Sunday, 29 December 2013

Nurture 13/14

I am trying to get a better balance of work and the rest of my life, so I hope my nurture 13/4 post reflects this. Science teaching is a passion, but I want to be more than just that.

13 reflections on 2013

1: LEL
The best thing about 2013 was the summer holiday. During that time Richard cycled the epic cycle ride from London to Edinburgh back to London in 112 hours. There was a lot of building up to it. I tried to be as supportive as I could during the year. I paid for his dynamo hub wheel at the start of spring, and I was glad that I did as it came in useful and meant Richard could afford to buy a GoreTex jacket. At the time his was riding I was very nervous as I wanted him to complete the ride inside the time limit, and also be safe. It was such a massive achievement for Richard, stepping up from cycling 400km once before to deciding to cycle 1200km, and I was incredibly proud that he did it. My only disappointment was how upset he was that his achievement was largely ignored by his senior colleagues at his own school.

2: Gromit Unleashed
During the summer Bristol and the surrounding areas had a Gromit trail. (a) I found all 50 Gromits, which I was more pleased with than I should be at 33. (b) The Gromit trails also meant that Lucie and Dominic had an excuse to visit, it was great to see them and drag them around Bristol. (c) And another group of twitter friends met up to search for the Gromit statues in central Bristol and we ended up in zero degrees with Karen getting a tour so she could explain microbreweries to her year 11 triple science class. This was great fun. (d) My mam also came to stay and we also went Gromit hunting. I don't see her enough and it was lovely to be able to show her Bristol. (e) Part of the hunt also meant we had an excuse to go to London for the day as a family to see the one at Paddington station and go to the science museum.

3: Joanna Lumley
At the end of the 2012/13 school year Joanna Lumley spoke at our school speech day. She was everything I expected her to be. She told the girls to "be beautiful, be brave, be kind, be clever, be happy". Qualifying all these with descriptions. The last piece of advice was for the girls not to be slaves to the mobiles. (That advice fell on deaf ears!) It was good for me, the parents and girls to hear that exam results aren't everything. As a school it is what we believe, and hope to produce well rounded young ladies with an interest in the world.

4: ASE conferences
I have been to 3 ASE conferences this year. I helped to organise the regional one. I really feel they are the best CPD a science teacher can have. Apart from the sessions, the ASE conferences are an opportunity to network with the best people in education. I am terribly grateful to the ASE that through their conferences I was able to talk to Brenda Naylor (Keogh - the concept cartoon lady). I am responsible for upper key stage 2 science (despite being a secondary science teacher) so I asked her "what is primary science all about?". Brenda was so sweet to me and answered me so concisely, but helpfully and inspired me to do well and see the importance in teaching my Year 6 class science. This is just one example of the power of the ASE conferences. Rest in Peace Brenda, you touched a lot of people and having only had two conversations with you I can see why you were such an important part of primary science education.

5: New Head Teacher
In January we got a new Head Teacher. The year has been interesting as a result. She is the best Head I have worked for. However, it hasn't all been plain sailing. It is fantastic to be lead with someone with such passion for the development of the young people in our care, they are her focus. We came runner-up recently in a ranking of pastoral care. My focus continues to be STEM education as we need to produce the female engineers and scientists of the future, but I know that I have the support of the Head in this (although she perhaps doesn't know the extent of my passion!) and I feel it isn't at odds with the Head's aims.

6: Laptop
One of the worst things this year was my laptop dying. I haven't been able to afford a new one yet. I use my iPad as my main computer now, but it isn't easy and I feel my efficiency slipping.

7: Car
The other really bad this was that my car needed £2500 spent on it in April. The head gasket. Savings cleared out.

8: Escapism
While Richard can escape his problems by riding 300/400/600/1200km through the day and night, it is not my cup of tea. I look to more sedate activities. As a student and young teacher I used to go to the cinema on my own every week. (for a year with my friend Naomi). I stopped when I got together with Richard and after a couple of years I got frustrated and forced ourselves to get back into the habit. I am pleased that we have been to the Curzon cinema in Clevedon about 12 times in 2013 (and other cinemas on top of that). Reading is also something I enjoy, so last Christmas Richard gave me a kindle, and I have read 31 books using it since then. I love it and have already pre-ordered quite a few books for 2014. I have never read quite so much as last year.

9: Step-daughter
I am delighted with the way that my step-daughter is growing up. Year 8 was hard for her, she was bored, bullied and unhappy in school. She can draw (and explain) electron shell diagrams, she is reading Tolstoy, yet her teachers didn't recognise it. However, she didn't allow her negative experience of school to put her off learning, and now she is in Year 9 her love of school is returning. The thing that impressed me most about her this year was when we went to visit my friend Vivienne in Scotland. We walked up the side of a mountain (a big hill anyway) and she didn't complain one bit because that evening she wanted to go out in Viv's sea Kayak with Matt, Viv's boyfriend whom she had never met. Her determination to try new things is so strong that she is an inspiration to me.

10: Controlled Assessment
I am pleased that I took the advice of those who said we should do controlled assessments with the students in one whole day. We have done this three times now and it makes a huge difference to the time management, focus, preparedness and results of the students.

11: New Appointments
This year I have appointed a new chemistry teacher and a new technician. Very exciting appointments and the chemistry teacher especially is a fantastic edition to the school. She is an inspiration to me and spurs me to be a better leader and teacher.

12: Extra-curricular science
I hired an incubator and eggs before half term. It was so exciting to see little lives come into the world and the girls loved it. The girls and staff were extremely supportive, a community pulling together. I recommend it to everyone. In March we put in place some activities to celebrate science week, and it was a great success with the girls, especially the assembly. In June year 9 completed science projects and presented them to the head and other teachers, which was great fun.

13: Exam results
After a full academic year working at my school and leading the science department the results came in. I was worried, what if the controlled assessments were marked too highly? (They were in planning but not enough to pull down our results overall). What if the final exam had high grade boundaries to pull down the percentages of students passing? However, our results were great. Not all students were delighted, but no results were lower than I expected and many were higher than I expected. I take no credit for this, the girls at our school work hard and have high expectations for themselves. However, it was a great validation of the work that I am doing and my importance to the success of the department.

There is more, there is so much more. Eating out, going for long walks, trying a new recipe every month thanks to the Waitrose recipe cards and using the slow cooker we got for Christmas last year to good effect, seeing my brother pick his life up after hitting rock bottom, having good friends move into the village, buying some beautiful new dresses, my uncle doing better after cancer, the birth of my cousin's new baby girl, meeting sex education Alice, talking with Christine Harrison, reading '' and trying new teaching ideas out, instagram, #ASEchat, Sarah and Ali who run ASE in the west with me, being able to spend quality time with Dr Dav, Andy Murry and Chris Froome and all the other great sporting moments of 2013, Diane my supportive Assistant head at school, my department who are great fun, Joan and Cat who are the Year 7 team with me, the school Christmas party, the winter wonderland lights show at Westonbirt Arboretum, attending the October Science Museum lates, going to Slimbridge and buying binoculars, every time I go to Folyes in London, Alwinton Show, the inspiration I get from the York Science project, the ideas and resources of Lucie, the positivity and friendship of Karen, the science TV and radio guide, research Ed 2013, teachmeet Clevedon, teachmeet Wilts, Ed Walsh's keynote at the ASE west conference, the Cheltenham Science festival, the Bristol festival of nature, Rev Alice's assemblies, staff choir, the girls performances in lunch time concerts, all the EAL girls at the school adding to my life experience, school in general as it is such a happy place.

14 things for 2014

I don't think that I can write properly about 2014 until I have been to the ASE conference in January, but here goes.

1: Richard will be 50 in 2014, I want to mark the occasion appropriately, but I don't know what that is yet.

2: I have some tickets for the commonwealth games in Glasgow, I am really looking forward to them as I love watching live sport. I hope we can see some world cup track cycling too, and we aim to see the Grand Depart of le Tour.

3: We moved into our house in 2011, and we still haven't decorated our bedroom yet (any of the upstairs in fact). I want to at least strip the awful wallpaper in 2014!

4: I want to make more of an effort to visit Westonbirt Arboretum more often. I drive past it each day and I have never been during autumn. I must rectify this in 2014.

5: In 2013 I managed to lose 6lbs during the summer, I have put 2 back on, but I want to lose another 10-12lbs during 2014 to get back to the shape I was once proud of. Will power is necessary!

6: I need to save money in 2014 to be able to buy myself a new laptop. I would love to save enough to be able to afford a trip to Hong Kong, but I think this may be beyond me.

7: The new national curriculum provides an opportunity I want to make the most of, I just don't known he details yet!

8: I really hope my A2 physics students get the results they need to get to university.

9: The more involved I get in the ASE the more I realise its power and importance. I want to continue to contribute to it, and I will.

10: I keep finding white hairs in my brown ones. 2014 is the year that I am going to have to face doing something about them.

11: I am organising to take the whole school to the Big Bang Science Fair and I hope that the trip is a success that puts science week onto the school calendar as a permanent event. I want to start the engineering education scheme up in school in 2014/15 with year 12. I want to put STEM on a stronger footing within the school and attract more post-16 students who want to student STEM subjects at university. To me the value of studying science is clear and this is something I want to ensure comes across in my teaching and the teaching of the rest of the department.

12: I have no more excuses not to apply for my CSciTeach accreditation in 2014. I should be working on the application instead of writing this.

13: I want to be more organised, my time, my resources, everything! I want to be organised enough to make the most of all the opportunities I am given.

14: In terms of improving my teaching practice and making resolutions for my department I will wait until after the ASE conference. The event always inspires me and connects me to the right people to point me, my teaching and my department in the best direction. I am especially looking forward to seeing Mary and talking York Science!

Life in 2013 was busy, but I had a good time. I hope 2014 is another good one. There is so much more to look forward to.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Really pleased you took the time to write this, Helen - I enjoyed reading it and hope you enjoyed writing it, and that it helped you to take stock of the year and feel proud of all you've achieved.

    Hope you've had a really good Christmas too, and feel refreshed and re-energised. Very best wishes for 2014 and it would be good to meet you at some stage. (Say hello to Diane for me too? Have tried to talk her into Twitter....)

  2. Have a wonderful 2014, Helen, it's been lovely to 'meet' you!