The #SillySeason by @TeacherToolkit


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@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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It’s that time of the academic year that is known to some as, the ‘Silly Season‘.

Photo Credit: Yanosch via Compfight cc
Exhausted? Burnt out? Ready for the holidays? Photo Credit: Yanosch via Compfight cc

Context:

Picture yourself 2 or 3 weeks ago before the Easter break …

Just when you thought exhaustion couldn’t get any worse, despite a brief respite, you find yourself back at school with work ‘up-to-your-ears’. For the experienced teacher, the period between late-March and mid-June will be all-too-familiar. The #SillySeason is upon us!

The Silly Season is that last-minute dash to collect and mark coursework; to hunt for students who are under-performing; to chase up prolonged absences and get students into school; to cram revision and prepare students fully for their examinations. Typically, this is what any school and all teacher-energy will be focused on right now. The number one priority. And rightly so. Why? Because this is one of the many reasons why we teach. It is not the sole reason, but it is a pinnacle moment and we do have a duty to prepare students for a future that lies ahead of them. To equip students with a passport of qualifications in order to be successful in the adult world and wider society.

The Silly Season is full of jargon we would love to hate. ALPS; ALIS; PANDA; Progress 8; CATs; SATs; GCSEs; AS; Value-added; RAISE online; end of key stage 2-3 assessments; option choices; and final predicted grades, will be very familiar teacher-talk in staffrooms and classrooms across the country. There are more here and (off topic) a hilarious jargon-generator here.

  1. How can you support staff during silly season?
  2. What strategies and interventions do you suggest to reduce the silliness?
Photo Credit: dMadPhoto via Compfight cc
Are you losing your marbles? Photo Credit: dMadPhoto via Compfight cc

The Silly Season for teachers?

So, how does #SillySeason look for teachers?

Classroom teachers are on the front line. They will be squeezing as much effort out of their students in class as they possibly can. Of course, we cannot ignore the additional perils of Performance Related Pay (in England this September 2014) and how this has been interpreted by schools up and down the country. This will certainly be a contributing factor in #SillySeason that’s for sure. Quite possibly, you may be witnessing unprecedented levels of stress that you have never seen before?

As teachers, you will know time is running out. What are some of the last-minute interventions or #SillySeason contributing factors?

I have limited my lists to just 10 points.

  1. The class teacher organises even more revision catch up sessions.
  2. The class teacher organises even more practice exam papers in class.
  3. The class teacher offers motivational pep-talks with students in and out of class.
  4. The class teacher is told that students have classes with other teachers instead of yours!
  5. The class teacher has arguments about core subject preferences versus no-core subjects.
  6. The class teacher organises even more clock watches; calculates dates and exam countdowns.
  7. The class teacher makes phone calls to parent at home and work!
  8. The class teacher makes phone calls directly to students!
  9. The class teacher organises even more coursework catchup and Saturday revision classes.
  10. The class teacher sees certain colleagues much less than they used to you. They continue to teach and mark …

We are all busy at this time of the academic year, and nobody has a minute to spare.

Photo Credit: Mel B. via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mel B. via Compfight cc

The Silly Season for middle leaders?

How does #SillySeason look for middle leaders?

Middle leaders will be totally focused on teaching too. But, will also have a priority list of identified students within their department. These identified students will probably be on the cusp of a key benchmark borderline (sadly) and this data will have been generated for themselves to target students for coursework and revision catchup sessions. The middle leader will take responsibility for this group of students and will no doubt have information provided to them from senior leadership, identifying priority students for whatever reason and whatever benchmark is deemed the priority. Middle leaders are the go-between teachers and senior leaders. They have a tough gig at this time of year.

As middle leaders, you will know time is not only running out, but last-minute adjustments to students’ coursework; revision and examination entries are now urgent.

  1. The middle leader organises departmental revision catch up sessions to fit within the school timetable and other subject area/demands.
  2. The middle leader organises resources so that all the teachers within their faculty can complete practice exam papers in class.
  3. The middle leader offers motivational pep-talks to the teachers within their team and will speak with key students.
  4. The middle leader will be having many negotiations with other heads of department and heads of year.
  5. The middle leader will have arguments behind closed doors.
  6. The middle leader knows the final (FINAL) deadline for submission and ensure everyone works to meet the initial deadline.
  7. The middle leader will make priority phone calls to key parents. Perhaps organise one final parental event to support parents through #SillySeason stress.
  8. The middle leader will speak directly to all students who have received phone calls!
  9. The middle leader will know that this busy period is only temporary, and that all school-life will return to normal very shortly. They ensure their aim is to keep calm and those around them …
  10. The middle leader will, despite all of the above, continue to teach and mark too!
Photo Credit: coffey67 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: coffey67 via Compfight cc

The Silly Season for senior teachers?

How does #SillySeason look for senior teachers?

During the #SillySeason, the following will take place within leadership teams. Without question, the team will study data in the most minutiae of detail; looking at curriculum subjects and student-predicted grades. They will decipher where marginal gains can be achieved  – see Zoe Elder’s excellent blog – and discussions will be used to squeeze any last ounce of effort to achieve the highest possible grade.

As senior teachers, you will know that there is still time and that marginal gains can still be achieved.

  1. The senior leader organises whole-school revision catch up sessions to fit within the timetable.
  2. The senior leader organises intervention sessions so that all the students within each faculty can complete last-minute tasks.
  3. The senior leader offers motivational pep-talks to the heads of department; teachers; parents and most of all, students.
  4. The senior leader will be having many negotiations with other heads of department and heads of year…. and quite possibly other institutions.
  5. The senior leader will share their aspirational targets – behind closed doors – with their closest confidants.
  6. The senior leader knows the final deadline must be met by all!
  7. The senior leader will support all personnel related to the school throughout #SillySeason.
  8. The senior leader will ensure calm is maintained …
  9. The senior leader will read data over and over … and over.
  10. The senior leader will, despite all of the above, continue to teach and mark too!

Interventions List*:

(*specifically for Pupil Premium)

Some ideas that we use directly with students:

  • 1-1 tuition – maths, English; EAL and other subjects.
  • Additional teachers to create smaller core groups – English, maths and science.
  • Literacy centre – intensive support for those whose reading age is 2 or more years below their chronological age.
  • Transition Teacher for Years 6-7 and community languages.
  • PIXL support for raising standards and iGCSE training for English and maths staff.
  • Examination preparation – motivational speakers – and university visits.
  • Increased teaching hours – period 6 for Years 10-13.
  • Staffing for extended opening hours for the library – homework clubs.
  • Tailored tuition by subject specialists for small groups of targeted pupils.
  • Outside agencies such as Education London.
  • Study residential; Saturday school; breakfast club and intervention weeks; summer camps.

Too late? What can you do next year?

Do read Professor Hattie’s meta-analysis on the Effects of Learning Skills Interventions on Student’s Learning (1996), as well as the toolkit from Education Endowment Foundation which you ought to know! You may find their report on Mastery Learning, a strategy with high potential (moderate impact for low-cost) which can lead to an additional five months’ progress over the course of a school year compared to traditional approaches. (EEF – Download Report)

I do wish you well for the #SillySeason. Keep calm and carry on!

Keep Calm and Carry On!  Photo Credit: Photo Extremist via Compfight cc
Keep Calm and Carry On!
Photo Credit: Photo Extremist via Compfight cc

 

 


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