Quote of the Week – A Third Year of Inspiration

One of my first posts was about inspirational quotes that I use with colleagues at school, using one for each Of the 38 weeks of the term. In 2015 I followed this up with a second year’s  worth of quotes. You can find these collections here:

Here’s the third helping, with thanks to all those who have sent quotes that inspire them.

  1. I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather.  Haim Ginott
  2. What we want to see is the child in pursuit of education, not education in pursuit of the child. George Bernard Shaw
  3. There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. Nelson Mandela
  4. It’s always better to try. Even if you fail and fall, the good people around you will pick you up. Tinie Tempah (via @Chilledu)
  5. A teacher today creates ripples in time that extend to generations yet unborn. Not just impact in the here & now but in the here & forever. Jeff Goldstein
  6. Truly great schools don’t suddenly exist. You grow great teachers first who, in turn, grow a truly great school. John Tomsett
  7. Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, study, sacrifice and most of all love of what you are doing or learning to do. Pele (via @10MillionMiler)
  8. Teaching is a beautiful job; as it allows you to see the growth day by day of people entrusted to your care. Pope Francis
  9. In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life. Albert Bandura
  10. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. Joseph Addison
  11. Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Winston Churchill
  12. Every child deserves a champion: An adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be. Rita Pierson
  13. Teaching, it turns out, is a team sport, where teachers make each other better fastest by building culture & sharing insights. Doug Lemov
  14. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’ Martin Luther King
  15. The world is changed by your example, not your opinion. Paul Coelho
  16. More than anything else… teaching is about hope. Every child is the teacher’s hope for the future. Education happens when hope exceeds expectation. Teaching is what makes the difference. Andy Hargreaves & Michael Fullan
  17. Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future. Euripedes
  18. Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. George Washington Carver
  19. Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in. Abraham Lincoln
  20. Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. G.K.Chesterton
  21. Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. HG Wells
  22. No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child. Abraham Lincoln
  23. Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor. H.Jackson Brown Jr.
  24. No matter how may years we’ve been teaching, we should feel a little bit like a rookie every year by trying something new and not being afraid to fail. Heidi Pauer
  25. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. Kofi Annan
  26. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. Jane Goodall
  27. A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers. Helen Keller
  28. The only thing you absolutely need to know is where the library is. Albert Einstein
  29. Try to learn something about everything and everything about something. Thomas H. Huxley
  30. If I ran a school, I’d give the top grades to those who made a lot of mistakes… And then told me what they’d learned from them. Buckminster Fuller
  31. The great aim of education is not knowledge but action. Herbert Spencer
  32. What did you ASK at school today?Richard Feynman
  33. Even when not fully attained, we become better by striving for a higher goal. Victor Frankl
  34. Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted. William Bruce Cameron
  35. Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller
  36. Good colleagues inspire and encourage each other… good colleagues compliment and complement each other. They keep themselves and they keep each other alive. Jonathan Smith (via Sir Tim Brighouse)
  37. Teaching is not something one learns to do, once and for all, and then practises problem free, for a lifetime… Teaching depends on growth and development and is practised in dynamic situations that are never the same twice. Wonderful teachers, young and old, will tell of fascinating insights, new understandings, unique encounters with youngsters, the intellectual puzzle and the ethical dilemmas that provide a daily challenge. Teachers above all must stay alive to this. William Ayers (via Tim Brighouse)
  38. I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. Michael Jordan

I hope you find these quotes useful. Comments are always welcome, as are any quotes you may have found particularly helpful. I’ve done my best to check they are all attributed correctly; please let me know if you spot any errors.


In It To Win It – Top Ten Tips for Attendance

of all the key elements to achieving well at school, attendance has to be the most basic. Unless students are in school we can’t teach them; when absent they miss out on learning. You have to be in it to win it.

We’ve been making year-on-year improvements to attendance at my school for the past few years, but this progress seems to have stalled recently and we need to improve further. As part of my thinking about parental engagement, I decided to ask parents and carers for advice on getting kids to school regularly and on time. After all, it’s parents who have to do this, so who better to ask than those who have been successful? This, and a bit of additional research has led to the following advice:

Top Ten Tips for Attendance

  1. Establish basic routines, like waking up time, that will help your child develop good attendance habits.
  2. Get everything ready for school the night before: uniform, homework, PE kit, packed lunch, etc., so that your child has everything they need for the day. Check if there are any letters from school and anything that needs a signature.
  3. Talk to your child regularly about why going to school every day is important. Set a good example yourself, so your child can see your own commitment to being on time for work and appointments.
  4. Avoid making routine medical or dental appointments during the school day.
  5. Look up the NHS guidelines about when a sick child should be kept off school and when they should attend. Generally, if they have a fever, diarrhoea and/or vomiting, or certain infectious illnesses, they should be at home, but coughs, colds, aches & pains are not a reason to miss school.
  6. Make an emergency plan for who will ensure your child gets to school if you can’t, for example if another of your children is ill. Agree this with someone now: you might be able to help each other out in a crisis.
  7. Let school know if something happens that means your child will have a problem getting to school on time (for example, your car won’t start, or a bus is late).
  8. If your child is absent, work with their teachers to make sure they catch up with the work they missed. Their form tutor will usually be the best point of contact.
  9. If your child starts being reluctant to go to school, find out why and work with teachers to sort out any issues. Just keeping them away will not resolve anything.
  10. Get involved with school. Support school events and perhaps join the PTA. When your children see that you are taking time to get involved, they will take school more seriously too.

Much of this may seem obvious, but I think there is something to think about in the list for most people. For example, I hadn’t thought of making an advance plan for getting my own kids to school if there was a problem.

We received quite a lot of other advice about encouraging teenagers to get out of bed in the morning. This included putting the (very loud) alarm clock out of reach, turning the lights on, and giving a running countdown of time left before having to leave for school. As for buckets of cold water: deary, deary me…

I hope you find these top ten tips useful; if you want to use them, please feel free to do so. Comments are always welcome and if you have any more tips, I’d love to hear them.

Engaging with parents: making time for what makes a difference

In recent months I’ve been thinking about what really makes a difference at school. Inspired by a post by @leadinglearner, I wrote this post In January on ‘brass tacks’. At the same time I have also been trying to improve my organisation and time management. My recent posts on this include getting to grips with email and achieving a better work-life balance. 

One of my ‘brass tacks’ was about parental engagement. I believe that supportive and engaged parents and carers are key to children being successful and happy. Through tracking the goals that I had completed each day and those which were unresolved (originally as part of a technique to detach from work at the end of the day), I came to realise that the thing most likely to derail my carefully scheduled plans was an interaction with a parent. The meeting about a behaviour issue that overruns, the referral from a Head of Year, or the unexpected phone call or email that reveals an important issue, can all suddenly take precedence. This is, of course quite right, but it got me thinking why I wasn’t building more interaction with parents and carers into my schedule in the first place?

I took a look at my calendar and decided Thursdays would be a good day. We already calendar most parents’ afternoons / evenings on a Thursday. It’s also the day for Governors’ meetings so when there isn’t one the time already feels like a bit of a gift. For me it’s a good day too because I’m not teaching first or last thing and have no regular morning meetings. This means I am likely to be free at the times most parents are too – before and after the school day.

So, I have reserved these times (but clearly not just these times) for parents. Where I can, I am arranging meetings then. So far I’ve scheduled discussions about attendance, a behaviour concern, and a matter referred to be by a colleague. When I’m not doing this, I use the time to contact parents about their children’s achievements, either by phone or email. I use this as an extension to ‘Feelgood Friday’ when each week we encourage each teacher to make at least one positive call home. I contact parents about things I’ve seen that have impressed me. This is also something I can include in our school ‘pupil premium first approach. I edit the newsletter which goes out on a Friday, so I can also alert parents to look out for it when their child gets a mention. For example, this week I called home with news of students who had produced impressive ‘six word stories’ in tutor time for World Book Day. Sometimes these calls lead to wider conversations. It’s good to have a talk with a parent when the initial cause hasn’t been something that has gone wrong.

I have recently read Sir Tim Brighouse’s ‘Five time expenditures’*, the first being ‘sit on the wall, not on the fence’ – heads who make sure they are around at the start and end of the school day to be available to parents. Far fewer parents come into our secondary phase regularly, compared with the primary, but I think I might just try being around in reception at the start of the day when I can.

Comments are always welcome and I’d value any suggestions for working with parents & carers, particularly those who find it more difficult to engage with us.

*In How Successful Head Teachers Survive and Thrive by Professor Tim Brighouse, RM  Education, 2007.