In the interests of balance and practising what I preach to my students I’ve taken a few days off over Easter. Since the lockdown started in the UK, I have worked every day to get on top of new ways of teaching, complete marking and give feedback quickly to my students and consider processes for rank ordering my GCSE students and sending grades off to the exam boards. Whilst social media is full of friends spring cleaning and redecorating their houses, revamping their gardens, organising helpschemes for neighbours, coordinating volunteers to make scrubs for hospital workers, distribute palletloads of donated Easter eggs or just feeling bored, my life has changed very little, except that I’m doing it from home with all my family around me. Switching off and leading a balanced life is SO important.
Now that the Easter weekend is over, it’s full steam ahead to prepare for next term – teaching remotely but with one eye on returning to school before the end of term. I’m in the process of revamping the independent learning programme I introduced at the start of the year and organising some activities for our remote INSET day next week.
It’s a lot of work but the opportunity to rethink and redraft my original ideas is a positive. Proof that the best learning happens when you take some risks, recognise any mistakes you make, embrace them and are flexible enough to change and try something different. Students take note. When I finish the program, not only will I have learned a lot about myself and my leadership but there might be a book about independent learning in this.
You know my expectations are always high but a modern day King Lear might be a step too far. If you were due to sit GCSE or A Level exams in a few weeks, you may be feeling a bit lost. I get that. Even last week your teachers may have been setting you work to complete before there was publication on Friday of the mechanism for teacher assessment.
You may well find that your school gives you the opportunity to sit some semi-formal open book assessments to mark the end of your GCSE and A Level courses. They may well get you started on preparing for your A Level or degree courses.
But what if you’re still at a loose end? What happens over the next few days and weeks?
First have a break. Be kind to yourself. Take stock.
Then get stuck into a new project.
If there is a last hurrah of GCSE and A Level type assessments you’ll be sent details over the next few days. I’ll be working on a preparation package for my GCSE students who are intending to study English at A Level. In the meantime, why not try these challenges, shared by the school my own children attend and slightly reimagined by me? Even your parents might like to join in.
My research project is ready to launch. I’ve spent the last term reading, researching and making contact with senior leaders in other schools about workable strategies that they use to improve outcomes for students without putting the students, themselves or their staff under unnecessary pressure. Easy gains is what I’m after. Different and smarter ways of working – not putting in extra hours. There is a heap of excellent research-based learning out there and that has informed the design of my program.
It’s a pilot, under construction with some year groups, whilst proceeding apace with others. I have a team of teachers across all departments working with me, some handpicked by me and other volunteers. We have vision, bags of energy, a determination to create something worthwhile for the teachers and the students at the school – and home-baked cake. Having established level descriptors for reporting on independent learning and devised some tutorial materials, now we’ll be looking at the great activities that are already happening in the school to promote independent learning and finding ways to share and celebrate them all.