Interim reports

Education Learning Log

Saturday!

I love Saturday morning! Long lie and no rushing around to get to school. But for the past few weekends I’ve been a bit swamped after that long lie with catching up with work. I need to remind myself every so often that I do need to take a break! I love my job, the danger for me is it becomes obsessional, but I know that’s not healthy! So when I spotted it was 7.00pm and I’d not stopped all day, I gave myself a wee prod. I know the quality of what I’m doing goes when I don’t rest properly!

Don Ledingham has been talking about finding time for Head Teacher things. I’m really encouraged by the focus he is putting on taking time to watch teaching and learning occur. If we lose sight of that as Heads, we lose sight of our purpose.

Tomorrow means getting out into the world! I know the report cards need signed but that can wait till Sunday evening! Well, I will get out into the world, if I can convince my sons to give a hand with the ironing mountain….

The interim reports landed on my desk on Friday. I have been thinking about what we can do to make reporting more valuable. I’m really not convinced that what we give to parents is best value. The amount of blood sweat and tears teachers excrete whilst writing the reports never quite seems reflected in the final product.  It seems what we write is much less valuable than the limited parent consultation times we allocate. We’ve been introducing weekly tea with teacher times. This now happens in P1 and 2. The nursery hope to start soon too. We’re adding in monthly P3-7 family time. It seems that this is much more useful for parents. They can talk about the curriculum, learning and teaching approaches and really get an overview of what is happening with their child in school. I wonder how we can use this to help us review how we report to parents. Does reporting really mean we have to hand out a “report card” or can we make it a much more meaningful experience for all concerned? Suggestions would be gratefully recieved!

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September 29, 2007 Posted by | Nonsense | , | Leave a comment

Arty stuff

We are really lucky to have an art development officer, Daniella, who is always keen to have projects going on in our school. Today she was out with one of the school’s friends – Davey Scott. Davey has just been asked to write a song about healthy food linked in to various health initiatives. Davey is a wonderful musician with an interesting back catalogue and loads of engineering/production credits with artists from all over the world. He’s also dipped his toes into children’s song writing. He wrote some of the songs for Balamorey and I’ve even spied some of his children’s poetry which takes the same route as the likes of Roald Dahl’s revolting rhymes…

Since he’s done a lot of recording and music work with us over the years, he decided to experiment with our children with the new song. Next week they’re off to record it at Chem 19 recording studio. I think it’s fantastic that our children can get involved in things like this where they see creative role models and get the chance to play in places like recording studios.

However our children are getting a bit blase about being photographed and filmed. One of the things about having a new school building is that the children are constantly being visited by photographers! The council, the architects etc etc. At first they loved posing… Today the P4s were heard to groan when a photographer came in and asked them to pose!!

September 26, 2007 Posted by | Creativity | , , , | Leave a comment

Soapboxes, Itchy Coo and a new baby….

Today the Headteacher from another school in the Learning Community held our first Primary 3 rich task meeting. The primary 3 teachers across the schools in our Learning Community will be developing this over the next couple of months, they were all keen to get started. Next week is our first meeting about theP6/7 rich task. We’re going to link this  in to Malawi and our link school there and are hoping that as this goes forward we can fundraise as a learning community for Mary’s Kitchens in Malawi. Apparently it cost £6000 to set up a kitchen which provides daily porridge cooked by the Mums. As a school we’d get nowhere near that total but as a learning community it might be feasible.

We’re hoping to get the children really going for it with blogs during this rich task so they can link in with each other whilst carrying out the work. Full of good ideas – we’ll see how it goes and I’ll write more about this when we get started.

A new baby arrived the other day in school…. Our Apodo for enterpise pod baby arrived so it’s snuggled in a corner in P6 until we get time to do some development work and investigation of it. The children have been poking it a bit and are excited to see what’s inside! Also snuggled in the same room is a soapbox which appeared from the Southbank Centre in London. It’s part of a big art project. Inside was a golden envelope which the children opened. They are to make a presentation/film/sculpture something which can answer the question in some way. And the question is…..what makes us human? Now that’s a rich task!!

In the meantime I’ve been stuck to my laptop this evening word processing materials for our new reading books in P2/3. Last session we started using decodeable readers in P1, so this is our next development into P2/3. It may be elderly but we’ve gone for ORT as a follow on, cos we just like it! The P3 teacher and myself have been typing fast as we’re starting these next week! So far this term the infants have been working on class Scots Language book studies with books from Itchy Coo, Katie's Coobut its now time to get the ORT moving. So we’re all a bit puggled! We set the attainment targets for P4 today, it was a long meeting with the class teacher, but worthwhile as we now know where we expect the children to get to by the end of the session.

And in the the middle of this we had other goodies going on – the Active Schools Co-ordinator was in working with the children and a team of art workers were working with P7. The children have been making these fab giant 3D models of areas of East Kilbride. They are on hilly bits of polystyrene about 15 cm deep and a metre across. I’m really impressed with them – they have little wooden houses, swing parks, roads etc

September 25, 2007 Posted by | Rich tasks | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tracking and Predicting

This week coming up is where we set our attainment predictions for the coming session.Our Head of Learning Community worked with some software developers to come up with a prediction and tracking system. It uses a traffic light system so I can see when testing is due. Before we get to that stage we sit down and look at each stage and look at the individual children, working out where we predict they will attain over the next session. We input all the information, and depending on the information we have given, the software can give us a fairly reliable prediction. Within that prediction we may make adjustments for individual children.

We’re into our second year of working with this software. Initially there was a bit of worry that the computer would be running our attainment and that figures would be skewed. Now that we’ve used it however that suspicion has settled and I feel I’m much more on top of tracking and monitoring attainment. It will be interesting to see how this will fit with ACfE as it comes on line.

We have some early testing to get caught up with too, so it’ll be good to get this under our belt.

It’s that time of year when you realise almost a whole term has gone by and you’re running to catch up! As always we’ve had our share of good days and the odd crisis too since August, but I wonder how I would find it working in a different job. I wake up every day with something exciting and invariably new to focus on and can’t imagine what else I would rather do. It’s a privilege doing this job and I think as a leadership crisis looms on the horizon we should all be sharing that with aspiring Heads.

September 24, 2007 Posted by | Tracking | , , | Leave a comment

Feedback

I’ve been waiting three weeks for my coaching and mentoring assignment to be assessed. I’m so used now to instant feedback I’m feeling antsy! It’s just impatience to get started on doing formal coaching sessions as I need to be assessed in my understanding before I can do that.

One of the areas I’ve been trying to improve in the meantime is how I give feedback. Which makes me wonder if the way I have been approaching forward plan feedback has been a bit awry. We collect in the Forward Plans, write up a 2 page feedback form linked to HGIOS, give back the folders and feedback sheet to teachers, then set aside time to meet and discuss the Forward Plans.

I wonder how much of this process has been driven by my needing evidence that I am monitoring what is going on within classrooms, rather than being driven by an impetus for real feedback . Its something I need to revisit. Effective feedback should be something which encourages reflection, helps people set new action plans, motivates and gives accurate information which lets insight occur. I don’t think I have been making this forward plan feedback process as effective as it could be.

September 23, 2007 Posted by | Coaching | , | Leave a comment

Funny faces

So I’ve used Ewan MacIntosh’s idea with staff where he shows the youtube cup stacking video and the Mom just doesn’t have a clue. There’s an important point there about how much time children spend developing skills which we are not always harnessing in school.

I think this guy’s face making skill may be slightly less useful but still, he’s spent a long time perfecting these faces. I can see now that all is not lost for those wee rascally boys at the back of the room who tend to start doing this at the Primary 4 stage…..

More useful than these faces, was recently listening to Richard Holloway talk about leadership. He reminded us of what we can learn from geese. I remember watching this video a long time ago, but it was good to be reminded of it by Richard, and good to watch it again. Not so helpful is that everything on youtube or myspace is blocked for use within school and to use resources which are found on eg youtube you have to spend valuable time at home getting them into an appropriate format.

I’m still reflecting on what I saw and heard at the Learning Festival and I agree that it’s time we had sensible conversations in education about the use of these sites without the hysteria that so often comes up. Neil Winton talked about this at TeachMeet and it was interesting to hear his perspective on the use of these spaces in education and his thoughts on cyberbullying – how can you deal with it as a teacher, if you don’t have access to the spaces where it happens? Access means you can monitor and deal with issues, no access means it goes on unchecked.

Something I’m not so keen on having access to is chronic tv. I’m all settled down with my duvet, snuffly nose and those general aches and pains teachers always get in time for a holiday. Saturday night – prime time viewing and what do I get? “Worlds greatest Elvis” impersonator. I don’t have the words….

I did see Scotty Moore play the other year and that was a real pleasure. The woman sitting next to me in The Cottier Theatre was having a ball, screaming at every song. She just  about put up with my quiet viewing through Scotty’s set (and DJ Fontana on drums), but she gave me a steely stare at the end when I admitted I’d never been to Graceland.

September 22, 2007 Posted by | Nonsense | , , , | Leave a comment

Rich Tasks and Wee Gardens

Our learning community are about to further develop rich tasks. One group are taking forward a P3 rich task and the group I’m working with are looking at a P6/7 one. One of the teachers involved in the P6/7 task has just returned from study leave to Malawi so it made sense to develop something which could use her expertise and develop links with her link school in Malawi. We were kind of swimming in the dark a bit with where to go first with this – we’ve got the funding in place for development work and for staff from the schools involved to spend time working together, but where to start?

So it was fantastic to discover at the Scottish Learning Festival that Argyll and Bute council have developed a suite of 24 rich tasks based on the Australian model, all linked in to ACfE. What a great starting point for anyone looking to develop work in this area.

I’m hoping to have a spending spree in the Garden Centre this weekend. I loved Don Ledingham’s idea of permission to learn cards for the adults in school and  our p1 teacher and nursery teacher are going for it with a bit of risk taking. They’ve joined up for play every Monday afternoon and are using numeracy as a backdrop theme for work in developing our garden. So I’ve been sent off with a shopping list – seed potatoes, compost wormery, bulbs, herbs, fruit trees – the school fund is going to take a whack! Wiggly wigglers have great wiggly resources for school gardening.

My latest amazon parcel came the other day with a few books I’ve been meaning to read. Everything is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger, Wikinomics Don Tapscott, The Starfish and The Spider Brafman and Beckstrom. Looking forward to sitting down and reading this September weekend. And when I’m not out and about or reading I’ve been loving this for jumping about and snacking on all sorts of stuff…

We’re waiting on freeby dance mats from RM after doing them a wee favour at their presentation at the Learning Festival and I’ve been reading with interest the consolarium blog on LTScotland. I don’t know how many parents come to see me and say my son/daughter never reads at home but when you ask about console use they’re reading a lot of complex stuff and learning all the time, but do we take this into account at school? I doubt it.

September 22, 2007 Posted by | Rich tasks | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment