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Making feedback feed forward – printed post its
feedback sticker

I got the idea of post it feedback from the Art Department at my previous school and liked the idea that the post it notes were moved to the back once students had acted on that target. I liked the idea of the movability of the post it notes and was interested in how this might work for targets to be carried through several pieces of work so the target to feeds forward rather than something that is seen as done as DIRT and then perhaps forgotten increasing the risk that the same EBIs are repeated. I had been thinking about this over the last summer term and on the beach in the summer holidays when I should definitely have been more ‘present’ I wondered – can you print on post it notes? When I searched on-line I realised you can and so found printing templates easily – why had I never thought of this in the previous 11 years of teaching? This unlocks so many possibilities but helped formulate the idea of using post it note feedback. I wanted students to be in control of using the post its notes to use their previous targets as a checklist in subsequent pieces of work to link up the feedback cycles to ensure progress over time. I also liked the idea that a target should be revisited several times to then be seen as securely acted upon. I went with the idea of feeding forward the same target 3 times (in DIRT and then in 2 subsequent piece of work I felt worked well with the idea of emerging, developing secure etc.). These work particularly well with our KS5 feedback Sheets which have a dialogue box for students to complete before submission. They can stick their post it note there when they hand in their work and comment on how they have tried to meet this or indicate where in their work they believe they have achieved it etc. which really focuses the feedback dialogue on progress over time.


post it


feedback sheet-1




To print on post its – find a template to print post it notes (there are different templates for the different sizes.) save it and print some hard copy. Then create whatever you want to print using the template online. Then stick one post it in each box of the hard copy template and then send it through the printer.




feedback stickers






The Thinking Classroom. Don’t Call it Challenge!
April 20, 2016

“Is History hard sir?” Year 8 student asking about options

“Only if you aren’t good at it” replies the teacher

Challenge and high expectations. That’s what you would expect to see in an evaluation of a lesson which was highly effective. They are words which indicate that students were “stretched” and that their learning was maximised. This is all very positive, but what does challenge actually mean? It could mean lots of things to lots of people, which is why I dislike the phrase when thinking about developing teaching. For example; In a one hour History lesson if students have to sift through twenty sources to find out information is this challenging? Possibly, possibly not. It’s “only” selection of materials and some students may find this easy. If however, on closer inspection students really had to think about the selection of information then in actual fact they are thinking like Historians and this could be highly “challenging.” It is not the task that is challenging it is the thought that goes into it. Watch a professional sportsman run through drills, it may seem “low level challenge” but they are thinking about every movement.

What a lack of challenge in a lesson really means is students didn’t think enough. They didn’t think about the problems in front of them, they didn’t “self –regulate” they didn’t think “Meta-cognitively”  they weren’t given enough to think and struggle and then succeed. In short they didn’t have to think.  In terms of effect size the two biggest things teachers can do to have the biggest impact on student achievement is to give effective feedback, and make students think “meta-cognitively” (think about their thinking).  In other words create a “Thinking Classroom”

Seems a bit odd to suggest that a classroom has be a “Thinking Classroom” surely that’s what happens in a classroom? Well yes, mainly. But, learning is messy, unpredictable and as Graham Nuthall suggests in his book, often “hidden” ( The hidden lives of learners will change the way you think about classrooms)  In order to be a great teacher you have to light up the classroom, because you can’t see learning easily.

Students “hide”; after because they can, and it helps them cope. With 25-30 student in a class, mountains of content to “cover” and the 1 hour lessons, revolving door, factory system we have, it is little wonder that in this controlled chaos students can tactically hide. They hide in a number of obvious ways, they don’t put their hands up, or they give short answers, often knowing that the teacher will “move on”. They do “just enough” so that when the teacher looks at their books they nod, moving onto those who for many reasons haven’t written anything down, or who are distracting others. This is not always deliberate, cunning – work shirking, rather a mechanism to cope with 5 lessons a day. If you have ever shadowed a pupil for the day, and tried to do their work you’ll understand how confusing and tiring a day can be when you are 13.  Thinking is hard, it takes deliberate effort and often support. Ever wondered why students like writing in the title and date? It gives them a rest-bite form “thinking”.  Our brains are great at conserving thinking energy. Consider why the staff car park looks exactly the same every day; people park in the same spot because they then don’t have to think when they finally traipse out at 6.30pm.  Students are the same.

So how do we stop this? How do we “light up” the hidden lives of learners and create thinking? Lighting up the classroom is an area that has vastly improved since the articulation of “formative assessment” by Black and Wiliam back in 2001. Assessment for learning as a buzz word  almost doesn’t exist anymore as it is so entrenched into teaching practices.   A better phrase would be “responsive teaching”. Trying something with students, measuring it there and then, evaluating if it has been effective (students get it or not) then adapting the teaching.  There are a huge host of ways to do this that most teachers are aware of these use them regularly. As effect sizes go, effective feedback is about the best thing you can do to improve achievement. Please note “EFFECTIVE” feedback. If you feedback too soon, or it is too shallow the feedback can actually have a negative effect. However, teachers are generally good at AFL. They use Traffic Lights, thumbs up/ down, no hands , post-it notes which all help during the lesson.  Peer Assessment, Self Assessment, Criteria in student speak, personalised learning check lists, exemplar answers, the list goes on and on and on.  Not to mention; diagnostic marking, quizzes, mock exams (mocks after mocks, after mocks) doddle and online testing,  grades reported every six weeks. Students are monitored more than they ever have been before. This is a good thing. Mostly.

“Mostly” because challenge and thinking do not automatically come about because a teacher can “light up the classroom”. There is absolutely no point in a teacher demonstrating a host of AFL strategies which clearly show that students have moved from A to B, when they could have moved from A to E. Often you will hear OFSTED inspectors and observers to a classroom use the phrase “Expectations”. Expectations were too low of both students and teachers, or that the teacher had high expectations. This is a non- sensical phrase in many respects. I had great expectations of my guitar playing at 13, doesn’t mean I’m a rock star driving 15 cars. Expectations have to be high of course, but what really has to be high is the level of “Thinking” in a classroom. Teachers have to create thinking in their classrooms. Not challenge, that can mean lots of things to lots of people; they have to create thinking.

Creating the “Thinking Classroom”

This is a challenge (no pun intended) because “thinking “ is almost impossible to see. Performance is easy to see: Students are set them this, they did (or did not) do it. Thinking though? Other than the obvious signs of head scratching it’s difficult to see. But there are some things teachers can do to allow students to “think” :

It starts with the planning – make things harder not easier

Do not mean simplify. Do NOT simplify. It is worth saying twice because as teachers we are brilliant at it; we often have to because we are “breaking down” complex things for students to learn. BUT this habit can betray and our students.

Consider this; A Geography teacher is planning a series of lessons on the Amazon Rainforest to a year 7 class. Logically they want to break this down into manageable “chunks” for students. So it goes something like this:

  • What lives in the Rainforest?
  • Why is it so wet?
  • What is the temperature of the Rainforest?
  • Where is the Amazon Rainforest ?
  • What is it like there?/ Why is it called a Rainforest?
  • Why is it so hot?
  • What grows in the Rainforest?
  • Why must we conserve the Rainforest?

Once these questions are thought through is it logical that lessons are as follows

Scenario 1:

Lesson 1 Q1-2

lesson 2 Q3 – 5

lesson 3 and 4 Q6- 7

lesson 5 and 6 – Q8

They are very logical lessons, they follow on from each other, with the effective teaching at the end of the 6 lessons students would have gained new knowledge of the Amazon Rainforest without a doubt. How much thinking would have occurred though? Well perhaps lots, but how else could this series of lesson potentially create more thinking?

How about this:

Scenario 2:

Lesson 1 to 4 – What is the climate of the Amazon Rainforest?  Why is the climate like this and how does it affect what grows and what lives there?

Lesson 5 and 6 – “There is no need to conserve the Amazon Rainforest, we can cut more trees down for farming, homes and resources” How far do agree with this statement?

As you can see lessons 1 – 4 now create more thinking. Students have to consider what “climate” is, and the relationship this has to what grows and lives in the Rainforest. They are forced at the start of the series of  lessons to think about the relationship between location, climate and environment.  The last two lessons of scenario 2 force students into arguing and evaluating.  Scenario 1 and 2 could have exactly the same resources, exactly the same teacher, and exactly the same “challenge” in the resource but in all probability there will be more thinking created in scenario 2

Of course it all depends on how these lessons are managed. If for example students are just given the two questions in scenario 2 and the resources, without the teacher effectively explaining and questioning there is a real danger that this “independence” just results in confusion.   The “independent” classroom should not be confused with the “Thinking classroom”. Independence does not of itself create thinking, in fact the opposite can happen.

What these two scenarios do illustrate though is that planning a series of lessons with “Thinking” in mind is crucial. As teachers we are naturally very good at breaking up very complicated things into smaller parts so that people can understand. It is our default setting, because we do it all the time; we have to, we are teachers. But what we really want to do is to create learners.  To do this we have to sometimes stop breaking things up, not so they are more difficult or more “challenging” but so they create more thinking.

Scenario 2 could and I stress could create more thinking than scenario 1. But equally it could descend into chaos (as could any lesson) because the teacher does not consider that when you make students “think” you have to make them think! This takes time.

Below are five “tips” for scenario 2:

  • Be sure students understand the key words (climate, affect)
  • Give them TIME, time to investigate, to get stuck.
  • Discuss/engage students with the questions – Get them to work out what is being asked? What information will they need to have in order to answer these questions and how might they go about this?
  • Because there may be more chance of getting stuck than in scenario 1 have a mechanism for students to ask questions – a question wall, post it notes , traffic lights
  • Create a culture of three before me? Book, Buddy, Board. So students have to look at the board, ask a friend, refer to the book before asking for help.

Creating a thinking classroom is hard. It is much more than what is in this blog. It is about creating a culture of thinking through high quality questions and series of lessons. It is about giving students the opportunity to stop, wait and struggle.


Any Questions?
March 19, 2016


It’s been a busy week. Busy at school, busy at home.

The ‘to do’ list has kept growing and it has felt like every time I crossed something off at the top of the list, another four things have appeared on the bottom.

Most people I meet seem to be the same. Hurried ‘good mornings’ with colleagues in the corridor at work as they race from one lesson to the next and hurried catch-ups with friends as children are bustled from one after school activity to another.

Why do we do this? Why are we living our lives at such a break-neck speed?

I feel like I spend my life rushing through tasks, head down, keeping going, with the constant knowledge that to let one of those tasks slide would be to admit a fatal weakness; I’d be a bad mum, a bad teacher. ‘If you were just better organised’ I chastise myself whilst folding the kids’ washing at 6am. ‘If you’d worked through lunch today you could have got that done by now’ I mutter to myself while marking jotters at bedtime.

The impact of all this busyness and negative self-talk is stress. Oppressive, shove-you-to-the-ground-and-sit-on-you stress. That breathless, panicky feeling like someone’s hand is round your throat, even when you are asleep.

I am a big believer in authentic teaching and learning- to get the best out of my learners, I know I need to be the best version of myself. I need to be in the room, present and ready to create the conditions that will allow my learners to flourish. That means not thinking about the homework my own kids still need to finish before tomorrow morning or the emails I haven’t replied to.

Stress + Busyness = Poor Quality Teaching

Having a teacher that is constantly in motion is like trying to learn long division from a whirling dervish; it simply does not work. I have come to realise that, instead of deserving an award for keeping on top of everything, instead I am short-changing my learners by trying to do too much.

 My busyness has become toxic. And what’s worse, it’s highly infectious. Rushing my learners through one lesson after another, trying to pack everything in, infects them with my stress. The message they get from my hurried glances at the clock and reassurances they’ll be time for questions later, is that learning is linear and speed is king. Do it right, do it once, do it fast.

How awful to reduce the magnificent, sprawling, gloriously creative mess of learning to a sad little straight line, from A to B.

Twitter (via @FifeEduTeam) led me to a quote this week:

“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child’s need for quietness is the same today as it has always been–it may even be greater–for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.”

Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown wrote children’s books. She died in 1952. I can only imagine what she would have made of how as a society we have continued to worship at the altar of activity (with increasing devotion) in the sixty years since her death.

The idea that quietness is an essential part of learning is often overlooked. It does not sit well beside Government benchmarks for progress in learning or tracking attainment. It is jostled out of the way by a curriculum bursting at the seams. School leaders are nervous about teachers embracing quietness. ‘What’s the point of this?’ they’ll ask crossly when they see a class reading for pleasure or taking a walk down the corridor after a Maths lesson. ‘Where’s the learning here?’ ‘What is this achieving?’ Such school leaders cannot see the invisible, subtle importance of weaving quiet space into the busy tapestry of teaching and learning and this is a fatal mistake. The downtime to process learning is fundamental to the learning process- it needs to be built in and respected. It is not a skive if, as a result of twenty minutes of quiet reading, learners and teacher are refreshed and ready to move on to new and greater heights.

So, my plan this week is to start from quiet. I am going to carve out spaces for quiet in my professional and personal life and I am going to infect my learners with this instead of my toxic busyness. I am going to breathe in deeply and avert my eyes from that hateful ‘to do’ list and just start doing. And I am going to break up the doing with quietness. I am going to say:

That’s an interesting idea, let’s explore it.

How would you like to tackle this problem?

Let’s take time out now to let that sink in.

And best of all:

Any questions?


[This post was first published on https://knowitshowit.wordpress.com/]




#100wordTandL Irresistible Feedback
February 27, 2016

Research says a fraction of our feedback to students has impact on learning. Knowing this ought to make us look up from our marking labours and try to work out where we might be wasting time.

Using a ‘feedback wall’ is immediate and irresistible. Set a challenging discussion-based activity for groups. While they talk, you eavesdrop. Use post-its to ask questions or make comments to develop ideas. Simply stick them on the wall near the students and watch them race to read what you have written once you give the signal.

Your feedback will have greater impact. Try it!


Midlothian Teachers reflect on Visible Learning World Conference
February 23, 2016

In January, a group of Class Teachers from Primary and Secondary Schools in Midlothian were among 12 Midlothian Council delegates who had the opportunity to attend the Visible Learning World Conference in London.  Along with representatives from the Educational Psychology Service and the Midlothian Education Team, we had the chance to attend Keynote Presentations and Workshops over the course of two days from John Hattie, Shirley Clarke, Andy Hargreaves, Guy Claxton, James Nottingham and more.  It was a truly memorable and thought-provoking trip which has prompted lots of reflection and professional dialogue on our return.  We have identified some of the key messages we took from the Conference which can be found below.

There were many themes that emerged over our two days in London; deep learning, independence and self-regulation, thinking skills, learner dispositions and metacognition, to name a few.  But the overriding theme for me, was the importance of the teacher in making learning visible.    Indeed John Hattie informed us that ‘collective teacher efficacy’ is now the influence with the most positive effect on learning.  Hattie argued that it is the teacher, more than the curriculum, teaching, school and student that makes the difference.  This view was supported, over and over, by the presenters at the conference, including in evidence from case studies.  Visible learning requires a committed, well informed, evidence-based, reflexive and collaborative profession.  In short, we need teachers who believe in their impact, know it and act on it.

Kat Mathers, Roslin Primary School (Nursery)

The World Visible Learning Conference offered a wonderful opportunity to learn from experts in the educational sector, and to meet and share ideas with teachers from a diverse range of school settings.

The two key messages I took from the Conference were, firstly, the importance of effective collaborative practice and, secondly, ensuring that pupils have mastery and depth of knowledge, not just surface level knowledge.

The first key message

Collective teacher efficacy is now ranked as the biggest influence on attainment: and is now thought to underpin successful learning. This highlighted the importance of creating a collective responsibility in school and ensuring that as a staff we support each other as well as the pupils.  Examples cited of methods to achieve collective teacher efficacy included peer observations, professional reading groups, professional dialogue and clear goals in our vision, all of which we could strive to put into practice within our schools.

The second message

The vast majority, around 90%, of the learning that happens in classrooms is surface level. This highlighted that we should strive to provide more opportunities for challenging learning and analytical thinking, to lead to a deeper understanding.  Methods which could be used in this way to develop these skills (FAIL, The Learning Pit and Solo taxonomy) were all discussed.

Jen Gardiner, Kings Park Primary School

In his opening keynote, John Hattie recognised that success is already here. It is all around us in our teachers and in our schools.  How do we make sure however that what we do in schools not only works, but works brilliantly? The answer lies in collaboration.  When we as teachers work together, we can accomplish so much more.  By focusing on collaboration as opposed to competition, a collective efficacy is developed which enables us to continue to get better at getting better.  For me, the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from Midlothian on this journey and share our learning is an experience that I know I will take with me throughout my career.  Every minute of our teaching counts, so together we must ‘know thy impact’ and ensure that our learners not only achieve their full potential, but exceed their full potential.

Lynsey Binnie, Lasswade Primary School

The World Visible Learning Conference has inspired me to think differently about what is happening in my classroom and around the school. In the words of John Hattie; “It’s not what the teachers do, it’s what and how they think that makes the biggest impact”. I want to now inspire the rest of my colleagues to think the “visible” way, and to start thinking about and measuring the impact they have on the learning of their pupils. The conference also reassured me that in Midlothian, we are making great progress and much of the Visible Learning mind frames and concepts are embedded across many of the schools. The overarching belief I took away is that we should be teaching kids to become their own teachers and take responsibility for their own learning.

Georgia Jennings, St. David’s High School

The Visible Learning Conference was extremely beneficial, especially for those in the secondary school sector. It provided secondary colleagues with many different ideas about how we could further implement Visible Learning across our classrooms. The main things that I have taken away with me from the Conference include, the development of a consistent language of learning is absolutely essential in order for Visible Learning to be successful. As a result, Lasswade High School is working closely with its feeder primary schools in order to develop a consistent language of learning which will only benefit our young people. Secondly, Guy Claxton’s presentation on becoming a learning powered school was very influential. I now realise that it is important that we develop the metacognitive strategies in our young people so they ‘know what to do when they don’t know what they’re doing’. As a result, the Lasswade learning and teaching council will be working in order to develop strategies that can be used across all subject areas. Finally, tracking and monitoring of pupil progress is just as important as tracking attainment and achievement. As well as developing high achieving and attaining young people across Midlothian we also need to ensure that we, and they, recognise their progress in their learning and equip them with the learning skills that will serve them well whether in further education, higher education, training or employment. Better learners will lead to learning better!

Jack Mackay, Lasswade High School

The opportunity to attend the World Visible Learning Conference has been extremely valuable in allowing us as teachers to continue to reflect upon the Visible Learning Journeys in our classrooms, schools and in Midlothian more widely.  The Midlothian Council delegates who attended the Conference continue to meet together to reflect and plan next steps.  We hope that by working collaboratively we can continue to support the development of this exciting journey in Midlothian.

Throw away the lesson plans… #100wordTandL
February 20, 2016


lesson_plan_2[1]having held QTS for going on 2 months now I feel eminently qualified to tell everyone to throw away their lesson plans and become reactive teachers.  Why do I say this?  Well if we consider every learning objective as an individual lesson then we are failing to use the best resource we have in our armoury, our students.

Reacting to our students’ needs it perhaps the most important thing we can do as teachers (I can say that now!) – every comment can be turned into a learning opportunity if we try.

I heartily recommend this approach to any student.

AFL Bell #100wordTandL
February 18, 2016

Recently, I was introduced to a chain of stationary stores, called Tiger. Every time I go in, I see a multitude of wonderful items that ignite teaching ideas, for £2/£3 – bargain!

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 08.33.44

My last purchase was a reception bell. AFL can get a bit dull, however, I have used the bell to start classroom competitions based on success criteria and literacy targets. Every time students meet part of the success criteria/use sophisticated language and structures, they get a ding. The student with the most ‘dings’ wins. It creates cheap laughs, and also stretches students by throwing them off course. Great fun!

Using iMovie Trailers Across the Curriculum (#PedagooPerth Conversation)
Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 17.26.27

I first became aware of the idea of making book trailers about 3 years ago when the Scottish Book Trust launched a book trailer competition to coincide with the Scottish Book Trust Awards.  At that time I had a number of boys in P7 who were at that difficult stage of trying to find new books that were ‘cool’ enough to really get into.  The Scottish Book Trust Awards take place every year and are a great way of discovering new authors and due to the voting timescale it gives the pupils a clear deadline to work towards.  Essentially book trailers are exactly the same as film trailers but are created to encourage people to read books.  The group were enthralled with the book ‘Black Tide’ and were keen to encourage others to read it, after introducing the trailer concept to them they couldn’t wait to get started.  You can see the rather unnerving trailer here https://youtu.be/TSG0iLgZK6s

The key literacy skills involved link nicely with reciprocal reading strategies http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/ReciprocalReadingGuide_tcm4-812956.pdf and also the skill of visualisation.  There is a really useful resource aimed at pupils aged 9+ I’ve included the link  below. http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/learning/learning-resources/resource/how-to-create-book-trailers-video-series Over the past couple of years I have adapted the activities to suit younger pupils too.

You can use any film making approach to creating your trailers however the simplest one I have found is the ‘trailer’ section of the free iMovie app on an iPad.  It handles all the formatting and sound and you just add your content, words, still pictures and short clips of video.  Deciding which theme to use is also a great way for the pupils to think about what genre the book is so they can use a relevant theme for their trailer.  Initially I had encouraged the groups to fill in blank story boards to plan out their trailers however the formatting for iMovie Trailers is quite specific so I was delighted to find that someone had already created a set of storyboards linked to the themes! http://learninginhand.com/blog/2014/8/6/plan-a-better-imovie-trailer-with-these-pdfs

We have included book trailers as part of our literacy programme each year using the shortlisted books for the Scottish Book Trust.  This year I have a much younger class, P1-6 with the majority being in P1-3, we went through the same process looking at examples of trailers, picking out the things we liked and things we would change.  P4/6 had the task of creating the storyboard, they then passed it on to P3 who had to interpret their storyboard and direct P1/2 in acting out the scenes.  You can view the result here https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/pk/GrandtullyPrimary/2015/11/27/book-week-scotland/

Trailers are clearly an excellent way of developing key skills in literacy and discussing the language of film, however I think there are many more uses across the curriculum and at all stages of learning.  Last year we created a trailer as part of our transition programme where pupils were encouraged to think about what learning & responsibilities  lay ahead for them.  We also filmed our new P1 pupils so they could see themselves as part of the school.  This was then shown at our celebration of success.  Similar to this we created a trailer to show parents what the planned topic was for the next term, this was also to get pupils thinking about what we needed to plan and what skills we might need to develop. https://youtu.be/J2QtXNe2DqY

During the sessionat #PedagooPerth there was great discussion about how the trailers could be used across a range of subjects and stages e.g. as a summary of learning in Modern Languages, to highlight skills taught in a project, transition work, to promote clubs, activities and experiences that some pupils can be unsure about and even to publicise the next Pedagoo event!

How could you use this in your setting?

If you would like any further information on how we’ve enjoyed creating trailers please get in touch.  CMGibson@pkc.gov.uk


#PedagooHull: what is it and why is it?

#PedagooHull event for teachers is on May 14, 2016. Put this date into your diary!

Pedagoo’s page for the event: pedagoo.org/events/hull


So, being a new Pedagoo Curator, I’ve decided to organise a Pedagoo event in Hull. As far as I know (correct me if I am wrong), this will be the first Pedagoo event in Hull, if not Humberside. Those of you well familiar with Pedagoo will know that their events are somewhat similar to TeachMeets, but come with a difference. Rather than being short presentations, which is the case with TeachMeets, their main feature are meetings of small groups of teachers around a table, where practice, ideas, resources related to T&L are shared and exchanged. The atmosphere is relaxed, and there tends to be a lot of enthusiasm and laughter! I attended my first Pedagoo event in Newcastle (Pedagoo Christmas Party 2014) at the University there and fell in love with the format and the way it was run quite instantly. It reinvigorated me (much needed in December after the entire term and it always being dark when you go to work and always being dark when you leave!). It allowed me to revisit – with full force – why I am in this profession, why I love it so much, and how I am surrounded, in every school I go to or work in, with dozens of other teachers dedicated to the same: preparing children for the world ahead of them. Day in. Day out. Teachers were sharing practice with each other – always amazes me what we can learn from each other and how inspirational we can be for each other! – their spirits were lifted. It was an event when we were able to reclaim our profession and professionalism.

The plan is that you leave #PedagooHull with the same uplifting feelings and lots of ideas to use in your own classrooms.

The groups will be led by Learning Conversations leaders and there should be 9 different ones. Any teacher can be a leader, so if there is an area you are great at (feedback, questioning, differentiation, marking, IT in your classroom) – everyone has their strengths! – do sign up to lead one using the relevant form on the page linked to above. We already have 3 leaders, but there is space for you there!

I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to @lisajaneashes and @SeahamRE and @lovelinkous. Lisa, in particular, has been incredibly welcoming and inspirational to me both both prior to the Christmas Party event in Newcastle (extremely welcoming!) and whilst the event was on. All these three wonderful people have been supportive of me over the last year. They are a true example of what can be accomplished when a community of like-minded, sharing-practice and research-driven people get together. Without them, I wouldn’t have thought of becoming a Pedagoo Curator. Thank you!

So who is this guy? Why is he doing this?

My name is Kamil, and I am an EAL Coordinator at one of Hull’s secondaries. I have had a long career in English language teaching, starting in 1999 back in my home country Poland. I moved to England in 2007 to be a teacher of EAL, and worked at a secondary in Wembley, London, for three years. I have since taught in Scotland, then back in London, and now I am in Hull. In essence, I am committed to three things, which drive my own practice and how I work with other teachers:

Disseminating good EAL practice to other teachers – and networking:

be it in my own school, where, beside teaching EAL learners myself, potentially half of my role is advising other teachers on EAL practice, or through networking and training other teachers across the country. I’ve spoken at well over 10 different teachmeets on EAL in the last two years (my first one was, I think, @TMHullEY at Malet Lambert!), and wherever I’ve been, it was quite apparent to me that mainstream teachers ache for this knowledge. I’ve spoken at conferences, too, such as a ResearchEd in Swindon in November 2015. If you are an NQT, you might just see me delivering a short workshop at the NQT Conference at the University of Hull next week.

EAL is a vast area, drawing on insights from studies of bilingualism, English language teaching, literacy, issues of cultural belonging and race and far more: it is at huge disadvantage to many teachers that there is so little training in this area: as a result, people struggle knowing what to do, facing with the prospect of teaching both language and content in their classrooms. Theories and strategies such as CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), CBLT (Content Based Language Teaching) and writings of people such as Pauline Gibbons, Thomas & Collier, Bernard Mohan or Neil Mercer remain unknown to many. Language is incredibly important and I wish there was more of a concept of language across the curriculum instead of just the literacy. I want to help those struggling teachers. Most teachers I speak to want to learn about how to better serve EAL learners. At the risk of sounding like a Tesco employee: I am here to help. I have the knowledge of both theories and strategies that can be flexibly used for EAL learners and am willing to share these. I am willing to train or help individually any mainstream teacher.

Learning from the mainstream teachers:

I don’t find it enough, however, to be just sitting there in my specialism. There are some EAL teachers out there, who in some utopian way believe that “we are in the right” and “they are in the wrong”. It’s just not me. In my view, we simply need to learn from each other. In my role, I cannot hope to advise teachers of English, Maths, Science, Geography and other subject teachers, if I don’t understand the kind of knowledge that they took from their trainee university programmes. I was originally trained in Poland and a good while ago, and most to be an English language (TEFL) teachers. A teacher who knows about language theories (such as Chomsky, Skinner, Krashen and Pinker) is likely to be a great teacher in English-language schools, but cannot hope to help British mainstream teachers navigate the need to teach content and language. Everyone needs to know about the writings of Bloom, Piaget, Dweck, Hattie and Dewey. I continue to read and learn about what knowledge teachers I am advising have coming in to schools in England, so I can find common ground.

I want to learn from you guys how to improve my teaching too. At TeachMeets and other conferences I’ve attended I have learnt so much. My morning silent reading with my EAL student uses an adapted by myself version of silent reading cards I picked up at EngMeet in Buckinghamshire last year. At Yorkshire TeachMeet last year, I picked a great idea on how to mark more effectively. At a NATE TeachMeet in Leeds just last week, I learned how to use PlayDough to engage learners reading literature. At Ross McGill’s TeachMeet in London last year, I picked up how to use Kahoots and Plickr with my students. There is massive experience and knowledge there that I can use to improve my practice. It is certainly not a one way street.

Research, research, research:

I am always on the lookout for more research into education and like-minded teachers who want to use action research and/or just reading about others’ research to improve their own practice. Taking the time to think about what we do and reflecting on what we do as professionals is extremely important to me. Obviously, it’s not that we’ll ever be able to incorporate all the good ideas into our own practice, but the more we know the more we can choose from. Exploring ideas of others (not just from the UK) is of utmost importance. Engaging with other points of view gives us, the teachers, the power of knowledge. That power mean we can be more critical about what we’re asked to do in our classrooms and why we are asked to do so. (For instance, the knowledge I have about bilingualism and language learning equips me with power – in some schools, EAL may be perceived as a marginal concern, but being knowledgeable means one can stand one’s ground.) That way we can, I strongly believe, enforce a bottom-up approach to education. We are the people on the ground – we are the once who know what it feels like to be in our classrooms – and we should be the ones who have more of a say (to begin with, at least) in what the education system looks like. But we need to be equipped with knowledge to change this highly politicised landscape we’re dealing with these days. But we need to have that research knowledge that empowers us.


I do hope that #PedagooHull will bring the teachers and educationalists in the Humberside, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire together (and beyond, if you’d like to come!). I would like to begin building a community of teachers that network together and share practice and ideas. If you’d like to be part of that community, please do sign up to lead a learning conversation at the event or simply sign up to the event. We’re first looking for conversation leaders; following this, we’ll be opening the event to general registration. If you want to be informed about when that general registration opens, there is a separate form for that at the Pedagoo Event’s page.

I do hope to see you there on the 14th! Please share this with other teachers. Let’s share practice and empower each other!

Kamil Trzebiatowski

(EAL Coordinator, Teacher, Trainer, Speaker, Education Blogger)

MEd in Advanced Studies in Inclusive Education

Education bloggerValuing and Protecting Diversity Through Education

EAL Academy Associate, NALDIC Publications Committee Member, Pedagoo Curator & ATL Union Rep

Twitter: @ktlangspec , LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/kamiltrz

Admin of International English / ESL / EAL Collaborative Group (Facebook)

Wellbeing 15-16 #teacher5adaySlowChat #ScotEdChat
December 30, 2015
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I have been following the teacher slow-chat wellbeing posts this week with great interest and decided to have a go at a 15-16 wellbeing post myself.

I am a driven person. I am not sure when I became  slightly addicted to pushing myself; I think that it hit somewhere around the age of 14 when I decided that I wanted to go to Cambridge. I think that I failed, as a teenager, to ever get a real sense of myself and threw myself into models of what I thought I ‘should be’. The underlying psychological issues are not for this post but safe to say that at 47, I’m still working on it….

Thereafter the joy of childhood seemed to slip away and I became very goal driven.

But of course hard work is a GOOD thing and workaholism is one of those addictions that is secretly ok because it is about ‘achieving’. As is an addiction to exercise….. You don’t get the same criticism for being addicted to work or exercise as you do for being addicted to booze or heroin….or self-harm.

I am not sure whether genetics added to my driven-ness. My maternal grandmother, widowed while pregnant, was a Lithuanian-German who lived a guilt-driven existence as a slave to the Protestant work ethic. I never really knew her.

My paternal grandmother, the polar opposite to ‘Oma’ in many ways, was also unable to sit still for long and lived on her nerves; a sociable, generous soul who would do anything to keep others happy. I miss her to this day.

My parents both committed their working lives to teaching in the state sector and worked accordingly. Dad was better at work-life balance than Mum. He was lucky enough to be part of the generation to retire in his early fifties. Mum similarly retired early but on ill health grounds, probably related to being a brilliant Mum and teacher but not so good on the self-preservation. Both parents engaged in marathon running and extreme gardening as ‘hobbies’ and so there was never much time for down-time in our house.

I had vowed never to be a teacher myself, having felt that the long holidays didn’t really make up for the other stresses and pressures of the job. I vividly remember my Dad avoiding shopping in our local town for fear of a pupil sarcastically shouting ‘Alright Sir!’ across the square.

But somehow the plans went awry. I didn’t become a GP. Or a lawyer. Or an actor. Or a drama therapist. Because ultimately I decided that I was born to teach. That may sound corny but it is the truth.

Doing a PGCE while I was waiting to be snapped up by the West End confirmed that. It also confirmed that drama teaching was the ultimate thing for me to do in order to assuage a thirst to change the world, one child at a time, through the power of theatre.

I am a good teacher. Years of affirmation from pupils, parents/carers and colleagues back this up. But I have to say that I never feel good enough. That is partly down to my psychology, I know….but it is also because it is a job where culture, society and the processes for measuring my profession constantly put me and my job down.

Several voices in the slow-chat (including @robfmac) have called for the development and promotion of teacher ‘agency’ and I would agree that this is a crucial part of helping improve the wellbeing of the profession. We need to have educational leaders at national and local levels who understand teaching, understand education staff and protect and nurture them, rather than subjecting them to unrealistic performance measures.

@LCLL-Director asked, on day 1 of the slow-chat whether perfectionists become teachers or teachers become perfectionists? I stated that I felt that there is an interesting piece of research to be done here.

But whichever way round it is, teaching and perfectionism can never be a good combination within the current climate. It is a climate where, in Scotland, we are told that we can do our job in 35 hours a week when we simply CAN’T. The non-contact time we get is so frequently taken to allow other absent staff to be covered that it is almost not worth having. Hence a system where we are set up to struggle and fail before we even start. It is a climate where electronic management systems that were meant to reduce teacher workload are so unwieldy and user unfriendly that they cause excessive stress and add to workload. And it is a culture where a politician visited England to learn about ‘closing the gap’, was told there were no clear conclusions to be drawn from the approach adopted South of the border but then decided to impose it on Scotland anyway. (For more on that, ask @realdcameron)

If I cleaned toilets, I would have a specific number of toilets to clean and set working hours in which to do it. I might go home and worry about the standard of my cleaning but it is unlikely that I would be able to go back into my place of work out of hours…. Or be made to feel guilty for not doing so. Equally, I do not believe that there is a technical solution whereby toilet cleaners can clean toilets from home. Whereas, thanks to IT, teachers now have little excuse not to ‘catch’ up on admin, marking, report writing outside of the contracted 35 hours.

So, this new year I make 3 vows.

1. To myself. It is time I sorted this out once and for all. I have been exhausted from pushing myself too hard. I love the Facebook ‘memories’ function where you can see where you were and what you were doing on this day in previous years. But I am concerned that I have been saying the same things about needing to slow down and look after better myself for 10 years. Now is the time. My family needs more of me and I need to accept that excuses won’t do any more. Only I can do this but but I am hoping for a bit of help from @Doctob’s book ‘Inner Story’ which fortuitously came into my possession recently….

2. To education. I am doing the Scottish ‘Into Headship’ course this year and intend to learn all I can about how to be a Wellbeing-motivated educational leader.

3. To Twitter. I will use this forum to engage in the debate about wellbeing and teacher ‘agency’ and to support and nurture like-minded souls. I will not beat myself up if I don’t manage to tweet or blog as often as other brilliant twitterati friends…..(as I have in the past) but I will use Twitter for all its potential….

So, Happy New Year. Let’s make it so.

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