Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Bex Trex gets a new home!

Bex Trex is moving on - Click here to visit the new site. 

A fresh start for a new chapter.

Now I'm no longer reflecting on my ITT and NQT years and the process of studying for my Masters I feel it's time for Bex Trex to move on.

I'll still be blogging, but hopefully with more teaching and learning content and potentially resources.

The new link is:

Teaching and Learning Missions. Mission 1

Inspired by @MrsHumanities I am going to be introducing something new to the MFL department tomorrow. Taking her idea of teaching and learning mission cards I am going to be challenging the department to try new ideas each week.

My plan is to send a mission to the department on a Friday afternoon, they apply it to their teaching, give me a quick bit of feedback (email, post-it note on my desk, chat at lunch - however they like) and I will share the feedback around when I send out the next mission. This year we are trying much harder to share as a department, motivate students for MFL learning beyond what's compulsory and adapt teaching to the new specification. I'm hoping that this will be a way of doing it.

As well as serving the aims set out above, preparing the missions is also really helping me.  I'm reading lots of interesting blogs and articles and getting back into reading about pedagogy in a more informal way again after my dissertation.

This week I have taken inspiration from Gianfranco Conti and his 6 things he always does in lessons ( I have asked colleagues to try to 'Prevent the so-what? effect'. Starting the year with students knowing exactly why what we are teaching is worth learning is really important, but will only be effective if we continue throughout the year.

My intention is to start by showing year 7 the importance of learning languages, remind other year groups and put their current learning into context.

I'll let you know how we get on and what we're going to focus on the next week.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Ride the coaster

Joining in with NQT Chat last week, I suggested that teaching was like riding a rollercoaster. I'm going to stretch that analogy a bit far now when I tell you how it maps onto my story so far. Stick with it trainees and NQTs, you'll get there.

The start of my ITT felt very much like climbing a very long hill, knowing there was only going to be one way down. I felt like I was waiting a long time, others had overtaken me and I was still hanging around, wanting to be given more responsibility. I was enjoying the view and gradually getting higher as I picked up more teaching hours. I guess a lot of the year went that way. Then a member of the department went on maternity leave earlier than expected, I reached the top and started flying downwards. Lots more teaching hours, more marking and planning and everything else that came with it. I enjoyed it, for the challenge I guess. In September I started at my new school, everything drifted along ok, there were some ups and downs as I got used to things, but the ride was good. Then in the October of my NQT year I got stuck in a big loop-the-loop, I was stuck and I wanted to get off. I started to think about other rides I could be on, ones that would be better, even bought tickets for these other rides (yes, I told you I'd take the analogy too far...). But I didn't get off, I came out of the loop, worked out what was going wrong and fixed the problem. Soon enough I was enjoying myself again, the ride had changed and things were better. It was worth the loop-the-loop to get to this point. In January I went to a different theme park, its very different to the last and I've just had an upgrade. I think my upgrade has probably given me a queue jump to the bigger, scarier rollercoasters, but I won't get stuck in the loop-the-loop again, and if I do, I know how to get out without getting off of the ride.

I think that what I'm trying to say, is that for anyone starting their ITT or NQT this year, you should expect it to be a rocky ride, and that's actually nothing to be scared of. You just have to go with it, make changes when you need to, but don't scream to be let off of the ride. Not just yet, it'll get better and you'll be pleased you did!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Ambitions for 2016-17

Inspired by a photo someone posted earlier (although I must now admit that I can't actually find it again) I jotted down my ambitions for the new school year. This year is different to previous ones I think because I'm at a different stage in my teaching

2013-14 --> Get through ITT
2014-15 --> Complete NQT
2015-16 --> Manage on full timetable, settle into new school, finish MA.

So what does 2016-17 bring? The first thing I have to do is finish my MA, the dissertation is due in on 1st October so that doesn't really count as a huge part of my year (unless it fails of course...) so there are other things for me to think about this year. I reckon that this year is going to be more about (and excuse how cheesy this is going to sound) finding who I am as a teacher.

What I mean by that is that ITT was about ticking boxes, learning all things that you need for the PGCE, NQT was about learning what parts of the ITT training were worth keeping and what was mumbo-jumbo to be ignored and then getting used to things. I suppose last year could've been about me, if I hadn't taken on an MA and moved schools, so last year was still about the academic and getting used to things. This year is, as I've said before, a bit different. Or at least I intend it to be.

This year I intend to vary my teaching a bit more, step out of some of the safe teaching I've let myself get into. I'm hoping this is something the new GCSE specification will help me to do, I'm also introducing something to my department to help us with this that I'll explain later. I intend to set myself a marking timetable and stick to it properly as well as making sure I'm setting more worthwhile homework. I want to make the most of form time, with a year 12-13 group I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do that yet, but I'll find something... I want to work on all the exciting plans I've talked about with my head of department for raising the profile of languages in school. I hope to be a good NQT mentor, a slightly scary responsibility that I hope I will be able to do well in, I'm really looking forward to it. I can't wait to get blogging again, although what form this will take I'm still not sure, I enjoy the space blogging gives me for reflecting on things but the opportunities aren't quite so frequent as they were in ITT/NQT so maybe I need a new focus. Finally, I want to take part in #teacher5aday again, I started a couple of times and failed, I think this may be my chance, but I'll need a push to do it.

Going back to what I'm introducing with my department to vary teaching - I'm taking the idea of Teaching and Learning Missions from @MrsHumanities and adapting it. I have been compiling a list of 'missions' or challenges that members of the department could complete that week (it's not compulsory). The challenges will be linked to varying our teaching and coming up with new ideas to fulfill the requirements of the new specification for GCSE and A Level and transferring this down to KS3. Each week I'll send out a mission, at the end of the week I will ask for feedback and will share what I get with the department. Hopefully it will be good for us not only as individuals but for sharing best practice across the department.

The exciting plans I mentioned are ongoing, with the aim of raising the profile of MFL within the school. We're looking at a range of extra curricular activities to motivate students to study MFL (the subject of my dissertation, which is why I'm so keen to get on and do it!). We've talked about our use of display boards in corridors, the way we praise and reward students, the activities we do in class, the activities we provide at lunch times and the way we are going to celebrate European Day of Languages. There is so much buzzing around that I can't blog about it yet, I will do once we get things going!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Motivated for MFL study?

As most who follow me will know, because of my frequent moaning, I am currently writing my dissertation for my MA in Education. What you may not know is that I have been looking into how the extended curriculum (including trips in the UK, trips abroad, lunch and after school activities, contact with native speakers etc) affects student motivation to study MFL.

In the course of my research I have surveyed students and teachers about the various activities on offer at their schools and how they think it has influenced their motivation to study MFL. I'll post something more detailed at a later date once the data is analysed, the dissertation is all sent off and it has been marked but it's got me thinking about what I might do differently in September and the sorts of things we could introduce as a department.

I'm going to blog my ideas soon but I'd like to gather together some information on what you all do in your schools. This won't be used at all for the dissertation but will be used in a blog to share the best of what we all have going on. (This is nothing official and please do not take this as a reflection of my approach to my dissertation, this is not linked to my dissertation, just inspired by it).

If you wouldn't mind taking part I'd really appreciate it, I think we can all get something useful from sharing what we have planned.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Dissertation, trips and new opportunities.

Yet again it's been ages since I last posted, every time this happens I promise myself that I'll write more often but I think I'll face facts now that it's not going to happen.  It's not that I'm not interested any more, that couldn't be further from the truth.  I've bought my ticket for the ResearchEd national conference in September, had exciting talks with colleagues following CPD from Tom Sherrington and still have a list of books I want to read that is as long as my arm!  It's just that blogging isn't the first thing that I leap to do anymore.  That said I still want to keep it up, maybe I'll get more regular again one day...

There has been a lot going on of late, not least of all my dissertation.  The ideas and things seem to be coming together now, thank goodness, and I've got enough survey responses to work with from both heads of department and students. I've still got a long way to go with it, that's for sure, but things are looking up.

Last weekend I went on my fist residential trip abroad, taking 72 year 7s to France. Wow, I've never looked forward to a weekend so much as this one.  The trip was great but exhausting so I was ready for Friday night.  It was a really good first trip to go on and I have another coming up in 2 weeks time, this time with less children and a wider age range as it's the music department tour.  Paris here we come!  I'm seeing both of these as great practice as come October I'll be leading my own trip with 30 year 11s to Andalucia, Spain.

My most exciting piece of news though, is that as of September I will be Second in MFL and Curriculum Leader for Spanish.  I can't wait to get started and have loads of things that I'd like to see happen to raise the profile of languages at the school.  The great thing is that I get on really well with the Head of Department and I think we're more or less on the same wavelength with most things.  The question is just which idea to start with first...

The last thing to mention is the one that I think is probably the most important.  We have a new member of staff starting this week, she's an NQT and I'm going to be her mentor.  I'm really looking forward to the opportunity, but it's such a responsibility that I'm starting reading up already.  If we get on as well as I did with my NQT mentor then I'm sure we'll be just fine.

This post seems to have turned into a news update as opposed to a comment on any issues this time but I'm sure the things I've mentioned are each going to throw out their own issues for discussing soon!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Note from a Recently Qualified Teacher

'The worst time to be in teaching' it has been said to me,
Things are dark and dismal, 'no time to drink our tea'
The piles of books are growing, more data sheets to fill,
There's progress to be made, resilience to instill.

We're working longer hours and our performance manages our pay,
And that MP on the tele wants to extend the school day?!
The arts are disappearing with that Ebacc on the scene,
Do they think that rigorous studies suit each and every teen?

The answers that we're searching for, no one really knows,
We're all quite frankly in the dark, and honestly, it shows.
But I think we're forgetting something, a concept that is key,
This isn't only happening to teachers, can't you see?

Time changes things for everyone, not always for the best,
And no, we didn't come into the profession to teach them to the test.
Performance management is rubbish, but it was only a matter of time,
With other professions we've been brought into line.

I'm not saying it's all fine and dandy, I acknowledge it's not ideal,
And yes, some of these reforms are like reinventing the wheel.
But maybe it's the future and we have to make things work,
Don't forget the holidays, they must remain a perk.

It's a time of opportunity, a time to influence change,
Even if some new ways may at first seem strange.
Eventually things will be better,
We'll get there one of these days.

I know this view's not popular, and I know that things aren't fair,
Just think of us newer teachers, we cannot stand and despair.
This is the profession we're entering, however it may be,
Even if it's not quite the one that you used to see.

We'll have to make the best of it, we'll do whatever we can,
And don't worry, we'll stick up for ourselves, we'll come up with a plan.
But don't stand there and tell me how bad it is, how my career will turn out,
I'm already nervous of what is ahead without you shedding doubt.

Please keep fighting for what is right, and make your opinions known,
But let's not give the impression, that all we do is moan.
It doesn't do us favours, it will not help our cause,
So when times are getting hard, maybe we should pause.

Remember teachers, you're not alone working late tonight,
Keep the faith, that moving on, things will be alright.
The road ahead is long and rough, that I won't deny,
Things though, they can get better, as the months go by.