Monthly Archives: January 2016

Thinking time

Yesterday, Saturday 23 January I attended Bett2016, the UK educational tech show. I went for two reasons;

1) personal interest in any tech developments that I might link to / use / aspire to for my geography teaching

2) meet other education friends attending

On the first aspect I was less inspired than previous years, although previously I have gone with a cross curricular ICT role. If I had the time and thought we could make extensive use of minecraft in geography I would have invested time in this, but the drive is towards a grounding prior to GCSE.

The second aspect was far more satisfying. I met with friends from digital leader links, borough ICT team, Twitter, Mirandanet and teachers participating in #teacher5aday and who presented. 

I listened to two presentations in the #learnlive #secondary theatre – Rachel Jones on apps she has used across a range of ages – many of which are free and included: periscope,  Lego stop animation, screencastomatic, live Twitter and storify with older groups, quiver, green screening, old school pen and paper as although she works in a one to one device school she acknowledges that you use what is available to you. Rachel has always been an advocate of writing on surfaces – Windows, table, chalk on carpets …

The second presentation was by four representatives to approaches to #teacher5aday. Martyn Reah introduced the concept and talked about how it has caught attention and well being is now even on the agenda of the DFE. He was supported by Abiie, Bukky and Julie who shared individual and school approaches and how monthly challenges have started to form part of the programme for many.

During both presentations I did a sketch – my link to #teacher5adaysketch. I have posted about the people at Bettbeing the key aspect and well being through other suggestions made to add to the 5# already in place. These posts are on Staffrm and are found at:People and Work life balance. Between the two posts they have had 220 views in the last 24 hours.

The following pictures show the sketches and a picture of myself with Martin Burrett, better known to many as ICTMagic or UKEdmag/chat/… Taken by out mutual friend Leon Cych of L4Ltv. Also a picture of three of the #teacher5aday team – see if you can name them from the sketch.



Using art to express emotions

Life is a rollercoaster for many of us, linked to emotions. How we release those or conceal them varies and we hopefully find our own strategies. In just 24 hours my art work shows a good example of contrasts.

Sunday evening I spent 75 minutes colouring-in on my poster of London. The image above shows the use of a variety of colours, extra touches like the detail in the newspaper and tour boat windows. Colours were bright,imagination was fired,I was in a #good place.

Monday evening an iPad art creation in ArtSet app to show how a third session of absorbing emotions from family members had pushed me to #leak. #Emo-sponge reaching overflow proportions. In my teaching of Geography an analogy, I have developed for teaching about how surfaces cope with long periods of rain is exemplified by the sponge. Here I took this idea to illustrate how my emotional sponge can also leak / overflow.

So some artwork, a blog post,some quiet time away from the #BowieRIP on all social media channels and my sponge has been wrung out to open up fresh pores.

Halfway back


It’s the weekend of my third week back in school and halfway through my phased return. So far I am really enjoying my classroom teaching even if I have almost had to start again from scratch with my classes. Expectations and an ability to be very patient with them is starting to work. Marking is showing them that I have read their work and there are steps they can take to be on their “pathway”. Work wise of course I am not overloaded as only 9 lessons being taught so far. One slip up but settling into my new subject of Year 7 philosophy. 

Feedback, comments from pupils seeing me in the classroom remain positive. I have not heard a negative one which is very welcoming. I was reined in from taking back on some duties before I am allowed – I ceded and will wait patiently. The planning fits easily, marking needs a bit more time but limited by my standard school day as I am not staying past the earliest I am allowed to drive off site. 

Everything seems to be bedding in. There are some discussions I am planning in my head for meeting pre full time but they can wait. Finally school does not intrude at home. I am finding time for my new colouring poster, sketching, reading … And I am much calmer with any family matters including visits with parents.

Stamina is returning and I have restarted my gym aspirations for 2016. One additional decision has been to draw back more from social media so I have completed this week a reduction in people I am linked with by halving my number of FB has led to interesting conversations with friends about how many I had built up to (~ 600). Next task is the same exercise for my main Twitter account this time the number of people is nearer to 6000. I calculated earlier in the week that even with dropping my work with the globalsolo network in June I still have about 9000 links. I will continue to blog, more for me and if people read it then thankyou. I have already said that I will do less education events – I enjoy them but others need a turn on the stage, I will do more listening and in some individuals cases heckling gently as they have done for me previously.

Finally, many thanks to all the supportive comments and messages I have received from family, friends, colleagues, educational links and ex pupils – you are great and I really appreciate it and have had the chance to return the favour for some of you too.

Onwards ….to full time teaching once more.

School tomorrow …stating the obvious 

Some of you will be in INSET, some will be on holiday,many will be teaching. I am writing this post in the hope that of the people who read this, are not doing schoolwork most of today.

I am in the enviable position as I only have three lessons with Keystage three groups. I then have two days off before a maximum of three lessons on Thursday and Friday. This is because I am on the next stage of my phased return to work. I set myself the target of not doing school work at home. So far, it’s not really a challenge,as my timetable increases again it will be.

I do know that I have lost final days of holidays to last minute panics and hasty work. I got some fresh air earlier at a local nature reserve, managed a sketch in the warmth of the visitor centre. I am going to relax so I go in calm tomorrow. I hope that you can also have some calm time.


Time management – how might I improve?

I am currently in a phased return to work after an extended absence of two months due to mental health issues – see posts in October 2015 onwards. Having time away from work has meant that reflection has taken place about why I got to be in such a place in the first case. Time is always the resource that we crave more of, but usually this is expressed in terms of completing work tasks or alternatively to have time with family/ friends. I know that I work too many hours each week for school. I fail on the work life balance and it bites from time to time because it triggers other issues as mentioned above.

So I have been reflecting – the issue of the moment: work – life balance, I need one, as do many of us. However, how can I achieve it? So I turned to an Internet search on time  management strategies. I came across the Pomodoro technique or Tomato technique!?! Wary at first as it presents as someone’s vehicle to profit, but as always there are ways to use the idea without buying branded accessories (

Essentially the method breaks work tasks (importantly not leisure time – this is a work efficiency tool) into 25 minute slots. Each slot involves focus on ONE* task (more than one small task may be combined to fill one pomodoro).  It is about not multi-tasking. I recommend reading this for yourself from the official website.

During a 25 minute slot – a pomodoro – you work on your task. If there are any distracting thoughts / interruptions, record what they were for allocation later, but do not respond. If you have to respond then that pomodoro is incomplete. After the allocated time – signalled using a timer of some sort (my interpretation – I use a clock or timer – there are apps available).

This is one page from the Apple App Store.

At the end of the pomodoro I am keeping a record of tasks achieved and am using this with my son and his college tasks (since 01 January as an experiment) so that we can both use our time more efficiently. Then your reward is a 5 minute break away from the work – have a drink, use the loo, stand and have a stretch.

You repeat the cycle. A task may take more than one pomodoro, in fact you can learn how long certain repetitive tasks can be completed in when focused. I will be using this myself for tasks including lesson planning, marking a set of books, restricting time spent on answering emails each day. This will be part of my reviewing my work efficiency as I have set a 50 hour weekly work limit. I will not always complete tasks and will have to plan well so that I meet school and exam board deadlines. After 4 pomodoros you are recommended to take a 30 minute break. For my son I am using this after 3 pomodoros to start with.

I will review this through the blog and would like to share ideas with others using it. Already some colleagues online are investigating the technique. The pomodoro website also links it to concentration spans for ADD sufferers, which is where I hope it will help my son.

This is one of my strategies for work-life balance, let’s see how 2016 goes.

P.S. If leaving 17 year old instructions while out, remember that 25 minute work slots can be timed. Games playing online has no such restrictions!! A less than impressed Dad.

Applying my skills to a new topic/task

On January 8th my youngest son has his first level 2 BTec exam for Creative Media Production. He has never found exams or preparation for them easy. School up to Year 11 was always linked to support from TAs / LSAs and a healthy dose of help at home from Mum and Dad. Revision has been varied trying to find ways to retain facts and link points together. We have done this so that he can do his best. It has caused tensions at times but we have stuck at it.

In 2014/15 he did a level 1 course which was assessed by work on assessments and no exams, it suited. The change this year to an exam and assessments structure has worked, again with Mum and Dad support as deadlines and procrastination have not been a good combination. Exams cause that almost panic and we step in like an extra emergency service to support (idea for this came from a parents’ card about my contribution over 5 years to their son’s education).

So another assessed piece is suddenly mentioned with 72 hours to go – flexible plans are made to take this onboard and meet deadline. Quotes like ” I am lucky to have a Mum and Dad who support me” are used as reminders that yes we are pushing but for a reason.

I and my wife have never taught Creative media production. We are both consumers of many media products and are aware that this means we know some aspects of the course through applying common sense. Teaching skills also come in handy.

Since September I have used the following;

– look up the syllabus online

– find the criteria for pass, merit and distinction – both syllabus led and in college materials 

 – explain the principle of a mark scheme and why you use it to narrow down what content to include

– download and print off exam scripts to practice

– go through son’s answers with him and use mark scheme to show examiner guidance

– go through examiners report with him and see if errors he made were the same as students in that exam cycle and conversely where he spotted points that others missed for positive reinforcement

– exam timing and how long each mark should take

We have a wide range of skills as teachers and as adults that can be applied to a variety of circumstances – stating the bleeding obvious probably – this has reinforced for me the positives about my teaching and highlighted how I need to differentiate for the individual pupil.

Good luck supporting your own teenagers when the time comes.

Happy New Year, let 2016 begin…

My first post of the new year. Tonight’s find on Hootennany – Rhiannon Giddens.