The last push!

Less than two weeks before the GCSE exam and many teachers, PE geeks and middle leaders will recognise the signs of what I like to call ‘silly season’.  Typical symptoms of this time of year include:

  • Losing the sports hall to exam desks, chairs and clocks (obviously it will start to rain now!)
  • You can’t get through an hour of school without someone mentioning intervention or revision
  • You seem to working at least 10 times harder than most of the pupils I’m your class
  • You start to worry and try to second guess the exam board (what will they think of think year to try to catch the students out?!)

So how do you cope? How do you dig deep when you’re already exhausted and your students still seem to missing the most basic information in their brains and can’t seem to stop writing answers like a 5-year-old?! How do you prepare yourself and the students for the big day(s) and avoid tipping over boiling point? Here are my top tips for getting through silly season…

  1. Plan! Plan your revision time and, if you think it will help, provide a revision plan for your students.  It will give you peace of mind that you’ve at least tried to cover as much as you can in the limited time available or prioritised the most important bits.
  2. Variety! Revision lessons feel like a slog towards the end as you try to achieve a good balance between entertaining the students through fun games and activities and focusing on the slightly less exciting but very important exam question prep and serious stuff.
  3. Time out breaks! Everyone needs them.  You encourage your students to take them regularly during revision so why don’t you make sure you take them regularly during revision planning and marking?  Easier said than done but it is soooo important in guaranteeing a better quality experience of revision when you’re with your students.

The next two school weeks are vitally important for my GCSE students leading up to 15 May (it’s cram time!) but equally so are the next five weeks for my A2 group (longer and steadier cram but there’s lots to fit in).  Somehow you have to hold on to the belief that it will be over soon and you managed to survive last year, coming out of the other side relatively unscathed. Keep going even when you don’t feel like it but the extra dig deep effort now will pay off in August. Good luck to everyone embarking on 2015 public exams.  Let silly season commence!


My #Top5 for 2014

My eyes have been well and truly opened on Twitter this year.  There are so many great people blogging and tweeting great ideas and reflections, as well as great authors writing marvellous books, that you just can’t help being inspired. So here are my #Top 5 for 2014…

#Top5 people to follow on Twitter

@TeacherToolkit is my ‘go to guy’ for teaching ideas, thought provoking blogs and links to new inspiring people to follow in the education community.  He is literally the most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK. 

@tombrush1982 is at the very peak of collaborative sharing of PE teaching and learning ideas. He has inspired many a board rush activity in our department and across the school, even from the Twitter-phobes!

@mrrobbo The PE Geek himself. Full of ideas, podcasts and apps for fellow PE geeks such as myself. Inventor of some really good tech and apps too. 

@pe4learning The place to be for sharing ideas and resources amongst the PE community. The depth, breadth and quality of the resources available here is first class, especially for GCSE and A Level PE, no matter what exam board you follow. 

@ImSporticus links to his very honest and down-to-earth reflective blog. His struggles at the helm of PE leadership and achieving a realistic work-life balance struck a particular resonant chord with me.  Well worth a follow.

#Top5 blog posts I’ve read in 2014

The Power of Not Yet by @TeacherToolkit is a short but thought-provoking read about growth mindset and building resilient learners.  The emphasis on ‘not yet’ really i stills the potential for growth in learners and teachers alike if they set about their learning with practice and persistence. 

The 5-minute Lesson Plan by @TeacherToolkit is the most resourceful blog I read. So much so that I signed up for licence access to the toolkit so I could plan my lessons online or on my iPad. I’ve used it for performance management lesson observations and general run of the mill Year 8 badminton lessons.  Both proved equally effective in planning engaging and challenging lessons without feeling like your just filling in boxes for the sake of it.  If you’ve had your head stuck in the sand for the last few years here’s a link to explain the concept

Growth Mindset in the Classroom by @LeadingLearner is a thought-provoking piece about how to develop a supportive and positive work culture across the teaching and support staff.  Although written with the whole school in mind, it generated plenty of thoughts in me for our PE Department development.

The Health and Well Being of a PE Teacher by @ImSporticus hit home a little too close to the bone when I first read it.  It was the kick up the bum I needed to get my own life in perspective a make a few life changes in order to preserve and enhance my own well being.

Well Being  @ImSporticus‘s follow up the above blogpost and my most recent read. The point he makes about using reflective writing in order to organise thoughts and emotions is really good advice. For me journalling is meditation with a pen (or an iPad!).

#Top5 books I read in 2014 (or I’m still in the middle of reading)

100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Outstanding Lessons by Ross Morrison McGill (Mr @TeacherToolkit himself). A great read to dip in and out of for ideas on a whole range of T&L themes including questioning, starters and plenaries and homework.

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck. This is one that I’m currently enjoying and haven’t quite finished yet. A really inspiring read that can be applied to students, teachers and leaders alike. 

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown is my top read of 2014.  It sounds bizarre to say that a book really spoke to you but by that I mean I really identified with the concepts of shame, vulnerability and connection on both a personal and professional level. By coincidence Brene also provides my two most watched TedTalks of all time on  The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.

Don’t Change the Lightbulbs is a collection of tips, hints and ideas from a range of respected educationalists and leaders, compiled by Rachel Jones. Again, not one I’ve finished yet but a good ‘dip in, dip out’ when you need a much needed ‘lightbulb’ moment (pardon the pun!)

Cycle of Lies by Juliet Macur is a brilliant read about the fall of Lance Armstrong. Reaching all the way back into his early childhood and initial success as a young athlete, Macur really exposes Armstrong for the person he truly is and it’s not a pretty picture.  I was so excited about this book I raved about it to my A Level class, who smiled and nodded, and then opted to watch the documentary about him instead!

#Top5 quotes that inspired me in 2014 (in pictures)

And that’s me!



This is my first Nurture review, although it has been a common thing for tweeters and bloggers alike for the last three years.  I guess you could say I a little late coming to the party but better late than never! The idea has been slimmed down and simplified for 2015. 5 super things that happened in 2014 and 5 hopes for 2015.  So, onto the review of 2014…

1. Stress survival

This year has most definitely been one for managing or not managing my stress levels.  There were times in the year that were really tough and forced me to doubt myself and my abilities as a middle leader, but as I sit here typing away I am 100% certain that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.  No doubts, no worries.  The biggest lesson I learned was that no matter how stressful things get, I can do it!

2. Team PE and the support network

Team PE has evolved in all sorts of ways this year and we’re stronger than ever. An almost complete new look from a year ago but it’s not the look that matters, it’s the feel.  The vibe/buzz/culture is evolving into one of support and collaboration.  Are we there yet? Hell no, but at least we’re heading in the right direction. But it’s not just the colleagues in the department that are fab and supportive in all kinds of ways.  I know and appreciate massively the wider support network I have in school.  There is always a person who can advise me on a particular problem or if they don’t have a solution, they know someone who might.  From the big bosses that ask all the right questions to challenge me in the right way to the incredible people who tolerate my rants, make me a cup of tea and tell me how it is when I need telling.  I am grateful.

3. Line management change

It’s amazing the power and momentum that can be harnessed from one small change.  This is not to say that my previous line manager was not supportive, they were very much so, but there are some people in the world that you professionally click with.  My current line manager is just that.  We think in the same way, have common interests and are not afraid to be honest with each other.  It feels more like a collaboration than a ‘guide me in the right direction, kind of relationship.  It has inspired me to simply be the best I can be whilst staying in the real world.

4. Twitter CPD

Wow! I was late in coming to the Twitter party (recurring theme) but not as late as the many PE teachers who still haven’t twigged on. It is by far the best place to find inspiration when your short of ideas and just keep up to date with what’s happening with the world.  It is hard to keep up with the Tweachers (as I call the Tweeting teachers) but well worth the time and effort to keep your practice fresh and inspire new ideas.

5. The students

Ok, so it may seem a little cheesy to put them on the list or some may question why they’ve only appeared at No. 5 as almost an afterthought but a) there is no deliberate rank order to my list and b) they should appear on every teachers list.  If you’re having a bad day, feeling under the weather or just not in a good mood one small but massively lovely student can change all of that in a heart beat.  They may finally master hitting the shuttle over the net, perform their shoulder stand with pointed toes or just say a simple thank you but it’s the small things that matter.  Yes, they can be challenging at times (many, many times!) but if a 16 year old boy stops you on his way out of school on the last day of term just to wish you a Happy Christmas you know you must doing something right.

So what of 2015? Here are my hopes…

A) To give back to the Twitter and blogging community

Ever since I joined Twitter I have felt a certain amount of guilt at my voyeuristic one way relationship with PE and teaching community out there.  I would frequently visit websites and steal ideas from photos posted on Twitter and blogs written during a hectic time in the term (when is there a non-hectic time?!) but I would never give back.  I guess there was a part of me that thought what could they possibly learn from me/who would be interested in what I have to say? A bit like the people who constantly update their status on Facebook just to tell you what type of biscuit they’re dunking in their tea today. And there is a risk that the fear will become the reality but it’s time to take that risk, share a few ideas on here and via @PEteachAbbey tweets and give back a little.

B) To build an even better team 

Like I said, team PE are not quite there yet but nore do I believe that they will ever be ‘there’.  Growth and development are all about the journey not the destination.  My hopes are that we build a more positive and credible professional profile across the wider school community, continue to grow and develop the quality of T&L in PE with collaboration and support forming a central theme and finally, that we foster a more supportive and trusting culture between leaders and teachers (one that dissolves fear of judgement whenever there’s an observation, work scrutiny or learning walk).

C) To improve my own practice

A teacher who fails to improve the quality of their own T&L or at least fails to try really should retire now.  I went through a phase of complacency about seven years ago where all of my good ideas seemingly had been sucked away along with a little bit of life.  It really was a creative drought and not a place I hope to find myself in again but with the right mindset I cannot see that happening.  Yes, there are times when you are simply too busy to plan an all-singing-and-dancing lesson (most of the time) or just can’t stay up any later to design a more engaging information sheet but I must make it my No. 1 priority this year.  I want to explore the use of technology to engage PE learners.  I want to experiment with using SOLO taxonomy to set challenging learning objectives for my lesson.  I want to bring creative ideas into the GCSE revision classroom to get the very best out of the football-loving lads who simply find classroom life a tad boring compared to kicking a ball around! 

D) Host a PE Conference

This has been quite a recent development since attending the North East PE Conference up at Cramlington Learning Village.  One of my prime reasons for going was the lack of collaborative PE meetings going on in our own educational area and I found myself sat there thinking we could totally do this.  Whilst the thought of creating such a massive event (170 sell out) is quite daunting and probably unrealistic at this stage, I think we could do a good job of kick-starting it up and hosting an event to provide opportunities for collaboration and development across the PE community in our area.  Watch this space!

E) Buy some iPads for PE

I mentioned this briefly above but I am desperate to purchase some iPads to use in the PE department.  Over the last year I have managed to put together two very professional and strong bids to gain funding for iPads in PE only to be told that funding for the project had been pulled (first occasion) and I needed to reapply for a different funding stream as the ‘pots of money’ had be redefined.  So on Monday 5 January a new, and hopefully final, bid will be sent to the right people I order to get some much technology into the department. Fingers crossed!

Well it was quite the list but a reflective and useful one for me to just take stock of the current successes of 2014 and hopefully future successes of 2015.