Cut your inbox down to size: making the most of email

A link to my guest post on Schoolwell.co.uk about keeping on top of my email inbox using Do, delegate, defer, delete:

http://schoolwell.co.uk/making-the-most-of-email/

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Teacher Holidays & Health Revisited

Could it really be that, even on summer holiday, school teachers experience more stress than educators in other roles who work through August?

Last year I wrote a post Holidays and Health, about the impact of the six-week Summer holiday on my health. I had been using a Fitbit heart rate monitor and I showed that it took the whole of the six-week holiday period for my resting heart rate to return to the level it had been before the start of the year.

Since then, a lot has changed in my professional life. Throughout the Summer I have worked as an Education Officer at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. I’ve written about not missing the long summer break because my new role isn’t subject to the same ridiculous pressures that teachers are often subjected to. In my post Summertime and the living is easy? I speculate that it is a combination of relentless pace, too few opportunities to collaborate, and lack of control over the education agenda, that result in teachers needing to recover from the school year, no matter how much they love teaching.

I knew I felt better this Summer, but I wondered whether there was a measurable physiological difference between this year and last. During the Summer term this year I did outreach work with KS2 & KS3 classes, visiting a range of primary and secondary schools, usually working with a class for a day. During the school Summer holiday, we did outreach work with a charity that organises holidays for children from economically disadvantaged families in cities, and we ran a week-long summer school at the museum and other university facilities. I only took the last week in August as holiday. In addition to my Museum role, I also started teaching part time at a secondary school close to my home. How did this compare with 2017?

As this graph shows there was a real difference:

My resting heart rate was much more stable this year, and was lower over the period I worked over the summer than it had been when I was on holiday from school last year. It very much looks like I was under less stress working through this summer, than I was by being on holiday from school last summer!

I appreciate that in the general scheme of things one measure on one individual is hardly going to be statistically significant, but when the individual is me, I hope nobody will argue with me feeling it’s important. I do think this is food for thought for all of us in education. Could it really be that even on holiday in the summer, a school teacher experiences more effects of stress than an educator in another role who works through the holiday? If that is the case, something is wrong.

I think this also show us that we need to keep an eye on our health. I’ve found the NHS Five Ways to Wellbeing a useful way to do this. The five strands are shown in this image from Wales NHS.

I have particularly enjoyed Martyn Reah’s work to encourage us all (in a profession which puts others first) to look after ourselves through #teacher5aday. With so many of us now wearing fitness trackers, these could be another way that we can not only monitor the ‘Be Active’ element, but also gain an insight general health and wellbeing.

Quote of the Week 5

Looking for a bit of inspiration? Here is a collection of 38 quotes for educators, one for each week of the academic year.

Regular readers will know that I have collated several previous quote collections. You can find them here:

Quote of the week – inspiration for Monday mornings

Quote of the Week 2 – more inspiration

Quote of the week – a third year of inspiration

Fantastic Four – a fourth year of inspirational education quotes

In what is perhaps a reflection of my current role, this fifth collection leans more towards inspiration from the natural world. Robert John Meehan gets a couple of inclusions; I’m a bit of a fan. Katherine Johnson, whose contribution to the US space programme was dramatised in the film Hidden Figures, celebrated her 100th birthday last month. As I was finalising the collection, we heard the sad news of Aretha Franklin’s death, so I have included a couple of quotes in her memory. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also died recently and I have included a quote from his forward to the UNICEF report The State of the World’s Children 2000.

I’ve done my best to check for accuracy, attribution, and Abe Lincoln commenting on the internet. If you think I have made any mistakes, please let me know. I hope you find them helpful.

  1. As soon as we start selecting & judging people instead of welcoming them as they are – with their sometimes hidden beauty, as well as their more frequently visible weaknesses – we are reducing life, not fostering it. Jean Vanier
  2. It is the little conversations that build the relationships and make a impact each student. Robert John Meehan
  3. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. Rachel Carson
  4. A human being is not attaining his full heights until he is educated. Horace Mann (or hers until she is!)
  5. Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it. Marian Wright Edelman
  6. Bringing nature into the classroom can kindle a fascination and passion for the diversity of life on earth and can motivate a sense of responsibility to safeguard it. Sir David Attenborough
  7. Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity. Louis Pasteur
  8. Inter-generational solidarity is not optional but rather a basic question of justice since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us. Pope Francis
  9. Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein
  10. Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From quiet reflection will come more effective action. Peter Drucker
  11. We should be teaching and encouraging students to respect differences, to allow for differences, to encourage differences, until differences no longer make a difference. Robert John Meehan
  12. Come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher.  William Wordsworth
  13. .A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. Kathy Davis
  14. Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning. William Arthur Ward
  15. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to close it again on something solid. G.K. Chesterton
  16. Few things are as essential as education. Walter Annenberg
  17. The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. Oliver Wendell Holmes
  18. Collaboration allows us to know more than we are capable of knowing ourselves. Paul Solarz
  19. The Whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. Jiddu Krishnamurti
  20. In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It’s their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education…it’s like a precious gift. It’s like a diamond. Malala Yousafzai
  21. If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. Michael Jordan
  22. You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability. Brené Brown
  23. The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered. Jean Piaget
  24. If you want to know what society is going to be like in 20 years, ask a kindergarten teacher. Clifford Stoll
  25. Books are a uniquely portable magic. Stephen King
  26. Take all the courses in your curriculum. Do the research. Ask questions. Find someone doing what you are interested in! Be curious! Katherine Johnson
  27. 1 believed in studying because I knew that education was a privilege. Wynton Marsalis
  28. Education is the mother of leadership. Wendell Willkie
  29. I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work. Neil Armstrong
  30. There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace. Kofi Annan
  31. I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. Jorge Luis Borges
  32. You should probably invest as much time in understanding who you teach as you do in understanding what you teach. Manny Scott
  33. All the big words: virtue, justice, truth, are dwarfed by the greatness of kindness. Stephen Fry
  34. Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  35. I read so many books when I was a kid that I didn’t even know were shaping me up. Stormzy
  36. At the dawn of the 21st century, where knowledge is literally power, where it unlocks the gates of opportunity and success, we all have responsibilities as parents, as librarians, as educators, as politicians, and as citizens to instill in our children a love of reading so that we can give them a chance to fulfill their dreams. Barack Obama
  37. Sometimes what you’re looking for is already there. Aretha Franklin
  38. Being the Queen (of Soul) is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people. And your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well. Aretha Franklin

Images

  • Handprint: pixabay
  • Rachel Carson quote: Rodger Caseby
  • William Wordsworth quote: Rodger Caseby
  • Henry Wandsworth Longfellow quote: Rodger Caseby

Ten things to look forward to in the Autumn Term

What happened to those six weeks of the Summer holiday? Half way through the first INSET day of the year, you may feel they have already retreating to the distant recesses of your memory. Don’t despair, even though the long haul through the longest term of the year has just begun, and Christmas may seem a very distant horizon, there’s plenty to look forward to in the 2018 Autumn Term.

Autumn Term Top Ten

  1. Summer isn’t over! It’s still British Summer Time (until the clocks go back on 28th October) and we’ll still have a few weeks of warmer days and longer evenings, so make the most of them before the nights draw in.
  2. One of the great things about teaching is that there are two New Years: the one in January that everyone gets, and the one in September that offers a new beginning in every school. Remember when you were at school and got new exercise books? We wrote our names on the cover and opened the first new blank page full of possibilities. Your pupils will have that same feeling; how will you help them capture it and achieve great things?
  3. While most students have been enjoying summer fun, for some, the holidays will have been difficult. They might not always show it, they’ll have been be looking forward to the new term, the security of the school routine, maybe even just regular meals. You can make their school year a good one.
  4. Take time to connect with nature. Look out for the signs that summer is turning into autumn. Which plants are coming into bloom now, rather than in spring or summer. Which fruits are ripening, which leaves are changing colour first? Which animals do you notice? Take note of these small changes and you’ll soon see that no two days are alike.
  5. The annual Macmillan Coffee Morning has become a firm fundraising fixture in many schools (something to do with the cake perhaps?). This year it’s on 28th September. You can sign up and get more information here: World’s Biggest Coffee Morning 2018
  6. There are plenty of other key dates, holidays and festivals during the Autumn term. Shortly after the start of term are the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana (10th September) and Yom Kippur (19th September) and the Muslim New Year (12th September). Halloween (or All Hallow’s Eve) is on 31st October, preceding the Christian Feasts of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (1st & 2nd November). Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights is on 7th November and this year Remembrance Sunday falls on 11th November (see below). Scotland celebrates St Andrew’s Day with a bank holiday on 30th November. The first Sunday of Advent is shortly after on 2nd December, bringing us to the lead-up to Christmas. Hanukkah begins on the 3rd and ends on the 10th December.
  7. When the nights do draw in, and the weather gets colder, what better way to celebrate than bonfires and fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night, 5th November? Gunpowder, treason and, with any luck, toffee apples.
  8. As usual we remember all those who have died in conflict on Remembrance Sunday. Many schools mark Armistice Day itself. This year, the two come together on Sunday 11th November, which marks 100 years exactly since the end of the First World War.
  9. Some of the best bits of school happen in the Autumn term and will be upon us before we know it: if I were you I’d check your Christmas jumper, and start planning the Nativity Play now.
  10. At the end of this term, the Christmas holiday and New Year!

So, what are you looking forward to this Autumn term? Are there any dates I’ve missed out? Why not share with a comment?

Festival dates from timeanddate.com

Image: Rodger Caseby

Clearing: a place where the sun shines through

Students receive their A Level and BTEC results this Thursday. For all who took exams there is the sense of relief that the long wait is finally over, for many jubilation that they got the grades they need for their dream course at university, but for some disappointment that they didn’t quite make it.

Well done to all those who found what they hoped for inside that envelope, but this post is for those who are entering UCAS clearing, the system that matches remaining places with students looking for a course.

It may seem that a door has closed in your face, but really clearing opens up a wealth of opportunities. I gained my university place through clearing and, looking back, it was one of the best things that could have happened. I ended up going to a University I had originally applied for, just on a different course. I got to spend my time studying a subject I still love, at what is now called a ‘Russell Group’ university. I made great friends and met a wonderful woman who later became my wife.

The fact that I’d gained my place through clearing made no difference once I got to University. After gaining my first degree it was no barrier to further study: I went on to gain a PhD.  I then went on to a fabulously rewarding career; no employer has ever been interested in my route into university, only the qualifications I gained.

I didn’t know any of that when I opened my A level results envelope in 1985 (yes, that long ago!), but what seemed like a bit of a disappointment at the time, in fact led to a world of opportunity.

Right now colleges are clamouring for you to be a student at their campus next month. Many will have unfilled places on courses and some will have reserved places for candidates from clearing. My advice to you is to see clearing as the opportunity it is – a place where the sun can shine through, enabling you to see a new path to your future.

Top Ten Tips on Clearing

  1. Wait until you have your grades. While UCAS open clearing early in July, universities can’t make an offer you you unless you know your grades.
  2. Make sure you know how clearing works. UCAS explain it here: What is clearing?
  3. Have your personal statement to hand as well as your grades and UCAS ID. You’ll need to be able to speak about yourself, not just your grades.
  4. Do some research on colleges. You may want to go for an alternative course at a university that made you an offer, alternatively you may be phoning a uni you didn’t originally apply to. Either way, you will need to give a positive reason why you want a place there.
  5. Similarly, research the courses on offer. You should be able to give a positive reason for doing that course and be able to say why it interests you.
  6. Avoid reasons that will set alarm bells ringing for tutors. Examples are ‘My friend is going there’ or ‘My Dad thinks it’s a good idea’.
  7. Be ready to explain why you got lower grades than you expected. Was it down to a particular topic? Did something happen that affected your performance? Show that you have reflected on this and remain positive about your subjects. Be ready to talk about what went well and areas of study you enjoy.
  8. You need to make the call yourself. The university want to hear from you and learn about you, not your teacher or your mum!
  9. Don’t worry about being nervous when you call, the tutor you speak to will be used to this, but do be prepared to speak clearly. Write out a sheet with key points and have this in front of you when you call.
  10. If you get an offer, don’t forget to add this as a clearing choice in UCAS track. Only do this when the university give you permission.

Is now the right time?

You may also want to take some time to think about if this is the right time to go to university. Your friends may be going and your school or family may be encouraging you to go through clearing? But it’s a decision you need to make for yourself.

It may be that retaking some exams is right for you. Perhaps a gap year or employment will provide additional experience you can add to a future application. You may just want to take more time to think or get more advice.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s your decision. Best wishes for your chosen future.