Monthly Archives: March 2013

#TeachTweet #ukedchat wow

I have just been privileged to have taken part in the inaugural #TeachTweet. Ably co-ordinated by @ICTMagic and @ukedchat on Twitter. A great CPD event with many ideas to share, reflect on and return to watch several times as a clear case of information overload.

Archived at;

My own effort at:

Share these videos with. Colleagues and extend good practice further.

Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?

I’ve read, met and listened to Edutronic speak now on a number of occasions and am inspired by his drive and innovative ideas to develop his students. In that light I have chosen to contribute to #blogsync.

2013 marks my 25th year full time in my chosen profession of teaching. Always happy and fulfilled? No definitely not, yet I’m still here – how is that? To be honest I’m really not always sure how. My wife identifies that I love working with the pupils – surely all teachers do? No I fear that is not always the case.

So what have been the moments where I’ve considered departing from teaching?

There have been periods in my career like many colleagues where my life has been subsumed by work to the detriment of myself and others around me. Physical health has been neglected leading to years of steroid treatment for my asthma. Mental health has fluctuated and been balanced at times by exercise, talking therapies, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and through the use of anti- depressants. like Robert Crampton who writes in The Times, that input has become a constant that provides the cushioning when life threatens to bottom out.

Pressures have been multi faceted and have not just come from work, transitions,changes, have all affected me. But, outside school I have had my own pressures. These have combined on a number of occasions to make me question my competence, ability to change and whether I am cut out to perform in this demanding role. When others suggest I leave teaching however I fight tooth and nail to remain. It completes me, I get to learn new things most days, I challenge myself to keep up to date. The last two years have been strengthened by Twitter and the attendance at Teachmeets. I am one of the lucky few that have discovered this mass of keen and supportive people.

But enough of me, why train then leave?

Fellow PGCE students back in the 1980s left the profession after training – too much to take on. Burn out on a personal level. Lives subsumed and spat out if they could not adjust to the pace and demands of change. Support for new staff has always varied and it is having the freedom to seek support and often to admit weaknesses openly that many find very hard, or even safe to do so without being judged and condemned. They withdraw into themselves. Alcohol provides a nice crutch but one that can destroy as well.

The teachers life is multi – faceted, demands come in many forms from the marking, the behaviour of challenging individuals – staff and pupils. The demands of employers, parents, communities which overlap.

Our governmental support – woefully lacking for teachers – we are often accused of incompetence, not ambitious enough for our charges, too liberal…friends who criticise the holidays, yet where are these people when it comes to stepping up to do the job in this improved version? I’ve yet to meet them.

Why train and leave within five years? Because sadly the profession is a target to beat for many outside it and some within it. While that continues turnover shall remain high – is this the future we want for our pupils? Really??


Thursday 28 March sees a new idea from UKedchat – the teachtweet. This has been put together by @ukedchat and @ICTMagic. A number of Teachmeet presenters are making / have made ( more organised than me!) videos of new presentations. We will be on twitter on Thursday between 8 and 9.30pm to answer any questions about our presentations. Which reminds me – I have a plan, and of course it needs to become a video.



Please join us and tell others about it to.

In-house Ofsted

Monday TMEssex, Tuesday a busy day at school at the end of which an instruction to staff over the school communication system (Bing Bong) to check their e-mail and an SMS text as back up. It’s the end of the afternoon – is it “O”? No but yes. The school would have an in-house exercise with lesson observations. After digesting the fact, what to do first? Well Digital leaders had missed last week’s meeting, so they met first and continued their IWB training development and the coding group showed is some of their work in a video presentation.

Back to my room – Wednesday included the start of an E-safety assessment for my Yr 7 ICT class – would I be observed in non specialist subject? and three revision lessons for Years 7 and 8 based on revision stations and the 7es lesson plan (@HThompson1982, which I had first seen explained at Pedagoolondon).

My first class of the day was observed by the Head Teacher. We were just into the revision station phase,. Our assessment preparation was split into 4 table activities. Three were text linked to tasks and the fourth was manned by me as an alternative information source. Every 5 minutes table groups rotated to a new topic – these were on the board with page references and supported by my TA and pupils who took on leadership roles within their teams. The revision was active, the feedback positive and all my observation points from November were seen to be addressed. A solid 2 (Good), a full feedback due at some point. The 7es plan caused some confusion but I am willing to present a strong argument for its use as I and the pupils in my groups are responding well to it and it links to our ongoing development of the use of the SOLO taxonomy – see precious posts.


This is the ICT lesson used – a new approach I am proposing in the ICT department as well.

Teachmeet Essex 2013 (March)

Monday 18th March arrived and the second Teachmeet Essex co-hosted by myself (@aknill), Martin Burrett (@ICTMagic) and Tom Sherringham (@headguruteacher) took place at Tom’s school – KEGS in Chelmsford, Essex. To our surprise this time we had not had to chase speakers, they signed up of their own accord and we had several new people presenting this time. Also as there have now been a number of Teachmeets in London we had discussed how our numbers might fall. 218 tickets were booked through Everbrite ( I do not have a total for attendance currently).

Having been successful back in November we had considered changing the format slightly but did not do this in the end ( see recent Twitter discussions about TM formats). We did not need to meet face to face this time, arrangements were as previously. Martin comperes and acted as tech wizard that he is and chief cuddly camel thrower; Tom was host with refreshments and enterprising sixth formers and I got to be on livestream mic batteries duty.

This time we had up to 42 watching on the livestream and no mic downtime. Viewers were from a range of places inc.; N.Ireland;Ireland; Edinburgh, Islay in the Western Isles, Scotland; Brittany; Melbourne, Australia – a good impact.

Presenters ranged from the static to the animated as they spoke to the audience. Technology included many tools; at one point Tom referred to PowerPoint as a historic tool, after several Prezi presentations. Hardware ranged from Mark Allen (@edintheclouds) using his phone without the aid of a PC, several uses of PC, Mac, iPad and iPhone via Reflection app. Blogging was mentioned many times. The key running through the presentations this time was the focus on pedagogy supported by tech tools and many examples of pupils work / responses.

Presentations and video from the evening are being uploaded by Martin onto and views, feedback are welcomed.

Oh and the other thing…. In a moment of madness / inspiration ( depends who you ask) I decided to respond to a point raised by Emma Dawson (@squiggle7) at Teachmeet Milton Keynes recently about where my Geography Camp ( The Geography Collective) trousers were.


Picture courtesy of Penny Patterson.

Proud to be a teacher

Yesterday, Friday 22nd March saw our school indoor rowing club achieve their second long. Distance target as a group. They have now rowed over 2,000,000 metres as a group on the Concept 2 rowing machines. The first million came up in just under 4 terms. The second million at the end of the 8th term. Individuals moved their personal totals to; 400,000m; 200,000m for our top 2 rowers.

The group also participated in the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships (NJIRC) on Fri. 15th March. They are not the fastest of rowers in most cases but we seem to have built a reputation for “bonkers” distances. This was never my intention when I took over the club in September 2010. We have introduced over 80 pupils to rowing at the club. The machines are also used for house competitions and in curriculum PE time inc. a GCSE sport option with outdoor sessions at Fairlop Waters with London Youth Rowing.

As a teacher seeing such dedication from a small but dedicated group sends me home most Fridays with a sense of awe ending my week on a high note. We have won the PE award for club of the year for the last two years based on our dedication. Our eldest member is now rowing with a club in London and is looking to go to MossborneAcademy which specialises in rowing for his sixth form education.

The best bit is they still have to complete over 430,000m more to ver take my personal total. It is a target they are keen to beat and that is a good motivator for me to keep extending their challenge.

Caring is …

It’s 2am, I should be sleeping but it’s not happening. In less than 9 hours I will be back at my family home. Incidents in my personal life have made me reflect on what I see as a key aspect of being a human being. I try to show this in my personal and professional lives.

Caring is …. An emotional response to others.
Ok in your personal life, but are emotions allowed in our professional selves? I’ve previously been accused of being “too soft” and it’s true I can be a “softie” but at the risk of my emotions being hurt not those around me. As a teacher can you respond emotionally? I believe it is a key part of us that we can show in being true to ourselves. We are not immune to circumstances and / or events that may affect fellow staff or our students. If our reaction is seen as not responding does that make us less caring? As professionals we come across a wide range of issues, many outside our own experiences or possibly even comfort zone, is it not human to be seen to react and model how we might cope with issues that arise. Chris Waugh (@Edutronic) gave a very personal presentation at the recent PegdagooLondon Teachmeet. Chris matched experiences in his own life with how we have a responsibility as leaders of young people to show how it is ok to be different from each other and accept that society is full of differences, it does not make us less of a society for them.

For me Friday 8 March 2013 was a significant moment in my experience of caring. My siblings (3) and I ,along with our families, have been trying to support our parents as they have aged and been affected by a range of circumstances. We have tried to show our support by returning the care we were shown when younger. Growing up and growing older are rarely easy and flexibility in approach has proved a key factor in caring.
My parents faced a dual dilemma – my father had been kept in hospital after a checkup for an emergency operation. My mother was at home without her main carer. Support was needed. As my siblings and I are geographically spread, the nearest – I and family headed to Kent for a weekend of “caring” for “Granny” and maybe “Grandad”.
The weekend stretched out to 5 days of personal caring for my mother who is affected by at least two conditions that limit her physical capabilities and visiting my father in hospital until his release after the weekend. The “caring” was emotional as health issues rose to the fore; staying in contact across international boundaries by text, Skype and e mail to keep family in the loop; dealing with organisations; seeking professional guidance; seeking a place for my mother to stay for a period of respite at least. A tiring time ensued. “Caring” was physical in supporting my mother in every aspect of her daily routine – the most we had ever had to do. It was draining in seeking places to stay after some research for places offering suitable services; it was visiting my father resting in hospital glad that the phone call we often dread had heralded a new chance rather than a life extinguished.

“Caring is ….” Hard! After physically and emotionally draining days and a supportive workplace I returned to my classroom on Thursday. I taught but also accompanied classes to our Prayer week room run byy local church and youth workers. In this, it’s third year I find comfort in having the time to step back from the hourly burly of our daily lives. I am not a Christian but the time to reflect is valued. Every year I read anonymous notes that reveal the suffering many of our students have outside the classroom and I am always touched by it. My first visit was hard, the slowing down, the chance to think almost overwhelmed me, a distraction – recording the words used in the presentation to the class recorded in “CloudArt” a new wordle type app for iDevices – a display image for the RE department to use:


The second lesson was easier and this time I focused on two displays, the world wall and heart wall:



Did I need to care? Yes because one of the second class was affected by loss and I was able to support him outside the room so that he could bring his emotions to a calmer point. How did I feel afterwards – emotionally and physically drained. Luckily forms it is therapy where I have admin. Time which I was able. To get on with, thought a measured pace. Friday saw me teaching a lesson to explore student perceptions about poverty alongside the now traditional non uniform day for Comic relief and Red Nose Day. More personal significance as I vividly remember the first RND 25 years ago while I was studying my PGCE.

Now…? Well hopefully some more sleep before my trip this morning. This time to koi one of my siblings to check onDad, jobs around the house, visit Mum and some possible “minefields” of conversations about the future. Am I ready for it? Yes and no. I will return to home on Sunday afternoon and I must rest so that next week my caring can happen and I retain some energy for myself physically and emotionally.

Is this the post I thought I’d write about caring? Possibly I have to admit my mind is not fixed on what it would include. If it raises questions and reflective thoughts from some who read it then good but I admit it is a personal cathartic post as much as anything else.

What do we understand by caring?

When is a weekend 5 days long? This one has been and it’s made me review what we mean by caring whether it be for pupils of in this case my parents.

This is the start of a post which I shall add to over the next two days leading upto my return journey to Kent to “care” more.

I am indebted to my wife Anne for her unstinting support since Friday when a phone call moved us into action.

This has also linked to a conversation I have had with @eyebeams (Leon) as recently as PedagooLondon. We belong to a generation often sandwiched between responsibility towards our parents and children.

Tbc …

Teachmeet CV


So, Teachertoolkit posts about how attendance at Teachmeets could become part of your CV. I’ve mentioned mine since 2012 became busy and 2013, has started well. I don’t have the profile of Ross but I have a twitter and Teachmeet presence. So –

2008 Attended Teachmeet East London organised by Anthony (@skinnyboyevans) Evans in Redbridge. Suitably overawed I watched presentations and felt out of place.

2012 Feb. Teachmeet Essex held in Wickford and hosted by @Dannynic (Danny Nicholson). Lots of student teachers and some familiar faces inc. @Penny_Patterson. I presented for the first time as Mishmashlearning. A new persona was about to appear.

2012 Feb. half term a drive to Leicestershire to Teachmeet Play organised by @squiggle7 (Emma Dawson) and @mikemcsharry. Mishmash’s second presenting outing and a chance to visit my old PGCE area of Leicester.

A pause, and the. Start of this blog as Mishmashlearning which allowed me to include my wide and varied interests.

2012 July RaspberryPi Teachmeet in Cambridge. Some familiar faves from TMEssex in @ICTmagic (Martin Burrett) and twitter @EdintheClouds ( Mark Allen). Another Mishmash presentation but drawing in @SheliBB (Sheli Blackburn) and the rising Digital Leader Network.

2012 Sept a meeting with @headguruteacher (Tom Sherringham) and @ICTmagic, this. Time to propose a new Teachmeet Essex run by the three of us. My role to cajole speakers – filled the sheet in less than a week.

2012 November Teachmeet iPad organised by @skinnyboyevans – presenting on geography apps ( not selected for my 7 min on iPad mishmash), also helped sell raffle tickets.
On same evening @Danielharvey9 used my two presentations at Teachmeet Brum.

2012 November presented at our Teachmeet Essex on Digital Leaders – involving the audience standing and introducing many to the concept of solo taxonomy. Met many twitter friends and made many new friends.

A busy first year of presenting and actually being involved in running the 3rd largest TM of the year (unless you know different).

New year 2013.

2013 February my annual trip to the BETT show developed further. In the afternoon I presented two Teachmeet takeovers. @Dawnhallybone and I presented on Geografree – apps for primary and secondary classrooms – a link back to meeting at TMiPad. @SheliBB and I presented on Digital Leaders before Sheli went on to her third presentation of the day.

I attended Teachmeet BETT but unfortunately was not selected to present. I had however got the job of selling raffle tickets which I took to with an enthusiasm that surprised even me. A very successful role and one I hope to repeat.

2013 March. A phone call and offer from @ICTmagic meant a lift to Teachmeet Milton Keynes whose organisers included @squiggle7. I volunteered to @swaygrantham to sell raffle tickets again. A new year and a recurring theme with my 2 minute stand the audience up for Digital Leaders. A modified 7 minute on my solo taxonomy journey and one that I can keep editing and adding to.

2013 March. The next day Pedagoolondon where I attended workshops on Group work, 7 e!s, PBL and Solo. Also an opportunity to meet many more twitter friends. In the evening I got to kick off the proceedings with my solo presentation used the night before in Milton Keynes. A few extra technical issues with the trusty iPad VGA convertor.

Next? 18/3/2013 our next Teachmeet Essex. I will be adding to my new Solo presentation. After March? More at some point.

No totals, you could count for yourself but the best year’s self development as a teacher I can honestly say I have accessed with several other presentations and meetings as well. I like my new online network. I love the sharing, the exchange of ideas, the friendship. Next challenge: not a Teachmeet but #sologlobalchat on 13/4/13 an international chat to encourage practitioners to share ideas.