Week 11/12 – Pupil Voice

It’s getting towards the end of term now and I can sense all teachers getting the ‘end of term’ feeling. It’s surprising how mentally and physically draining teaching can be. Especially when there are year 11 assessments and the stresses that come with revision and exam prep. So the last two weeks have been pretty full on. Add in an interview and organising a surprise 50th for my mum, parents evening, a BTEC course, football training and as you can imagine, I am a tired individual.

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This week I have decided to blog about pupil voice. This is a tool I think needs to be used in the right way. You may remember last summer I created a survey for all the girls in the school based on competition. The results were really interesting. You can read more here. Following on from this, I have decided to create a new survey using survey monkey that I will give to the whole school. The main reason I want to carry out this survey is to find out what we can do or change to encourage more participation in PE. We have a high level of participation in lessons anyway, but the problem comes at an extra curricular level. We offer clubs but not many pupils attend. I want to find out why.

One possible reason for this is transport. In the last couple of years the bus routes have been altered and provision has been cut, this means for pupils who live further away, they would have to wait for public buses and get home a lot later. However, I feel there is a solution and a way around some of the potential issues.

I am also hoping that this survey could help us adapt the curriculum next year for each year group. What sports they like and what would they like to see more of. I feel the power of pupil voice can sometime be overlooked. At the end of the day, we are there for the pupils, they are the reason we got into teaching, so offering the best and most enjoyable curriculum for them should create a more positive learning environment.

Children appreciate being asked their opinion, and more often than not will freely share it with you. Of course, there are the pupils who don’t necessarily like giving their opinion, or who don’t like to give the impression that they care. But still, each individual matters. I truly believe that there is a sport for everyone, it’s just a matter of finding it. Hopefully, this survey could help some pupils access more of what they like.

We have a school council at our school. This is made up of a representative from each tutor group and they meet once a term. This is a great opportunity for pupils to gain experience and confidence sharing their views. They successfully brought in V neck jumpers a few years ago and their voice is listened to. It’s important that we don’t just ask their opinion and then do nothing about it. Obviously, the suggestions need to be realistic and they understand that not all of their suggestions can be implemented, but giving them the opportunity and listening to them shows that as a school, the pupils do matter. Teachers need to value and respect their opinions. So long may it continue. 

I always make a point to chat to pupils in the corridors or as we are walking to and from lessons. Asking then what they do out of school, what clubs they want to attend. The pupils at my school are more than happy to chat and tell you about their day. In fact, half of the time they tell me things without me prompting them to do so. Listening to pupils is such an important part of teaching, they will be honest and are your best critics. If I can improve what I do to benefit them, then I am happy to hear what they have to say. Within reason of course. As with anything, sometimes they can take it too far, you will always get the minority sharing their unrealistic views that aren’t helpful to anyone. But that can’t be helped. 

In summary, I am hoping this survey will have an impact and we can get more pupils to attend our extra curricular clubs. Even if it just gives us some of the reasons for their lack of effort or attendance so we can begin to improve numbers. My worry is that children are just getting more comfortable and they can’t be bothered to come. It is generally the younger pupils who come along, which means that from year 9 onwards, the attendance is worse. Watch this space for the results.

 

Week 9 and 10 – Job Applications and Interviews

I am finding this half term the busiest so far. With year 11 exams looming, there seems to be an awful lot to do. I know many teachers will be worrying about covering all the content of their course with enough time to get some revision in. Obviously some subjects are worse than others. I admire the lengths teachers go to providing support to pupils, ensuring they are adequately prepared for their exams, especially when there is so little time to cover so much content, yet they manage it anyway. There are then other pressures such as progress grades and parents evenings. Making sure data is correct and that books are marked to back up the levels. 

For me, I often count myself lucky that I don’t have the stacks of books to mark that others do. I do however, have GCSE Dance practical assessments coming up, moderation for all of their units and lots of BTEC marking to do. I also have the annual talent competition, GCSE PE books to mark and there is always planning to do. I ensure I make up for the lack of marking in other ways that I can. For the past 2 weeks, I have added some extra work to my load. I applied for a new job. You will all know how stressful this can be in any case, but or teaching, the application forms are always huge, and you accompany it with a covering letter. A LOT of time goes into this. Trying to cram as much information as possible into 2 pages without waffling is not easy feat. It needs to be tailored to the school and the job description too. I have a few tips that really helped me. 

  1. Write down the key things the school are looking for
  2. Have a strong and intriguing first paragraph 
  3. Do your research, mention the schools strengths
  4. Back up what you say with examples
  5. Have an interesting summary paragraph
  6. Always get a colleague to read it and help with the process
  7. Keep it to 2 pages of A4 

Thankfully my letter was good enough to get me an interview. I have spent the last week preparing for that interview. Preparation is key when you go for any job, but the interview process for teaching is pretty extensive, especially i going for a higher position. I have been researching about the school and the local community to help me. I have spent time looking on their website for as much information as possible, looking at policies, Ofsted reports and generally what the school is like. 

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The interview process for many schools involves different aspects, tours, teaching a lesson, student interviews, interviews with the panel and in some cases a presentation too. I am no expert at this but as I have already mentioned, being prepared is vital if you stand any chance of being employed. If you do not prepare effectively then you are setting yourself up to fail. I feel the things I have done this week has enabled me to be as ready as ever. I know whatever happens on the day will happen for a reason. I will give it my all because that is what I do. I have nothing to lose.

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The good thing is, I already have a job. As you can imagine, or may have experienced, the process is much more stressful for those that do not. Teaching jobs are few and far between at the moment. What with the current political climate in education, teachers are under a lot of stress. The education sector is always changing, there are new policies or ever changing curriculum ideas. Luckily, I am still young and not considering leaving as I know some are. I want to make a different to young peoples lives, the further I progress up the teaching ladder, the more affect I believe I can have. It is such a rewarding career, if you don’t have any dealings with young people as a teacher, coach or some sort of educator, then you are missing out. They are truly amazing and can surprise you every day. Never a dull moment. 

For now tho, I am as prepared as I will ever be. I will just be myself and enjoy the experience. Every day is a school day – always learning. 

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The hidden dangers of energy drinks

Human Kinetics Sport, Health & Fitness Blog

Energy-Drinks The much vaunted properties of energy drinks are well known thanks to convincing advertising and clever marketing, but a new report published in the journal Preventive Medicine indicates that consumption among teenagers may be linked with poor mental health and substance use.

As a result of their findings researchers are calling for limits on teen’s access to the drinks and reduction in the amount of the caffeine in each can.

The paper by researchers at the University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University, Canada, found that high school students prone to depression as well as those who smoke marijuana or drink alcohol are also more likely to consume energy drinks than their peers.

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Week 8 – Refereeing

I have been wondering what to blog about for last week and after the last two weekends I have decided to blog about refereeing. I am a level 7 referee and in the last year have been going for referee promotion to level 6. This has been no easy feat. As I play football myself and have a hectic schedule the only games I have been able to referee have all been men’s on a Saturday afternoon. It was just over a year ago when I did my first men’s game. It was a local game between two Yeovil District and County League division 3 sides. The game actually went really well and I was surprised by how much respect the players displayed. I was unsure if this was because I was a female ref or because if they generally was pretty good towards male referees too. After the game I received some very positive comments which was pleasing to hear. It was the success of this game that helped me decide I would go for promotion.

I should find out by the end of the month if I have been successful in my promotion campaign. I have had 3 positive assessments so I am hopeful but due to cancellations of games I only managed 18 games in the promotion season, not the 20 that is advised. So we shall wait and see. In those games, I have given 1 red card and numerous yellows. The red card was for offensive, insulting and abusive language towards another player. The yellows have been for a number of things ranging from reckless tackles to dissent. The main reason I wanted to blog though is the lack of respect shown at times from players. My last two games in particular have at times made me question why I do it. As a referee I sometimes expect people to contest decisions as do I on occasions (not very often). But the extent that it happens even though I know it is the correct one, makes me realise why not many people referee. It is not for the fainthearted. I strongly believe that if there was less ‘moaning’ from players there would be more referees. Don’t get me wrong, I deal with situations that I need to but sometimes the nature of the game requires less. I even had to say to two grown men this weekend to stop acting like primary school children. 

I feel something different could be done by the FA to discourage some behaviours. I know the respect campaign helps to a certain extent but if all players were to sign a code of conduct when they sign on, then there could be some form of consequence if they breached it then maybe it could improve. This obviously sounds easier than it is, the reality is that people probably wouldn’t sign it. It is just one idea that might get them to think about how they speak to others. As a player, you do not get all the moaning and language in women’s football that you do in men’s, so surely something should be done. Perhaps players could also learn the laws of the game. This helped me as a player and would help players know what they are actually allowed to do. Or not to do. An increased understanding of the game can only have a positive effect. But once again, the question of getting people to do it would be the biggest barrier. 

One factor that does not help the situation is professional football. They get away with challenging the ref, you rarely see a red card for offensive language towards the referee even though you can clearly see it being used. The laws of the game state it isn’t allowed, yet at the highest level they put up with it. The only reason I can think of is money. The players get paid so much and there is so much money in football in general that it is just accepted. These men are role models to young children, this is what they see. So then if they are doing it then surely it’s ok for other to. As a teacher I see this in boys in school. I have taught football to 2 different boys PE groups, in both groups pupils were questioning decisions. This is because they think it is ok to do so. I had a conversation with 2 boys in particular about respect. I was gobsmacked with their responses and their logic behind what they were saying. That it is ok to moan at other players or the referee because they want to win. 

Another factor that prompted this post was a discussion in my GCSE PE group about refereeing last week.  They know I referee and asked me a related question. They play U15 level and have younger referees that they seemingly know of. In particular, they told me that their referee who was 17, didn’t turn up at the weekend because he was fed up with being treated badly. This is the kind of behaviour that needs to stop. If young referees are being put off then eventually there won’t be anyone left who does enjoy it or actually wants to referee grassroots football. I pointed out to them that if they carried on then there wouldn’t be anyone to referee their games. How would they feel if they were treated like that. I firmly believe that when people get caught in the ‘moment’ they don’t think about their actions or the consequences. 

Everyone has their own opinions about referees and yes, sometimes mistakes are made. They are human. It is actually really hard to make a decision in a split second when some things happen so fast. So, I ask you to consider your behaviour on the pitch. I imagine the majority of you are thankful and grateful for them. But for some individuals. How can you support referees instead of making their job more difficult. Without referees, football cannot be played. Well, as fairly as it would be with them there. There are vital to the game. Repect them. 

Week 6 and 7 – The Winter Olympics

I have decided it’s really hard to find the time to blog regularly. I have had a very busy couple of weeks. The last week of term was pretty manic with prepping year 11 dance revision resources, BTEC marking and sorting stuff for netball and cricket fixtures. My sister then moved in on the Saturday of half term which meant lots of sorting out and house stuff. It’s surprising how long some tasks take. All in and sorted after a few days though and now all settled 🙂 I am a firm believer in having a positive work/life balance and taking half term with actual days off and trying not to do too much work is important and vital to recuperate. 

One thing that has also consumed my life over the past 2 weeks is the Winter Olympics. Sochi 2014 has been amazing and exciting to watch. As a nation who obviously doesn’t have the facilities needed for some of the events, we clearly make the best of what we can. I admire the dedication of the athletes who made it to represent team GB, they did the whole country proud. The amount of hours they spend training and preparing for a two week event doesn’t get broadcast. A lot of work goes in behind the scenes so it is pleasing to see the country get behind people we don’t know yet we pretend we do and feel a sense of achievement with them. 

I think it is really important for children to see the Winter Olympics and to have role models in different sports than usual. In the week before half term, I made a point of showing my tutor group and where possible included some in my lessons to make pupils aware of what other opportunities are out there. Especially as there is a dry ski slope near my school. Not the same as the real thing but if they try it, who knows what might happen. It might spark some new interest or hobby. They seemed to really enjoy watching it or having knowledge of what was happening for team GB. It also shows pupils how interested in sport I am as a teacher and they like to show me that they have a common interest.

One of the events I enjoyed watching the most was the curling. And didn’t we do well. Both the GB women’s and men’s teams came away with medals, and they were very well deserved. The tension whilst watching is incredible, the fact that it takes 10 ends and about 2-3 hours makes it more interesting. It can change so fast too, one mistake and the other team can take advantage. The pressure involved to perform well every shot is immense, especially when there are medals at stake. I hope lots of children across the nation are now inspired to have a go. Although, the main barrier would be geographical location and would involve travelling to Scotland. I believe there is only one curling rink in England which is why all the GB athletes were Scottish. I know I would certainly like to give it a go, it looks fun. Lets hope it inspires more access to the sport in England. 

Lizzy Yarnold winning gold in the skeleton was one of the best moments of Sochi. It was edge of the seat stuff. Watching Amy Williams and Lizzy after was moving. Retaining the Olympic title after 4 years of hard work. It’s brilliant to see when training hard pays off. She went through the ‘Girls for Gold’ programme 5 years ago. I remember that being advertised when I was at University, it’s nice to know they work and produce world class athletes. I think more programmes like that need to be around to enable access to these kind of events for younger children, maybe between the ages of 14-16. It might even inspire more girls to take up a different physical activity. 

The final moment which I think defines character within sport was Elise Christie. Elise is a short track speed skater who competed in 3 events. The 500m, 1000m and the 1500m. I was devastated and heart broken when watching her final event. Having previously been disqualified in both the 500m and the 1500m races she breezed into the semi finals of the 1000m. The mental strength she displayed in this first heat was inspiring. Coming back after 2 penalties already to perform well must be mentally tough, but Elise was up for the challenge. In her semi final she was racing really well until the final corner when it appeared she was taken out by another athlete when she was in a qualifying position. Everyone thought she would progress through to the final anyway. However, the referees seemed the be against her and awarded her with a penalty too. In my personal opinion, I felt this was completely unfair and the wrong decision. The whole country was proud of her efforts and the way she fought back. 2014 seemed not to be her year. It is such a shame that after 4 years of hard work and training, she lost out on a medal due to a referees controversial decision. As an Olympic athlete I know she will fight back. I hope children take her courage and determination and use her as a role model. 

Overall, we have had I think the most successful Winter Olympic campaign. Well done to all of Team GB. It has been most enjoyable and gripping to watch. I am now looking forward to what we can do as a country in the next 4 years to produce more athletes for 2018. What am I going to watch now?

Week 5 – School Sports Funding

Once again a busy week in school. I think almost every teacher will agree when I say I am pretty much ready for half term. This one has been pretty hard going and draining. It is sometimes hard to keep going and be so enthusiastic when you don’t feel 100%. But, needs must, we carry on anyway. There has been a lot of illnesses going around too, luckily I have seemed to escape these. I lame my good nutrition 🙂 

Week 5 has seen many different news stories in education. Michael Gove has been in the news pretty much every day. We have had Ofsted talks (as always), Gove commenting that he wants State schools to be the same as Private schools, in the sense that he doesn’t want to be able to tell which is which and then there was the discipline story. How we need to use old style punishments such as writing lines and laps. Every morning when I get up, I look to Twitter to read these latest stories via @schoolsimprove. The two stories that caught my eye this week can be found here and here.

The first one is about Primary School Sport funding. This week David Cameron announced £750m extra funding would be pledged between now and the year 2020 for primary schools sport. The funding is meant to improve sports lessons, such as paying for specialist coaching, equipment or to help after-school clubs. Now, this is all well and good, and he is right to give head teachers more money for sport, but there is always the worry that it will be used for coaches alone. Primary school teachers need to have an input into how the money is used too. They would benefit from further training and therefore improved confidence in delivering primary school sport. I know it is not all primary teachers who need it, as some feel confident leading PE but there are definitely a large chunk of them. This week as part of a BTEC assessment we have year 5 pupils over. The year 5 teacher really enjoys teaching PE and he said many of the coaches that come in, lead the PE when teachers have their PPA. This might suit the school but the teachers are missing out on seeing some good practice and learning new ideas they can use in their own teaching. This teacher shared the same concerns as me, he wants to lead PE and learn more. In fact he even said if he went into secondary school teaching it would have to be PE. Another worry is that some of the coaches might not be as good as they should be. 

The second article is on Baroness Sue Campbell saying that children are gripped by a ‘crisis of inactivity’. I completely agree with her, there is a crisis and I am seeing more and more a lack of motivation to do sport. She also insisted that lack of exercise was also limiting young people’s “ability to achieve in all areas of school life”, with active pupils more likely to perform in the classroom and show higher levels of self-esteem. As a PE teacher and someone who grew up with sport, I know how positive sport can be. It doesn’t have to just be sport, any sort of physical activity can help you feel good and increase your confidence. The problem is, pupils don’t realise this. They are too busy being self conscious about how they look and what others think of them to see the positive benefits of activity. But that is a different story altogether. 

Hopefully, the funding in primary schools will help increase motivation and activity levels in primary schools and then have a knock on effect into secondary schools over the next few years. I also think health and wellbeing needs to be included too, its not just exercise that will teach them how to have a healthy lifestyle. It needs to be all of it. I guess time will only tell if this has a positive impact on the youngsters. I really hope it does. In the meantime, I will continue trying to encourage secondary pupils to be healthy and get more active. As you can probably understand, it is not an easy thing to do. 

Week 4 – BTEC or GCSE

We have now had 4 weeks at school, and they have been busy as usual of course. The main focus of my last week at school was BTEC. We have options evening coming up after half term and needed to decide as a department which courses to offer to our current year 8 pupils. They start their GCSE courses in year 9. This was a change our head implemented 2 years ago. The reason for this, I believe was to prepare them earlier for their GCSEs and hopefully improve their grades.

I currently teach GCSE PE, BTEC Sport and GCSE Dance. I am a massive fan of teaching exam PE as I like to challenge the pupils and enjoy the theory side of the subject. It tests my memory and knowledge too which I really like.

The BTEC course has changed in the last couple of years. There are now online assessments which are conducted in exam conditions. The current course we teach is the old specification, which is 100% coursework but is the last of it’s kind. In respect of this, I needed to do some research into our options for the new course. There is lots of speculation about BTEC courses and their worth compared with GCSEs. I believe it is a good option for pupils with a lower practical ability in sport. Yes, there is a lot of written work, but it also depends on the units you choose. There are some which include a lot of practical too. It teaches them how to evaluate and explain things in more detail. This is something I think many pupils lack. Their understanding of command words and what they mean. The BTEC helps them understand these and then has a knock on effect with their other subjects. In theory anyway. There are other units that they wouldn’t get to learn about in the GCSE course. It can be a varied course depending on the units you choose. 

Many pupils and parents don’t know he difference between the BTEC and the GCSE, this forms part of the problem. I have read many comments on various forums on peoples opinions on them. Comments like “BTEC’s aren’t as good as GCSE’s.” “BTEC’s are regarded as lesser of a qualification.” “How can a BTEC be worth 2 GCSE’s?” These are all valid opinions but said with a lack of understanding. Many schools now offer BTEC qualifications to enable lower end students to achieve. This may not have been possible in a GCSE. It can also enable students who are able to gain a higher qualification than they would in a GCSE. In PE, the GCSE course is 60% practical and 40% theory. For the pupil that really enjoys PE and might want to become a coach or a leader of some sort, yet lacks skills on a practical level, therefore their 60% practical grade wouldn’t be as high as they would like or need, then the BTEC could be perfect for them. It allows them to lead sessions, plan events, evaluate their own and others work in detail, learn about sports development and psychology. These are things you wouldn’t get to do with the GCSE course. As teachers we should be developing pupils and preparing them for their life after education. This gives some pupils a different avenue to follow and allows them to succeed. This is why I think it is an important course to be offered and children need to choose which course they are best suited to wisely. 

Having researched which BTEC course to choose for September; the award, certificate, extended certificate of the diploma, we opted for the one which would challenge the pupils but not provide an unrealistic amount of work. The certificate has 8 units which can be spread over the 3 years. The idea then is to start the course with study skills and improve their understanding of command words before starting any of the units. The next task was to choose the individual units to teach. 2 of then are externally assessed, this provides an extra challenge for the lower ability pupils who struggle with recall. We decided to add in as many units with practical elements as possible. Things like leading a session, fitness for sport, planning an event as these can give them different skills to prepare them for college/work. Some of these are also very different to GCSE PE. 

The next step unfortunately is to attend a course and then re write all of the assignments for each unit. This is something that of course will take lots of time. But I know it’ll be worth it to provide a rounded curriculum in PE. Who knows how long the BTEC will be about, but for now, it is a valid qualification which should be seen as an equivalent to GCSE. If it isn’t, then what was the point in creating it up in the first place?