Every day was definitely a new adventure as I joined my new school at the end of May this year. I'd just returned from an incredible 9 months of travelling and was lucky enough to be able to come in and get a head start before September. My husband and I decided to make the move to Yorkshire after 4 years of teaching in London and, despite growing up in Yorkshire, I've been amazed at just how friendly everyone is up here - cue North/South divide debate.
Starting at a new school is a fascinating process, my four years of teaching experience helped in some ways but finding new classrooms, working with a completely different type of cohort, learning the rules and various different procedures alongside teaching different exam boards at both GCSE and A level meant that I was hugely reliant on the kindness of my new colleagues when it came to understanding how the school worked. They definitely stepped up to the challenge, I hope that I managed to express my gratitude to each and every person who helped me out in my first half a term (from telling me how to work the photocopier to taking me to the elusive classroom at the top of a tower - I'm convinced my school is like Hogwarts, with shifting staircases thwarting your attempts to ever try and take the same route twice).
The first day of the summer holidays has given me chance to pause and reflect and think about how I want to develop my teaching from September onwards, so here goes...
Summer reading - our brilliant Director of Science has acquired a 'pedagogy library' for our department so that staff can borrow books to read. I've got 'Teaching Backwards' and '50 Quick Ways to Help Your Students Think, Learn and Use Their Brains Brilliantly' - I'm also planning on reading 'What's The Point of School?' cover to cover instead of just dipping in and out of it.
Skills- I want students to develop key skills such as talk/discussion, collaborative learning, effective self-assessment, revision/study skills, etc. I'm going to focus on one skill every couple of weeks throughout the year and make it explicit to students.
Bell work - this is the work that students do as soon as they get into the classroom. I'm aiming to have something up on the board that recaps learning from the previous lesson (or series of lessons) so that students revisit key ideas. Being in a new school with 13 different classes gave me perhaps a little insight into what it's like to be a student moving between several different rooms, teachers and subjects throughout the week and I can see why students sometimes forget what they've been learning!
Practical work - I always worry about the effectiveness of practical work and how much learning or understanding actually takes place. Just handling practical equipment in Science is a significant challenge for many students, this year I want to make sure we're linking the theory and practice together to help students gain a deeper understanding of potentially abstract concepts in Chemistry. I've got a couple of writing frames that guide practical work but I'm also going to try and record a lot more practical work so that we can review our learning.
Marking and feedback - this is particularly important for my year 11 classes that I'll see for three hours over a two week period. We've set ourselves a bit of a challenge with switching exam boards for our students who are entering year 11 in September (with good reason, but that's another story...) and I think pre-planning my marking and feedback is going to be more significant than ever this year. Over the three lessons I'm going to aim for one self-assessed task, one peer-assessed task and one teacher-assessed task to ensure that students receive quality feedback. The self-assessed task is likely to be exam question based, the peer-assessed task will be using add, build, challenge to develop a piece of work and the teacher-assessed task will identify strengths, targets and a couple of questions to help students make progress. This is in addition to assessments that will be sat by all students throughout the year (where I'm going to get students thinking about why we are doing the assessment, predicting their scores and reviewing their strengths and targets as well as the actual answers...) RAG123 marking is something I'm going to try and use more of this year as well.
Homework - I want to stop setting homework because I feel I have to and start setting homework that allows students to consolidate their learning or discover something beyond the curriculum. I'm planning on using a couple of brilliant homework 'takeaway menus' that I retweeted recently to give students choice over how they do their homework. I'm hoping to print students a copy of the menu to put in their books and refer to throughout the year so we can be more creative with our independent learning.
iPads - my department is lucky enough to have a set of 15 iPads that we can order for our lessons. I want to get students using these to facilitate their learning and I want to use my own iPad more effectively in lessons, I'll expand more on this in a separate blog post though...