Saturday, 29 December 2012


I think I chose this blog title because metamorphosis is what the education system is currently going through.  It refers back to an analogy I used in my very first, rather ropey, blog post about my interaction with Twitter as a teacher.  This is where I likened my initial interaction with Twitter to a caterpillar, which then metamorphosed into a butterfly once I waded into a #UKedchat.  

My dear friend and Twitter buddy @kevbartle articulates the beauty of Twitter here. He does it so well that I dare not repeat the exercise in this post.  Recently, there have been a few posts discussing what the current Crucible- like Ofsted regime is doing to schools and teachers.  One of the best is by @headguruteacher, which you can find here and another equally marvellous one by @Edutronic_Net does here. (Get me being all clever adding hyperlinks to my blog.)  This is how I came to the idea of metamorphosis.

What on earth am I wittering on about?

When you teach, you are institutionalised and this happens relatively quickly, often without you noticing.  This can only become apparent when you change schools for a new job and it feels like the world has shifted on its axis.  You are faced with many unknown unknowns (I've pinched that from an American politician I'm sure) which become known unknowns, and with some hard graft then become known knowns. (#ironyklaxon) and lo, the process of institutionalisation is complete: we are cocooned. Cocooned to the extent we can forget what has gone before, and more worryingly, not consider what might be.

To the potentially mangled metaphor.  

We are all, either happily or unhappily, ensconced in our own cocoons (classrooms),  taking the required nutrients from our host plant (school) but often we are too afraid to complete the metamorphosis into our desired butterfly (or in some cases, mentioning no names, moths) of the teacher we really WANT to be and have the POTENTIAL to be.  At the moment, the cocoon offers refuge from a storm we could not predict and from forces that seem too powerful for us to fight against; although we would just LOVE to be given the room to unfurl our wings and admire the pattern we and nature have created. 

Twitter can provide us with the nutrients for us to complete our metamorphosis; to create the pattern on our newly created wings; have the courage to break the seal of the cocoon and majestically unfurl our delicate wings and fly amongst a supportive rabble of butterflies. I Googled 'Collective nouns for butterflies': I could have had 'swarm' or 'rabble'. Rabble was the superior collective noun by far, given the people that I normally Tweet with. 

Teach Meets provide even further nutrition, and get this, we can flit to other plants, and use our proboscis to try out and taste different nectar. OK, in some cases, we may spit it out like a cheap bottle of plonk, but at least we got to taste it. 

Last night, on Twitter an extension of Teach Meets was bandied about between myself (@Gwenelope); @Edutronic_Net, @Ieshasmall, @kevbartle, @hgaldinoshea and @Benniekara about a 'classroom crawl'. Now, the 'day' part of this teacher interchange will not involve pub based CPD, however, if we plan things well enough, the evening period may well do.   The 'classroom crawl' involves travelling about to spend a day or an afternoon in each other's schools, to drink a little more deeply from this pedagogical nectar; to leave our cocoons well and truly behind and learn how other plants feed teaching and learning; how they enable their butterflies (teachers and pupils) to unfurl their wings and flit with confidence.

This Tweacher needs you! 

This directly relates to my new Performance Management targets.  The most crucial of these targets being the developing of Teaching and Learning in my department in the following ways:

1. Set up a department blog to share good practice; encourage collaboration; and offer peer critique and help that is 'kind, specific, helpful' (Think that's a @Totallywired77 -ism, *correction that is a Ron Berger-ism, thanks Tait!).
2. To undertake developmental lesson observations  (not judgemental) of the department and other teachers in our school to firstly, recognise what we ARE good at, and then use these observations to steer our teaching and learning needs.
3. Continue to use Twitter for my own CPD purposes then to share what I find and use with the department.
4. Share the best of pedagogical blogs with the department so as to encourage risk taking (and then record and reflect on our own blog). 
5. To attend Teach Meets and share the ideas gleaned from them with the department (maybe even present one day!).
6. To visit schools that are Good or Outstanding and find out why this is so; and work out how we can be 'Even Better If'. (Thanks to that Twitter conversation last night, well on its way. If you can offer me a 'placement' for a visit, please let me know via commenting on my blog or Tweeting.)

The power of a rabble of butterflies - unfurl the wings.

Having read my aims, I'd very much like your input and advice about how best to achieve these; record the outcomes and flag up any pit falls that I really ought to be aware of.  If you can and want to help, please leave a comment on the blog rather than Twitter, so that I can dip into your great ideas, when necessary. 

Who'd a thunk it? Twitter, blogging, Teach Meets and 'classroom crawls' as part of Performance Management. THAT would not have happened when I started teaching 10 years ago. THAT is PROGRESS Mr. Gove. Stick that in your education pipe and choke, I mean smoke it, Goveanasaurus-Rex. 

Let us continue breaking out of our cocoons and using Twitter, Teach Meets and 'classroom crawls' so that we avoid being the bloody annoying moth that is drawn to the one big luminescence that they think is the saviour of teaching, and instead be a rabble of curious butterflies.  

As ever, thank you for reading, and any comments, advice and help you will offer in response to this post and the marvellous @Xris32 for his editing prowess. 

A rabble of butterflies in action - agents of our own metamorphosis

I published and Tweeted this blog yesterday and as a result was awash with Tweets inviting me to visit various schools - number 6 on my Teaching and Learning Performance Management summary. So, for my own records and for you, reader to view the butterfly rabble in action, here are those Tweets:

I can't find the Tweets but the loveliness that is: @Ieshasmall and @kevbartle have also invited me down to Canons High - at least I hope they have and that's not a figment of my overactive imagination. 

  Vindication often most important part English dept at my school v good and would love to host you HoD my friend (Birmingham)

  wow gwen, mega stuff there. Would love to be I the loop will have to speak to  to see if we can help. (Devon)

 That's true. Let's not rule it out : ) I'd love to have you visit us. 

 Gwen, great blog! You are more than welcome to come and visit little old me!  (N. London)

 If you ever want a tartan perspective, you're verra welcome :)  

 loved reading this! Agreed with your points wholeheartedly! If Cardiff is closer come visit!

  mines a 6th form but you're welcome

 Lovely blog and you'd be welcome to visit us any time you fancy an Island holiday :-)
  I'll second that ;-)

Great post  and would be delighted if you could make it over to sunny Herts for a visit - can get you into some great depts

 Ooh love your butterfly blog! If you fancy a primary visit come this way! (Bristol) 

 Been tracking back the thread from the blog. Happy for you to visit us-pupil referral unit in Bristol 

A lovely Tweet re. my point 1 on performance management - collaborative metamorphosis! 

 Great blog! Need the optimism. I've an idea for an online collaborative blog. Will share early new year if interested.

Plus the wonderful @Edutronic_Net has offered his wealth of expertise - and he really does know far more about educational blogging than I.

@HuntingEnglish has Tweeted these words of widom re. a depaprtment blog:

 the initial hurdle is the issue. Get someone receptive & get them doing one & cheer leading! Seeing the audience of the posts is a great spur. Also, finding some time for people to do it is essential early on. Could there training time/dept meeting slot? it is the 'extra work' resistance which is the stopper. People need to see the value: reflection; shared knowledge; audience &  (well that's most of the Tweets I favourited!)

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Way out of my comfort zone

Taking a leaf out of many other Tweeter's books, OK blogs, I'm having a crack at the #Nurture1213 trend for blog posts.  Here, many have reflected on 12 things that went well in 2012 and a set of goals to achieve in 2013.  (As I type this, the penny has only really just dropped about the significance of the numbers 12 and 13.  I really HAS been the most epic of terms).

Now, as someone who has very high, if not unrealistic, expectations of myself and whose default setting of 'self-critical' is often set to 11, this is not going to be easy for me, at least the first part of '12 things that went well' in 2012.

So, with that in mind, I begin scratching my head and have a crack at things that have gone well for 2012.

1. I really began to master the art of the long distance swim, going from alternate lengths of breast stroke and crawl in order to swim my mile (64 lengths), to being able to swim continuous front crawl in double figures to being able to swim 2 miles, continuously, using front crawl.  It is what keeps me, mostly, on the right side of sane.

2. I've maintained my commitment to my circuit class, twice a week, come hell or high water.  It is a mental win because it means, if I continue to go, school has not 'won'.

3. Over the past year, good friendships have been forged and maintained despite work being all consuming at times.

4. I'm better at recognising when the symptoms of 'The Black Dog' (Churchill's nickname for depression) present themselves and can take some steps to stave it off. There are things 'to do' still with this which I'll have to refer to in the '13' section,

5. I have managed to decrease, rather than increase, my personal debts in spite of the governments epic failiure with the economy; my pay being frozen and an increase in pension deductions from my salary.  On the surface, not such a massive achievement maybe, but being the only bill payer in my teeny, tiny terraced house, it is not as easy as it sounds.

6. With a little help from my neighbours, a hideous damp patch has been treated and plastered.  It's only been there for nearly 10 years. I put it off as I was terrified of the cost. In the end it only cost my some money for materials and a bottle of wine to say, 'Thank you.' to my neighbour.

7. Going back to South Pembrokeshire for the first time in about a decade as I attended a wedding reception of two old school friends who had both married other people, divorced and re-ignited their teenage relationship via me, via Facebook (I didn't know this until I saw them again).  

I fell in love with it all over again.  As I drove back through old, familiar places I was awash with all sorts of emotions that had been boxed up for many years.  My first port of call was Freshwater West beach (if you've seen the last Harry Potters, it's used as the location for Shell Cottage.)  It was a gloriously sunny spring day, so my shoes were whipped off, and I strolled along the beach bare foot, tears in my eyes as more memories crept up on me and I remembered just how much I loved it. Beautiful. I then went to Stack Rocks and Broad Haven beach, places I know well and with huge fondness.  Oh how I miss and crave the salty air, and the calming soothing sound of the sea. 

8. I went white water rafting (at the centre near Bala) with friends from work and just loved it.  I re-discovered my inner child and lapped up every moment. This was the me I recognised from my youth, it was good to be reacquainted with that version of myself.  In the photos of the day I am beaming. 

9.  I revived my Twitter account, initially following the celebs and then I stumbled across @UKedchat and this an altogether different kind of online journey has taken place. It has given me autonomy over my CPD and so much more besides. 

10. I began blogging, initially a personal, rather than a professional one, for a few months and then I took the plunge and began writing about my teaching.  I was nervous to say the least. Terrified even, but received nothing but support and positivity. Seven months later, I am open to even more possibilities about how Blogs can be used for developing teaching and learning in my department and across the whole school. As Del Boy would say, 'the world's my lobster'. Huge thanks to @Xris32 for being a most excellent editor. 

11. a) Through Twitter I have forged many personal and profession relationships which have been enlightening, challenging and uplifting in equal measure.  I have begun attending Teach Meets, and because of this, I have met some truly exceptional people.  To name but a few: @kevbartle who gave me a lovely cuddle on meeting; @ieshasmall for Puckish fun at #TM London; @danielharvey9 who cajoled me into my first Teach Meet at #TMBrum and chauffeur extraordinaire for #TMLondon; @headguruteacher who was just wonderful and inspiring; @hgaldinoshea the very epitome of Gallic glamour and loveliness; @LizSaddler, who only lives 3 miles from me but we meet in person at #TMLondon, and @benniekara who was warm and friendly and most recently @LGolton who popped round for a cuppa today (23/12/12) who was as lovely in person as she is online. 

11 b) (cheat) Being included on @Pekabelo's glorious Tweachers Tube Map as Euston Station no less AND receiving my own A1 copy in the post as a present.

12. I'm going to cheat now and do 2 for 1 here:  I started wearing dresses to work for the first time in 10 years of teaching, it is perhaps a good indicator to my change of mindset.  In the last week of term I planned and delivered my first ever assembly to our not so easy Year 11s. Never mind shaking, I was vibrating with nerves before delivering it.  It was a success! Our head teacher was present and told me it was 'excellent' straight away and I found a lovely 'Thank you card' from her in my pigeon hole the next day.  I faced off my demon of speaking to large groups of people with some level of success!

Some cheeky additions:

Now, not wishing to mess up the numerical beauty of this idea, I won't add more numbers, but I have thought up some more positives: 
My start to the school year was catastrophic due to an epic Twitter faux pas on my part. My HoF spent weeks (for understandable reasons) looking at me with hate and contempt in her eyes.  We finish the term on a very positive footing where she has recommended me for UPS2 and included development of the faculty's teaching and learning using Twitter, Teach Meets, blogging and doing developmental lesson observations for the faculty. 
   I've also coached my HT on how I use Twitter, reading blogs and blogging for CPD purposes; given our Teaching & Learning AHT a pedagogical book list to purchase and introduced to Teach Meets - watch out Finham Park #TMCoventry.  
  A more self-indulgent positive is going to Stand-Up comedy gigs on a fairly regular basis; sometimes getting one over on the compere when targetted.  My sister suggested I have a crack at it myself. Interesting idea! 
  Last night this post provoked a warm, friendly and frank conversation about The Black Dog and how different forms of therapy have helped many of us.  We even have a hashtag to use #BD, much like the Batman searchlight, should we need to discuss it in future.  It was one of the best kind of surprises. 

Now, for my 13 things to do in 2013. 

1. Find, what is 'The Holy Grail' for me, which is a better work/life balance.  I have been teaching 10 years and never really got the balance right, as a consequence, my mental and physical health has suffered. 

2. Read more pedagogical literature and, more importantly, act upon the advice that speaks to me.  

3. Establish a Teaching and Learning blog for my department which will have a positive effect on the department's teaching and learning as well as my own. Eventually, I'd like to do the same for the whole school. (Suggestions for names for our Dept' blog very welcome, I am currently stumped.  Advice about how to run it, also welcome).
Update 31/12/12 - @HuntingEnglish and @Eductronic_Net have proffered good advice and offered more for help for this aim.

4. To be able to recognise when I am responsible and accountable for my own success, rather than attribute it to luck or other people. Here I need to practice what I preach to my pupils and accept that to 'Fail again. Fail better.' (Beckett) is what leads to success and break the 'mind-forged manacles' (Blake) of my fear of failure. This is one of the many things that will help me see off The Black Dog. 

5. To learn something entirely new and for utterly selfish and not work related reasons. This will feed my soul much better than I am doing at the moment. I am currently into my 'overdraft' as far as my inner health goes.  This can and must change. I've always like the idea of learning to dance, thank you Strictly Come Dancing.
Update 31/12/12 - Via Joel Hicks' (male model and fundraiser extraordinaire) Facebook page I have got in contact with people who run dance classes. They start the second week of the new year and I don't need a partner to go with me (a big thing that has stopped me before). 

6. To always make time for my friends. I don't always get this right.  I have chosen my friends well and they are wonderful people. Time with them is time very well spent. 
Update 31/12/12 - off to a better start here too. I had a meal with my local friends on Saturday 29th December. Good food, great company and lots of laughter. More of the same needed!

7. To phone my mum more often and be able to tell her how I feel, and to be able to talk about how she feels too.  I contain my feelings and bury them to the extent I can't retrieve them or discuss them with other people, which is to avoid what I think may burden them.  Mum always offers, I'm rubbish at taking her up on it.  

8.  Have the courage to make some small, and then big changes in my life.  This may involve getting a shower installed or throwing in the towel of house ownership; meeting new people; buying some more dresses, or even a change of job - by that I mean some form of promotion. This may even involve, with some courage, good luck and a following wind, include my de-singlification (made-up word). 
Update 31/12/12 - Here I have made several marginal gains!

  • Bought and worn dresses to work, for first time in a decade (mentioned above), so come pay day, another dress was ordered!
  • Bought and worn a pair of skinny jeans for the first time. As long as the top is long enough, and heels are worn, they look quite good!
  • I tried scallops, anchovies and fillet steak for the first time when out with my friends (mentioned above).
  • I have had the same hair cut for a good few years. Today I was brave and had a new one. The picture was posted on Facebook on Twitter and I had so many lovely comments!
9. Play my part in helping our new and fabulous Head Teacher in helping to turn our tanker (school) around and onto a better course.  I think she is exceptional and easily the best Head I have ever worked for.  I want to stick around to see how and where she takes us. 

10. To be able to use my dolphin like swimming capabilities to good use, in some sort of sponsored, long distance, open water swim or do the swimming leg in a some kind of team triathlon.
Update 31/12/12 @Edutronic-Net and @_MrsThatcher_ have suggested I found out about open water swims on - brilliant, thank you! Now, to get a wetsuit!

11.  Make sure I go back to Pembrokeshire, to visit my friends and bask in what is clearly a jewel of the British Isles.  It was much like going back to Middle Earth's Hobbiton; brim full of the same quirks and charms.

12. Keep up my girlie days out in Birmingham with my friend Lisa and hopefully come with her down to Cornwall again. It was a heavenly patch in our last Summer holiday. Cornwall was magical and her family were just awesome. 
Update 31/12/12 - Our first one of the year is set for 5th January 2013 before we lurch back to school. Long may they continue!

13. To maintain all these many Twitter tweacher relationships I've established so far; continue to share and collaborate with these wonderful people; meet many more and perhaps, just perhaps, find the chutzpah to actually present at a Teach Meet. 
Update 31/12/12 The subsequent blog post documents all the lovely, warm and welcoming invitations I've had from many Tweachers to visit their schools. As Jean-Luc Picard would say - make it so!

(Another, personal cheeky addition. To hit the mythical and magical savings target of the equivalent of 3 months salary in the bank. I'm not so far off!).