I’ve always loved to read, I started early and never stopped. I’m one of those people who will lie in the bath and read every bit of the label on the shampoo bottle, even the bits in languages I don’t understand.

ded4ae7b6b068662f20fbe15f5ac3cc5I love the classics, Shakespeare, Chaucer and even found the odd Dickens bearable even if they are a bit too vocabulary dense for me.  I’m a HUGE fan of Thomas Hardy, can read anything by him and be moved to tears, incited to outrage or transported instantly to a leafy, cold, rainy west country lane via his particularly profound ability to describe things like a conjurer magically creating images inside your head.

I also like trashy novels, they have a place. I’ve read many a Danielle Steel, Jilly Cooper and even a couple of Jackie Collins’  novels laid on hot beaches or bobbing on a boat somewhere splendid in my time.

I love to read biographical or autobiographical accounts of triumphing over adversity and enjoy a good rags to riches story, one of my most favourite ever I read in one day while lying on the side of a mountain on a hot Greek island, the story of Cupcake Brown  A Piece of Cake which moved me to tears at more than one juncture. I loved such as Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, In Pursuit of Happyness charting Chris Gardner’s rise to fortune and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and the follow up ‘Tis charting a less then brilliant childhood and thereafter.

I adore Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple and perhaps learned more about myself from that book than any other.Never judge a book by its movie It was perhaps the book which broke me from my Stephen King obsession, which ended with Needful Things, read whilst breast feeding my youngest on those long dark nights and it somehow launched me into a world of Faye Weldon starting with The Lives and Loves of a She Devil.

I’ve encouraged my kids to read, taught them both by the time they were 3 and still  read to them, even though the eldest is almost 21. She still loves to snuggle up and be read to, it’s a habit of a lifetime. I garnered my love of reading perhaps from my own father who was never seen without a book in his hand and I emulate his ability to read several books at a time, switching from genre to genre as the mood suits. I remember when he was dying and was unable to read, sitting beside his bed on those last couple of days reading anything and everything to him and how it soothed him.

Through my children I was introduced to a whole new world of children’s literature that I might otherwise have missed, my days  of running to the book shop, pocket money held aloft to buy the latest Enid Blyton were well and truly over and children’s literature had moved on considerably and I loved it. From tales of Alfie getting in first, nursery_art_print_childs_room_art_print_reading_quotes_and_sayings_630705dcSpot, the adventures of the Tots from Tots TV, Miffy the strange looking rabbit, reliving the delights of Oscar Wilde’s Happy Prince and the tales of Hans Christian Anderson, moving on to Jacqueline Wilson’s contemporary social commentary on growing up from Dustbin Baby to the Illustrated Mum and then on to the Star Wars books, biographies of football and sporting greats, the Noughts and Crosses saga and not to mention Twilight and Harry Potter.

There’s value in reading, it opens up worlds, it opens up minds, it breaks down barriers, it soothes, calms and unifies. Books are not just bound together pieces of paper they are roads to somewhere and as a teacher if I can do one thing it will be to try to encourage the people I teach to embrace reading as one of the most powerful tools to take them where they want to go in life. It’s such a shame that it’s a bit of a dying art, I don’t know one parent of a small child who actually sees reading to their babies as a fun activity, a special time to dive into a new world together. Besides anything else reading really does help them to learn everything else, I firmly believe that, besides the obvious reasons, it teaches them to absorb, comprehend, reconstitute, consider and comment sharing their own opinion and that’s a good skill to have for life.

Reading’s good and I just felt like having a muse about it…it’s my blog and I’ll do what I like with it 🙂6


Learning Styles

I put this together to help myself understand learning styles and to visualise how the wider use of the brain can increase retention and learning. It might be useful to someone else.Learning Styles

It doesn’t mention Memetics but I did come across  a really interesting paper which was actually written regarding ‘teaching’ robots but it has some interesting views on memetics and some good clear definitions of what it is. It’s here: memetics


Found this interesting article on feedback. It’s an easy read and might come in handy for something.

Christmas Break

I’m ready for a Christmas break now. The books have been put away and thoughts of lesson plans need to be emptied from my mind. So I’m going to wish all of my followers a very happy, healthy and safe Christmas. Have fun!!

Snow Stories

So excited that I could make it snow on my blog. Can’t stop looking at it.

So cold here at trainee teacher towers today it feels like snow should be on the ground but as yet not so much of a warning of the stuff.

I remember being a kid at school and how excited we all used to get with our old, noisy, coal fired heating systems banging and bubbling but doing the job of keeping us warm, looking out at giant flakes starting to settle on the school yard or the playing fields and getting so excited.

“Will we be allowed to go home early?” “Will it keep snowing and get really deep?” “Will we be snowballed half to death on the way home?” “Will we be allowed to have lunch break on the field so that we could build snowmen?” Such fun times.untitled

I remember one day I was running slightly late taking my son to nursery school and it had been snowing all night and morning, the school field was knee deep pristine snow and I couldn’t resist. We both ran into it and were throwing it at each other, making snow angels, spelling things out in it with our feet. Finally we arrived at his classroom, red faced, freezing and sopping wet. Him up to the waist. I quickly changed him into his spare clothes that hung on a bag on his peg, clean pants and sweat pants, clean socks and dry plimsolls, fresh tee shirt and jumper. We stepped into the classroom to be told we were so late it was time to leave. Whoops!! We’d clearly spent far longer than planned playing in the snow. I was probably frowned upon by the teacher for being so carefree and not getting my son to school on time but we had such a fun time that day, he still remembers it now so in the whole scheme of things it was well worth  missing a two and a half hour nursery session for.

Bad parent, today I’d probably be fined and get a visit from educational welfare.

Making Yourself More Employable – More Musings and Top Tips

It’s a tough world out there, how do you prepare yourself best to find your dream teaching job?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and I figured the first thing to do besides becoming a qualified teacher and Decisions-714972being on top of your specialist subject is to make sure you know who you want to teach and where. If you’re not bothered that’s fine but if you know that you feel more comfortable with a particular age group, or that you have more to offer a particular age group then get that straight first. Then decide if your dream job lies in a school, college, sixth form, university, prison, overseas, hospital, public/private sector, academy… the list is quite substantial. I figure it’s better to focus in on where your dream lies but keep yourself flexible at the same time. You’ve probably already made a choice hence your placement location but you might change your mind when you do your observations in other sectors.

As a newly qualified teacher I guess a job anywhere is a start but I’d be careful to accept ‘just anything’ if it could mean a poor reference at the end of the first year, being totally out of the comfort zone, away from social support networks and such might have a detrimental affect on your performance.

From working in the NHS I saw many, many well qualified and able nurses and doctors relocate to this quiet East coast town as an ‘easy’ first job due to historical recruitment and retention issues and I saw most of them struggle and even saw some fail and abandon a career they’d worked years towards. Social ties and connections are important to some people, isolation is not good for everyone. It’s not always going to happen that you walk into a job and a web of social activity with your colleagues. Living in a strange town or city with nobody familiar to go home to at night can be tough. fish_out_istock_000019866253xsmall-1If you’re going to do it I’d really seriously recommend that if it’s possible (i.e. you are single with no kids) you flat share with people or a person your own age, maybe from the same profession as a start so that you have some support and company to start off with. As someone who left home young and moved to the big city I know how important that first connection can be and if you can set it up before you get there so much the better. It’s not the same as university where freshers have activities arranged and are housed together, it’s not like that at all.

Other more practical things you can do to give yourself a good shot no matter what you teach, where you want to teach it or to whom include things like:

1. Make sure everything is up to date, your CV, Personal Statement, Linked In account and such.

2. Make sure you have all of your certificates from those O’Levels you sat 30 years ago because someone will want to see them, especially those relating to English and Maths qualifications. They can be costly to replace so if you paper degreeneed a few of them start getting them gathered in gradually now to spread the cost. You can get help with tracing old results here:

3. Make sure your social networking accounts are professionalised, go through them painstakingly removing any photos that you might not want a prospective employer to see and any posts which you’d rather stayed for your friend’s and family’s eyes only. Clear out your liked pages and your favourite movies and books that might have been stored there since you were a 15 year old kid.

4. Put together a portfolio of any work you have done which is particularly relevant or which may be interesting to show somebody who is interviewing you, you may never use it but it’s useful to have one ready rather than scrabble around for one the night before an interview. Making sure you always have toner or ink for you home printer is also another one to go with this, if you get a last minute offer of an interview and need to take print outs of anything with you make sure you are not caught running around with your precious documents on a memory stick trying to find a friend who will let you use theirs.

interview-tips5. Get your course mates to interview you, practicing interviewing techniques is always useful and getting some input from others on what they’d anticipate questions to be like might be really useful too. Come to think of it, while you are a student make the most of support on offer and run applications forms by relevant experts and get your CV and personal statement checked out too.

6. As a matter of courtesy let people who you know you will use as referees know that you are going to do so and check that they are happy with that. Select these wisely too, your tutor and mentor will make good relevant referees.

7. Keep your blog up to date if you have one. It might be something that tips a decision in your favour by adding value to show a prospective employer that you are so committed to and interested in your craft that you think about what you are doing, read, share, support peers, are capable of self reflection and all of those collaborative, self-development activities that prove you’re putting effort into being a teacher and it’s not just a job to you. Peer support and networking shows team spirit too, something that will be very important as a teacher throughout your career. Blogging is increasingly popular and a key feature of things like TES and Guardian Education.

8. Invest in a fabulous new interview outfit, if you feel good it will help you to relax and act more like your true self at interview.


9. Make sure you can be flexible, there is nothing an interviewer hates more than people who can’t make their interview date and time (believe me I know, I’m pretty easy going and open minded but I’ve often assumed that if someone can’t make a date they don’t care enough about the job and it gives me a negative impression from the start). This is your future, this is your passion, this is your dream, nothing matters more than this (OK besides staying alive) but nothing non life threatening should keep you from an interview so…

  • Do not book holidays around the time you know you will be applying for jobs – as a teacher you’ll have loads of long holidays to look forward to right?
  • Do not book minor operations, leave your boob job and face lift for another time when you’ll have more money anyway on the huge teacher’s salary that is about to be yours.
  • Tell family that they have to be on stand by to pick kids up or babysit. Note I say ‘tell’ not ‘ask’. This is your dream they love you, they want this for you as much as you do surely.
  • Get yourself a railcard while you’re still a student. This is only relevant if you plan on applying for jobs outside of your home town so you can let the train take the strain and arrive for interviews refreshed, stress free, prepared and with not too much damage to the bank balance.
  •  Be financially prepared. You might be attending many, many interviews all over the country so make sure you have the funds to get to them, it would be awful if you had to turn down an interview because you were too skint to get yourself a ticket or a killer outfit (see above, get one now).

10. Finally, practice Skype interviews. I know lots of teachers who have been interviewed via Skype. It’s becoming increasingly popular. It saves money in reimbursing travel expenses, it’s environmentally friendly in that it doesn’t do much to add to the old carbon footprint and can reduce reams of  paperwork. Besides it can be easier to set a convenient interview slot (avoiding all of the issues in point 9).  Top tips for Skype interviews then:

  • Get your peers to practice Skype interviews with you
  • Look at your background, do not have a Skype interview with a pile of washing behind you, an Xbox game on pause or something more unsavoury playing on a TV in the background
  • Think about what you are wearing, dress professionally and don’t just dress your top half, you might be asked to transmit something that is on a memory stick in another room
  • Make sure people who share your home with you know that you have an interview and that you will destroy them if they dare to come home, move, speak, put on music or let the dog in while you are being interviewed.
  • Turn off phones, disconnect door bells, put notes on gates warning anyone who dares to knock on your door that they WILL be torn apart with your bare hands or by your giant imaginary Rottweiler
  • Of course, most importantly make sure you get your best camera angle and don’t forget you are talking to the camera not to your own image on the screen down in the bottom corner or to the image of the interviewer in the middle of your screen, look into the camera and smile, but not like you do for a selfie, that’s not cool.

Have a look at this video on You Tube to help some more:

 So much to think about! But it all helps and if it means the difference between not getting a job and getting one at the end of this then it is all worth it.

End of Term Top Tips

OK, so I figured now it’s end of term one of trainee teaching and end of semester one of PGCE study I’d list my top tips for PGCE/teacher training survival for anyone out there who may be considering applying around now for the course next year.

1. Don’t worry if you’re scared – stepping into the classroom for the first time is hard for even the most  Fearfulconfident of us. It’s something new, it’s the first big step to fulfilling your ambition, it’s the first time you’ve been ‘the teacher’ and not the student in this kind of formal environment. It is OK to have your teeth chattering, knees knocking, brow sweating and heart pounding. It’s OK to think that everyone instantaneously hates you and that every conversation going on in the room is one making fun of you. It’s ALL GOOD. Don’t worry, take it in your stride and go back next time! It all gets easier. Hey you could even blog about your experiences to make others feel better when they think they’re the only ones who feel like that.

2. Take time to get to know the students and to let them know about you – these studentearly days when you’re not really doing a lot other than observing are priceless for getting to know the students. Ask them why they are studying this course, what they want to do in the future, what they do now besides study, show an interest in them as people. Tell them that you are a student and that you know your specialist subject inside out but are learning to teach and they are going to be the ones to help you learn the most. It helps to break the barriers and build rapport. Hey you could even blog about your breakthrough moments to let your peers know that they do happen.

3. Use techniques – use the techniques you are taught on classroom management, planning, inclusion, differentiation and all that and then add it to the stuff you found out by doing number 2 above and you will feel comfortable very quickly. Hey, you can even blog about the ones you use, where you learned them and how they worked or didn’t work for you.

4. Don’t be in a hurry to run before you can walk – even though others on your course are telling you they’ve been teaching whole classes from day one unsupervised and they have tons of responsibility, congratulate them and be thankful that you are not them. Be glad you have the time to do number 2 and 3 above and to observe your mentor in action, see how he/she interacts with the group (they are used to them) see what you like and don’t like. walk  before runCritically analyse their performance, perhaps in private at home just for your own information if it gets too near the knuckle. Be glad to observe, get to know the students, get to know the procedures, spend time getting to grips with systems (data bases and procedures), get to know the curriculum, the programme you’re teaching, the assessments and all of that stuff NOW, because once you start teaching fitting it in is not going to be so easy. Hey, you could even blog about it (noticing a theme) and share the things you learn, ask for help with problems you may be having and help out peers who may be struggling.

5. Keep your files and paperwork up to date –  In line with 4 above, take this time before you start teaching properly to keep all of your academic teaching files up to date, play with new tech, design new tasks, work on assignments because again as I said above, when you start teaching properly you will not have so much time for all of this, getting on top of it all will make things less stressful in the long run. filesHey (I know I know) you could even blog about it when you’re having a hard time keeping up or when you’ve got everything just right, you could share some tips for keeping on top of it all. Keep on top of your course work, this is an essential as deadlines crop up super fast and at very inconvenient times like Christmas. Don’t let it slide, this is what is going to pass your course, this is going to make you a qualified teacher, this is the important bit… as important if not more so to your qualification than actually teaching (although that is hugely important too of course). Hey you can even blog about it (stop groaning) to celebrate your triumphs, share your grades, encourage your peers.

6. Attend your classes and read – this is really important, you can miss so much from just one session. You might be able to catch up using slides shared online or from sharing notes with colleagues but you can’t catch up on anecdotal experiences which may have been shared and discussions. Also if you are doing something like a microteach or something else which depends on peer observation and feedback it’s good in the interests of team work to turn up but also you miss out on so much if you’re a no show. There is much learning to be done from peer students and it’s all valuable. readWe are going to be professionals, professionals depend on peer networks for support, advice, information, resources and JOBS. Be a part of your group to benefit from all they can offer you now and in the future. Don’t forget to read, sign up to all of those useful Twitter and Facebook sites, TES, Guardian Education and the wealth of useful information sources that are at our finger tips. Get your blog up and running, read other blogs, comment, have discussions and debates, share your unique experiences. It will all help you to be the best teacher you can be. Hey you could share things you found interesting on your blog and you can write about your thoughts on theories and continue a classroom debate.

7. Don’t forget your specialist subject – while you are busy teaching and learning about teaching you might let that subscription to The Economist lapse or the HBR which was your lifeblood for the past 3 years of a business degree go unread for weeks, you might lose the avid interest you had in current affairs. Don’t let it happen!specialist subject You really need to be on the ball with your specialist subject, keep up to date, don’t miss out, your teaching needs to be contemporary, there is no point teaching history to a business class they want to know what’s happening in the world now, what laws are affecting them today. You could blog about new developments within your specialist field or how you included something important into a lesson that maybe wasn’t planned to be included, especially if it is something ground breaking or particularly note worthy relating to your subject.

8. Technology – keep an eye on what’s going on out there, what tech there is to help you make lesson planning easier, to make learning more fun and engaging, test it out and try it. Lots of it is fun to use. Powerpoint has been the presentation medium of choice for way too long now, it’s survived as the ‘go to’ for nearly as long as the OHP did. technology2There are more engaging, more visually stimulating, more useful tools out there, try Prezi it’s great! Make your lessons more dynamic, young people are used to having information shoved in their faces, visually stimulating and appealing, it’s how businesses work their way into their brains, they use imagery, colour, music, voice, work your teaching into their brains in the same way, make it engaging and familiar. Hey, you could share things you find on your blog, now that’s an idea!

9. Reflection and Criticism – reflect on everything you do, after every lesson you teach, learn to do it quickly, in action if you can and learn from it. Meet with your mentor and take criticism, ask your students for feedback on your performance, use your trainee period as a learning experience, that’s what it is. Don’t shy away from difficult situations, get stuck into them now while you have the support of your lecturers, mentor and peers.reflective practice Once you are in a job you will not have as much support as you have as a trainee, you will be expected to perform and deliver more so than you are as a trainee. Enjoy being a trainee and being allowed to get things wrong. Of course reflection is a lifelong discipline that you need to be getting into and making mistakes is something that you will always be allowed to do, but get the whoppers out of the way now. Hey, now you really could use your blog for this, you can reflect on your day, your placement, your observations, your lesson, you can share feedback from your students and peers you can summarise how a mentor meeting went and share any news you may have.

10. Keep your ILP up to date – this document will show you how much you have grown as a teacher and how much you have learned and how hard you have worked, it will give you direction and set a path for you to follow. It will stand you in good stead for the workplace when you have to back up requests for CPD training with objectives in your PDP. set and reach goal concept Also remember to keep your CV and your profile on any job search sites up to date, that’s important and will become even more important in the next semester. Hey, (last time now) you can even blog about it, shout it out when you achieve a target or seek help and ideas on how to achieve a target that’s proving elusive.

Over arching all of these tips is the need to enjoy what you are doing, cherish the journey, learn from everyone around you, build a good relationship with your mentor, talk to them if there are any problems, when you feel like you can’t be bothered or it’s going nowhere or wondering if you’re cut out for it your relationships with mentors and lecturers are invaluable to keep you on track and to bolster  you on a bad day. They have been there and more than once too! Keep at it and be delighted with each step you make towards fulfilling your dream of being a teacher… we’re already teachers of course but you know what I mean.  Keep up with all of this and you’ll have a happy smiley face by Christmas.