Parenting without the Guilt

The Parent’s Tao Ching : Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by Will Martin

A gem of a book for all parents: this is not a self help book. Open it at any page and enjoy a calm, truly wise and reflective view of what we should do as parents, especially when faced with some of those difficult decisions we have to make.

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When parents come to see me with a concern, I often suggest that they take the time to trust in their own gut instinct, explore their core values and rely on their own life experiences before reacting to every one of their child’s requests and responses. Guide them, sure, love them, wholeheartedly, but give them the leeway to find things out for themselves. It is not a prerequisite to be top of the class to be successful in the future. Of course you should nurture their talents but resist filling every spare hour that they have with endless activities. Allow them the luxury of boredom. They will have to be creative and invent something to do. Stand back and enjoy watching them solve their problems and fill their time, bittersweet though it will sometimes inevitably be.

However, also know when to take charge.

Your son or daughter is guaranteed not like everything you do as a parent. Whether this is something big or small, despite your best efforts you will always be on a losing wicket..so don’t worry so much about it: do what YOU believe is right.

Most of what you do will be right. After all, you have the benefit of life experience. It fascinates me when a parent says, “We chose that school because little William (aged 6) liked it the best. He liked the fish and chips they had for lunch on the shadow day.”  How about buying little William fish and chips once a week and sending him to the school that will give him the best education for his strengths and abilities and that reflect your family values (surely none of which are merely food related.)

Let’s let our children be children and save the parenting for ourselves. Let’s give them space, time and a childhood.

And for me, when the going gets rough as a parent, I go back to one of my old favourites:

Now We Are Six – A.A. Milne

When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly newWhen I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever;

So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

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How often should schools be inspected?

Our school inspection is over and whilst I said I would report back, of course I cannot do so until the report has been verified and made ready for public dissemination in about six weeks time. Suffice to say that whilst long hours, hard work, anxiety and stressful anticipation were a large part of the process, so too were cameraderie, teamwork, polished performance and academic rigour. Everyone pulled together and the collective momentum was a real pleasure to be a part of.

I’m sure the staff wouldn’t like to hear this but I wonder if this process shouldn’t be a more frequent exercise? Six years, in the Independent Sector, is a long time between inspections in the increasingly fast-changing world of education and every school benefits from the accountability and recommendations offered by a reporting team. ISI are rigorous, reliable assessors of both regulations and standards and this is done in a professional, supportive manner that ensures whole school development and provision of quality education for each pupil. I suspect recipients of OFSTED inspections may feel differently and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that these inspections can be more prescriptive than supportive. I would be interested to hear general opinion about this from those who have experienced both formats.

How often do you think schools should be inspected?

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In-spectres looming

 

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Yep. They are due to be in next week. Yes, I know, we are privileged in independent schools. We know 5 days beforehand. I wonder though if this just prolongs the agony. I haven’t been to bed before 2.00pm since Tuesday and I know I’ll never be satisfied. There will always be something extra that I could do. After all, we want it all to be as perfect as possible and, something that people who don’t teach don’t understand is, the job of teaching is never done. We just decide that it is time to stop for the day. There is always something more that we can do: plan another resource for the child who still confuses their and there; create some extension activities for those on Level 5A or create philosophically rooted ‘creative thinking’ tasks to encourage debate, independent thinking and a chance to say something outrageous.

 

 It’s the same for inspections. There’s always something more we could do. We have until Monday night to add another couple of displays that are interactive and show use of ICT across the curriculum, with evidence of EAL and SEND. That’s not forgetting the G and T students whose work must show that they were clearly motivated and enriched especially when we link their learning to current affairs. Hence their frequent success in the CBBC Quiz of the week.  

 

This is before we burn out all the photocopiers with the newly adapted long and medium term plans, subject handbooks and policies, registers of support and enrichment and a raft of honed and well regulated school policies – that even include a policy on policies.

 

 We’ve already had tears, tantrums and teacher meltdown BUT teachers have been in school past 7.00pm, classrooms have been spruced up and planning has taken on a new edge. Everybody cares. What a privilege it is to be part of a team of professional people who only want the best for those that they teach. 

 

There is still a long way to go, with many teachers planning to be in on Saturday and Sunday. It’s scary but exciting; daunting but invigorating and anxiety-driven but hopefully affirming. I’ll let you know next week with top tips gained from what I have learned this time around. Bring it on!

 

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PSHE Planning for Paying the Kindness Forward

Subject:  Extract from PSHE  Planning                    Year Group : J5

Wk 1 Introducing Year Theme – Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) This theme will be referred to across the curriculum, as part of the tutor period, form the topic of the J5 Class Assembly and will be the focus of further PSHE lessons many times during the year.
  • Make a large paper cut out of a person. Hand it round the room instructing each child to do something unpleasant to it. Scribble, tear, scrunch for whenever you hear these phrases… No offence but…,Just to say…,Your are rubbish/useless at …Etc.
  • Use a rubber, iron etc to try to return it to its original state – not possible. This is what unkind comments do it us. We are going to change this by using Random Acts of Kindness.
  • Refer back to the rules on kindness displayed at the start of the day in the English lesson – poem ‘Smiling by Author Unknown’ – display was created with pupils passing on a smile.
  • The second paper cut-out will be used to display RAK spotted by J5 and the teachers. Teacher to have identified the first one
  • Explain that we are going to be doing an assembly on RAK. We need to:
  • Spot RAK around the school
  • Do RAK
  • Think of RAK ideas

www.kidactivities.net/post/Random-Acts-of-Kindness.aspx suggestions of what these might be….

Create a jigsaw wall display of the responses. Excellent free template available on Tpet.co.uk

Wk 2 and 3 Myself

To build up a comprehensive description of each pupil in J5

To begin to understand own learning styles

To start to understand own strengths and challenges

To recall personal important details that will be needed in future form filling

To reflect on random acts of kindness that each child has already experienced and to develop an appreciation for this.

 Skills/Activities

Discuss any current issues that have arisen during the week/ start of term.

How has the first week in J5 gone?

Create an Personal Information page focusing on the following: (Show teacher’s own example made on Educreations)

  • Personal details, birth date, address, siblings, pets
  • Passions, interests
  • Personal strengths/ personal challenges

Home and school

  • What random acts of kindness you have received from others

Extension : Children create their own Educreations presentations using the school iPads

Week 4 and 5 Children in Need, Fingerspellathon – The Importance of Charity

 

To understand the difficulties experienced by children in need with particular reference to those who are Deaf

Skills/Activities

  • Pupils to raise money for Children in Need – discuss the importance of charities and their role in raising money and awareness
  • Plan how to run the coin collection campaign – Make a picture using coins
  • Teacher to send out a letter about it to parents
  • Pupils to decide on their advertising campaign
  • Pupils will take turns to man the collection boxes
  • Start design posters/advertisements/blogs/twitter messages
  • Letter to parents requesting items

http://www.ndcs.org.uk/help_us/schools_fundraising/fingerspellathon/welcome.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnaIJ6t2_Jg for spellathon quiz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1VUpNv80IQ 11:57

Week  6 RAK – Pay it Forward

  • Toothpaste Tube – squeeze some out for each of these phrases on the keyring –
  1. No offence but…
  2. Just to say…
  3. You are rubbish/useless at …

You cannot put the toothpaste back in – you cannot take back the unkind things that you have said.

  • During the term : Add photos to the display of the kindness activities done and any random acts of kindness spotted around the school.
  • Read How full is your Bucket for Kids by Rath, Reckmeyer and Manning and Have you filled a Bucket today? By Carol McCloud
  • Play the Compliment Game on www.kidactivities.net/post/Random-Acts-of-Kindness.aspx
  • Mention : Pay it Forward (Next Pay it Forward Day is April 24 – Let’s practise before then)

World Kindness Day November 13

World Kindness Week November 13-20

Wks 6 and 7 Preparation for Class Assembly on RAK

 

To present a cross curricular assembly to the school based on Pay the Kindness Forward

To develop ICT skills in presentation

P129 of Draft Primary Curriculum for English PoS – To learn a wider range of poetry off by heart

To transfer knowledge gained in English and PSHE lessons in a manner that is both interesting and concise for the audience

  • Discuss what to include from what we have done and create a script.
  • Also consider including:

Kindness Acrostic Poem

Letter of appreciation to the teachers

Thank you to friends

Pick out a child and tell them that they are special because…

PowerPoint Display of RAK seen around the school

  • Teacher to complete the script after lesson 6 in order to rehearse in lesson 7

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Week 8 Friendships

 

To discuss any problems or issues that have arisen and the pupils help to give suggestions and solutions of overcoming the issues. This discussion time occurs on a weekly basis.

To discuss the qualities that make a good friend

How can you be a good friend?

Who are your friends?

Skills/Activities

What makes a good friend?

Pupils work in pairs and write what they consider to be values of a good friend on strips of paper. Discuss as a class and make a collective list. Build a friendship chain.

How many of these have been included in the video clip? Children give examples of situations where people demonstrate these qualities.

How does paying the kindness forward link into this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38Sxy5hrej0

How can you be a good friend?

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Week 9 How I am settling in J5 and setting targets

To reflect on the start of J5

To identify personal successes and personal targets

Skills/Activities

Complete a reflection sheet, taking particular care to think about what you could improve in the next half of term and what else you would like to learn about. (I can post a copy if anyone is interested.)

J5 staff to use this information to inform planning, to report back to parents on parents’ evening and to cater for the individual interests of the children.

Week 10 What to do when the going gets tough

To encourage perseverance

To create a list of strategies to try out when a task in class is tricky.

Wks 11 and 12 Further Preparation for Class Assembly on RAK

To present a cross curricular assembly to the school based on Pay the Kindness Forward

To develop ICT skills in presentation

P129 of Draft Primary Curriculum for English PoS – To learn a wider range of poetry off by heart

To transfer knowledge gained in English and PSHE lessons in a manner that is both interesting and concise for the audience

 

  • To run through final script and add pupils suggestions.
  • To count up money raised – see my previous blog post on this.
  • To rehearse performance of poem.
  • To create short video clips of the coin pictures using iPad apps
  • To practise whole class presentation with the drama teacher with particular focus on clarity, volume and speed of delivery.

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Paying the Kindness Forward, Philanthropy in Class

He kicked the ball and it was my turn! It’s not fair!

After a summer term spattered with numerous small arguments and the typically ego-centric complaints of young children, I wanted my privileged group of Year 5 children to start the Year with a more philanthropic and inclusive approach. I decided to adopt the theme ‘Pay the Kindness Forward’ which has gained much acclaim in America and has begun to catch on in the UK too. We spent many lessons learning about ourselves and how even the smallest act of kindness can make a big difference.

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Small change, big difference.

In order to conduct a larger act of kindness, we chose to raise money for NDCS the National Deaf Children’s Society. We started by signing up for their spellathon. Not only was this a great fund-raising success, lots of fun and educational but it was also a means of adding another sensorial way of learning our spelling. I am always looking for ways to improve my class’ spelling. By Year 5 we should be focusing on prefixes and suffixes and the etymology of words but many of the children still experience difficulty with the basic phonemes and still need daily practice of synthetic phonics. In addition to this aural work, as some children are visual learners, we play several sight word games and the spellathon provided the ideal opportunity for kinaesthetic learning too. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Sign up at http://www.ndcs.org.uk/

During PSHE, the children suggested others ways to fundraise and after a democratic vote, chose to collect small change from the parents for several weeks. Each Year 5 class then spent another PSHE lesson counting the money (the accountants), building a picture (the designers) and filming its progress on the iPads (the film crew.) It was a fun lesson and everyone had a go at each task.

Once the coin pictures and spellathon money was totalled, we had raised £1434.63. Not a bad total for 32 pupils. Not only did we experience the pleasure of giving, but we learnt so many new skills along the way too. 

The role of lesson observations by @TeacherToolkit

Do busy, engaged  students indicate good teaching and learning?

Primary teachers ought to take note of @TeacherToolkit aka Ross Morrison McGill. Although his book 100 Ideas for Outstanding lessons is aimed at secondary school teachers, what he has to say about lesson observations is applicable across the school spectrum. The catchphrase ‘stickability’ should become part of teacher lexicon. I can’t say it better than he does:

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The role of lesson observations by @TeacherToolkit.

How It All Began

The success of just one boy would have been enough on its own to make my teaching career so worthwhile. Three years ago, I wrote this blog entry on a local writers’ blog:

Imagine the frustration you would feel if you loved knowledge and you knew that the book with the beautiful pictures in front of you contained new information that you just couldn’t decode.  This is the curse of having a reading ability that is lower than your knowledge and interest base. Then picture the delight of being able to create a book of your own that you could read and it linked to more advanced information that someone could read to you. And, to make it even better,  almost 3000 people around the world have wanted to read it too.

 Freddie Book
Freddie has been obsessed by dinosaurs and fossils. He has an exceptional knowledge of these for an eight year old. When I taught him last year he found reading very hard. He was still reading at a six year old level yet his general knowledge exceeded that of some children twice his age. His frustration was palpable.
It was the day that he bought 3 more dinosaur books at the ‘bring and buy’ sale and accidentally missed his football activity because he was so absorbed in them, that made me even more determined to find a way to unlock the key for reading for his particular learning style. We read some of those books together and he told me so much more than those pages held.
Freddie is an excellent artist too and he brought in a series of pictures that he had drawn. He told me all about the creatures that he had drawn. I had to learn quickly. What was a meganeura and the Palaeoziac era? He knew! I asked him if he would let me write some words to match his pictures.
Freddie was enjoying some of Dr Seuss’ stories at the time and the combination of the rhyme, rhythm and repetition was both comforting and enjoyable. I decided to use this approach. As Freddie is a visual learner, he remembers words easier by looking at their shape. He knows most of the basic phonemes but he is too impatient to spend time applying these and decoding words one by one. He wants to recognise words instantly. This means that he needs to see those words many, many times until they become subconsciously familiar.
I had to keep the vocabulary simple and repeat it often. His target sound at the time was e as in ee and ea hence the emergence of the ‘pea green sea’. I quickly learned to admire the sheer creative talent of Dr Seuss and his clever manipulation of words and crazy ideas. Oh to be able to do that with such flair. Never mind, the book was written and Freddie loved it. He didn’t find it easy to read and he needed a lot of help but it was his book. He had ownership and he wanted to read it
I used http://www.epubbud.com to upload the book and, with a bit of tweaking, the result was very pleasing. Freddie showed all his friends, we put it on the school blog and he read it several times to Grannies and relatives and he felt proud. That was it. Except, it wasn’t. Freddie is writing another book now. I am not allowed to do the words this time so it is taking a lot longer but he isn’t giving up. I wanted to check something in his last book and I was truly delighted to find that 2932 people have viewed it and 52 have chosen to download it. Not bad for a book created by someone who claims to hate the act of reading!
Freddie’s latest obsession is tanks. I’m off to learn more about the Vickers and the Herman. What rhymes with Panzer?
 
Freddie is now in Year 6. His book has been read 6279 times. This week he writes his entrance test for the Senior School and, fingers-crossed, he will be able to read the comprehension and associated questions and access the verbal reasoning questions. Without doubt, he will write a good story. His punctuation and spelling may be a little ‘creative’ but whatever he does will be unrecognisable from those days three years ago when reading and writing were so frustrating for him.
He is a wonderful example of ‘value-added’ education. By harnessing his interests, reinforcing and building on his skills he is now able to read. It was not always easy and he was not always interested in our ideas. The tank book gripped him for a while but after writing a couple of pages, he became more interested in creating his own action movie and he and a group of friends have been busy with this new project for a while now. The school has implemented many extra spelling sessions. We have searched for books that would fascinate him – mostly dinosaur or World War based. He has run a school assembly on his own with such magnificent authority and intellect that every child was gripped and fascinated. He has also run lessons for the Nursery and Year ones all about dinosaurs so much more knowledgeably than any of the teachers could do.
Freddie is going to make a mark in this world and we are going to miss him when he leaves us. But, we will hold his memory dear and watch his progress with pride.
Freddie is but one of many unique and special learning relationships that I have been honoured to have been a part of as a teacher. Each year and each new day brings a new set of challenges and more children to ‘turn on’ to learning. That’s why I love what I do!

 

If Bridget Jones became Deputy Head

Am reading latest Bridget Jones book so feel obliged to adopt concise, choppy voice for today’s blog writing.
Number of medium terms plans completed 0, number of minutes spent looking at classroom displays on Pinterest 45, number of items made for own classroom decor 0, number of teaching blogs read 4 (all the way through and approx. 6 skim and scan), number of minutes on Twitter 15, number of timetables ready for new staff 0, number of policies updated 0, number of cupboards tidied 0, 
 
Thought I’d get up early to start work as only have today and the weekend left after onslaught of Christmas and New Year. Must be ready for great classroom makeover on Monday. Am transforming room into Ancient Greek version of Hero/God/Goddess celebrity special. Am leaning to awards being Nike myself : Goddess of Victory and Zeus’ right hand woman (or was he left handed?)
Have also got to prepare timetables for new Gap students and Nursery staff due to increase in pupil numbers. Need enough staff on hand for toilet runs and key worker status. Need to reshuffle staff using chess master like strategy and adopt diplomacy in style of International Ambassador.
Also need to prepare for Tuesday’s staff meeting and INSET on the new curriculum. Not feeling very partial towards Mr Gove at moment. Would like him to restructure all plans for me to rename what was already doing. Am tempted to send him old plans in post and ask for them back in new style. Obviously would have made changes anyway viz. Nike the winged Goddess and possible fashionista of speedy sports shoes.
Have 20 minutes left before waking grumpy teen boy for visit to dentist.
 Must adopt Nike slogan JUST DO IT!  Swoosh!
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To 2014 and Beyond

To all experienced blogging teachers, veteran and novice
I need your advice…
One of the goals I set myself when I completed the National College Leading an Independent School course recently was to develop my own blog. So… where to start?

I have used the excuse of research to spend the morning reading many other blogs for inspiration… and inspired (and slightly mentally exhausted) is what I am!
I am awestruck at how many extremely talented, busy blogging Teachers, Deputies and Heads there are out there. Today many of them are reflecting on 2013 and setting goals for 2014… and they have done so much. I guess this means it’s the right time to ask myself and you…What should I do first?
So, to set the scene and avoid dismal February burnout, I thought I should manage my own expectations. I think I would be adventurous just to attempt to achieve around half (or less) of what these blogging deities have done. My shortlist below is not in priority order:
Number 1 – Twitter
@TeacherToolkit (spent ages reading his excellent blogs) has inspired me to become more of Tweeter. I’ve had a go as @Anniegottago but as you’ll see, I’m better at retweeting than sharing wonderful nuggets of meaningful information. Like any alchemist, I’m still working on my nugget making skills.
Number 2 – Blogging
@headguruteacher (spent even longer on this website) reinforces the idea that we can meet so many people through blogging and twitter that we enrich our experiences as teachers and leaders. It is an unbeatable form of professional development, collaborative support and a fun way of meeting like minded souls.
My favourite blogpost has got to be 10 Reasons to Love Teaching. It should be mandatory for all teachers to read this before they start school in January.
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Number 3 – Complete my book
I am always writing a book of some sort or stories for my classes. I just never publish them. This year, it is time to dip my toe in the water. The first draft of my latest project is written and now I need some Dutch courage and brazen chutzpah to explore the best way to get it out to children. I want children to read and read and read. I want parents to read more to their children and I want the child who looks at Harry Potter longingly but knows that as they open the first page of that mighty tome, they won’t be able to decode the words quickly and easily enough to make them accessible. I want all stories to be accessible at different levels. So that no-one has to lose out. @readingrockets  has such good advice in this regard.
Number 4 – Find a way to embrace the changes necessitated by the New Curriculum by using this opportunity for beneficial pedagogical change in our school
Ooh…blogging is so much more fun than writing my Medium Term Plans and grappling with the new Primary National Curriculum. That will be my next blog topic. If I set a goal here then I’m obliged to carry it out. So now I’ll have to find a way of combining the new terminology and structure (particularly with the New Primary English PoS) with what I do already and has proven to work very well (thank you Mr Gove). I’m not averse to change. In fact, bizarrely, I love change but, let’s be honest, I prefer to change my content and methodology…not my planning layout,schemes of work etc. Thank you to the @HamiltonTrust who have done a lot of the ground work.
This seems a hearty set of goals and certainly provides grist for the mill.
Any tips anyone may have for managing this while doing the Daily Deputy Dance would be gratefully received.

Tata Madiba – The Leader

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As a school leader and a native South African, many of my UK friends and colleagues have asked me if I feel sad at the passing of Nelson Mandela. I have to say no. He was not a well man and he has been released from the media frenzy and physical torment of the past few months. However, I have been very moved and prone to a tear or two this past week. This is because of the heartfelt responses of so many to the extraordinary legacy that this simultaneously great and humble man has left.

Nelson Mandela ended his days with a calm, wise, inclusive style of leadership. It wasn’t always like this however. His leadership took many turns. It started with hard work. He studied law at a time when this was extremely difficult for a black man to do. The education system for black children was kept deliberately poor to propagate the ideology of apartheid. To achieve an education good enough to be able to access a university degree was extremely rare and needed tremendous intelligence, perseverance and tenacity. He had all these in abundance.

Once a qualified lawyer, he was able to start the first black law firm in South Africa. In his book, The Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote, “As an attorney, I could be rather flamboyant in court. I did not act as though I were a Black man in a White man’s court, but as if everyone else – White and Black – was a guest in my court.” At the same time he was an active member of the ANC and made a series of difficult, uncompromising decisions about how to go about fighting apartheid.

Once imprisoned for those long 27 years, he studied – both books and his captors. This long period of reflection and the opportunity to use his fellow inmates as a sounding board enabled Mandela to develop a a new and different style of leadership.

He had the wisdom to be aware of all the stakeholders in the new South Africa and he had the experience, temerity and foresight to make this his driving vision. I think what I take from this great man is how he used his unyielding vision for a ‘fair and just’ South Africa for all people to drive the process of change forward. He did not make it a personal battle. He forgave and rose above his own circumstances to create a constitution that was free and fair for all. The resulting constitution is one that has a great deal to offer all countries in the world.
It also has something to offer us, as educators. By putting the child at the heart of all the decisions that we make; by rising above any personal conflicts, self interest and petty politics and by taking the time to pay real and genuine attention to everyone involved, we would be better placed to be good and valued leaders.

One of my favourite Nelson Mandela quotes is, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.