Mission Impossible?

Today was school visit day on LfL.

We were to visit Blackridge Primary in West Lothian. It came with great credentials. A very good inspection in 2003, where ICT and leadership were highly praised. On meeting HT, Susan Ralston, and touring the school it became very clear as to why.

Susan had developed her vision for ICT with her staff and had a clear and realistic timeframe in which to work towards acheiving that vision.

Very heartening to see was the commitment of all of her staff into embedding ICT into the curriculum; and it was most certainly not seen as an “add-on”.

However, perhaps most refreshing was the lack of “gloss”. In this fast evolving scene of new technologies, it’s easy to go for the high profile ideas which are trendy and in vogue. It’s easy to forget the simple, but effective uses of ICT which undoubtedly enhance teaching and learning. Yes, Blackridge have invested heavily in their fair share of interactive whiteboards and are making very good use of them in every classroom; but it was the other uses that struck me more today.

From the infant operating the Powerpoint display of Nativity songs in the rehearsal in the Hall; the great wee phonics program being used by the P7 pupil in the Support for Learning Base; to the French quiz devised by the P6 class for use at the Enterprise evening with Parents, utilising the cluster “Quizdom” system to gather results.

What better evidence do we need of Confident Individuals, Successful Learners, Responsible Citizens and Effective Contributors?

My thanks to Susan, her staff and pupils for a thought-provoking, inspiring and reassuring afternoon.

And my vision? Well I’m not ready to share that with you yet. You see I’ve got a lot more ideas, but I want to go back and discuss things with my staff. I also want to give them a hearty pat on the back.

Mission Impossible was the title we gave to the presentation we made to the larger group upon our return from Blackridge.

However, upon relection I’d rather re-title it to – Mission Impossible…

Leadership for Learning

I haven’t posted for an awful long time – not because I haven’t wanted to; more to do with lack of time!

I’ve a little more time tonight though, as I’m at Stirling Management Centre doing my residential Leadership for Learning.

I’m looking forward to exploring further the whole concept of the leadership of e-learning within my school; and I hope to get more answers to questions – or at least more time to think things through! Interesting at the outset is my vision for ICT within my school. It’s a buzz word but what does it boil down to? I’ve got lots of ideas as usual, but formulating it into a “vision?”…

Perhaps my visit tomorrow to Blackridge Primary will help me do that. I’ve just read their fantastic inspection report, and I’m looking forward to going there and seeing and hearing of their ICT first hand.

I’ll try to blog tomorrow to let you know where my thoughts and experiences have led me – hopefully closer to formulating that “vision” and closer to some “answers”.

What I do know, though, is- I’d like one of those X-Press voting systems for school. I’ve got some ideas for it’s use already!…

All SETT to go…

I’m looking forward to my annual visit to SETT this year.

I’ve made time to attend on both days. Other colleagues, I know, probably think that I could spend my time in better ways, but I beg to differ! Each year the seminars I attend inspire us to greater things as a school when I share with staff, either over coffee when they attend themselves, or back at school as we share and reflect; and the ideas gleaned and resources viewed at the exhibition often end up featuring somewhere @ Cardross Primary.

This year, Thursday sees the “Management Team Day”. I will be attending with my two PT’s. A very good idea, we feel, as we can plan for future developments after the same experience – and we’ll do the rounds of the exhibition together, which will save us trying to explain what it was that caught our attention / interest / enthusiasm which we saw individually.

Following Andrew Brown’s lead I’m posting my whereabouts…

Wednesday
12.15 – Every Child Matters – How does the teacher ensure that this Happens?
4.00 – Developing Leadership and Collegiality
Afterwards til 6.00 – TeachMeet 06

Thursday
9.30 – Making Learning Fun
12.45 – To Blog or Not to Blog?
2.45 – The Powerful Effect of Teaching Thinking Explicitly as a Skill

If anyone’s been reading my blog over the past weeks, they’ll hopefully see the tie up with these sessions and the staff development we’ve been concentrating on in school. Approaches to Teaching and Learning, Introduction of ACfE and more creativity, the use of blogs in school.

Bring it on!…

Commiserations to Andrew on his failure to reach his 118. Not really a failure though – a very respectable score notched up!! Well done.

I’m lovin’ it!

You all know that I spend far too much time mulling over aspects of my job.
However, even I admit that this weekend it’s gone too far.
All day I walked round with a smile on my face.
Why? Well, when I awoke this morning I knew I’d had a great dream but could I remember what it was all about? I racked my brains all day until it came to me as I stirred my gravy pan while preparing dinner.

You see, while I stirred, my mind was going over the events that faced me this week. I was looking forward to my Assembly with P4-7 on Wednesday and planning the learning outcomes for it; and that’s when I remembered!!

I’d dreamt about Formative Assessment!!!!

Last week I blogged an entry that never appeared as the filter wasn’t attached to our phone connection and someone rang us as I was blogging. The phone call cut the connection and I lost my post.
In it I was describing my joy each week as I deliver a 45 minute Assembly to our Senior pupils. This is largely down to providing NCCT to staff and initially I wondered how on earth I could fill it!

But, like the McDonalds ad – “I’m lovin’ it!”

Far from it being a chore the time races in. I’m determined all NCCT should be a meaningful learning experience for pupils and so my assemblies have been full of interactive activities with plenty of involvement for the children. We’ve had the opportunity to learn new songs and the feedback from the children has been very good.
(In fact, one boy was heard to remark to another one lunchtime last week – “remember what we learned in Assembly!”)

While I reflected, I realised that far from being merely an Assembly, I was engaged in real teaching again. (Quite a novelty for a “non-teaching head”) I decided that I should share Learning Intentions and Outcomes with the pupils and follow the AifL model.

And this was my dream!
An all-singing, all-dancing Assembly where we “Walt -ed” (not wilted!) and “Wilf -ed” , used our traffic lights, and shared in an exemplary plenary!
I’m now facing that “Sunday Night Feeling” experienced by Karen.
But I’ll head off to bed and hope for some sweet dreams!

To Boldly Glow…

It’s a day for Congratulations –

Firstly to Sat, our P6 teacher!!

He’s been accepted as a Glow (formerly SSDN) Mentor for our Authority. A really good development opportunity for him – and I’m sure we’ll get some positive spin-offs for the school as well.

Secondly to Andrew, our Education Support Officer for ICT!!

He’s moving on to work in a seconded post for LTS – developing a new online facility for teachers in Argyll. An exciting project in which we wish him well. Read more about it here.

While we’re pleased with his success, we’ll be sorry to lose him. He’s provided us with much advice over the last few years and has helped us develop our thinking and practice in ICT.
I think I might know how to keep in touch though!…
We had a great session this afternoon for the Parents and Carers of our new P1 children.
It was an opportunity for us to share the P1 curriculum with them and is something we have done now for a number of years. Each year we learn a bit more and try to modify accordingly.
For a while we have been aware that there is only so much information @ this stage in the session that is both useful and meaningful. This year we cut down the information to the absolutely necessary and also gave participants a handout from our Powerpoint presentation.

The feedback from today has been positive. The participants were appreciative of the additional information – and the ways in which they can support their child’s learning. the handouts went down well; and the questions they asked at the end have been noted for inclusion next year.

We had two very positive and significant outcomes.

The first was the suggestion that we hold a Parents’ Workshop for Maths.
It seems that some parents would be interested in finding out the methods we now use to teach some mathematical concepts in order to help out with homework, particularly for older children. We, as teachers, know that the way we teach our pupils has changed certainly from the ways in which we were taught as pupils ourselves. It is clear that parents want to be better equipped in using these more up to date methods at home as, understandably, their children are confused when shown a different way at the homework table.

The second was the positive reaction to the creation of school blogs.
One parent spent quite a bit of time with me enthusing over these. I’ve spoken to a number of staff who are keen to set one up. We like the idea of creating a real context for writing and the prospect of a real and wide audience is an exciting one. In reading others the comments do certainly seem to motivate the children into blogging more…

I also mentioned that I have one, and the first school newsletter will be due next week. However, before I advertise the URL I need to give more serious thought to its use for Parents and others.

Like JJ though, time is very limited for all else now that term has started. Perhaps, instead of sheep-counting, I’ll do some hard thinking instead!

The Great Day Dawns…

On account of my “sheep-counting” last night, tonight’s entry will be short!

We had a great day.

Our returning pupils looked keen-faced and well turned out in their new uniforms. The day went calmly and quietly. Those pupils I had a chance to speak to were glad to be back; full of tales of their exciting holidays (the locations seem to get more exotic year on year) and looking forward to their new classes and teachers.

Our new P1’s came in without a murmur (all 28 of them), and what seemed like an army of Parents, Grandparents and Friends took us up on our offer of a cuppa after settling them in their classroom.

A good, new crowd of Parents who clearly enjoy socialising. I’m looking forward to getting to know them as the year progresses.

Another bright spot was only having to re-timetable a couple of things so far! I can only hope that this is the last of it…

Counting Sheep

I’m lying in bed (oh the beauty of wireless technology!), preparing to get an early night before “the big day” tomorrow.

(I actually don’t know why I’m bothering as I know I’ll be counting sheep all night. I realise that no matter how long you’re in this game the “first-day jitters” will always be there; although now I go through it twice – before the staff return, and then before the pupils!!)

Anyway, it gives me a chance to reflect on our INSET days last week…

We had two. Rather than having pupils restart on a Friday – and allow our new entrants to suffer two bouts of separation anxiety – we opted for a Monday return for pupils. The downside being a full week to begin with!

I know all those reading outwith the teaching profession will be pooh-poohing this statement, following our 7 week break; but I defy anyone to motivate a class of new P1’s by Thursday of this week. They’ll be sleepwalking into school – but I’ll keep you posted!

Anyway, I digress –

Back to our back to back INSET days.
We were truly motivated as a staff when Eleanor Gavienas and Jenny Logue of Jordanhill College came on Thursday to refresh our thoughts in an excellent day on Classroom Mangaement and Organisation.
It wasn’t rocket science or indeed any well-kept secret; merely a sharing of excellent practice in teaching and learning methods in classrooms today.

After the bondage of 5-14 for the past 15 years or so, the prospect of A Curriculum for Excellence is really quite liberating. It will free us up to teach in the creative and dynamic way which spurred us on into entering the profession. We’ve learned a lot about the way in which we learn since the introduction of the curriculum guidelines in the early 90’s; and this, coupled with the imagination of excellent practitioners will bring excitement and real achievement to our schools.

Day Two saw our Staff Meeting and a chance for me to share my vision with the staff.
CPS is already a good school, but together we can make it an excellent school. It’s through dynamic teaching, mutual respect and “going the extra” mile that we can make this happen. We’re a strong team and entering into a new session is a good time to revisit this notion.

So, roll on Session 2006-07. It will certainly bring fresh challenges – of that I have no doubt – but it will also bring adventure, excitement and success.

We’re up for it, so bring it on!…

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Well, here I am on the eve of my return to work following a long 6 month Maternity Leave.

How do I feel?

  • anxious
  • excited
  • nervous
  • upbeat
  • ready

… but in truth – a bit sad. I love my job. I’m devoted to my staff and pupils and committed to doing the very best job I can. BUT – there’s something in my hormones still that will look at my baby girl tomorrow as I leave – and weep.
I’m sure I’ll very quickly get over it; probably directly after I pick up the first memo or phone call or file. There’s a wealth to look forward to in my return. I’ve had lots of great new ideas while I’ve been off and had time to read papers and journals properly – not to mention the great sites and blogs I’ve trawled.
I’ve had a wonderful time off. I’ve spent precious time with my children, but all good things must come to an end.

I’ll remember it fondly and pack my briefcase ( or Farmfoods bag!)

‘McGroan Time’

Have just spent the last 4 hours trying to timetable “McCrone” for the staff for next session.

Having done the same exercise for the past two sessions I’d just thought I’d got to grips with it, then the cruel twist for 2006 reared; ‘up it to 2 and a half hours’.
Ever fair, I go to the Nth degree to work out exactly how much time is owed to individual staff members – including my part time staff. This feels like a ridiculous exercise: 1 staff member although full time, only has class contact time for 15 hours 50 minutes in the week; therefore she is owed 1hour 36 minutes of NCCT (hope we have the timer set!!)

Working out allocations is the doddle – trying then, to fit the time divisions into a meaningful Primary School timetable is the killer.

My brain is frazzled, my eyes are glazing over and I can no longer add minutes together…groan.JPG
I appreciate anew the difficulties some children have when getting to grips with the mathematical concept of Time.
What I’ve come up with works fine on paper – I think the Maths bit tallies and the children will be educated as opposed to being baby-sat.

However, all this and I’m supposed to be on Maternity Leave.
Only hope the staff appreciate it.
No doubt it will all have changed by August!…

Sorry Miss, the dog ate it…

j0407016.jpgOut at my Book Group tonight and remembered what is was like when you haven’t done your homework properly.

I’d put off reading the book; “The Case of the General’s Thumb” by Andrey Kurkov, right up until the last minute. However being on Maternity Leave meant that I could devote my whole day today to getting it read. I finished it 40 minutes before the Group began.

Feeling proud (and relieved) I headed off ready to expound on its failings and virtues only to discover that over half of the members hadn’t got around to finishing it either! (Yes, most work in Education!)

Despite this we all managed a pretty full discussion around it.

Got me thinking:

  • How many of our pupils and teachers only come ‘half-prepared’ – but still manage to “wing it”?
  • How many like me, go to great lengths to do a job properly?

Guess the answer sadly too often must be:

  • ‘Lots’ to the first point – and
  • ‘Very few’ to the second!

Pity really…