The end of August has heralded a host of new blog posts for NQTs. I have done one myself here! But Jon Brunskill had a different idea. Instead of giving his own views he asked prominent (and not so prominent!) twitter teachers to off their 140 characters worth of advice for his new podcast. I tweeted and asked if I could use some of these to illustrate as I had been inspired by @pw2tweets brilliant #EduSketchnotes. Here are the results:
Apologies to any twitter teachers whose comments I missed!
There has been an awful lot of lists for going back to school on twitter and they all seem to have ten things to do. 10 ways to make the little blighters behave or 10 sensational ways to make a display wonderful or 10 ways to line chairs up to stop them chatting.
This got me thinking. Poor old number 9! Never quite enough to stand up to his older brother number ten. Even number 7 gets a good press. So here are my 9 things to avoid in your NQT year:
1. Don’t wear suit trousers for PE: I did once and was showing the children how to do the standing long jump. I was swinging my arms, flexing my knees and then… jump. I flew through the air and landed with an almighty ‘riiiiiiiiiip’! My trouser had split from my backside to my zip!
2. Don’t forget if you send a child from the class: In my NQT year, I once sent a child to stand outside the classroom to give him time out while I dealt with a behaviour issue from playtime which he was part of. This was sorted fairly quickly and the rest of the morning continued. I dismissed the children at lunch, marked some books and was on my way to lunch when a small voice said, “Can I go for lunch. Sir?” Yikes! I had left him outside all morning!
3. Don’t stay up too late: I had had an extremely late night one Thursday and going to school the next day was tough. Being at a catholic school at the time, we had mass in the morning. During the kneeling part my concentration went awry and I thought we were at the part where we were to stand up. So I did. And so did my class… mass stopped as a sudden realisation that I wasn’t concentrating hit me and we were not at the standing part. A church full of glaring eyeballs made me and my class sit down again.
4. Don’t be a slave to systems: sometimes, although others will argue, there are exceptions. As a young teacher, I felt it was important to hear what each child needed and give them my focus 100% while talking to them. While this is important, you have to have half an eye on the rest of the class. I was talking with a child and going through their work while a girl behind him was waiting. She was doing the toilet wiggle. I finished with the young lad and got to the girl, who had stopped wiggling. ‘Yes? How can I help?’ I said.
‘Oh, it’s nothing,’ she replied.
‘Do you need the toilet?’
And she didn’t. There beneath her was a puddle which I had to spend lunchtime cleaning because the caretaker wasn’t in. There are exceptions.
5. Don’t swim in the pool where the kids go: there’s nothing worse than a kid saying ‘Hiya, sir!’ as you are drying yourself.
6. Don’t yawn during staff meetings: not even those super sneaky ones where you imagine you look like you’re just breathing deeply and concentrating really hard. You don’t. You look like you’re suppressing a yawn! Your flared nostrils and narrowing eyes will give you away.
7. Don’t forget a child on a school trip: this one hasn’t happened to me… yet. I love taking kids on trips. You see them in a different light and they see you differently as well. It can make for the basis of great relationships. But at the top of my list for every trip is ‘have you got everyone?’ This relentless counting gives me a headache by the end of the day but ensures the trip is successful. What is a successful trip? One where you come back with all the kids you set off with!
8. and 9. Don’t take criticisms too harshly and don’t believe all the plaudits: a serious one to finish with. Listen to advice. Act upon it if it is good. Read more so you know the difference.
Oh, and don’t make meth with a student… Ah, crumbs… that’s 10 isn’t it…?
I should have learnt from the experience described here, or from phonics denialists, that for a lot of tweeters and bloggers, the methods used in the teaching of younger children is not a subject open for debate or even the mildest form of questioning. I don’t really have any views on the details of early years teaching, and don’t really have much insight into what small children are like. I’ve so very little to say on the issue, and yet it’s really easy to lose a day on twitter just dealing with misrepresentations and attacks dealt towards anybody who is seen as questioning the orthodoxy. But I suppose I might as well state the grand sum of my views here; ask the questions that I am actually interested in, and then let it drop.
Let’s deal with my only real opinion on something to do with early years. Back in March of…
The rain poured down and gun metal grey skies filled the sky while I resolutely tapped into twitter that it was just liquid sunshine.
I am an optimist.
I try to see the upside in situations: a new curriculum? Great; a chance to learn new things! A lesson observation? No problem; a chance to show how fantastic my class can be (hopefully)! Car needs new brakes and going to cost £160? Phew; glad I caught that in time before I REALLY needed them!
Reading the beginning of Angus Walker’s blog made me think about how summer is a time to be reflective as a teacher: whether that is in the comfort of your own home having a glass of wine and enjoying the quietness of the August sunshine or taking to twitter to duel with other teachers who seem diametrically opposed to your pedagogical philosophy, now is the time where we don’t have a class and can really think about what it means to be a teacher and where you stand as a teacher.
I thought about this on my way to meeting fellow teachers who use twitter and wondered what we would talk about. It was the first time really I had met most of them. I was a little excited! I wondered how the conversation would develop. On twitter we have time to search for any unknown terms and carefully think about what we want to say, how we want to say it and even whether we want to say it at all. There have been several times when I have hit reply, typed my response then thought better of it.
But here we were. On our way to meet. In the end, it was great but on the way I worried that we might run out of things to talk about so I thought about a few questions that I hoped would generate some discussion. In the end we didn’t need them! Getting six teachers together, the problem was not keeping the conversation going!
And now I had a whole host of questions and nothing to do with them. Take them as you will. I was going to suggest that we choose a number between 1 and 21 and then discuss that question as a group and you could still use them this way as team meeting starter although some may be close to the knuckle if you are referring to current staff! Or you could just use them to think about as you sip your mid-morning glass of wine (hey, why not? It’s the holidays!) Or you could think of the most ridiculous answers for each, but below are the 21 questions to ask of yourself in the summer:
1. Why did you become a teacher?
2. What is your teaching philosophy?
3. How do the children in your class perceive you?
4. What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?
5. Where do you want to be in five years time?
6. How do parents perceive you?
7. What has been the lowest point of your career so far and how did you bounce back?
8. Which person, who you have worked with, has influenced you the most?
9. What is the best quality you have as an educator?
10. How do other teachers perceive you?
11. Do you want to be a head teacher/principal? Why?
12. Do you see yourself teaching until you retire?
13. Which class/age/grade would you teach if you had the option?
14. What is the worst thing you have known another educator to do in the classroom?
15. What is the best professional development you have ever been part of?
16. How would you change things if you were the head teacher/principal in your school?
17. What three words would you use to describe yourself as a teacher?
18. How would you judge the effectiveness of teaching across an entire school?
19. How do you show your class’ achievements to others?
20. How are you going to challenge yourself when you go back to school?
21. What are you going to do when you go back to school to make your classes even better?
Thanks for reading, tweeting and re-blogging this post!
Sound advice, new developments and a few laughs are what I want from twitter. I like to keep up with recent news and twitter is also excellent for this. However, this short post is really a postscript to some great blogs I have read over the last few days.
@WatsEd has written a brace of posts for new tweachers (not sure I like this portmateau but it seems to have stuck!) which can be found here,and here. These provide great advice for teachers new to twitter and also chronicle his ups and downs of social media.
@Mroberts90Matt has also written a good post along the same lines which can be found here and his journey as an NQT with one of the craziest years of his life is slightly different but also offers great advice.
I just wanted to add one thing that I thought was missing to these fine blogs. I would recommend using a twitter client (like TweetDeck or HootSuite) to follow twitter. The twitter website is fine if you are following a few people, but to get the best out of twitter for professional purposes you want to follow some themes through the popular hashtags such as #ukedchat, #edchat or #nqtchat. These hastags allow people to share their ideas with a wider audience than their own followers and it is a great way to share your own ideas with a people who don’t follow you…yet!
The problem is that, without a bit of fiddling, you have to manually update twitter and also you would have to have several tabs open for the different hashtags you are following. The beauty of twitter clients like TweetDeck or HootSuite is that you can have several tabs open on screen and view them all at once as well as having the client auto-update the different feeds you are following. This comes in really handy when you participate in a discussion on twitter as you can open a new feed to show just the tweets about the theme you are following. This acts like a filter and only shows you the tweets that are relevant to the topic.
Below are a couple of examples of twitter clients:
The TweetDeck screen grab (of 2 screens) also shows that, as well as having multiple feeds open in your browser, you can have different twitter accounts showing as well.
The twitter clients just make things easier to follow and make life in twitter a little bit simpler… well, for e at least!
I personally prefer TweetDeck but I would recommend you have a look for yourself and see which suit you best.