Monthly Archives: August 2014

Work hard. Get smart. Be nice.

This resonates for me – what about you?

Class Teaching

academic courage2

This is the motto of the Springfield Renaissance School, Massachusetts, USA – one of Ron Berger’sExpeditionary Learning SchoolsDan Brinton posted a video about the school on Twitter last night and it was very impressive – resonating with much of what many of us are trying to do here in terms of growth mindset and an ethic of excellence.

Ron Berger summed up the approach of the school:

“There’s a belief in the capacity of students to do more than they expect of themselves”

“A willingness to push kids deeper and let them struggle to do more”

Through this approach the school encourages ‘deep learning’ with the students, by developing the following competencies:

deeper learning competencies

A few of the bits of the video that stood out follow.

Academic Courage

A great phrase for a simple but important principle.  Students were encouraged to support each other to take risks and have…

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Moving on…sticking my neck out… the results

Previously, at the end of the Summer term in July I posted Where I had asked 8 / 9 classes because of end of term activities plus my tutor group, to complete an anonymous form giving me their thoughts on What Went Well (WWW) and ideas that my teaching would be Even Better If (EBI).

This is an overdue response to what they said; it is a good time to reflect with the new school year and a new post starting next week.

I have kept a record including non anonymised data. The tables I am presenting are summaries based on the popularity of statements where no guidance was given on what to write to avoid leading them. I have blogged about some of the strategies and ideas mentioned, others I haven’t. If you read this and have a question please contact me on here or @aknill on Twitter.


So, the WWW table: based on 173 completed response sheets returned.

WWW what went well
Clear explanations 22
Have fun but get work done 20
Group and classwork 20
SOLO taxonomy 17
I made progress 15
Learnt lots 15
Own Level got higher 14
Good / Great teacher 12
Interactions on board with sir, and class helping when stuck 12
Mini whiteboard drafting 11
Different ways of teaching 10
Playing games to help esp. memory 9
Everything 8
Very fun 7
Revision working 6
Tasks at front of class using iwb 6
Proof reading skills and help 6
Video clips eg rainforests 6
Seating plan as sat with own level, so understand work we do 5
Very friendly 5
Challenges poor behaviour 5
Not forever written work 4
Lessons went well 4
Actually got us good levels 4
E safety, as understood now 4
Homework project ideas 4
Quality of presentation 3
Mix of formal & informal 3
Like our friend 3
Learning wasn’t boring 3
Activities and fun projects 3
Can get along with which helps learning 3
Fair and patient 3
Listening activities / game 3
Photo worksheets for tasks 3
Experienced teacher 2
Helped as we could discuss, and learn from each other 2
Teaching me well 2
Lesson planning / professional approach 2
Liked mixed ability seating plan 2
Links to past and current news 2
My favourite teacher 2
He is very enthusiastic 1
Always has the needs of the students in mind 1
Always puts students first 1
Teaching us as a class 1
Did not talk too much 1
Always look forward to lessons 1
Learnt new weird facts – I enjoy 1
Calming class -mindfulness/visualisation 1
Able to put own ideas forward 1
Knows how to use different software 1
Most lessons went well and to plan 1
Best ict teacher and a joy to have 1
Link personal life with education (e safety) 1
Knowing level helped motivate 1
Dedicated 1
Regular changed seating plans challenged 1
One of my favourite teachers 1
Very clever 1
Did lots of speaking and listening tasks 1
Total responses 311

You can see there are a range of comments from personal to particular strategies used / trialled during the year. I take a lot of positives away from this.

Then the EBI table – some of which are building or premises related. The “sock” comments link to my sartorial choices, if interested see @knillsocks on Twitter, yes my socks have their own account,but that is another story.


EBI even better if   
More fun activities and projects 15
You stayed / don’t leave 14
If class would shut up/behave better 12
Change nothing 10
Less writing 9
Use interactive games 8
Less teacher input and more work time 8
More games and quizzes 7
More discussion 7
More video clips 5
Choose own groups 5
Sock comments 4
More writing 4
Chuck out people that disturb learning 3
Use student leaders to help 3
More physical/practical lessons 3
Teaching spreadsheets in a more interesting way (ICT lesson) 2
Explain in less technical terms (ICT lesson) 2
Less stairs to classroom 2
Air conditioning in classroom 2
Needs more confidence in his abilities 1
Let us play with lego 1
Get maps out more 1
Always explain from computer so all can see (ICT lesson) 1
Individual help and checking on us 1
Explain in an easier method 1
Lessons had more time  1
More support to use new software (ICT lesson) 1
Maybe tutorial videos on how to perform tasks (ICT lesson) 1
More variety of technology for pupils to use 1
More thorough explanations 1
Coaching in school time and not after school like a punishment 1
Room is cramped with some seating arrangements 1
Pupil to work on presentation 1
Use of IT 1
More drama activities 1
Not shout 1
Change seating plans less 1
Use textbooks more 1

Total responses




It is good to see some very positive suggestions from my Yr 9 ICT / computing class too. Again a range of points to consider, especially around the variety of strategies I have adopted previously for seating plans across the year.

So there we are, no big conclusion, instead a sharing and see what you the reader thinks. Thank you if you have read the whole post.

This means a lot … Mentioned.

Tweets flying around recently asking for recommendations of geography tweeters so I submitted several to The Guardian. Today this article appeared and not only did I get a mention but I wasn’t on a long list, I am one of 6 – chuffed.

As various colleagues and friends have commented there are of course many others who could have been nominated.

The key value of this however will come from more #geographyteachers networking and sharing ideas through individual accounts, department accounts, or group / organisation accounts like @gasigict that I co-ordinate.

The gift that keeps on giving …

Parenthood… What do you think of? Steve Martin with bath mats strapped to his legs? It is a “job title” that contains the favourite line, “… and any additional duties required.”.

Regular readers will know of my #Mental Health postings that has been a recurring fact for me and members of my family. Today again brought home the fact that moving on is not easy.

My wife (A) and I have just had a three day break to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary and to take some time out. Three days? some say is that all? Yes, it is indeed. Youngest son is away currently on NCS (National Citizenship Service) currently from Monday to. Friday, as he can not be left independently we therefore have Tue to Thur available – our 3 days.

So eldest living in supported accomodation, so we have the time…oops, no he isn’t in the accomodation as he is back on a psych ward but “informally”. Visited him last weekend and no, not In a “good place”, we left drained again just from chatting. But, heh he is safe…oops,no he isn’t there anymore because things kicked off on Monday and he was moved to an ICU (Low security Intensive Care Unit). That’s ok he can’t go anywhere from there, we won’t have to deal with anything…

Tuesday no phone reception, so unable to contact but we have a good day. Wednesday, anniversary day, we will try enroute to ring. We did,we stopped the car in a layby so we didn’t lose reception again. We spoke to staff – same old, same old – no shocks there. Then we speak with our son…oops big mistake … For us that is; rants, claims, threats about actions, … He is in the right place – us unsettled but holding it together, we will visit tomorrow after our trip.

Thursday, sleep is still patchy, lots going on in our heads and hearts. Day starts ok but tiredness and tension catches up. Communication breakdown A and I struggling to cope. We arrive home, we decide it’s not happening, we can not go…

To be continued or life goes on …

Mindshackles – latest post on progress made.

Thanks to where Iesha Small has been tracking my mental health and the progress that I have made. She uses photography and transcripts of conversations that we have. The lower photos were take using a chest harness based camera which we were experimenting with. I would formally like to thank Iesha for accepting me into the project which helps me to track my mental health peaks, troughs and recovery over the last school year.

Please visit the Mindshackles project and read about all of the volunteers.