How I learn 26 names within 5 minutes

I have been using this method since I was an NQT.  I am not sure how it came about, just developed over my first few weeks I think.  Mainly due to the fact that I used to hate it when teachers did not know my name.  ‘You there’, or ‘You, yes, you’ – used to drive me crazy, and also add to the fact that I was far more likely to misbehave for teachers like this.  If they could not even be bothered to learn my name, then why should I show them more respect?  Yes, I used to be quite horrid.

It has worked for me for 16 years.  It may be the exact same method you have used for 50, BUT – I think it’s great, and really really helps when forming relationships with your new students.  Classroom climate and rapport with students is my number 1 – and this just helps me to develop and nurture it.  It also helps me make a quite dull admin lesson go a bit quicker! Also – if you don’t learn names in this first lesson, when do you have the time to dedicate to it?  Colleagues who say to me ‘I am no good with names’ make me quite sad.  I’m no good with names, noone is  – so I train myself with this method, and it really does work!

I have got my time down to a whole class to between 5 and 6 minutes.  I am lucky in the fact that my classes are capped at 26/27, so not sure how I’d fare if I was English or Maths, but I think you could use the same principle, it would just take a minute or so longer.  I also think the way I have my tables helps with the learning of names, but again – I haven’t had them any other way and so unsure how much this helps.  I just like it – so it’s staying.  I have been teaching since September 1st 2002, and have never used a different method.  I think it came from that first, quite weird lesson where you are getting to know new students, and doing admin things, like creating new folders, sticking mark sheets in books, handing out new art books etc.  It kept me amused during these lessons.

I have also tested this technique out when I had a SCITT trainee with me in January.  She trialled this method and has written a few words on how she found it:

“After starting my placement at Branston I realised that I would need to learn pupils names very quickly.  Jo was keen to show me her ‘trick’ to memorise a full class’ names in 10 mins.  Of course I immediately said ‘there’s no way that will work with me, my brain is frazzled’, but I was proved wrong.  I amazed myself how well and how quickly this method worked!  Baffled by this, I was keen to try it again with my Year 7 class.  Only to shock myself again, by learning a bigger class in even less time!  I will certainly be taking this strategy with me through my career in teaching.”Louise Donnelly  Jan 2018

I think the method relies on a sort of memory game, a bit like ‘I went to the shop and bought an apple, then the next person buys and apple, and a banana etc etc’  You remember by pattern and repetition.

The method goes like this: (and sorry for the weird photos and description, I just find it a lot easier to explain with arms and movement around the classroom!)

  1. When my new class comes in, I get them to line up at the back of the classroom.IMG_8016

I then ask them to sit on the chairs as I call out their names.  I sit them in register order (although it doesn’t matter whereabouts on the table they are).  Just the first 4 names on the register on the first table, then the next 4 on table 2 etc etc.

My tables look like this, the numbers are just so I can write about what I do first (they aren’t numbered in real life!)



The first four, (let’s say they are called Adam, Bob, Amelia and Kim).  I have the register in my hand and know the first four names are sat on table 1.

‘Who is Bob?’  Bob looks at me and smiles, raises hand etc.  I look at him and say ‘Hello Bob’, he goes back to his work.  If his face is not in my head yet, I ask him to look at me again, I say ‘Bob’ as he looks at me.  Then I say: ‘ Who’s Amelia?’  She raises her hand, I say ‘Hello Amelia’.  Amelia.  I look at her while I say it (vitally important).  Then I look at Bob, saying ‘Bob’.  Then ‘Amelia, Bob’, whilst looking at them in turn.  Then I say ‘You must be Adam?,  Look at me…Adam. We smile, and then I go through ‘Amelia, Bob, Adam’, in a variety of different orders.  Once I have table one down, I do the exact same process for table 2.

Once I have the four names on table 2, I DO NOT go to table 3 – I come back to table 1 and repeat all eight of the student names, and then in a different order.  Then I move onto table 3, learn all four of their names, then come back to table 1, 2 and 3 – calling out their names first in the order I learnt them, then in a random order.

That’s half the class done!

Repeat the steps for the rest of the tables.  Most important – learn one table THEN go back and repeat every single name you have learnt before (I think this is the ‘I went to the shop and bought…’ game coming in to play!

eg learn table 4s names (by referring to your register, don’t ask ‘who are you?’ as it really gets confusing), then recall all names on tables 1-4, then learn table 5, then recall all names on tables 1-5.

I find table 6 the trickiest.  I’m not sure whether it is because there are 6 on the table, or whether my brain is full by that point (certainly feels that way).  I learn their names, then go back over all tables 1-6 (I do 6 twice at this stage as it’s getting harder at this point).

If you feel you could just check once more – repeat their names once more.  If there are students with the same name, then you have to learn the surname as well – but in 26 names, what’s one more?

The students then get great delight by ‘testing’ me.  They hold their hand up, and I say their name.  Many do this a few times, to really test me.  It all just reinforces my learning.  This is all in the first 10-15 mins of the class.  I do this as the students are making their folders for the year, sticking marksheets into their new books etc.  If a student gets out of their seat, and sharpens pencils or goes to the sink – recall their name.  This really helps if you can say their name when they are out of order / away from their table. I also like to stand at the door as they go out, and recall their names.

That’s all there is to it.  Sure – the next lesson, you may have forgotten some – but do the method again, it’ll only take you 1 or 2 minutes this time.  You’ll not need to do it a third time!




Reflecting on my Year 9 inspiration, teaching, lessons and students

Looking back at this one – trying to focus on planning again


A few months back I blogged about how my Yr 9 lessons were a bit lacklustre, a bit ‘nothing special’, and totally frustrating for all concerned. I really disliked the classes, and basically the post was all about giving myself a good talking to, shaking things up a bit and trying to learn to ‘get the love back’ a bit more.  It was my fault, I was lazy in planning.

I was determined to rectify this and started with a more project based approach at the end of last year.  Things started working.  I  met the kids at the door with a natural (not forced) smile.  I started to be less mardy, and the kids did too. The project was all about clay vessel design based on Kate Malone’s work, I blogged about it here:

This year I love my Yr 9s.  I have two groups, both very different, but…

View original post 1,262 more words

Nurture 14/15


My #9art favourite pieces of art.  The reason why I do what I do I guess.

My Nurture 14/15

I have been meaning to write one of these for a while, and inspired by many fine posts on the same subject, here I am.  I won’t review all of my targets I set last year, as frankly, many were quite boring.  Most I have done nothing about anyway – so I intend to just speak about the ones I have made progress on – and ignore the rest.

I did go to my first Teachmeet – (and second and third).  I found them to be weird and wonderful places full of people who not many other people across the globe would understand; not least my husband.  I will move on.

I am very proud of the fact that I was asked twice to speak at events, and I did accept one invitation.  @Ictevangelist asked me to speak at PedagooSW.  I did have to confirm the next day he wasn’t inebriated and had actually, genuinely wanted me to talk.  It was an experience, from beginning to end.  You can definitely say I have that well and truly out of my system.  It will probably be a long time (if not never) before I speak at such an event again.  I was pleased I did it though, and it was incredibly interesting researching the topic I spoke on.  Thank you Mark and Rachel, for believing in me, and encouraging me to do it.

I am completely thankful for twitter for some amazing new friendships.  The art ladies for your continued support, sharing of ideas and travelling miles across the country and spending fortunes in hotels, travel and wine. For me, this has been the very best thing to have come out of twitter.  Meeting these amazing, talented, caring and inspiring people.

I am also pleased that I have (along with the amazing help of Damo Ward) managed to keep the #artcubed art teacher blog up to date.  I am really proud of it, and love looking at the images shared each week.  It gives me masses of inspiration, and I am pleased it gives other people inspiration too.  Thank you Damo for your help on this x

I am proud to have a chapter in Rachel Jones’s book ‘Don’t Change the Lightbulbs’.  Rachel has an amazing gift to turn small ripples into huge Tsunamis and I am just so pleased she let me tag along.  The book launch was lovely, and my heart skipped a beat seeing my words in print.  I wasn’t prepared for just how excited I would be to hold the book for the very first time.  Thank you Rachel for the opportunity. x


My targets for next year are:

1) Be a better mum. I am completely ashamed to say that this was my number 7 last year.  What was I thinking?!  This is my number 1. Always my priority.  I have made a few gains, the reading books are always done – although sometimes my marking takes a back seat due to this, but frankly, this is fine.  Last year I wrote ‘ I spend so much effort on other people’s children, the least I can do is afford my own children the same’.  Re-reading this broke my heart.  I was incredibly selfish.  NOTHING comes before my children.  Not any other child, ever.  This I have worked on a lot this year.  I no longer feel guilty for spending time on my own children.   I will continue to work on it.

2) Plan more.  I could be such a great teacher, if I actually planned and created lessons consistently, rather than when I have the time.  I love teaching.  I like the lessons when I could punch the air with joy when the students are leaving.  I will try to do more of this.  I need to just put in more effort.

3) Do less, better.  Just that.  Stop skitting around trying to do loads of stuff really well, when in fact not a lot gets done well at all.  Slow down & take stock.  Re-evaluate.

4) Get the joy back – Ofsted came in November and have turned our usual joyful place of work into something like an old people’s home.  Dull, careful, boring.  Grey.

5) Get more organised.  I truly suck at this.  Always have. I will endeavour to try hard on this one.  For at least a few days anyway.

On other points from last year – I am still swigging coke from the bottle, still haven’t finished crocheting those blankets and am still wearing black to work (although it is easier to ‘colour in’ paint marks with a sharpie if all my clothes are black, helps with my big behind too).

Looking back at last term

Once the holidays start I always feel a bit strange for the first day or so, almost like a comedown from the hectic busy pace of school.  I have done some mental evaluating my last term, and armed with a glass of wine (and husband out for the evening) I will make a note of where I am.

I have enjoyed this term – or more so the start, I always feel rather stressed by the end as we are currently mid exam with the Yr 11,12 and 13.  Every single year an internal panic starts to swell, rising in waves from mild panic to sheer terror – and that happens regularly throughout the course of the week, even daily (depending on whether my Yr 11s have done enough work or not).  I have challenged myself to quite a few new things this term, and really enjoyed the vast majority of them.

January started with an inset day which I helped to plan.  We completed a ‘teachmeet marketplace’, and spent the whole day sharing amazing teaching ideas.  Staff worked in teams and presented their ideas in the marketplace which was held in the gallery from 1.30pm.  I had a great day, and left with my head bursting full of new and exciting ideas.  Staff had said they really enjoyed it too; it was a fabulous way to start a new term.

IMG_0602 IMG_0603

I have attended my first teachmeet – Pedagoo London in March, a fabulous weekend, sharing and discussing ideas with like-minded individuals was an amazing experience.  I got to meet so many people, and began to be able to put faces to twitter names.  I had such a great time, esp with the art girls @pennyprileszky, @leedsartteacher and @creativeartsatnorton.  I even got to open the Disney Store on Oxford street with a massive key and a fanfare ceremony.  I also managed to keep a relatively straight face throughout!

I have discovered that I really rather like training, sharing ideas and leading sessions for new and existing staff.  I love the research aspect of this, and the fact that it gives me an excuse to ‘geek it up’ for a while.  I was asked to run a 3 hour training sessions for NQTs and Schools Direct trainees in February.  I was pretty nervous about it, but am always up for a challenge.  The training was on ‘feedback’.  I swotted up, read and re-read lots of blogs.  Those I found particularly helpful were by @davidfawcett27 and @natkin.  Thank you gents. I am also enjoying exploring teaching ideas and methods within my ‘Creative Teaching’ twilight cpd sessions.  It is attended by like-minded, slightly excitable teachers; radiators rather than drains.  We could often do with double the amount of time.

My organisation skills are (slowly) getting better.  @Leedsartteacher and myself planned and designed a weekly 5min plan, inspired by the 5min lesson plans, to cover the entire week.  My main reason was I was forever losing ‘to do’ lists, and really the 5min weekly plan is just a massive one, which is a lot harder to misplace.  We had fabulous feedback from allsorts of people, and I for one find it really useful.

Image5MIN WEEKLY PLAN (Leeds Art Teacher’s conflicted copy 2014-01-12)

@leedsartteacher really is fabulous, and I regularly steal her wonderful ideas and resources. I use her marksheets for my Yr 11 classes, and students have commented on how useful they are finding them.  I have also started using them for my Yr 9 projects – they are really having a positive effect on them.  In fact, my after school GCSE sessions are often attended by 6 or so Yr 9 students wanting to extend their work. Claire has inspired me to be more organised, keep up to date with my marking and my planning.  It is working.

I enjoy writing my blogs – this one to splurge stuff from my head, onto screen, for no other reason than I can, and I enjoy doing it – I find the process rather cathartic, and I will apologise now for my awful writing and lack of English skills, I AM having a good time.  I have been amazed at the response to #artcubed.  I am surprised at the amount of people who post their days to the hashtag, and the amount of people who view it.  I get so much out of it – selfishly I do it so I can see the amazing stuff, and be inspired by it.  If others get the same from it, then it’s all good.  It has just been nominated in the edublog awards, another fabulous thing I am really pleased about!

I have been asked to present at two teachmeets, and have agreed to one.  Location was the main thing, and the fact that it is near where my brother lives makes it ‘do-able’.  The fact that anyone has even asked me to do anything surprises me, and I am very grateful for every opportunity, and it makes me happy the fact that others have some faith in me.  I will do my utmost to not let them down.

I co-hosted the #ukedchat special on Art & Design on Thursday night.  It was a last minute thing after the original host couldn’t make it.  I was asked the night before.  I said yes straightaway, then started to panic slightly!  I was very lucky to have the support of the art teachers on twitter, too many to mention – but they all know who they are!  It was a crazy hour, full of exciting and inspirational chat; I was most pleased that Gove / Ofsted were not mentioned once – it was so nice to spend an hour (although it was a crazy hour) discussing art / art teaching focusing on everything positive about what we do.

I do like to always focus on the positives, but sometimes they get a little harder to see.  I have very much enjoyed meeting up with @jillberry102 – Twitter royalty, and reader / retweeter of many wonderful blogs.  She encourages, inspires and makes me want to do better.  She is even more fabulous in the flesh than on twitter (and that is no mean feat).  Thank you Jill, for your chats and belief in me.

At the moment I am in the middle of planning for the Yr 11 Prom, and the reward trip to Alton Towers.  A little crazy, in the fact that it is also in the middle of the art exams, but things will get done.  The prom is slightly more worrying this year, as we have had a refurb of the community lounge and concert hall. (We hold the prom at school, in order to make it accessible to all).  The refurb means we cannot put anything on the walls.  I am in no way complaining about this, as the new space is beautifully clean, white walls which is going to be called ‘The Gallery’, and will house our exhibitions and be a permanent display space for us.  You can see the space in the Teachmeet market place photos above.

I am looking forward to this holiday, and for once in 13 years, I am not going in to run revision / coursework sessions for my Yr 11, 12 and 13.  I have decided that I need to be at home with my own children.  I feel torn, but have given all my students strict instructions to keep in contact with me via the school email system. I cannot be in two places at once, and I really need to ground myself as Mummy this holiday.

One day into the holiday, and I can’t stop thinking about making next term that little bit better, planning new schemes and ideas, brewing more things in my head.  I guess it takes a while to comedown after a busy term.  Writing this has helped settle a few things, and I am determined to enjoy my holiday! *swigs wine*

Reflecting on my Year 9 inspiration, teaching, lessons and students

A few months back I blogged about how my Yr 9 lessons were a bit lacklustre, a bit ‘nothing special’, and totally frustrating for all concerned. I really disliked the classes, and basically the post was all about giving myself a good talking to, shaking things up a bit and trying to learn to ‘get the love back’ a bit more.  It was my fault, I was lazy in planning.

I was determined to rectify this and started with a more project based approach at the end of last year.  Things started working.  I  met the kids at the door with a natural (not forced) smile.  I started to be less mardy, and the kids did too. The project was all about clay vessel design based on Kate Malone’s work, I blogged about it here:

This year I love my Yr 9s.  I have two groups, both very different, but all very enjoyable.  I consulted with them and we came up with an ‘Art with a Message’ theme – looking at Banksy, and producing their own artwork around a subject that they felt strongly about.  I really did want the main body of the work to come from them (last year my Yr 9s couldn’t really give much of a damn about the work, and I was desperate for that not to happen again).  I also took inspiration from @leedsartteacher who starts her GCSE in Yr 9.  I really wanted a piece of this, so kind of pretend we start it in Yr 9 too now. (we don’t, but it doesn’t hurt to push the boundaries).  All I did was keep one step ahead of the kids – I explained to them about the assessment objectives, that we were looking at more of a project based outcome, and that THEY were responsible for hitting deadlines, and it was up to them what they did, and how they did it.  It was all very exciting and the kids were really excited.   It is here that I feel I have to admit I am not a ‘planner’.  I tend to think about stuff loads in my head, then let it ‘brew’ there till I have to retrieve the ideas (usually 5 mins before I am about to deliver).  This brewing process is really very important to me – it works for me.

The main points were, it was project based, loosely structured, using GCSE assessment objectives.  I also wanted to capture the kids’ enthusiasm, knowing that GCSE options were coming up. We looked at a theme, explored the theme visually, looked at research, explored ideas and what we wanted our work to say, then we made it.  Students were a little hesitant at first, but they soon learned that nothing will happen if they go wrong.  I did not complete exemplars as such – I didn’twant to ‘set the bar’.  I wanted them to set their own bar.  I worked alongside them, came across the same problems they did, and we worked things out together along the way.  We watched Ron Berger’s ‘Austin’s butterfly’ and I think that really helped them grasp what it was they needed to do.

Watching the students complete the work each lesson filled me with enthusiasm, they discussed their own work and ideas with each other, they suggested ways to improve things, they managed their own learning, I was there in a supportive role, watching the work appear.  It was exciting.  It was this that I missed.  I had so many ‘Yes’ moments during the lessons – I really enjoyed teaching them, finally. The lessons were a little crazy, and afterwards I felt exhausted, but also really excited.

The students were proud of their work, I was proud of it – and them.  I took nearly 500 photographs over the course of the project. I also asked some students to write some comments for this blog.


Lucie wrote this:

‘This term we have been doing a project on art with meaning.  I chose to do about children working on rubbish dumps in developing countries, as I felt strongly that every child should have a chance to go to school.  I have really enjoyed working on this project as it has given me a chance to work individually and at my own pace, which helped me to develop my ideas more carefully and make them to the best of my ability.  The freedom has given me a chance to reflect on my art, and that of others and so have progressed my own skills. Initially I started with a very basic idea, it was to have a child on a rubbish dump wearing a science coat representing wasted skills and a child’s potential if only they could have gone to school, but with time and help from Mrs Baker and my peers I developed it into a better idea.  This is to have a canvas with real rubbish stuck on it with just a child stood there with the words ‘your rubbish, their hope’ written above.  This project has really developed my creativity and independent thinking.  I feel more confident in my ideas and development.  I think the skills I have learnt in this project will help me in the future’.  

Lucie went on to create the A1 size canvas, I have included a photo.  I am really impressed with her work, and the thorough planning and research she completed.

Chloe wrote:

‘ I have really enjoyed this stencil art project for many reasons.  Unlike most other topics / projects, this time I have had mcuh more freedom and the access to go into much more detail in the longer time space.  I like how we have had longer to complete the project because we can explore with greater accuracy and work at home.  With my theme of Martin Luther King, I have been analysing how he has affected the world, it has been a large learning curve and I have found out an awful lot I didn’t know before.  In the future I would like to do more projects like this.’

James ( a lad who would be the first to admit does not possess many ‘artistic’ talents) has expressed how much he has loved doing the project – he said it shows how ‘you can enjoy doing art, without the need to be very good at it’.  His development work was fabulous.  He looked at gay marriage, and worked on top of a rainbow flag. – a 5ft x 3ft piece of work!

Noah, a rather ‘tricky’ student at times, lively, bouncy – created a lovely piece using Martin Luther King’s speech, and altered the text so the parts he felt were important were bigger, and in full view between his art work:Image

I have been very impressed with the results, and my main surprises were the students who were not really the most talented at art, but they excelled in this new ‘open’ type of working.  They planned and prepared well.  They worked independently, they used innovative ideas, they would see setbacks as a learning opportunity.  In fact, everything I would want to see in a great GCSE student, they showed.  It was my narrow mindedness that suggested  it would be the most talented artists who would produce the best work.  I was really quite wrong.  What I liked this about this project was that I was learning new things all the time too.

Next time, I need to:

  • be more organised – I am working on this (inspired by @leedsartteacher, her AMAZING wagolls and inspirational slides)
  • Use a more tailored marksheet (again, I bow down to @leedsartteacher’s fabulousness, and have every intention to steal hers)

I loved this scheme, and will use the things I have learnt in this one to deliver the next one much better. The Yr 9s and myself used 10 minutes at the end of the last lesson to discuss our plan for the next project.  I had shown them the 3D work from @art_teachlancs and @leedsartteacher’s Fast Food Nation work.  They totally loved them, and immediately wanted to do something like that.  One class is keen to work in pairs on large mixed media sculpture (gulp) and the other, half wanted to create clay pieces individually, and the other half want to work in pairs using mixed media.  In a moment of madness I found myself saying ‘okay then – let’s make it happen’, and I am sure that they will.


I have totally loved reading all of the #nurture1314 posts – especially from people I have connected with on Twitter.  I have enjoyed them so much I felt I should write my own, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed reading the other posts; which have been such an inspiration for mine.


1) My family, never ending support, constant hugs, smiles and laughs

2) An extension from no. 1 – my Mum.  I could not have made it through the last 5 years and two small children without her.  She has taken partial retirement from work, and now works part time – 9.30 am to 2.30pm so she can do the school run for my son and 2 nephews.  She is the first point of call whenever I am stuck, worried, harassed, or upset.  She is the main carer when one of the children are ill – I swear, I never realised how ill small children are – and how often.  Mum is the main reason I do not miss very much of school.  She has even rearranged meetings, gone in at 6am etc just to help me with a sick child, and make sure I do not miss my classes.

3) My son had a rocky time settling into school during Sept 2012.  He is now in Yr 1 and (thankfully) settled much better.  He is finally seeing the point of learning and is having a great time reading and writing.  Don’t get me wrong – I think he is like a lazy teenager, and will read or write the absolute bare minimum, but it is a massive step up from last year (when he wouldn’t even pick up a pen).  He is starting to show a love of history, and came home animated after a topic on Guy Fawkes.  It made me smile knowing that it was the gruesome parts of the story which captivated him – as I see a lot of myself here (The Tower of London is one of my fave places).  He has asked for books on The Great Fire of London – and I can’t wait to read to him about the Plague.  Reading with Sam has been a real highlight.  We love reading together and I am so proud of him – he has moved up 2 reading levels in less than a month recently.

4) Something school related now – I had an SLT and an Ofsted inspector in my lesson on the 19th Sept.  I knew about this, and planned carefully.  The head later told me the inspector had said it was one of the best lessons he’d ever seen.  I was really pleased with this, and it still makes me smile to think about it – even though I have lost count of the awful lessons since – it still keeps me going. SLT came back in the room towards the end of the lesson, gave me a hug and a high five.  Love our SLT, they are very supportive, encouraging and caring.

5) Our school – I am very lucky to work with some amazing, innovative and talented teachers.  They continually inspire and I continue to love working there.  The students are also amazing and lovely young people.  They make me smile everyday and make my work so worthwhile.

6) No more TLR – I made a decision over a year ago to step down from my pastoral responsibility (Asst Head of Upper School).  When I discussed this with my line manager she asked me to stick it out, just one more year – and I am working it now.  Just one more year.  I will teach more, I will have more time to plan, I will spend more time in the classroom.

7) CPD sessions – This year I have been asked to lead a series of twilight sessions on creative teaching.  I have loved doing this – I am planning my third of five sessions at the moment, and loving it.  I love the research aspect of our jobs – the fact that there is no end keeps me motivated.

8) I am really quite proud of the fact that I have set up the #artcubed blog.  The fabulous art teachers I have met on twitter keep it going – I am admin.  I really am quite chuffed that I even knew HOW to create another blog – as this one seemed like a fluke.  I am really not very computer savvy, but am managing to keep my head above water.

9) A letter I received during the summer from a parent.  It made me smile, and made all the rubbishy stuff seem worthwhile.  The line ‘teachers like Mrs Baker make a difference to childrens’ lives’ was the best, and kept me cheered for the rest of the year.

10) Twitter – having tweeted since June, I have thoroughly enjoyed it, got so much from it.  The people I meet are a constant source of inspiration and encouragement – thank you to all I have chatted with (and stole from).

11) The Yr 13s from last academic year – we called the ‘The magic 7’.  They really were.  Loved every single second of teaching them, some I have taught since Yr 7.  Very talented, keen, funny and lovely girls.  Thank you.

12) Time spent on personal reflections – I have come to realise I do not need to be perfect in order to keep going.  I am very much enjoying the process; and failure no longer scares me.  In fact, I do it quite well now.  I learn more from it than successes.  Painful sometimes, yes, but I am a better person for it.

13) Pushing it to find 13 things now – so I will say time management is better, marginally better than last year.  I stick to deadlines, and even got my Yr 11 reports finished a whole 4 days early last month.

Now for 14 things I would like to do this year:

1) My trusty, everlasting ‘lose weight and eat less chocolate’ will have to be number one – it is every single year, then gets shoved to the back by about the 2nd week of Jan (if I’m lucky)

2) I will try to speak my mind more – I am all too willing to smile and nod along (even if I don’t agree) to avoid an argument or discussion.

3) I will go to my first Teachmeet – I have 2 planned; Pedagoo London (where I am excited to meet @pennyprilesky and @leedsartteacher) and Northernrocks 2014.  Looking forward to both.

4) I will not fret over things I cannot change.  I was diagnosed with androgentic alopecia in Jan last year.  Basically, I will lose my hair, a gradual thing, but it’ll go.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  I wallowed in self pity for about 10 hours.  I hated every single second of it, and vowed never to feel like that again.  I will go bald, yes – but I do not have a life threatening illness, my children are healthy – and I can buy a wig; or 20.  I have remarkably short hair anyway – so a few inches shorter won’t kill me.  This has made me rather sad; but I refuse to let it define me, or worry about it until it fully happens anyway.

5) Make the most of my ‘Embedding Quality Leadership’ course.  I have an awful habit of reverting back to a sulky teenager at the back of training courses; must stop this, and pay attention.

6) Make the most of my class teaching – from Sept I will have given up my TLR pastoral responsibility, to allow me more time to hone my teaching.  I love the actual teaching part – and miss the opportunity to focus on it during my frees (which are taken up with attendance issues/statistics).

7) Be a better Mum.  I get by (by the skin of my teeth) at the moment.  Book bags are hurriedly packed as we run out of the door; letters are often missed, costumes are made the night before.  This has made me terribly sad the last year – I spend so much time and effort on other people’s children, the least I can do is afford my own children the same.

8) Wear something other than black to work.  hmmmm not sure this one will be a goer – but I can at least try.

9) Enjoy my spa day (birthday treat booked for 16th Feb). Think solely about chocolate cake, champagne and pedicures, and not feel guilty.  I will readily accept this challenge.

10) I will have a little more restraint at work.  I will not jump about like an excited child, especially when I detect an ‘eyeroll’.

11) I will continue to save money – I have just started doing this, and am enjoying it. A lot. Terribly grown up of me.

12) Keep being inspired by the amazing things people post on Twitter.

13) Finish crocheting the kids’ blankets.  Seriously – this is an important one.  I have had them on the go since being pregnant with Nancy (she starts school in September).  The are to go on their beds, massive wide stripes of colours.  They are nearly done – I will complete them this year.

14) Get to bed at a decent hour, eat lunch everyday, stop eating the kids’ leftovers, do more housework.  I will stop swigging Coke Zero straight from the bottle.  Fret the small stuff less.  Smile more, have more fun.


Why am I enjoying teaching Yr 9 more than I did last year?

I’ll put this into context – last year I really loathed teaching Yr 9.  Everything about the lessons was dull – my planning was rubbish, I wasn’t prepared to put in the time to something I really hated doing I guess.  The students (although they were lovely kids, were a little lazy – and would always make do with ‘it’s okay’)  It frustrated me that they were not really ‘up for it’.  I spent most of the year like this – doing alright work, but not looking forward to the lessons, which soon turned into a bit of a slog for all concerned.
BPTr9b_CAAAuxzD.jpg largeBPNGBynCYAA3byS.jpg large

BMjpITWCYAEtt8I.jpg large
It was in the summer that I thought I’d shake them up a bit – God knows I needed shaking up (I wasn’t prepared to spend 2 hours of my week at work hating stuff).  I started a scheme of work in which I had no idea how it was going to end.  I threw myself in at the deep end and guess I dragged everyone along with me.  If it was going to fail – that was okay, we’d salvage something from it, and we had covered everything we needed to already.I did clay work – didn’t show them an outcome, showed them a wide range of techniques – showed them some videos about how artists do it in the real world, then told them to get on with it.  I had loosely structured some stuff for the weakest kids, the bare minimum stuff which would just scrape through kind of thing.  I was really surprised at how they reacted, and on the whole – I really enjoyed it.  I had spent most of the year blaming dull, boring work and lessons on the kids – not really willing to take a good long hard look at myself. I really enjoyed seeing where the lessons were going – the work the students were completing at home – the extra stuff they were finding out.  The work they would show me after collaring me in the corridor started to brighten my days too.  I started giving the students room to fail, but also room to really exceed my expectations.  I was really proud of the work, and by the end of the year I didn’t dread the lessons.

This Sept I started my Yr 9s with a group I had last year and a group I taught 2 yrs before.  I was determined to up my game, and not give myself room to start to be a bit rubbish.  My groups were keen, eager, quite lively (smiley, excited lively – not behaviour ‘lively’).  During the 3rd lesson of the year (Kandinsky inspired Lino printing – abstract designs to music).  I have put the scheme of work into the artdropbox – which is managed by the most wonderful @pennyprilesky.  I had the pleasure (or misfortune) to be observed by SLT and an Ofsted inspector.  I knew they were coming in beforehand and had prepped the (here, I have deleted ‘kids’ and put ‘students’ twice – but I call my students ‘my kids’ much the same as I call my own children ‘my kids’, so I shall stick with that) kids a week before, and then went on to planning the lesson to within an inch of my life.

I have also started to mark homeworks differently – and the Yr 9s are really making the best use of the feedback, and space given to reflect on their own progress.  The marking now takes longer – but it is far more enjoyable, more productive and it has given the ownership of the work back to the students.


Now, I must here admit to never really planning more than a rough idea in my head – I don’t really write in my planner – nor do I write anything down about my next weeks’ lessons as I am watching Downton on a Sunday night.  I am always thinking about lessons – and see them as some kind of performance, something I mentally rehearse nearly all (of the bloody) time.  I don’t like doing this – I hate it – but it seems to work for me.  I also made sure that during the lesson I re-covered all of the amazing stuff that had happened the week before – I just recapped the great stuff – and made it sound as if it was a natural part of the discussion.  It wasn’t.  I was playing the game.


We did a lot of interesting stuff during the lesson – and I have written it all down somewhere else (I won’t bore you here).  The lesson was a bit too fast, and I spoke too fast.  I wanted the inspector to see what amazing work the kids had done – what they were capable of discussing.  I felt like I was showing them round a house I had to sell.  What if they missed anything? etc.  I felt like I was ‘showing off my kids’.  We don’t normally do this do we? It’s all bonkers.  Anyway – the lesson went great – but it could have easily have gone awful.  Who is to know, the days change, variables change, yet they see you for 20 mins? Bonkers.

My year 9s are now the type of students I try new things out on – I ask their opinions about what type of stuff they would like to do, we plan things together.  I have a vague idea of where the lessons are going – but I am only ever one or two hours in front of them.  To be honest – I like the way a lesson will take a different path, I gauge the student’s interest and see if that would enhance the learning.  This is all probably highly unprofessional – and I’m sure some of the real moany stalwarts will have a moan – but this is what I do, and I like it.

I have just started a new scheme of work with the students in Yr 9 – Art with a message. The final piece needs to include a face, be stencilled and include a message.  That is it – they will come up with the rest.  I am doing the work alongside them – they are coming up with amazing ideas, and inspiring each other.  I started the project this week, and feel really excited talking to them about their planning, what they want to show – how they are going to do it.  I have taken off their reins and they are all stepping up to the challenge.  I now really enjoy these lessons.  I dread Ofsted coming in again – as each lesson has a massive potential to be belly up – but we manage to keep the boat afloat, and have amazing things being created.


I have also been thinking a lot about lesson gradings lately.  What if I do not get Grade 1 when someone else comes in? What if…what if.. as I was driving in one day I thought really ‘What if?’ My teaching hasn’t changed – I know I am good at what I do – if they don’t see it in 20 mins, then that is their fault, not mine.  There will always be jumping through hoops when Ofsted come in – and I will do that, but I won’t let it change what I do from day to day.  I am frankly sick of hearing (every single day) how they are due soon.  I will just continue to do what I do – I say to my kids – ‘you can only do your best’, we can all only do our best.  We all do that.

I told my Year 9s that I have started blogging (I enjoyed their faces – ‘God, what is she like?’ type faces) I have told them that I plan to blog about their scheme of work, the lessons and our progress.  I have asked them if they would consider writing a guest blog for me – I might set it as a homework maybe – an extra for the ones who ask to do more maybe? I have now written that post, and have included two paragraphs of students’ comments here:

Since the time I hated teaching Yr 9s, I have really tried to ‘up my game’.  I got lazy – they knew it.  I put my all into their lessons, and I expect the same back.  So far, they have given me it.

2012/13 review. The good, the bad & the stuff I’m yet to figure out

2012/13 was quite a strange year for me,  lots of highs, and a few really odd (and deep) lows.   By far the best bit for me was discovering Twitter (massively late to this party, 1st June) but in the few weeks left of the summer term, it catapulted my teaching and ideas to new and exciting places.

The last 2 months have seen a kind of transformation.  I’m finding it really quite exciting actually, although I don’t like to admit this to everyone I meet.  I have been focused on the quality of the learning taking place in my classroom, and I have forced myself to put all aspects of my teaching and the students’ learning & progress under the microscope.  I’ve not found this process easy.  I’m finding it more easy the more open I am (to myself and others).  I have learnt a great deal this year about myself professionally, and personally.

This year has got to rank as one of my favourites within my career (I have been teaching since Sept 2002), but it will also feature as one of my most difficult personally.  I struggled with mother’s guilt for most of the year and spent much of my time wondering whether I’d be a better mother if I weren’t a teacher.  I have 2 kids, and had until this Sept always brought them into school with me, dropping them off at the on site creche (I know – how lucky am I?) waving at them on their trips to the garden,  and then taking them home with me.  My eldest started school this year, and I presumed it would not touch me in the slightest – I was horribly wrong.  Sam was slow to settle, and it threw me and my time spent committed to my teaching into a kind of weird guilt haze.  This made me reflect on my job – was it really worth it? Luckily, an extremely supportive Deputy Head came to my rescue, encouraged me to see sense and tweaked my timetable to 0.9 to allow me to join the realms of the playground mums and pick my son up from school one afternoon a week.  Doesn’t solve everything, but it definitely helps. This year I have been allowed even more flexibility – I can spread my 0.1 allocation over two days, picking my son up from school twice a week.

Joining the world of Twitter has been a real high, it makes me excited about teaching again.  I love looking at the posts & images of other teacher’s successes and ideas.  I use my twitter page much the same as I do my blog – a kind of self-indulgent diary, writing for myself, posting a collection of images I will use – purely selfish recording, but I am not a writer, so do not for one second assume that anyone will trudge through even up to this point, but still, I carry on!  Twitter and blogging for me is a kind of visual reflection of what I do and how I do it.  I spend most of my waking hours with ideas, reviews, feedback , techniques swarming round my head and this is a way of getting things down on paper. Twitter has encouraged me to try new techniques, embed a deeper kind of learning, and actually focus on improving what it is I do every day.  I have been graded by Ofsted as ‘Outstanding’, but I struggle to actually figure out what it was I did/ students did to achieve this.  I’m more of an instinctive teacher, I do what feels right.  I have a hard time theorising ‘why’ it is right, why things work, and therefore the thought of an impending Ofsted inspection terrifies me.  Twitter is helping me clarify this, and for all those I follow on twitter, I am most grateful.

BNsIxW-CMAEclGL.jpg large BO68utQCIAA7gut.jpg large BML3cAjCIAAEliS.jpg large BOvnHFsCMAIUkv_.jpg large BO0hOoyCEAEBZ4f.jpg large BO68E5SCAAEp9Ie.jpg large

The first person I followed on Twitter was @teachertoolkit, I downloaded his 5 minute plan a few seconds later. I have discovered I am best when I plan quickly and use sketches to visually describe the lesson.  I also really like filling out the different shapes!  I have never been afraid to experiment and try out new and exciting things within my teaching – but this year has seen this develop, it has been a kind of more efficient experimentation, based on a lot of background reading – tweets, blogs and educational books.

I have become even more reflective. much more resilient, and I focus more on the quality of the learning going on in the room.  I have become more confident within my schemes of work – and have started to experiment with allowing a much more open response to a particular technique.  Traditionally teaching in the art dept was based on a ‘this is the technique, and this is what we are making’ kind of deal.  I have tried to skew the boundaries more to include ‘this is the technique, this is what this artist does, can you focus on their work and respond to it in your own way?’ I have been really pleased with the work produced within a Kate Malone inspired ceramics project and a Rothko inspired weave based on landscape photography.  Most students lapped it up, and the high fliers really flew.

BPTr9b_CAAAuxzD.jpg large BPNGBynCYAA3byS.jpg large BMjpITWCYAEtt8I.jpg large

I posted the Rothko scheme one night, as I was marking them on my dining room table – looking for a distraction really, and I got a really great response, art teachers asking for details and offering suggestions. I think I emailed it to 5 different teachers that night.  I was shocked at the response, and also buoyed by the positivity.  Art teachers by nature are visual learners and we do like to see lots of images.  I bet that most won’t even read the accompanying text with the images, they will put their own spin on the images, and make it work for their own students the way they see fit.  This is exactly what I do when looking at and being inspired by other teachers work they have posted.

New possibilities and challenges spur me on, and this year I have been pushed way out of my comfort zone by being asked to present three times in front of a range of people – on a range of different subjects.  I have investigated the use of feedback and how to make it more effective;  I worked closely with my Yr 10s on this, and I presented my findings to a LEPP conference.  I gave a summary of a course I went on (‘How to be an amazing teacher’ by Caroline Bentley-Davies) to the Outstanding Teaching & Learning group, and I also co presented to the new intake staff on the subject of ‘Teaching at Branston’.  I had really dreaded doing them all, but found each one to be really beneficial, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be pushed out of my comfort zone at regular intervals throughout the year.  I am hoping to organise a mini ‘teachmeet’ next year – initially just an internal one, but who knows where it may end up?

I love this time of year – the promise of a new start, a new planner – (especially the new pencil case), and this year I am setting myself some goals:

To keep my mother’s guilt as much in check as possible.

To spend more time thinking as well as doing,

To improve the quality of my written feedback, and the feedback from the students

To introduce a termly Teaching & Learning newsletter

To develop my new SoW layout

To improve my organisation

To develop my understanding of progress

To organise a mini ‘teachmeet’

To continue to be excited by my classroom teaching

Using @IanMcDaid’s 5 min evaluation with my students


I have tweeted a couple of times about how useful Ian McDaid’s 5 minute evaluation plan is – I thought about the easiest way of getting feedback from my students and so I have adapted the plan for them to evaluate my teaching, lessons and schemes of work; here are a few images of examples I have collected during starters in KS3 lessons this week.



I have found the whole process incredibly useful, although at sometimes a little eye opening! For example: Next time Mrs Baker should…’talk less’. Now, I do know I seem to go ‘off on one’ when talking about a piece of work or a particular artist, I guess this is something I should try to focus on in the new academic year – I thought about timing how long I talk for during lessons (I didn’t think it was that much, I was mistaken).

Some of the comments were lovely, and made me smile, but some were quite hard to read. It is these hard to read comments which I have found far more useful within my own evaluation of my teaching. I am not trying to theorise here – I am writing from my own experience, in order to enhance my own teaching practice.

I placed the 5 min evaluation plan on each desk, students entered the class and there were instructions on the board asking them to think about this year, and to fill the sheet in honestly. It literally took 5 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of the lesson, the students discussed their opinions and gave me honest verbal feedback about my lessons, teaching techniques and schemes of work. Some students suggested other ways of doing things eg. changing the subject matter of particular projects – they also requested more theory lessons (which surprised me coming from a Yr 8 class). Overall, it was well worth the 15 minutes it took to complete and discuss the task. I have stapled each Yr group evaluations together as a booklet – and will use it to inform my planning for the coming year.

I often ask the students opinion on things – (and I guess I’m lucky teaching in a school with some really lovely students). I have worked with my Yr 10 GCSE group to create a marksheet which would include all of the types of feedback they would like to see. I have collated all their comments about effective feedback and I will include in a later post.