The origins of ‘Mark with Me’

In September, I excitedly ordered 2 top mark papers back from each A2 exam. I was so pleased that after two years I had a selection of exam answers to work from and set the standard. I also of course wanted to do as many blogs as possible to share the information…then they arrived and I realised I had 18 answers sat in front of me. So after 3 months of trying to motivate myself to start working through the papers, alongside settling in new classes and all the inevitable start of term stresses, it just wasn’t happening. So my busy blogger’s brain started, how was I going to share all of this invaluable information without endless screen shots, highlighting and footnote commentaries? The answer…why not film myself analysing the papers instead!

Here is my first attempt (after many false starts and numerous edits when I couldn’t read certain words)

Second attempt:

I hope you find them useful. I will post all new videos on YouTube and you can access them on the blog via: Mark With Me 

Himalayan Singing Bowl Workshop

I am always on the look out for new experiences for my students, so when the local Buddhist centre offered to run a free workshop on Himalayan Singing Bowls I jumped at the opportunity. Now I know it is not directly linked with the spec but I strongly believe that wider experiences are crucial to a student’s development, helping them see beyond the exams, homework and endless monotony of power points.

So my first year’s ventured out of the classroom and down to the Hub, ready to enter the unknown world of meditation through Singing Bowls. 20190311_135355.jpgEverything was already set up, by our workshop organiser Kate, who had brought with her over twenty singing bowls from her many travels across Southern Asia. The students sat on the floor in a large semi circle and asked to close their eyes as Kate walked around gently circling a small singing bowl in her hands close to them. After taking a few photos I joined the students and had my first experience of a Signing Bowl and what an experience it was! It was amazing, totally captivating, as if it touched deep inside your core and you just felt peaceful, the vibrations permeating over your body, making you feel totally calm. One student said “It was very calming, put all the stresses in the back of my mind, I didn’t consider any troubles.”

20190311_151948Throughout the workshop, the students learnt about the history and practices of using Singing Bowls especially for meditation. Originally understood to have come from Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and used as sacred vessels in monastic ceremonies, the bowls have sound qualities previously unheard in the west. We explored how different bowls, those that are hand beaten or carved and decorated, each have a distinctly different sound.  Every hand forged bowl was unique, with a quality of sound that was determined by the precise composition of the bronze alloy used, the shape, thickness and size. This all affected the bowls fundamental note, pitch, harmonic resonance, duration of vibrations and tone. What was so surprising what how you seem to connect with one bowl and sound more than another. Certain sounds, for me, were awful, like nails on a chalk board whereas other sounds seemed to consume me in a blanket of calmness.

Continue reading “Himalayan Singing Bowl Workshop”

Premier of Mark With Me

Check out the first Mark with Me video, where I read through and give feedback on an essay from last year’s A2 Philosophy exam. This student achieved an A* overall:

All future videos for Mark with Me can be found under the heading ‘Exam Preparation’ on the blog’s main page .

 

GROW and Staff Wellbeing

For the past five years I have led a small team of teachers dedicated to supporting and developing staff in all areas of their professional needs, including teaching and learning. This year, as a team of 5, it was time to revamp our image and really makeGROW an impact. Over the years we have evolved away from the lesson observations and subsequent negative image of  ‘coaching’ towards the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options and Will.) So what does this include…

We provide support for:

  • NQT’s and RQT’s which involves one to one meetings, observations and pedagogical support.
  • Mentoring for new staff coming to college
  • All staff towards meeting PDR targets or CPD needs

We develop and enhance staff practice through:

  • CPD sessions: these are half an hour lunch time sessions split over the year, that staff can sign up for, based on developmental and professional needs. So far we have run sessions on Managing Workload and Differentiated tasks for Stretch and Challenge (see When ‘Stretch’ becomes too ‘Challenging’ for ppt, tasks and discussion pointers). We have also organised an external speaker to come in to talk about Autism and help staff in developing strategies to enhance an inclusive classroom (see Autism Awareness: How aware are you? for the highlights of the session).
  • Open Doors: my college no longer has graded observations or department audits (three days of door watching and writing excessively long lesson plans) to an Open Door system run by the GROW team. Each member of the team is allocated a quota of staff to contact to arrange a ‘drop in’ where they come for 10-15 minutes and complete a Praise Postcard of all the positive practice seen during that time. This is to focus on disseminating good/ best practice rather than focusing on passing judgements.
  • FB private group: We have set up FB group (Busy Brains Community) where staff can share articles, new ideas, issues, local events and pictures of what is going on in college.

We promote staff wellbeing through organising:

  • Staff events in college such as Pilates and Yoga classes, a Mindfulness workshop, a Christmas ‘Mince Pie and Mingle’, ‘Feel good Friday’ and charity fundraisers such as the Macmillan coffee morning (lots of excuses to eat homemade cake!).
  • Social events outside of college including a ‘Welcome Back’ meal in September and Mecca Bingo (because everyone loves Bingo…)
  • Local discounts for our staff including a massage package and restaurant savings.
  • Celebrate our Staff section on the GROW staffroom notice board, where staff highlight amazing achievements gained outside of college.

Finally at the start of this school year I took it upon myself (with the help of our Estates team of course) to redecorate the ‘spare’ room into a Grow and Staff Wellbeing space.

Before (the renovation was in full flow here):

After:

I would love to hear what your school/ college does as far as Teaching and Learning, Staff Wellbeing and Professional Development… so please do get in touch!

How to cope with Exam Stress

Last week I finished my level three Mental Health Training and it got me thinking about how I support my students with exam stress. The answer was ‘not much’. I do the usual revision planners/ timetables but I spend all of my time supporting revision (and finishing the spec) rather than strategies to actually help cope with exam stress. Students have always expressed that they are stressed when approaching their exams, so I use to work through what they had already achieved and how they were going to stagger their revision over the remaining weeks – thus talking through revision strategies rather than coping mechanisms. But how can students revise if they are not coping?

So I decided to start researching into strategies for supporting students dealing with exam stress. The lists of ideas were pretty repetitive and seemingly obvious – but then isn’t everything obvious when you already know the coping strategies? So I am going to go through this ppt with different strategies and tips to help my A2’s with exam stress. The reason I am going to cover this now, is to tackle the issue before it becomes an issue. Helping students set up strategies to support themselves now, before the serious stress hits, I hope will be more valuable in the long run.

I have also created a Revision Planner:

planner

And Checklist:

check

All the resources can be downloaded for free from TES here.

When ‘Stretch’ becomes too ‘Challenging’

As part of my role within the GROW Team (a team of teachers who support staff with their professional development) we facilitate in-house themed CPD sessions. My session focused upon developing differentiated strategies to promote stretch and challenge. My aim was to discuss a variety of strategies that could be used with different students/ subjects, which meant that stretching all students in a lesson was less challenging on the teacher.

I started the session with a mix and match worksheet where staff had to link the key words to the online definitions:

diff

This opened up a lot of initial discussions over the terms and their meanings. What I found surprising when researching for this session, was that most of the definitions on a general Google search for Stretch and Challenge, focused upon the students stretching and challenging themselves not the teacher. This flipped how I saw stretch and challenge in my mind: it is not the teacher driving it but the students recognising what they want to achieve, taking ownership over their success by stretching themselves.

I then moved on to a short ppt which highlighted three main problems with differentiated tasks for stretch and challenge with possible solutions:

After discussing each one, what we would like to try/ have already tried etc. we finished  with a plan of action sheet – basically a check list of what are you going to do:

Continue reading “When ‘Stretch’ becomes too ‘Challenging’”