Hell hath no fury…..

I had a couple of days where the body had just decided to give up. Even the eye lashes were hurting and I was quite frankly pathetic. I have the loveliest of friends who realised that something wasn’t quite right and I was visited with fruit, croissants and chat (and the hugs) Then There is the pal that we all have. The one that gives you a boot to the derrière and says you better be ready for 730 and you better be in heels. ( and says if you have kankles, get your trousers on, yes, a proper ray of pitch black)
Going to be honest, I was more frightened of not turning up than worrying about the pain. ( in the best possible way)
Waiting at the train station was an experience. The combination of the sunshine and the long weekend had rendered some of my fellow city dwellers somewhat red, tapsaff and fully paid up member end of the ministry of funny walks.
We wandered to the restaurant and as we sat down, the table beside us started talking about us. In French.
Nothing offensive but were commenting on the dresses and heels and the glam for a Friday night.
You see, apparently no one in the city speaks other languages. My pal decided she was going to regarder le menu and started her nonsense.
The table next to us clicked.
A bit of Bonsoir and see and eat up yer at yer aunties and they were suitably mortified.
Yes, the very fact I had my knickers on the right way and hadn’t gone siouxie sioux with the eyeliner was nothing short of a miracle.But speaking French?? Zut alors!
It did make me laugh that people just assumed that no one would understand them, never mind speak French.
I enjoyed listening to their chat about politics, Macron and of course, black pudding.
It was perhaps a safer conversation than they might have had……
They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Hell hath no fury like a French teacher mistaken for anything else.

Just for cosmetic purposes

Like any other parent or carer, I think my daughter is quite simply the most perfect wee Angel on earth. In every sense of the word.
I have noticed over the last wee while that she is getting more conscious of how she looks and what other people think.
Although she is one of the youngest in her class, she, like me, is a big girl. She is tall and healthy.
Recently she asked me if she was fat. My daughter is Just where she should be yet a few wee comments had made her think about her body and how she looked.
Having spent my formative years being referred to as the fat funny one of the female cousins, I am determined that she doesn’t start worrying about suchlike.
However, recently we were at the orthodontist to check and see there was enough space with all her big teeth coming in.
She is not the biggest fan of the dentist but she was calm and was reassured that this was just a check to see if she had space. ( The Demon dentist is a great story but I’m sure has not done the profession any favours)
The orthodontist asked her if she wanted to be as beautiful as her friends.
Cue the raging mother in the corner in her best r.p voice (who is looking at her 8-year-old wide-eyed daughter beginning to well up) inform said orthodontist that her daughter is already beautiful. (While at getting ready to fling her shoe at him)
He then tried to dig himself out of it by saying she could be even more beautiful by having work done on her teeth.
She’s 8.
If he was looking to gain paid business then I’m sure there are plenty of people who think that teeth that could eat an apple through a tennis racket at the age of 8 is necessary. Not this mammy.
No medical reason for it he informed me, just perhaps in the future ( 18 months he told me and would I like an appointment booked?)to make sure they are perfectly straight and white. for cosmetic purposes. Whit???
Cue a discussion with my daughter about cosmetic work on her teeth.
So, mr.orthodontist…..my daughter is beautiful. Her wee friends are beautiful too.
I’m sure you noticed, she still has a lot of her milk teeth too.
Demon dentist indeed.

Leadership in the time of cholera

I was recently asked if I would contribute to some training on leadership. I was asked by a friend who lives and breathes it and is very well versed on it and the training in it.
I guess it felt like a premier league footballer asking for haunners from a Tuesday night 5s player.
My initial reactions were:
1.are you drunk?
2.I have nothing to bring to this table so chase yersel.

However, I guess, sometimes hearing from someone who has actually had the experience is more helpful than books and a day of trust exercises as you let your team mates fall in the river. So perhaps against my better judgement I agreed to do the first session of what looked like a very busy and intense day.
I was asked for the title of my talk. Eh? It was bad enough I was potentially going to be caught out by my professional friend never mind a serious title.
After much deliberation, I opted for leadership in the time of cholera, hoping there might be a few who would get the link.
Much like myself, I decidedly keep the presentation low tech, and talk from the heart. With a bit of HGIOS organisation to keep me from wandering off the track, I spent 35 minutes attempting to do justice to the rock stars I worked with and the most wonderful time that we had.

The link to leadership In the time of cholera was both about taking the path less travelled and despite dalliances, that eternal hope of true love. The doing what society expects even if it makes you miserable for years but eventually a happy ever after.
It was also the notion of being ragin’.
You see when I had the privilege of being a leader,to start with,everyone was ragin.
Weans were ragin as they were not having the best experience they could. The department were ragin as he we as were ragin and the senior management were squeezing them for results, numbers and being encore annoyed that a discipline policy was not working and the walls were getting decorated in referrals. And….the senior management were ragin as the weans were ragin and the staff were ragin.

Leadership?it was a UN peacekeeper and the winner from the bake-off that was needed.

1.1 Self evaluation for self-improvement.
My question to the girls was – what do you want when you come to work?
The answer was very surprising: I would like to enjoy coming to my work and I would like more learners to achieve.
So I had to set about creating an environment where people were happy to be at work ( bake-off champion time) and where they had the space to teach in a way that would engage our learners and give them every chance to achieve.
( my honest evaluation was a bomb under the department for improvement)
1.3 Leadership of Change
We had to establish a shared vision that I constantly reassured my girls I was carrying the can for. I needed them to believe in me, my ability to lead, manage and most importantly care for them. Cannot have inspired learners without inspired teachers.
We looked at the pressing needs for change particularly in the curriculum and teaching and learning process and made a short-term development plan that we could actually do! That would have an immediate impact. That was a real working document we could continue to reflect on and work with. And a realistic timescale, with measurable outcomes.
1.2 leadership of learning
For me, it was about the leadership of the learning of the teachers first. My girls were amazing but there were holes in their CVs and teaching toolkit and that gave me the opportunity allow them to develop both as teachers but as leaders too.
A few of them had maybe been treading water for a bit and needed a new challenge, and that’s what we did. I needed help to sort out assessment, mentoring and new approaches to teaching and learning,and the girls were delighted to be asked. And for want of a better phrase, got tore in, Heid first.
Not because they had to,because they wanted to. They were part of the change. They were the change.
We created a silent revolution and it did not go unnoticed.
We looked at the learning of our children and young people and listened to them. The ethos of the place changed. Staff were happy to be there, learners were happy to be there, we had a curriculum that we liked, staff had the freedom to teach in a way they wanted. I took as many of the challenging sets as I could, took all the detentions, and let my staff do what they did best, teach.
In turn, we developed a sense of trust with each other and we moved forward together at a frightening pace.
I suppose that combines well with
2.2 curriculum
Our curriculum was exactly that. Ours. It was relevant and up to date, which in turn engaged the teachers. It was flexible and reviewed constantly. We had lively debate about what was going well and what needed chucked out the window.
We created pathways for every single learner and witnessed a shift in attitudes from school staff. Maybe our subject wasn’t actually as mince as they thought.
We began to see a real change in engagement from learners and staff. People were curious.
What is it you do? Why are you doing it? Who do you think you are?
1.4 leadership and management of staff.
“You stopped me being a screamer”
It’s amazing what happens when you de-escalate a situation. We had difficult conversations about acceptable use of ICT, about neck lines that were too low ( Washin was indeed flashed) and how it was never acceptable to say certain things to students. We had conversations about professional judgement, heated discussions about behaviour, tears and snotters when needed it and we had days when I felt all I could do for my staff was make tea and feed them cake.
Any opportunity that came to my department was offered to staff, they were given all the CLPL they needed and some. A few of us were working parents and we often felt we couldn’t be part of the school community after school. I decided that I would do Saturday school in the morning and took my daughter with me, the girls got involved top, bringing their wee people too. This got up the nose of other staff who thought we were trying to create a 6 day standard working week. Aye. As if.
My job was to set an example of what we could do and work my derrière off to prove to the staff that they mattered.
We mattered. Our learners mattered and we were there to put a dent in the establishment.
In a good sense.
2.3 Learning, Teaching & Assessment
Weans learned. We taught and learned. We assessed. In a manageable, real way. We changed the format of pupil profiles a million times. We stripped out CfE jargon from Pupil work. We talked about teaching, we were observed teaching from all over the authority. What is it we were doing that was getting such a reputation?
We enjoyed teaching. We created an environment where we were engaged, hence our weans were.
Assessment – stripped it back and changed the format. I refused to do setting exams at the end of a stage and annoyed a lot of people. My challenge to that was if you want to know about the weans- come and ask me. Data was demanded, I stuck my head, shoulders and Latina Ass above the parapet and said no. That divided the SMT….half of them thought I was a lunatic, the others thought I was a demented genius. Jury is still out.
We developed the curriculum, taught the weans and reported to parents.
3.2 raising attainment and achievement
Flexible curriculum. Top quality teaching and learning, weans at the centre. 3.2 sorted.

Regrets? Hunners of them. Leadership style? All my very own. Transformative change? You better believe it.
Where did I learn?
I watched and listened over the years. I got to know my staff, and I listened.
An absolute joy.
Leadership…….my way.

Maybe swearing will help?

I enjoy reading educational blogs and engaging in conversation about how to best improve outcomes for young people. It is most definitely true that if we were to share everything that we knew or had tried in education, we would be much richer for it. Recently I found myself in a conversation with an educationalist who had views at the other end of the spectrum of where mine are. I mean, scarily so. I’m not saying that mine are right but there was part of me silently screaming ” whit planet are you ACTUALLY on?” Some people involved in education love a label about what kind of teacher they are, or what camp they feel most at home in and it’s very much black and white.
I think I have always thought that given the fact that no one is getting out of here alive, we need to teach in a way that we enjoy and will give the young people the best possible experience.
However, I was reminded that it wasn’t about enjoyment. Not for the teacher, and certainly not for the weans.
Usually most people from the same subject discipline will have similar pedagogical views, particularly in secondary. Not the same delivery style but at least a pattern of thinking to get to the same destination. On this occasion I found myself aghast, no, pure aghast actually, that a teacher with 3 years experience could be so confident that the way they taught was the only
way and they had nothing left to learn. That every child in their class(not their care) was thriving ( really? Petrified with sweaty shirts through fear at the age of 14 is thriving?)There was nothing left to learn indeed.
I think I have learned that I can now listen to people who are so consumed by their opinion and not actually do the gbh that I may wish for them. I don’t feel the need to react to everything and can now pass comment or give my opinion without bursting a blood vessel.
However, I never take for granted my own learning process and how that impacts on the students ( young and not so young) that I am privileged to work with.
But sometimes you do just want to hit someone with a chair.

My knitting is ripped


Well that’s my knitting well and truly ripped.
I imagine I must be in a queue to have tea and scones with this gentleman and ram a French dictionary up his derrière. All with an entrepreneurial flourish.
All those teachers who don’t want to come out on a Saturday to learn about how to be more entrepreneurial and see what work is like in the real world.
Clearly, what we do is not real and not creative and if we were to judge ourselves based on this poor assessment of our qualifications,experience and professional conduct, then it will be P.45s all round.
I have one thing to say.
Why is it that people who know nothing about teaching and learning are the quickest to criticise not only the profession but everyone involved in it.
Most teachers performed a balancing act throughout their studies to earn enough to survive or pay for tuition. To reduce that to a summer with camp America and a dalliance with bevvy is not only insulting to Camp America and alcohol,it’s just wrong.
Partnership is one of the areas that schools work on and it brings so many benefits to the teachers and learners. Bringing in experts from various different work related contexts gives a local, national and international slant on learning and skills development. Most Secondary teachers specialise in particular subjects,not just because they “quite like it” but because they realise how valuable their subject is for young people. I teach languages because that’s my area of expertise, passion and joy. I think I am quite entrepreneurial in my approaches, I think encourage and develop skills rough my pedagogy, and I think my own experience ( which was not Camp America and cheap vodka) tells the story of how you can do anything if you are determined and work hard.
When I look for professional development, I look for things that directly impact on my ability to do my job better for the learners I am privileged to work with. Going to training on a Saturday is not a new thing for me, or any of the fabulous professionals I work with. We train,discuss and collaborate. All with the intention of making things better for our learners.
There really is nothing worse than someone offering snake oil to fix the problems they perceive to be at the heart of Education.
Working with young people doesn’t turn teachers into extras from the walking dead. Other things help very well with that, but I have yet to find someone who has left teaching because of children.
That’s why we are in it. For the weans. Every decision is based on what are the best outcomes for the learners.
We can’t have inspired children without inspired teachers,and yes there is still work to be done on that( discussion for another day)
So,Jim,I know it’s well meant,but perhaps the next time you want to tick your corporate responsibility box, you can know your audience.
Kind regards.

Welcome home…..

This week brought the strangest experience. Visiting a student who was in my old classroom.The room of adventures, plans, tears,music and a place where the magic happened.
When I first moved to the school, I taught in lots of different rooms and when I finally got my own room it was a feeling of coming home. I couldn’t wait to get my stamp all over it. Work from the weans, photos of my pals ( carefully edited T in the park ones of course ) realia, resources and memories.
So many of my stories from my early teaching career are from this room. The magical classes, the enthusiastic students, the bonkers classes, the French breakfasts, my favourite Spanish class ever, the singing, and the laughs.
It’s amazing how you get quite attached to a place.
Being a tiny part of a big of department was a wonderful experience where I really learned how to hone my craft of teaching. Professionally stretched and personally satisfied – I could not have asked for more. Despite being the baby I was treated with equal respect and valued by a diverse staff with a combined experience which made them the envy of many schools. Some of my teaching heroes were the stalwarts of the department. All very diverse characters but the sense of collegiality was amazing. Development plans were issued and staff signed up to tasks, at holiday times classes were collapsed and tea was brought to your desk, when you had a “moment” you were enveloped in support and more tea was provided.
Room 9 saw some of the most beautiful, talented children I have ever had the joy to work with. Huge hearts, patience and curiosity.
It was also the room I listened to students experiencing their first heartbreak, the first forays into adulthood and where I cried as much as they did.
I was lucky to have been granted leave for a year and I remember packing up my room, ,wondering what I was coming back to. When I came back, I shared my room but it was still very much a big part of my teacher identity.
Coming back to it over 10 years later, the wonky bookcase was still there and the white board was still wrecked ( Jif used to work wonders) but it was totally different.
New adventures and new memories for other people.
It was fitting that on this occasion,I watched another star being born. Must be something about the room.


No, I don’t need an evaluation. Thanks.
For years we used to fill out evaluations after courses. Hall was cold, pieces were tasteless, nae biscuits.
We didn’t really focus on the learning, it was more about the niceties of a day out to be honest.
Then when someone did say they didn’t like the presenters you were raging as ” they come to sweet fanny Adams and when they do, all they do is moan”
You know the sort.
I don’t give out paper evaluations , I know when the room is cold or lunch is rotten.
Recently I was finishing a session of training when one of the participants bounded up to me to say it was no bother to give me a good evaluation and put in a word for me.
Aye, really.
I don’t know who the word is with right enough.
I’ve become very good at evaluating my own performance. I know exactly when I’m crap, useless and would have been better in my bed. Some weeks are a bit like that. Head cold, terrible hair and a to do list that is longer than yon braid of Rapunzel can leave me at less than my sparkling best. However, as a lovely speedo wearing friend has told me, sometimes good is good enough.
Bref, many of my student teachers are torturing themselves right now and over analysing that one difficult activity or one difficult class that is causing them grief. We do tend to focus on what we did wrong, that one wee thing that was enough to send us into a tail spin. While I’m not suggesting rose-tinted glasses, keeping it in perspective is always an idea.
You don’t need an evaluation form for that..