Sunday, 29 December 2013


So here is my contribution to #Nuture1314 where teacher bloggers give their 13 highlights of 2013 and 14 hopes for 2014:

13 from 2013 (in no particular order):

TeachMeets - I have presented at TMLondon, TMEssex, TMEast, TeachTweet and TeachMeetRE over the last year. Attending these events has put me in touch with some wonderful people who have been an ongoing source of inspiration and friendship. I also hope I was able to give something back... See some of my presentations <here>. - Putting together a permanent home and base for my ever growing collection of online activities - including those of my students. My TalkingDonkeyRE blog has had nearly 100,000 visits in the last two years and I have since started blogging as a teacher too. I've also got my students blogging and using wikis... It's been a big digital year!

Edmodo - This website has revolutionised my teaching and marking, as well as my students learning. My GCSE and AS/A2 students are now fully engaging and submitting work rather than it just being a glorified Dropbox as it was last year.

Culham St Gabriel's RE Leaders Weekend - I got to meet lots of people I've spoken to online and have since got involved in lots of other things. It's an amazing weekend where passionate RE teachers give up a weekend to share, listen, learn and network. 

Being Invited to the DfE - I got an email inviting me to a small workshop looking at EBT (Evidence Based Teaching) as a result of the fact I had completed MA-level research. This actually excited me rather than frustrated me, however I await to see 'what happens next'. I got to chat to David Laws MP, rather than being letting loose on Gove! Read the link at the start of this post to find a brief summary.

Family Learning Project (Part 2)- I single handedly ran this new project in my school, inspired by Tom's project at KEGS. It was an amazing amount of hard work but the results were fantastic. Everyone (staff, students, older students) were so positive about it and it's outcomes. Hopefully next year a few colleagues will help me out...

CCRS - I completed my Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies. This was a qualification that I knew that I needed, and it was a case of jumping through a few hoops. I knew my stuff (I do have an MA in Catholic School Leadership, a theology degree and 8 years of Catholic RE teaching... ), but needed 5 essays to prove it. Job done.

#RCDropBox - After a few frustrating conversations with the CES (Catholic Education Service), I launched this. It's had a bit of interest so far and I hope it will continue to grow over the next year.

Survivng OFSTED - I got Outstanding for my Citzenship/PHSE lesson, but 'only' Good for my RE lesson... Thankfully our school got graded Outstanding for the 3rd time running.

A-Level - Completing my first cohort of A-Level teaching with some excellent results; none more so than 4 of the 13 going on to study Philosophy at degree level. Hopefully they'll forgive me.

Colleagues - Just generally! But particularly those who have got on board with my ideas, read my blog, followed me on Twitter and listened to what I have to say. That 'close to home' audience is sometimes the hardest to win over.

Work-Life Balance - I managed to undertake the role of captain for my hockey team, our club's youth development team. This requires a good few hours work during the week as well as giving up most of my Saturday. I also managed to visit friends and family and rarely said 'no' due to work, at weekends. Those weekday nights will never be free!

Getting engaged and planning a wedding - Say no more!

14 for 2014 (in no particular order):

Getting married in February half term! - The social event of the year in my school, given it's the first staff wedding; the girls are very excited too. We need to maintain our ability to 'switch off' from school life and ensure we actually stop working some evenings. However, equally, it's fantastic to have someone who fully 'get's it' after a tough day (although OFSTED wasn't fun!). Thankfully we share a love of travelling which makes every holiday something to look forward to; a big plus for marrying a fellow teacher. I can't wait for the big day!

TMHavering - Being organised by @aknill and I, with the help of @ICTMagic - please please please come!

TMEssexRE - Being organised by a group of RE teachers based in Havering including me - if you are an RE teacher please please please come to this too!

NPQML - I am undertaking this qualification 'in a Catholic context' and have already begun my project which will be based on Independent Learning. We're one of the first cohorts and I've struggled with The National College, but it will be passed.

Section 5 Inspection - This will arrive early in 2014 and with my school being rated by OFSTED as Outstanding, I hope that our RE department will be able to match. I am fairly confident that we will be okay, but not through complacency, more through our long-standing hard work in the department and wider school.

Career Progression - Or promotion, to recognise what I do inside and out of classroom. I'm in my third year as Assistant Subject Leader, which has been great, and I've learnt so much from my inspirational Subject Leader. I hope it doesn't involve moving schools, but I must be open to the reality that it might. I always remember my former colleague saying to me: "Have the faith of a child, what will be will be."

EBT - Since my visit to the DfE, I've become more interested and committed to 'Evidence Based Teaching'. This involves questioning, experimenting, documenting and exploring new ideas. We can't say 'yes' to everything, but nor can we say 'no' - how do we select? I'm trying to get staff to do some small scale research based on the Marginal Gains philosophy. Even blogging about it raises, and potentially answers, questions.

Writing - To reflect, to inspire, to cope! Since starting to blog, I've found a real release, a channel to express myself. Until I blogged about my frustrating OFSTED experience, I didn't feel it was over. Now I hope the quality, and possibly quantity, of my writing will improve so I contribute further to educational discussion. The first book is a way off yet...

Reading - I have a pile of books I want to read, teaching and non-teaching. It's growing, not depleting. Trouble is, I struggle to read in the evening due to a minor eye condition. I need to make better use of my time at weekends and holidays to make some progress on this stack. There is so much I could be reading to help me be a better teacher, as well keeping up my John Steinbeck and Bruce Springsteen obsessions.

Networking - If I can maintain the online and real life relationships made in 2013, plus continue to make new ones, my PLN will become even more effective. The very best CPD comes from colleagues sharing what they do and what they think, it's free, it's high quality and it's plentiful. Thank you!

Get Fitter - Unfortunately running and gym time during the week often get sacrificed. I have PT sessions and I want to further build on this to get fitter... and maybe even slimmer! A healthy body helps maintain an active brain and sustain the physically demanding work of teaching.

Home - Since buying a house, I've realised I've got lots of new things to learn: DIY and gardening to name two. These are whole new skills sets which I need to work out how best to teach myself. I don't want to be rubbish at either, but don't always know where to start.

Big 3-0 - In March, I leave my twenties behind for good. This has always filled me with fear, but I'm trying to find ways that will put my new found maturity and wisdom to use. Or maybe it won't feel too different from 29!?

Keep Smiling - I have the best job in the world... Tom's recent blog post summed it up well <here>.

Drawn for me by a homeless guest at Crisis who actually had a broken arm! My inspiration for this year.

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