The Power and Value of Tutor Time


Tutor time is the highlight of my day. I see my KMers for registration in the morning and for a 20 minute session in the afternoon. I aim to make each tutor time something worth coming to and to make it a place where my KMers want to be, not have to be. I see it as my role and mission to help ensure they have a positive start to their day and where time permits I try to do something that enables them to develop ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork, resilience, respect and creativity, in a bid to help nurture the skills needed in order for them to develop into well rounded young people.

My big focus is upon kindness and in getting every single student to want to be good and to do the right thing. This has taken time in years 7 and 8 but now I feel like the students (and me!) are reaping the rewards. I love looking at the ‘KMer of the Week’ nomination form on Frog to see what they have said about each other. It makes for a lovely atmosphere on ‘Feel Good Friday’ to celebrate and share the successes (however small) throughout the week. Yesterday, my tutor group were given a reward of extended break, a free donut and slushy for winning the ‘Race to 150’ achievement points. It was here that I took a step back and noticed a moment. A moment whereby they all sat next to each other and were so happy in each other’s company. Everybody was included and it felt lovely!

My concern is that tutor time can become overloaded with content, so much so that we don’t have the opportunity during tutor time to just talk to our students, to know them, to help them and to support them. It has been flagged that the number of children and young people referred to mental health services has more than doubled since 2010. This is an alarming trend and quite often, the tutor is the first person to notice when something isn’t quite right. The tutor is the adult who knows the child best and needs the time and opportunity to talk to each student.

I’m curious as to what other people are doing in tutor time to try and develop a positive learning community within their tutor groups. It would be great if you could either comment below or use the #tutortime hashtag to get in touch.  I’ve also posted the PowerPoint resource from the twilight a colleague and I ran recently on ‘The Positive Tutor’ below.

The Positive Tutor_update_



Wow! I can hardly believe it has been a year since #Nurture1314, a wonderful idea from @ChocoTzar to encourage us to reflect upon the year gone by and to look forward to the forthcoming year.

2014 has been an interesting year. Now into my 4th year of teaching (or NQT+3 as I prefer to say), this may sound strange but there is something reassuring about being and feeling ‘new’ to the profession (it’s something I’ve tried to hang on to for as long as possible!). Thinking back, I felt exactly the same way when I worked at B&Q. It was only when one of my colleagues said “Kel, don’t you think you should ditch the “I’m new to B&Q” badge now? You’ve been here almost a year!” I guess I associated ‘newness’ with an idea that it was ok if I made mistakes, a concept I still struggle to get my head around now. I know I have high expectations and many have called me a ‘perfectionist’ but I must begin to share the philosophy I share with my students all the time. It’s ok to make mistakes, it’s what we do afterwards that matters. Even if I am more experienced now, I must recognise that I won’t get things right all of the time but I must be able to accept that and move on.

Reflecting upon what I do is something I am determined to do more of. In the Autumn I came up with an idea to focus on one particular area of my practice that I wanted to improve each week and I blogged about it on the Staffrm website under the title ‘Getting better at getting better‘. I was pleased with myself in the initial weeks as I was making a real effort to focus on the range of areas I wanted to improve upon as a teacher. Then the reality of term time busyness kicked in and it fell by the wayside. This therefore brings me to one of my goals for 2015. Make the time to reflect more often, more deeply, to help me become the best teacher I can be. I will be using the #thatbitbetter hashtag and will share how I’m using it with my students too to help create a ‘we’re all in this together’ culture.

The past 10 days have been tough. One of my close relatives had a stroke a few days before Christmas. I’m so thankful to say that she is making a slow but steady recovery. We have to accept that there is a long road to recovery and there will be good days and there will be some bad but it has made me realise just how blessed I am to have such a wonderful, loving and thoughtful family around me. The same wonderful, loving and thoughtful family who have come second to my work for far too long. If I’m going to be the best teacher I can be, I need to be a more wholesome person myself. This means doing more things for me.

In order for me to become the person I’d like to be, I’m going to do the following things (as I typed this I remembered filling out TeacherToolkit’s 5 Minute Well Being Plan months ago). I guess for me, my mission for 2015 is to not just think about doing the right things but to actually do them.

5 min well being plan

I haven’t actually looked at my goals from my #Nurture1314 post so this is going to be interesting!

2014 Goals:

1. Getting the balance right a better balance and PRIORITISINGNOT YET

2. Success DiaryWIN

3. Juggling! – NOT YET

4. Marking and Feedback – GETTING BETTER

5. Sport – NOT YET

6. Developing Skills – bringing P4C to my school – WIN

7. TMCotham – Power to Pedagogy – WIN

8. Cooking! – NOT YET

9. Reading – NOT YET

10 Holiday – WIN (visiting NYC with my dad for his 50th birthday is a holiday I will treasure forever)

11. Blogging – GETTING THERE (will aim to do more of this both on my own blog and on the Staffrm website)

12. Seeing my 8KM’ers into year 9 – WIN

13. Bristol Rovers – Up the Gas! – GETTING THERE

14. Love what I do – WIN

On the face of it 2014 appears to be a bit of a mixed bag. This was however the year that I finally had the courage to not only present at a TeachMeet for the first time (#TMBristol), but I also organised and hosted #TMCotham on 8th May 2014 (win!!). #TMCotham was and will always be a big deal to me. No way did I think I could stand up and do something like that but with Rachel’s (@RLJ1981) inspirational keynote along with Ali and Ed’s guidance and support, all of the teachers who presented, people who came and my students who helped organise the evening, it happened and it was great. Thank you to the lovely Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) who encouraged me to take some time to pause and look. Magic. Mark continues to be a true role model to me. Since meeting him at Bath Spa during my PGCE in 2010 he has been an inspiration and has been a great support.

tmbristol TMCOTHAM ME

5 Goals for 2015

1. Family first (be there and notice ‘the moments’ – thanks to Harriet for encouraging me to do this).

2. A bit more Kelly (prayer, mindfulness, sport, Fitbit (thanks to the gorgeous and wonderful Crista) and fun times).

3. #TMCotham2 – for those of you based in the South West, save the date 7th May 2015. Would love to see you there.

4. Think more. Reflect more. Develop more (use the #thatbitbetter hashtag, my success diary and blog).

5. Go skiing for the first time, visit Iceland for the first time and either go back to Giant’s Causeway or explore a new place in Britain (possibly through walking – thanks @ClareBalding).

My mission is to focus on kindness and positivity. Thanks to my days at B&Q and Zoe Elder (@FullOnLearning) I am the hello person to the students at my school and I love it. One of my old teacher’s, Mrs. McLaughlin shared this message with me in my leavers book in 2003 and it is a quote I have held dear ever since.

let light shine

How are you going to let your light shine in 2015? #Nurture1415


5 Reasons Why I Love My Job

5 reasons why I love my job After being inspired by the ‘5 reasons why I love my job’ posts by Jill Berry and Jo Baker, I decided to give it a go. It seemed to be quite timely, with half term coming to an end and the start of a new term about to begin, it made sense to me to reflect upon what makes my job so awesome.

Reason 1: My tutor group. The 27 faces I see twice a day and have done for 2 and a bit years. These students never fail to make me smile and have become such a positive and supportive network for each other. They are some of the most creative and thoughtful children I have had the pleasure to meet and in this time there have been so so many moments whereby these children have made me immensely proud. I can’t help but adore each and every one of them (even the ones who have been known to test my patience!) they all want to do the right thing in the right way.

What have I learnt so far? Tutor time is very precious and is part of the day I look forward to immensely. Make it matter.

Reason 2: Those magical moments. It sounds a bit cliché but it is true, no two days are the same and it is certainly a job that contains highs and lows and you never know for sure when they are going to happen. However, when one of my year 9 boys comes to me after school to find out what he missed out on in our ICT lesson because he had extra literacy there isn’t a feeling like it – knowing that my student is thinking about our lesson and cares about it. Ace.

What have I learnt so far? High expectations pay off – never underestimate a child.

Reason 3: Seeing the whole child. I am very lucky and fortunate to be at a school where Performing Arts create so many opportunities for our children to shine and to demonstrate their talents. I was voted by year 7 students as the teacher they most wanted to be on the judging panel for the school talent show. Seeing our children doing something they are really passionate about, beyond our subject areas was incredibly special. Most notably, it gave me goosebumps seeing the quiet grafter in my year 7 Skills class playing the harmonica and year 9 students rocking out in their band. Only the other week the Year 9 Learning Co-ordinator and I transformed into Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry to judge the year 10 Showstopper breads. Our children are brilliant.

What have I learnt so far? That we need to see our children as people, people with passions that we need to tap into to help foster and nurture positive relationships not just in our classrooms but in the wider school community. Get involved – I run girls football club and year 9 philosophy club and these occasions are not only tremendous fun but can give students opportunities to make themselves even better young people.

Reason 4: The support and collaboration of educators. I was introduced to Twitter by Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist during my PGCE in 2011. I have learnt so much from talking to and sharing experiences with other ‘Tweachers’ and it has helped me to discover paths that I may not have otherwise been aware of. I’m convinced that if it wasn’t for Twitter, I may not have made my TeachMeet debut this year. I may not have organised the first #TMCotham (which to me was a big deal, I didn’t think I was able to or confident enough to host such an event). Twitter for Teachers has helped me to ensure that I drive my professional development to become a better teacher over time.

What have I learnt so far? Like Martyn Reah says ‘Sharing is Caring’. I’m still at that stage whereby I’m not quite confident enough to blog about what is happening in my classroom. I’m getting there though.

Reason 5: Being a learner yourself. I am 3 and a bit years in to my teaching career and I have learnt that I’m not always going to get it right but that it is ok, providing I reflect on what went wrong and go back and do it that bit better next time. I also think it is important for my students to see me as a learner too. Never do I claim to be the font of all knowledge. This shone through when Josephine Brock was talking to her year 8 class last year and some of my KMers (tutees) explained that I don’t cook or bake. The following fortnight I went in and baked with the students. I did find it slightly unnerving that all the students around me knew exactly what to do whilst I was in ‘the pit’ but it felt good being put in the position as a learner.

What have I learnt so far? That there is no one ‘right way’ to teach and that no matter how long you are in the profession, each and every one of us can always get better and do things we didn’t think we could.

One thing I would suggest every person (not just teachers) do is keep a Success Diary to help treasure the moments I’ve outlined above. I am now onto my third success diary and over the past 3 years I have made a note of the good things that happen each day. This may have been something that a student has said or done, something a colleague has said or emails I’ve received from students or parents. When something hasn’t gone quite as planned I can take comfort in knowing that I’ve done a good job and that I need to dust myself down and go back again, even better than before. I didn’t realise how important and powerful these books could become and for me they are part and parcel of how I review each day.

Bring on next term!

21 Questions for the Summer Holiday

Through Twitter I came across a post written by @Gazneedle, which contained 21 questions. One of the areas I tend to struggle with during the busyness of term time is reflection. I saw these questions and thought I would actually take some time to ponder and reflect over them in a bid to begin to refocus my mind ahead of my 4th year of teaching.

1. Why did you become a teacher?

I was inspired by my former headteacher at the secondary school I attended. She was kind, caring, professional and had a great sense of humour. You knew how much she enjoyed her job and how much she cared about her students. She practised what she preached and would always take the time to listen. She empowered me to believe that I could do things that I didn’t think I was capable of (like taking assemblies and attending Governor meetings as President of the Student Council).  I always enjoyed working with young people so being a teacher was always my first choice career.   


Part of the quote my former headteacher stuck into my leavers book. A quote that has stayed with me throughout my life. 

2. What is your teaching philosophy?

Make sure students know they matter. Each and every one of them. 

Dear Students

3. How do the children in your class perceive you?

I’d like to think that my students know I care. I think they may believe I’m a little bit crazy. Between using Bop It to help teach events and actions, raisins and eggs to teach Business Studies and doing activities they don’t expect, I’d like to think we have learning experiences that ‘stick’. I’m confident that they know I will do my best to help them and that asking questions is awesome. Students know they can approach me without fear.

(Oh and my tutor group would say I am competitive…. seeing as they have voted me ‘Most Competitive’ for 2 years on the bounce!)  

4. What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?

This year saw me do two things I didn’t think I could do. The first one was presenting at a TeachMeet (#TMBristol) and the second was organising and hosting #TMCotham. I went to Ireland last week for a mini break and was recognised in the Airport Departure Lounge as the person who hosted TeachMeet Cotham (yes I felt like a wee bit of a celebrity!). To know that #TMCotham is having an impact upon students across Bristol and beyond is absolutely awesome! I genuinely didn’t think I could do it, standing up in front of all of those people who have been teaching much longer than me and know much more than me but I did! (and I am very proud of my students who made the evening run so smoothly). 

5. Where do you want to be in five years time?

Before I started my PGCE, I did say to my old headteacher (the person who inspired me to go into teaching) that I’d like to become a headteacher (and to make things a little bit more interesting, I said at a younger age than when she was appointed, which was 37… so I’ve got 10 years!). Although I’m not too sure it is a role I wish to have as it takes you away from the classroom (which, to me is the most awesome job in the world!).

In five years time, I’d like to see myself as part of a leadership team with a focus upon developing teaching and learning and pastoral care. 

6. How do parents perceive you?

I’d be confident in saying parents perceive me to be incredibly caring and hard-working. They know that I will do my best to help and that I will make myself available to discuss issues on deal with them promptly.  


7. What has been the lowest point of your career so far and how did you bounce back?

I think the end of my NQT year was the toughest time. I was absolutely shattered, both mentally and physically exhausted. I remember going to see one of my former lecturers who I’m now friends with and I broke down and cried. I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher but I don’t think I ever really knew just how intense a role it would be (saying that though, it hasn’t gotten any less busy, I just seem to be better at dealing with everything! I still wouldn’t want to do anything else. One of my friends said to me the other day she doesn’t know anybody else who is so happy in their job). 

8. Which person, who you have worked with, has influenced you the most?

I’d probably say my Head of Department for Business. She is a superb teacher and excellent leader. She is always open to new ideas and is always striving to make things better for our students. 

9. What is the best quality you have as an educator?

How much I care and my willingness to try new strategies to make learning meaningful and memorable. 

10. How do other teachers perceive you?

Ha! Oh dear! A workaholic! I’m often told that I’m always smiling, which is nice. 

11. Do you want to be a head teacher? Why?

As I mentioned above, I have intentions of being a headteacher. To be able to a lead a school and help shape the ethos and culture to make sure learning is the focus for everything we do. I think it is a very special role, with huge responsibility. It’s early days, I’ve only completed 3 years of teaching out of what may potentially be a 50 year career! 

12. Do you see yourself teaching until you retire?

I think so. I’m not quite sure what other organisation I’d want to work for. Working with young people is amazing. 

13. Which class/age/grade would you teach if you had the option?

This is hard! I love the enthusiasm and energy that year 7s bring to each and every lesson but I love the questions and thoughts sixth formers bring to lessons. This is too tricky! 

14. What is the worst thing you have known another educator to do in the classroom?


15. What is the best professional development you have ever been part of?

Easy. Joining Twitter and attending events such as TeachMeets, Teaching and Learning Takeover, Pedagoo Wonderland, Pedagoo South West, #ReadTL14. 

16. How would you change things if you were the head teacher/principal in your school?

  • Focus on shaping a growth mindset culture
  • Introduce more student led aspects e.g. prefects
  • Whole school occasions and celebrations

17. What three words would you use to describe yourself as a teacher?

  1. Caring
  2. Innovative
  3. Passionate

18. How would you judge the effectiveness of teaching across an entire school?

Through continuous collaboration with both teachers and students offering feedback and ideas to move learning forward. No graded lesson observations! (this puts great pressure on the teacher, which does not have any benefit for the students)

19. How do you show your class’ achievements to others?

This is another tricky one! I share successes with students and parents through “You’re Miss McDonagh’s Hero” postcards and through positive phone calls home but I haven’t yet really shown my class’ achievements to others. (I’ve used Twitter #pedagooFriday quite a few times)

20. How are you going to challenge yourself when you go back to school?

I saw this blog post earlier on today Teach Like A Champion – COT. My challenge is to ‘Change One Thing’ and have a focus each week (or however I see fit, maybe with one particular class) to try some different and to Change One Thing regularly so that I am always developing my practice and getting better.  

  • 21. What are you going to do when you go back to school to make your classes even better?
  • Develop better routines
  • Focus on feedback (DIRT time)
  • Make sure students know how much they matter and to focus upon creating Growth Mindset culture within my classrooms and beyond. 


Why don’t you have a go at your 21 Questions? It was lovely to pause and think about years gone and what I can do better next year. 

1. Why did you become a teacher?

2. What is your teaching philosophy?

3. How do the children in your class perceive you?

4. What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?

5. Where do you want to be in five years time?

6. How do parents perceive you?

7. What has been the lowest point of your career so far and how did you bounce back?

8. Which person, who you have worked with, has influenced you the most?

9. What is the best quality you have as an educator?

10. How do other teachers perceive you?

11. Do you want to be a head teacher/principal? Why?

12. Do you see yourself teaching until you retire?

13. Which class/age/grade would you teach if you had the option?

14. What is the worst thing you have known another educator to do in the classroom?

15. What is the best professional development you have ever been part of?

16. How would you change things if you were the head teacher/principal in your school?

17. What three words would you use to describe yourself as a teacher?

18. How would you judge the effectiveness of teaching across an entire school?

19. How do you show your class’ achievements to others?

20. How are you going to challenge yourself when you go back to school?

21. What are you going to do when you go back to school to make your classes even better?

Thanks for reading, tweeting and re-blogging this post!


Best job in the world, but not in control.

After reading The Guardian’s Secret Teacher blog post Secret Teacher: I can’t take the stress, but I don’t want to be a dropout statistic I felt compelled to actually review my year as a teacher completing their NQT + 2 (3rd year) of teaching honestly.

Despite completing my third year of teaching, I still feel like a complete rookie. I know I am a bit of a perfectionist and always strive to do better but at this point I thought I would be less tough on myself. From what I can gather, many teachers feel like this despite teaching for far more years than me!

2013-14 has without a doubt been the best of my three years in teaching yet. I have established really positive relationships with the students at my school, I love the role that I am in and I, like many other teachers do genuinely believe teaching is at times, the best job in the world. However when on Friday afternoon after the fun and buzz of the ‘KM Awards’ had come and gone for my tutor group and the leaving speeches were over, most staff either went home or went to the pub! Me on the other hand, I was marking year 7 exam papers. The timing of the exams was poor and the assessment cycle for next year has been improved in light of the experience this year. One of the members of site team saw me in my office and said “oh Kel, come on, it’s the last day!” However, like many many other occasions during the year my moral conscience reigned supreme and I stayed and continued to work. Shortly after, he sent me an email saying “all work and no play will make Kelly a very dull girl”. Upon receiving this email my heart sank and I knew he was right. I have and continue to let my role as a teacher consume most of my life. It was just a co-incidence that a parent emailed me shortly afterwards with the following and I knew I was exhausted as normally I’d be buzzing after receiving the email below but I became quite weepy.


To make sure I retain my enthusiasm for the job I love, I must make sure I get a better balance (I have been saying this since my PGCE year!) and I thought as time went by it would be something I became better at, however it seems to be something I say, I do for a little bit (set myself an aim to leave school by 6:30pm) and then see those old habits creeping back in. During the final term, I have been left chasing my tail when normally I am in control. Leading Skills plus being split between two other departments is hard and the demands and expectations are hard to fulfil but I will always strive to meet them because I want to be as good a teacher I can be for my students as they deserve the best.

I thought now might be a good time to also review my #Nurture1314 post that I wrote – I haven’t looked at this post for a while so it’ll be interesting for me to see how it has gone!

1. Family time – Quite often in the morning I would say to myself that I’d go and see mum and dad or my gran. By the end of the day I feel so tired that I go onto autopilot and head home. This has to change.

2. Promotion – My role as Skills Co-ordinator has changed from being a fixed term position for 1 year to a permanent position (yay!) I love this aspect of my role and I have learnt so much from it this year. I know which direction I’d like it to go in, my mission now is to plant the seeds so that all year 7s really understand the value in Skills and how it supports them across subject areas and beyond the curriculum. I am looking forward to developing the programme further.

3. Students – Our students are amazing. Thanks to @ASTSupportAAli I set my students the following challenge for the summer and I was so proud when one of my students decided to change the world by setting up an online petition to make changes to the PE programme at school (Where boys get taught ‘boys’ sports and girls get taught ‘girls’ sports). Students were coming up to me saying how excited they were by it and they were wondering what they could do. Brilliant! Thanks @ASTSupportAAli!


4. Getting the balance right a better balance and PRIORITISING – work in progress! Still lots to do on this front!

5. Success Diary – I am really proud of my Success Diaries. When I am feeling a bit low and beating myself up if a lesson didn’t go well or if something hadn’t gone the way I’d hoped I can’t help but smile when I look back at my Success Diaries. I make it my mission to pick out the good things that happen each day and record them in my Success Diary. In here I have my own reflections but also emails from students, parents, colleagues and pictures. Having a Success Diary was recommended to me in my NQT year and the two diaries I now have are two of my most precious and valued items I own.


6. Juggling – another work in progress! I seem to give 110% to a single thing until it’s done, which isn’t always the best path to take.

7. Marking and feedback – this is probably the most demanding part of my job and so it should be. However, it is going to be even harder to keep up next year teaching 15 classes, I know I have to establish clear routines from September 2nd and stick to them. There were a few times this year whereby I was so tired on an evening, I would set my alarm for 3am (I am an early bird so it’s not so bad!) to mark work. I always aim to give my students clear, thoughtful feedback to support them in their learning to help them achieve. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about having three year 13 classes next year and so I must have a marking routine.

8. Sport – Stopped going to badminton in the last term as I was too busy. Am getting started again tomorrow! 

9. Developing Skills – embedding P4C into the Skills programme – this came to fruition and we had several philosophical enquiries held in each class. In feedback received, some students said they want more philosophy!

10. TMCotham – Power to Pedagogy – This is the stand out memory for me of this year. Along with Ali Goddard JonesEd Carpenter and my AMAZING team of year 8 students. This proved to be a brilliant evening. With a superbly innovative keynote from Rachel Jones @RLJ1981 #TMCotham was a hit. Ideas were shared, there was a buzz and I know from receiving tweets afterwards, #TMCotham has had an impact upon schools in and around Bristol. I was so unbelievably nervous about hosting the evening (so nervous at times I was considering not doing it) but thanks to pep talks from my former lecturer Harriet Shortt and PGCE Courseleader Clare Furlonger, I did it and I loved it! Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist said to me to take a moment during the evening and look at what I had helped to make happen. I did and I was buzzing! I said to my students, if I suggest doing another one of these, just tell me no. When I saw them the next day and asked them about the possibility of #TMCotham2 they said “Miss, you told us to tell you no!” (we’re now hoping to have one in November!)


11. Cooking – has improved. I baked with some year 8s in their food tech class with @BrockJosephine which was a superb experience in itself. Students got to see me in the position of a learner and it was tremendous fun! One of my friends has also shown and explained to me a few dishes that are becoming my speciality and check out what two of my awesome KMers got me to say thank you for this year! 


12. Reading – I chose not to attend TRAIL as I was making myself busy with other things. I know I want to continue reading ‘Talkless Teaching’ by Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman along with a few others over the summer.

13. Holiday – New York is booked and am heading there in August. 

14. Blogging – I’ve done a few blog posts, which so far have been warmly received. I’d like to get better at making some time as reflection seems to be the first thing that goes, particularly during busy spells. I seem to have a habit of making myself busy when actually I could ask a student or colleague to help.

15. KMers – these people are very special to me. They will be the first tutor group I see through (hopefully to year 13!) they continue to regularly be the best part of my day. They have had a brilliant year and there is a supportive atmosphere amongst the group and they have a positive class identity – something which they have improved upon greatly since year 7. It was such a magical moment on the last day when Tom, who was KMer of the Year for 2012-13 suggested presenting the medal, prizes and certificates to the new KMers of the Year for 2013-14. Ben was our new boy KM’er of the Year and Izzy and Charlotte take over from Emily. They knelt down and everything to receive their medals! – It was just brilliant! I am immensely proud to be KMs tutor and I’m sure this will continue to be the case. The role of tutor has taken up a great amount of my time this year, regularly meeting with parents but you reap what you sow and it is worth every single second.    

16. Bristol Rovers – No comment!

17. Love what I do – no matter how busy I am or how long my to-do list is, I cannot envisage wanting to do any other job. Helping students to realise their potential, to help them see they can go well beyond any level or target set for them, helping foster a love of learning and doing my best to be a positive role model, it is without the best job in the world.


Roll on September 2014! Let’s do it all over again, but this time even better.

Being a 21st Century Teacher

As part of my application for Picademy I have created this blog post around ‘Being A 21st Century Teacher’. At first I kind of thought er-oh and was a bit anxious. I was asking myself, ‘am I a 21st century teacher? I must be, surely?! Am I?!’ This lead me to reflect and think about what it means to be a 21st century teacher. Do we have 1-2-1 tablet devices in school? No. Are mobile phones permitted in our school? No. Does this make me any less of a 21st century teacher? No. Can I become a better 21st century teacher? Yes, absolutely.   

I strongly believe that being a 21st century teacher means driving your own CPD and putting yourself out there to find opportunities for you to develop your own teaching and learning for the benefit of your students. I discovered Twitter thanks to @ICTEvangelist at the first TeachMeet I attended at Bath Spa University back in February 2011. From my experience, Twitter is without a doubt the kindest, most valuable, inspiring and helpful staffroom (form of CPD) available to teachers. Not only can you magpie some fantastic ideas to take away back to your classroom but it enables you to share those ideas with others, to communicate with other teachers who you may not have the opportunity to meet in reality. Pedagoo is a terrific example of sharing such an ethos. Having attended PedagooWonderland hosted by the wonderful @LisaJaneAshes and PedagooLondon hosted by the delightful @HGaldinOShea these events added some sparkle to my teaching and learning mojo and spending days with like-minded people who are so passionate about what they do is refreshing.


@Jim1982 Independent Reindeers at #pedagoowonderland in December 2013.


Through Twitter I discovered two tools that have really helped to create meaningful and engaging learning experiences in my classroom. Socrative and Triptico. Using Socrative as a means to assess student understanding through a Space Race goes down a storm whether it be with my year 7s or my year 12s! I am checking for their understanding and because they are so engaged (mainly because they want to win!) they don’t even realise it!


Super duper year 7s engrossed in Socrative Space Race

Triptico is like a treasure chest of teaching and learning tools waiting to be created and unleashed into classrooms. The beauty of Triptico is that it acts as a hook for learners. The order sorter, word mix, find ten and random name generators get students wanting to learn because of their aesthetics. in terms of creating meaningful starters that encourage curiosity and functionality of the IWB, Triptico is superb.

When thinking about what it meant to be a 21st century teacher, I came across a couple of images and infographics that helped in my reflections. The infographic below created by Mia MacMeekin has made me think about how I can become a better 21st century teacher. I should make better use of the equipment and resources that is available to my students in order for them to develop their skills. There is always an opportunity for us to embrace the creativity our students have, for us to light up their learning and to create those meaningful and memorable learning experiences that our students need and deserve in order to go on to become successful, well equipped young people.   


I am fortunate to be surrounded by 21st century teachers on Twitter. Those teachers who inspire me daily with their passion, enthusiasm and drive. @RLJ1981, @ictevangelist, @SheliBB, @ASTSupportAAli and @MrOCallaghanEdu just to name a few.  

Being a 21st century teacher is about creating, embracing and offering students the opportunity for them to discover how good they can be. It’s about using the right technology (or resources) at the right time, for the right purpose. I know I’ve certainly got some way to go in developing my practice and pedagogy and I would welcome the opportunity to take part in the next Picademy so that I can share these experiences with my students.




#TMCotham – Hosting my first TeachMeet


Thursday 8th May 2014 will always be a special day. After much anxiety and preparations, #TMCotham was actually happening! This post will hopefully not just be a reflection on what was a great occasion for Teaching and Learning but also a bit of a guide for those people deciding to host their first TeachMeet.


Tip 1, Organising an ‘A Team’:

My first tip would be to have an awesome team around you. Without @AliGoddardJones, @Mr_E_Carpenter (our Network Manager) and my Year 8 ‘A Team’ #TMCotham would not have happened. Ali came up with the theme of #PowertoPedagogy back in January and we knew we wanted to bring the #TeachMeet revolution to Cotham. Point of this tip – you can’t do it on your own! My students were sensational. At 4pm our venue was an exam hall, thanks to the students and site team, by 4:20pm it has been transformed into cinema style seating set up ready for our TeachMeet.

Tip 2, Keynote:

Rachel Jones @RLJ1981 kindly agreed to come up to #TMCotham to do our keynote and by golly gosh did she create a buzz in the room. I’m not sure if so many meaningful, inspiring and engaging ideas for teaching and learning have ever been shared in 40 minutes! Her warmth, humour, belief around pedagogy and experience shone through and about 15 minutes in, I along with many other already had that ‘TeachMeet’ buzz whereby we remembered exactly why we chose to do the job we do. Rachel’s keynote can be found here: – huge thank you to Rachel for being so generous in sharing your experience and ideas.


Tip 3, Presentations:

The calibre and quality of presentations made #TMCotham a success (running order can be found below). One very kind and enthusiastic audience member came up to me at the end of the evening and said “I’ve been to a lot of TeachMeets, but this one was the best. The quality of speakers and atmosphere was excellent”. As well as having Cotham teachers sharing their ideas (rather well if I may say so!), this is where Twitter played its part in #TMCotham. Even those people who wanted to present who couldn’t make it put together some great videos for the evening (Chris Hildrew @ChrisHildrew, Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist, Mark Creasy @EP3577 and Mat Pullen @Mat6453, thank you very much for inspiring from afar).


Tip 4, Read all about it!:

Every TeachMeet needs an enthusiastic audience and the best way to get these lovely people to come is to set your event up on the TeachMeet wiki and to start tweeting about it with a hashtag as soon as you know you are doing it. It is also an idea to set the TeachMeet up on the Eventbrite website. The beauty of Eventbrite is that those who have registered, receive a reminder about the event so they don’t forget! My year 8 ‘A Team’ were given iPads on the evening so that they could meet and greet attendees and register their attendance on the evening. In the few weeks preceding the TeachMeet also ask colleagues to spread the word, announce it at staff meetings, briefings and email. I gave my headteacher some business cards to promote it at a headteacher conference he went to so the key is making sure you have lots of people talking about it both virtually and in reality! Stephen O’Callaghan @MrOCallaghan was a huge support in spreading the word about #TMCotham – thanks Stephen!

Tip 5, Resources – teachers heart free resources!:

You want people to enjoy listening to the speakers and take in the teaching and learning nuggets they are sharing so if possible, ask the presenters to send you their presentations (if applicable) in advance (every single presenter did this for #TMCotham and it helped tremendously in terms of setting up a running order, seen above). This makes for a slick turnaround in terms of time. In hindsight, after talking to @ICTEvangelist who did make it to #TMCotham 🙂 he explained that 20 minutes should be added on to the evening schedule for that time in between presentations (even if you do have them in advance!). All of the presentations from #TMCotham can be found at

Tip 6, Twitter!

We had a live Twitter feed on a projector on the evening. Upon Crista Hazell’s @CristaHazell recommendation, I used Storify to store the #TMCotham tweets. After the adrenalin left my system late on Friday afternoon, looking back through the tweets from the evening was an absolute pleasure! Even those who weren’t able to attend were able to keep up to speed with the ideas being shared. Lovely tweachers have been tweeting under the #TMCotham hashtag after the event to let us know what they have been doing in their classroom which means #TMCotham is having an impact on our children and classrooms already! Eeek! Exciting!

Tip 7, Presence means prizes!:

It has become a bit of a TeachMeet tradition to have a prize draw at the end of the evening. At #TMCotham we were fortunate to have the following organisations donate prizes. Iris Connect @IRIS_Connect very kindly donated a hamper as our main prize. CrownHouse Publishing @CrownHousePub donated a ‘big bag of books’ and Sparky Teaching @SparkyTeaching donated some of their ‘Fail Safe’ and ‘Messages That Matter’ digital downloads. Again in TeachMeet tradition, you have to be in it to win it i.e. if you are not there at the end, you cannot win the prize! (on a side note, the Fix Up Team @thefixupteam came to offer free assemblies during the break)

In summary:

I did say to one of my super duper year 8’s about an hour before #TMCotham “If I say I am going to do another one, just tell me no!” Lo and behold when I saw my A Team on Friday morning still buzzing from what had happened the previous evening, we were having a bit of a chat and I said “there will be another one! Are you up for it?” she replied by saying “Miss, no!” my response was “why?!” to which she said “Miss, you told me to tell you no!”. Hosting #TMCotham was without a doubt one of the highlights of my 2 1/2 year career so far. To see so many enthusiastic people sharing a plethora of teaching and learning ideas and the buzz that was generated from start to finish was amazing! I do need to say one final thank you to Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist i.e. TeachMeet guru, for guiding me through and his support both before and after #TMCotham.



TeachMeet Bristol

I was lucky enough to be able to make my TeachMeet debut this evening at #TMBristol. After attending dozens of TeachMeets and coming away with a whole range of ideas to implement in my classroom and share with colleagues it was finally my time to give a little back and I did so by sharing with #TMBristol attendees my Learning Skills Loyalty Card. Mark (@ICTEvangelist) and Emma (@Betsysalt) did a terrific job in organising the TeachMeet and it was great to know that there were a range of TeachMeets happening up and down the country and we were a part of that.

It was a classic TeachMeet brought back to its roots without technology just teachers sharing ideas that have worked for them in their classroom.

The Loyalty Cards have come into their own this term where they have become part of our classroom routine, students are asking for them as soon as they walk in the door. Students want me to catch them demonstrating great learning skills. It’s not about getting the right answers, it’s about doing the right things.

Students have really engaged with the Loyalty Cards and are keen to demonstrate and show me that they can be independent, think outside the box, participate effectively and be excellent teamworkers. The rewards vary depending on what the student would like when they get 5 skills. The ‘You’re Miss McDonagh’s Hero’ postcard seems to be growing in popularity and when students come up to me in the corridor and say with a huge smile on their face “thank you for the postcard Miss McD!” it really is priceless.


Please find attached the presentation I foolishly prepared for #TMBristol and the template for my Learning Skills Loyalty Card.

Roll on #TMCotham Thursday 8th May – if you are in the South West, please do sign up and come along!

TMBristol LSLC – Here is a copy of the presentation I put together for #TMBristol

loyalty crd v4 – template of my Learning Skills Loyalty Card.

Learning with Loyalty Cards

When I was perusing Pinterest a little while back, I came across an image of loyalty cards. A teacher in America had created learning loyalty cards which were aimed at encouraging students to be more responsible, take greater care with their spelling and become homework experts ( I thought this was a great idea and an ideal opportunity for me to help encourage and develop student ‘Skills’ in lessons. Teaching discrete ‘Skills’ lessons, it is easy to use the language of learning whereas I tended to not talk about ‘Skills’ in ICT and Business Studies lessons (because there is always so much to do in a lesson!). I therefore decided to create my own loyalty card. Fortunately I am lucky to have a name starting with McD and I exploit this at every available opportunity! I introduce the loyalty card at the start of a rotation when I am outlining my expectations. Students come in, get their loyalty cards out of their folders then during the lesson, I will sign their loyalty card when they are demonstrating one of the skills. When students have demonstrated 5 of the skills (could be the same skill) then they get a small prize.

Homework submission can be quite poor in some classes. On the reverse of the loyalty card is a ‘Homework Hero’ section. This has helped me to have good structured discussions with students. When they ask, “Miss, am I a homework hero?” I ask them to look at their loyalty card and if they say “but Miss, I’ve done 3 homeworks in a row?” I can explain that quality is essential. This has meant that students are taking greater care with their homework.

This has had a variety of benefits. Not only are students talking about the ‘skills’ they are developing (not in a Skills lesson!) but it gets them to want to demonstrate independence, teamwork, creativity – it is ace hearing “Miss McD, I worked out the problem with my programming on my own!… can you sign my card?” Student feedback has been positive too. When doing my ‘keep, grow, change’ feedback, students like the loyalty card and they want to impress.

loyalty card

Please find the link to my template here. loyalty crd v4



Ideas for tutor time

I’ve come across a couple of different ideas I am going to try with KM.

The first one is something that was brought to my attention by @HarrietShortt. My emphasis this year is upon kindness and this will help to encourage positive reflection in the tutor group.


Along with this I am going to get my KM’ers to do their own #Nurture1314 as inspired by @aknill

Also up my sleeve will be this fantastic image from Google. Challenge is to be able to identify the 2013 stories.


Another useful Twitter account to follow is @worldreversed. @Suzie_Richards tweeted the picture below – this is something I’ll be using in the mornings to get my KM’ers thinking!


These tongue twisters are also an ideal way to get tutees smiling. @EnjoyEducation tweeted: “The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick” Test these terribly tough tongue twisters!” #tutortime

@ThoughtCatalog tweeted “The Top 45 Responses We Found To The Question, “What Makes You Happy?”” one for #tutortime

@7puzzle tweeted: This is a classic! Where did the missing square come from?” morning #tutortime activity for KM

Keeping the new year theme going, @theharrispeeps tweeted this excellent picture. T&l tip: “pastoral time matters” – use the twitpic as a great meet & greet for form time next term. Help focus 2014.


Now the students completed their 2014 forms, they will be greeted by the following tomorrow morning to see how well they know each other. Lovely way to kick off the year.


Came across this and thought it could make a nice early morning tutor time activity. What is inside the box? Is anything in the box?