UKEdMag: New Beginnings by @TaffTykeC

The prolonged summer holiday is a great time to reflect, catch up with life, and start thinking about how you may change your teaching practice during the next academic year. In this article, first published in the August 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine, Catherine Steel (@TaffTykeC) reflects back on the 2013/2014 school year, and the hopes and challenges faced in the year ahead.

[pullquote]The summer holiday often allows teachers opportunities to recharge their batteries ready for their transformation into a more experienced practitioner.[/pullquote]

Here we are again – the summer holiday. I can already hear the groan from teachers watching countless TV adverts full of back to school promotions before they have even had chance to unload the car of countless resources! Teachers across the country are currently enjoying a glorious summer break. That’s more than 40 whole days free from marking, playground duty, staff meetings and assessment. However, I suspect that this is really not quite the case. I know that many teachers will be going in to set up their new learning environments, planning for the new school year or raiding Poundland for all it has got. Why then do we do it to ourselves?

I know of many fellow professionals in the world of education who want to inspire children and encourage them to be the best they can be. A lot of schools have a caring and aspirational ethos, which nurtures children as they make their way along their learning journeys. Schools and educational facilities become environments whereby it is safe to make mistakes and learn from them.

From September, educators in England will use the new National Curriculum, while other areas of making revisions to their frameworks. We recently learnt that there has been a change of Secretary of State for Education from Mr Gove to Nicky Morgan. As this change within the Cabinet is made, I ask the question: is change always a good thing?

I’ve often heard the phrase ‘it’s a vocation’, which as clichéd as that sounds, seems to be the case for a lot of educators. Being part of any team means being responsible for the personal, social and emotional well-being of all children in your care. I know that it’s one of the main reasons I enjoy the job so much and can’t imagine doing anything else.

As with all public sector jobs, there are certain documents to abide by and the routine checks by authorities, including Ofsted or your equivalent inspectorate in your area. As the rules and expectations are handed down from Governments, headteachers become increasingly under pressure and we’ve all felt the blind panic as an inspector walks through our door. I think it is character building and we ALL learn from mistakes no matter how old we are.

Change seems to be an inevitable part of working in a school, but I want to explore how change and transition happens in schools and whether change means improvement. Year in, year out, staff change roles, children move classes and we plough on through yet another academic year. Most teachers will have uttered the words each July, ‘I think this class is ready to move on now’, thus meaning that children and teacher alike are tired and ready for a change of pace.

The summer holiday often allows teachers opportunities to recharge their batteries ready for their transformation into a more experienced practitioner. And to think that only the children like Transformers!

In September we are all often refreshed and have a new found confidence to be the facilitators of learning that we aspire to be. Perhaps a change of mindset is in order so that you can find that elusive ‘work-life’ balance. As for the children, a change of classroom, teacher, or indeed school, can be exciting and offer opportunities for a fresh start.

However, sometimes change is not necessarily a good thing. Think about the child with Aspergers who will need support to adapt to new routines, the new Y7 children who are finding it hard at Secondary School or the move away from using levels for grading work. Time will tell whether this will lead to a change for the good but one thing we can be sure of is that September is approaching fast!

Along the theme of making a fresh start and new beginnings, perhaps this time of the year really is the best time to reflect. What are you good at? What would you like to be better at? How will you get there? This year may be a good time to consider varied teaching methods or make use of new tools.

Recently, I delivered training to NQTs about phonics, but demonstrated the use of technology throughout the session. Using what I know and passing skills on to others is how we can best develop the quality of education for the young people we serve.

One of the best ways of sharing ideas and developing as a practitioner is through the use of Twitter. From 1st – 7th September, @ukedchat and @batttuk are hosting the ‘Educator Networking Week’, with the aim of encouraging more teachers to engage in the world of Twitter and realise the potential for ongoing CPD. @batttuk stands for ‘Bring a Teacher to Twitter’ and has an ever-growing community of educators simply sharing good ideas so check it out. Only recently, there was a #ukedchat special about the ‘Pros and Cons of using Twitter for Professional Development’ bit.ly/uked14aug01 and is well worth a look, if not for your own use, then to share with others.

Many tips and tools that I personally have found useful have included:

  • the power of having and using a blog as a way of sharing work with a wider audience,
  • behaviour management tools including online gems such as classdojo.com,
  • homework tasks and quizzes through Zondle.com or ShowMyHomework.co.uk,
  • Padlet.com to collect thoughts and ideas in one place,
  • Incredibox.com to inspire budding musicians and beatboxers.

Read the rest of this article in the August 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine by clicking here.


Catherine Steel is currently a teacher at Bowling Park Primary School in Bradford and a freelance educator with a keen interest in using technology to enhance learning. Read her blog at catalystforlearning.wordpress.com and on Twitter at @TaffTykeC


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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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