DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: COMMUNITY

Online and in print, there is a lot of idealising about nurturing niceness and educating ‘the whole child’. But at the sharp edge in schools, when teachers are busy and pressured to provide results (test scores that is), what can realistically happen? Values and ethics reduced to a snappy slogan on the walls of the hall? Positive characteristics and traits referred to in a school mission statement but never in lessons? Sanctions imposed for negative behaviours but little recognition for positive? Rewards reserved for classwork and achievement?

In the same way that children need to be taught how to hold a knife and fork, tie shoelaces or do long division, so too are empathy, kindness, benevolence and charity traits that need to be taught. Yet where do we reward students for being kind and not just clever? Where do we praise schools for educating hearts and not just minds?

When asked “What is education for?”, the answer “passing tests” is not always at the top of list. Instead, teachers often cite ‘holistic outcomes’, citizenship development and rich understanding of knowledge in context - not just a list of rote-learned facts - as key ambitions.

But there is little reward for schools or students who achieve these holistic aims. Although evidence of healthy SMSC and British Values provision contributes to an inspection outcome, Ofsted’s criteria largely hang on exam results. Progress 8 looks at points from qualifications. SATs tests define a child’s Primary school achievements. Teacher assessment and reporting to parents leans heavily on levels.

How can we turn this system on its head? By innovating our routines and protocols. Happy children achieve more, kindness breeds kindness. Although ‘behaviour’ can be a key concern in school development plans, there is a difference between students not being naughty and being actively kind.

One method I’ve implemented had me standing up to present an assembly in front of Years 7, 8 and 9, playing a YouTube video called ‘random acts of kindness’ and then challenging students to conduct their own over the six-week half term. Media Studies students also created a video to show in form time.

The next half term we went a step further. On the first Monday back after the holidays, the school council and I went into school two hours early in order to (in the words of executive principal Dave Whittaker) “batter the school with kindness”. ‘Thank you’ notes left for cleaners and caretakers. Flowers in the reception. Fifty pence pieces sellotaped to the vendors, sweeties left in the staffroom, compliments stuck to windows. Free umbrellas for the rain, new pencil cases for the new starters, ‘you’re the best’ badges for the dinner ladies. Balloons dropped off at the nursery, handing Murray Mints to the arriving bus drivers, and a car cleaning service offered in the car park. The list was extensive, and I’ve forgotten a few I’m sure, but the buzz was tangible.

With the school council driving the agenda, students let their imaginations run wild with the kindness drive. A school charity was formed - ‘The Helping Hand’ - and projects dreamed up. Age UK and Yorkshire Air Ambulance visited the school, collections and visits to local food banks were run... It was a beautiful blooming of positive deeds, and served to remind staff and students: ‘It’s nice to be nice’.

Other projects/ideas to promote kindness in schools:

  • Create a kindness award: Regular and visible recognition for acts of kindness.
  • Secret Gardeners or Cake Club: Under the cover of home time, revamp school spaces with flowers, pot plants, herb gardens and vegetable patches. Alternatively, anonymously deliver buns and cakes to pigeon holes and classrooms.
  • Chatting and coffee morning: Contact local charities and invite them into your school / arrange visits in the community.
  • Care Home Christmas Choir: Sing for the older people as a Christmas treat.
  • Culture Cures Hospital Postcards: In Art or English, Tech or PSHE, make positive postcards with messages to be posted to hospital wards.

The results were striking. There were 100s of recorded and rewarded acts of kindness. Students could see them, staff could see them, and we could all feel them.

Here are just some acts of kindness by students recorded by staff over two half terms [this is a fraction of the acts Paul sent in! - Editor]:

  • Handed in a lost £10 note.
  • Reassured a friend who was obviously upset.
  • Helped a classmate around on her crutches all week.
  • Gave a fellow student who was diabetic his Double Decker chocolate bar as her blood sugars were low and she could have gone into 'shock' state.
  • Often offers to carry bag upstairs for me.
  • Stood up to a bully and lost friends over it. A brave student!
  • Assisted a student who had a bad nose bleed, cleaned him up.
  • Knew my nephew was starting football sticker book so brought his swaps in.
  • Lovely, genuine “How are you? Did you have a good weekend Miss?” upon entering the lesson.
  • Holds the door open for other students. Has consistently good manners, and very polite and respectful to everybody.
  • Helped at a traffic collision in the village.
  • Doing great work for her chosen charity.

Where is the kindness in your curriculum? Make this year the year to be nice. World Kindness Day is November 13th 2018, and Random Acts of Kindness days can be run throughout the year, so get planning!

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‘Innovation’ is an interesting word to me; not just because I’m ‘innovation lead’ at Aureus School, but because I think it is a word which (in education) seems to carry many preconceived images. If I say to you “Oh they’re an innovative teacher”, all too often the perception seems to be of a teacher who’s at home using the latest technology, whose classroom is awash with the latest teaching trends, and who leads CPD on “how to use your interactive whiteboard more effectively”.

This article on innovation covers none of that! I’m not dismissing edtech nor the associated innovations therein, but I am going to talk about the innovator's mindset.

The innovator's mindset is the true way every teacher can innovate in any setting! As I see it, said mindset comprises of four component parts:

  1. Review
  2. Do
  3. Review
  4. Re-do

If you can adopt the innovator’s mindset (and truly anyone can) you can make this academic year, and in fact every academic year, one in which you innovate in a meaningful way!

1. Review

This is about you the teacher, the subject specialist, and the pedagogical perfectionist. Take a moment or two to review your last academic year or even the last few. I suggest reviewing on two fronts:

Your subject. The content you’ve taught, the way it was received, and the impact it had. Make note of what went well, and what you think you could improve.

Your pedagogy. Review the way you taught your subject. Did you deliver content in a variety of ways? Did you adapt work for learners who were struggling? How good was your differentiation? Did you really stretch and challenge all your students? As part of this review, take to the internet and the educational bookstores, choose something on which you’d like to read up and refresh your knowledge. For example, spend an hour or so reading up on stretch and challenge ideas, and make some notes on things you could try to freshen up content you deliver in the new term.

2. Do

Teach. Get into your class and teach your stuff using the ideas you have read about. Adapt your technique based on both what worked last year and what could have been done better. Invite others into your class to watch you! Ask others if you can observe them teaching too.

Photo by Shane Global

3. Review

This time, don’t wait til the end of the academic year to review what is working in your class and what can be refined. My suggestion to support your most innovative year is that you make time in the first weekend of every half term break to pause and review what is going well, what can be done better, and choose a topic to brush up on. Look again at your subject and your pedagogy. Think about what you did in your classroom, what discussions you had with those who have observed you and what you’ve seen in others.

If you read up on stretch and challenge six weeks ago, then choose questioning this time and spend an hour reading up on ideas to better question in your classroom. Use these to develop new strategies that will help you deliver your content in the next term.

4. Re-do

Get back into your classroom with refined focus, content ready to be taught using techniques you have reviewed yourself and with colleagues, and perspective on your pedagogy you’ve refreshed.

It really is as easy as those four steps to keep your mindset innovative throughout an academic year!

...and 5! Sharing what you do to keep you on the innovative path

One extra tip to keep yourself innovating: Share! Sharing what you are doing with others is a great way to keep your mindset innovative! Consider creating your own blog, or even a shared blog with colleagues who agree to share your innovator's mindset this year. At the end of each half term, take it in turns to post about your term, what has gone well, what you’re considering changing, and what areas of your pedagogy you are reading up on. Innovation does not happen inside a bubble. Real innovation happens when you look outside yourself, your organisation, and even your sector to draw in inspiration for afar. To do this well you have to be sharing what you do.

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The usual school grading system rewards and highlights academic success, but as educators, we have a responsibility to prepare our pupils to be responsible, active members of the community, with a moral and social responsibility to improve the world they live in and to fight discrimination and reduce inequality. As teachers, we know that theory is one thing, but to embed a thought behaviour, or an action, one must practise it regularly in a hands-on manner. So how best to go about this in 2018/19?

Recent research from the Prince’s Trust has revealed some alarming statistics about the young people in Britain. Nearly a fifth of young people “think they will amount to nothing”, and 43% of young people don’t feel prepared to enter the workforce when they leave Secondary education. When the research moves to industries, it is evident that 67% of employers don’t feel like school-leavers have the necessary soft skills (communication, teamwork, resilience) to thrive in the workplace.

The world of work is changing, as the types of jobs and industries change in response to economic, societal, global and technological developments. This means that we cannot say with any certainty what jobs today’s young people will find themselves in in five, 10 or even 20 years’ time. What we can do, however, is ensure that the younger generation are prepared for this uncertainty. By instilling them with the core, transferable skills that will be needed in the 21st century workplace, we can help them to be ready for whatever industry they choose to enter, allowing them to thrive in a changing environment.

What comes to mind when I say Nike, Apple, Google, Amazon, Kanye West, Beyoncé? Each of these have a reputation that surrounds their “brand”. Something that is expressed through their art, their product, their services. The brand that makes us love them or loathe them.

In 2008 I was in my NQT year and teaching at South Rise Primary School. I had just been appointed as shadow ICT coordinator and given my first project. The ICT coordinator had applied successfully to the Local Authority for funding to start a community project with parents. We had written the application form, asking for money to buy five digital cameras. These would be used as part of a project to reach those parents whom we felt needed more of our support, or were “harder to reach” for whatever reasons. When we were granted the money, it fell to me to then run the project.

An amazing thing happens when we expect students to be leaders. They lead. Challenging the philosophy that, by nature, there are leaders and there are followers requires educators to start early. Providing guidance and opportunity for development of leadership skills early on is essential. This is where we learn the tenets of how to get along in the world, and it’s also where “soft skills” originate that serve as building blocks of leadership.

Computer Science educator Mark ‘Urban Teacher’ Martin has become a big name in education, and can be regarded as a true edtech expert. During London Tech Week 2018, Mark won the Diversity Champion Award at the TechXLR8 awards. Here, the South Bank UTC Computing lead - and Tech City UK digital business academy mentor - discusses favourite resources, representation, the people who inspire him, and more.

Loneliness is an increasingly detrimental issue that strikes the most vulnerable groups in society the hardest, with children and seniors being especially susceptible. Yet, it spares no one. 45% of British people report sometimes feeling lonely, and as many as 18% feel lonely all the time. Loneliness is not only an issue of scale; it has also been labelled as being worse for us than obesity and physical inactivity, having negative effects on both mental and physical health. So what do school communities need to know to help tackle this issue?

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