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Posts Tagged ‘Alzira’

Posts you may have missed

February 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Despite having moved this site there still seems to be some traffic coming here. If you are looking for my blog it is now at:

www.ukteacherinspain.com

Here are some of my more recent articles that you may have missed if you have come here to follow my blog.

Preparing to move abroad – learning a language

Spanish Sundays – Denia

Shareday Friday – Curriculum 2014: An overview

The 10 most effective ways to impact education

Teaching posts and all the info. you need about teaching abroad

What Russian tennis tells us about talent

5 things I never worried about when I taught in England

NQTs abroad – 5 things all NQTs should know

Spanish Sunday – Cullera

Seven big myths and one truth about top performing school systems

Workload – 5 facts about reducing workload

Shareday Friday – A primary school display policy

Baseline assessment – 5 things I know

Dear teacher… Advertisements for posts in Spain

Common English errors made by Spanish speakers

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Endings and beginnings

June 22, 2013 Leave a comment

In the last few weeks I have had opportunities to reflect on endings and beginnings. One week before the end of the school term we moved house. In amongst all the activities of a school term ending it has made for a busy few weeks.
The house moving preparations began about a month before we actually moved house. There were two clear strategies in place. I was applying a pure energy to moving everything from one house to the other. With two weeks overlap where we had keys to the new property and were invited to move what we wanted prior to the official moving day, time around my working hours was filled with physically moving as much as possible to facilitate the final move. This was my strategy. It involved getting up at five thirty most mornings and taking a car load of hastily filled boxes from the old house to the new house. I succeeded in moving at least two car loads each day, one before work and one after work. My wife meanwhile was applying her own strategy to the moving preparations. It began in her own wardrobe with each item of clothing being reviewed, tried on if necessary and then a decision made as to whether it was to be packed, or put into a black bin bag and thrown away.
Both strategies for a new beginning in a new house are valid but arguably the strategy employed by my wife is more deserved of the ‘new beginning’ title.
And so we come to the end of the term. The last task for me was to deliver the whole school assembly to our primary pupils. The school has just received the data relating to the pupils completing their final year and again is sitting considerably above the best of the rest in the region. I started the assembly by inviting three final year A’ Level students to explain their own aspirations and then provided the link between hard work and the options that are available to us in our lives.
The assembly went well with input from our Year 6 pupils moving to secondary and time to say goodbye to the departing deputy head. As is customary we talked about ‘moving on’ and ‘new beginnings’.
Next week we have two non-pupil days to wrap up the term. In talking about ‘new beginnings’ in respect to a new school year I think we have the same two strategies available to us as we did when I moved house a week ago. We could blindly pack up all we have been working on this year and unwrap it all to start afresh in September. However, as with moving house, I’m not certain that would give us the energy that comes with a ‘new beginning’.
The other option is that favoured by my wife when moving house. To review each item before carrying over. I think my house move has taught me that the second option is more refreshing in creating that ‘new beginning’ and therefore at the start of next week I am going to invite an open feedback on what should be in the boxes that we pack for September. Which of our whole school strategies and systems have been effective and which do we need to review or discard before we move into the new academic year. With the School Development Plan reviewed in January this should provide an opportunity to check that we are moving in the right direction and that our plans are having the intended impact on teaching and learning. Hopefully, September will bring a new academic year that provides a genuine fresh start. Strategies that are effective in enhancing teaching and learning will be strengthened and those that are not having the desired impact will be left behind in the move.

Myself a learner

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Myself – a learner

The sun already felt hot this morning as I drove to work. The oranges are ripening on the trees and the harvest is imminent.The air has been superbly clear for the last few days and the views extended for tens of miles. Wind farms and centuries old castle ruins littered the peeks of distant mountains, the ancient and the modern taking the most prominent positions side by side. The drive from The village of La Barraca to Xativa takes about half an hour. Even if leaving home has felt a rush the drive itself is quite calming. A single carriage road winds through the orange groves and from ten minutes outside of the town, Xativa castle can be seen looking down on the town. A rural area with dominant industries mainly based on the land, Xativa is a historical town with the claim to fame of being the first town in Europe to manufacture paper.

Today, school contained all of the usual management issues that make the day feel full: an 8.00am call from a teacher who was too ill to come to work, a concern about upcoming observations, issues with the school Internet and Intranet and two different staff meetings to prepare and deliver.

The highlight of my day though was to spend the afternoon in class with pupils from Year 5 and Year 6. In partnership with the school psychology team I am planning and delivering a course of lessons called by the school ‘Study Skills’, although I personally prefer the title ‘Learning to learn’. Apart from being more a more accurate description of what takes place ‘Learning to learn’ can be abbreviated to ‘L2L’ which seems to carry a certain SMS style kudos with the pupils.

We have just completed a series of lessons exploring our own barriers to learning and how we can manage these effectively to ensure that learning can take place. The pupils were incredibly astute in recognising their own barriers to learning. They have now developed a range of strategies to overcome these barriers with the emphasis on maintaining a positive and happy approach to learning. Today we were introducing the next unit of this work ‘Myself – a learner’. The children will be exploring themselves as learners which will give an opportunity to think about how we learn and to develop an awareness of different learning styles.

We began with the following fascinator:
“If your best friend scratched your father’s new car with his bike what would you do?
Pretend you knew nothing about it? Tell your father it was you? Tell your father what your friend had done? Something else?”
That provided a five minute energy filled discussion!
(Thanks to John Turnerfor introducing ‘fascinators’ as a way of hooking children in at the start of a lesson.)

We then used the BASIS questionnaire resource from Alistair Smith and Nicola Call’s ‘The alps approach – accelerated learning in primary schools.’ (ISBN: 9781855390560).
To those not familiar with the alps resources, BASIS is an acronym for:
Belonging
Aspirations
Safety
Individuality
Success

These aspects of a child’s self-concept are important if they are to be willing to learn. As a teacher it is an opportunity not so much to diagnose issues but more to create a conversation about the class and school environment.

As we were working helicopters and planes were fighting a fire that had developed on a nearby mountain side. We could see the flames and smoke through the classroom window and watch the planes dropping their water. Ringing in my ears were the words of Hywel Roberts from our recent training event. In demonstrating how as teachers we can sometimes squash the energy that pupils bring to school he gave the example of an elephant walking past the classroom. Clearly there have been times when at such a point we have been guilty of demanding the children’s attention with lines such as “Look at me! Haven’t you seen an elephant before. You’re not going to learn anything by watching the elephant!” I decided to resist the temptation to fight for attention with the mountain fire and instead we all took a couple of minutes out to watch and discuss what was going on. In a classroom where pupils have English as a second or third language it is incredible how much great language and vocabulary development can take place discussing an exciting event that wouldn’t normally be a part of our classroom curriculum.

Myself today, I learned something about Guy Fawkes. Caught totally unawares by questions that a teacher had hoped to answer using the currently non-functioning school Internet, a colleague instead went online using her mobile telephone to find the answers. I had always thought, I’m sure from some mis-guidance in a classroom when younger, although it is possible I just wasn’t listening, that Guy Fawkes (aka Guido Fawkes) was a Spanish catholic intent upon destroying the protestant British parliament. It turns out though that he was a home grown terrorist, born in York and that his name ‘Guido’ was only given to him when he opted to fight with the Spanish catholics. My own learning style today was to listen to a colleague reading from Wikipedia. I think probably “Let’s Wiki it!” is my current dominant learning style.

Spanish Sundays

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Spanish Sundays

Sunday always seems like the embers of the weekend. I think the fact it was a four day weekend due to the All Saints’ Day Holiday only adds to that feeling. How do teachers secure a work life balance? I would suggest that the aspects of both work and life should be condensed into those things that matter most.

Somehow getting that balance seems easier working in an international setting. We took the dog for a trip to the beach this afternoon. He does love the beach and never tires of swimming to retrieve a stick. The dog, Rusty, is a rescue dog with certain abandonment issues. Having been found by the bins near a beach he never strays far from us even when out. Today the Mediterranean Sea looked just too enticing to leave only to Rusty so when his stick ventured too far for his usually brave retrieval instincts I waded in and joined him in the water. The day was hot but the water was cool – maybe 17 degrees. After splashing around for twenty minutes or so and avoiding a jellyfish the size of a basketball I dried off within five minutes of standing on the beach. It was one of those warm pleasant winds from inland and the views back towards the mountains were spectacular.

We were home barely an hour before it was time to take my daughter to her weekly horse riding session. We finally sat down at home at about half past seven this evening. Of course, all of those activities are available in the UK although the idea of swimming in the sea in November may take a little more courage in the UK than it does here in Spain. The difference is that with the bright sunshine here one is actively encouraged to go out for the day. The four day weekend was coupled with all the usual work of a teacher. Writing the Christmas nativity script, editing music for the Christmas production, marking assessments, planning for the week ahead. It is just that I genuinely do feel that in comparison to my UK work commitments as a teacher I do now find more time for family and relaxation and that the work and life are far more evenly balanced than they were when teaching in the UK.

How do you get your work life balance correct and if it is out of balance, how can you put it right?

You are not a tree…

November 3, 2012 Leave a comment

You are not a tree. If you don’t like where you are, then move.

Relocating to Spain was not something that we did lightly. For me, I was hitting a wall with regard to teaching in the United Kingdom. In February this year, four years after I agreed to take a job here in Spain, I was attending a conference in Madrid and listening to a speaker from the Department for Education. She was trying to entice independent schools in Spain to sign up for OFSTED inspections as a badge of credibility to the work they are doing. Do they need credibility such as this? I remain unconvinced. The school at which I am headteacher of primary exceeds national United Kingdom averages for end of Key Stage 2 results and this with pupils who have English as a second, third or more language. When the same pupils finish their A-Levels 100% go on to their university of first choice having achieved results far in excess of the norm in the United Kingdom. Why does the DfE think these schools want a badge of respectability over and above their achievements?

I think two concepts are at play here.
1: The DfE is struggling to cope with their own loss of expensively trained staff. A huge number of teachers training in the United Kingdom are moving to use that qualification and experience in an International setting. The cost is one problem but the need to keep teachers, especially those in the secondary sector, in the United Kingdom is very real. If the flow of teachers abroad is not stemmed or the retraining of replacements financed then in 10-12 years time the United Kingdom is looking at some serious teacher shortages in secondary education.
2: The DfE is consistently blinded by the assessment of pupils, teachers and schools. OFSTED is just one of the tools involved in this process. Surely the first question when evaluating a school is to look at the learning that the pupils are engaged in at the school. When you see learners interested and engaged, when you see that the end result is excellent results, then surely the most significant badge of credibility is already achieved.

I watch the children each morning unloading from the fifteen coaches that bring them to school and see that they come to school happily, excited by what the day may offer. I feel part of a team of teachers making a real difference in the lives of pupils who are well supported at home and keen to learn. What I do makes a difference and that is the key motivator for me as an educator.

When I was in the United Kingdom I worked in one of the toughest inner city areas of the west country. I’m sure those that holiday in the west country have the perception of a wealthy part of the United Kingdom but the truth in the inner cities is very different to the holiday atmosphere portrayed on the beaches. The sight of children returning with their own children at just sixteen or seventeen years old left me with a sense of futility. It seemed as though no amount of education spending could make any real difference to the lives of the people living on the inner city estates. Regardless of this the teachers were the most pressured and criticised and yet worked so hard in trying to raise the prospects of the children in their classes. The final senior leadership meeting I attended in the United Kingdom was exploring how we could raise the contextual value added measure of the school which had dipped below 100 and therefore was creating a negative image of the school. The purpose of the meeting was to identify strategies for increasing the number of pupils opting to eat their free school meal. Indeed, if all the children who were entitled to the free school meal ate it, the value added measure would leap and the school to all external evaluators would be doing an excellent job. Present were the headteacher, the deputy headteacher, the advanced skills teacher, and three coordinators – a combined annual salary of around £220,000 meeting for two and a half hours. The futility of the work of teachers being judged in this way is why I believe many teachers have just had enough. Teach elsewhere or leave teaching for another career?

I enjoy teaching, love the classroom and decided to give it a go somewhere else. I’m glad I did and would urge others feeling in a similar rut to remember that “you are not a tree – if you don’t like where you are, then move.”

Spanishmove has moved!

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

In March 2008 I entered the blogging community with the story of my family’s intended move to Spain. When the time came and we moved I felt the blog had fulfilled the intended purpose and so I stopped updating.
This new blog is the update. Four years on we are still living in La Barraca in Spain. This new blog will be the update of the relocation together with other thoughts and tales.
Stories from the classroom, from the perspective of my role as Headteacher, elements of travelogue, together with a sprinkling of stream of consciousness as it occurs.
I hope some followers from the original Spanishmove blog will make the journey to this new site and pick up on where the story left off over four and a half years ago.

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