Saturday, 22 December 2012

2012 - What a year!

2012 was the Chinese Year of the Dragon. By reputation it is a stormy year, literally and metaphorically, with change as its only constant characteristic. Think of 1916, 1940, 1976 and 2000 and you get the idea. For those who can ride the storm, it's an exciting ride full of opportunities. and such has been the case for me this year.

Specifically it has been one of the most inspiring years I can remember for a long time. It's been the year of Twitter discovery, the year of turning the iPad pedagogy dream into reality, my first year of Outstanding teaching (apparently), and the first year I've begun to accept I may have something to offer at a level higher than middle management. The encouragement and inspiration I've received this year have been overwhelming (a lot of it from Twitter), and have pushed me along at a rate somewhere between uncomfortably hard sprint and mach 2 with lips gibbering comically. So I thought I'd finish my first month of blogging with a reflective one, looking at the things which have inspired me most this year, and hoping they inspire you too...

1) Teachers were heroes, and presidents were real people (whether this a real person with courage still remains to be seen, but I imagine 90% of the world's population will be willing him on in the New Year).

Felix Baumgartner - The mightiest of leaps
2) Science equated to discovery and inspiration: 
Higgs Boson, the Mars Rover, Felix Baumgartner's colossal jump from the edge of space - A year when Science re-discovered its cutting edge and inspirational qualities, but a year in which the real science (of saving our species' place in this planet's history) was once again subsumed by the interests of those with profit as their main motive.

3) Teachers innovated: Teachmeets and Tweachers came of age, and teachers reacted to an ever-growing chorus of criticism from government and the media with professionalism, integrity, and continued strife towards improvement. But these testing times, when politics and ideology rule over education, are also beginning to sift teachers and leaders into two groups: Those who acquiesce to the demands and play the game, and those who have the moral courage to stand up for what's best for their students. The latter group is in the ascendency I think.

4) The little people stood up for their future: Pussy Riot in Russia, democracy protesters in Syria, Libya and Egypt - A year when the little people stood up to be counted, and gave their lives for a better future. And the web played a pivotal role in that process, allowing people to communicate freely with each other across social and geographical barriers: On a lesser scale, we saw the growth of crowd-funded Kickstarter projects, and in the teaching profession we saw the formation of HeadsRoundtable and its massive online petitions, consultations and deluging the DfE with over 5000 tweets in one hour to protest against the EBacc "consultation" (if such it can be called). There's your moral conviction...

5) Gay Marriage Bill: Even though the church continues to object to gay marriage, this was the year that the rest of us saw it as a complete non-issue. For Heaven's sake, if the Conservative Party are advocating a more liberal stance than the church, what is the world coming to?! I just loved the picture opposite, which showed a grown man as though ashamed of his own message, and a young lad with courage and love in his heart. Who says the next generation is going downhill?

(Do love this video response from the gay community on what might happen if we don't let them marry each other: Hilarious!)

6) The Olympic legacy
I'll admit to being a nay-sayer when it came to the Olympics, and then it changed my mind, for so many reasons. The inspirational performances were just one aspect of the whole thing to be honest. I loved the fact that we saw immigrants as accepted parts of our society who wanted to help make this a great country rather than simply a racially homogenous one; I loved the way we came to see 
Paralympians and disabled people as heroes rather than as scroungers, benefits cheats, or a drain on the nation; And most of all (as a media specialist), I loved the fact that the people we idolized were for once not over-paid ponces (footballers, looking at you here!) or people with little talent who'd made it through "reality TV" and been told they were the next big thing. The Olympians were people who excelled at their sports, achieved their success through incredible hard work over a long period of time, and when they'd finally achieved it, had the humility to admit that they were only part of a team, and that their achievements were only a blip on a much larger scale. People who are often aware of their own lack of importance in the grand scheme of things are often the ones who achieve and give most in life. That's a true legacy.

Finally, I had to leave this year's review with two of my favourite videos of the year: You're going to tell me they're the same: Same tune, same theme, same Olympic footage. But there is a subtle difference. While the first is a celebration of the Olympics and its trials, tribulations and successes, the second I think is more powerful.

Because it's about more than the sportsmen and the sportswomen who did us so proud. It's about us as well, and our role as ordinary people. It's about everybody who made it happen, made a difference, and made it such a special time for Britain (not just London). It's about ordinary people clubbing together to show how great a nation's people are, without jingoism or feeling any need to be better than anyone else...

If we're going to do anything to leave a legacy in 2013 (and seeing as yesterday went off without a hitch, and Mayans are still investing in pension funds, we can assume we do still have a future on this planet!), it should be to realise our potential as a species within the great ecosystem which is our planet.

It should be about looking out for each other.

It should be about looking out for our resources, and sharing them equitably.

It should be about realising with humility that our survival depends on working in harmony with this beautiful planet, and not simply in our own selfish interests.

A final quote, to leave you with this year. It's from a book I read years ago that is unique in its ability to constantly remind me of how tiny my place in the world is. As my Christmas gift to you all, may I recommend "Tuesdays With Morrie", and may we all continue to strive to make this a better place to live next year... Merry Christmas!

You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.

“I heard a nice little story the other day,” Morrie says. He closes his eyes for a moment and I wait.
“Okay. The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He’s enjoying the wind and the fresh air–until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore.
“My God, this is terrible,” the wave says. ‘Look what’s going to happen to me!’
“Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him, ‘Why do you look so sad?’
“The first wave says, ‘You don’t understand! We’re all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?’
“The second wave says, ‘No, you don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.’”
I smile. Morrie closes his eyes again.
“Part of the ocean,” he says, “part of the ocean.” I watch him breathe, in and out, in and out.
Extract from the book Tuesdays with Morrie 
By Mitch Albom
All rights reserved.
New York : Doubleday, c1997.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Leadership Philosophy: A first stab

Week three of my ASLDP course, and I had my first chat with my coach afterwards, the venerable @Plestered, and a number of themes are starting to emerge from these sessions, to whit:
  1. I will never get the course acronym right
  2. I will never remember my ID badge to sign in with
  3. Leadership is about moral purpose. And data. And not necessarily in that order.
  4. Leadership is about vision, and knowing how you want to run your organisation
  5. Ok, I only thought of four, but the whole numbering thing got the better of me...
I was discussing this with my coach, as well as talking about the various blogs we're both reading on leadership at the moment, and a recurrent idea seems to be this need to develop one's vision for leadership. At which point he told me I should write mine before my next coaching session.

Let's rewind here: I should write mine before my next coaching session.

OK, rewind a bit further...
I should write my vision for leading a school before my next coaching session.
While I'm still a middle leader.
Before I've learnt anything substantial on this course (and there are those who've rightly expressed doubt that I'm capable of that alone!).
Before I've even started my leadership secondment.
For a theoretical job as a potential Assistant Headteacher.
Before all that, I should try and formulate my vision for how I would lead an entire school.

"Excellent idea!" I said. 

Sometimes I can be a pillock...

This is what I've come up with so far. With virtually every blog I read and every conversation I have nowadays, I learn more and more, and I'm certain of nothing if not the fact that this wil change drastically with that learning. But every journey starts somewhere. So here are my thoughts on the tools I would use to run a school well:

1) Authenticity and integrity, from top to bottom. From leaders, staff and students. We will not produce a generation of people who have genuine integrity if we don't have it ourselves, and model it day in, day out. It's about people, stupid. And those people need to be valued and supported. If you are not able to value and support the people around you, and the students, and have that principle at your very core, why would you work in this profession?

2) Teaching and learning, curiosity and discovery, should be at the heart of everything we do. We should be a discovery community, staff and students alike. We should be learning from everyone around us, and we should create a system where that is systematically facilitated and celebrated. We should be learning from each other, we should learn from external sources, from business, from the community, from anyone who has something to teach us. We should create time within the curriculum where staff development, research and collaborating on best and next practice is not only prominent but a professional expectation.

3) High expectations. It's not OK for a student not to try their best in your class, is it? But teachers get paid to do their job, so why would it be any more acceptable for us not to give our students our best? I agree that you can't hit Outstanding every single lesson perhaps, but we need to find a sustainable way to give at our highest level as much of the time as possible. And make it sustainable for a whole school year, rather than having people break down due to ill health at the beginning of every holiday.

4) Use the strengths of the people you have. Good managers should manage, good teachers who are at the chalk-face day in day out should be listened to, and should have every possible obstacle to outstanding lessons put aside. Use the talents you have well. I'm sure someone even wrote a parable about it, it's that important. I think it was probably Jesus.

5) Openness and open doors: If anyone fears me coming in to their classroom, they will get more defensive. Staff and students have to know that failure is a crucial part of the learning mix, and that they should be doing it together. Failure is fine, as long as you learn from it, and progress from it. Consequently all feedback should be developmental. The same principle applies to those at the top of the teaching ladder, with large amounts of expertise, and a desire to experiment and hone their teaching skills, sometimes even try something outlandish. They need to be trusted. They need to be given the freedom and autonomy they need to develop. But that freedom is always coupled with accountability. One is the Yin to the other's Yang. Or vice versa. I can't remember.

6) Curriculum: We are in an unprecedented era of political interference in education, but we are also in an era of considerable freedom. If we allow our freedoms to be curtailed by our response to how others will perceive us, based on league tables and spurious measures of what constitutes a rounded education which we don't agree with in the first place, then we have lost our moral purpose. We need a curriculum which allows every student to find their light, to find the spark that sets their futures alight, and is right for that individual. If we don't provide that, we fail the students. By consequence, we need to be clear with parents what the rationale behind our curriculum decisions are, and we need them to support us in our attempts to give their children what's best for them, rather than what responds to flavour of the month. The students who leave our gates should be as ready as they can be for their futures, whatever that might entail.

7) OK, I know what I'm like if I get a list that goes beyond seven, so let's not push this. There's bound to be more to write in the future, and I'm likely to be changing my mind very soon about all this anyway, so let's stop here. Treat number 7 as your video at the end of term. And as an explicit statement that anyone who retweets to me any more "1047 new ways to enrich education with a pencil sharpener" will be shot! Malice aforethought. No early release from prison.

You've been warned...

(And as for Michael Gove...)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

My iPad journey - Updated

Cards on the table: I've been teaching 17 years and have always been a huge fan of computers and their potential for learning. I'm not an ICT teacher, nor am I any more than a gifted amateur in the ICT world. I am not a geek, except insofar as I watch The Big Bang Theory. And love it. OK, I'm a bit of a geek. But I have some semblance of social skills, so I'm not sure it counts really.

My journey with ICT began with computers, always Windows, big Apple hater to be honest. Then the iPad came out, and I liked it. I liked it a lot. But it bugged the hell out of me the number of work-arounds I had to find for functions which would have been simple for a PC. As a media teacher, it irritated me that I had to wait until iPad 2 for a camera, but once I had the camera, it didn't take long before the iPad gradually rendered my computer almost obsolete. The iPad started as a replacement for computers, in the classroom as well as at home.

And so the iPad began to replace many PC functions in my classroom, as a simple swap. There were limitations, but more advantages than I'd thought. the "switch it on and it's on" facility (revolutionary, I know: Who thought that one up?) was a huge time-saver, meaning I didn't have to plan whole lessons around computers just to make switching them on and the 10-minute boot-up worthwhile, or introduce lessons with 20 minutes of board-work just to kill time so the damn things were ready to go. (Honestly, all the tasks were really useful, promise)

At the same time I started on twitter, where all my best ideas came from. More or less all my ideas, if I'm honest. I am not one of life's creative thinkers, it's fair to say. But I do have a much under-estimated skill of being able to look at things which are beyond my creative capacity and give them a slight tweak to improve them. This was more or less how I treated most of my PLN's contributions: "Like that, how do I make it work for me?".

Our school has been on a three-year drive to improve AfL, and this was brilliantly served by Socrative quick tutorial here if you've never seen it before), which had the advantage of being usable on computers and phones as well, useful for classes where we didn't have enough iPads to go round. In fact, it's the ideal tool for any BYOD environment too. I started realising that the iPads had loads of advantages, but these were often negated if you didn't have a device per person, so using web-based apps helped as I could supplement the ipads with conventional PCs. This was enriching the learning in my class, with a greater variety in my students' educational diet which was keeping them on their toes.

By now I was starting to see the creative potential of the iPads for making movies, podcasts, comic strips, posters etc. It started out as a solution to my attempts to "flip the classroom", buy allowing me to create simple tutorial videos I could set as homework preparation for lessons (Our Youtube channel gives you a few examples which you are welcome to share). I could even put them into Playlists so that the videos became more advanced, and students were able to go as fast in their learning as they wanted to, which was really useful at KS4 and KS5. Using the camera on the iPad and iMovie enabled me to make these short videos within half an hour sometimes, and as they are all online now, they are permanently there for students to refer to. Which means I've stopped repeating myself in class, a lot. Apart from the phrase "Do you know where to look for your answer?" which is getting trotted out more...

My own forays into creativity also showed me the iPad's potential for increasing the number of ways my students could respond creatively to tasks rather than just using them to find out information, browse the internet and write notes. Creation is perhaps the one area the iPad really has it over other tablets, as it has a huge amount of potential. So my students would be using creative apps to illustrate their learning, and this, I realised, was enhancing learning dramatically, by deepening the way the students were thinking, and really getting them to synthesise and apply the information in new and creative ways. Twitter and @Gripweed1 added more apps from a fabulous website of the week feature he does, eg Explain Everything, and the ways in which my students were able to demonstrate their learning continued to grow.

Explain Everything has been a great case in point, one which I am developing my use of consistently. At first it was me making tutorials, or explaining concepts for students. But after a while I started asking the students to use it to explain the concepts themselves. The beauty of it was that it allowed them to use pictures, labels, extended writing, but also make these into movies which they could produce verbal commentaries for. A lot of my students with special needs have benefitted from this new way of accessing and showing their learning, or boys especially who never quite get round to writing things in any more detail than the absolute minimum they can get away with. Tell them they can explain it verbally or make it into a movie and they're mad for it. Tell them how brilliant the answer is but they now have to write it in ten minutes for an exam response, and they suddenly realise that succinct writing is a skill they also have to learn. Importantly though, those who always thought they were not much good in class because their written responses got low marks now realise that the knowledge is more than adequate, and that the only obstacle to good marks is writing. Somehow, that seems to make the task of improving slightly less daunting to them.

Then the enhanced learning led logically into sharing our work. Students were so proud they wanted to be able to show their work to everyone, through the Apple TV, and to their parents. Students sharing their work with each other on Twitter has increased the collaboration in class dramatically, for a start. QR codes, tweeting, Creative Book Builder (another easy tutorial here for those of you who've never tried it), were my first steps into this curating work and bringing it together. Again, @Gripweed's app of the week showed me countless possibilities for doing this, such as Wallwisher, Edmodo, Scoop.It. And my eyes began to open to the number of different ways I could do that.

I ignored virtually all of them, because if there's a down-side to Twitter, it's that it can deluge you with too many ideas. But I had enough to fulfil the functions I was after, and it was clear that sharing work was having an additional unexpected effect: It was extending learning. What students were producing was changing, the way in which they were doing it was changing, and they were now learning outside the classroom much more. I'd been toying with flipped learning for a long time, but suddenly these tools made it not only possible, but also driven by the students.

So the next stage was to stop exploring too much, and sit down and rationalise things. I spent time thinking about the functions I wanted my students to be able to undertake using the iPads, and created a list: Mind-mapping, AfL, writing and recording, researching, demonstrating learning, sharing learning, creating posters, word clouds, videos, demonstrations, podcasts, revision, online accessible storage.
Here are the tools I used, for those of you with an unhealthy interest:

AfL - Socrative
Mind-mapping - Popplet, iThoughtHD
Note-taking and recording - Pages, Evernote, GoogleDocs, Keynote
Research - Safari, Skype/Facetime, Khan Academy, TED and TED-ED
Word clouds - TagCloud, Word Collage
Demonstrating learning - Explain Everything, Skitch, Timeli, VideoScribe, Creative Book Builder, iBooks, Apple TV
Creating - CeltX, Cinemek, Pinnacle Studio, iMovie, PS Touch, PS Express, StripDesign, Phoster, Flipbook
Revision - Quizlet
Storage and sharing - Evernote, Dropbox, Cloudon, iBooks, Twitter, QR codes

Way too much info, huh? Up until the list you were busy thinking "Wow, great, cool, I should try this!" And then this turned into those, and I can feel your enthusiasm waning with the immensity of the task! I've been there. I sympathise. I call it "My inspirational Twitter PLN hell". But here's the thing: To quote my favourite philosopher Lao Tzu, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". There is no minimum speed limit on this journey. There is only DO or DO NOT. So pick one app. Try it. When you've got it wrong a few times, try it some more, get the students to help you out, or find work-arounds, and get good at it. Embed it. And then add another, and so on.

And add in your other learning styles: Flipped learning works brilliantly with iPads, as does SOLO Taxonomy. As, I would imagine, does co-construction. It's only a tool after all, and there are a whole load of ways it can help you do your job more effectively. The final thing you'll discover on this journey is that, beyond changing how you do things, varying your educational activities, deepening the learning of your students, and extending the ways in which they learn, you will ultimately have empowered your learners to take charge of their own education. Which is technically, I reckon, Outstanding, is it not?

The process so far has taken me a year. I now have four classes using iPads most lessons, for a variety of tasks, and constantly coming up with new ways to learn. Sometimes I feel like a spare part, but it just gives me a precious second or two to sit back and smile to myself. Before I get back on their backs expecting even more!

Thank you. Once again, you've made it to the end of the post. Here's your cartoon... At least I'm getting more consistent with my rewards system, eh?

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Keeping teachers healthy

A while back I read a rather brilliant blogpost by the equally rather brilliant John Tomsett entitled This Much I Know About... Staff Well-Being. It was so inspiring that, like any good professional, I nicked it and tried to pass the ideas off as my own at our staff well-being committee the following week. Unfortunately, my DHT who chairs the meeting was trying to do likewise. Fortunately for us, if rather ironically, everyone else was too sick or busy that week to be there, so between the two of us we quietly buried the whole plagiarism thing and just decided to focus on the merits of the ideas therein.

I've written elsewhere in a post on Leadership and Integrity that the teacher is the most important tool in the education process. Technology is great, supportive management are too, but at the end of the day, the teacher is the tool which crafts the final product, the holistic education of a child: no tool, no product. The logical corollary to this is that teachers are the most prized asset a school has, and should therefore be looked after and enabled to do their job as best they can, rather than prevented from doing so. Staff well-being is a critical issue in this respect, but I can't help feeling we're often our own worst enemies.

OK, so, cards on the table. I'm not one of these teachers who gives everything in the service of the students and the profession. Don't get me wrong: During the hours of 7.30 - 6.00 while I'm in school, I'll be giving my best. And when I'm marking work and doing the other bits and bobs at home in the evening and at the weekend, those tasks too will have my undivided attention. But here's the thing. When I get all my To Do list done, I'm done for the day, and that's that.  I'm damned if I'm going to be one of those teachers who martyrs themselves for the job. Because you know what I've noticed all martyrs have in common? Their deadness. The fact that none of them walk away happy, or indeed walk any further at all. For them, it's all or nothing.

Now I know teachers who are like this. And believe me, there is a point up to which I admire their dedication. But here's my question: Who do you think you're helping with this sort of attitude? Are you seriously trying to tell me that your über-dedication and consequent constant exhaustion are the best way to help your students? And if you're busy having a jolly good laugh at those martyrs, ask yourself if you've ever come in to school despite the fact you KNEW you were too ill to do so? Cover too much hassle to set? Kids can't do without you? Feel guilty about the cover you're causing? Leave it out! Someone ought to seriously try calculating the knock-on effect of that valiant act. For starters, how many other people did you infect? And how many days of work were lost through that? How many students lost time because of the same thing? (And we're never exactly enamoured of the fact that students miss our lessons, no matter how legitimate the reasons) and how many of those lessons you did deliver were actually good lessons? I can imagine the looks of horror on people's faces as I criticise their devotion to duty, but I can't tell you how misguided it is.

If you're dedicated to your job, you have a duty to look after your health. And to be honest, you've got a duty to look after your health full stop. If your life is one of giving to your students, then they deserve your best, and you cannot give that unless you take care of yourself. If you actually have other centres of interest in your life other than teaching, heaven forbid, like loved ones who need your time, then you owe them too. That means disciplining yourself to stop with enough energy left for those people too. The ones you love. Remember?

Anyway, I hate my own tendency to be critical, so here are my own ideas on how to achieve that balance which might be a bit more constructive. They are by no means perfect, but they really help me.
  • Reserve early mornings for yourself. Bit of exercise, deep breathing, meditation, whatever you want, but give yourself you time. It's not about "allowing yourself", it's about disciplining yourself. It's not an indulgence, it's a need.
  • Learn to cook. Properly. I love lots of sweet indulgences, but they don't love me, so I ditched them and tried to fill myself with good stuff, and find other things I look forward to eating just as much. Check out this banana cake recipe for starters!
  • Set time aside: I set aside two evenings a week for friends and exercise at the same time. My friends are great at keeping me motivated to keep fit. Surrounding yourself with good, positive friends who want the best for you also goes a long way.
  • I started learning t'ai chi the week I began teacher training, some meh years ago, and it really helps. Not just with staying calm under pressure, and giving me bags more energy than I've ever had before, but also with awareness of when I'm over-working my system, and when I need to slow down. It ended up doing me so much good I started teaching it. Now, several years down the line, those people I taught are keeping me from spending my energy unwisely, because they're now teachers in their own right. How cool is that?
  • Professional guilt: Get rid of it. Sacrificing your health for short-term gain isn't worth it, and is actually helping fewer people than you think.
  • Time for loved ones. If you can't spare your children an hour a day minimum, and more for your partner, that's not making you a good person. Why should they have to sacrifice their energy to make up for your lack of it all the time? Dinner times are sacrosanct in our house, and cooking together is an even better way to get time with the people you love. My brother even has a fab "cocktail Wednesday" which he and his wife never deviate from. Oh, and quit trying to multi-task. When you're dealing with people at school, you wouldn't be checking your phone or answering emails at the same time, so don't do it to your family.
  • Weekends: I know working at weekends is inevitable, but try to put aside a full day for yourself, your family, your friends and yourself: You deserve it.
  • Sleep. Lots of it, especially in winter. There is less energy around at this time of year, so you need to conserve what little you have if you're going to stay fresh. The rest of nature hibernates for good reason. If we, the so-called "superior animals", think we can ignore nature's cycles, then we're not as clever as we like to think. Try switching off from work at least an hour before you go to bed, and don't go to bed after eleven. Statistically it is far more difficult to get to sleep thereafter.
And if you look at the actual amount of time you're taking off work by completing the above, it's not too much to expect is it? Assuming you want to have a life, at any rate.

In conclusion, to paraphrase the greatest taoist master of them all:

Get a life. Do not get a life. There is no try.

This post is dedicated in memoriam of the greatest teacher ever, Trevor Edney, who taught me not only to love learning, but also to love the health I'd been given, and to enjoy my time on Earth. RIP

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Blowing OFSTED away!

So I started a blog entry on Thursday evening, fresh from the most amazing fortnight of my professional career, possibly. A Carlsberg fortnight if you will. It had started with an SLT observation which had been Outstanding, albeit after some negotiation. There were then several meetings where I felt I made good contributions, including a coaching meeting with someone in my Faculty which both of us felt had been really productive, and had reaffirmed me in the need to connect personally with the people I work with, and help and support them, as well as challenging them. I had two sessions for the Aspiring Senior Leadership programme (which I realise I keep banging on about - sorry!), both of which were filling me with more confidence that I might actually have a contribution to make at that sort of level, and in the last one, I even felt I was developing a bit of my own thinking, having been a bit critical of a session where we learnt all about the primacy of data before being told "It's really about people and doing the best for your students". Why, I wondered, were we kow-towing slavishly to statistics and data which measured us on such narrow criteria if we were supposed to be about the whole child? Why, if academies had been given such freedoms to formulate their own curriculum, were we all trying our best to play "Look at us, we're the best!" using even narrower ranges of measures such as the E-Bacc? Was this really the best we could do for each of the students we teach? I've written about this elsewhere, so I won't labour the point, but you get the idea...

So a bit of observation success, some jolly nice pats on the back, a few green shoots of thinking for myself, all topped off with an HMI visit which stamped the school's reputation as Outstanding, World Class, and "blowing the lid off outstanding" indeed: Apparently this was a comment made about my own lesson. Well, I was quite chuffed. Blog, here I come, ready to show the world I know some serious stuff. The Internet would have to sit up and listen now. Might even get past the 200 followers mark on Twitter. Then everyone would know who was the king of this damn castle! Hell yeah....

Fortunately for me, the week had also pretty much exhausted me, and I feel asleep before being able to hit the PUBLISH button (except with my slumping forehead, which wasn't accurate enough to hit the screen in just the right place).


None of the self-congratulatory crap of the original post has since survived, as you can possibly tell (except in an ironic, disdainful, faux can't-believe-I-was-nearly-that-shallow kind of a way). By the time I reviewed it, most of the puffed up self-confidence had gone. Having read some brilliant blogs over the weekend, and some thoroughly humbling ones (my thanks to @Headguruteacher, @kevbartle and @Gwenelope for their contributions, whether they realise it or not), I came back to the realisation, which I've known all along, that chasing plaudits leads to an ego boost, and ego boosts are exactly what divert perfectly well-intentioned people from doing what they know to be right, by their students and their staff. Some may call it pragmatism in an imperfect world, but you have to ask yourself whether, by playing along with the rules of the imperfect world, you aren't condoning it, and won't eventually arrive at a rather unquestioning acceptance of it. In the name of pragmatism. Realpolitik, and all that.

So while my mind is feeling refreshed, and my ego is on a lull, I got on, and planned some more excellent lessons which will push my students harder than they've been pushed before, which will win no popularity contests, but which will get them to be able to think for themselves, hopefully with the same level of integrity I'm aspiring towards. That's my job. Every day. Even when HMI have gone.

Fortunately for me, the pace of a teacher's life and the sieve-like nature of my memory will combine hopefully to ensure I've forgotten all about last week by the time I hit the starter thunk in tomorrow's Year 10 lesson! Nothing like students to keep you grounded and focused on the main thing...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bottom-Up Management: What The Hell Have Toyota Quality Circles Ever Done For Us?

My Dad and I have few things in common. He's a naval architect, I've always been about the arts and humanities. He's a hard-nosed stickler for fact and logic, I have a habit of allowing romantic idealism to dictate what I do and say. A glass of good Burgundy allows our temperaments to declare a truce every so often, and in recent years, our shared love for my daughter has led to mutual respect. But when he starts talking about engineering, designing sails through computer modelling simulation programmes, or Japanese Quality Assurance mechanisms, as he did on our walk today, I tend to up the pace in the hope of getting him to focus more on his impending breathlessness than what he wants to talk about.

All of which made today's conversation a bit of a revelation really. I often talk to him about some of the great things going on in my school, and the way it's well led etc, and he tends to be sceptical, to say the least. The public sector doesn't really do efficiency, as far as he's concerned, and most public sector workers are a bunch of defensive, self-serving plonkers who wouldn't make it in the real world.  That's what his eyes say, at any rate. He's always diplomatic enough not to say. But the vehemence with which I try to defend the best practice I've come across only seems to confirm him in his opinions. So today's conversation was a surprise, to say the least, as it started me thinking about cross-over between business practices and those we have in schools.

A bit of background. My parents lived and worked in Japan for ten years before retiring, Dad as a very senior manager in his company out there. He dislikes people who are anything but who they are, and therefore had little time for many ex-pats. He liked the Japanese a lot, and their culture, though he saw their faults as well. In particular, he admired many of the larger Japanese car companies, and the way they ran their business. Today's conversation (yes, I realise it's been three paragraphs, but I am getting round to its substance, honestly!) was about Toyota's "Quality Circles". I'd been talking at length about my school's brilliant initiative of Teaching and Learning Communities (TaLK groups, for no reason other than to bugger up a perfectly good acronym), where we discuss and share best practice with each other without any interference from senior leaders, and how brilliant and revolutionary this was, and what impact it had had on staff, empowering them and yada yada... "Sounds like an inferior version of Toyota's Quality Circles", he says to me in his usual dismissive manner. "They've been doing that for decades. Hence the badge."

Erm, okaaaaaaaaayyyyyy....

Deflated is an understatement. Yet again my enthusiasm for something I care passionately about had been shot down in flames with a minimal number of words. The only reason I even persisted with the conversation was that he'd piqued my interest with the badge comment. "What do you mean?" says I.
And he proceeds to tell me.

Toyota's quality circles (as illustrated right: I know regular readers will think I've abandoned my gimmick of a picture or video half-way through to keep you awake, but I assure you the gimmick is alive and well...) represent the way the company thinks is the most efficient way to ensure quality across every product.

Essentially, the people deemed to know most about the efficiency of the production process and the quality of the final outcome are those on the production line, so they meet with shop-floor managers and senior managers on a weekly basis, tell them what improvements to make to the systems, and the managers make the improvements so the people on the front-line can do their job as effectively as possible. "When I'm fitting x onto y, I have to walk across this other person's path to get the part. Why don't we have a box of x parts right next to me so I don't waste that time?" sort of thing. (I'm not sure many Japanese cars have x parts which are fitted to y bits, but you get the idea). Management's job is to help them out by listening and implementing.

That really got me thinking. How often are staff in schools impeded from doing their jobs by people higher up wanting to introduce this or that initiative, and giving it a higher priority than the "main thing"? Sound familiar? How many teachers do you know who could easily tell management a thing or two about what's wrong with the school? View from the chalkface anyone?

I've been in on a variety of leadership training events recently, all of which have had merit, but all of which have also had the underlying assumption that the leaders are the experts, and that vision and leadership from the top are what will drive a school forward. and while I'm not contesting the need for both of those things, I'm coming to the conclusion that leadership is as much about making the best use of the talents of ALL those in the organisation. And if you have 90 teachers working 85% timetables day in day out, it would be a fool who ignored their expertise, surely. So why aren't we asking them what gets in their way of Outstanding teaching? And then removing those obstacles? And while we're at it, what about asking the students the same thing? What stands in the way of your Outstanding learning?

For me, this path towards senior leadership is getting me to really think about my own educational philosophy more and more, and work out its most and least important elements. I'm miles away from anything coherent (stop me if you spot anything that looks half-decent, for God's sake, as I might well have sped past it!), but slowly but surely pieces of the puzzle are being given to me, often from the strangest sources. Like social networking sites. Or walks in the woods.

So, next leadership resolution from me... I will learn to listen, and I will learn to ask for the opinions of those who are in a better place than me to know what's needed at the coal-face, and what's getting in the way of quality. That sort of humility ought to be one of the tests during the SLT interview process. Maybe my Dad has a point after all, and maybe I can start by not being so arrogant as to think I know better than him just because I work in the public service...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Leadership and Integrity

Another session in our programme to develop Aspiring Senior Leaders today, so I thought I'd write today's post on something a little more serious than my last efforts. If you believe me to be capable of such a thing.

We were talking about the qualities of leadership. There was a neat little mantra for us to digest, about leadership revolving around "Principle, Purpose and People" (and because of the rule of threes and the repetition and capitalisation of the first letters, you know this must be Good).

The principles relate to our moral purpose, as leaders and as educators in general, to create a stimulating and challenging environment in which teachers and students can improve as learners and as people. Laudable. No controversy there. Loud applause from the gallery.

The Purpose we spoke about was described as our core business, the school's raison d'être. We are there to lead in the process of education, to teach young people to be as great as it is possible for them to be, and to teach them the tools (and the content if you wish: I'm not getting into that dichotomy here!) to achieve their goals. We are there to create the right conditions, the right ethos, the right curriculum, and lots of right things generally. Again, no argument. Applause, bows, screams, throwing of underwear onto the stage etc.

Finally we talked about the People, and the importance of the social relationships in schools. We talked about this with equal reference to the students and the teachers we lead, which was refreshing. Sometimes I hear so much "it's all about the students" that I get the feeling we as teachers are supposed to sacrifice everything from our health to our happiness in the service of young people, and be thankful for that privilege. But if you want to corporatise the language of education, and insist that students are our "core business", then logically they are actually the product of the education system: In this analogy, the customers might be parents, if we're feeling generous, or the needs of the state and commercial capitalist economy if we're not (notice how skilfully I negotiated those tricky ideological waters with impartiality, by not telling you I'm a closet Marxist what I believe to be the case). The position of the teacher, then, is as either a manufacturing tool - I've been called worse - or as a skilled craftsperson. Either way you look at that analogy, one of the most important factors in creating the ideal education product is either the sharpness of the tool, or the skill of the craftsperson. The health and well-being of the teacher is important to achieving great educational outcomes, and I was glad we were stressing it at the session today, ironically just ahead of our Staff Well-Being Committee meeting tomorrow.

The double irony, however, was that this discussion of the qualities of a leader had just been preceded by another session on the importance of data. Why data? What is data? Why do we need data? And all of the answers came out which you'd expect. "It allows us to track students, to monitor progress, it allows us to measure success, and create accountability systems etc". All of which are not in themselves remotely bad. Except when we start to interrogate the success criteria a little more closely. How far is your school's attainment "above the average"? How many of the students have met their 5 A*-C grades? How many have secured the E-Bacc? It struck me that few people in the educational world (on Twitter I've had the privilege of meeting several, including @Johntomsett and @Headguruteacher) ever actually question these measures of success, despite extensive evidence they ought to be questioned. How many great people who have shaped the last century would have been written off by our current educational success criteria? Einstein is the first to spring to mind, John Lennon another, but there must be hundreds of thousands more. Why? Because we accept the narrow definitions of success which are thrust at us. Do you have your English, Maths, Science, Language and Humanity? You shall succeed! Well, I've got news for you: I got them, and I got them with good grades. Didn't make me a success, I can assure you. And I can find you no shortage of my colleagues who'll back me up when I say that, the kind souls.

So here we go, my first attempt to do something very real, with integrity. I'm going to suggest to you that a truly strong leader is the one who has the courage to put the PEOPLE he serves first, students and staff. A truly strong leaders bases their PRINCIPLES and PURPOSE around the needs, desires and highest aspirations of those people they serve, and the communities they serve. And if that means saying no to external pressures which fallaciously propose to invalidate your achievements, those of your teachers and your students by comparing them to others with a bogus set of ideologically-driven standards and agendas, then today is the day I stand up and say NO.

Really really loudly.

And pray that I don't get shouted down by the hoards who fell for the rhetoric of failure and success in the first place.

Quick post-scripts: If you're a senior leader who is busy jumping up and down with your pitch-fork loudly proclaiming a revolution, ask yourself this: Would you give someone like me a job if it was within your power?

Your THUNK for the evening...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Flipping Learning: Some useful tools

In my last effort to enthral the blogosphere with my own low-level version of "expertise"(and from your kind comments back I seem to have succeeded in managing everyone's expectations downwards remarkably well!), I talked about my journey into the idea of "flipping the classroom". It was all very abstract and you missed nothing much, although in fairness you should really read it again before this post, if only to give my stats a boost: Zero is a lonely little readership figure.

Today I thought I'd get concrete on your asses, and give you some idea of the sorts of things I do in class to flip the learning. These could be regarded as fairly subject-specific, but I think the principles are applicable in a range of areas, or so I'm informed by reliable colleagues. More reliable than me at any rate.

A few examples:


In my subject, I have to teach students how to use a great many pieces of software for design, editing, and now with the growing use of iPads in my lessons, apps. I've found the biggest waste of my time has consistently been the teaching of how to use said software to all students together. Software is something people learn very differently, especially in gender terms. There are the academics who need the theory, the kinaesthetics who need to fiddling with software or hardware as they go along, the visual learners who can't get it from verbal instructions: You name them, they're in my classroom, all together. And when I used to teach them to use software, half of them switched off immediately because they just wanted to get on with it, the other half switched off because they needed more time and / or a different method of learning. 

Enter the flipped learning scenario: A video tutorial, often accompanied by a written document, which students have to lear for homework. I tell them I don't mind how long it takes to learn, how they learn it (indeed many of them will come in after school to watch the videos while using the app / software / camera), they just need to know how to use it before they start on a given task. The students know I won't answer questions about how to use equipment or software, they have to get on with it themselves. In the end, they learn it, or they collaborate with others to get it as they go along. Either way is fine by me, as they can always go back to the videos any time they like to check. This range of resources allows them to learn in their own time, at their own pace, without the embarrassment of knowing they're holding others back: More importantly, it frees me up to talk about what they're creating, designing, writing, explaining etc. 

This example of flipping has freed up so much time for me that the resulting quality of the practical work produced has increased dramatically in the last few years, and allowed students a far greater sense of independence and achievement. All of which I take credit for, naturally. The tutorial videos don't take that long, and I've created them a variety of ways using screen capture software such as Adobe Captivate, Camstudio and the like, or even Explain Everything on the iPad. Having created them, I upload them to the department's own Finham Media Youtube channel, and I tweet or email the links to specific videos to students. For more complexes pieces of software, such as video editing software, I can create a number of different videos for each stage of the editing process, and then once uploaded, make them into a sequential playlist, allowing students to move from stage to stage at their own pace. Example below...

Extended Learning using TED-Ed: 

I love TED. For those of you who've never heard of TED, I could wax lyrical(ish) for ages on this brilliant website. I won't. You've endured me long enough. But its mantra of "Ideas Worth Spreading" should be justification enough for you to toddle on over there right now and check it out. No, wait, finish this first...

When they brought out the ability to flip TED talks using TED-Ed, I thought it was genius. Here's one I Blue Peter-ed earlier: Tom Chatfield: Seven Ways Video Games Engage The BrainAn excellent way to get students watching thought-provoking videos, and also to test their retention of the knowledge by setting them simple comprehension questions about the material, as part of the package: No programming skills required. You simply create the multiple choice questions, nominate the answer which is correct, and you're done, as you can see below, if you have excellent eyesight...

More than that, though, it allows differentiated learning with the Dig Deeper Section, where you can set more open questions to engage deeper learning, and the And Finally section which allows you to go wide open and engage those who are willing in some profound thinking. I tend to use the THINK section as part of the flipped homework, and I then use the middle DIG DEEPER activity as the start of lessons.

    As with the software tutorials, I expect all my students to be able to complete the basic understanding questions, given that they can replay the video as often as they like, and there is even a video hint mode allowing them to get to the exact section of the video which has the answer to the question! Am I helping them too much? Not really. The initial questions are just a simple way for me to ensure that all the students engaged with the homework, and to gauge how hard it was for them. I can immediately tell those who need extra support right from the start of the next lesson, and those who've clearly engaged with it on a profound level, and need something even more profound to make further progress. And that's where my planning of the next lesson starts...

    What I love even more about Ted-Ed is the ability to take ANY video from Youtube and flip it. There are loads of interesting videos out there, and much as my students don't appreciate me getting some other teacher's video (they oddly have a preference for my dulcit tones, which somehow reassure them!), there are lots of people making videos out there who are real experts in their fields, and who can really push them forward much more quickly than I could.

    So there you go: A couple of suggestions for how you can flip your classroom. Have a go! Let me know!

    (A rhyme! A rhyme! My final crime!)

    (I'll get my coat...)

    Sunday, 18 November 2012

    Flipping the Classroom

    Some call it a revolution within the educational world, others call it a gimmick. Some criticize Salman Khan for his lack of expertise in teaching, and claim his concept of "flipped learning" is trying to replace real teachers. Some say it's just good old-fashioned prep work he's advocating, under a new fancy-schmancy term.

    For me, a lot of the hot air about "flipping learning" and the Khan Academy programme misses the point. Flipping is about changing the nature of your relationship with the students from didactic teacher to individual facilitator. My role in the classroom is different depending on which student I am dealing with. The key principles of flipped learning for me are:
    • Getting students to take responsibility for their learning
    • Exchanging this for an application classroom, where the teacher's job isn't about ensuring they are learning the basics, but about developing their individual ability to apply their learning, and "closing individual gaps"
    • Allowing students to learn at their own pace, something our current assessment model in England is woefully inadequate at (remember Sir Ken Robinson's comments on how ridiculous it is to educate children by "batch number"? If not, refresh your memories here).
    • Freeing the teacher up to make highly individual interventions because your diagnostics can be done at the start of the lesson: You become the "guide at the side" rather than "lord at the board" (I realise that's not how the expression goes, I just can't remember how it does, but this summarises it nicely!)
    Setting the students the learning to be done as homework rather than in the class allows students to access material at the pace, time and in the manner they find most effective. With the help of new media and instant messaging (Twitter et al), students can contact me as soon as they hit a problem, and we can solve that then and there. They can even do it through comments on the video or material itself. However, this relies on them being proactive enough to want to get through the obstacle. But with flipped learning, even if they don't get through the obstacle by themselves, I can set diagnostic exercises at the start of every lesson to tell me exactly where, when and why they got stuck. Something like Socrative is an invaluable tool in this process (I've previously done a tutorial if you want to check out its capabilities and how it works in the classroom):


    Once I've worked out where the sticking point is for each individual, then I can set them the next stage of their learning, whether that's a forward step or a temporary backwards one which allows the student to get it, or do more practice until they're confident. The students learn at their own pace, if this is done well (and far be it from me to tell you that it's happening well in my classroom!).

    Before I close this little post (dammit, forgot the funny video again! Hold on, I'll draw you some kind of amusing cat before the end, I promise!), here are a few natural corollaries that interest me as I move through my journey to flipping, some with fairly profound consequences for me personally and my professional development:
    1. You have to be prepared to give students time to master the topic. This may be counter-intuitive at a time when we are being pushed to meet targets, but you have to find a way round that. Your alternative is to move on before the students have truly got it, and leave them with what Salman Khan calls "big Swiss Cheese holes in their understanding" which will bite you on the backside later on in the learning journey.
    2. You can't attach guilt to students not doing homework: Students need to know that homework is not a bolt-on, with additional "stuff" for them to do at home because parents need them to be quiet for longer! Homework is the basis of the learning journey. You have to make students realise that they're simply missing vital stages of their learning, and will fall behind if they don't complete it. But if there are genuine reasons they can't do it at home, you have to play it at their pace, and move them forward from whatever stage they present themselves at.
    3. While teachers could take a much more hands off attitude, the optimum response to flipped learning is to get stuck in and guide everyone individually. While this doesn't mean the end of lesson plans, it does turn you into an expert surfer, because you have to think on your feet to tackle whatever comes up.
    4. As a teacher, especially of high achieving students, you have to be prepared to let go of the notion that you are the expert in the room. Some of your students really will fly as there isn't any form of artificial ceiling keeping them down. You have to be prepared to accept that, and simply guide them towards even more progress, with or without you
    5. On a more positive note, and heaven knows you're probably craving one of those right now, the flipped classroom is an ideal environment in which to maximise the use and effectiveness of new media and new technology. Individual ownership of devices such as iPads or Android tablets, and individual choice of applications to complete tasks go hand in hand with the individualised learning and autonomy promoted by the flipped classroom.
    6. The idea of the flipped classroom seems to fit in well with the principles being developed within SOLO Taxonomy, where students work through various phases of understanding until they can truly master concepts. I cannot claim to be any form of expert in this area (thanks to @aknill for his guidance so far on the matter - If you're not following him, you should be!), but I think there is a lot of potential for meshing the two concepts together effectively. If anyone out there is already doing it, I'd love to know more.
    In a future post, I'll try and be a little less vague and share some of the ways I do this in my own classroom with concrete examples, but for the moment...

    Here's what you were really waiting for all this time: Your patience  has been amply rewarded I think you'll agree...

    Saturday, 17 November 2012

    The power of coaching

    Today's post from the land of ineptitude is brought to you by the concept of coaching, a much misunderstood and oft maligned idea. It thanks you for your attention...

    Part of this ASLDP course I'm on (one of whose primary aims will be to get me to master the acronym before I'm through!) is recording our thoughts and experiences as aspiring senior leaders, hence the blogging thing. I talked about it during my first post. You may not remember. Pay attention please.

    Yesterday I got the chance to use one of the concepts we've explored in our first session: coaching. In real life. With real consequences.  While dressed as Rob Roy. This last point is incidental and irrelevant, but hey, big it up for Children In Need please, and its remarkable ability to make teachers who are otherwise highly professional come in to work dressed insanely and, in my case, armed with a Claymore. At least I wasn't Chicken Lickin' or Bananaman (you know who you are...).

    So, coaching. What a powerful idea. I've done some coaching before on an OTP course last year, and on the Leading From The Middle course years ago. In principle, I know it's a powerful idea, but I'm not sure I've ever got the most out of it, or understood the profundity of its power. But I was giving feedback on an observation yesterday to a colleague who knew exactly how the lesson had gone, and could tell me exactly what was good about it and what was not so good. I've been mentored before, and I know that this is the point where I should have got onto targets for improvement, "tweaks to transform", Even Better Ifs etc. And for a while the discussion did revolve around that, and then it didn't. I did a U-turn. Because what I was hearing underneath the words was about a profound feeling of anxiety that things couldn't get better, and I didn't see much point in going on with this elephant in the room. So together, my colleague and I rolled up our sleeves and we looked these worries in the face, and stared until they blinked first. A lot of teaching is about confidence, and without it, it's hard to act on suggested improvements. Lack of confidence is a paralytic, and an obstacle which, given all the external pressures on us as teachers, was one we could well do without. We talked about the issue, and as I asked questions, my colleague had epiphanies, and came up with the solutions, or at least had the willingness to try and come up with a variety of strategies to see if they improved things. We agreed to put them into action together, to bash ideas off each other whenever we needed, and I said I'd be there for support as and when required. And we left each other, both of us with a renewed sense of optimism about the future.

    Thinking back on this last night, it struck me that today I'd coached for the first time, properly. I'd ignored my desires to solve the problem (typical bloke!), or to give solutions, and I'd listened really carefully. And that listening led to the turning point in the conversation, and quite possibly the relationship. We could have ploughed on towards targets and "must do betters", but we first needed to get this person in a frame of mind where they realised that this wasn't about them as a person, and shouldn't be impacting on their self-esteem. That they were fine as they were, in effect, as a human being. And they walked out with their head held high. And I walked back into my office, and felt like a good human being. As a teacher and as a potential leader, I'd just found the X on the treasure map.

    To summarise this episode, here's what I've learnt: It may be useful to others, it may be you're already doing it. If you are, good for you: You are truly a special human being I would like to emulate.
    • Coaching isn't mentoring. It doesn't need to be done from a position of power or authority. It's done as a peer, from the position of an equal. This is important, as those of you who know anything about me will know there are few areas where I can genuinely speak to anyone from a position of authority or superior knowledge. Apart from on puddings. Or the misery of being a Scottish rugby supporter. Few can match my expertise in these fields. Unfortunately for me, their use is limited, and their earning potential even more so. But it means I can still coach.
    • Coaching requires equality, I've always been told. Actually it requires more than that. It requires the subjugation of your ego if you're the coach. It requires much listening and attention on the other person. It requires you not just to resist the urge to tell people how to do it, it needs you not even to think about how you would do it. How you would do something is irrelevant to the coaching situation, because you're not the other person, and they're ultimately the ones who have to do this for themselves. I have to work on that one.
    • Coaching is...
      • A journey which necessitates a relationship of trust
      • About unlocking potential, and about helping the person you coach to make themselves the best person they can possibly be in whatever sphere they are asking for coaching
      • Coaching is something which ought to be directed by the objectives of the person being coached, but you as the coach have to show them that you share those goals
      • Coaching should always be developmental and non-judgemental
      • Coaching should be challenging but supportive at all times. The challenge is implicitly being asked for when someone asks to be coached. If you haven't asked them whether they want to be coached or not (and I'm not sure I did yesterday), then the chances of them succeeding are small, because you're imposing on them. People need to know that they want to be coached in the first place.
      • Coaching is facilitative rather than didactic
      • Coaching involves reflection on the part of both people involved
      • Coaching is entered into for the promotion of growth and improvement
    And finally, coaching is hard. But incredibly worthwhile. As I found out yesterday, it can take both of you on a journey you had no idea you were capable of taking. And that can only be a good thing.

    Oh, and because I forgot to give you the usual funny video interlude to break up the excessive amounts of text, here are a couple on how not to do it. Enjoy...

    Wednesday, 14 November 2012

    For starters...

    You were sucked in by the title, eh? Admit it! You thought "What sort of an idiot would post a title about his failure to learn better?" Yeah, well, you were sucked in by a cheap punning title, not me...

    So this is my first blog: a few brief intros and an outline of why I'm filling the internet and Twittersphere with my own bilge should probably preface any further writing.

    I'm a secondary teacher in the UK, have been teaching over 17 years, have been in charge of one department or another for 16 of those, and have managed four different departments or faculties covering three different sets of subjects. Sounds very grand, but I'm pulling the wool over your eyes to draw attention away from the fact that I teach Media and Film.

    Embarrassing? Yes. But only because of the connotations everyone already has about my job, ironically enough usually derived straight from the media itself. Not the most reliable of sources.

    I'm actually very proud of what I teach: I think students need to know the extent to which the media manipulate them, and others try to manipulate the media in order to manipulate them too! I regard it as a service to society. My view is seldom shared by others, especially those who teach "proper" subjects...

    I'm also incredibly proud of the way I teach: I took a leaf out of this guy's book before I even knew he existed...

    (I know, you've picked up on the shameless use of a funny video to make sure I don't lose your interest: You're cleverer than me) I make sure I don't give content: I teach skills, and I teach students how to learn for themselves. I don't make it easy for any of them, and hopefully I give them all a brain-ache by the time they leave the class, but I make sure they know that it's for their own good, and they all see the benefits in the long-term. Teaching has never been a popularity contest I was ever much good at, but seeing the potential in students was.

    Until eventually some unwise owl suggested this was a skill I could use to lead staff. This is the journey I'm embarking on today, as an "aspiring senior leader". The view on the journey looks like a beautiful tropical island as seen from the sea, but the journey itself often feels like it should have an abrupt drop, like walking the plank. I will never get used to thinking of myself as anything but a fraud in most fields, but hopefully that will be put to good use: Humility and knowing you always have more to learn are key leadership qualities, I think. I don't want to become a leader who leads because they feel a God-given right to do so, or because I think I know better than anyone and everyone else. If I lead anyone, I'll be asking for their help. And indulgence...

    So, first blog over for the Aspiring Senior Leadership Development Course. Not so painful. For me at any rate. I wasn't the one who had to read it though.

    Over the coming months, I'm going to try and blog regularly about my journey, my interest in media education, educational philosophy, my antipathy for government involvement in education, my love of learning through technology, my growing conversion to Apple products which has taken me somewhat by surprise (as it has my bank manager!), and all sorts of other things. Your comments are welcome. Your support is appreciated. Your positivity will be repaid kindly through karma.