In March my external hard drive died. I couldn’t recover anything from it and I went through all of the stages of grief. I found the back up I had made- in 2011- and frantically searched for any of my new resources to no avail. But as I searched, I was struck by how many schemes of work had been abandoned and how many excellent resources remained unused. Measured in hours, I cannot think how long it took to create those resources, only for them to never be used again.
At this time of year, when we are thinking of resolutions and a new start, it’s important to remember that a lot of what we do is pretty good already and doesn’t necessarily need changing. We have to be careful not to invest time and energy in a bunch of things that appeal not because they are better, but because they are new. Even when they are worthwhile, we can always count the costs in the trail left behind of what we just stop doing to fit them in.
Why do things get abandoned? There are new books to study, new specifications to cover, new school agendas, new Ofsted agendas and original new ways of approaching content. We feel a need to stay current, fearful of missing out on the next innovation. We see another teacher sharing a picture of their classroom display and then that nagging sense we are not good enough kicks in so we drop everything and make a new display. I’ve contributed to this by blogging enthusiastically about what felt like great new ideas (progress investigators anyone?) before I had any indication if they were particularly effective.
Of course, some of those new things are better, and we still need to remain open to new ideas, but much of what will make us better in the new year, we’ve been doing already.
Consequently, I’m making some ‘old year’s resolutions’. Rather than listing all of the new things I’m going to do, I’m going to develop and refine what I’m already doing:
I will read the books I already own.
I can’t stop buying books, particularly ones on education. There are weeks when I’ve spent more time browsing for books than I’ve actually spent reading them. Truth be told, many of the books I’ve read are to all intents and purposes exactly the same book. There’s only so many times someone can tell me that the key to expertise is practice, for example. This abundance of books also means that there is little chance of them having too much of a deep influence on my practice, even when they are useful, because I quickly move on to the next one.
So I will stop buying new books in abundance in order to read those I haven’t touched. I will reread some of the books which were particularly useful but which have lost their impact because I’ve forgotten about them.
I will continue to focus on the basics
Calling them ‘basics’ is not quite the right word, but I’m talking here mainly about questioning, explanations and feedback. I have worked hard to improve the quality of my questioning this year and will continue to work on this, in particular ensuring that when I ask questions, everyone thinks. I am happy with the quality of my feedback but there is a nagging feeling that it isn’t having the desired effects, so there is further work to do. I won’t rip everything up, just refine what I do currently.
I will keep these at the top of my priority list because they can always be worked on. If I come across something interesting which is all shiny and new, I will consider whether it will take me away from these main things.
I will refine my classroom routines
Having started at a new school after working for over a decade at my previous school, the most notable challenges have been in the smaller aspects, the day to day routines that have changed. With a couple of exceptions, I teach double lessons, and it is a shift that I’m not sure I have completely nailed yet. It’s other things like new routines for the distribution and collection of homework. It’s even in where I keep the glues and how I set out my classroom. None of this is particularly exciting or interesting but it is exactly what I need to continue working on.
I’m not going to pretend that I won’t try some new things in 2015. If I think a new idea will improve my classroom practice then I’ll definitely give it a go and when I receive feedback from others, I’ll be open to it.
You could even argue that not doing so many new things is a new thing in itself.
My post on what to do when launching new ideas.
James Theobald on opportunity cost: Why is opportunity cost so important? Bo knows.
And here is a link to a website where you can buy scratch and sniff cards for all your favourite poems. I MUST HAVE THESE!