A fairly professionally focussed one this, but found it useful/encouraging/challenging to think through:
2015 – I am grateful for
(1) seeing my favourite year group through – as a HOD (I’d be a terrible Head of Year) I knew from several years ago that this would be as close as I would get to pastoral colleagues’ feelings of bursting with pride and fondness for their year group. All I’d done was taught three of the students all the way through, but also a huge number of others for five or six years, due to a combination of circumstances that won’t happen again. Going on a trip to Berlin with the A2 lot (where Taylor Swift songs mixed with serious historical visiting), helping most of the rest through UCAS, seeing them make it out the other side, mixed with earlier memories of them tormenting student teachers and doing some hideous role plays (back in year 7 we did a lot of role plays), and more recent ones of setting up a cake rota to get us through Tuesday p6…I feel more privileged than I can easily explain.
(2) A year of successful exam results for the department was nice (not to be taken too seriously, just like the low points, but still a relief and pleasure). Coincidentally or otherwise, it came at the same time as we had tried various revision techniques – some new, some old, but altogether in a more systematic way than we had before – much reflection did take place (and is continuing) as to which actions may have helped – how do you measure that?!
(3) the best department in the world (probably anyway) saw huge change as everyone got some sort of promotion; I am as ever humbled by their skill, dedication and mutual support, but this year was also glad we managed to adapt, even if as they continue to succeed the challenge for developing the department can only continue to grow.
(4) Almost by chance, and in a very ad hoc way, I got the chance to share a thought (loosely, on cognitive psychology (deliberately not on ‘teaching tips’ anyway) but very much from a layperson’s viewpoint) with staff by email each week. These seem to have been well received and have prompted me to keep thinking and reading.
(5) I have learnt more about leadership than I ever thought likely, mostly from the surprising areas of running Friday break duty and coordinating a difficult UCAS autumn.
And for 2016, I hope to:-
(1) continue to think about thinking, and its implications for teaching and especially revision and remembering. I’ve loved the stuff on twitter and blogs about this fairly general (!) theme – John Tomsett’s blog on how worked with his exam class being my favourite (see the others too if you haven’t yet) but lots of other influences, such as Make it Stick/Made to Stick etc. I wonder if as teachers we’re all very susceptible to thinking something might be the Holy Grail – and this isn’t, it doesn’t exist – but it has been hugely helpful. Just as a small example, we are starting revision with year 11 once a fortnight from January, while still teaching the last unit in our other lessons – we’ll see how it goes.
(2) learn, more and more, to love year 10. For me this has been the cause of the most professional joy and the greatest professional sorrow since September and I want to keep focussing on it. As a very introverted person I’d always hoped my students knew I care – really care – about them, but I’d never have used the word ‘love’ before. However, my happy band of 10s – the most diverse, most needy, probably most brilliant group I have ever taught, certainly for GCSE but probably at all – need love. And not a sentimental or awash with chocolate gifts kind of love, but the tough, constant, unyielding sort of commitment that as a Christian I believe Jesus has for me – love for those (me, and then me to them) who are definitely unlovely at times. I’ve made some big mistakes, but I want to stick at it.
(3) continue to work with, celebrate and where necessary nudge/kick my awesome department in the right direction.
(4) to survive linear A level exams (we are doing AS) and work out what’s going on with 9-1 GCSE, which would be useful as our 9s have already started.
(5) keep thinking about how to stretch my lovely year 7s – it’s maybe inevitable that exam classes take priority, but my group are keen and seriously bright. On a whim, amidst the tiredness just before Christmas, we introduced medieval religion by looking at the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (the pardoner versus the parish priest) and I’m conscious that they can take pretty much whatever they throw at them – I must remember to make it good.