Timetabling

When I think of my career, I like to think that I’m quite motivated. Over the next couple of years I’d love to progress to Senior Staff. However, one role that I know that I do not want is timetabling!

Years ago, a friend said they’d hate to be prime minister. It’s a job that no matter what you do, there will always be someone who’s not happy. I think being in charge of timetable is similar.

I like to think I’m organised. But the thought of working out timetables for 1,600 staff and 100 students in every department makes me so uncomfortable at the thought.

Timetable is something which can make your life easier or a nightmare. A good and balanced timetable can do the world of good for personal wellbeing. You can see the weight lifted off staff in the summer term when exam classes leave and they have ‘gained time’.

I think sometimes we forget how different people’s roles are and we have to remember the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes!

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Highs and lows of the Duke of Edinburgh award 

In my ‘spare’ time I’m a Guide leader. I’m a part of GirlGuiding in the UK. Part of my role is giving opportunities to girls and young women. One big thing is camping. 

When I joined my current school, I asked to join the award as a way to make friends. I learnt that it hadn’t run in a few years. Eventually, a group and I came together and said that we would run the scheme. Unfortunately, a member of our team passed away, none of us were in the right frame of mind to continue without her. 

In September we launched it for year nine. We started off with 20 students. When they realised the work they needed to put in to it, we went down to 10. Over the term we realised that weekly meetings weren’t for us, so we went down to monthly. A parent phoned me, furious that I wasn’t running weekly sessions and demanded to know what she was paying for. She didn’t realise that I was a volunteer. Her daughter and her friend left. Then there were eight. 

Two were removed by the head teacher for behaviour issues. We’re now on six. Then two dropped out as they didn’t want to do the work. When we got to four we decided to call it quits. 

These four amazing girls went to West Berkshire council and were supported by them through their D of E bronze. They’re due to complete it this year. 

It was my turn to reevaluate everything. I found a new mentor from the council. We have planned; an assembly for the current year eights, a taster session for those interested to attend after school and a ‘market place’ for students and parents to drop in and find out about the scheme. 

I’m hopeful that this year will be more successful!! 

PSHE/Citizenship/Personal Development. A subject with many titles. 

When I joined my current school, I received my timetable through and it had two periods a fortnight which just contained a code of letters and numbers. I emailed back and they stated it was their ‘project’ subject. As the year went on I learnt that this was their PSHE subject, it was taught as projects to bridge the gap between primary and secondary. 

Over the course of the year I taught year seven about: staying safe, different style of reading, how to be healthy, careers and a business module. My class were fine, the lesson was fine, the subject was overall fine. 

Then came November and the Paris terrorist attack. I created a short PowerPoint about what happened for form tutors. I sent it to SLT and I couldn’t believe their shock. They had never created something like this. Unfortunately since then there have been several power points. However, students are now ready for a conversation. A colleague told me that her year ten tutor group ask the morning after an attack ‘are we going to work through what Miss Nolan sent us?’ They’re so used to it now. 

We have started stronger communications with parents. We sent home a copy of the PowerPoint and the guide from the PSHE association on how to talk about attacks. If we think it’s a difficult topic to talk about, I can’t even imagine how parents feel. 

Then came October 2016, on the vacancies board the role of ‘Personal Development Lead’ came up. I went in with a two year plan for each year group. I explained how I would fit in British Values, PSHE and citizenship. The headteacher told me in my feedback that as far as he was aware he was giving me a job that I was already doing. 

So I’m eight months in to the job and so far we have: 

  • Held a self harm production for year nine. 
  • Had teacher training on self harm 
  • Supported 17 children who came to us after the production. 
  • CV writing sessions with year ten. 
  • Mental Health workshops with year ten. 
  • Planned a charity day with year nine. 
  • Looked at wellbeing, careers, democracy and year sevens reflected on their first year at Little Heath. 
  • Healthy Relationships day (they did an hour with Science for the Biology of it all, then came to us for period talks, FGM and what healthy relationships look like). 

I still have so much I want to do. I’m so looking forward to having a whole year to run everything I want to! 

Life as a KS3 lead of RE

Last March it was announced that two members of our department were leaving. Half of the only department I’d ever known abandoning me mid-NQT year. (I worried that I’d said or done something, but it was time for pastures new).

A quick conversation with my line manager and all of a sudden KS3 leader of RE was up on the board, internal candidates only. It may as well have said ‘be Clare Nolan’ on the ‘desirable’ qualities. With nerves and excitement I went for it and was given the job.

I changed everything. I made it more me. I could justify lessons and activities if I wrote them myself, I couldn’t do that with work someone else had created. So started the four month process of reviewing current work with staff and students and creating plans.

By September we had work ready, a folder for each of our teachers (three specialists and seven non-specialists). Everything was ready to go.

The year has been a challenge. The biggest one being changing to life without levels. Six months of refining and renewing and we think we’ve got something we’re happy with for September.

In my naivety last year I thought if I planned all the lessons then I’d be ready for a nice easy summer term. Oh no. I’ve found lots more that I want to include, ways to do things differently. I’ve realised that my perfect KS3 plan does not exist. So the hardest part of the job has been realising it.

Roll on year two and seeing the impact it has had on the transition to KS4.

This year…

So… I’ve finally had the kick up the backside to blog again.

What’s happened?

  • I’ve (nearly) survived a full year as KS3 Leader of RE.
  • I’ve become PSHE lead and I absolutely love it.
  • There was a failed attempt at re-starting the Duke of Edinburgh award at school. I’ve learnt and ready to launch in September.
  • Asked to open my own little Guide unit (ahhhh!!) and I cannot wait.
  • Supported leaders to run events and trainings in GirlGuiding.
  • Ran my first sex ed day.
  • Marked books, planned lessons, had good lessons, had bad lessons and met amazing pupils.

So my plan is possibly a blog on each bullet point?? I’ll see how I get on.

Here’s to a busy but exciting term!

Parents Evening 

When I was in year six we put on a play. It was people in 2056 looking back on their lives. One part was parents evening. A teacher was ready to say to a parent that they needed to adapt learning to suit the pupil better because she wasn’t very bright. Her mother had other ideas and wanted her to go to Cambridge. 

The other parent had a child who was very bright, but his parents want him to be a thug. In other words, you can’t win. 

As this was my first year, parents evening made me nervous. I quickly realised that some parents were more nervous than I was. 

I found parents evening fascinating. I learnt so much about the pupils. Sometimes it was a new respect for how much they do at home. My mentor suggested I recommend appointments for my top ten and my bottom yen from each class. This has balanced my parents evening nicely. 

Next year is the first year I have a sixth form parents evening. That should be interesting…

What happens in Key Stage Three? 

In February two members of our department handed in their notices to move on to pastures new. This resulted in huge changes in our RE department. Our KS4 lead is now Head of Department. We have a new member of staff joining us as KS4 lead and then myself as KS3 lead. Something which both excites and terrifies me. 

In our school key stage three is only years seven and eight. We start our GCSEs in year nine. Part of my role is to create new schemes of work for these year groups. Not only this but they must be non-specialist friendly as we have seven non-RE teachers teaching KS3 RE from September. 

This led to mass panic. What do I plan? Where do I begin? What do they need to know? What skills did they need? These are just a few of the questions that swarmed my mind. 

I began at the Local Agreed Syallbus and took it from there. I took out key points from syllabus and then I compared these to the skills for GCSE. I built in reflective tasks, research homework and peer assessment and remodelling. I edited and edited until I realised I was wasting my time. The only way I’ll know if these lessons are effective will be once they are taught and rolled out. Until then it’s really not worth stressing over (I still will though!). 

All KS3 hints and tips are greatly appreciated! 

‘Miss you look about 16’

Just to clarify, I do look very young. No matter where I go people comment on it. ‘Oh you must be ID’d wherever you go’ yes, yes I do. This is something I’ve grown used to and something that has been highlighted across my NQT year. 

September to December was my toughest time as an NQT. Pupils didn’t know who I was. I was new and young and they were going to test me. I didn’t stand for it. Four months of sanction and praise galore and it took until after Christmas for pupils to realise ‘oh she’s here for good’. Everything has settled down and my classes eventually were lovely.

However, there’s always a but. Many pupils liked that I looked and am young. They found me relatable and someone they could talk to and be honest with. There were some pupils who no matter what will still push it. I’ve been asked by a pupil if I’d have children with him, his friend stated it is because I look so young, he forgets I’m a teacher. Needless to say, he was quickly removed from my classroom. Both of them were actually. 99.9% of pupils will make a harmless joke, I’ve quickly realised the tone and the way you say things can change the meaning completely. 

It doesn’t bother me as much as it did at first. I’m fully qualified, have a good subject knowledge and the school I teach in are very complimentary of my teaching so does it really matter if I look young? 

My experience of completing a PGCE 

Let’s start as I mean to go on, I loved my PGCE year. 

In the three years leading up to my PGCE everyone told me that it was going to be the worst year of my life and that I may as well become a hermit. In reality it was my favourite year of my academic career. 

It could well be down to the fact that during my undergraduate degree I ran a Girlguiding unit in Liverpool whilst living in Chester, worked three shifts a week in a pharmacy, completed two dispensing qualifications, completed a degree, had a social life and in the final year had a long distance relationship. Whereas, my PGCE year I lived at home and I dedicated my time between visiting my boyfriend on weekends and doing my PGCE. 

However, it was a rocky start. A week before I began I had my tonsils removed. Five days later there was a complication. I wasn’t meant to be out in public yet but I was determined to start. 

After two weeks intensive training with the Guru (our course leader Francis) we were allocated schools. I was in a small school in Burscough three days a week and university two. I was eased into it. Two weeks of observations, a week of just starters, a week of starters and plenaries, a week of full lessons then just a week of assessments and it was already half term. Due to this gradual induction I felt prepared to take over the classes after the half term. Also, the balance of having university two and then one day a week really helped. 

I was very fortunate during my PGCE to have had two wonderful in school mentors and a fantastic course leader. 

I know I’m biased but if you were intending to go into teaching to go through PGCE (if you can get a space!). 

The importance of maintenance grants

When the media first reported that the government were planning on scrapping matenance grants my boyfriend and I were talking about it. 

He wasn’t eligible for one due to his parents income. I was given full grants and loans due to my dad being retired. I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to university without this grant and I worked too. 

I then thought about how many of my friends would have recieved the maintenance grant. I realised that it was quite a few. All of them couldn’t have attended university without these grants. That means there’s a generation of teachers, doctors and solicitors who all got to where they are because they were supported. 

I went to university when the fees were £3000. My PGCE cost more than my three years of university and doubled the amount I owe to student finance. 

What worries me, in a time when there is already a teacher shortage, does this mean that more people will be put off university because they haven’t got the finances to attend?