How did I spend my Saturday night?

BBC school reportAfter a heavy day of house clearing and cleaning that left me emotionally weary and physically exhausted and grimy I was expecting to have a quiet Saturday evening in with my siblings, some friends, a large glass of wine and a very welcome delivery of Dominos pizza. However, no sooner had the opening credits of the latest Sherlock Holmes movie started rolling than the twitter-sphere starting pinging and I had to force my brain back in gear.

My previous post was about the BBC News School Report and what we have been up to in the past. Well we are starting to gear up again for 2013 and have been considering what projects to include this year. One of our big ongoing whole school projects has been mobile@priory – the introduction of our (at times controversial) Mobile Device policy at Priory School. For more information on this see David Rogers’ blog for various posts, e.g. the Mobile Device cookbook  or Mobile Secret Classroom. Or if you are at BETT on Friday 1st Feb then pop along to the Learn Live session that David is leading with me as the ‘glamorous assistant’ – here BETT Learn live . I’ve written about the use of mobile devices in lessons and we are keen to include them and other tech when it is appropriate and will serve to facilitate learning. Anyway, I digress slightly.

We are lucky enough to be reporting live from Action Stations at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth on the BBC news school report live day (21st March) and this is also the venue for TeachMeet Pompey on 6th March. If you are local and interested / involved in education then come along to #tmpompey – informal CPD, share ideas, eat cake – see the sign up page and come along! At the teachmeet, students from Priory School will be sharing their use of mobile devices in lessons and how it has helped empower their learning. Basically students become the teachers for the evening. Then we all get to play laserquest but that’s another story! This will be recorded for the BBC News School Report and be a chance for our students to showcase what they have been up to in front of a ‘grown up’ audience of professionals.

So yesterday evening we were discussing this event via twitter. @fubar2u_2000 is the Education Manager for Action Stations and as an ex-teacher himself understands some of the possibilities and challenges. What started as a simple discussion of this rapidly evolved (with some steering by @daviderogers ) into us deciding we would try something new. For 2013 we are going to attempt to hold what we think will be the first local ‘kidsmeet’Basically, we are inviting local schools to come to Action Stations on the live report day bringing a selection of students and a willing staff member to come and take part in activities based on co-construction and collaborating, to generate lessons / learning activities that will use mobile devices and ‘guerilla learning’. Students will work with teaching staff and other professionals to share their own ideas and experiences, and plan how to use mobile devices in a positive way to enable and empower learning.

Scary? Exciting? I think both. Logistically it will be interesting coordinating so many different parties on an MoD site and still maintaining the BBC School Report momentum. Our roving reporters will record and interview students and staff taking part, and it will all be shared via the final news bulletin (uploaded to school site), a live posterous blog, twitter feed @priorysouthsea and @priorygeography, and will hopefully be included in BBC Radio Solent  and South Today broadcasts.

It gave me a real buzz of excitement last night and lifted my spirits while the twitter feed kept churning through ideas and suggestions – a live stream evolution of unplanned planning! It will be interesting to see how ‘kidsmeet’ compares with ‘teachmeet’. And maybe it will become a regular thing!

Although logistically it may well be a nightmare, it is still hugely exciting. Never a dull day for @priorygeography ! I hope that the quote below would never be true of me or the department I love working in.

“I feel sorry for the person who can’t get genuinely excited about his work. Not only will he never be satisfied, but he will never achieve anything worthwhile.” (Walter Chrysler)

If you are local or want to be involved somehow with ‘kidsmeet’ then drop me an email or DM on twitter or use KidsMeet sign up page. Let’s be controversial en masse! Twitter feed

BBC News School Report

Priory School has a tradition of taking part in the annual BBC News School Report and

logo has had great success in the past including our children interviewing Huw Edwards live from the BBC South Today studio, quizzing Lord Sebastian Coe at the Copperbox of London2012, and creating and planting geocaches at Box Hill along the Olympic road cycle race route with our very own BBC South Today media team shadowing us for the 6pm news edition. The school report project involves taking our Year 8 students and giving them the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to act as journalists and reporters to research, write, film, edit and upload their own news reports by the live day. Generally we have a trip somewhere for the lead feature, then on the live day itself the children work together to write topical and ‘breaking news’ features which are then moulded into a 5minute long news report video. This video is uploaded to the school site from where the BBC taps in live at the deadline, then choosing which schools are worthy of being aired on local or national news shows or on the BBC website. It is a very rewarding project. I have led it ever since my enthusiastic Head of Department (@daviderogers) ‘suggested’ I take it on as a project in my NQT year and have seen it evolve and morph each year. I thoroughly recommend all schools take part in this.

Don't all school trips have a private media crew?
Don’t all school trips have a private media crew?

I tend to run it as an after-school project for students to sign up to, approximately 15-30 kids. I have found smaller groups more effective. It is cross-curricular, not just Geography led – although obviously everything is essentially ‘geography’ 😉 . The focus is on skills & experience; developing literacy, enquiry, collaboration, timekeeping, media skills, working with professionals, etc,. Prior to the live day I run workshops to develop these skills and introduce the project, these may involve: tech sessions with our IT technicians or others (e.g. for recording and editing movie, blogging, editing webpages, etc,.), literacy work (drafting and editing quality articles), film practise, running through the BBC practise exercises (via among other activities.

On the live day itself the students run everything. I am the facilitator. We have been fortunate in the past to be able to report live from Action Stations (@seeNavybeNavy) at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth which is a great space, with Phil Wright (@fubar2u_2000) providing great support to make the day run smoothly. Logistics need thinking through carefully in advance in order to take a step back on the day. As someone who is a bit of a perfectionist it can be hard to take a back seat and allow others to be in control – but it is their day, their responsibility, a taste of real life and being professional. They have to work to tight deadlines, have to self-manage, work as a team, coordinate, prioritise. I could real off pretty much every aspect of SEAL / PLTS and it would be met through the project.

Working with professionals at Action Stations
Working with professionals at Action Stations

I would recommend creating a strict timeline for the day (see example here) with key times for getting the group together in order to reflect, evaluate, energise. Get your local press involved ; BBC and other local radio stations, contact the local tv, local newspapers, etc,. Even try the mayor! Make it big. The children feed off of the fact that this is a real event, that other ‘real adults’ who are not just teachers are interested, that their work is shown to the big wide world. We keep a twitter feed going and also live blog through posterous – all done by the students themselves. Student identity is protected by not revealing full names, and the videos / images are only available through protected youtube channel and the school website

Interviewing staff on board HMS Warrior about Dockyard changes
Interviewing staff on board HMS Warrior about Dockyard changes

We include any student who displays enthusiasm and can be responsible, it’s not for the elite or G&T or anything else. Any are welcome. I’d like to point out that in the 2012 geocache report one of our students reminded the South Today film crew how he had ‘media training’ – received courtesy of his inclusion in Super Nanny!

It can be hard work! And it can be stressful. But by 14:30 when the report is finally uploaded and you see the kids’ faces it is awesome. After all : “Learning should be a joy and full of excitement. It is life’s greatest adventure…” Taylor Caldwell

Have a look here on 21st March after 4pm to see all our hard work!

In the meantime – our projects that we are working on include:

kidsmeet Pompey : students from 5 schools across Portsmouth working together with teachers & professionals to plan activities that use mobile devices for learning

mobile@priory : how Priory students led the way constructing a groundbreaking mobile device policy

World Poetry Day 2013 : students create a poetry orienteering game around the Historic Dockyard. Poems created by our students and local poets will be displayed at exhibits around the dockyard with QR codes linking them to create a permanent record of our work.

@priorybench : the revamped school bench that has its own hashtag as it tours around

London 2012 : is there an Olympic legacy or is it a myth?

TeachMeet Pompey : what happens when kids take over and teach the teachers?

Olympic geocaching ; updating our 2012 geocaches

HMS Warrior & Mary Rose – the historic dockyard in Portsmouth

Below are some of the links for our past work – have a peek. And get involved!!

BBC South Today – Geocaching clip

Example School Report bulletin – disclaimer: this is an online upload version for the website so poorer quality!

Live at BBC South Today
Live at BBC South Today
BBC South Today studio Southampton

How to change the world?

So this week it’s been back to school. Full pelt. As I mentioned before, I love quotations. And searching for them is therapeutic in itself. So although I may be making hard work for myself for every post hereafter, I’m going to pledge to try to include at least one quote each time. 

Confucius said : 

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I like this. I’m not going to sit here and say that teaching is never ‘work’. This coming after a week where I saw midnight and was still on the laptop a couple of times would probably get my judgement called into question but it’s ok; because I love the job. Yes, 13 weeks holiday a year is great but the reason to do the job for me is the satisfaction of seeing change, of making a change. Steve Buscemi’s character in Armageddon (awesome film) has the line “Why do I do this? Because the money’s good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, okay?” – my department does lack the use of explosives sadly (maybe I should have been a science teacher….. 😉 ) but it’s true, one thing I love is that the scenery changes. The kids. They’re the scenery I see every day, and you see them change every day. Not always in a good way true, but it keeps you on your toes. I’d never be able to sit behind a desk watching and not partaking in the world going by, and teaching means I get to be doing, learning, changing, making the change every day. Pretty cool huh?

So, the start of a new year, new term…but same challenges, same difficulties? Definitely. I always find the term after Christmas the hardest one to go back to. You’ve had a lovely break, it’s proper family time, everywhere is sparkly…then you’re back at work; buried under marking and deadlines, with a massive ‘to do’ list already, and you never see daylight as the days are so short still. One week in and it feels like you’ve never been away. And the same problems from last year keep rearing their heads. I think it’s essential in teaching that we try to keep that drive and focus as much as possible all year. Impossible? Probably. But not if you have a supportive team (be that through school, home, twitter, etc,.) to push you and praise you, remind you it’s a collective effort. A big ripple becomes a wave.

I came across a few images this week that made me think, or smirk. Or both. The following sums up what I mean. ImageI don’t ever plan to run my own school. I’m not super ambitious and I know my limitations. I just want to be a great teacher and have an influence on those in my classroom. Change one at a time and you eventually change the whole. Sounds cheesy? But it’s true. Every big change started from something small. The human body and the Earth and the planets, complex as they are, are governed by the teeniest tiniest particles working together. So while I may not be a Headteacher one day that’s ok. It’s more than ok to have an influence on the hundreds of kids one-by-one who come to lesson, or who I tutor, or who I chat to in the quad, or who I help complete their college application. After all, I’m not just able to have an influence in the classroom – it’s about every time you have a conversation with a child, every time they see you. If I come in grumpy and like I don’t want to be there then that has an impact. If I’m rude on break duty they will remember that. I always make a big deal of the little things like saying thank you if a child holds a door open – you never know but you may be the first adult that day who has been polite to that child, or has been appreciative. It makes a difference.

How to change the world? One little bit at a time.




Year’s end musings

St. Catherine's College, Cambridge UniversityIt’s customary to reflect on the year ending when it comes to December 31st, and to ponder the New Year and its potential. So I had better have a go. If for no other more cathartic reason than to get my boss off my back for a few days about writing another post :-p . Though I won’t be able to rival his quality reflection here I figure I may just muse a little.

Those who know me will know that this year has been a tough one for me personally, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the love and support of my amazing family, friends and colleagues. So thank you. There’s a lot from this year I would like to forget, and hopefully I’ll come out wiser. T.S.Elliot said “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” I guess I should take from that and try to not think on the past too much, and try to reinvent my future. Hmm, that’s quite a challenge.

Sgwd Clun-gwyn waterfall, Brecon BeaconsNew beginnings are scary to anyone, human nature clings to the safety of the known and the ‘it’s always been done this way’ mantra. Perhaps this is most often evident in schools! But just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it is wrong to evaluate and change – roll with it and adapt. Just because the road most often travelled is the easiest to follow doesn’t mean that the other road isn’t actually better.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” (Mark Twain)

This doesn’t mean that I think we should be reckless and always trying something for the sake of it, but I hope I am never afraid of change or attempting something new. This year has seen some new ‘firsts’ for me: my first proper Ofsted (last time I was an NQT), first time speaking at GA conference and other events (again being dragged in by the boss!), first time writing for education blogs like The Guardian, first radio interview (BBC Radio Solent on the topic of mobiles in schools), first time mentoring and getting to help our excellent NQT Sam Atkins be even more awesome, first time coaching, first Olympics (including our kids getting to interview Lord Coe!), and many other highlight moments.

My most recent first was something I put off doing for months. I was approached in July by the Anthony Salcito education blog for Microsoft ‘Daily Edventures’ – a 365 day blog featuring so called ‘heroes of education’ worldwide.

Daily Edventures blog

I felt completely out of my depth and not in the same league as others appearing so at first I declined. After all, I’m ‘just a regular teacher’ – at that point I didn’t even hold a TLR so felt inadequate. I forgot all about it until November when I was asked again, and from that moment on was badgered by David Rogers (who even resorted to Twitter peer pressure!) to submit my statement. David’s own post is here . It felt crazier when Bill Gates was the most recent person on there but in the end I did submit and I am very chuffed that I have now appeared. You can see the blog post here Daily Edventures Blog if you wish. One of my main points was about educators not being afraid of change and of being lifelong learners. So that is a resolution for me – to not be afraid, to constantly learn, to spend more time on my own CPD through networking and good old twitter. I’m @geodebs by the way.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of inspirational quotes! I won’t apologise as I think they’re great but I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m trying too hard! Here’s another one :

Hal Borland : “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”

I like this concept. I’ve never been the hugest fan of new year in itself nor really been big on resolutions; it is just another evening and another day in many ways. It would be simpler sometimes to slough off the old and take the new as a fresh start but that would mean losing what we may have learnt along the way. Experience is a great thing. Whether good or bad, failure or success, we can always learn from experience. And I hope I do. I have to admit, I don’t like failing. I’m competitive and want to be good at the things I try, and especially at teaching as it is too important. But I know my students learn through failure and I should do too. So, another resolution is to learn to fail better!

BeBo at Mersham-le-Hatch deer park, Kent

Finally, things I’m looking forward to in 2013:

– working with the challenging but awesome David Rogers and Sam Atkins (no doubt involving more crazy ideas to get us in trouble, hopefully including pranks and naughty fun along the way)
– helping to maintain and always improve @priorygeography
– Iceland 2013 trip with 30kids
– improving my curriculum area of Careers Education for @priorysouthsea
– seeing some great friends get hitched
– exploring more of the world

Right, think I’ve rambled on long enough. And it’s almost 2013 already. Phew!

So, professionally I make these resolutions:

– spend longer on CPD related activities through reading more blogs, taking part in twitter discussions more, etc,.
– try more and learn by trying
– support the department I am in and colleagues school wide (e.g. through coaching)

Better add in some personal ones too, then people can check up on me! So :

– run at least once a week
– get my little cottage industry of clay crafts up and running online
– go somewhere I’ve never been before

And I promise to make more cakes for work – provided the boys deserve it 😉

2012 was hard work and hard to keep smiling but I’m known as being ‘pink and fluffy’ and just about kept to that. Bring on 2013.


At the start of things…

I am in my fifth year of teaching and have had a professional blog to share with students for some time (see link widget on sidebar), but now have been cajoled / elbowed / convinced to keep a personal reflective blog. A place to put down thoughts about teaching or travelling, or any other topic that grabs my attention. I could say I was nagged slightly into keeping this by an enthusiastic boss 😉 , but it will be interesting to look back on in the future and a great way to keep track of what goes on in a profession that changes so rapidly.

The last year at school has seen a whole lot of changes, and lots of exciting projects come and go. I have been fortunate to be a part of things like the Microsoft Innovative Teachers’ forums in the past, been invited to write for the Guardian Teacher blog, been involved with pushing school leaders and educators to embrace using mobile devices, and getting out and about on trips. I am lucky to work in a department that is supportive and challenging; with a boss that sets you up for all sorts of trouble but will help you get out of it, and a more recently qualified teacher who is driven and perfection seeking. Both of whom have the drive, passion and creativity to push the department and myself to constantly improve. @priorygeography is a great place to be, a bubble of innovation and energy which hopes to spread. And we work with amazing kids. Hard work at times, but rewarding and awesome to see them develop and succeed.


"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step" Lao Tzu
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” Lao Tzu

The start of the new year inevitably leads to resolutions and target setting. The department has collective aims: to become leaders of innovation & creativity, to inspire our learners, and to continue to improve results, amongst others. Personally, I aim to spend more time learning from other professionals, through using blogs / Google reader / twitter more. I want my lessons to be more creative and inspiring. I want to do better for my GCSE classes and support them more. I want to be an even better team member, coach, mentor & to support staff across the school. And I’d like to make the work-life balance a bit more, well, balanced.

One thing I do know about this profession though: that I will keep adding to and altering these targets / resolutions / wish lists (call them what you will) throughout the year. It’s a roller coaster, and it’s time to strap in and get going.

Finally, one of my favourite quotations is “I am not afraid of the storms, for I am still learning to sail my ship” (Louisa May Alcott). This sums up my approach to teaching & to most things: I would rather try and fail than simply stand by idly. And I think that this is important for our learners; so much more is learned by making mistakes then fixing them or being afraid & conquering rather than simply by just doing. So….bring it!

"I am still learning" (Michelangelo)