What are your professional highlights from 2019?
The last year has been a fascinating journey for me, visiting schools across the world – I am very blessed indeed! Here are my highlights and reflections…
In January 2019 and after 6 months of design, development and investment, I finally launched my official resources platform to help readers find teaching materials more easily. One year later, there has been over 35,000 registered downloads. Stayed tuned for the year ahead when I launch a new subscription service. As well as the online materials, my adventures in podcasts begin its third year – a brilliant excuse to talk with educators from around the world. My physical teacher training is busier than ever! Mark Plan Teach in particular, continues to be an incredible journey; the joy of visiting schools around the world has allowed me to understand better what works and the issues facing all teachers… I also attend my first BAME education event in East London which was a real privilege.
In February, I catch up with the teachers who are taking part in my Verbal Feedback Project with UCL, working hard to shape the marking narrative in the teaching profession. It also proves to be a very busy month, working with over 1,500 teachers face-to-face.
In March, I return to Switzerland to speak at my first international conference. This was a real learning curve for me as a keynote speaker, which led me to produce this resource to help others who want to become better at public speaking. I also get to meet Professor Andy Hargreaves for the first time, interviewing him on my podcast in July 2019, and attend and speak at my first BrewED conference.
One of the most fascinating aspects of my work in schools is supporting teachers working in different contexts. In April, I visit John Roan School, Greenwich and Akeley Wood School, Buckinghamshire. In some regards, both these schools are at opposing ends of the education spectrum, but with a viewpoint on teaching and learning, are facing exactly the same challenges. At the end of the month, I finally meet the incredible Chris Dyson and hear more about Parklands Primary School in Leeds. I am so inspired by his story, I volunteer my services as a good excuse to visit the school.
In May I’m back working with 13 teachers, refining their research approaches to the Verbal Feedback Project. I also come towards the end of my first year studying for my doctorate at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge. I also realise that after 25 years of teaching, I know nothing about how to conduct reliable lesson observations! I now understand why school leaders conduct lesson observations so poorly…
In June, I return to the United Arab Emirates to work with colleagues at JESS Dubai. The Cambridgeshire Festival of Education is a great day for teachers in the local area and I am thankful to be able to present my new research and book, Just Great Teaching at the Festival of Education at Wellington College. I also visit the hardworking teachers at Haileybury Turnford School, Hertfordshire and return to the brilliant Trumpington Community College in Cambridge (who feature in my book).
In July, I finally have a one-to-one with Professor Andy Hargreaves. If you’ve not listened to our podcast, you really are missing out on many pearls of wisdom: How can schools and teachers perform better? As the academic year comes to an end, I use the quiet time of the year to get down into the details of my doctoral research, mapping out some possible themes to explore.
In August, I was given the first opportunity as a Bloomsbury Publishing (education) author to visit the printing factory to see my new book being produced – this was a fascinating experience as a design technologist. I also spend fours days in a recording studio recording my new book for Audible, which was hard work and from a point of view of oracy and memory, proved to me how poor our working memory actually is.
In the middle of August, I fly to Harrow International School in Beijing, China which is without question, one of the highlights of the year, and ‘pop over’ to La Cote International School, Aubonne, Switzerland, to help kickstart their academic year. I share the early findings of the Verbal Feedback Project and help a group of teachers get deeper into action research. I also have an article featured in The Guardian newspaper which, due to the nature of the headline, causes a little bit of a stir…
As expected, September 2019 starts off, stupidly crazy, with me working with 900+ teachers in two weeks! I get to meet deputy headteacher Luisa Martin-Thomas again, this time in her school in South Wales, two years after winning the Pearson Teacher of the Year award. Although the rest of the month is full of highlights, the launch of the Verbal Feedback Project and my book launch Just Great Teaching steal the show – it proves to be an excellent month!
Visiting Minsk in Belarus has to be the most fascinating visit to another country in all of my teaching career. You can read about my educational experiences, Teaching in Belarus. At the end of the month, I visit RAF Akrotiri to work with Ben Turner at Akrotiri Primary School, Cyprus. It’s also a great opportunity to see headteacher Emma Bryson again – you can read about my experience of working with the Ministry of Defence schools: Teaching in Cyprus.
In November, I continue my work with several schools across England, developing teaching and learning and coaching methods. Teaching in Malaysia is another standout event for the year, as well as winning the Online Influence Awards as a blogger in the field of education – it’s also great to be recognised outside of my sector.
Finally, in December, a time when all teachers are feeling very tired, we reach the end of the year where we reflect on the work we have been doing and the future that lies ahead. As well as all of the above images that capture much of my professional life, the following two images encapsulate the highlights of December and my most important work. In the first photo, this is the moment I left Bloomsbury Publishing in London, having agreed my fifth book title. Sharing ideas with the teaching profession is a privilege and something I take great inspiration from in my day-t0-day work. The second image is a photograph taken at Elizabeth Woodville School in Northampton – on the very last day of the autumn term. A date one would expect all teachers to be feeling very exhausted and jaded, but not here! Their energy and participation in our training session together reminded me of the importance of all teachers receiving high-quality teacher training.
I feel blessed that I can have an impact of many other teachers and that my ideas are well-received. Wishing you all the best for the year ahead, and thank you for reading…