CPD on Maternity – reality vs fiction (aka Shout Out to the MTPT Project)

When I changed my blog title to ‘The Motivated Mother’ in my pre-baby-2-mat -leave-calm I had no idea what the next 9 months would bring.  It’s not to say I’m not still motivated but I have had to rein it in and manage my own expectations. I’m not one to blog personal reflections on my life but I can’t recognise the wonderful MTPT Project without doing so because ultimately that is what it’s all about.

My version of nesting was to fill my pre-baby mat leave with all the CPD opportunities I could lay my hands on – #WomenEd Annual conference, #The Difference conference, #MTPT Project coffee mornings and NEU free twilights – some of which tiny baby T was dragged along in the early days.  I was going to do a research project, I became a governor and I was going to be super proactive in my support of the school going above and beyond, I was going to shadow in schools, I was going to visit a PRU, I was going to read all these books bought eagerly with mine (and my husband’s) TeacherTapp John Catt vouchers , I was going to get a SLT role for next September, I was going to blog about it all, I was going to….

But then a few things happened. Baby T (number 2) is not the easy baby R (number 1) was. We’ve had the Christmas hospital stay, food allergies, chronic constipation, colic endless unsettled crying and he still wakes up frequently through the night before being ready to start the day again at 5.30am on a good day; he’s super active and is currently threatening to walk at 8.5mths. He is also a Covid baby – he’s had mummy 24/7 for pretty much his whole life, he has only by held by a handful of other people and he hates being put down.  I can just about squeeze 10 minutes out of the jumperoo while I chop up dinner ready to stir and cook one handed. My left arm is STRONG, I walk round with a permanent hip tilt and I astonish myself on a daily basis what I can achieve with one hand.

This all would be surmountable but then add in entertaining a 3.5 year old with no playgrounds open AND amidst the lockdown chaos my teacher-husband and I have managed to get new jobs and are relocating to a different city (a logistical nightmare!). Quite frankly I am tired. I can just about muster the brain power to chose which film/series I want to watch the start credits of before I fall asleep in front of let alone start to contemplate any of the many ‘maternity projects’ I had lined up back in November. What I can say is thank goodness for the MTPT project coaching.

I didn’t know what to expect from the coaching.  I’ve dabbled as a guinea pig for friends training to be life coaches and done a bit of self awareness and leadership stuff over the years and I thought it would be similar but I can honestly say it has been the most wonderful form of counselling/CPD/wellbeing support all rolled into one. The last couple of sessions I have almost felt guilty beforehand as I didn’t think I had anything new to discuss and how wrong I was.  Every session I have come out of feeling like a load is off my shoulders having acknowledged, discussed and dissected things I simply had not had the headspace to think of, and that I almost would feel guilty spending my precious child-free time on when there is so much I need to do for the family. And therein lies my number 1 battle – successful career and great mum, I want to be both.

Session 5 was this afternoon and as I washed up the dishes, a rare evening where both children are asleep before 7, one phrase we spent some time on kept going round in my head – what is enough? This feels like something that has resonated through all my sessions and I have been picked up for using the word should (be doing)time and time again. Actually what do I really want? There are so many inspirational women I have had the honour to hear speak through podcasts and various conferences.  The #WomenEd movement is amazing and has it has been incredibly empowering to take part in a number of CPD offers.  However, and this is a big personal ‘however’, it also has been my undoing in some ways.  I look at these women, some of which are younger that me and their dazzling achievements and I am inspired but I am also a little overwhelmed. They are so dynamic, eloquent and dedicated. How? How the heck do they find time to do this?  And more to the point I really, really want to move up the ladder but I also really, really love my children and spending time with them and I also really, really need to sleep.  Then alongside time there are the personal insecurities – do I have the personality needed to be good in an SLT role?  The MTPT project coaching has helped me to manage my own expectations and more importantly to be at peace with my career and family decisions. When I reflect back over what I have achieved over my maternity leave it wasn’t what I expected, but it has been important in so many ways outside of my career and for the well being of my family and my community. My CV hasn’t got much longer and I don’t have any life goals ticked off but through these crazy Covid times I have a healthy, happy, well-adjusted family.  I also feel prepared to return to work in a new school/role/city/house and I feel incredibly well equipped to deal with working as a middle leader and teacher in a remote and disrupted world.  I have readjusted my expectations to realise the importance of ‘being not just doing’ and to think about how to build up my relationships both with colleagues and pupils. I understand myself and my drivers and I also recognise that what I have always seen as my weaknesses are actually vital to who I am – I am not lazy for watching 2 hours of TV on an evening, I am giving myself the headspace and time to regenerate and be able to hit the ground running the next day.  I didn’t get an SLT job for September but quite frankly I don’t feel regret, I feel relief and excitement that I can do a job I have done previously well, and find time to look after my lovely boys and support them through the massive changes in their lives. SLT can wait a couple of years when hopefully Baby T starts sleeping a bit more.

 Thank you MTPT Project (@maternityCPD) – to Emma Sheppard (@Comment_Ed) for her creation, to Katie Friedman (@Katiefriedman8) my amazing coach and to Teamworks TSA (@TEAMWORKSTSA) for their funding.

A Peek at Podagogy – a brief summary of podcasts for teachers

Over the last few months I’ve needed some handsfree activities with the arrival of teeny T.  Through the late stages of pregnancy, and the insomnia that came with it, I started to uncover the wealth of knowledge and CPD on all things educational that is freely available.  It’s taken me a few months to discover all of these, and I’m sure there are some excellent ones that I am yet to find! I thought I’d try and save others some time by giving a brief overview of the ones I have discovered so far.  I’m a big fan of the British accent so the ones below are pretty much all are home grown. I have a few favourites at the start, but the rest are not in any particular order.  The sound quality can vary with some but none of them have this as a consistent problem and it’s worth persevering!

I should also say a massive thank you to the podcasters* who have put these together so the rest of us can benefit. Enjoy.

*if I’ve got anything not quite right please do let me know and I’ll update the article!

My top 3:

  • Naylor’s Natter – Phil Naylor @pna1977 (approx. 60mins per episode)

Most episodes focus on an educator who has written a book (teaching and learning, evidence and research).  It literally is a ‘natter’ and Phil talks through the book/research with the author then adds some ‘Podcast pedagogy’ at the end.  This is one of my favourite podcasts as it has helped inspire me to read some great books and get a good overview of some interesting insights in education at the moment.

  • The Clem & Em Podcast @thosethatcan @ClemAndEm (approx. 60mins per episode)

A new-ish podcast which offers a very different style to the others mentioned.  Chatty and informal, less of a focus on specific pedagogy; Clem and Em chat to a variety of people about education in general, but these tend to be people who are not teachers e.g. journalists.  It links in political agendas and the views of parents and the general public.  Easy to listen to and very personal in its’ approach, from the episodes I’ve listened to it reminds me of Desert Island Discs, replacing the music with education chat and the guest podcaster talks about their own experiences and opinions.

  • Key Voices @TheKeySL (15 – 30mins long)

A podcast by The Key for School Leaders – brings a summary of education news and interviews.  It used to start with a summary of headlines in education, but they have stopped this in later episodes (which I am sad about!). The episodes are really varied, and I’ve enjoyed the fact that they think outside the box with some of the areas of focus.  Good for those who are governors too. This is up there of my favourite ones to follow as I’ve found it really relevant and well edited. Quality is generally excellent.

Other Podcasts (some are very new to me at time of writing):

  • The Evidence Based Education Podcast @EvidenceInEdu (30 – 60 mins long)

Discusses how ‘evidence based education can have a practical and achievable positive impact on pupil outcomes’.  I haven’t listened to a lot of this but again episodes cover a range of topics.

  • Mr Barton Maths Podcast @mrbartonmaths (30mins – 3hrs)

Not just maths! Craig Barton talks to a range of educational professionals on lots of different issues.  Although there are a lot that are Maths focused, it’s definitely worth seeking out the more pedagogical generic episodes.  There are a mix of interviews with big names in the education field alongside some I’ve not heard of but make really interesting listening.

  • We Are In Beta Podcast @NiallAlcock (30 – 60 mins long)

This podcast tells the ‘positive, practical and personal stories’ of inspirational school leaders.  The episodes I have listened to tended to be more about people’s personal journeys.  There is a focus on effective leadership and inclusivity, but it tends to be opinion focused rather than as evidence based as some of the other podcasts out there  .  Worthwhile CPD in a different way.

  • Pivotal Podcast @pivotalpodcast (30 – 60mins)

Described as ‘case studies and advice I how to manage behaviour in your classroom’ this is one of the longest running podcasts.  It’s diverse, relevant, well produced and you can find pretty much anything to do with education covered somewhere.

  • TES – The Education Podcast @tes @tesresources (15 – 45mins)

TES divides up there podcasts into a variety of different topics e.g. international/FE/Podagogy and more.  It’s another well established podcast which covers pretty much any topic you can think of – interviews, research and up to date educational news. Episodes tend to be shorter than some of the others out there.

  • Don’t Shoot The Deputies @DynamicDeps (30 – 50 mins)

This has more of a primary focus, run by two primary deputies – Steve and Russell.  They cover a range of topics primarily stemming from a leadership focus. Easy to listen to and well produced.

  • From Page to Practice @BexN91 (20 – 40 mins)

I’ve just discovered this as I publish this, so far I’ve really enjoyed.  It’s another one that focuses on application of educational reading and the impact in the classroom.  Rebecca interviews or talks through an educational text/article then discusses its’ impact in the classroom. I look forward to how this evolves.

  • ASCL leadership podcast @ASCL_UK (20 – 40 mins)

Monthly podcast which interviews a variety of different people in the education world. I’ve not had a chance to listen to this a great deal but it’s varied and quite good at keeping up to date with concepts. It tends to be a brief overview rather than going into the depth that other podcasts too.

  • Becoming Educated @dnleslie (30 – 60mins)

I’ve not listened to this yet – just found out about it on Twitter! It’s another new one, and it looks interesting with a focus on pedagogy and leadership to ‘inspire and allow passionate professionals to trust themselves and teach with joy’ – now who wouldn’t want that.

 

Other podcasts are:

Oomph. @weareoomph – teaching and learning focused; only one episode out so far

Leaders With Babies @leaders_plus – interviews with high flying leaders across a variety of different fields and how they have balanced their careers with parenthood.

I hope this article proves a helpful shortcut to some excellent free (!) CPD.

#IncludeEd North Conference

Keywords: funding, time, relationships, change in policy

Last weekend I attended the Northern #IncludeEd conference run by @TheDifferenceEd. My motivation was simply to try and get some answers on what happens to our young people when they seem to ‘disappear’ from registers – something I have found really sad, especially when as a teacher you have spent a good deal of time with them and really care what happens. I feel like I know very little about alternative provision.

In the last year I have ‘lost’ learners due to becoming ‘home schooled’, may have returned to their home country and alternative provision being provided due to mental health. This doesn’t include those who leave through exclusions, managed moves and illness. Often the mechanism for teachers finding out about these disappearances are a re-coding of registers, or names simply disappearing. With an overloaded pastoral team the answers you receive often lack detail, and sometimes are as brutal as ‘it’s not the schools remit to monitor that young person any more’. When I found out that my LEA has the fourth poorest quality of AP provision in the country (Centre of Social Justice) it made me even more sad. It feels like what alternative provision actually is, is somewhat of a mystery to many teachers and even senior leaders.

The conference was really interesting. I was met with statistics, opinions and strategies from a passionate group of people for whom inclusion in education is very much a vocation. I learned a great deal but to be honest I didn’t get many answers that got near the heart of my questions, and if anything it just left me with more. I have broken the rest of this blog into two parts – my overall reflections and a summary of interesting information that I took from sessions on mainstream schools which have reduced exclusion numbers to zero.

I should add these are my interpretations of what was said and may not reflect the context or exact phrasing (I’ve seen some people get burned on twitter through being quoted out of context!). Where statistics are quoted I have referenced who provided them.

My reflections:

  • Class sizes in alternative provision are much smaller (even 1:2) – surely this is not financially viable for mainstream schools currently? It is also linked directly to the same young people needing additional support through counselling and again this has funding implications. Indeed this was something that was touched on by Cath Murray (CathMurray_) from the Centre of Social Justice – we need to change policy, not just create more reports, and there needs to be more investment in mainstream education to make it more inclusive.
  • Interesting question raised about whether certain teachers are just ‘better’ at working with our more challenging pupils, is it personality or learnt? This is something that I have been reflecting on when thinking about the next career move. We all know those teachers who just seem to get difficult pupils on board and engaged, and their strategies would simply not work for everyone – I am rubbish at sharp witted responses!
  • Where do those missing pupils go? No-one really knows! Philip Nye (@philipnye) from Education Data Lab estimated that currently there are approx. 2500 pupils in unregistered alternative provision but the DfE cannot provided numbers on this. The Education Policy Institute states that there were 24000 Year 11 pupils who had an unexplained exit in 2017. 4 in 10 had not returned to state education by the end of Year 11 and of those in AP only 1 in 10 returned to state education. Of those that moved to another school 1 in 4 moved to an establishment with a lower Ofsted rating.

Then there is the matter of elective home schooling which doesn’t seem to be nationally quality assured. This brings me back to my concerns about the 2 girls in my form who had chronically poor attendance then left school to be ‘home schooled’. Parents couldn’t get them to attend school in the first place and where it was needed the young person was not able to access vital pastoral support. How is their education expected to improve by allowing them to be withdrawn all together? Was this an easy option?

  • I really liked the concept that for a school to be inclusive this is not just pupils but staff too, and this should be reflected in the school’s values. To ensure this, positive relationships need to be built between all people (young and adult) in the institution.
  • Current teaching demands are as inclusive as they have ever been in education (Baroness Morris). Over the last few decades there has always been a focal group of pupils – men, women, top 25% grammar schools getting into university and pursuing professions, but it has only been in recent years that we have been expected to meet the needs of all Indeed as a teacher I am asked to provide my interventions strategies for pupils who fit into these categories – higher ability, SEND, pupil premium, ECHP, LAC and EAL; this was over 75% of the pupils I teach! As a middle leader I spend time analysing data on these groups and looking at how we support them in department. The impact of having to demonstrate provision and provide data takes a huge amount of time that could be spent on resourcing lessons and supporting these pupils.

Finally here is summary of information I gleaned from attending sessions run by leaders of schools who are being effective reducing and eliminating exclusions.

I had the privilege of hearing both Lucie Lakin (@lucielakin) and Tom Shaw talk openly about how they changed the culture of their schools to become 100% inclusive and eliminate exclusions, with a real focus on belonging. Both were clearly highly passionate and had created an innovative system that is really working in their environment. I felt they talked a lot of sense with their mantra ‘equity not equality’ regarding their behaviour policy – know your children and punish accordingly. Ensure staff are completely on board with the school’s ethos of zero exclusions, regardless of how serious the incident. The school has created a system for restorative justice system (build, maintain, repair) to reintegrate any pupil who commits are serious infraction back into lessons and they also offer therapeutic work.

There was a lot more in the sessions regarding specific strategies to achieve this, such as all staff involvement in coaching groups, and their focus on the difference between management vs development following a behavioural issue. They also made it very clear that pupil outcomes were more important than school outcomes (e.g. A8) and it is not about school accreditation. That this was a sacrifice the senior leadership had bought into to put the pupils at the heart of the school and have a positive impact on the local community.

My questions following it though were predominantly about funding and time. To implement an effective pastoral response to poor behaviour and to support requires a good deal of time and staff resources. Both of these require money, something that many schools simply do not have unless they make sacrifices in other areas. Also to ask staff to buy in to a culture where a pupil assault would end up with them facing them in lessons in the future is not a risk many teachers would be prepared to accept, and it would not be possible for all schools to staff their schools where there are already shortages in some subjects. It also requires innovative and passionate senior leaders who staff want to work for, and there are so many different styles of leadership this simply isn’t possible. That said I felt very inspired hearing both Lucie and Tom speak and I can see how they have been so effective in turning round the schools they work with.

So to conclude, it feels like this is an area with a lot of uncertainty. It made me feel reassured that there are a large group of adults out there who work in education and research who are passionately, pursuing answers, but there is a lot of work to be done to change policy at a governmental level to get the impact that this issue really needs. I look forward to educating myself in the coming months, and anyone who can recommend reading or direct me to relevant research it would be greatly appreciated.

Starting again – 2019 resolution!

It has been a long time since I last wrote on this.  In fact it stalled not long after @Staffrm shut down and I had my first child – I don’t know which was more relevant!  My career has changed a little in that I now work in a mixed state academy 11 – 16.   The change was to broaden my horizons and it has done just that but not necessarily in the way I anticipated, but that’s a blog for another time. Having just begun mat leave for a second time I am determined to ensure that my career continues over the next few months and that I can utilise the absence of lesson planning and marking for some educational research alongside nappy changing. I have been pretty proactive in wait for the arrival of baby 2 having just been appointed a co-opted governor for a local primary school and embarking on the #mtptproject (@maternityCPD).  It’s early days on both of these but we’ll see where they take me in the remaining months. I’ve also managed to make use of childcare to attend the recent #WomenEd Unconference in Sheffield and The Difference’s #IncludeEd North conference, and these have both influenced my most recent reading and reflections.

Grouping Students to Raise Attainment

There is a lot of data to show that thoughtful seating plans can raise attainment and improve behaviour.  Personally I now have all my classes arranged in a ‘most able, least able’ formation, with the belief that if my lower ability students are struggling and I am otherwise detained with another pupil (who has just smashed a beaker/set themselves on fire etc) that there is an interim level of support.  It also means that in a practical subject one of the pair undertaking the experiment should have understood the safety measures in place.  I change the seating plan after every internal test/exam and now the boys are used to this routine so any changes cause minimal disruption.

So has it made an improvement?  I haven’t got any hard data to prove it has worked but my classroom ‘spidy sense’ says yes it does.  On a practical note I feel there is a lot less mess after experimental activities and the class all seem to get the work carried out and cleared up in a similar length of time – before I would be forever waiting for a couple of groups to get settled while the rest of the class was waiting to continue.  On a academic note I now ask the pupils to check that their partners have underlined headings/dated work/spelled key word correctly, and as a result I am definitely spending less time red inking books.  I also tend to find that the more able pupils quite like explaining things and the less able are receptive to asking more questions in this less public setting.  Where my middle ability are matched up together they seem to work well plugging in each others gaps, but I am also able to focus more of my time on this often overlooked group of pupils.  So does this mean the top ability don’t get stretched?  The answer is no because this is simply a seating plan and does not detract from the fact that the resources and lesson itself has elements of differentiation and stretch and challenge.

I am also flexible in my seating plans.  While this is the default position the class will get rearranged for some activities so like abilities work together at times but that can wait for another time.

My first #teachmeet

This evening I attended my first #teachmeet.  Enticed by the title ‘High ability’ and always on the look out for new classroom ideas to engage all learners I thought I’d see what inspirational ideas my fellow teachers had to share.  After giving my Lower Sixth form stick about not taking opportunities to ‘lead’ (by presenting a Ted Talk in assembly) I felt that I really ought to lead by example and put myself in a presenting position that would potentially take me out of my comfort zone (but would hopefully do me good in the long run).

So this evening saw not only my first teachmeet but also stupidly? bravely my first slot presenting. When I committed to the event it was before I was given the last minute opportunity to attend a CPD course on ‘Differentiation’ on the same day.  This course shed some interesting strategies which I look forward to trialing over the coming weeks but also meant I spent much of my working day munching through vast quantities of chocolate croissants/chocolate biscuits/muffins/more biscuits so by the time the presentation slot came up at 6.30pm (and after another piece of chocolate cake – it would be rude not to right?) I was experiencing what is commonly referred to as a massive sugar rush.  So a normally pretty calm me found myself standing up facing a room full of random teachers and talking somewhat faster than usual with my heart beating so loud I practically had my own backing track.  I bottled my planned audience participation start in favour of what seems to be the more traditional ‘me talk you listen’ approach taken by the other seasoned professionals and proceeded to give an example of how stretch and challenge can be embedded in lessons.  It wasn’t my finest presentation and I missed a lot of key points out but I did it, and at the end I was approached by Charlotte Still from the RSC with some new educational opportunities for my pupils.  I wouldn’t have known about these if I hadn’t presented and I know by keen Year 7 Science Clubbers will be stoked to be part of the RSC’s Mission: Starlight programme.

Next form period I will regale the ordeal to my semi-interested, teenage boy filled form and hopefully make them realise how important it is to embrace new opportunities, even if you’re not quite certain whether it’s a good thing at the time.  I have two more #teachmeet events lined up in the next few weeks and I know next time I’m going to smash it.

My motivation

A reoccurring theme for teachers today is to educate young people into the negative implications of living your life via social media.  Personally I am tired of lecturing bored looking teenagers about what they shouldn’t post online, so instead I have decided to lead by example and promote the concept of creating a positive digital profile through a blog.

I spend hours every Autumn term reading through the personal statements of aspirant medics who struggle to fit the vast number of extra-curricular commitments into 4000 words, massacring vast quantities of worthwhile text that would help reflect the thoughtful and reflective nature  of my students.  Instead I have put it to them – why not start a blog?  While it is unlikely that the poor soul who is given the unenviable task of reading the thousands of applications that come flooding in will actually access the blog it would provide lifelong evidence that at the age of 11 they were passionate about becoming a doctor/vet/lawyer. If future employers undertake a digital background check how impressed would they be to instantly see how articulate, reflective and motivated their interviewee was as a teenage boy and just think what kind of a man must he have become?

So here is my experiment.  I am going to try and encourage a small group of pupils to create a blog in the hope that it might make us all a little bit more reflective about our lives.