How do you measure a year in the life? #Nurture1314

Since my last post reviewed the Autumn term, I didn’t intend to take part in nurture1314 originally.  I found the first post I read, Chris Curtis’s, so touching, heart-warming and thought-provoking that I was forced to reconsider; while out for a walk, I began composing my own list unbidden.  I can’t hope to match the finest pieces I’ve read, but here, such as they are, are my thoughts:

13 things I’m grateful for from 2013:

  1. I’m grateful that I began blogging for what I’ve learned from it, the ways my teaching has improved, and the chances it has given me to be involved in exciting events like TLT13 and the upcoming Touchpaper Party.
  1. I’m grateful for the new friends I’ve made through twitter and blogging, particularly since the Autumn term, when I began to meet them in person.  Regular contact with a wider network of brilliant teachers has made the highs of teaching more pleasurable, the lows more bearable.
  1. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had in February to spend a fortnight in India, visiting old friends and their schools, meeting a former student who’s now at law school and acting as a facilitator at Teach For All’s Global Summit.  This event, at which I was surrounded by teachers who balanced inspiration, dedication and humility to an incredible degree helped me to think through education and leadership anew.
  1. I’m grateful to the people I met on that trip (and those I didn’t meet but got in touch with anyway) who have stayed in regular contact with me and even visited London.  Writing extended emails every month or two which try to articulate how my life and work is going to people teaching in India, Pakistan and the USA helps me to reflect and I often receive fascinating insights from these friends.
  1. Another trip: I’m grateful for the three weeks I spent as a teacher-trainer with Teach for Sweden this summer.  Again, I was among some wonderful people – and there are few more productive learning experiences than trying to synthesise everything you think you know about behaviour management.  This trip also provided time and space to think, read and write about education in a calm, beautiful setting.
  1. I’m grateful that I got through last term and came out slightly better off at the end of it than at the beginning.  In many ways, I found it one of the toughest of my teaching career thus far and this led me to question what I was doing with my life and career.  I’m glad I’m out the other side, and in the process, I’m a little clearer about what I should be doing, for myself and for the school… and I’m much better at managing my time.
  1. I’m enormously grateful to my colleagues, who provide the highlight of many days and many of whom have become close friends.  The depth of support my peers offer and the humour and kindness with which they do so never ceases to humble me.  I’m grateful for the chance to collaborate with them to see the school grow: in September the number of teachers and students doubled, the number of buildings to move between has tripled; behind us the permanent building is noisily taking shape; the school feels increasingly like a school!
  1. I’m grateful for the chance to begin again – with a whole new year of one hundred students – who are a joy to teach – and with whom I get to take the curriculum I designed last year and improve upon it. They bring so much energy and excitement to their history lessons; one of them has taught me something new about history every lesson for most of this term.
  1. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to buy my first flat, into which I moved in December.  Perhaps only I was surprised at how long it took and how complicated it became – but the move itself was a huge relief and I’ve enjoyed starting to establish it into a home.
  1. I’m grateful for the support I received before and during the move, particularly when I had nowhere to live.  The people who offered me their help, or a place to stay, reminded me how blessed I am; most of all, I’m grateful to the two households which took me in!
  1. I’m grateful for the life of my great uncle, who died in September and whose life I’ve thought about many times since.  I’m reading a book of his at the moment, in which his occasional annotations (corrections) are pencilled; I’m writing this sitting at his desk.  He taught all his life, becoming a headteacher and then stepping down to go back to teaching maths full time…  I feel like there are things for me to learn from his life.
  1. I’m grateful to my family and my friends for a lot of things this year, but particularly the feeling of companionship as we move through life stages: the weddings I’ve been to this year, the people settling down, those friends having children – all of us trying to get somewhere with our lives.
  1. And finally – the thing that has enabled all the others: I’m extremely grateful I didn’t get knocked of my bike all year, despite the best efforts of a number of bus and car drivers.  I also had two wonderful cycle trips, to Cambridge and across the Peak District, seeing old and making new friends.
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Possibly my favourite student response form this year, from one of the aforementioned Year 7 students

14 things I’m looking forward to/ planning for in 2014

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing the school continue to grow and to working with my colleagues to move beyond our head’s departure, get through our Ofsted and then set these distractions aside and focus on making the school great.
  1. I’m looking forward to the school building being finished – teaching on a temporary site stopped being entertaining in about September 2013; we were originally supposed to begin last term in the permanent building.  I’d be a fool, therefore, to rely on moving in next September; I can but hope.
  1. I’m excited about continuing to learn more about good teaching and to continuing to refine my teaching.  There are so many more things I need to refine, but I’m enjoying every step of the way.
  1. I’m excited by the prospects for CPD at the school: I may be in a position next year to put more time into the role of leading CPD, which I think would be good for the school and interesting for me.
  1. I’m looking forward to continuing to blog weekly.  Since I began, I’ve never been clear how long my energy, enjoyment or the topics I wished to write about would last.  They seem undiminished at this stage, and I recently wrote a list of posts I’d like to write – stopping when I reached fifteen.
  1. I’m excited about the continuing growth of grassroots, teacher-led CPD and school improvement.  I think bloggers can sometimes be guilty of overestimating the impact of the twittersphere on the profession as a whole…  but I do think that, through the best blogs, events like TLT, organisations like the Headteachers’ Roundtable, we can help our profession to improve what it does dramatically – and offer a counter-example to improvement led by political pressures or Ofsted.
  1. I’m looking forward to visiting more schools – I’ve only been to one so far this year; I’ll be trying much harder this term! I’ve also promised myself I’ll visit schools abroad: I’m toying with the idea of a return to India to revisit friends and see some teaching.
  1. I’m looking forward to gradually establishing the new flat so that it’s comfortable, homely and welcoming.
  1. I’m looking forward to getting to know the area better, meeting more people living around here and settling in.
  1. I’m looking forward to picking up one of the habits I dropped last term when I moved away from my tango classes.  I was in a local pub and noticed they had swing dancing every Tuesday…
  1. …they also have chess on alternate Mondays – something I’ve not been able to enjoy playing for many years…
  1. …they also have a community choir on a Wednesday.  So I have half the week sorted already.
  1. I’d also like to find somewhere locally to volunteer – although time is going to become an issue at some stage!
  1. Finally, I’m very much hoping that 2014 will be the year that TfL start building safe and appealing streets for Londoners who aren’t in motor vehicles.  There were useful promises made in 2013 by the mayor and Andrew Gilligan – I would like to see them delivered upon, and the consequent improvements in my enjoyment and safety in cycling, and everyone else’s quality of life (air pollution, noise pollution, encouragement to cycle, walk, play in the streets…).

There are many great bits of writing out there for this; if you haven’t read Chris Curtis’s, Primary Head’s, Andy Day’s or Tim Taylor’s, I would counsel you to do so now.