was doing the #nurture1314 thing and like a sheep, I’m going to follow the crowd. Here are my top 13 successes of 2013:

1. Pass It On CPD

This has got to be the biggest factor in the success of my year. Ultimately, it meant that I stayed in Reading. Without it, I would not have become as much a part of the Reading College community as I have. Here’s a video that explains what the premise of ‘Pass It On’ was when we started it in May:

We held the Poundland Pedagogy day in June and this was a pivotal turning point. The College staff came together in competitive spirit and teaching & learning ideas were celebrated for one of the first times.

Since the start of Pass It On, staff at the College have voluntarily delivered 80 Pass It On Sessions with more than 50 new sessions (excluding repeats) scheduled from January. The bitesize (generally 30 min) sessions have had 355 attendees to date.

The sessions offered to date have been: Equality and Diversity/ Embedding English/ Fabulous Feedback/ Flip and Blend(ed learning)/ Google+ and videos/ Google+ communities/ Google Assessment/ Google beginners and intermediates/ Google Forms/ Google Tracking Spreadsheets/ iPad videos/ Lunchtime Reading Group/ Making the most of Google+/ Moodle Support/ Open Classrooms Week/ Outstanding Teaching/ Poundland Pedagogy Challenges/ Project Based Learning/ QR Codes/ Shake up and Share/ Socrative/ Support and Share/ TeachMeets/ Twitter/ Tutorials and Target Setting/ Tutorials and Triptico/ Two Top Tech Tools (Padlet and Today’s Meet)/ Video Feedback/ YouTube playlists… PHEW!

The success of this small project so far has blown me away and I feel so privileged to have been at the heart of it. I’m thoroughly looking forward to what it will achieve this year.

2. Open Classrooms Week

This week was part of our Pass It On CPD programme and here are my full reflections on the week. The biggest thing I gained from this week was seeing my colleagues in action and receiving a real insight into the teaching in other areas of the College. Diving into green door classrooms was addictive to say the least. We have another week planned for March and I could not recommend it to your school/College highly enough!

3. Peer Assessment and Peer Teaching

Last year, these activities were a huge part of my lessons. This year, they’re now a successful part of my lessons! I have begun to train students in how to assess accurately, how to give feedback appropriately and how to teach effectively. One of the most memorable moments of the AS peer teaching week was seeing a student deliver an entire lesson on her own but having me to consult with. I believe these lessons raised some of the students’ aspirations and confidence and they were enabled to let their light shine.

4. Building my online presence

…That then spills over into actual life! I have been overwhelmed with the views and comments on my blogging over the last year. I think I have developed my blogging style and feel far more comfortable about publishing now. I have then been even more overwhelmed on a number of occasions when I have met other teachers in person and they have spoken to me about my tweets or blog. Although I don’t think that my teaching is the very best out there, I do think that it’s quite good and I love the fact that other teachers are trying out the ideas that I’ve written about. It’s perhaps the greatest thing about my job in that I don’t just influence my learners but there is the possibility of inspiring other teachers too!

5. Gaining more of a work-life balance

My colleagues at Reading will probably not believe this but 2013 has seen my best work-life balance since I started teaching. I am much more able to relax on an evening and I am far better at doing it on a weekend too. There are still improvements to be made: I still work for the whole of most weekends (but not all), I still stay until after 8pm on an evening (but not every night) and I still worry (but that will never change). I have accepted that this area of my life will always be ‘under-construction.’

6. Academic Induction

As part of being given new responsibilities at work, I have been running a new academic induction programme for new staff. I had a wonderful final session, where all attendees shared how they’d been working towards their targets. They stated ways in which their practice had developed and they also reflected on the areas with which they will need more support. It was fantastic to be a small part of them settling into College. The next round of 7 weeks starts in January and there are exciting developments to make; I love reworking a course!

7. Ofsted

I can’t say too much on this until our report is published but it was a successful week and it was great to see that no departments panicked when they got the call; we were already prepared to showcase what we were doing. For the whole week, it was so inspiring to see all of my colleagues supporting one another so well and I look forward to analysing the full report when it emerges.

8. Finally visiting the globe

In 2013, I took a group of students into London to visit the Globe and we watched Othello at The National Theatre. We got lost, as is inevitable on any of Hannah’s trips into London. Trips are always a fantastic opportunity to get to know students in a far more informal setting but I do need to get better at the planning of them!

9. Organisation of TeachMeets

The start of Pass It On, and our collaboration with The Bulmershe School, has seen the start of a Reading TeachMeet. It all began with Amjad Ali and continues now with Marcus Leach. So many T&L ideas have been successfully shared and many great colleagues have been met. I’m unsure whether I’m the right person to be leading a TeachMeet (it’s incredibly scary) but as in many other cases, I’m certain that my enthusiasm and passion will see me through.

Now for four less work-related things:

10. Paris

I finally visited this city! I had a fantastic break and managed to relax completely. I spent quality time eating, sightseeing, walking, art viewing and eating. More travelling must be done in 2014! It’s an escape that can’t really be emulated in any other way.

11. Moving out of my flat

Last weekend saw me move out of my flat and in with  my partner again. We’ve finally found a solution to our living situation and although there’ll be a long commute in store, we’ll be reunited! 🙂 This is a huge success!

12. Surviving!

The overriding success of the last year has been surviving. I had (in Sept 2012) moved to a new job, in a new town, in a new flat that was a very long distance from home. There were many low moments in 2013, least of which was that I felt like I was teaching for the first time all over again. Most of which was a loss of who I was. There are many people I have to thank for being able to settle in and find ‘me’ again: Bridget James (for being a fantastic inspiration and a kind ear), Richard Duckett and Paul Emberlin (for letting me tag along sometimes), Liz Lang (for being my work mum), Preeti Vohra, Scott Reilly and Liz Anderson (for being fabulous colleagues), James Kieft (for being fantastically hardworking and a wonderful colleague), Cheryl Pennington(for believing in me and allowing my light to shine) and finally my students (if you’re a teacher then you’ll be well aware of the power of students).

13. Flourishing

Despite the many difficult and soul-destroying moments, the last year and a quarter has been one of the most important and defining moments of my life so far. Although I still worry about all my actions and possible progress, I am much more certain of myself and confident in who I am. I have generally been of the mind that others can take or leave me and that’s still certainly the case- thanks to my wonderful parents teaching me the way. What I have realised whilst living alone, is exactly what I’m capable of- I’m pretty amazing really and although I’m ecstatic about not living alone anymore, this experience was of such great value. If I was faced with the same dilemma again, I’m not certain that I’d grab the opportunity with both hands but I’d certainly give it some serious consideration.

I’m excited about what 2014 will hold. There is much to be nervous about and huge changes are in store but I’m certain it will also contain much success too. I don’t intend to write 14 resolutions here, although it’s tempting. Holiday times mean the opportunity to dream big. At present, in my super-relaxed state, next term will contain the best teaching ever, the best grades ever and lots of home-life, new friends and hobbies. But I am familiar with the pattern now and I know that it will actually hold much of the same: constant worry about whether everything is ok and continual development of my teaching and myself, with a little bit of home-life sprinkled on top. Here are some hopefully achievable goals:

1. Join the swimming pool and swim regularly.

2. Read more books!

3. Start writing a children’s book.

4. Go to the cinema more.

5. Find/ help to develop a TeachMeet in the Warwickshire area.

6. Take part in #timelapseclassroom with Alex Warner.

7. I never really make goals for my teaching as these will emerge as the year progresses but to make it better is a reasonable hope.

8. Continue living outside of my comfort zone as often as possible.

‘You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.’ C.S.Lewis

The overriding hope (perhaps dream) for 2014 is that the new move will work out and I’ll be able to sustain the commute as I’ve never been happier in a place as I am at Reading College. I have never been offered more opportunities or encouraged to grow as much as here. Thanks to writing all of this down, I am feeling ever more hopeful for what the coming year will hold.

Happy New Year everyone!

Here’s something lovely that my Mum and Dad sent me this morning and I think it will be my motto in 2014.

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

– C. JoyBell C.

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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