Favourite five from 2018

Since finishing school last week, Steph and I have been spending the holiday season with my family in Huddersfield (England). As I publish this post, we’re about to set off to Edinburgh to visit friends and enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Scotland. Whatever your plans are for the new year period, I wish you a happy and joyous occasion and all the very best for the new year. Make it a good one!

My last blog post of the year will be a reflective one, looking back on all of my posts from 2018. This is my annual opportunity to highlight my five favourites (with brief synopses) as well as some honourable mentions that just missed out on my final list. They are not based on audience reactions or engagement statistics. Like every year, it’s simply a list of posts that I’m most proud of. I hope that you enjoy revisiting them.

Honourable mentions:

Russia 2018: World Cup classroom connections

If PD is an event in your school, you are doing it wrong

Hattie on homework: support for flipped learning?

Social media in the primary classroom

Top 5:

5. The irony of a lighter workload

I remember the pressure of teaching in England and the excessive workload (from what I hear, it hasn’t got any better). I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was on my way to burnout and my passion for teaching was on the decline. I now work overseas and, in the absence of these unrealistic expectations, I am probably working harder and longer than ever! I keep adding to my plate without removing anything from it! Importantly, it’s now on my own terms and it’s driven by a reawakened passion for what I do. I invest my time in activities that actually improve my teaching and students’ learning. This is the irony that I wish UK policymakers would realise. Passion raises standards way more than pressure does.

“With less pressure to work harder and harder… I’m working harder and harder.”

4. Sketchnoting: what, why and how?

Sketchnoting (also known as visual note-taking) is something that I have been hearing a lot about throughout 2018. It seems that more teachers and students are exploring the benefits. In this blog post, I shared what I learnt through my research on what it is, why we should be implementing it in our classrooms and how teachers/students can get started. I also addressed some misconceptions. This post (hopefully) offers a useful starting point and includes links to additional resources.

“Adding visuals to notes actives parts of the brain that would otherwise lie dormant. It is this combination of text and visuals that makes it so powerful.”

3. What are ‘soft’ skills and why do students need them more than ever?

This blog post was inspired by a fascinating (and slightly terrifying) video that was shared with me during a workshop about how technology is changing our society (the video is embedded in the blog post). Technology is progressing at an alarming rate and many jobs are becoming automated. It’s impossible to know exactly what the future will look like, but we do know that many workers are being replaced by machines. It’s happening already! As technology progresses, education must too. This post discusses the skills that are becoming obsolete and the ‘human’ ones that are increasingly more valuable.

“What is it, then, that makes us human? What separates us from machines? As technology starts to outperform us on our hard skills, we must focus on the soft.”

2. What if everyone in your school had your attitude?

According to Dr. William Felps, one “bad apple” can reduce a team’s effectiveness by 30-40%. I first saw this statistic on Twitter and it got me thinking about teacher attitudes and school culture. It reminded me of a chapter in Culturize where author Jimmy Casas discusses the negative impact of “awfulizers” in schools. This blog post explores this topic and challenges the readers to answer the title question: what if everyone in your school had your attitude?

“Of course, we’re not all the same, but we do influence each other. Make sure that your influence is a positive one and then spread it as loudly as possible.”

1. My advice for NQTs

I noticed an article online about how to “survive” an NQT year. Annoyingly, many articles aimed at NQTs use this kind of “getting through” language, which I feel is negative and sends the wrong message. In this particular article about survival, I thought that the advice was quite shallow. Therefore, I wrote my own piece. This is the advice that I wish I had been given when I first qualified. The same advice also applies to experienced teachers, so I encourage you all to take a look. I’d love to know your thoughts and any additional advice that you offer.

“Many books/articles for NQTs are about ‘surviving’ your first year or ‘getting through’ it. Forget that! You’re about to officially enter the best profession in the world and you will be making a difference to countless kids for the rest of your career.”

Those are the posts that I’m most proud of from this year. Did your favourite make the top five? I’d love to know which blog post(s) most resonated with you. Please share below.

Like I said in last week’s post, I thank all of my readers and PLN for your support this year. It is appreciated more than you will ever know. I hope that your Christmas was a lovely one and, once again, happy new year!

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