New year’s resolutions: 2015-2016

I’ve mentioned previously that I like to start the new school year with my resolutions. This year is not only a new year for me, but a new school and a new role as well. I’m extremely excited to be moving back to Southwark, the borough where I first trained, and to an academy and mixed school for the first time. I remember all too keenly the trials of starting afresh: the students don’t know you, so you must build up trust and predictability of follow-through; teachers don’t know you and don’t know how committed you will turn out to be; not to mentioned the umpteen-thousand-million names to learn.

So, this year, I need to simplify my aims and keep it simple. My two resolutions for this year focus on behaviour and curriculum.

Behaviour

Good behaviour underpins a school’s every success. Without excellent behaviour, even the very best teaching is significantly diminished in its impact. Beginning a new school as a more seasoned teacher and with responsibility, I will still prioritise ensuring the behaviour in my own classroom is exemplary. I’ll be re-visiting Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion chapter on the least invasive intervention, and constantly explaining why I’m enforcing the rules, bringing everything back to the students’ learning.

I’ve made several visits to my new school, and have been very impressed with behaviour on the corridors. But I know this is the result of tireless efforts from the teachers to constantly enforce their expectations, always with a smile, ensuring a calm environment. I need to be vigilant to ensure I am a part of that team of continual reinforcement. There can be no priority more fundamental than 100% of students complying with 100% of the instructions of 100% of staff 100% of the time.

And of course, that goes for the classrooms of others. As a senior leader, I pledge to be visible and supportive in ensuring behaviour is excellent. I won’t be taking children back to teachers who have sent them out. I won’t be walking past a chaotic classroom with a struggling supply teacher because a meeting or pile of work awaits me. And, most vitally, I won’t be blaming the supply teacher, NQT or any teacher for the behaviour of their students.

Curriculum

My role at will be to oversee Curriculum Design, so I’ll be drawing on my ideas from E.D. Hirsch, as well as other school examples, for guidance on what makes an excellent curriculum.

My aim for the curriculum is two-fold. Firstly, I would like to see a coherent curriculum, where students’ learning is systematically sequenced, and then revisited. I’d like to see a curriculum where all students are studying high-quality subjects in a clear and coherent way, and intervention for the lowest attainers on entry still ensures students are receiving a coherent curriculum that will enable them to have choices in later life.

Secondly, I would like to see a rigorous curriculum, where every subject is teaching high-quality content in an academic manner. This will also encompass rigorous testing of the curriculum, to ensure students are remembering what they have learned.

It may sound like an immense challenge, but I’ve been privileged to meet heads of faculty and senior leaders at the school who have already worked hard to put many of the structures in place that will ensure the above is a reasonable expectation. The principal has assembled a team of highly committed, impressive individuals and I will have to work hard to prove my worth and live up to their proven excellence.

Finally, I’d like to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I absolutely love what I do, and the temptation is always to plough into work and forget everything else. I’d like to work sensible hours, see friends and family, and read plenty of books.

New year’s resolutions

Every August I make New Year’s resolutions for school. Occasionally, by week four, I realize these were entirely misguided. The ones which don’t seem to work are usually the ones which go against what is naturally right for me. I’ve mentioned that last year’s resolution, which was essentially to be more stern, didn’t work so well. I’m a smiley person. I have to have a bit of a joke with students, or they can tell I’m just pretending. Undeterred, I continue to make resolutions.

1. Happy teachers

I love my department, both collectively and individually. I genuinely believe that teachers are better at their job when they are happy. For some people, happiness cannot be found within their particular school for one reason or another; and of course, some will always decide to move on. Yet I want to strive this year to ensure all teachers are as happy as they can possibly be. To me, that means supporting, rallying and knowing when to stop talking. It also means listening to concerns and needs, and changing practices which are causing unhappiness. This might sound overly simplified, but I do think it is that simple. Happy teachers, happy students, happy school. 

2. Empowered department

My department is amazing. They have the results to back it up, and should be shouting from the rooftops about their amazingness. There are many ways to empower a department, and I’m going to start with meetings. I have run too many department meetings. It is time to supportively delegate. I’m definitely not the last word on very many (any?) practices, and have learned so much from my colleagues already. I’d like to assess where we are at the start of the year, and then explore who is nailing it in areas we’re not all nailing it. For example, in my year 11 this year no child achieved an A in either language or literature. This is a first for me, and I’m worried about bringing my future students to that high level. Conversely, in one of my colleague’s classes, every single child achieved an A or A* in English Language. I’d like to know what she did, and I’m sure the whole department would.

3. 100%

I’ve written about 100% very many times, so it should come as no shock that I’d like 100% of our year 11 to achieve A*-C in English Language. Yes, I know that we really need to be aiming for Bs; yes, I know I should be thinking about Literature as well. But we need to begin somewhere, and this is where I will begin. The new year 11s are inevitably a different group, with different starting points. They are also tenacious, hard-working and committed. These attributes have long triumphed over “prior attainment”, and I see no reason why they cannot this year.