The Tools of my Toolbox (2 of 2)

This is part 2 of the tools of my toolbox. ‘It’s not about the tools but the toolbox’. This was a statement Dave Rogers posed on his blog last week. It is quite tricky as every teacher has different views on what they need to be successful and to help their everyday lives. Here are my remaining tools of the trade:

  • Thinking Outside the Box

Being innovative and brave within a classroom can bring enjoyment, success and respect. I admit not every idea I have tried has worked but those that do can enhance the student’s experience of your subject. Trialling new ideas improve your lessons and enjoyment as a teacher. It is not always easy trying out new ideas. It is very easy to stay in the comfort zone but without trying out new ideas we do not develop ourselves as teachers and will not improve. Idris Mootee, of  the innovation playground blog,  has said, ‘innovation is hard, it is not about getting the ideas at all, it is about managing ideas. So you have a few great ideas, so what? The future is never about the future but now.’

  • Reflecting

As teachers we must be more reflective of our own practice and make amendments where we need to. We must utilise our strengths and work on our areas of development. Observations are vitally important to watch other teachers and how students learn. This would be ideally done within the Department and with other Departments once a term where possible. This should therefore improve our own teaching and benefit the students .Working with other colleagues will help develop cross curricular opportunities to raise achievement throughout the school. I always try evaluate my lessons on a daily basis – you should be aware if you have taught a good lesson or not – and more importantly how could it be improved.

  • Teaching is Fun

As teachers we work long hours and spend many lessons preparing and planning work. We have the aim of teaching the National Curriculum and working with our students on achieving their personal best and gaining the grades they deserve. But…we must enjoy our working life. There are many pressures in the education industry and targets to achieve. Teaching in my opinion is the greatest role in life that someone can do. To actually see the look of wonder and understanding on someone’s face is something that cannot be bought. To pass on knowledge and see where it takes a young person in life is amazing. To actually help young people in life choose a path in the life with your encouragement and guidance is breathtaking. There is much to enjoy from teaching, just don’t forget the positives!

  • The Mighty Board Marker

Where would any teacher be without a board marker? Sometimes this little tool can be forgotten with the overkill of Powerpoint. Remember, simple ideas can make learning easy.

The Tools of my Toolbox (1 of 2)

‘It’s not about the tools but the toolbox’. This was a statement Dave Rogers posed on his blog last week. It is quite tricky as every teacher has different views on what they need to be successful and to help their everyday lives. Dave was clever to state that no matter how many tools we have – it all depends how good the toolbox is. In other words, how good the teacher is at using the appropriate tools! As a very keen guitarist I used to get annoyed with fellow musicians who would be picky about what equipment they used – if you are a good musician the talent will always shine through no matter what you use. Of course a better guitar does have a better sound but essentially the key to the sound is the player! This is part one of two on the tools that I would have in my teacher toolbox.

So, what tools would my toolbox hold:

  • Working Together

Teaching can sometimes be a lonely job, with yourself up against thirty students challenging you. It can sometimes feel you are the Lone Ranger but that is not so. Using people around you can make your life much easier especially when you need help or guidance. For a young teacher this is possibly the best tip I can pass on…talk to those around you. I have worked in some great departments where working together and sharing ideas/work loads makes everybody feel important and better about themselves. The success of a department should improve too with more minds working together then one. The work – life balance is very important and should never be forgotten! 

  • Blogs

For the last few years I have found blogs a great source to further my understanding and learn new skills as a teacher. I have always said that a teacher never stops learning. Just like our students we as teaching practitioners are constantly learning new techniques on improving our methods we use in the classroom. This is part of the reason why I love teaching, it is never dull and is a challenge I relish on a daily basis. Out on the ‘Blogosphere’ are some brilliant writers who share their teaching experiences, daily routines, ideas, schemes of work, lessons…you name it and teachers are writing about it! Reading about someone else’s experience can create and add to your armoury of activities.

  • Technology

Geography has prided itself on using technology where possible to improve our lessons and the student experience. I am never too far away from my laptop as I find it a great help with many of my lessons. As a geographer Google Earth and Google Maps have the best free Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software available. For students who need to include GIS in their coursework at Key Stage 4 and 5, this is the best start and easiest solution. Most students have access in some format to a computer and Google Earth/Google Maps can be used from a very early age giving them the skills and presentation techniques they need later on in their school career. Simple activities like spinning the globe round or locating places in the world from your location can make a young person make a sense of their place in the world.

  • Variety of Activities

We must keep teaching exciting for ourselves and learning fun for our students. The aim of all teachers should be the students doing 70% of the teaching – we just need to be the conductors of an orchestra. A variety of activities with a clear objective and learning outcome will help. Lets get planning!

Tricks of the trade

Today I have an article printed in Sec-Ed. Sec-Ed is the UK’s only free national education paper that is sent to every school every week. I am a massive fan of this paper and love to read the stories and articles that appear every week. I have been lucky to have had some articles printed by Sec-Ed over the last two years. The article was based on the idea of ‘what tools does a teacher need?’ This was quite tricky as we all have different ideas but I hope you get the idea!

I really enjoy sharing ideas with other practitioners and learning a new technique or way of doing something. Sometimes we are left to our own devices and perhaps we should be talking and sharing resources more often.

The main tools I focused on were;

  • Blogs
  • Working as a team
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Enjoy your lessons
  • Assessment for Learning (Afl)
  • Reflective teaching

The full article can be accessed here. I hope you enjoy the read! Many thanks to Pete Henshaw, Editor of Sec-Ed, once again for printing my article – cheers!

Reflective Teaching

This year in education has been one of change and planning for the future. With the new GCSEs, AS/A2 curriculum changes it has given me much to think about since I joined Gillingham School in September 2009. Joining a very successful school and department I have had big shoes to fill, a challenge I have relished. I believe I have put in place the correct building blocks for the future. This month I have had a chance to look back and reflect upon our successes and future developments. For a successful department I believe you must not look at too many areas to change, focus, innovate or tweak. Geoff Barton, Headteacher of the King Edward XI School likened managing a large department to plate spinning, you have to be able to manage each of the areas you start to change – too many and the plates start crashing around you. Personally, a maximum of five strategies/innovations is perfect. Making sure your strategies are manageable and flexible you are able to keep a good grasp and move the strategies forward.

Idris Mootee, of  the innovation playground blog,  has said, ‘innovation is hard, it is not about getting the ideas at all, it is about managing ideas. So you have a few great ideas, so what? The future is never about the future but now.’

The five strategies we will be focusing on are outlined below:

  • Teaching & learning

The primary target for improvement this year revolves around teaching & learning within Geography. As a Department we want to teach the best we can and we are looking at our lessons and seeing where we can make improvements and implementing new teaching strategies. We must make our teaching experience more personal for the students and improve their independent study skills. This must be developed from KS3 onwards and carried on within the school.

  • Assessment for Learning

AFL is a very important skill and is an area where we could develop within Geography. As teachers we are sometimes too controlling and we must put the onus back on the students for them to achieve. Investigating methods and ways of implementing this into our schemes of work must be one of our priorities. This will encourage student learning and raise achievement across all year groups. AFL will also help improve the student’s knowledge of using a mark scheme and what to include in a good answer. This will reduce our marking and in the long-term our workload.

  • Reflective Teaching (including observations)

As teachers we must be more reflective of our own practice and make amendments where we need to. We must utilise our strengths and work on our areas of development. Observations are vitally important to watch other teachers and how students learn. This would be ideally done within the Department and with other Departments once a term where possible. This should therefore improve our own teaching and benefit the students .Working with other colleagues will help develop cross curricular opportunities to raise achievement throughout the school.

  • Technology

Geography has prided itself on using technology where possible to improve our lessons and the student experience. This needs to be further developed to further enhance our learning and the students. GIS must be developed within the Department across all year groups.

  • International link with a school abroad and feeder schools

As part of our role in the local and global community we would be looking to develop a link with a school abroad. This would develop our student’s knowledge of their role within a global community and understanding of issues that occur worldwide.

Locally we would like to work with the feeder schools on developing our link and improving geography. This would enhance geography’s status and develop their geographical knowledge. Geography is sometimes not always taught in primary schools to a high level and we would like to develop this to help their progression and achievement later on.

Please get in contact regarding what your departments/schools are planning/changing for the future…I would love to hear them especially in these uncertain times with possible budget/curriculum changes.

innovation playground

A blog I have been recently reading courtesy of my brothers’ insistence is Idris Mootee’s innovation playground. Idris is a business strategist and business specialist who blogs about his thoughts and feelings regarding business, innovation and emerging technologies. He is the founder of Idea Couture, winner of the innovative company of the year award. 

Idris Mootee is an authority in strategic innovation, a system and design thinker, Idris partners with clients in all sectors globally to identify their highest-value innovation opportunities, address their most critical challenges, explore strategic options and develop breakthrough ideas.

Idris is a huge fan of thinking outside of the box and using your imagination to move forward or solve problems. It is a very thought-provoking, interesting and humorous read regardless of your education/business background. Idris has several ideas that can be transferable to a school or department. I particular love his use of quotes in his blogs (how does he know so many?!?).  He is very forward thinking who is always trying to stay one step ahead of the crowd…which perhaps is why he is very successful at what he does. I recommend reading innovation playground…it’s the future. It has many links to education and how we teach young people using his ideas from the world of business, a major part is enjoying yourself and having fun. If we gave a five-year old a cardboard box, a pen and a ruler and told them to design a hotel, they would. But if we gave the same scenario to an adult, they would come up with problems. This is a process that happens as a person gets older and we seem to put up barriers. We must become more innovative in education and look outside the box occasionally.

If Idris would ever like to catch up for a coffee to discuss the future of schools and education I would be more than happy!