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Reflections on 2018/19, hopes for 2019/20

After what has seemed like an eternity, the end of 2018/19 is somehow upon us. When I started this blog a few months ago, I did it with a promise to myself that I would become more reflective, engage with practitioners from across education because ‘every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better’.

Since starting the blog, I’ve engaged with amazing practitioners and leaders, learned more than I ever thought possible and recently spoke at the Northern Celebration of Education event at Northumbria Uni. That fulfilled a lifelong dream – a journey from starting my teaching career and thinking I wasn’t good enough, to being asked to give a workshop on behaviour (something which I, like every teacher, has struggled with at times).

I’ve reflected on this year, so I can start to plan for next. Here are a few of my reflections:

Building better relationships

As well as talking about this at the Northern Celebration of Education event, I’ve previously blogged here and here about the importance of building relationships with students. It is a priority in every class I teach to do this, but I’ve worried this year that my experiences of being successful through being strict in Secondary are tainting potential relationships with students in FE. I regularly worry that I’m patronising students and that this barrier stops them from fully engaging with content.

For 2019/20: I’m going to be more honest and open with students to try and build better relationships. I’ll find it enormously uncomfortable (I know this), but I’m going to support in vocational areas, give students more independence in their work (less strict structure from me) and work harder to understand them.

Working smarter, not harder

As the Trads vs. Progs war rages, and each side discusses what they taught and when they taught it (with vague commentary about why), it has become obvious since moving to FE that I have been conditioned into collecting data for the sake of data. It’s not helpful. It crushes students, it burdens staff and it increases workload. So, we’re going to get rid of a lot of it.

For 2019/20: As reflected here, we’re using low stakes quizzes instead of length assessments next year. We’ll instead ‘give a number’ to a piece which students would have been completing anyway instead of lengthy and unreliable exam style assessments. What’s more, we’re moving away from written feedback and instead going to look at whole class feedback and highlighting success criteria to help students develop.

Slow down

This year, like most, I achieved personal targets and missed personal targets. With a 2-year-old playing joyous havoc at home, for the first time in my career, I’ve reflected that I made need a more sustainable workload. It’s not that I’ve ‘struggled’ at any point (though I’ve certainly moaned for England), but as family life demands attendance at school plays, recitals etc., it won’t be possible to try to finish every task, fight every battle and be everything to everyone. As Jamie Thom’s excellent book ‘Slow Teaching’ advocates, to have more impact, it’s time to slow down.

For 2019/20: As detailed above, I’m hoping to minimise marking and have more impact. It won’t be about making massive changes to anything I do, but more about small, incremental changes that will hopefully help me to work smarter. That will start from the first day of next year when I start to interrogate further and ask, ‘Is this important? If it stopped happening, would there be a difference?’

The search for research

Through engaging with more research and those who are writing it, I’ve started to look more and more at research in FE and the impact this has. It’s not always easy to find, but the research on FE has really motivated me to engage further. Having come from Secondary, I feel that classroom bases are the beginning of quality relationships with students and give teachers a sense of belonging and confidence in their style. Problem is, there’s not a lot out there to back this up, so I decided to create a survey to start some investigation, and next year I’m hoping to do something with it…

For 2019/20: Having put together the survey on the potential impact of classroom bases (E&M FE practitioner? Please complete here), I’m going to try and investigate this further and come up with some sort of coherent conclusion. I’ll also have a chance to do this as we’re working with the local Maths Centre for Excellence.

Whatever next year holds, if it’s anything like as rewarding and informative as this one, I can’t wait to get stuck in.


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