Becoming a happier teacher

This blog post rings so true for me at the moment. I also gave up duties this year to get some time back. I also like the idea of only doing the ‘fun’ work at home, which for me is lesson planning and data. The book marking can forever stay at school.

Reflecting English

tharby feedback listening

Image: @jasonramasami

I’ve just finished reading behaviour and public policy expert Paul Dolan’s marvellous Happiness by Design. Originally it shone out invitingly from the shelves of Waterstones, but I didn’t take the bait until Mark Healy recently recommended it in this blogpost. I have often thought that we teachers are very adept at making ourselves needlessly unhappy – at work and in life generally – and this book has helped me to conceptualise this and find some potential solutions. For me, at least.

I am going to simplify Dolan’stheory as it is difficult to do it justice in a blog post, especially as I am no psychology expert. Essentially, Dolan redefines our understanding of happiness: he divides it into two separate parts, pleasure and purpose. Happiness through pleasure – fun, enjoyment, relaxation, etc – is not a new definition, but considering happiness through the medium of purpose –…

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Walking Talking Exams – Part 2

Last week we ran our first walking talking trial exam for year 11. The purpose for running it were to Improve upon certain points:

  1. To boost confidence in exams – A large number of our Year 11 were feeling demoralised after poor trial exam results.
  2. Improve exam technique – subject knowledge was not the main issue but students were evidently not answering exactly what the question asked.
  3. Application of knowledge – students avoided questions that included any content they hadn’t learnt about. They couldn’t see past this and identify exactly what the question was about.
  4. Model long answer questions – students often ignore these completely but we weren’t sure why (time, perception of difficulty, effort?)

It being the first time we’d tried anything like this, we weren’t sure how it would run. Here is how it ran:

  1. We had a PA system set up so that students could hear us loud and clear.
  2. A projector screen ran a countdown clock so we, and students could easily keep pace.
  3. Students were told that normal exam conditions applied, that we would read the questions and then explain our thought process.
  4. We still had invigilator as this helped students to take it as seriously as any normal trial.
  5. Students were encouraged not to move on without waiting for us.
  6. We read each question and gave the students pointers, not answers, to answering the question.
  7. We identified the area of the specification the question related to and reminded the student the answer could only be something they have been taught about. This was especially important with applied questions.
  8. We allowed the timer to run continuously allowing 1 minute per mark as in the exam.

What we have found out since the trial:

  1. The majority of students found it helpful and asked for more walking talking mocks before their real exams in the summer.
  2. Results were improved, significantly in a number of cases.
  3. Students have felt more confident about their examinations in the summer.
  4. Considering the guidance students received, areas where knowledge is lacking is more clearly obvious and so wil help us to focus revision in the coming weeks.
  5. Some students said they ran out of time because we were talking for too long. Taking this in to account, more time may be needed for a walking talking mock exams if we run more.
  6. It has helped us as teachers understand the exam process more clearly and helped us to give better revision guidance and support.
  7. It reminded us just how important the examiners reports are.

I would recommend walking talking trials to any school. For us, it has been the boost we all, students and teachers, needed to help us all feel more confident about the summer.