Wednesday, 31 December 2008

My 2008

It's been a really busy year both in my personal life and in work.

My own personal highlights of 2008 are:

  • Celebrating our engagement and making arrangements for our wedding in April 2009.
  • The birth of our beautiful niece, Emily.
  • The birth of my beautiful goddaughter, Florence.
  • Being asked to be Florence's godfather.
  • Being Best Man for my best friend's wedding in June.
  • Being Groomsman for my brother at his wedding in August.
  • Attending two stag dos, one at Stockholm and one in Prague.
  • Surviving a really busy year in school. The summer and autumn terms were particularly stressful - but I've done it!
  • Arranging the helicopter visit to school.
  • Surviving the credit crunch (so far!) It's not been an easy year financially as Lisa was not working for six months and we have a wedding to save for!
  • Discovering Twitter, Toodledo, Delicious and Zamzar - brilliant tools that I don't know how I survived without!

This blog has been viewed over 16,000 times in 2008 (according to Bravenet) and Monday is the busiest day for hits.

The best tunes of the year are:

  1. The Killers - Humann
  2. Estelle & Kanye West - American Boy
  3. Duffy - Mercy
  4. Kid Rock - All Summer Long
  5. The Outsiderz & Amanda Wilson - Keep This Fire Burning
  6. Taio Cruz - I Can Be
  7. Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl
  8. The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go
  9. Nickelback - Rockstar
  10. Calvin Harris, Dizzee Rascal & Chrome - Dance Wiv Me
  11. Alphabeat - Fascination
  12. Gabriella Cilmi - Sweet About Me
  13. The Script - The Man Who Can't Be Moved
  14. The Ting Tings - That's Not My Name
  15. Madcon - Beggin'
  16. Keane - Spiralling
  17. The Potbelleez - Don't Hold Back
  18. Razorlight - Wire To Wire
  19. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
  20. Kings Of Leon - Sex On Fire

Top Films of the Year:

  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  • The Dark Knight
  • Quantum Of Solace

Top TV Programmes of the Year:

  • Gavin & Stacey
  • Summer Heights High
  • Lost

Plans for 2009:

  • Have a wedding that Lisa, myself and everyone enjoys
  • Get fit
  • Get a more powerful computer
  • Get a better work-life balance
  • End 2009 in a better financial position than it begins.

I hope you have had a successful 2008 and I wish you a wonderful 2009. May the best of 2008 be the worst of 2009!

Getting Things Done by David Allen - a review

I have enjoyed reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. It is full of really practical advice for getting things done at work and at home.Its subtitle, 'How to achieve stress-free productivity' suggests the book will tell you how to get things done without worrying and getting stressed, and I really think if I followed the advice right down to the last letter I would achieve the goal of stress-free productivity. However, I get the feeling that the book is not really aimed at teachers. As a result, it doesn't really explain how to get things done in a stress-free way in between teaching a class.

I'd love to see a version of this book, or similar, aimed directly at teachers.

I have learned a lot, however. I need to plan my projects more carefully and make my to do list more effective by using subtasks (time needed to play with Toodledo here). I regularly go to bed thinking about things that need to be done, so I need to create better collection methods to store all of my ideas and tasks so that they don't buzz around in my head. I also need to realise that not everything needs to be done right now.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Getting Things Done: Advice

Other advice in the book:

There are seven primary types of things that you'll want to keep track of and manage from an organisational perspective:
  1. A projects list
  2. Project support material
  3. Calendared actions and information
  4. Next actions lists
  5. A waiting for list
  6. Reference material
  7. A someday/maybe list

Most common categories of action reminders:

  • Calls
  • At computer
  • Errands
  • Office actions
  • At home
  • Agendas
  • Read/ Review

Getting Things Done: The Five Phases of Project Planning

The process of project planning involves a series of steps that has to occur before your brain can make anything happen physically:
  1. Defining purpose and principles
  2. Outcome visioning
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Organising
  5. Identifying next actions

The Reactive Planning Model:

The unnatural planning model is what most people consciously think of as 'planning', and because it's so often artificial and irrelevant to real work, people just don't plan. But what happens if you don't plan ahead of time? In many cases, crisis! What's the first level of focus when the stuff hits the fan? Action - work harder, get busier! Finally, when having a lot of busy people banging into each other doesn't resolve the situation, someone gets more sophisticated and says, "We need to get organised." Someone then sits down and tries to organise the problem into 'boxes' before realising that this doesn't solve the problem. More creativity is needed and so brainstorming occurs. Eventually, the question needs to be asked: "So what are you really trying to do here, anyway." This is when the vision and purpose is agreed. The reactive style is the reverse of the natural model.

The Five Phases of Natural Planning:

Thinking in more effective ways about projects and situations can make things happen sooner, better and more successfully. These five phases must be completed:


It never hurts to ask the question, 'why'? Realising the purpose for the project gives many benefits:

  • It defines success
  • It creates decision-making criteria
  • It aligns resources
  • It motivates
  • It clarifies focus
  • It explands options.


In order most productively to access the conscious and unconscious resources available to you, you must have a clear picture in your mind of what success must look, sound and feel like. Purpose and principles furnish the impetus and the monitoring, but vision provides the actual blueprint of the final result. This is the 'what?' instead of the 'why?' What will this project or situation really be like when it successfully appears in the world?


Once you know what you want to have happen, and why, the 'how' mechanism is brought into play.


What are the things that must occur to create the final result? In what order must they occur? What is the most important element to ensure the success of the project?

The basic steps of organising are:

  • Identify the significant pieces
  • Sort by (one or more) components, sequences and priorities
  • Detail to the required degree

Next actions

The question to ask is 'what's the next action?' Decide on next actions for each of the current moving parts of the project.

Friday, 5 December 2008

SATs revision already?

A survey carried out by Manchester University suggests that more than 350,000 Year 6 pupils have already begun revising for next summer’s SATs. A survey of 465 teachers and headteachers found that 60 per cent of schools now begin test preparation in the second half of the autumn term.

Professor Bill Boyle, of the Centre for Formative Assessment Studies, found that 38 per cent of schools were already spending up to an hour a week on practice papers or revision lessons by the second half of the autumn term. A further 14 per cent spent two hours a week on test preparation, and 9 per cent spent three hours or more.

By the second half of the spring term, two-thirds of primaries spent three or more hours a week drilling pupils for the English, maths and science tests.

Professor Boyle said: “Why are we still doing this? Why do we have this obsession with tests? These figures are far too high. But teachers will keep on while the system remains in place.”

The survey was carried out in the 2006-07 school year. Three quarters of schools said that the time they devoted to test preparation had increased over the past 10 years.

A study by The TES in 2002 found that only one in seven schools started test preparation in the autumn term.

Professor Boyle’s survey also found that time spent on homework had increased. The proportion of schools asking pupils to spend two or more hours a week revising for tests at home rose from 9 per cent at the beginning of the school year to 30 per cent by the Easter holidays.

Almost nine out of 10 teachers said the curriculum had been narrowed by the focus on tests, 69 per cent thought moderated teacher assessment would be a reliable alternative, and 32 per cent would like to see the key stage 1 model of teacher assessment informed by KS2 test results.
David Tuck, head of Dallow Primary in Luton and past president of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “As far as we’re concerned, we start booster classes after Christmas. We have children coming in sometimes on Saturday morning or lunchtimes. The focus on tests does create a very narrow curriculum and we have to ask if this is the best thing for children.

“One researcher was asking children about their levels and a boy said to him, ‘You don’t want to know my level, I’m a nothing.’ What have we done to children? Where are we going? We need to instil confidence.”