Interim reports

Education Learning Log

Over and over again

Tonight at our staff meeting I went through all the suggestions for taking planning forward. I had devised some formats for daily planning and termly planning. We will talk about all of this at our next inset. I’m going to be interested to see what all the teachers think about this as a way of moving forward to curriculum for excellence. We may move to something which takes bits of this and adds/changes things but this has certainly given us all food for thought.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Einstein

Loving the above quote which someone from LTS showed us the other day. How often do we repeat the same mistakes in schools over and over?

I’m really interested in these new laptops. I’m awaiting a reply from the sellers on how we could try some way of getting parents involved in purchasing these or whether that is even possible. Apparently in some authorities in England parents are able to purchase these through a special purchase scheme via the LA where they pay back a certain amount monthly. I don’t yet know if this is what we’ve been looking for to take glow forward and get the children involved with access at home. I have a lot of questions/thoughts about how this could be taken forward so all children will have equality of access. Anyway this sounds like the start of something promising.

October 31, 2007 Posted by | ICT, planning, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Moving on Curriculum for excellence

Today we had a headteacher conference. It was really useful to hear people from LTS talking about Curriculum for Excellence, possible ways of planning etc. Just as the teachers need their comfort zone with programmes and planners and like to still ask permission for risky things, I too have a need to check I have permission to do big scary stuff. But most of us do now and then. And that’s despite giving out “permission to take risks with learning” cards to all the staff in school….

There’s a queasy feeling comes over me on occasion when I worry about making the right changes! Our children only get one chance at this so it has to be the best we can give – being head is an overwhelming responsibility at times, but I came away feeling we’re on the right tracks with how we might move planning forward. I was reassured greatly by today’s input and that maybe I’m starting to “get it”. This time for reflection is always really useful with other heads. So I’m going to grit my teeth and go for it.

My niggling worry is still the recording of evidence and assessment (even though I know how well we do this differently in the nursery),  however I then went to our first pilot Glow meeting. We’re one of the first set of schools in the authority involved in the roll out. If we can get our planning right and  use glow we’ll be able to pull together everything into one whole (I think!). Little steps still but I think I can see where we are going now on what’s going to be a really exciting journey.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | ICT, planning | , | Leave a comment

Formal Coaching, donkeys and owls

Here are some photos from trip to Motherwell Heritage Centre.

Here are some photos from our Malawi/Scotland day.

Yaaasss! I’ve passed my coaching assignment so I’m ready to start formal coaching with a colleague. I’ve to keep a diary and log of this for the completion of my coaching diploma. This approach fits very much with a notion of working together with staff to steward leadership growth in a school.

My trainer is very insightful and I have learned a great deal from him and from my current reading about coaching. For anyone just about to embark on this there’s a great wee pocket book which has everything in a concise form. 

Here’s an interesting metaphor we discussed. Thinking about political awareness and values/integrity maybe we can imagine people as some of the following animals –

  • foxes have high political awareness but no values or integrity, they’re a wee bit sneaky and tend to be teflon coated
  • Lambs have low political awareness but have high integrity and values – they tend to be nice people but a bit naive, but as time moves on eg after being heidie for a while their beliefs shift a bit as they become better leaders
  • Owls have a high level of integrity and well defined values (lambs often become owls) they are very politically aware. They are wise, they fight the good fight, but if pushed they kill if neccessary…
  • Donkeys – well…..

Metaphors and stories are very powerful when having conversations with anyone about change, shifting beliefs etc. That’s one reason why I found this a useful way of thinking about leadership.

I find myself increasingly using stories and I suppose myth making when working within school. This is a real building brick for moving a school forward- telling/talking about  the best of what has gone before and building a buzz around this helps create an era of hope for improvement tomorrow.

In addition I’m overcome with excitement having sat down long enough to use properly – sitting down for a while is a good idea!

October 28, 2007 Posted by | Coaching, leadership | , , , | Leave a comment

Motherwell Heritage Centre

Not that I’d be encouraging staff absences, but it’s just great to be able to take a class for a day. I don’t get to do it often enough. Today however I got to take P7 out on a trip to the Motherwell Heritage Centre. Their trip was about WWII. The staff there were brillant, running workshops all day – drama, dressing up, a speaker who went to school during the war, an activity workbook etc. I had a ball! We even got into a real Anderson Shelter in the museum part of the centre.

Meantime in the world outside of school I’ve been investigating my family tree. There’s a clear family trait of being thirsty to find out about the world. Shipmasters on one side going back to the Napoleonic wars and a diary of captaining a ship during this time! A captain sailing people to Quebec during the potato famines, newspaper clippings of rescues at sea in the 1800s by my great great great grandad Talbot, an odd range of inventors down several lines (removing each others teeth and screwing them back in, or inventing safety catches for train doors!!!)….. And one poor soul who had delusions of grandeur and insisted he had been unfairly treated by all and sundry who had stolen his (imaginery) immense wealth – delusions brought on it seems from his carousing of ladies in 19th century ports around the world….. The incredible thing is seeing how far and wide the families in each line, quickly spread out throughout the world during the 19th and early 20th centuries – Canada, the States, various parts of New Zealand and Australia and China.

Seems to me that pre internet times this movement and flow of people in my family is the way they connected and discovered new places and knowledge. They used the sea as their pre web connection. It took a bit longer but in many ways was no different to how many ICT tools work for us now.

October 26, 2007 Posted by | outings | , | Leave a comment

Haw Miss

Best comment of the day?

“This is the first time I’ve been to this part of East Kilbride before.” says one of the workers from a charity to our P7.

“Congratulations!” shouts out one of my P7 boys.

You’ve got to love them, they’re just magic!

Then later today after a bit of a barney in the playground over a pulled hood and general irritation, I have a group of three crabbit children sitting beside the dinner hall in various states of being annoyed. On my way over to have a conversation with them a boy scarpers over from elsewhere and decides to intervene.

“Haw, Miss. Just before you punish these three….I wanted to say to you I think it would be innapropriate to keep that one in at lunchtime.”

“Uhu” I answered, deeply impressed by the use of the word innapropriate! “Why is that then?”

“Well you see he’s a monitor in the infants and we’ll be down a man and that would mean the wee ones would be suffering for something they had nothing to do with!”

Good logical thinking!

October 25, 2007 Posted by | Nonsense | Leave a comment

Learning about Africa and Scotland

We had a good day today. The P7 teacher used quizdom with all the classes – she’d put photos from her trip to Malawi schools, on as a presentation with related questions. The community policeman talked about how we treat new children to the school. We all heard talks from Street Kids charity and saw movies about the journey of a back pack which had things collected by children here. We saw where it went on its journey and who recieved it in Africa. We heard about how parents in Malawi work to provided daily lunches in school. Children played games about a refugee’s journey. We talked about food and homes, school and life in our two countries. For fun our active school co-ordinator held a mini highland games. We made models, art work and wrote to the children in our link school in Malawi so they know more about our children. We had family time in the afternoon when the children’s parents and relatives came in and worked with them in classes and chatted to them about what they had been up to.

We felt proud of the children and of what our staff do as a team by the end of the day!

October 25, 2007 Posted by | Malawi | | 1 Comment

Writing a haiku and active learning

The P6 class were having a ball today writing some haiku poetry. They’ve been using “Hercules heroes and bampots” as a book study, so used words and phrases from that to write these. Here are a couple of examples. I think they’re great.


Hercules strang man

Can banjo his opponents

Built like a hoose end


Hera hated Herc

She wanted tae malkie him…..

She wanted him deid!


Eurystheus – feart!

He gave people the dry boak.

A pure mammie’s boy.

At our stage meeting tonight we were talking about using our open areas differently for active learning sessions in the junior and senior department. The infants were explaining how they use big books and how they structure groupings etc. A teacher who is is fairly new to our school said she wasn’t used to the freedom of this kind of approach and was used to just following programmes of study. It’s not so much freedom as trusting teachers to be professionals and to be able to use their judgement! The best way to implement change as a Head is first of all to let go…. That’s a bit scary sometimes.

As a profession have we deskilled our teachers by focusing on programmes of study rather than outcomes?As HTs have we used hierarchical systems and sometimes fear to implement a way of teaching and learning which is now very difficult to move on from? We seem to have put in security blankets/assessment sheets/planners which have taken away a lot of creativity from the teaching process.

My continuous mantra this weather is not just asking why but also why not.

When I went into the nursery today they were making soup, in  P2 some children were working away on doing trick sums where the answers were negative numbers eg 7-9= because they wanted to find out about that and wanted to know how you got the answer! P6 were writing their haikus, P1 were doing “long” by making a huge connected circle of wee toys, using long strings etc, P3 were working on good listening with their new teacher who had a head band with fluffy antennae on as a sign that it was her turn to talk. So it goes on….These teachers know what to do and we need to work with them so they can get on with it without fear and keep asking them what other possibilities they see to be even more creative in their teaching.

Tomorrow we’re having a day dedicated to learning more about Malawi throughout the school. Various speakers, visitors and activities have been organised. I’m looking forwad to hearing about Mrs Gibson’s visit there. We have people from Mary’s Kitchen and a visitor from street kids. Children will be doing art work, trying some rhythms/music from Africa, having some related PE activities, learning about money in Malawi, having talks from our community policeman about how we treat new children to our school etc etc It should be a good day.

October 24, 2007 Posted by | Creativity | , , | 2 Comments

this and that

Been reading a great little book – Bothering the coffee drinkers by Doug Hoekstra. Just good writing -lovely short stories. They’re almost like songs without music, which makes sense since he’s a songwriter!

This week I’ve mostly been listening to Edwyn Collins new album Home Again. It’s good to hear him back and sounding great after being so ill such a short time ago.

We all got pretty excited today when a parcel came from RM from Karen Johnston and Douglas Chappelle – a dance mat and loads of easiteach content. We can’t wait to try it out – I’ll say more once we’ve all had a go! Don’t know when the children will get to try it as the teachers have bagsed first go…..

Apart from that I would love to hear of anyone’s experiences in a primary school with cashless dinner machines. Are these the work of the devil or am I just a grump who needs to look for the positives in these little metal boxes?

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Books | , , | 1 Comment


I had a really interesting day today. In amongst the usual, first day back after school holiday, excitement and heidie type things, I spent the day with the head of another primary in our learning community. She visited so we could begin doing some work on ACfE.

Our plan was to look at how we could do something with our current maths scheme, to reduce the reliance on workbooks, have more active learning, and give back the responsiblility for organising learning and teaching to the teachers (rather than following a scheme)….So as with these discussions and planning days what we came up with was radically different to what we thought we would. And that’s how it should be I suspect.

 First we decided that matching new numeracy outcomes in to our current scheme, deciding pages to miss out and then listing active learning ideas down was going to make the same mistake we had made previously with programmes of study. Basically we would be swapping one prescriptive scheme and way of teaching for another.

Then we agreed what we wanted was

  • to reduce the amount of planning we have overall – highlighting sheets, ticky boxes, assessment records which we mostly don’t need etc.
  • Give back trust to our teaching staff by believing that they are capable of organising learning and teaching in different ways
  • Monitor and observe learning and teaching in a more coherent and effective way

Here’s what we plan to discuss with staff

  • Remove planning blocks and the handing in of Forward Plans for “marking” by HT and DHT
  • Refocus on daily responsive planning with built in ways for peer assessment and plenaries which change what might happen the next day
  • Remove timetables! PE etc will remain timed but staff will have leeway to complete work in various curricular areas.
  • Leave programmes of study as “background planning” which staff will use as a resource rather than driving force. Outcomes then become the driver.
  • Refocus how we as HTs and DHTs monitor learning and teaching – take out the Forward Plan feedback discussions and feedback sheets from us, take out classroom formal visits.
  • Timetable weekly “drop in” discussion times after school which staff can opt into with HT or DHT
  • Timetable a day a week for DHT and HT to work in class with one teacher. This will work on a rotation. Coaching session to follow these days.
  • Timetable a monthly meeting at CCC time with each teacher and HT and DHT to have learning and teaching conversations. Target setting for national assessments will be part of this for individual children.

We were both quite excited at where this conversation with staff might take us…. I’ll keep you posted!

October 22, 2007 Posted by | planning | , | Leave a comment

Not enough asking why.

As always Ewan MacIntosh has lots of interesting things to say. There’s an interesting Google video of his recent talk in New Zealand on his blog.

A couple of things have been making me think recently. Ewan talks a lot about Gladwell’s notion of thin slicing and recently of this idea of digital holiday makers – people who do something neat for a while with ICT then just go back to what they did before at the end of the pilot or project. He also talks about not buying into digital natives and immigrants and I have to agree that people who have inspired me with ICT or indeed with anything in education have not all been mere youngsters, but tend to have been a little older with a bit of wisdom. But that’s the way of things, good teachers or educationalists keep wanting to learn, improve and do better teaching and will actively seek out tools which can help them, whatever those tools might be.

But I’d say that this thin slicing of education ideas goes way beyond just ICT. People who should maybe know better do this in education all the time… I was reading about the small study on using Nintendo DS games and brain gym. One implication was that maybe brain gym isn’t as marvellous as we may have been led to believe. The study is too wee to decide that but why do we all suddenly believe in the claims made for certain things?

Here are a couple of examples of things I’ve watched over the past few years. It appears that something is said whether at a conference, TAPESTRY, Learning Festival or whatever. We do our own pepsi challenge and decide this is a good thing and before we know it we all have to do it because it must be a good thing. We often have no data which leads us to know this is a good thing.

Brain Gym is an example – I have no doubt it gives children a wee rest and wakes them up a bit, maybe even helps relax them but above that……Massage in school – lovely, we’ve done it, kids like it, nice calm atmosphere is had by all, but…..Learning styles, yes we all do the questionnaires, the children discuss it, but is aiming everything at one learning style for anyone sensible? Should we not maybe be using lots of learning styles with all our children to help them learn in different ways than their favourite way? Are we actually doing our children a favour here or not? Just a thought…

So here’s my point – thin slicing is a pretty poor thing for us to do as teachers and results in us doing this holiday maker thing all the time whether with ICT or other educational things, with no real advances in educational pedagogies and no opportunity for staff to do any sort of deep learning. These things appear to happen because of the hold certain communities of thought have within education, a few lectures, a few conferences and we appear to reach tipping point very quickly. This is why Ewan’s Teachmeet events are important. I think this model of bringing people together to have quick bits of input, followed then by social media allowing them to research and really think about what and why they do things is more important than he may realise. It’s giving more of a bottom up way of learning and flattening things out more, which is allowing us to question and ask why much more, giving us much more worthwhile tipping points where we are thinking about learning and teaching as opposed to just sticking in new things like brain gym or learning styles or whatever because we’re told they are a good thing.. Maybe that’s what we should have been doing for a while….Maybe Learning and Teaching Scotland should be using this model much more with ACfE developments…..Maybe we should just ask why before we do things in the future….

October 20, 2007 Posted by | TeachMeet | , , | 2 Comments