Professional Portrait and Goals: Part 2

‘Your position never gives you the right to command.  It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others can receive your orders without being humiliated.’ (Dag Hammarskjold)

From the programme that I am studying in educational Leadership, I hope to gain many things.  In addition to the goals outlined below, I hope to become a more reflective, effective and respected leader.


  • To become a Head Teacher of a secondary school which develops aspirational, rounded and well educated young people;
  • To develop leadership qualities in others;
  • To improve the outcomes for all children that I have responsibility for;
  • To be committed to life-long learning and to share my learning with others;
  • To be a better leader.

Academic Interests

My academic interests are specifically in leadership and not just in education.  Some of the texts that I have read before I decided to apply to undertake this Degree include Effective Leadership (Adair,J), Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence (Goleman, D), On Becoming a Leader (Bennis, W)  and Monday Morning Leadership (Cottrell, D).  On reading these texts, I am most interested in making links between effective Educational, Business, Sporting and Wartime leadership.

Social Change

In Britain, there is strong statistical evidence to show that white working class boys and girls, young people that receive free school meals and pupils with a special need make the least progress in British state schools.  As a leader, I intend to impact social change by raising the aspirations of not just all young people but also the pupils in the groups outlined above. Through increased parental engagement, raising the level of aspiration and challenge, and providing an aspirational, broad and balanced curriculum, I aim to make a meaningful contribution to change.  The attainment of the Advanced Degree will enable me to access the roles that will allow me to be at the heart of policy change and key decision making processes.

I have yet to watch the videos ‘Education and Social Change’ and ‘The Phoenix Plus Programme: Social Change in Action’ but will do so within the next three days.  I will post my response to them here.


It’s a Wonderful Life!

Embarking on a Masters in Educational Leadership at the age of 42 is a daunting task.  But…with my family behind me, or more accurately below me watching telly in the lounge, it’s time to get down to work.

I often find inspiration in the character of George Bailey from the film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ who, when he loses his way and becomes frustrated by what he hasn’t achieved, is reminded about the people he has influenced and the wonderful life that he has created for himself.  I try never to lose sight of the young people who I have taught and influenced, the wonderful family that I am lucky to have and those colleagues who I have been fortunate to learn from and develop lasting friendships with.

I join this course at a very high point.  I have yesterday been appointed as Vice Principal at the Secondary Academy that I teach at in Wiltshire.  This newly developed role combines the leadership of teaching and learning, curriculum and assessment and I feel quite humbled by being given this responsibility.  The first of many tasks is to provide a ‘self-portrait’ for my fellow learners following some clear guidance from our course leader, Paul.  Here’s my contribution:

Professional Experiences

Leader of Teaching and Learning in two schools with significant impact.  Experience as SENCO, Curriculum Leader, Literacy coordinator, Teacher Coach, BTEC quality nominee, Pupil Premium lead, 2nd in English, subject leader of ICT, Business Studies, teacher of Physical Education.


Within and outside of education, I am keenly interested in the concept and act of leadership.  Fortunately, I have engaged with some great educational leaders and had the opportunity to learn from their wisdom and from their actions.  My interest in teaching and learning is still very acute but it is the effective leadership of others that really intrigues and excites me.


I’ve given this question some thought recently as I expected to be asked it during the selection process in my recent job application. The words that I came up with that best describes my qualities are: empathetic, strategic, resilient, creative, pragmatic, trusting and working with integrity.


My key challenge is remaining focused and sticking to the plan of action without being diverted.  Holding people to account over deadlines is another.

The strengths and challenges I anticipate related to being a colleague in an online learning community:


The chance to learn about education in a range of global settings;
Accessing a wide range of experiences and ideas
The opportunity to challenge and be challenged about my learning


Less opportunities to communicate face to face
May not get immediate responses to questions about the syllabus
Technical issues which may crop up from time to time

The skills, knowledge and characteristics I consider critical to online learning are :

  • The ability to construct carefully worded forum posts. Nobody wants to seem arrogant, insensitive or aggressive
  • Enough resilience and self-awareness when your arguments are being challenged or criticized
  • An informed approach to debate.  Experiences are useful for developing debates but so to is a good grasp of the key arguments from a wide range of reliable sources.

Teaching ≈ gambling?

Improving Teaching

Why is gambling so addictive?

There are an estimated 350,000-450,000 ‘problem’ gamblers in the UK.  Why?

The anticipation of any reward triggers a dopamine ‘shot’ to the brain, inspiring action.  “The same basic physiological process – this particular chemical surging to this particular part of the brain – is what happens in addiction (1).”

If a reward is predictable, its effects diminish over time; if a reward is intermittent, they do not.  In consequence, occasional, unpredictable or random rewards are more motivating than predictable ones.  Gambling offers intermittent rewards: wins interspersed unpredictably with losses.

This is why slot machines are so addictive, and why we click compulsively on email and Twitter – not because we know we’ll be rewarded with interesting messages, but because we might be (2).”

Our craving for intermittent rewards has powerful consequences.  Such rewards tend to “amplify a belief in what [people] hope will happen over what they observe…

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Meaning and Magic amid the Muddle of Mental Mathematical Models.

Tom offers some sound thinking behind learning ‘those times tables’ borne out of observation. A blog I’ll be sharing with our maths team.



Forgive the gratuitous alliteration.  In recent months, I’ve been thinking about the basics of maths education a lot. There have been three main contexts:

1. The teaching of maths at Highbury Grove:  I haven’t taught maths myself for years but I line-manage the department and I’ve observed 12 Maths lessons in the last two weeks all by different teachers, spanning a range of topics, ages and ability levels.

2. Our inaugural Transition Forum for Maths where some maths colleagues at Highbury Grove met with maths coordinators from a number of our feeder primaries in what we hope will be the first of many.

3. Engaging with the mathematical struggles my children experience at home, revising for tests or doing homework.

In all three contexts, I’ve found it fascinating to consider the areas of maths that children find difficult and the processes we need to consider when teaching them to overcome these difficulties.  It…

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I ❤ January 2015

Othmar's Trombone

When TV shows run out of ideas, they fall back on that old faithful: the clip show compiling all of the ‘best bits’.

And when they run out of their own TV shows, there are always clip shows made up of the best bits of other people’s shows: the I ❤ 1984 (etc.) model, featuring talking heads from D-list celebrities reminiscing about the time that dog said “sausages” on That’s Life.

As a D-list blogger myself (what do you mean I’m getting above my station?), this regurgitation of other people’s brilliance is the perfect model for me to reminisce on the best blog posts of each month (with the added implication that I’ve run out of ideas).

(In all seriousness, I got to the end of 2014 and realised I’d read so many great blogs but not really collected them anywhere. So this monthly blog is a way for me to compile an anthology…

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Developing our in-house system for improving teaching.


At Highbury Grove we’re in the process of engineering a culture shift away from inspectorial top-down accountability systems towards collegiate high-trust processes built on collective responsibility for student outcomes, professional development, mutual challenge and support.  I’m convinced that this is the best way to secure improved outcomes for students as well as making teaching at the school more rewarding.

There are a number of interlocking elements to the approach, each driven by the same philosophy:

a) that teachers should be treated as professionals, with the default assumption that everyone is committed and hard-working with their students’ best interests at heart in all that they do;

b) that trust is a powerful force for good that needs to be deliberately and explicitly developed

c) that collective responsibility is greater than the sum of individual responsibility; we’re a team of teams

d) that each teacher, at every career stage should be nurtured…

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Feedback: let’s build it in, not add it on

An opportunity to reduce workload and improve the quality of teaching and learning through timely feedback. Is our profession finally fighting back through common (or is it a sixth) sense?
‘I see dead feedback…’
‘when do you see it?’
‘All the time. ‘

Reflecting English

Attachment-1Image: @jasonramasami

The quantity of feedback our students need after completing a task is largely dictated by the quality of teaching they have received before and during this task. I would argue that much of the best and most useful feedback our students receive happens as they are working, not necessarily after they have finished working.

Let me explain. Last week, I was off sick for three days in a row, the longest illness I have had in nine years of teaching. (Don’t ask – it wasn’t pleasant!) It meant that my year 11 students had to plan and write a full piece of iGCSE English language coursework without my help or guidance. As a result, their first drafts were patchy to say the least, littered with very avoidable errors. As I teach just short of sixty year 11s in two ‘middle-sets’, the marking has been a gargantuan task, one…

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You are Yoda!