Saturday, 28 February 2009

Residential in France

Yesterday I returned from a week in France with our Year Sixes.

This is the third year that we have enjoyed a visit to France, and I'm delighted to say that it has once again been a very successful week!

We set off from school at 6.30am on Monday and arrived at our chateau 11 hours later! Our accomodation is fantastic and the grounds in which we stayed were beautiful.

On Tuesday we toured the local town of Rue. In the afternoon we visited a nearby goat farm where the children had chance to hold some of the goats, rabbits and chicks. We also visited a delicious chocolate factory.

On Wednesday we travelled to Amiens, the nearest city, with one of the most incredible buildings I've ever seen. The cathedral takes my breath away every time I see it! We then set off for an underground city which was used by local villagers to hide during WW2.

On Thursday we travelled to Abbeville to explore the local shops and sample a French cafe. In the afternoon we learned to play petanque and braved the muddiest blind trail!

On Friday we visited Nausicaa, a fantastic aqarium before setting off home again.

It is wonderful to see how much the children gained in confidence and independence during the week. Their French skills developed well.

This year, for the first time, we created a blog which we used to communicate to parents. This was experimental, as we weren't really sure what internet facilities we could use. We used Posterous, and linked to it from our school website. We then simply used Googlemail to send an email with news about the events of the day. The feedback from parents was really positive and lots of them added comments.

Next year we plan to add photos whilst we are away by taking a laptop with us. We will use a wireless connection to upload lots of exciting news. We will also experiment with Twitter so that we can add updates via mobile phone so that little snippets can be added. Before then I want to learn to feed Twitter directly into Posterous.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Recently I read the book Fish! after having watched the famous film about the Seattle Fish Market workers. I enjoyed learning about four main principles for developing a happy and productive workplace.
  • Choose your attitude
  • Play
  • Make Their Day
  • Be There
As I was reading the book I wondered how the principles can apply to schools. Here are just a few general thoughts.

Choose Your Attitude:
Here are the benefits of Choose Your Attitude:
  • By accepting that you choose your attitude, you demonstrate a level of personal accountability.
  • Our best qualities are brought to work.
  • It means that we can escape for a while from any problems or distractions out of work.
  • "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude" - William James (1842 - 1910)
For children:
It means that postive behaviour management schemes should be used to encourage children to choose the correct attitude to display. It encourages a positive and energised ethos.
For staff:
It means that we can enjoy our work and concentrate on helping the children to learn. You can let problems and issues at work affect your attitude and you are guaranteed to have a bad day. Or we can choose a positive attitude and do our best to enjoy ourselves.
For parents:
Encouraging the same values from our parents is important to foster good healthy relationships.

Here are the benefits of play:
  • Happy people treat others well.
  • Fun leads to creativity.
  • Time passes quickly.
  • Having a good time is healthy.
  • Work becomes a reward and not just a way to rewards.
For children:
I think Play is about what we all try to do already - making school and lessons fun so that the pupils enjoy coming to school to learn and enjoy success. It encourages positive behaviour management strategies.
For staff:
It doesn't mean that we abandon our professionalism just to have a laugh. It means that laughs become part of the job. We try to avoid letting the stresses of school stop us from enjoying life. If we can have fun then the children can have fun.
For parents:
We communicate well with parents and involve them in their child's learning. They are comfortable to visit the classroom and enjoy coming to support the school in events.

Make Their Day:
The benefits of Make Their Day are:
  • It is good for business.
  • Serving our 'customers' well will give us the satisfaction that comes to those who serve others. We focus our attention on to how we can make a positive difference to others.
For children:
We want every day to be special for the children. It's about helping them to enjoy success on whatever level and make them feel special.
For staff:
We want to make staff feel special, too. They should also enjoy success in work. It means that staff make the effort to get to know each other and encouraging kindness and co-operation.
For parents:
It means that we should try to communicate as often as we can with parents, especially to share children's successes.

Be There:
The benefits of Be There:
  • It makes everyone feel valued and special.
  • It makes us feel that the benefits for others will be reciprocated towards ourselves.
For children:
This means we should continue to be there for the children, showing a caring demeanour to them. It means we should help and encourage them in lessons. This is really about all of the professional duties of being a teacher.
For staff:
This means being committed to truly listening and caring towards each other. It means making the time to commit to a team.
For parents:
It means being available to parents. It means good communication and honesty.

I enjoyed reading this motivational piece in the book:
As you enter this place of work please choose to make today a great day. Your colleagues, customers, team members, and you yourself will be thankful. Find ways to play. We can be serious about our work without being serious about ourselves. Stay focused in order to be there when for your customers and team members most need you. And should you feel your energy lapsing, try this surefire remedy: Find someone who needs a helping hand, a word of support, or a good ear - and make their day.

Good advice!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Collection Boxes

After reading David Allen's book "Getting Things Done" I have begun to revise the ways that I 'collect' and organise jobs that I need to do. A couple of Web 2.0 tools have been really useful for this.

When I started teaching 7 and a half years ago I quickly began to realise how poor an auditory learner I am. I really need to see or read things for them to sink in; trying or doing something makes a real impact on me. But I am awful at learning by listening. I find myself becoming fidgety in courses and meetings unless I am actively engaged. For the same reasons I have now begun to realise how poor my memory when I am asked to do a task or think of an idea in conversation. I now know that unless I write something down I am bound to forget it.

I now record shopping lists, tasks for work, issues in class, jobs around the house, errands, emails, texts, wedding preparation, ideas and thoughts. These are some of the ways I use to record everything:
  • Good old-fashioned Post-its. You just can't beat them for making quick notes. The important thing with Post-its, though, is that they must be kept and organised somewhere regularly or they will be lost. Post-its are great in the very short term.
  • I keep two diaries - one containing appointments and details of events happening at home and in school each day and one is used as a 'day book'. I use my diary to plan where I need to be each day - everything is written down as soon as I find out about it. My day book is used to record things I have need to do, things I have learned and ideas. Information from Post-its is often added to my day book. I keep any flyers or information needed for a specific day with that page in the book. Of course, this is great for making notes and making my focus for the day very clear, but I still need a way to remember things that need to be done regularly and things that I'd like to try or things that I want to need in the longer term. For these jobs I use a couple of useful websites.
  • Toodledo is a brilliant To Do list. Since discovering it I wonder how I ever survived without it. I use it to record tasks that I need to do - a bit like a still photo of all the plates that I am spinning. It tells me what I need to do and when. I can set tasks to repeat. I can remind me about things that need to be done months in advance. I will never forget what needs to be prepared for a meeting. It even reminds me when to order new asthmas inhalers. It stores everything I need to remember. Some of its greatest features are the notebook which can be used to record an agenda for meetings or details of a project; the subtask facility which ensures that I can record all the steps I need to take to complete a project; and the ability to text (via Twitter) tasks directly to my to do list using my phone.
  • Wikispaces is the final tool that I use for collection. This is used to record details of events from one year to another. Now, I can keep a record of what was good and what was not so good about an event, a project, a lesson or something else. This way I can make it even better for next year! I keep notes from courses I have attended. My Wikispaces page tends to be a place to record my long term ideas - things I know I can't try in the next few months. It also acts as a reference tool for information wherever I need it. I pay to make the wikispace private so that it is completely personal.
I hope that these ideas could help you to. Another collection tool I plan to look into further is Evernote which also looks useful. I also want to find an online shopping list to remind me about everything I need to buy from groceries to other items.

Does anyone use any other tools for collecting jobs or reminders?