It’s my birthday tomorrow – Yay! Level 39 (AKA the bonus level!). It’s also coming up to the end of the academic year here in Bangkok. I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how I have given, grown and gained as a teacher and learner in the past year.
Reflecting in this way, enables me to build on and appreciate “wins” as well as plan forward to my growth next academic year. Some of these points, and others, will be part of my up-and-coming workshop at the Festival of Education. Hope to see you there!
This year’s wins:
Ten ways I have grown Learning Power this year:
1) Integrated reflection and feedback learning tools.
I have developed reflection and feedback as a learning tool with my learners. Paying purposeful attention to this has resulting in the 5 and 6-year-olds I teach actively seeking out feedback from their peers and asking me to draft and redraft learning as they know this process will produce the best possible outcome – the one they can be most proud of! Here is a photo of our recently completed non-fiction posters about animals in Thailand. They were SO proud.
2) Co-taught and deepened reasoning skills at the same time.
I went to the ELLSA conference this year, lead by Andrea Honigsfeld. It was awesome. We learnt how to use “Number Talks” to develop oracy and reasoning skills. It also gave me a chance to learn from and co-teach with our stunning EAL leader. She taught me new ways to give all children the chance to contribute. We all tapped into Ron Ritchhart’s “Think Pair Share” thinking routine to maximum effect. I will go into more detail on this one at the Festival of Education because it is so doable and so rich for building the learning muscle of “reasoning”
3) Learnt how to use Success Criteria effectively
This deserves a whole separate blog post. I have learnt so much from Shirley Clarke and John Hattie’s “Visible Learning Feedback.” It is the first year I have really maximised co-creating success criteria to its fullest potential.
Using success criteria has also made me grapple with the idea that sometimes providing success criteria can be counter-productive and spoon-feed children (as Shirley Clarke also highlights in the book). So “success criteria done well” is what I have been aiming for. I haven’t always gotten it right. It’s been a learning process. But a very productive one. Watch this space for further reflections.
4) Integrated technology to inspire
This is an ongoing process. Integrating technology well relates directly to chapter 3 in “Powering Up Children” which explores making the classroom a meaningful. motivating and exciting place to learn. This year, we have used “Green Screen” to retell stories and learn story language and 3D goggles to immerse the children in the lives of endangered animals. There is so much more I could do with my learners next year. This is a good first step. Can’t wait to deepen my skills next year.
5) Enabled struggling learners to build positive mindsets
This is a joy and a relentless commitment every year. Writing reports (which we are doing at the moment) is such as rewarding way to reflect on how the children have grown as learners. Some children started Year One with fixed mindsets (“I know I’m smart”, “That wasn’t tricky. It’s all easy for me.” And when challenging learning came up, “I’m not interested in that anyway.”). Now, they understand that its the effort that counts and that actually it’s really ‘smart’ to put your hand to things you find tricky, precisely because these are the things you need to practise. So rewarding. So important to pay attention to and purposefully cultivate.
6) Learnt from others – discovered effective ways to support EAL children
Oh wow! Our school is a mine of expertise, positivity and teachers keen to share their practice and learn from others. I have learned soooo much from so many people. Namely though, our EAL team who are incredible. They have taught me how to develop signs and sentence stems to support EAL learners, how to empathise with them, speak more slowly, and use more visual prompts. I love the use of “First, Next, Then, After That, Finally” in our school which is used consistently across year groups and subjects. It is useful for success criteria and for daily routines. Here is an example in our stunning EYFS unit:
7) Threaded in kindness as an integral part of the classroom ethos.
Always. Essential. Every year, every context. Without kindness and care in your classroom, you have nothing. Kindness needs to be like the letters running through a stick of rock. We used Kind Hands again this year. Works a treat, every time. How kind and inclusive my class are really hit home this week when one of our EAL support teachers said, “You are all like a family.” The children smiled and gently huddled up to one another. “Yes we are”, they said, going slightly gooey-eyed. Later, this adult said, “You know, there are never any niggles in your classroom. The children always look out for one another.” Yup. And that is the way it will always be.
8) Researched “collective efficacy” with a team of inspiring teachers
Well, this was a joyous surprise this year. I went to our supportive head with the idea of feeding into Shirley Clarke’s research on “Collective Efficacy”. He immediately helped put a study group together across the school and we were off – grappling with what “collective efficacy” was, how to research it, how to gather evidence. We have one more round of lesson studies to go, but our research has fed into whole school thinking about how to systematically develop collaboration and has got us as teachers thinking about how to embed the skills of collaboration. A massive win! Thank you Shirley Clarke for this stunning opportunity.
9) Set healthy boundaries. Prioritised.
Those of you who have been connected with me for a while will know about my health scare last year (leading to this blog post). Big opportunity for re-evaluating my priorities. I committed this year to working no more than 9 hour days and never at weekends. I haven’t had one day off sick. Seriously, this is such a huge win for me. I have loved every minute of teaching this year, have looked forward to school and have been able to say “no” when I know I need a rest. As the lovely Jaz Ampaw-Farr would say, “High Five to myself” (there is actually a video somewhere of me high-fiving myself dressed as a flamingo, but that’s another story …)
10) Connected with many schools and leaders across the globe using the LPA
Twitter, I love you. I love all the amazing teachers, head teachers, schools, randoms who have reached out to me, asking about how to develop learning power in their classrooms, thinking in new ways about learning power, seeing the links with similar approaches, developing new thinking, wondering how to get started, wondering in general. THANK YOU! You energise me and reconnect me with my purpose.
I hope you will raise a glass with me to celebrate my birthday! And I hope you will take this opportunity to reflect on your “wins” this academic year and to purposefully plot where you are going next. The sky is the limit. Empower yourself.
Thank you to the incredibly supportive parents of the children I teach who have given me permission to post photos of their children learning in my blogs.