Advice

Call it Customer Feedback

By Students of Capital City Academy

Have you ever wondered what activities students feel help them learn the most? Believe it or not but most students actually want to take a more active role in deciding what and how they learn. At the end of the day the most basic and fundamental role to help the learners to learn as much as they can, so why not take a look at what some of them say helps them learn the most.

Differentiating Effectively

By Houmayra Joonus – German Teacher and MFL Teaching Lead

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How to develop and implement effective differentiation strategies within your department?

Since the beginning of this academic year, the MFL department has been focusing on differentiation and has worked together to come up with a range of strategies for all of our MFL teaching skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking). These strategies have been implemented consistently into our lessons and have so far already reflected more engagement and progress from all of our students.  As for us teachers, this has encouraged us to be more mindful when planning our lessons to ensure that our students were progressing consistently to achieve their maximum potential

A very common barrier to planning for differentiation is time and getting out of our teaching comfort zone. Therefore, if a bank of strategies for the relevant skills that you teach is created together with your team, this will facilitate your planning and also create opportunities to share and discuss good practice with your department.

Here is an approach that you could try out as a department to develop effective differentiation practice:

  1. Come up with a range of strategies for each skill that you teach.
  2. Choose two or three of these strategies and implement them into your lessons over a half term.
  3. Reflect on the impact it has had on your lessons, classes and students.
  4. Go back to the strategy bank you built and choose 2 other strategies for the new half term.

Differentiation is an on-going process, it pushes you to reflect frequently on whether the strategies are working well with your classes and whether your students feel that they are been given the right support or being stretched enough to reach their highest potential.

Be Adventurous – Make a Difference

The Role of a  Mentor

By Clare Moran – Teach First Mentor and Geography Teacher

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The role of a teacher is a very varied and complex job. The daily activities range from planning engaging and challenging lessons that support the needs of all pupils, marking pupil work, keeping up to date with current educational pedagogy, coaching other members of staff and being trained yourself. One of the aspects I enjoy the most is training new members of staff.

 I currently mentor two trainee teachers, and if anyone ever has the opportunity to do this I would thoroughly recommend it. It is an extremely rewarding experience, watching them develop and excel throughout the year, becoming more confident as teachers and overcoming barriers to become excellent professionals.  Part of this role involves observing them teach every week and this is the part I enjoy the most.  As an experienced teacher it is easy to become stuck in my ways and teach in the same style. Observing new teachers, with new pedagogical approaches, encourages me to take more risks and try new techniques in my own lessons- admittedly with mixed results!!  Furthermore, teachers who are new to the profession tend to have lots of energy and enthusiasm to try new teaching developments- Googledocs being one such resource I have learnt lots about from a trainee I mentor.  The fresh ideas and passion they bring to the role is contagious, often prompting me to be more reflective and push myself out of my comfort zone and ultimately pushes my own development as a teacher too.

Overall, being a mentor is one of my favourite aspects of my job. It is a very rewarding experience and very much a two way street. The trainees benefit ( I hope!) from having regular meetings and advice and I most certainly benefit by and seeing and listening to the fresh ideas they bring to the department.

The Power of Questioning

By Belle Kerray – NQT

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Am I talking about questioning? That sentence was questioning. Can you stomach hearing any other viewpoints on the importance of questioning? Hold that thought, that is a great question, we’ll come back to that later. No we won’t. I am sure that most of us are guilty of this, dismissing some questions because on the surface they may seem ‘pointless’ or are not directly related to the outcome for that lesson. It is necessary for us to make these judgements. But by rejecting and categorising student feedback in this way, we could be accused of stifling the curiosity of our students. To the ‘questioner’ their query may have come from a place of genuine and considered interest. Perhaps your response to their question, a question that may appear bizarre and nonsensical to us, would enable that student to secure a real understanding of a concept or theory, allowing that student to leave your lesson with a sense of accomplishment. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that in this profession we are often faced with a trade-off between quality and time.

This post is not about questioning in the AFL sense – that, I can get a handle on- but rather about the endless, perplexing and frustrating questions asked of you by your students throughout the school day.

From the minute I step into the building until the first 5 minutes of registration I now have a blanket rule for my year 7 LA group – do not ask me any questions. This only came about this year and enforcing this rule does make me feel a bit guilty. But is it really an unreasonable request? We give so much and are confronted with making on the spot decisions, often in the face of scenarios and student curiosities that we have never even contemplated before. This often represents an exciting challenge, but other times can disrupt a meticulously planned lesson where every 5 minutes is accounted for in order to keep a strict handle on behaviour.  This is something that I have found especially challenging this year. How do we quantify what is and what is not a ‘valuable’ question to address whilst persistently having high expectations for your class, balancing 30 student books in your arms and recording positives on the board.

As an NQT, this is something that I am still working on and whilst I do that I’ll leave you with some of these genuine questions to consider and categorise for their value:

  • Why does your fade cut so deep?
  • Where is the woman with the blue jumper?
  • Does McDonald’s hire people who swear?
  • How many times do you think about our class when you are at home?
  • Is everyone from Yorkshire nice?

Online Safety for Teachers

By Sural Bhanshaly – Humanities CAL

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I grew up in simpler times. When I was in Year 13, no one had a mobile phone. No one really understood the internet or used email. So when it finally came to my attention, it was like the future had arrived. I got a MySpace account, located long lost mates on Friends Reunited and joined up to this blue, gleaming website called BookFace.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m all over Twitter, FB and Insta. I keep it real. I know this because I’ve shortened the full names.

However, unlike a disturbing number of adults, I have privacy settings. I keep it real private.

Indeed, as teachers this is the most troubling aspect of the 21st century – our thoughts, pronouncements and wisdom becoming the property of the wider world. Photographs too. Gone are the days that an embarrassing photo with that haircut (yes, I once had luscious locks) could simply be destroyed. Now, they sit on a server somewhere in Reykjavik.

Of course, we all use social media. And that’s fine. I’m not saying don’t use it. What I am saying is that one needs to be careful. As someone who works with impressionable and curious young people, you don’t want to either model poor internet behaviour or allow yourself to be the victim of something, even if not necessarily malicious, could cause embarrassment to yourself and/or your family. Unfortunately it does happen. And there are many cases of teachers having to leave their workplace, their profession or move house because of the lack of privacy settings. Let’s ensure that you are not one of them by doing the following:

  1. Set your privacy settings to the highest possible setting. If you’re not sure, ask a friend, colleague or IT tech department. They will gladly show you what to do.
  2. If you use public social media like LinkedIn, keep it professional.
  3. Google yourself and if you see anything incriminating – ask the website to take it down. There is recent legislation on this to protect you.
  4. Ask your friends and family not to tag you in any way that compromises you as a teacher. You have control over your own privacy settings, but your loved ones may not be so savvy.
  5. Don’t put anything on your mobile phone that you wouldn’t want to share. I now this is your personal property, but if it gets mislaid then it could end up in the wrong hands.
  6. Make sure your mobile, laptop or tablet has a password – and one that is not too simple. “Password123” is not OK.
  7. Similarly your password to your Facebook or Snapchat account should not be shared or easily decipherable.
  8. In fact, don’t use Snapchat. You’re not 15.
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