Monday, 31 December 2012

12 Highlights of the old year and 13 aims for the new one

Although I feel like making a list of things I'd rather leave behind in 2012 (a rotten year in many ways), I'm going to join in and do the healthier approach and stick to the good...

1. RSC Courtyard Theatre

My version of 'As You Like It' was chosen to be part of the RSC Open Stages regional Showcase. As it was several months after the original run, not all the original cast were available, so I also got to do 'All the world's a stage' at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford too, filling in for Jaques. With a little stretch of the imagination I can now say I've acted and directed for the RSC!

2. Pride and Prejudice

The first event inspired me to audition for the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, and I was cast as Charlotte Lucas in 'Pride and Prejudice'. The whole cast was just lovely and it is great to have a hobby completely separate to teaching with energetic and creative people. It also means we have been to the theatre a couple of times a month this year. No longer can I moan about going to the theatre more often!

3. Holidays at half-term

Normally half-term is saved for what I term 'Human MOT' - dentist, hairdresser, eye test, etc. This year we went to Lanzarote in October and lay in the sun. I think it was the only thing that got me through to Christmas. Definitely going for a dose of sun same time next year.

4. I lost my Grandad this year

The low point of the year. However, the stories of his teaching days at the funeral were very special to me. He was a firm believer in being a personality in the classroom and, as far as I am concerned, he was stand-up comedy's biggest loss. Deadpan Lancastrian wit in bucket loads. My favourite anecdote had to be about the briefcase he carried every day with him to school. Outwardly the image of the consummate professional, but actually it contained nothing except 3 perfectly packed pipes, wrapped up and ready for smoking - one at break, one at lunch and one after school.

5. Having a form again

After a couple of years without one, I actually asked for a form again this year. I really missed it and was sick of people saying, 'It's all right for you, you don't have a form' and the like. Working with a form is a privilege. Without one I didn't feel part of the school - you miss out on messages, you get tagged on to challenge days as a spare part and, most importantly, you miss working with kids on a very different level.

My form are already very special to me. They are not an easy bunch as they are Y11 and underachieving G&T students. In one term we've had an overdose, dangerous sexual activity, cyber bullying (and the more upfront, in your face kind), harassment of staff, a stunt involving an aerosol and a Bunsen burner and I could go on... But they have also made me very proud. We have gone from being the self-proclaimed 'reject form' to getting fully involved in baking cakes for CIN, collecting food for the homeless and creating a life sized advent fireplace with acts of kindness to be done on each day. I have also had the privilege of one students showing me photos of his Grandad the day before his funeral. One of the most important conversations I've had this year.

6. Cats

We did the bad thing last year and got cats for Christmas. So much more humour and lots of extra cuddles now.

7. Ofsted

So glad they came at last. I hate the ever-increasing pressure when you know they are due. The general feeling in the staffroom was, 'Bring it on!' But, as an AST, you are under enormous pressure to get an 'Outstanding' judgement. There has been much talk of how the Ofsted criteria has changed. I just did what I know works. In fact, I did a version of a lesson I did last time they came which was judged 'outstanding' and it got the same this time around too.

8. Working outside of the Department

One aspect of my job that has really developed this year is working outside of English. I redesigned the observation lesson plan last year (so that progress is at the core of it) and that meant doing joint planning and CPD with departments and colleagues across the school. Since September, several colleagues I have worked with have moved to Good and that is a a great feeling. Although most of the credit should go to @charlhere for 97% of lessons observed by Ofsted as 'Good' or 'Outstanding', I like to think I contributed in part too.

9. Olympics

No list of 2012 would be complete without a mention of the Olympics. I loved it. A fortnight of drama, tension and screaming at the telly like a nutter!

10. Twitter

So many people doing this have already mentioned Twitter. I like to be original, but can't here. Starting a blog and getting positive feedback, trialling SOLO and Marginal Gains, moral support when Ofsted descended, ending up on the Tweachers map - all little highlights in their own way. It has been said so many times but it really is the best CPD I have ever had. There are so many inspirational people on here who deserve thanks, that I'm not going to list them but you can always look at who I'm following!

11. Good food, good books and good friends.

And finally (well done for sticking with it)...

12. My boyfriend
Who is the highlight of my year.

(Thankfully much shorter) aims for the coming year:

1. Lose the stone

About 4 years ago I lost 2 1/2 stone. Over the last year, I've put about a stone back on (I blame points 11 and 12 above).

2. Spend more time with friends/family

Not waiting until holidays to get around to doing this!

3. Blog

I was doing this once a week, need to get back to at least once a fortnight.

4. Work more with other teachers

This makes me happy. Never stop learning. Via Twitter, or in my school it keeps the job interesting. Would like to meet some of the people I follow in person this year.

5. Survive GCSE fiasco

I'm currently teaching 4 GCSE groups who all do their GCSE English this year. They are not all doing the same GCSE though. Two are doing iGCSE with cwk, one is doing iGCSE with exam and AQA English and the last is doing AQA English Language and Literature!

6. Holidays

I love travel and having a trip to look forward to me keeps me sane.

7. Stop imagining, start doing (and finishing)

8. Remodel my lounge

I'm an English teacher. I have books. My boyfriend is doing an English degree. He has books. We don't have space. The idea is to turn the unused room at the front of the house into a library. Then we'll need a conservatory, billiard room, lead piping and a candlestick (see point 7).

9. Art projects

I need to rediscover my artistic side. The spare room is filled with (unfinished) arts and crafts.

10. Get on top of marking

There must be a way. Before the holiday I was faced with the equivalent of 200 essays that needed marking. I have a tendency to wait until I have a complete set and then mark it in one long sitting. This might be a habit that needs breaking.

11. Avoid doing graded observations

One of the things I think is really important in the AST role is that observations are developmental, rather than judgemental. My favourite compliment this year was from a colleague who requested an observation. She said, 'With you it's not like you're being judged. It's more like advice from a friend'. I've worked hard to establish that feeling and I'm worried that the minute I am made to grade lessons, colleagues will be reluctant to invite me in to their classrooms.

12. Do an MA

I've found one that combines my love of teaching and Shakespeare. Just not sure I can find the time!

13. Make more 'Feel good Friday' phone-calls

Every Friday, pick a student who has particularly impressed you that week and phone home. The responses are priceless (especially from those parents who usually only get bad news from school). It is a brilliant way to start the weekend and I don't do it nearly often enough.