Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Genius Hour- giftEDnz challenge

Kia ora koutou... 

The challenge we have is to explore Genius Hour. I have often found it enticing, dabbled a little, but I couldn't quite see myself following the rules correctly. Tonight I read the following blog post: Idea Starters for the Genius Hour Classroom  and what sweet relief! In the comments there was a thread about research and one comment struck a chord: "it’s a grassroots movement without a lot of rules about “how to do it.”" 

Now regardless of whether this is correct or not it has give me a sense of freedom... no more feeling like I need to have a bunch of lists and criteria etc. I can have the focus on pursuing a passion and that's OK. A focus on creation as opposed to consumption works for me too. 

I feel that this will meet a need that I haven't addressed fully for some of my tamariki this year fully. I am hopeful. 

The lists of possible areas that may be explored are appealing too: 
  • human ingenuity
  • health and social education
  • environment
  • community service
  • The Arts
  • design/make/build something
  • learn new info
  • investigate passion
My intention is to start a conversation around this with my terrific tamariki and build it together. It will just be a start for us this term. 

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Finding your Tribe... a giftEDnz blog challenge post

Today is Day 7 of the giftEDnz October blogging challenge and the theme for today is finding your tribe. The inspiration was this beautiful post https://spark.adobe.com/page/ABPCjywrC2gRO/.

For me, finding your tribe is all about belonging and as a teacher it is my job (and privilege) to create an environment that engenders this. So I thought I would share some of the ways we work in Room 5 to build a learning community that embraces belonging.

A couple of years ago I was at a Teachers Matter conference (please check here for information about the Jan 2019 conference) and I heard Adrian Rennie speaking about his classroom practice, I got a lot from his work including the use of a class chant. I created the chant below a couple of years ago for the class and it is handed down from one class to the next now... it is part of a Room 5 tradition. This poem/chant covers our expectations, or qualities of Room 5 learners (including myself), rather than use rules.


We spend time unpacking what each of the expectations/qualities look like/sound like/feel like in action as a class when we start the new year. Each of us also add a feather to our class kakahu (cloak)- this is growing each year, so we are part of something bigger than just ourselves and our class this year, it is becoming a rather beautiful keepsake. 

This year we created inspiration boards that shared a little about our aspirations and loves. These were reduced on the copier and made into a framed entrance so people would know a little about us as they entered our classroom. The children took the originals home so they could remember these things at home too. This has been a much loved area of our classroom and attracts interest from all visitors. As part of this wall are QR codes with us sharing our pepeha- another way for us to get to know each other. 

We spend a lot of time exploring our brain, at the start of the year- how we learn, think, cope with big emotions. We have a calm down zone in our classroom. We have responsibility buddies (who change regularly) to help us with our learning tasks in the classroom. We explore strategies that help us to become better learners including what we can do to support the learning of others by finding out their learning preferences, and understanding a bit of how the brain works. This work is ongoing and becomes part of our learning language in the classroom. 


In the classroom I prefer to use inclusive language... we/us instead of I/me, our not mine or yours. This is deliberate. It helps to increase a sense of ownership and belonging. But this is only the tip of the iceberg... language is so powerful! 

This year I was lucky to have the opportunity to spend a day learning from Teacher Tom (http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/) who spoke at length about democratic processes in the classroom. I have always thought I was doing OK with that but I realised I have a long way to go to truly deliver my vision of a democratic classroom.  He recommended exploring the work of Tom Drummond (https://tomdrummond.com/leading-and-caring-for-children/) and it is brilliant. There is so much to learn. The use of democratic processes truly engages students as citizens in a learning community... we all have a contribution to make and an expectation to work in ways that enhance our community of learning. This takes time, commitment and effort but it is well worth it I believe. 

There is a lot of choice in our classroom, that comes with its challenges of course but we are getting there. With the range of choice available there is scope for tamariki to work with a variety of others, including others from different classrooms at times. The combinations that I see pairing or grouping up sometimes surprises me which is a good thing, without being contrived these groups either succeed or fail on their own merits and the learning that comes from this I think is important for developing life skills. They also provide real opportunities for us to explore problems (and solutions) that happen when working and living and dealing with people... when being part of a group or tribe. 

At the end of each term we conduct a class audit, exploring what has worked and what hasn't, along with what we could improve or change to make our class even better. In the last term we used a PMI framework (plus, minus, interesting), the dialogue that went on as we explored this over a couple of days was great, and it was neat to see the extent of engagement and improvement in deep thinking about the topic from earlier in the year. We are stretching and growing and it is a privilege to be part of the learning community we are developing. 
This is Einstein the elephant... our class mascot, and one of the greatest learners in the world!
Thanks for Adrian Rennie for this idea too! 


Our classroom is full of quirky folk (me included), learning to embrace what makes us unique- our differences- our own brand of weirdness, and respect and enjoy the uniqueness of others is part of what we aim to achieve in our learning community. Again, we have some way to go but it is, as always, a mission worthy of pursuing. 


Friday, 5 October 2018

Do you think you are better than everyone else- a reflection

A couple of years ago I wrote a post entitled 'Do you think you are better than everyone else' where I recounted a story from my childhood that does haunt me even now (over 30 years later)... it was a tiny moment really but the words cut deep and created a loop that pops up from time to time. At the moment I am participating (a little!) in a blog challenge with giftEDnz and I am also in the midst of school holidays so a LOT of personal reflection is going on. I have also started reading Brene Brown's book 'Rising Strong' as resilience is a topic I am interested in and I love her work, it has got me thinking about vulnerability again and facing my own demons. I am not gifted but I think that the moment I had as a child could be one some of our gifted and talented tamariki experience, the words (and the venom they are delivered with) might be different but the damage done could be similar.

This is the moment (click on the link above for more): 
'I was one of those kids that loved learning, heck I still do, and I was always looking to stretch myself, again I still do. One day when I must've been about 11 years old, I had completed some work earlier than my classmates, I had checked it and then waited in line to ask my teacher if I could please have some more work. The response from my teacher was less than supportive, in fact the response was a loud (enough to silence the rest of my classmates) "so you think you are better than everyone else?" I was horrified. That was not what I meant at all, I just wanted some more work to keep myself busy and tried to explain that in a quiet voice but to no avail. I didn't get any more work, all I got was humiliated and shamed. '


I never thought of myself as a particularly precocious child, but maybe I was, who knows? What I do know is that this experience made me nervous to stand up, to speak up, to be vulnerable. I vividly remember sitting at my desk having completed my work and looking around the classroom seeing everyone else still working away (or goofing off because we were a class of real human beings with different needs, skills and interests... however they were doing so in an unobtrusive manner to avoid being caught), I weighed up the option of staying there quietly and doing nothing but it was going to be a long time which would be really boring and I thought perhaps my teacher would be proud of me showing an interest and desire to do more (people pleasing is something I mastered early on... a work in progress too) so I took a deep breath and walked to his desk. I'll never forget the look of disdain as he spoke to me... or perhaps disdain is what I perceived rather than what was really there, never-the-less the look, the words, the silence... it stung. 

Fast forward now to last week, and I am presenting a workshop at a conference. As always there was the flutter... what right do I have being here talking to people about stuff? What makes me think I am good enough to do this? Now, I have a process to tamper that down and walk into the vulnerability, face the fear and do it anyway kind of approach. The workshop went well, I think, and at the end one of the teachers there asked if she could come and observe in my classroom... instant anxiety flare... and I fumbled my way through saying yes of course but please know it is a work in progress and I am on  a journey and certainly haven't got it all sorted etc etc etc. I created the excuses immediately because perhaps one of my biggest fears is being exposed as the fraud I am sure I am. After all, what actually makes me think that I have anything to offer? Cue the refrain: What makes me think I am better than anyone else? 

Now I know that this is mind talk and that I have the skills to manage that but the seeds planted in our early years can grow strong roots. In those times when our vulnerability is exposed that is perhaps when those seeds that have grown over the years blossom in their healing or hurting way depending on what seeds are planted and then nurtured. 

And so, my challenge for myself is to be present and aware of the seeds I am planting and those I am nurturing in the minds and hearts of the young people I am privileged to work with. To prune what I can of the harmful ones and provide light, warmth and nutrients to the ones that will help my tamariki flourish in all the ways they can. 

Monday, 1 October 2018

Every child deserves a champion

I have been particularly lax with my blogging this year (and possibly last year too) so I have decided to take on the giftEDnz October blogging challenge to get me back on track and consolidating some thoughts... who knows there could be some gems that arise in it all as well! 

Today's topic: The late Rita Pierson said that “Every child needs a champion.”  How can
   we be champions for our gifted and talented students in particular?

For me a champion is the person that is prepared to stand tall for others when they haven't the resources at the time to do it for themselves.

If we are to be a champion for our tamariki, particularly our gifted and talented tamariki, then we have to be prepared to stand tall for them especially when they are marginalised or lack the resources to do it for themselves.

In order to do this we need to know our tamariki- know what switches them on and off, know their social and support networks, we need to observe (with our hearts and our minds) to read what is happening for them and how they engage with the world around them (at least in our settings), we need to listen to them (really listen!)... and we need to ensure we identify those things about them that we like, dare I say, love. I always remember the quote that says that some of the children that need love the most will ask for it in the most unlovable ways... we need to keep in mind that all behaviour is communication and so listen to the cues and try to see the human being behind the behaviour if what is presented to us is challenging.

We also need to get real and get informed. Get real about the challenges you are presented with, what you don't know so then you can find out. Read, ask questions, attend courses, talk to as many people as you can to get the information, and resources, you need to better meet the needs of the tamariki in your care.

And then we can be the champions these tamariki deserve.

We can get alongside whanau and support them.
We can argue for funding and resources.
We can create spaces and opportunities for their voices to be heard.
We can lobby different decision makers to consider our gifted and talented students in their decisions.

Every child deserves a champion. We are those champions.


Sunday, 25 March 2018

Learning from the front of the room- a reflection from IMPACT, the PSA Convention 2018

I am a full time teacher and last weekend I attended the Professional Speakers Association Convention in Brisbane, Australia. I went as I was invited by my friend (thanks Karen!) and was offered the opportunity to present a small piece in a workshop during the weekend (thanks Glenn!).


As I was heading into the convention I was feeling like a fish in the desert (that's how far out of the water I was feeling), I was thinking "I am a teacher at a professional speakers convention... what on earth am I doing here???" However to say that the weekend was inspirational feels like an understatement really. It was huge and I am still trying to get my head around it all to be honest but for now I hope to convey some of what I learned as a teacher in this post.

We started with a session for newbies to the convention, what a relief to be around others who were feeling a bit out of their comfort zone. As it turned out there were people from all walks of life and the more people I spoke to over the weekend the more I realised just how diverse the attendees were... we all have a journey and what we bring right now is the sum of our experience to date. Regardless of background there was a sense of camaraderie and genuine interest in each other, even a newbie like me. It became clear to me that as teachers we stand to learn so much by stepping out of education and listening to people in different industries, over the weekend I learned from hair dressers, teachers, performers, hotel managers, scientists, engineers, lawyers, health experts, trainers, sportspeople to name a few. And it wasn't only those on the stage, it was also talking to the people standing around the kiwi ice cream freezer at the opening supper, the cleaner in the bathrooms where I was having a last run through of my presentation, the folk on the dance floor at the formal dinner, people who were sitting around the tables at various sessions and workshops, as well as the fabulous shop attendant at a nature's discovery type store where I grabbed a couple of items for school (as you do!). Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has wisdom... we just have to listen.

And so here are a lot of snapshot ideas that I picked up over the weekend that I think are relevant to us in the classroom (and much of it in life really)... I may end up elaborating more at some stage but for now I will run with sound bytes as there is just so much information that I am still digesting.

My IMPACT PSA Convention sound bytes for teachers (and other people too):

  • Fall in love with language 
  • Learn new languages (there are 6000 languages in the world and 90% are endangered) 
  • We were welcomed by Robert Henderson, a Wiradjuri elder. Where we come from is important and honouring the people of a place is important. Using the language of a people and a place is powerful. 
  • The Eyes of Wonder=The Look of Learning 
  • Be more awesome 
  • Use sign language- use our bodies to conduct our classroom like a conductor brings the egos of an orchestra together to create beautiful harmonious music 
  • Be BRAVE 
  • When creating a presentation be clear on what you want the people you are working with to feel, to act on after and to remember  
  • Consider what is your most disabling thought and then identify what the most empowering statement is about yourself (I am now working on the second bit... it's a challenge) 
  • Strive less, allow more 
  • Be your best self 
  • Fear is a reaction- Courage is a choice 
  • Look for opportunities rather than getting hung up on difficulties 
  • Design laughter into your presentations... think about how you connect and motivate and be brave
  • Take the stage you've got and start from there 
  • How we feel about ourselves is what we project of ourselves to the world 
  • It's your life- would you like to take responsibility for that? 
  • Trust yourself, don't be afraid to be you- be real
  • Are you managing classes or leading learning? Managing= work, leading=learning. 
  • Be interested in just about anything 
  • Beautiful questions are powerful 
  • There are more choices in front of you than you think 
  • Change the picture, change the results 
  • What are your beliefs? These are the thoughts we hold to be true and they drive our behaviour 
  • Write and read obsessively around those things that you are inspired by 
  • Gratitude helps to balance out 'constructive discontent', the feeling that there's always more to do 
  • Ask yourself "does this excite me?" 
  • Love is a commitment- it isn't a feeling 
  • Rather than working from a beat myself up mode when it doesn't work, go into a how can I build it better mode 
  • Pursue everything that tickles your fancy 
  • What makes you beautiful? What makes what you do beautiful? Find the beauty in yourself... be YOU! 
  • Make a decision about how you show up in the world. 
  • How often do we overlook the simple to make complex stuff? 
  • What is the feedback you are getting from your audience (or class)? 
  • Focus on what you love... don't complain, celebrate the opportunity instead 
  • Less is more! Give people time to explore, feel and contemplate. Less content, more elaboration. 
  • Start to stop- let go- simplify 
  • Influence and manipulation are the same in process but intent and outcome are different... be an influencer! 
  • With structure (process) I can be flexible with my focus 
  • The brain learns by suggestion... prime and nudge 
  • Where there's judgement let there be empathy 
  • Use language carefully- create modifiers e.g. 'what you might do...?' or ' I invite you to...' Invite instead of commanding. 
  • Use we/us instead of I/me 
  • Remember it is the group's group not your group- watch them and respect what they are telling you about how far you can push someone in the group 
  • How do you turn up? Ask 'what can I do for this group of people?', have a sense of humanity, visualise energy, know that you are here to serve. 
  • Use the light of day test- would you make this decision if it were to be held up for all the world to see? 
  • Give ourselves permission to dare to be different 
  • Do the inner work first- find your inner super hero
  • Consider how you manage your energy to work with others as your best 
  • Come burning into the present moment- have a strong centre, open heart and clear mind 
  • Use props to enhance your message 
  • Throw energy to the back of the group and everyone will sense it 
  • Story is powerful- be creative in telling, use words powerfully 
  • Don't be afraid to be vulnerable 
  • Your brand is your identity and your message- telling the world what you do and how you do it... to get people on board sympathise with their pain (challenges) and sell the problem, pain and solution you offer 
  • Ways to engage... simplicity, close ups, metaphors and surprise 
  • Questions are more important than answers, visuals are more important than verbal 
  • Catchphrase "I am glad you asked" 
  • Perfectionism will keep you in the slow lane
  • Make sure your head is where your feet are 
  • Reflection on learning: what is loud (epic) for you? what is soft (intimate) for you?  
Goodness that is a long list! As you can see from these snapshots it really was an epic weekend. I left feeling like I was floating on air... so inspired, profoundly moved and challenged to do more of what I love, and to do what I do better. IT IS TIME... 


If there is anything here that resonated for you I would love to know... sharing is caring :) As I work through this list myself I may even write more about some of these concepts and ideas to share my learning journey with you. 







Saturday, 13 January 2018

Starting the year off with the brain in mind


I am planning for the coming year and as I am doing so the impact of my learning about the brain is evident in the choices I am making…

The brain grows and develops from the bottom up, the brain stem first, followed by the limbic system and then the cerebral cortex, with the prefrontal cortex doing it’s major work during puberty. It occurred to me today that my planning reflects this process using Glenn Capelli's Magic Brain model, along with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  

(For more about the Magic Brain model check out this link

I start with addressing the basic needs first.

Belonging:

It is said that belonging is an innate human need and so it is the first thing that we work on together.

Learning chant:
Room 5 has a name, it is called The Place to Stretch and Grow. We start with a class learning chant which encapsulates how we will work as a class together and our school values. This is now a tradition in Room 5, so the poem is passed to each new group of students that join us.


Room 5’s Learning Chant:

Welcome to Room 5, the place to stretch and grow
Working together we STRETCH and learning flows
Self belief, self belief - we know we can improve
Talking to learn, talking to learn - and listening to learn too
Resilience, resilience - we try and try again
Excellence, excellence - aim high - we do our best
Talented, talented – there’s so much that we can do
Care and respect - showing kindness to me and you
Honesty, honesty - every single day
Together we stretch and grow in so many ways!

We will discuss this, unpack each of the seven qualities listed and establish what they look like in action so we can demonstrate this in the classroom. I have found that with this being done it makes having class rules redundant.

This year we will also have a space in the classroom where each child has a wooden photo frame, in this frame will be a self portrait and a QR Code linking to their mihi which they will record on Seesaw. This image will be updated over the year as they see fit and other QR codes will be added.  

Rituals:
Rituals, or routines, give a familiar structure to the day that provides security to learners whilst at the same time reinforcing a sense of belongingness. We start and end our day in familiar patterns, I don’t necessarily lead them all, in fact often the students lead and I participate along with everyone. The rituals we have are as follows, please note that this is just what works for us in our classroom so far, it may shift and change depending on student needs and what is happening around the school.  

At the start of the day:
  •  I keep a fruit bowl in the classroom so students can get a piece of fruit before school starts
  • We do a Go Noodle activity as the bell rings and students are coming in
  • Our class leaders for the day start with our morning book where they record the day, date, weather etc.
  • We do a karakia (a prayer) and the class leaders share their pepeha (introducing themselves in Maori) 
  • We sing a waiata (a song- supporting literacy)
  • Students go into partners for a given oral language task then come as a class to share
  • The whole class runs a couple of laps around the netball court outside our classroom then returns and we do five stretches with associated statements supporting qualities we value as above the line learners  
  • We go through our plan for the day and then get on with selecting tasks to support our learning

At the end of the day:
  • We say a karakia to end the day
  •  If we have time, we reflect on the day (this is something I want to make sure I commit time to every day) sharing discoveries, telling about the great things we have seen others doing etc.
  • As the bell rings I stand at the door and we do hug, handshake, high five where the class lines up and each child gets to choose how they would like to be farewelled for the day


Connection:
I try to make sure I connect with every child each day, that is what our farewell is about. I also schedule at least two free time slots after lunch during the week. This 15-20 minute slot in the timetable gives students a chance to continue a learning task from the morning programme, follow something that interests them, play games, read, paint, draw etc. It is a valuable time for me as a teacher as it allows me the opportunity to catch up with students who might be a little isolated, who are having a tough time for some reason or who I might need to connect a little better with in some way. I may play alongside them or offer for them an opportunity to learn a new game or listen to a story. At times I use the time to just observe particular students. Other times I will offer to teach a new game that will then be an option in our morning programme and those students who join in to play become our experts and teach others.


Once we have spent time building up our class culture and laying the foundation for belongingness then we will move into exploring our brain, in particular, our emotions. 

The magic brain:
I teach the class about the magic brain first and then we focus on the Glitter Room of Emotions.

Emotions:
Name them, read about them, talk about them and how we can manage ourselves if the emotions we are experiencing are making it hard to learn or connect with others. We also explore the concept that others may experience different emotions to ourselves.  

Managing our emotions- calming down:
I love the meme that says ‘never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down’, because it is funny and, in my experience, true. This is why I believe we need to teach strategies to help manage emotions along with supporting learners to recognise the feelings they are having. Here are some of the tools I use:
  • I have a calm down space in the room with a little basket where I have a range of fiddle-tools (these are tools not toys, that is a discussion I have with the class very early on), students can go and select an item to help them calm down and take it with them or stay in that spot if they want
  • We watch a clip called Just Breathe (see below for the clip) 
  •  I teach them star breathing using their hands- we stretch out the fingers on one hand and slowly trace around them, breathing in slowly as we go and up and out slowly as we go down each finger
  • We will be creating a calm down scrapbook of images from magazines that help us calm down
  • With permission children can go for an extra run outside if needed, or bounce a ball
  •  I have mindful colouring books available
  • We also use Play is the Way games to explore our emotions and relationships with others


From here we delve further into the Magic Brain.

We learn about our neurons, how we learn and what helps us to learn.  

We create a learning environment together that meets the needs of our unique brains as much as possible.


We learn about people, places, our world… we work our inquiries… we play, communicate, make connections, create, read, write, play with numbers and patterns, make discoveries, ask questions, and, well you get the picture.

This is the plan of action that I have in place, of course there is a lot more going on but the basis is being aware of the Magic Brain. I think often we do this intuitively, it's always a good feeling when what we do naturally fits with what we are learning from science. :) 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Pruning to let the light in- an analogy

Now I am no great gardener, but as I was pruning back my grapes earlier this afternoon (I can now feel some of you are nodding ‘yes, you are no great gardener, way too late!’) I was struck with a small epiphany that I needed to put into words. And now I am sharing this with you… but first I need to give a little more context…

You see I didn’t just wantonly run out to the glasshouse with my clippers and start hacking willy-nilly, not at all. I know enough to check (and already had an inkling that the best time to give the vine a good hacking was in the middle of winter dormancy) so I did what I often do in these circumstances, search the net until I find someone else who has done things not quite at the right time and got away with it. Invariably, I always find some obscure chatroom that provides me with the green light, and often a little sage advice to go with it. Today, I found my green light (obviously, although I was fairly committed to the course of action anyway) and also a possible answer to a problem that had vexed me with my grapes last season.
Last season I had a bumper crop of grapes on the vine, there were bunches upon bunches upon bunches, a sea of little greenish-purple orbs dripping along the roof of the glasshouse and I eagerly awaited the time they would reach full, juicy, delicious ripeness. 

Oh, the anticipation. 

Oh, the disappointment. 

Yes, some ripened and were delicious as anticipated but most just didn’t get there. I thought it was the dodgy weather we’d had, and I know I hadn’t been very attentive to the needs of my garden as I was toiling in the fertile soil of masters research writing instead. But in my search for a green light to prune back I happened upon a little statement that suggested if the vine was overladen with bunches that selective pruning of some bunches could help as it allowed the light to reach the others so they would ripen better. As I said earlier, and some of you will possibly be nodding vigorously in agreement now, I am not a great gardener and I don’t know if this is true or not but it sounded feasible and herein lies the reason why I am writing.

As I was hacking away, and trying to, not altogether successfully, avoid the cobwebs and dead leaves falling into my hair or worse still down my top, it occurred to me that letting the light in to help things reach their juicy, delicious, full potential is what I have started to appreciate in my classroom teaching. We are advised to accelerate our learners, to choose target students and provide specific interventions to ensure they meet a required standard. (I do wonder at the turn of phrase ‘target students’- is that like putting some kid in a firing line and then shooting additional resources and interventions at them until they reach some arbitrary standard so we can move them along and bring in another target for our attention? I digress.) Please know, I am committed to all my learners achieving their potential and reaching for greatness in their own way, I want the best for my kids. But I wonder if sometimes we crowd them so they struggle to reach the light and therefore miss the opportunity to fully reach their potential.

Now I am not suggesting we prune out learners, heavens no! Although a class size and adequate support to be able to engage meaningfully with the learners in our care would seem sensible to me. I do think however we need to prune back some of what is happening in classrooms to allow our learners to ripen and bloom when the time is right for them and our job as teachers is to provide the conditions to do so. Since returning to classroom teaching three years ago, I have noticed that cutting back some of what I was doing is leading to positive outcomes for my learners. I used to try to see all my reading and maths groups at least every second day and have set activities for them to follow up independently from the learning session we had had. I also tried to make sure I conferenced with every child for writing at least once a week. I ensured my special needs and target students were getting time with teacher aides for revision/over learning whilst I saw them more often for guided sessions on top of all this. Poor wee guys were probably exhausted with all this extra support! What I was doing in actual fact was setting myself and my learners up for failure. My group sessions were often rushed if they happened at all as more often than not I couldn’t actually see everyone I had planned to and so I was rewriting planning or then planning day by day to cater for my lack of ability to push everyone through. If I did see everyone as initially planned then I didn’t engage in thoughtful or meaningful conversations because I was distracted by time and also monitoring what others were doing around the classroom in the various ‘meaningful’ follow up activities I had assigned for them. Now it wasn’t a complete disaster and there was progress made but it was stressful and I posit that much of the stress was unnecessary.

As with my gardening, I am no expert teacher but I am a committed learner and this is what I have learned. I have shifted my focus, I now do less but I feel I do it better. I see some groups more often and some groups less often depending on what they need and what we are doing. Some groups of learners are undertaking set assignments within our classroom programme where it makes sense. My students have a lot of choice about how they respond to a text or a maths lesson, sometimes there will be little follow up, other times a lot may happen. Recently I had two learners who made a frozen confectionary after they created a recipe, were given the ingredients and told that the most important thing about baking is cleaning up then left to it… this came in response to a novel we had been reading. I spend time talking with, and most importantly listening to and observing my learners and I feel like I know them better. I see my writers at varying times, sometimes with self selected teacher groupings after a specific inspiration for writing but other times because they are at a stage they want feedback from the teacher or when I am roving around the classroom between group sessions. I trust my learners to get on with what they need to and we are building a culture where this is creating success. Yes, just in case you were wondering, I still have interventions for my target students (I don’t make them wear a shirt with a bullseye on it or anything though and they don’t get paranoid that I am going to leap out and teach at them when they are look like they might be relaxing).

The systems in my classroom are far from perfect and I feel like I have a long way to go but I can appreciate that what I am aiming for is creating space so that the light can come in and great, juicy, delicious, flourishing can occur naturally. We don't have standardised brains, we don't learn in standardised ways (oh, how easy, and how dreadfully dull teaching would be if this were true) so teaching our students with an expectation that they will achieve, or flourish, in a standardised time frame seems somewhat counter-intuitive really. By letting the light in, and noticing when I am not, I feel like I am giving my learners a better deal than I was and am seeing the growth in confidence, self management and personal drive to learn. It's a start and it all came from pruning back a little, even if I was a little late!