Friday, 17 February 2012

End of Year Reflections

This friday I finished my year contract at my school and will be moving on in the next year and I thought I'd better write this post while its all still fresh.

Areas of improvement:
  • This year I worked a lot on extra-curricular activities (football, rugby, judo, maths challenges) and I really feel I've developed in this area. Because of these I've felt that I have had much more time to get to know my pupils, they have learnt more about me and see me more as a person, and I've been able to model good learning (as they knew much more about judo than me).
  • I tried out SBG, both with a macro'ed-to-the-max excel sheet I made and with activegrade. I still feel fairly new to this and its definitely something I should keep working on (see below), but the system showed definite promise. I had some great conversations with pupils about how they should improve, which just wouldn't have happened without this way of grading.
  • After reading 'Empowering Students with Technology' by Alan November, I made a class website with homework, links to revision sites, a GCSE revision forum and a revision site made by one of my classes. This was a bit of a mixed success. The site was mainly used for people checking what homework had been set, and pupils enjoyed making their own revision site, but the other sections were much less used.
  • I have improved in framing topics. I feel that on the lessons where my introduction has been effective, most of my job is done: pupils are motivated to explore the situation, know where they're headed and just get on with it. I still feel there's a lot of room for improvement here, but I've definitely made a start. I will write a longer post on this topic soon.

Where I'd like to go from here:
  • Inspired by Sam's blog post for the Virtual Conference on core values I have been reflecting on what my core is. At the moment my teaching style is probably best described as a random selection of pedagogy I've liked or connected with all loosely wrapped together. In the coming weeks I'll be trying to work out where and how these ideas fit in with what I would like to be at the core of my classroom (clear, consistent, approachable, formative).
  • SBG fell a little short of my expectations when I carried it out this year. I don't feel that I justified its presence adequately and not all pupils were clear about its benefits. To improve on this I've been thinking of ways to:
    1. formalise the concept of reassessment by having it built in to my standard quizzes (each topic tested in at least two seperate quizzes)
    2. move away from grading homework and using it purely for feedback, as I found these grades just confused pupils
    3. setting aside some class time in the first term for reassessment, so that pupils can get a handle on how it works.
  •  I really like the idea by Kate about good questions that are expressly not about getting to a correct answer. This seems like a great way to encourage reasoning skills without the pressure of 'being right', but I'll need to see how this works in my own classes.
  • In the next year I will find some opportunities to film myself in the classroom. From reading blogposts it seems that this is fairly standard practice in America, but I have never come across it in the U.K. I still find it hard to answer when someone asks 'What sort of teacher are you?' since at the moment this is only based on what others have said about me and my own ideals of what I wish to be. I feel that I could make rapid progress by using this as a way to critique my teaching style.
 Other things to consider:
  • I recently read 'Drive' by Dan Pink, which I very much recommend, and have thinking about how to include the motivational factors he discusses in to my teaching practise. Most experienced teachers I see are pretty good at setting the 'goldilocks problems', that are just the right difficulty for progression, and I feel that this is something I improve on with every lesson that I pitch just slightly wrong. I already have some lessons which allow for some autonomy over task, but I am also considering having homework as free for pupils to choose how to prepare for an SBG quiz. I am also wondering how feasible a googlesque 20% time might be, where maybe once a fortnight a lesson is set aside for pupils to work on any interesting maths project of their choice. It seems doable if I can find a way to ensure work on worthwhile topics and I can effectively communicate the purpose of the time to both pupils and other staff members.
  • Following from 'Empowering Students with Technology' mentioned above, I feel that I have engaged students in some powerful ways (giving them a section of our website to make themselves and publish to the world, having their grades and homework accessible from home, having a forum for feedback out of school-time). I've also started posting exemplary student work to the website, but in future I would like to work more on some of the ideas in the book on engaging parents and the community. In particular there is an idea about using a parent's profession to frame problems in the classroom, then having a video link for the parent to set the problem, and skype sessions for pupils to collect information and get feedback on their work. I will need to see how enthusiastic parents will be about taking part in this way and I'm not sure what the best way to work out what problems are suitable for a given professional is.
 Annual Report:
This year I used a few apps on my phone and computer to store data about my life. Using's audioscrobbler with ' stats', 'CardioTrainer', and 'Phone Stats Lite' I created these images. Pupils were really interested in them and I felt glad to be able to share parts of my life with pupils without straying too much from my subject.