Catching up

9 02 2009

I thought that with doing those lessons on literacy I would feel I had teaching to write about and would keep this up to date but obviously so many other things have got in the way that I have been too busy to keep this up.  I have really  been trying to focus on my running blog lately to help me keep going with that as the 53 mile Highland Fling race from Milngavie to Tyndrum is only 11 weeks away now!  I am starting to wonder how I am going to keep going for about 12 hours!  

I did 5 lessons in a primary 5 class on Lets Think Through Literacy.  The p.5’s were definitely at the bottom end of the age group for these activities and the ideas were very typical of that age.  When we had the training day we actually did some of the lessons as if we were pupils and had some great ideas and really got into it.  I think this may have given my too big ideas of what to expect from children as their ideas were nothing like ours!  Maybe if I did it with p.7 it would have been slightly different.  I was pleased to be in this class though as the teacher was really enthusiastic and followed and took notes through every lesson.  She was definitely the type who thought that children should be given the chance to use drama and talking and listening to gain in confidence and she could see big differences in some of the pupils from the beginning to the end.  I am looking forward to running some CPD on this next year and getting teachers to do this in the same kind of way we did at the training.

And then I started doing lessons in a secondary!

I was looking at shoo fly resources and as I am going to be running CPD on that next year as well I thought I had better pilot some lessons on this.  This resource had specifically been given to a secondary to try and I was working with the PT of the English department when I suggested I do a series of lessons which he watches and then he does a series that I can watch. 

I chose to do the poetry work as it is one of my weaker areas so I thought I would challenge myself but it was also probably the piece of writing the children would find most interesting as it was a bit scary and was entitled ‘A Gothic Tale’.  The resources can be used on the interactive whiteboard or viewed through power point, which was what we had to use. 

It was a first year class, and although I have done a lot of Malawi work with classes from 1st to 6th year this was my first time at trying out teaching at secondary level and it’s fair to say I was a bit worried!  The class are an absolute dream though, I would have loved to have them in p.7.  The things we could have done!

So we spent time on the poem, wrote a synopsis and researched gothic culture and history so far.  Tonmorrow we will write a poem and then on Wed they will put it onto powerpoint like the original poem and make it look gothic.

I have really enjoyed working with the class and find secondaries fascinating but being stuck to a timetable is very restricting and I am not sure I would want that all the time while teaching.   50 – 55 mins is not very long to discuss things and get the associated work done and I have felt I, and the children, are just getting into things properly when it is time to stop.  And that is with a wonderful class where the behaviour and the work ethic was as close to perfect as you get.  With Curriculum for Excellence schools are definitely going to have to look at timetabling, as I know some are, so that pupils can go into a particular topic in more depth and not be restricted by time.  It made me realise how lucky we were in the primary if we were given the freedom to be loose with the timetable and spend longer on subjects/topics the children were interested in and that consquently generated more learning.

Fundraising challenge 1…….Done!

1 01 2009
last lap!

last lap!

Edinburgh Triathlon – despite being absolutely terrified before the start I enjoyed this today and will be signing up for another one in June!  I surprised myself with how I did, considering how little training I had and look forward to improving on it.  Bring on the training for the Highland Fling now!

Overspending for shoeboxes

12 11 2008

Last Thursday I did my biggest training input so far on Glow.  This was to all the team leaders within support services for two clusters within East Kilbride.  I felt they were all really positive and quite happy to take forward the work on passwords, being able to see how it carried on from their work on Seemis.  They were also asked to see how it would be used with the children so I took them through a couple of glow groups.  This then led to them asking if they could have a glow group and I was later (once I found out) able to tell them that one was in the process of being built for support services.

I spent my Saturday morning at a ‘speed net’ event at Holyrood Secondary for the Scotland-Malawi partnership.  It was basically like speed dating, and talking about Malawi in that way was hard enough, I would never be able to speed dating!!!  It could have been really useful but unfortunately there were an awful lot of us there who wanted to find out more and not enough people who had done a lot to be able to tell us, still I might have made another couple of useful contacts!  I was invited to visit the school by the depute head and I think that would be really interesting.  Holyrood and their associated primaries and nurseries raised £75,000 in one year and were able to send some teachers and pupils over to Malawi to help build and/or repair school buildings in three schools.  3 of the pupils involved spoke to us and it sounds like an amazing experience for them.  I then heard from my dad that they also spoke to the Council Management Team involving the Chief Executive and the Heads of Service for Glasgow City Council this week – what skills they will be gaining from this whole experience!

I have been in schools a lot the last week and working with children often too on Glow and that is great.  I am really seeing the enthusiasm grow in the schools I am in and am lucky enough to be working with some excited and willing glow mentors.

It is not only within South Lanarkshire that my face is known for Glow – I turned up at the running club tonight to have one of the guys, who works at a school in Renfrewshire, come over and tell me that ‘I was glowing tonight’!  He had been waiting for a couple of weeks to ge that pun in I think, having seen me on the LTS website.  I was certainly glowing by the end of the session, just getting myself back into it after a bit of a break after the Chicago marathon, meant I hauled myself round the route in what I felt was a very slow pace!  And only for the kids shoebox appeal would I then go to Asda still in my running leggings to spend about 5 times more than I intended to on buying enough goodies to fill 8 shoeboxes.  I actually had a couple of people ask me if I buying stuff for shoeboxes as it was that obvious!  I love doing the shoeboxes or backpacks as it is so nice to imagine them getting them but I always get totally carried away!  It also always totally sickens me though that the world is such an unfair place that we have to be doing this and people are not able to live in the same way we are.  I always make sure I get hats and gloves etc as I can’t bear to think of children being cold.

And lastly I had a lovely pile of thank you nletters arrive from a primary school I did a Malawi presentation on a few weeks ago.  They included things like I was inspirational, very informative, I spoke very clearly (always good to know!) extremely interesting, someone was going to give their sweetie money away and lots more similar things.  One of my favourites (along with the inspirational one) was one that typed and was obviously supposed to say ‘I really appreciated it’ but came out ‘I really parachuted it’!

Reunion weekend

2 11 2008

I have been in 12 different schools during the last 2 weeks, for Malawi talks, rich task discussions and work on Glow.  It has been really interesting going into the different schools, especially the rural ones around Strathaven and seeing how they work in different ways.

The Glow Mentors in each school have been really interested in how they can start to use Glow for learning and teaching and I have been really encouraged by this and am keen to get in and work with the teachers in the classroom.  I now have some times set up in a couple of schools to do this.  I am drinking far too much tea and coffee though from being offered it everywhere I go!

I also did my first CAT night in another school by myself – luckily I was too busy in other schools to worry about it too much before it started.  I was doing the e-beam and easiteach and went through the programmes first and then was lucky enough to have some time left over for them to practice using it.  This was what made the difference I think as they were apprehensive while I was showing a lot of the different things that could be done but giving them the chance to try them out right away would help them to remember it.  I got really positive feedback from it.

Glasgow Airport 27th June

Glasgow Airport 27th June

Friday and Saturday this week I was at the Stirling Managment Centre for our Global Teachers post-placement training weekend.  This was done in a different way to previous years.  LTS have now partnered up with LINK Scotland to do the Global Teachers Programme and so Friday was a nationwide conference for all present and previous Global Teachers, LINK schools co-ordinators and this years participants to Uguanda with SCIPD in partnership between LTS and LINK, as I suppose a kind of launch of this and to allow all of us to begin to network with each other.

Kaye Livingstone and Nick Morgan from LTS spoke to us and then a couple of global teachers.  It was a really positive day I thought as hopefully from this people should be able to swap ideas and help each other.  One of the things we were discussing was Glow.  Nick and I have been working on a few ideas for the national site and I mocked up a Global Teachers group, although in reality I think this would change to include link schools too, so that people could see how they could share ideas and resources that way.  There was a really positive reaction to this, I thought, even though the vast majority of the people there were not even on Glow yet.  I am going to do this, and my children’s Malawi glow group, as my follow up work for Glow and will be able to work with the Link staff on this which will be good as they are really enthusiastic about it too.

In the evening and on Saturday it was just our group who were there, to reflect on the experience and start thinking about our follow-up work.  It was great to all meet up again and share what we had been up to – and we finished at 2:00pm on the Saturday so still had some of our weekend left!  It was somewhat nicer than being at the youth hostel in Edinburgh for our training although we were only at the management centre because it was LTS who organised and funded the conference.

I feel quite strongly from discussions at the weekend that I want to do something a bit more sustainable with pupils in South Lanarkshire, not just going in to do assemblies and then leaving again. I have not quite worked out what yet though!

Reflections on a holiday

20 10 2008

Well my time was rubbish for the marathon but I knew that was going to happen; a lack of proper training, the travelling and jet leg and what ended up as 30 degree heat on the day were factors that were always going to give me trouble.

I did manage to mostly enjoy it though as I kept telling myself too!  I had a few low points,  but the volunteers and the spectators really kept me going.

It sounds corny but doing that marathon reminded me that most people are nice (I can’t think of a better word, too tired with jet lag).  It’s too easy to concentrate on anti-social behaviour, ASBO’s etc, especially when you have noisy neighbours, but there were 1-2m people spectating on Sunday, a lot of whom cannot have been supporting specific people but just generally there to give support to the 36,000 people who started the race (46,000 registered and 31,000 finished).  Then there were the people setting up showers with their hoses as the weather got hotter, giving out extra cups of water, ice and lots of sweets!

It was the volunteers who I really paid attention to this time though. Usually I carry my own water and have only just started drinking sports drinks so have never used the aid stations as much as I did last week.  There were 20 aid stations, about a city block in length with first aid, toilets, drop out truck and gaterade and water taking up most of the block on both sides of the road.  Half of the aid stations were manned by running clubs and half by high schools.  My guess would be that of the total number of volunteeers on aid stations 80% ish were teenagers.  Not only were they super at what they were doing but they were also very vocal in their support as well, particularly in the latter stages.  I am not sure this number of teenagers would volunteer, although it would be nice to think so.  Certainly I do not remember noticing this at either of the two London marathons I have done.

2 favourite slogans on banners from supporters:

“Pain is just weakness leaving the body”

“The reason your feet hurt so much is because you are kicking so much ass” (very american but funny!)

I love big cities like Vancouver, New York and now Chicago, partly because of the range of different cultures that they are made up of.  I was always turning round to admire beautiful children in the street of African/American or Asian descent.  However it was glaringly obvious that by far the majority of manual labour, low paid jobs that I saw were being done by mostly black people.  In comparison going shopping down the magnificent mile, going to museums with entry fees or to the theatre you were surrounded by mostly white people.  Then on my last day I saw a queue for a soup kitchen and 95% of the people in the queue were black and male.  When I saw that it brought it home how recently really that segregation was in force in the USA.

On a totally different note now, I had my first day of presentations on Malawi to secondary school pupils today at Strathaven Academy.  I was a bit worried about this as I had not really been in a secondary since my own time there so was expecting, pessimistically, bad behaviour and poor listening.  However I was pleasantly surprised at the behviour and attention that was paid to me in each of the six talks I did to 1st to 4th year.  They were a bit sleepy first thing in the morning and there were not many questions but the different classes livened up as the day went on.  I found the secondary pupils a bit harder to read than primary pupils during the talks but was convinced of their interest when it was often the pupils who started spontaneous applause when I finished.  The only un-related question I was asked was the very last one with one of the girls in third year asking me if my nails were real or not – I think they had a bet on!

Off to run and shop in the Windy City

9 10 2008

Perfect holiday starting tomorrow – a world marathon major to run combined with a week of shopping with a lot of dollars to spend (I might manage a little sight seeing too)!

Been really busy at work, that nice steady to the session has certainly gone but I am loving it!  Been involved in some web design with front page and uploading that to Glow, helping with catch up glow training training giving training on the ASM role to support services staff and that’s just some Glow work within the last 8 days. 

I have also given some presentations to AIFL named teachers on rich tasks and how to use them as an assessment tool, continued with my management and leadership certificate, presented on Malawi at a CPD twilight and went to my school’s parents evening and afternoon to talk about and show photos from Malawi.  I am keen to keep my school involved especially as we are linking schools and keeping the parents informed is an important part of that.  Also hoping they will help me with fundraising for the teacher’s house I want to get built in my village.  The PTA are great and being supportive with this.

I have done 3 school visits to help with getting passwords etc up and running.  As a council we decided to ask schools what support they wanted in terms of passwords and then learning and teaching so that we are only now going to go out to schools who want the support and want to move on with Glow.  Doing all of the ASM jobs is not exactly my favourite part but I am getting more confident the more I do it.  I can’t wait to get on and help with learning and teaching in schools though. 

I am offering membership to my Malawi glow group out to quite a few of my schools, certainly for the glow mentor and an older class in the school so that the group continues to get used even though I am not in class.  I am updating as I go along.  I am particularly pleased with my gallery page where I have got 4 folders of photos like food, school, family life, village life and then I have a discussion web part below with questions set on what they can learn from the photos – one set of questions for each of the folders of photos.  Now I just need to have a class actually do it!

The children’s passwords etc have been straightforward but I am discovering a few anomolies with probationers, area and cluster cover and my own situation being on secondment!  There is one school in particular that I think I am really going to like working with.  I did a talk there last week (using GLow to show my pictures) on Malawi with p.6 and they were so well behaved but even more importantly asked such brilliant questions the whole way through that I just had a brilliant time.  Things like how I felt about going, when I was there and how I felt leaving, what the kids thought of me being there, language barrier, what they were learning, and much more.  Then today I went again to work with the glow mentor, whom I had met briefly a couple of times and even though she was at very early stages and did not know how to do very much she was so excited about it and could really see it’s potential.  She was desperate to use it to help a child who is off on long term sick and to have a glow group for collaboration between her class and a p.7 class in another school as they already email each other.  So I was able to help her set up those things and I am going in to support her in class after the holidays.

Bonus of my leadership course being cancelled tonight – nice to finish early before a holiday and gave me time to do this.  I will post up my self-reflection and action plan from the first module if I pass them; I posted them today.

Mash up

30 09 2008

I don’t really know where to begin today! 

Excited first of all as I got a text today from the head teacher of my school in Malawi today saying they had received and given out all of the photos and letters I had sent out during the middle of August.  Then when I got home from Body Attack (I don’t know how anyone can’t love exercise if they try Attack!) there was an envelope from Malawi, one of many that I had left stamped and addressed to me, with letters from each of the teachers inside telling me all about what they had been doing since I left.  It’s hard to know how much they are actually doing of what they say but I will give them the benefit of the doubt!

Apparently puncuality is better and they are using all of my strategies for that, they are using my new timetables and the composite class are still working together and it is a lot better.  They are improving in mental maths, thinking critically, marking each others work, using the ball and number fans etc for active learning.  I had totally forgotten till it was mentioned that I had bought about 100 red pens in Dedza and passed them onto the depute at the inservice training for peer marking as the kids had thought if they were doing that they would have to provide their own red pens and they really wanted to use red to see what the corrections were etc. 

Even if not all of this is being done how, or as much, as we might do it just to know that they are still trying and that they are obviously very keen to keep contact is so rewarding.  I am in the process of beginning to officially link Castlefield Primary with this school and I now think it will work really well.  I can’t wait to go back next year!!!!  One of the questions from one teacher was ‘Can’t you change your mind to come here again?’ and she finished by saying I wish you could come back again very soon!

There was also a card for my brother that had got missed when I was given the other ones, so now I can give the one to my sister-in-law as well that I had been keeping back as I would have felt bad only giving one to her!

I feel I have missed the boat with writing anything much about SLF now, I enjoyed a weekend in Aberdeen with 4 very special kids instead.  One thing to mention about that is that I took them to see The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and I would highly recommend it.  The kids were p.7, 2nd year (those 2 had read it in 1st year and done a lot of work on it) and 4th year and they all really enjoyed it and thought it was very well done and true to the book as did I.  The only thing would be I would say the ending was more graphic/real than I expected, I do not think the book goes into that much detail and some kids might find that upsetting.  It was the longest silence I have heard, or not heard, at the end of a film in ages but considering the most recent trips I can remember have been to see Sex and the City and Harry Potter that is not surprising!

So back to SLF and all I will say is I really enjoyed although it was a totally different experience for me as I was on the SLC stand quite a lot and seeing it from a new angle.  I felt I did a rubbish presentation in the Glowing Lounge but I was last and most things had been said before me, and anyway according to Andrea I did okay (as her adopted daughter!).

I signed up for TeachMeet and to go out for dinner after and this was a big deal for me as I may have done loads of things recently, like go to Malawi for 5 weeks with strangers, but I still felt I was going to be shy and awkward with all of these people I only knew from blogs.  Luckily Jaye was going as well and looked after me!

She and I both had to disapear off quickly on the Thursday to the next part of our Leadership and Management in Education course, of which we are now doing the second compulsory module.  After a late night on the Wed night at the above ‘Local Government in Context’ was not perhaps the most exciting topic for 3 hours after driving up to Hamilton and it’s fair to say I struggled a bit!  I am enjoying the course in general though and spent my holiday Monday in my pyjamas writing my assignment (I eventually got dressed at 6.45pm to go to the running club, how shocking is that, but at least it was not to go to the pub!)  I will write a bit more about that shortly – just letting my proof reader look over it just now – but it is basically a self-reflection of your career and practice so far and an action plan to follow on from that.  Followed by a critical evaluation of a leadership article but I am putting that bit off!  As Andrea Reid’s adopted daughter I have to say that she features heavily in what I was writing in my reflection as I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today, and that is professionally and personally, without her support/guidance/pushing/mentoring/everything really.  And I have only known her 3 1/2 years!