In August 2016 I became one of the estimated 100,000 qualified British teachers who for some reason or other ditch the drizzle in the UK to teach abroad. After a holiday to Dubai during the February half term, I made the decision to start applying for jobs in the United Arab Emirates, this was a very big change for me a village girl who had only taught in one school for six years so very daunting but also very exciting! I was very fortunate to secure a teaching job quickly but then I had so many questions and the process can be very overwhelming. I had support from friends who had moved abroad, the HR team and members of staff at my new school were also very helpful communicating via email and LinkedIn. In addition to this, I connected with lots of international educators on Twitter, I remember finding Steve Bambury on Twitter – an educator with many years experience teaching at JESS Dubai and he was great answering all of my questions and providing advice. Since my arrival to the UAE, I have met Steve and his wife and we are now good friends. Through my Twitter account and website, I get a lot of teachers contacting me to ask questions or seeking advice about teaching internationally. I am always happy to respond and help others, showing the same kindness and support that I received. Sometimes I can’t always answer questions I get asked because schools vary with wages, packages, allowances etc and countries can differ greatly too with benefits and culture amongst other things.
I recently came across a quote by Jennifer Gonzalez where she interviewed Cognitive Scientist Pooja Agarwal “Retrieval practice: The most powerful learning strategy you’re not using” (you can listen to the podcast interview here) and this resonated with me because it wasn’t a strategy I was using for many years during my teaching career. Teachers often have so much content to get through that little time can be spent revisiting prior learning and subject content previously covered – I was guilty of this. Each lesson or week I would work my way through delivering new content on the specification or scheme of work and return to recall knowledge and understanding at a much later date. On reflection, it seems obvious that revisiting a topic 12 months later (or longer!) in the classroom just before the exam won’t be as effective as regular recall and retrieval.
Twitter is (or can be) a wonderful source of networking, sharing, discussion, debate and learning. There are so many communities on Twitter. I was quite oblivious to most of these communities as I have been in my own Twitter bubble with the wonderful “EduTwitter” community. There are even smaller communities within the EduTwitter community – such as WomenEd, BameEd, Edtech, leadership and subject-specific groups such as the History teacher community. These online communities are not exclusive and everyone is free to read what others share ( private accounts can restrict who can view their profile). Recently I became a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2018 within the Education category, winners to be announced in April. There is now a community of #UKBA18 finalists communicating on Twitter (sharing their excitement) and this has opened my eyes to all the other bloggers and writers online in their chosen fields including arts & culture, events & wedding, fashion & beauty, food & drink, green & eco, health & social care plus much more! The finalists in these categories also use social media such as Twitter to connect with their audience and promote their material online.
Today the public vote has gone live for the UK Blog Award nominations with the winner to be announced in 2018. I am absolutely delighted to have been nominated for the second year ( I don’t know who nominated me but thank you!). Winning is always lovely but I’m so pleased to be recognised and nominated! You can vote for my blog to win here:
A few weeks ago I presented at the second Digital Innovation Summit in Dubai at Jumeriah English Speaking School ( known as JESS). I have written an overview of the event that will be published in the upcoming edition of Education Journal Middle East (so apologies if this blog post seems self indulgent as it is just about my presentation which I didn’t refer to in the EJME article!). Many people have contacted me since my presentation to ask questions or provide feedback. I thought I would address any questions and share my slides for anyone who wasn’t able to attend my session or the event.
I was actually reading The Secret of Literacy by David Didau when I decided to purchase Don’t Call it Literacy! by Geoff Barton. Didau often praises Barton and credits him as being the inspiration to write his own book about literacy. I was really enjoying The Secret of Literacy, so I felt compelled to read this book by Geoff Barton, after the references made by Didau. I only recently became aware of Geoff Barton when he was involved in a very public campaign to become the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) – and he was successful. Barton received a huge amount of support online, illustrating how he is highly respected across the educational community. Barton was previously Headteacher and Teacher of English, of course. Barton really does have a very impressive CV!
QR (quick response) codes are not new and certainly not just for the classroom but they have so much potential for teaching and learning – I think they are great! There are a wide range of websites and apps to create and read/scan QR codes, I would recommend the app QR Reader. If you haven’t created QR codes before they are very easy to do so, I was surprised by how straightforward and quick it was! If you haven’t tried QR codes in your classroom then it is worth trying, because again its very simple yet effective so here is another blog with some advice to get you started.
Learning grids are a fantastic resource that can be used across different subjects and with different year groups/key stages. If you are not familiar with this resource it is simple; it is a grid consisting of 36 boxes ( 6 vertical and 6 horizontal). Dice are required – dice can be bought cheaply online or at stores such as Poundland or Tiger. Pupils will roll the dice twice – to give them a number they can use for the horizontal and vertical line (for example 2 across and 4 down). I have used learning grids in a variety of ways; to re-cap previous learning, support literacy, as a plenary and much more! The idea of a linking learning grid is more complex and challenging.
My iPad has become an essential part of my teaching toolkit; for various reasons. I am an advocate for using technology in the classroom. I always keen to learn about new technologies and share apps that can be used in the classroom to support and enhance learning.It is important to add that I believe in using technology purposefully and effectively, not for the sake of using technology or as a “gimmick”. I have undertaken research and further reading focusing on how best to use technology in the classroom to support and engage learners. I would recommend reading Perfect ICT Every Lesson by Mark Anderson, to build confidence, discover different strategies and find out about the SAMR model. You can read my review of his book here.
The Confident Teacher : Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy by Alex Quigley really surprised me – as the book covered much more than I expected it to. I have never met Alex Quigley, yet I follow his educational profile online via his Twitter account @HuntingEnglish and I am a regular reader of his blog, also titled The Confident Teacher. I thoroughly enjoy reading his blogs and they have been great resource to me as a teacher, so I was very keen to read his book. Alex is a Teacher of English, that is evident as I think he has a wonderful style and use of language as well as many literature references made throughout his book. He is also Director of Huntington Research School, this book is heavily research informed and influenced which also supports many of his arguments and points. The Confident Teacher is obviously not some sort of quick fix self help guide to give teachers a transformation with confidence overnight, but it does focus on a wide range of strategies to develop confidence for both teachers and pupils. This book is filled with many stories from his career as well as anecdotes about various well known individuals from Pablo Picasso to Michael Jordan and Albert Bandura along the way!