What I enjoyed last week

‘Don’t you ever stop, Long enough to start?’

Being a headteacher is a full on job. This term has been the same as usual – lots of things to think about, and spending lots of time trying to solve problems that don’t really have solutions. Coupled with the normal school stuff, the world seems to have shifted and we are living through an extraordinary period of change and uncertainty.

I decided to do a bit of a mental stock take this week. Taking inspiration from @samschoolstuff, I have decided to try to practice a bit of gratitude, and think about the some of the things that happened last week that I have really enjoyed.

Monday’s Assembly. We watched the CEOPs Jigsaw video, and the children had the chance to think about their own online behaviour. I could see some of our Y6 children looking a bit uncomfortable, and later in the week a couple of them came and told me that they had changed their privacy settings on their social media accounts. Sometimes you lead an assembly that really works – there is a special kind of silence and you can sense the children thinking and reflecting.This was one of those, and it set me up really well for the rest of the week.

Work Scrutiny. In September we changed our marking  policy it reduce the amount of time it takes, and to allow teachers to have more opportunities to use their professional judgement about what their children need to support their learning. It was an absolute pleasure to look at books on Wednesday, and to see this in practice. There is less written marking, but more of it seems to be making a difference to what the children are doing. Just what we aimed for.

Staff training On Wednesday evening our Sustainability Coordinator led a staff training session aimed at encouraging us to make better use of our amazing school grounds as a learning resource. We made shapes from ropes, discussing how we knew if they were regular or not. We thought about reversible and irreversible changes while cooking marshmallows and hot chocolate on the fire, and tried (again) to use the pizza oven. It was a fun session, and hopefully will encourage us to take the learning outside.

Lunchtimes I love being outside with the children at lunchtime. I really enjoy chatting to them, hearing their stories and jokes, and also helping them to learn how to sort out disagreements themselves. This week I saw a group of Y6 girls using the power of a protest – standing calmly in front of the goals until the boys would let them play a full part in their football game. I saw children inviting children new to the school to join their games; children sharing the spaces and respecting the games that others were playing; children going along with a game that might not be their first choice; and the ever increasing sight of children reading in the playground because they are excited by their book and don’t want to stop. I even saw one boy playing a chasing game while eating an apple and reading his Tom Gates book.

Book of Brilliance Every day children are sent to see me or one of our Assistant heads with their books if they have tried especially hard or have made really good progress in their learning. We write their names in the Book of Brilliance, and they have their names read out in Assembly on a Friday morning. The children can tell us how many times they have appeared in the book, and they are always really proud to be there.

Y6 teachers On Thursday I joined our Y6 team to discuss how the children are getting on and to consider strategies for individuals who are finding things a bit difficult. It was a fabulous meeting – realism teamed with relentless optimism and positivity from a fabulous group of teachers. One comment struck me and will be something I use when I’m trying to solve one of those insoluble problems. We were talking about one child’s behaviour and a colleague said, ‘That’s what he’s doing. What are you going to do?’ That phrase could prove very useful over the coming months.

 

The First Week Back

Even after all this time I still get nervous about the first day back after the school holidays. This term was worse than usual – there were a number of things hanging over from the end of the autumn term still bubbling around in my head, and I still had the horrible cold that had been with me for ages. I was a headteacher for a long time before I recognised that sometimes there are problems that have no real solutions. You just have to do your best, and try to learn how to stop things from eating away at your confidence. If you get too many at once it can be really difficult to keep being positive and supportive of others, but that is what you absolutely have to try to do.

So the week started a bit shakily, but these three things happened that made me forget those pre-term worries:

The brilliant @sportrelief18k led a discussion about teaching and learning in maths at our non-pupil day on Tuesday morning. It was fabulous to listen as teachers shared their ideas, listened to each other, and focussed on how we can help children learn most effectively. The conversation continued the next day at our staff meeting, with the ideas we had been throwing around the previous day beginning to take on more concrete forms. I was so impressed to walk into the staffroom an hour after our meeting had finished to find a group of teachers still talking passionately about maths, children and learning.

On Friday I was supposed to be going to a meeting in Bristol, but decided not to go and to stay in school instead. I was still not feeling 100%, but even more of a reason was that we had booked an author visit for the day – the fabulous Stan Cullimore – and I didn’t want to miss him. He started by leading a whole school assembly, and watching the children’s faces as they laughed at his silly stories and jokes was a perfect start to the day. He then spent time with each class going through the process of inventing stories, and every child I spoke to loved it. We don’t always get everything right for every child, but it felt so positive and upbeat in the hall and I could see so many happy and excited faces that I think we did a fairly good job on Friday. It really was wonderful.

Finally, during this week I have been reading lots of #teacher5aday #pledge blogs, including those from people writing and sharing for the first time. It’s inspiring to read the thoughts and ideas of teachers deciding to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, and being willing to share those with the wider world. It’s a daunting prospect pressing ‘publish’, but I am really pleased that these lovely people have been brave enough to share. I really enjoyed reading @jamie2034’s upbeat take on the year ahead, and will keep his thoughts in mind when tackling the big things that are coming up in the next few months.

 

The unresolved issues are still unresolved, but the balance has been put right a bit and I feel more positive and ready for whatever 2017 brings.