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The “Yes, And” rule can help you fulfill your leadership potential!
Inspiration 4 Teachers

When setbacks send you plummeting back to Earth from the stratosphere of your dreams, leaving you staggering through the debris of your once hopeful rise to leadership, you may be thinking that your opportunities are over. 

But if a glimmer of hope still burns inside of you, how do you re-gain control and get yourself back on track?

Leadership plan

The “Yes, And” rule 

Applying the, “Yes, And” approach to your leadership aspirations helps to re-frame your situation allowing you to regain control.

“Yes, And” is a creative tool taken from comedy improvisation where in order to draw in an audience to a drama the actors must take a “Yes, And” approach to their scene.   The “Yes, And” rule  suggests a participant should accept what the other person has created (“Yes”) and then add something to it (“And”) (1)

The aim of the “Yes, And” principal is to keep the comedy improvisation in creative flow by not putting any blocks in place that would halt the improvisation, for example, a closed question that would result in a NO outcome drawing the scene to an end.

So let’s put you in your leadership improvisation scene, how would the “Yes, And” rule work for you?

First you need to begin by saying, “Yes, I want to be a leader!”, but more importantly, “Yes I can!”

Inspiration 4 Teachers

Admitting this to yourself opens the doors to the “And” conversations, voicing your desire to be a leader is the first step in having an open conversation with others about how you can achieve that goal,  because this is where others can offer the “And” ideas about how you might get there.

Chase the positive facilitators

In our fragile state where we often doubt our leadership aspirations it’s all too easy to have our “Yes, And” conversation halted because we sought feedback from the wrong person(s) or believed that someone’s opinion was in fact our truth about what we can and cannot achieve.


Don’t have your “Yes, And” conversation with the person(s) least likely to champion your talent.  It’s all too easy to have our dream crushed off the back of a flippant comment.  Find the people that are willing to make you better and guide you on your leadership pathway.  You may be lucky to have those people already surrounding you in your school, or you have a good friend that will have this conversation with you.  If not, the WomenED steering group will help to provide you with the platform you need to begin your leadership journey.

For immediate ideas and solutions on kick starting your leadership pathway, listen to episode 38 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Jules Daulby and host Kelly Long discuss how to get back into the leadership game!


Finally, show no FEAR!

“Face everything and rise” – Zig Ziglar

Because the alternative is to, “forget everything and run”, bidding au revoir to your leadership aspirations as you mooch off into the distance.

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community!



Until next time ~ Keep inspiring! 



(1) (Rules of comedy improv and acting”. Pan Theater. Retrieved 2015-09-20)

4 Steps to fast-track into leadership
October 2, 2015

You probably already know if you want to fast-track your career and aspire to school leadership!

But how do you do it quickly and smartly?

Get connected!

I’m probably preaching to the converted about Twitter and following hashtags such as SLTChat (20:00 every Sunday), but getting yourself into or setting up a mastermind group of like-minded fast-track candidates who work together to generate ideas and challenge each other is a real kick-starter!

Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast ShowGet smart!

Twitter and masterminds would add to your leadership knowledge, but you need the fundamentals to underpin your pursuit of leadership.  MOOCs provide a fantastic open opportunity to develop your leadership skills.  Stefan Caspar on episode 28 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show shared his top resources on the best MOOCs.  Alternatively, for the most innovative ideas in leadership look on Lynda.com or Udemy.  They have a vast array of courses that you can take for free or for as little at £8.  Set aside 10 minutes a day and work yourself into a leadership mindset.

Become a social butterfly!

You may have heard or participated in a TEACHMeet, but organise yourself a LEADMeet!  Invite leaders to an event (informal meet / unconference) where great  leadership practice and personal insights are shared.  Learn from your peers, modify their knowledge and take action.

Define your leadership goals!

Tell the world, put it on your Twitter page and inform your manager.  If you can’t be held accountable to your hopes then you’ll struggle to bring them to fruition.  Share your leadership goals and allow others to guide you.

For immediate ideas and solutions, listen to episode 37 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show where Nikki Gilbey shares her ideas and resources to help you to fast-track your leadership pathway.

Here’s our 3 tips, in less than 3 minutes to help you fast-track into leadership:

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community! 



Until next time ~ Keep inspiring!

Applying for a new job?
September 22, 2015
Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show

How many jobs have you applied for and been unsuccessful? At what stage were you unsuccessful, on application or at interview?

When faced with rejection it is inevitable that you will feel frustration and that can quickly turn into feeling like a failure!  I know, I have felt it!  But that is where we need to turn to the great words of Shakespeare, in particular his Julius Caesar play,

“The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

 The interpretation is that it is not fate that dooms men, but instead their own failings.  Now that sounds harsh that I’m blaming you for your inability to secure that job that you really wanted.  But Shakespeare got it right!


If we really want to correct the fault in our stars then we need to address the underlying causes behind our shortcomings.  Objectively, reviewing your own performance is not easy, especially when the bruises of a failed application are still so raw!  Allowing for the dust to settle is too long to wait.  You want to capture yourself in the moment.  I’m not advocating storming up to the selection committee and giving them what for, but being your own critical friend and asking, “why did this not work out for me?” is the mindset to continuous improvement and success. 

There may be many reasons as to why your application or interview was rejected, perhaps you are not mentally in the zone or physically ready for the challenge; trust me I know, I once went to an interview three days after having a knee operation.  I hobbled into the room, explained away my crutches and then totally bombed on the interview.  A* for effort and commitment to the cause, but totally ungraded for preparation and being mentally ready for the interview.  I mean seriously how much preparation could I have done being drugged to the eyeballs on painkillers?  In hindsight, (which is such a beautiful thing) I should have called, explained my circumstances, expressed my passion for the role and ask to be considered should they be unsuccessful in securing a candidate.  At least that could have kept me in the frame in case the first round of interviews were unsuccessful, or if a future role was on the cards.

The key to all of this is to truly not beat yourself up!  Instead, consider yourself as always the prospective candidate. 

That way you’ll always be taking the steps to reflect upon your goals and what you need to do “daily” to achieve them.  I say “daily” because without continuous tweaks and improvements over time, not only to your CV but to your own professional learning you are not positioning yourself as the number one candidate.  As a Business Studies teacher I regularly teach Kaizen, the Japanese practice of continuous improvement.

Its core principal, change (kai) for the good (zen) can be applied to your own career development and when seeking new job roles. Kaizen suggests that everything can be improved, your research, pre-interview preparation, your CV, application form, cover letter, interview technique, observed lesson etc.

Don’t take my word as gospel; Ross Morrison McGill of Teacher Toolkit the leading blog for teachers in the UK has experienced adversity in the face of redundancy.  Experiencing first-hand the challenges of the senior leadership application process, Ross shares his key takeaways on stepping up into senior leadership.  On episode 36 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Ross offers his experience and advice to support you in your pursuit of Deputy Headship.

Press play and listen to our 3 Tip Challenge designed to provide you with Ross’s three essential tips when applying for roles in senior leadership:

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community! 



Until next time ~ Keep inspiring! 

What science knows vs what education does

What is the longest period of time you can focus your attention without your mind beginning to wander and your concentration plummeting off a cliff?

Wikipedia states that the maximum attention span for the average human is 5 minutes.  The longest time for healthy teenagers and adults is 20 minutes.

However, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show8 seconds to a maximum of 20 minutes is a startling difference, and worrying if you are an educator, but there are two key types of attention.  The 8 second attention span is known as ‘transient attention’ which is a short-term response to a stimulus that temporarily attracts or distracts attention.

Where educators need to focus their energy for learning is on selective sustained attention, also known as ‘focused attention’.  It is the level of attention that produces results on a task over time.  But if we only have a maximum of 20 minutes, why are most school lessons constructed around a 50 – 70 minute lesson structure, four to five times a day?  That means in the average school day there are around 20, twenty minute learning opportunities before breaks are considered.  If that seems like a lot, once you add in classroom transient distractions it’s possible that those opportunities for sustained concentration significantly decrease.

How do educators and schools address these lack of opportune moments for learning?  Shorter school days, more frequent lessons or breaks, the options are vast, but this is where we must focus our thought back on what science knows to be true.

Studies into the investigation of physical activity for learning reveal that:

“… breaks throughout the day can improve both student behaviour and learning (Trost, 2007)” (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012).


Science also reveals that sustained movement-aided learning significantly improves learning rather than purely mental learning activities:

“Movement is an exterior stimulus, and as long as the learner is engaged in his or her learning task the movement indicates that the learner’s attention is directed toward what is being learned. When attention is purely mental (interior) the activity becomes very difficult to sustain, because the nerve and muscle systems are inactive” (Shoval, 2011).

If frequent breaks and connecting the mind and body for learning have been proven to work, why does our education system not evolve based on what science knows?

On episode 35 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Rae Pica, host of Studentcentricity and founder of BAM Radio Network, discusses how connecting the mind and body is crucial for learning.  She reveals the ideal mind and body classroom for learning:

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community! 



Reluctance vs. Positive Wizards

Every remarkable leader throughout our history had a powerful message behind their choice of words, “We must fight them on the beaches…” ~ Winston Churchill, “I have a dream” ~ Martin Luther King and “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” ~ Steve Jobs

It was those motivational speeches that rallied the troops, empowered the marginalised and inspired a generation…

We use powerful phrases all the time in education to teach our subjects, convey models of behaviour and to ignite the passion for learning. But have you ever heard of rallying your positive wizards to overcome reluctance?

As educators we regularly encounter reluctance in our classrooms or when attempting to launch new initiatives. Often the wave of sighs and rolling eyes dents our own enthusiasm, makes us question the validity of our ideas or shakes our ability to inspire our learners. Reluctance in its most basic stubborn form, “I don’t want to”, requires a framework of skills and a suite of motivational phrases to overcome the negative force which refuses to engage. This is the precise moment that you need to channel all of your energies into identifying the positive wizards among your pupils, teaching staff and leaders. Positive wizards are those people willing to embrace new ideas, have a thirst for learning and who are willing to champion your cause.

Julia Skinner, former Headteacher and now founder of the 100 Word Challenge has used positive wizards to champion the most reluctant of learners and most stubborn of staff. And when the conversation is beyond the magical sway of her positive wizards her cunning plans have enticed and achieved resolution.

On episode 24 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show Julia and I discuss how to overcome reluctance and engage not only learners, but teachers, leaders and governors.

Episode take-aways:

  • Deciphering reluctance to engage
  • Identifying positive wizards and using them to your advantage
  • Building relationships and effective communication

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share with your community!




Overcoming technological fear

“The lizard brain, is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.” – Seth Godin

WBWKY1FQ2IThat pre-historic unwanted lump is what throws our brain into panic mode when faced with a new challenge or something that we don’t yet understand.  We’re all guilty of it, “Ah, I don’t get this, so freak out!”, and that is the precise moment our brain shuts down and we escape to the dark recesses of our grey matter.

This is a frequent scenario when presented with the gauntlet of embedding technology into our teaching practice.  “But I don’t want to try something new all of the time!” I hear you say, and I would agree!  We must be selective, but when someone else has pioneered how to weave technology into the fabric of learning, overcome the challenges and found solutions, we all benefit!  Therefore, the idea of embedding technology into aspects of our teaching practice becomes less daunting and more attractive, especially when it enhances our teaching practice and advances our learners.

My latest guest on the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show has won awards for his innovative approach to using technology to enhance his students’ learning and the quality of his teaching.  Scott Hayden, Specialist Practitioner of Social Media and Educational Technology at Basingstoke College, UK, has forged differentiated approaches to evidence submission, shaped schemes of work and assignments around the social media platforms that his learners engage with, and has developed collaborative narrative across curriculum hubs using Twitter.

Episode take-aways:

  • Ideas for embedding technology into your teaching practice
  • The best technology, apps and programmes to use to engage learners
  • Enhancing your professional teaching practice, where to find support and ideas

What next?

If you enjoyed this article, please pay the knowledge forward and share with your community!


Pedagoo & TeachMeets

This week has seen my introduction to pedagoo and also presenting at teach meets. I was originally going to blog about how I think consistently good is outstanding, but I’ve had to rethink!

My school hosted a teach meet this week and I was asked several weeks ago if I would present. I had thought about presenting at a teach meet since I attended one earlier in the year and this was a great opportunity to do so. It was also lovely to be asked! (I made sure that I was doing a 2 minute nano presentation rather than a 5 minute one at the front of a lecture theatre). Although I found out closer to the teach meet that I had to present 11 times in 22 minutes! I was nervous prior to the event but afterwards it felt great to have been one of the few to present – I look forward to the next one! I didn’t really feel proud of what I had done until the following Saturday…

This Saturday I went to Pedagoo Wonderland at Joseph Swan Academy. I must admit, at this stage of the term I’m flagging considerably and I was very tempted to spend that Saturday wrapped up watching Soccer Saturday. However, I did find the energy to go with a friend who I trained with last year (lovely to catch up!) and not only am I glad that I went, I feel extremely grateful to all the effort put into the day by some very talented and enthusiastic people. I’m sorry I ever even considered not going!

At Joseph Swan they have a beautiful learning environment and they had gone to great lengths to put on a spectacle for us – sleighs, balloons, turkey sandwiches, Christmas cards and even Father Christmas himself made an appearance! I attended four workshops which were all very different but all equally brilliant. My workshops (which were personalised!) included a differentiation carousel, foldable fun, independent reindeers (or learners if you prefer) and enquiry based learning (specifically for maths).

I gained so many ideas from the day but I have to say that they weren’t the reason why I’m thrilled that I attended. At this winter wonderland were masses of people who had given up their Saturday to attend and some incredible individuals, teachers and students, who had put a huge amount of effort into creating such a fantastic afternoon of CPD. I thought as the afternoon went on that there is probably no other profession in the world where the professionals volunteer to train one another and do so at such a high level. The passion and commitment was brought to the day by NQTs all the way up to people who have been teaching for longer than I’ve been alive! I found the enthusiasm and passion again that brought me into teaching which had begun to fade away as I struggled through my NQT year. I feel re-invigorated again and I can’t wait for more teach meets and pedagoo wonderlands!

Many of us are worried about where the government is taking our Country’s education system. I think we should take comfort in how our profession, through teach meets, blogging, twitter and pedagoo, has shouldered the responsibility of developing each other in order to give children the best education we possibly can. We should all be very privileged to be part of such a passionate, talented and giving community.

Money Man’opoly’ – A board game for a broad gain…

This weeks blog reflects on a lesson I delivered a little earlier in the year as part of an enrichment session to level 3 learners.

At the beginning of the academic year, learners were given autonomy over the topics delivered and this week, the session was based on money management.

In preparing for the session, I considered simply investigating the income and expenditure of learners and helping them to plan how they could save income and prioritise and calculate their spending. However, would this approach really engage 16-20 year olds? Possibly not some of them anyway – despite the consensus that this was an area they wished to look at.

So what did I do?… Well I approached the session with the mindset of a child – by playing a game! My favourite board game, monopoly was surely the perfect way to subtly utilise money management skills?…

Of course, I couldn’t just use the traditional monopoly board and let them play, it would have no meaning like this. So I embarked on creating my own monopoly board with items that would resonate with the learners (see board).

I had to ensure that I had differentiated objectives and this could only be achieved by giving some structure to the game, so I made four characters with different likes, dislikes and incomes (which they received when passing go). This meant that learners could prioritise what they spent based on their characters. The characters with more disposable income were strategically given to the less able learners and vice versa with more able, meaning the learners were challenged according to needs. Of course it goes without saying that learners had to keep a record of all calculations on their task sheet. The aim of the game was to finish with more money (inclusive of the value of items bought).

Prior to the game, learners were asked to identify different money management skills using a post-it note approach and questions were posed to ascertain meaning. Although I encouraged learners to utilise these skills, I was hoping to let the use of them occur naturally based on the restrictions imposed (i.e. character likes/dislikes etc), with the intention that reflection would demonstrate an understanding of skills.

During the game, learners were questioned to check understanding such as “what was your last purchase and why?” This was accompanied by the chance and community chest cards which threw in ‘curve ball’ income/expenditure, which learners had to explain what they would do based on the information provided. To end the lesson, learners were asked to reflect on the money management skills that they had used in the session. Peer assessment was utilised to ensure that they were able to justify where each skill was used in the game.

In summary, the session was highly engaging, fun and certainly ‘enriched’ their studies. It may have had more of an impact in a longer session… All of the above was done in an hour! Quite a lot to cram in really. I will certainly be using the method again and am happy to share resources if anyone would like to try? Tweet me @danwilliams1984 for more info.

To text poll or not to text poll, that is the question?

Although I have come across online text polls in the past, I hadn’t used them myself until last week in one of my lessons and came to the conclusion that they are more time and effort than they are worth – let me explain why…

The group of learners I used this with were Entry Level 3 and in a nutshell the objective of the session was to identify and demonstrate skills, qualities and values required when assisting at a sport and active leisure event.

So after providing learners with their personalised targets for the session I asked them to place their mobile phones on their desks. Out of the 12 learners in attendance, only 10 had a phone…already the task was not going to plan!..so, I paired the learners without phones with somebody with one.

I then provided the text number and opening question…”what skills are needed when helping to lead a sports event?”… Learners were allowed open ended answers and the premise was that the answers that were text to the number would appear on the smart board…what I didn’t realise until the time was that learners who didn’t have phone credit, could not participate…another two learners out of the task and requiring a partner. Those that did have credit began to text their answers and they started to appear on the board – great!

However, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t clear who was texting what answers (thus making it difficult to target questions to the learner concerned and also ensuring that all learners answered). Moreover the answers that came through were not just skills, but also qualities and values… Not such a bad thing, but in order to differentiate between the three areas I had to write everything on the white board (almost defeating the purpose of this e learning tool) and ask learners to dissect the information into the relevant categories.

So after almost 20 minutes and the disengagement of those without a phone/credit, I came to the conclusion that I could have provided the learners with a much more effective learning environment had I used ‘post-its’ or any other traditional strategy which allows all to be involved, whilst allowing me to see who answers.

Despite believing that there is room for e-learning in the classroom, I do feel that we need to ensure that whatever is chosen as a strategy is effective and not just used because the school/college has an e-learning agenda.

On the other hand, perhaps I approached text polls in the wrong fashion, so if you have used them with success, please share your comments.

Analogies and metaphors to aid understanding…

Having been introduced to Hattie’s work on ‘effect sizes’ in the learning environment last year (http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm), I took it upon myself to investigate advanced organisers in my own practice. This is said to have an average effect size of 0.37, which in comparison to other methods is reasonably small. However, I opted to focus on the use of analogies and metaphors within my teaching practice, as personally I believe comprehension to be greater if a new subject is related to a familiar subject. Of course, many of us will naturally do this without a second thought, but I intended to consciously approach sessions with the intention of overtly using this method.

One example of this practice quite recently was when teaching the flow of blood around the cardiovascular system to a group of level 2 BTEC learners. I introduced the topic by asking the group to share their thoughts on the process of going to the gym – this involved eating food to give you fuel (collecting oxygen from lungs), travelling to the gym and going through the changing rooms (left side of the heart), working out and ‘burning’ the fuel (feeding the muscles with oxygen), travel back through the changing rooms (right side of heart) before travelling home (the lungs) to start the process again. Obviously when doing this, I did illustrate on the white board. I then made reference to the fact that the gym process is similar to the flow of blood…Following this, I gave the learners the opportunity to create their own analogies of the process. Working in groups they created some amazing ideas such as the process of topping up and using a mobile phone, travelling through the petrol station to name a few.

For the learners, this particular process taught alone can be very challenging, yet now they have their own analogies for the process, they are able to demonstrate a far greater understanding.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

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