Thinking Time

This is one of the first times when we  have time to think about what education is in the country, the community, our school, and our classroom.

For Education Ministers and policy makers

This is your time now things are really stripped back to understand what the essential aspects of education are. What as a country is our main bread and butter, day to day service so we are clear what our provision must be. What then are the next factors we need to consider. These are things that definitely need funding and funding well. As you reintroduce things after the coronavirus peak this will give you a clearer understanding of what order things are necessary and what is icing on the cake because as a country we can provide it. From their real value policy decisions can be made and planning for the vision for the next five -ten years will be made all the easier.

Headteachers and Senior leaders

As the education policy makers in your school you also have time to think about what the educational setting is all about. You should be clearer at knowing what needs to be a priority and not. Unusual since these tend to happen through normal days with various interruptions and extended over weeks depending on calendars, timetables, illness and general day to day activities which take away good valuable thinking time. As above school 5 year plans and departmental plans can all be re-examined in the wake of this virus. With this different time that we have, you can ensure all planning will take you and the school through the next challenges and changes successfully.

For schools in special measures or serious weaknesses you have an unprecedented time to rethink, take all evidence on board, and come up with a vision, or examine and be ready to re-promote the vision. There is time to put things in place so that on reopening schools everyone from the leader to the final member of teaching and non-teaching staff feels ready to engage and engage well. As the e-learning successes and inevitable failures come to light, it will be even more evidence for you to understand even more so why you believe the vison and the measures will work. It should also support your thinking when making these challenging decisions. At a time when so many parents have realised how important school is to them not necessarily from a learning point of view, but also it allows them to be part of the workforce, have their own space to improve their wellbeing and give their child a chance that maybe they didn’t have, it is easier to encompass all of the schools community into the vision and why the measures put in place will support this.

Teachers

As all above you also have time to think about how you will fulfil the vision for the school, what role you will play and plan what learning will look like in your classroom. With new resources being opened daily there is so much now to see and also challenges on how to interact with learners in their home environment. Some of these things we are doing now will be successful, but also due to the type of learning experience there will also be things that don’t work out as we would have hoped. This is all good learning and as a reflective practitioner it helps to know why we do the things we do and sometimes why we don’t.

If you have any resources that you would like to share or know that are good resources let me know and I can write about it during the coming weeks

However we use this time #staysafe 

 

 

Is the new OFSTED criteria and lesson observations creating even more mental health problems in schools?

The news story below hit a chord with me not only on a personal teacher level, but also as a consultant having worked in schools where not only one person lesson was judged inadequate, but the whole school. When schools are judged to be inadequate this same reaction holds true for the teacher in questions, the teachers as a whole, the auxiliary staff, the parents and the community.

The demotivating effect was instantaneous. I was so upset that I couldn’t go back into the classroom that afternoon. Instead, I went home and proceeded to do absolutely zero planning for the next day. For the rest of the week, my teaching was somewhat lacklustre because I was so wrung out by the distress of the observation. I felt ashamed of myself and unworthy of the responsibility of teaching a class of children. I started to feel overwhelmed by the possibility that I might be letting my students down. By the weekend, I was experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/feb/15/secret-teacher-outstanding-inadequate-lesson-observations?CMP=new_54

This teacher was lucky as was I when a very similar incident happened to me. Thankfully a headteacher who knows the staff and school can make much better judgements.

At the time of my incident not only was I marked down by the lesson observer but was told to take a leaf out of one of my colleagues books. I was in disbelief, did he really mean the same colleague who before this planned pre-OFSTED observation had not planned but got myself and the head of department to do it for him, had the worst results of all of us and had the least respect of the students?

As you can imagine I did the same withdrew and wondered what to do, after a four page A4 handwritten letter to the headteacher and a subsequent interview I began to feel better, but all the time could not believe the system had let me and the school down so badly.

I keep reminding myself that, at the end of the day, I’m only in my second year of teaching. I will make mistakes in the classroom, miss things I should have picked up on and pitch the odd activity wrongly. But as long as my students are learning what they need to (and they are), my classroom is safe (and it is), and I am providing appropriate interventions for those children whose progress is less than ideal (which I am), then I know that I am doing my job – and doing it very well. Secret Teacher, Guardian

In my case I kept going for the students as for me that was why I was there, I believed in them and though sometimes I did things that were different (being the first female in the school teaching DT Resistant materials I had to sometimes), it was always about getting the best from my youngsters.

At the end of the year I was vindicated as my classes results were the best in the LA. To this day I have had no apology like the data protection act – everyone stood behind – it was what he saw in that 30 minute lesson! My classes results were also a shock in the wider area as we had many selective schools within our group, this gave me back my confidence.

Hence when this happened again a second time,  as before I had been observed by an external assessor as excellent then the next lesson observation made (by a consultant)  was equally as negative as the first about all aspects of the lesson, I could have been left thinking I was useless. What was equally interesting was the same lesson was observed weeks later by another teacher who didn’t change anything and they received a 1.  I realised the one thing that both the teachers who did really well had, that I didn’t, (and still don’t) is the gift of the gab. It was therefore at this point that I decided it was not worth worrying about as I knew my classes results were always the best, or in the top and that was my job.

Later on my confidence and experiences meant that I looked past lesson observation and looked for other things like genuine planning, understanding of curriculum areas, the rapport of the children and the work achieved to date, as well as observing over a period of time what is really happening in classrooms. In my consultants role to schools in Special Measures, serious weaknesses or needing improvement, I was always sad when the LA did not support the head, but used them as a scapegoat by sacking them. In my view this created even more confusion for everyone involved, it lowered the self-esteem of the whole building and anyone associated with it. It was like a fog over the whole area of the town.

Maybe this story will make people realise that one just one observation  can crush the very people we want to inspire and be role models to our learners, our parents and our communities. Using just one lesson observation as a yardstick for everything else is very dangerous. Having targets and expectations are great, but remember when writing or delivering any policy at the end of it there is a child or teacher doing their utmost.

As I go around schools now delivering EAL support I am very concerned that the new guidelines by OFSTED  (September  update) means that most schools will naturally fall by one grade due to the criteria. Where will it leave them?

These schools are doing the same as they always did, but suddenly they will find as it unravels that they are not at the top or are very close to needing some intervention. The only reason being because the criteria has changed, surely this isn’t a good enough reason to put more lives at risk of feeling inadequate, and all those mental health problem that then start feed into this system i.e. people with stress related illnesses, children self harming etc.

Only last week I was out with a group of people (supporting the national issue Time to change, Time to Talk). I began talking to one person who was at the time on their way to an appointment to their child’s school, they had been told their child will be excluded because they do not do failure. I was really surprised and ask for more detail but was then  horrified that  the school knew the child was self harming but their 99% pass rate was more important than the child just in case they had an OFSTED visit. Surely this is all the wrong way around, we have a duty to our children so lets start doing it.

What do you think?

I have a constant change of new arrivals with limited or no English.

Last week I was asked this proverbial question.  It comes up time and again and is increasing as children and society becomes more mobile schools who have had few or non EAL learners are now experiencing a different type of school day.

I left the question for open discussion during the training so that everyone could support the question. 

What came out was a lot of common sense and also positive affirmation that they are not alone. Many schools now find this a termly discussion and those with children from the travelling children experience it more.

Advice ranged from remembering that:

  1. We are teachers and every child that comes into our classroom has the right to an education (not always easy, but we must do our best to achieve this even with limited resources)
  2. You need to assess what they know and move from there otherwise they could present behavioural challenges
  3. When meeting the parent/ ask where they last went to school – if in the same country you maybe able to get some previous records even if limited it will support you a little more in finding resources that match the child’s ability to move them forward.
  4. When talking to parents create an atmosphere that says I am caring and am not prying re. e.g. previous records but I want to help your child. Some do respond.
  5. Invite the parents in, some teachers report creating ICT workshops for parents to meet together and allowed them to email relatives in their previous country or county. One teacher loved sewing so encouraged a sewing and natter group it really improved the parents perception of the school, the teacher has proper time to do some sewing that she could use with the children, the parents English improved and little molehills of problems were discussed and so mountains were reported less and less as the group gelled. It was agreed that if you choose to set up a club starting with something you are interested in then it will work.
  6. Where groups are running well and the people are secure you may pick up titbits that actually when shared help in the school or in your classroom.

If you have any further ideas please feel free to share them with us.

 

 

Lucky Italian children have yet to open their christmas gifts.

In the UK many people are now returning to week and Epiphany passes without too much excitement however in Italy it seems that the children will be awaiting eagerly now for their presents on 6th January.  I hope they enjoy them.

Christmas is one of the biggest holidays celebrated the world over. Know how the Holy  Season is traditionally observed in Italy : In Italy, the Christmas season goes for three weeks, starting 8 days  before Christmas known as the Novena and lasts till after the Feast of Epiphany.

Italian Christmas traditions are based  heavily on the religion of Christianity. The opening of the Holy Season is  announced by the sound of cannon firing from the Castle of Saint Angelo in Rome.  Eight days before Christmas, a special service of prayers and church worship  begin which ends on Christmas Day. This special service is known as the Novena,  a Roman Catholic worship service consisting of prayers on nine consecutive  days.

A week before Christmas, poor children  dress up as shepherds complete with sandals, leggings tied with crossing thongs  and shepherds’ hats. Then they go from house to house reciting Christmas poems,  singing Christmas songs and playing them on flutes (shepherds’ pipes) as well.  In return for such acts, they are given get  money to buy presents and treats for the occassion. In some parts of the country(such as in cities like Rome),  real shepherds carry out the performance.

The Nativity scene is one of the most  beloved and enduring symbols of the Christmas season. Creating the Nativity  scene during Christmas actually originated in Italy and is now a popular custom  not only in Italy but also in many other parts of the world. Legend has it that,  St. Francis of Assisi once asked Giovanni Vellita, a villager of Greccio, to  create a manger scene. Giovanni made a very  beautiful Nativity scene and before  this St. Francis performed a mass. Thereafter, the creation of the figures or  pastori became a very popular genre of folk art.

On the 8th of December, the day of the Immacolata, is observed a tradition to  set up the “Presepio” (Crib) and the Christmas  tree. The Presepio (manger or crib) represents, by means of small  statues(usually hand-carved and finely detailed in features and dress), scenes  regarding Jesus’ birth with the Holy Family and the baby Jesus in the stable.  These scenes are often set out in triangular shapes. The Presepio is the center  of Christmas celebrations for families. By twilight, candles are lighted around  the family crib known as the Presepio, prayers are said, and children recite  poems. Guests kneel before the crib and musicians sing before it. The tree is a  fir, real or fake, decorated with colored  balls and multicolored lights. Both the “Presepio” and the tree are put away in  the evening of next year on January 6th.

A strict fast is observed a day before Christmas and ends 24 hours later with  an elaborate celebratory Christmas feast. While the Christmas  Eve dinner excludes meat items and is based mainly on fish, it is  permissible to eat meat on Christmas Day. Though the menu varies from region to  region, the first course of a Christmas feast is either a Lasagna, Cannelloni or  a timbale of pasta. Mixed roast or roast beef form the main item for the second  course. These are served with various types of cheeses, fruits(dried and  otherwise) and lots of sweets, all soaked in a good quality red or white wine.  Grappa, Whiskey and other hard liquors are also served during the feast. The  Torrone, the most typical of the Christmas sweets, its available with honey or  chocolate almonds or pistachios. The Christmas  cake eaten is of a light Milanese variety known as “Panettone” and  contains raisins and candied fruits. Another famous cake is “Pandoro” a soft  golden colored variety which originated in Verona. Chocolate also features in  the menu. At noon on Christmas Day the pope gives his blessing to crowds  gathered in the huge Vatican square. For Christmas lunch is served “Tortellini  in Brodo” – filled pasta parcels in broth. In central Italy is also served  “Cappone” – boiled capon. A special New Year Banquet is arranged on December  31st with raisin bread, turkey, chicken, rabbit, and spaghetti being the main  items on the menu. Champagne is the drink of the evening.

During Christmas, small presents are drawn from a container known as the “Urn  of Fate”. In this lucky dip, there is always one gift per person. But the main  exchange of gifts takes place on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, the  celebration in remembrance of the Magi’s visit to the baby Jesus. In Italy the  children wait until Epiphany for their presents and hang up their stockings on  January 6. They anxiously await a visit from “La Befana”. According to the “La  Befana” legend, while on their way to Bethlehem to visit the baby Jesus, the  three wise men stopped during their journey and asked an old woman for  directions. They also told her of Jesus’ birth and asked her to join them. She  refused them and they continued on their way.  Later a shepherd asked her to  join him in paying respect to the Baby Jesus and Befana refused again. Within a  few hours the woman had a change of heart and wished she had gone to visit the  Christ child. She arrived at the stable where Jesus was but could not find him as Joseph and Mary had long departed to escape execution by the King Herod who  wanted to kill Christ. In Italian folklore, she is called Befana and depicted  variously as a fairy queen, a crone, or an ugly witch on a broomstick. Befana is  said to be flying around ever since, looking for the Christ Child each year and  leaving presents at every house with children in case he is there. She slides  down chimneys, and fills stockings and shoes with good  gifts for good children and pieces of charcoal for the bad ones. In this,  “Befana” may be said to be the Italian equivalent of Father Christmas or Santa  Claus

Read more at http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/worldxmas/italy.htm#jfIwcCKmjUk4ACBm.99

2012 in review – Thank you to all my readers

Thank you to all of my Readers.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Good Practice – Using the outside classroom to promote pupils’ safety, raise expectations and attainment for all and narrow the achievement gap across the broad curriculum.

What a brilliant idea taking the children outside and around their area to see things for real rather than using pictures on the internet.  Through these life skills they can see sizes relevant to their surroundings and themselves. They benefit from seeing the animals real colours and the changes within species, they can put maths into practice thereby ensuring it becomes more embedded in their mind. This  works just as well for the vulnerable groups giving them more time to see the object, learn the word, practice it in context and have a good experience to draw on.

It is a difficult decision taking children out on schools trips and recent experiences of others, that have been shown via the media, have stopped many of these worthwhile practices to the level that in some schools the children are not being allowed outside within the school grounds to do maths and science trails. Yet done with care the children and staff can achieve the curriculum aims and have the benefit of fresh air and exercise.

Not surprising then that a school that combines these elements is deemed outstanding by OFSTED.   This primary school regularly uses learning outside the classroom on its own site, in its local area and on visits and trips to provide rich experiences, promote pupils’ safety, raise expectations and attainment for all and narrow the achievement gap across the broad curriculum. Read their story here.   http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/good-practice-resource-raising-standards-learning-outside-st-johns-roman-catholic-primary-school

 

Being Bilingual gives me a chance to keep my identity.

An interesting news item about bilingualism.

Manny Bernal immigrated to El Paso from Chihuahua at the age of 12.  He describes school then as “horrible,” because he didn’t speak any English.  He says he was an “outcast.”  But after his freshman year, he entered the bilingual program at his high school.  He says, “It gives me a chance to keep my identity.  It’s like a comfort zone.  It’s like a place where you know you won’t get harassed.  Where you’re just safe.”

I am sure many of us would not have attributed safety and a comfort zone to students when discussing bilingual education but clearly for this student that is what it achieves. I think we all recognise that it helps to preserve self-respect, keep the persons identity and for this reason we promote the use of bilingualism where it is possible and practical.

I would also agree with their teacher when he says …

…bilingual education isn’t just about learning in two languages.  “I see that students with a bilingual education have become stronger by learning about two different cultures.  It’s a great accumulation of knowledge and understanding.  They’re not just learning from one culture, but from two.”

We are often brought into the literacy debate and as this suggests

Critics of dual language programs say that students who speak other languages should focus on English, since English proficiency is the key to academic success.

Yet studies show that when children develop speaking, reading, and writing abilities in their first languages, they’re better able to learn English.

The difficulty we have as non speakers of the other language is how do we achieve this in our school and in our class.

Many teachers no matter where we live in the world experience these things keeping up literacy whilst developing the child and at the other spectrum make sure they pass the expected examinations.  It’s all a complicated juggling trick but at the very least we must remember when making policy it is about the child.

Finally as the world gets smaller, languages are getting lost none more so than in the region that this news article came from and if we want to keep languages then they must be used.

New Mexico’s history means bilingual Spanish-English programs appeal to an array of families: Anglo, immigrant, and Hispanic.  David Rogers is the executive director of the nonprofit Dual Language Education New Mexico.  He says, “there’s an excitement around it, especially for traditional New Mexican families, who have lost their heritage language over the years and want to bring that back.”

And it’s not just Spanish language programs that are growing.  Eight Native languages are spoken in New Mexico, and some tribes have turned to bilingual programs as a way to preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage.

 

Read the whole story at http://kunm.org/post/bilingual-education-may-help-shrink-achievement-gap-hispanic-students

Malay and English

THE emplacement of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language and medium of instruction in national schools has seen its steady growth as the language of official and academic communication.

In this the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) has played an outstanding role in standardising the linguistic structures of the language viz its syntax, morphology, phonetics and phonology, as well as coordinating its vocabulary viz semantics, lexicology and terminology.

“The national education system upholds and promotes bilingualism (Malay and English) in the curriculum of national schools and higher institutions of learning in order to produce students who will acquire knowledge and skills through their mastery of both languages. Malaysians who go through the national education system will enter the employment market with a high level of proficiency in both languages, where Malay will optimise their work and career opportunities at the local level, and English at the global level.”

The teaching and learning of the English language in schools must be structured to produce a higher level of proficiency through the following:

» Transformations in teaching and learning methodologies with the use of computer-aided learning, language labs and tapes to provide opportunities for immersion into the language to circumvent the problem of poor teacher quality.

» Exposure to English in the curriculum must be increased by making English the language of instruction for subjects such as Moral Education and Civics.

» English reading and references should be incorporated for the subjects taught in Malay, Chinese and Tamil to enable teachers and students to operate in both languages.

» Literature/Reading should be formally incorporated into the greater English language curriculum.

In coming up with the Education Blueprint, the government has taken a giant step forward in formulating an expansive set of proposals to transform the national education system. All these must be scrutinised with the greatest care to ensure the resources are properly used to produce the greatest results.

If the democratisation of education and the equalising of educational opportunities, facilities and infrastructure for Malaysians is the outstanding battle cry, this must be formalised in a well-stated educational philosophy and policy. It is time for bilingualism to take on this role.

read more

Promoting bilingualism supports other language learning

One of the benefits of promoting bilingualism in ones own country I believe is that it gives that underlying support for languages.  It subtly says it doesn’t matter what your first language is we can communicate and are willing to meet you half way. It doesn’t mean we are going to bend over backwards to accommodate you and neither should it influence the countries social, financial or political aims, but, become a tool with which to get a message across to your neighbour.

This story about Canada shows this well. The country is clear that its languages are French and English but that doesn’t stop the need for other languages to be incorporated into everyday lives.  I would suggest that this is very similar to Wales where English and Welsh are the languages within its community for communicating with everyone, but there is still the celebration of other more diverse languages also within each smaller community. Currently they report that almost 200 languages are spoken in Canada and 17.5% of this community are bilingual

In one school that I worked with the Head clearly told all members of our community that the language for communication within our school was English.  This didn’t stop us celebrating Greek and Turkish festivals, Divali or St Davids day or in assemblies sharing another language but what it did do was to make us all richer in the knowledge and cultures of others, less fearful of the unknown and proud of our own heritage wherever that may have been from.

It let me experiment with language allowing me occasionally to call the register and asking the children to respond in their preferred language. Learning how to say a phrase in one language and then everyone in the class to use that phrase for a month. More difficult in secondary when each class would choose  a different phrase so I would have to remember which it was.

A second language is not only a benefit, it is a need.

I often blog about the need of our young people to learn a second language so that when they are leave school they are in a better place to gain employment but more importantly employment that they will enjoy. It was therefore lovely to see  this news article from America where the student had learnt Spanish and was now in work using it as a police officer to support himself, his colleagues and his community.

The officer doesn’t know her situation. Is she injured or being threatened,  and will she be able to communicate that in English?

 

In the past, language barriers were one of the more significant obstacles  that officers faced in carrying out their duty. Now, thanks to the Oklahoma City  Police Department’s bilingual unit, language issues have been largely  diminished.

Read more: http://newsok.com/speaking-a-second-language-helps-oklahoma-city-police-officers-do-their-job/article/3720840#ixzz2A2n9GrNf