Ardingly Teacher Flight Path


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Jamie Large


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I have a few games/activities I use in various lessons that I find useful. They make good starters and plenaries. Feel free to use!

1.If this is the answer, what is the question. Write some answers on the board and the students have to create questions for them.

2.Scattergories - give them one letter and they have to use it at the beginning of a sentence to demonstrate something they have learned.

3.Multiple choice stand-up sit down - give them 4 possible answers to some questions. Ones that get it right stay standing after each one and keep asking questions until you get down to one or two people left standing.

4. Battleships - tell students to write as many answers to a broad question. Then they all stand up and try to knock each other out by saying answers that others haven't.

5. Pictionary - always a good one.

6. How could what you have learnt change the world? You can end the lesson with this question and see what they come up with.

Maybe some of those might be of use to some out there...
AliWood - May 15, 2014

By the way, just looking at the teaching abroad / sabbatical section. If anyone is interested in teaching in the Upper East region of Ghana, I know a number of heads of senior high schools that would be grateful for a good teacher for any length of time really. They’d probably be able to sort out accommodation and food.
anthonylovat - May 15, 2014

Ha! I've just realised I have written two point number 3s! My top 10 is actually a top 11!
anthonylovat - May 15, 2014

My top 10 ideas for what is great teaching here at Ardingly? (And anywhere really).
1. Learning. Obviously kids need to learn. Duh. A good lesson should demonstrate learning to the teacher for assessment and, to instil a sense of achievement, the kids themselves. This doesn't need to be complicated - a few quiz questions or a recap of the objectives as a plenary. It's amazing how many lessons I've seen that ignore this though.
2. Fearlessness. There is a dangerous myth that “strict” teaching, where kids obediently follow instructions from the teacher under threat of sanctions, can be a good thing. A positive learning environment is never built upon fear. Children learn through failure and they should not fear it. Fear of failure can be a particular problem in top sets. This is closely related to the next 2 points…
3. Enjoyment. Every lesson cannot be enjoyable but, if you think of lessons you’ve taught that you’d classify as “great”, they are surely ones that the kids themselves enjoyed. This can manifest itself in various ways – a game, a competition, a practical, a joke or banter, some music etc. Usually you can judge enjoyment by looking at the expression on their faces.
3. Respect. An overused and misinterpreted word – especially when used in an urban context (perhaps not such a problem at Ardingly?). A respectful relationship is built upon trust and trust in any relationship is easy to lose. Respectful student-teacher and student-student relationships are the foundation of a great lesson. To reiterate point 2, this does not mean fearful obedience – it’s about wanting to do the right thing for the other person. It’s about respect. This is difficult to see in a lesson observation but undeniably is a key component of what makes great teaching.
4. Cross-curricular. Relating the learning objectives to other subjects. Some topics are obviously way easier to do this than others but a great lesson is usually one that students can see the relevance and importance to their own lives and the knock on effects on other subjects. Examples might include how learning about lungs relates to smoking or learning about the carbon cycle relates to climate or integration relates to modelling gravity or Macbeth relates to psychology or Tudor history relates to ethics.
5. Differentiation. This really is not a new-fangled concept. It’s been around for a generation but I have observed so many lessons where it’s not considered. Perhaps because it has 6 syllables, people are intimidated by the concept. Differentiation by outcome isn’t really good enough. Some consideration of differentiation by task / learning style / special needs / language is needed for great teaching. If you have point 3 sorted, by the way, this tends to happen organically.
6. No copying. This is a massive bugbear of mine. All research shows that you don’t learn well from copying notes. I know lots of teachers do this. I know many parents expect it (and need educating as to why it’s a waste of time). I know many kids derive some comfort from copying neat notes but… it’s not great teaching. It’s just not. Talk to anyone who’s been to university in the last few years and they’ll tell you that universities don’t even expect the frantic note taking they used to so that excuse isn’t valid for teachers any more. There is no excuse. Great thinking requires mental processing and copying notes off a board does not require any brainpower. It’s dead time.
7. Engaging starter. When playing jazz, they say that so long as you start and finish well, what happens in the middle doesn’t matter so much. There are whole books written with ideas for a good starter to a lesson. Pick one. My personal favourite is pass the parcel with a question in each layer related to the learning in the previous lesson and comedy forfeits for if they get it wrong. It requires a bit of prep so I don’t do it that often but if you remember what questions are in each layer you can even differentiate by targeting the questions at particular kids.
8. Great kids. A great chef would struggle to cook a gourmet meal with bad ingredients and, similarly, great teaching is much more difficult with bad kids. We’re so lucky to have the amenable kids we have here and we ought not to take them for granted. With ingredients like the ones we have here, we have the opportunity to create a lot of great teaching.
9. Student work on the wall. I stick drawings done by my 2-year-old on the fridge because, although he’s unlikely to be the next Picasso, I’m proud of the effort nonetheless. Sticking student work on the wall shows you value it so I’m always a bit suspicious when I go into a classroom and there’s naked walls or glossy mass-produced posters up. It’s not a vital part of good teaching but, I would argue, it’s a good indicator of a positive learning environment and ought to be encouraged.
10. Judge outcomes over a long time period. Ofsted inspectors now will judge teaching based on 20 minutes in a classroom. How ridiculous. Good teaching at Ardingly ought to be assessed over a year and, perhaps, even 5 years as a student matures from shell to UVI (and I say this as someone who has learned how to do quite well over a 20 minute observation). I realise this is a pipe dream.
N.B. Although ICT is important, I wouldn’t put it on a top 10 list. It’s a useful tool and, although it can facilitate great teaching, it can just as easily be used for its own sake and can become a barrier to developing inter-personal skills.
So this is my humble opinion. You can probably tell it hasn’t been copied and pasted. If you’ve read down this far, thanks for persisting and let me know if you agree or disagree with anything.
Apologies for overusing the word “kids”.
anthonylovat - May 15, 2014

This is an excellent article on the present state of Mindfulness and challeneges it faces, written by Ed Halliwell who is running a 5 week course for staff here at Ardingly:

7 Questions About Mindfulness That Still Need An Answer
Ed Halliwell on the next frontiers in mindfulness.

It’s been a year since I updated this blog—a combination of teaching, book-writing, and a baby have squeezed the time I’ve had available for other things. Now with a little more space, I wondered how to begin again, especially with so much note-worthy happening in the world of mindfulness in the last 12 months.

To set some intention, I wrote down a list of seven mindfulness-related questions that seem live and unresolved. Many of them are concerned with the continuing rapid expansion of interest in mindfulness, and the possible opportunities and challenges this presents. I plan to touch on each of them more fully in the coming weeks and months.

The list isn’t meant as definitive or exhaustive, and there may not (yet) be clear answers to any of the questions. I would very much welcome your additions, disagreements, or any other comments. I will do my best to reflect on and address them in future posts.

1. Mindfulness is being adopted by the mainstream very quickly. Does this help or hinder the movement?

The huge interest in mindfulness carries great potential, but urgency of pursuit can easily leads to grasping for results, speediness, and surface-skimming. And these, of course, are the very stress-producing habits that mindfulness training is designed to address. I’ve noticed that some courses seem to be getting shorter, with less time, practice, and investment required. Is this doing participants, and mindfulness, a disservice, or can these skills really be mastered in a few weeks, days, hours or even minutes? I heard of one magazine editor recently declaring mindfulness to be ‘over’—they were already looking for the next big thing in well-being. If short attention spans and impulsivity are part of the problem, will over-simplification and impatience really be the answer?

2. How can deep, contemplative wisdom be preserved in non-religious mindfulness training?

Mindfulness is often talked of as the simple practice of ‘being in the moment.' Traditionally, meditative training is much more than this—it is embedded in ethics (how to live with wisdom and compassion), along with a pointing to the insubstantiality of our self-concepts, to which we painfully cling. These aspects are implicit (and sometimes explicit) in good mindfulness teaching, but the subtlety of their presentation means they can easily get left out, if not consciously curated. With so much science now happening in the fields of compassion, gratitude and appreciation, could these and other key evidence-based themes be integrated (or re-integrated) more explicitly into the mindfulness courses and cultures now being developed?

3. What happens when we move from the ‘I’ to the ‘We’ of mindfulness?

Until now, the modern mindfulness movement – both the science and the training - has focused on benefits to the individual. But what about the potential for changes to systems, institutions, and societies, which after all, have an impact on personal well-being (and vice versa)? If mindfulness is taught within a mindless culture, what gives? Can mindfulness start to infuse that culture with kindness, or will that culture bend mindfulness to its own ends, perhaps chipping away at its radicalism and presenting it as a palliative—a way of coping with systemic dysfunction rather than a means to change it? What might happen if the emphasis was more explicitly put on mindfulness as a social, or even political practice?

4. What are the key questions in mindfulness research?

It’s generally well-established that mindfulness courses are helpful for promoting well-being. The question to which researchers are increasingly turning towards is ‘how’? It’s been generally assumed that meditation practice is the key active ingredient in a course, but the science has been somewhat equivocal about this. Could it be that other factors are just as, if not more, important? A good mindfulness course generally provides a resonant, supportive group, and training in attitudes such as gentleness, compassion, steadfastness, appreciation, acceptance, and nurturing. How important are these to the health-producing changes that occur? What other aspects of traditional meditative training (such as ethics, exploration of self-nature, the making of commitments, the building of communities) might also be demonstrably beneficial? Are there more recent scientific discoveries (say, in the science of unconscious biases) where mindfulness training might have an impact? Early work is being carried out in these areas, and it will likely be fascinating to see the results.

5. What makes a good mindfulness teacher?

If you were looking to learn the piano, what would you look for in a teacher? Someone who loves music and can transmit their joy and passion? Someone who’s been playing themselves a long time and has a degree of proficiency? Someone who understands the pitfalls and difficulties and has the patience and skill to work with students? With no regulation of and huge demand for mindfulness courses, plus lots of enthusiasm among would-be teachers, how can we know if what’s being offered is helpful? Meditators in some traditions would be expected to train for decades before they began teaching others, and it’s often said that mindfulness is ‘caught’ as much as ‘taught,’ so will courses led by relatively inexperienced practitioners work as well? How can we help those looking for an authentic training to know what that might be, and to train those who want to deliver it?

6. What happens when a mindfulness course ends?

Many mindfulness courses are eight weeks long or less. Yet evidence and experience suggests that while remarkable changes can occur during such a short, intensive training, the possibility for deepening practice doesn’t end there—indeed, for most people, it’s only just beginning. And yet, while some teachers offer graduate courses and follow-up sessions, many people coming to the end of a mindfulness course report a sense of ‘falling off a cliff’—after a period of intensive support and learning, this ground suddenly falls away, as, frequently, does their practice, even though they are strongly motivated. In the rush to meet demand for ‘beginners’ courses, how can the yearning for connection be met, among those who’ve already started on this rewarding, challenging path?

7. Are there deeper reasons to practise than stress-reduction?

Reports in the media about the benefits of mindfulness can seem like a constant stream of good news – mental health, physical health, relationships, behavioural habits, competency, and creativity can all be improved, while stress relating to all sorts of circumstances can be reduced. This is excellent of course, but what about the aspects of being alive that are less easy to face up to? Does mindfulness have a role, for example, in working with the knowledge that we, and everyone we love, is going to die?

With all the focus on quick gains to health and happiness, there may be something deeper to these practices that our positive-results focused science and culture is missing. If so, could it be spoken of, perhaps not in the language of data, but with the language of the heart? ‘Turning towards difficulty’ is at the very core of a mindfulness course, but with our habits of avoidance, it’s also perhaps the aspect that gets talked of the least, at least in mainstream media reports. How can courage (and airspace) be found for the uncertainties, the anxieties, the suffering, the losses that can come into awareness when we pay attention, as well as the material benefits that we get so excited about? Indeed, could it be that the receiving of these benefits actually depend on our willingness to turn towards unpalatable truths? By neglecting them, might we receive a lesser version of the wellbeing we crave, and miss out on a deeper sense of meaning and value—one that can’t easily be summarized in a newspaper headline, or a scientific study abstract?
jamielarge - May 8, 2014

Why we will come to see mindfulness as mandatory

Mindfulness is selling millions of books and apps, it appears on the front cover of Time magazine, pops up in the Financial Times and is used by all kinds of people from corporate executives and nurses to sportsmen and primary school children. Once a poorly understood New Age fad, it has moved from the margins to the mainstream. Nothing demonstrates that better than the launch of an all-party parliamentary group on mindfulness on Wednesday.

At this point I will come clean. I am one of a group of people working with three universities (Oxford, Exeter and Bangor) to support the all-party group. What interests us – academics, journalists, mindfulness teachers – is the potential for public policy. What role could mindfulness play in schools, in the NHS or in the criminal justice system?

But let's start with definitions, which are notoriously difficult with this phenomenon. What exactly is mindfulness? Because it has precious little to do with the pretty women sitting on beaches with their eyes closed who are usually used to illustrate articles on the subject. The only way to explain is to suggest you try. Right now. Close your eyes and bring your attention into your body, to the sensation of your feet on the ground; the movements of your breath, the expansion of your rib cage. Stay with these tiny physical sensations. Patiently. Without getting cross with yourself for getting distracted. Try it for two minutes.

Unfamiliar? It is, because our minds spin with thought, and we are absent to much of our physical experience. But bringing the attention back to the most basic and essential part of living – the breath – we can slowly bring an awareness of the obsessive thought patterns and the instant reactions which on reflection we so often realise were unhelpful or even destructive.

Mindfulness is both astonishingly simple and, for most of us who live in our heads, very difficult. It is also immensely rewarding, as plenty of people are discovering. I would argue that it is probably the most important life skill I am learning (after 15 years of practice, I am acutely aware that there is always more to learn). It is up there with reading, and probably in my old age with eyesight gone, it will prove more valuable to me than books.

The interesting thing about mindfulness is that it would probably have stayed on the margins – a passion for only a few – if it hadn't been taken up by scientists as a subject for research 40 years ago. It started with an American scientist, Jon Kabat-Zinn, who began to research its value in dealing with chronic pain. It is now widely used in hospitals all over the world.

An international team, including Mark Williams, a psychologist at the University of Oxford, then led research trials into mindfulness as a treatment for recurrent depression. Their success led to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommending it as a treatment. There are now passionate advocates within the NHS running projects around the country.

But increasingly, academics such as Willem Kuyken, a psychologist at Exeter University, are asking whether, if mindfulness can work for depression and pain, anyone else might benefit? What role could it play in schools, and could it help our national epidemic of mental ill health in adolescents?

The analogy that Kabat-Zinn uses is with jogging. In the 1960s when he started running, people thought him a bit odd. Now on a Sunday morning parks and streets are full of people pounding away. The take-up rate for mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn says, is much sharper than for jogging. In another decade, one can imagine that it will be widely accepted and understood as a valuable way to look after your mental health. Just as physical exercise is vital to a desk-bound workforce, so mindfulness will come to be seen as vital for dealing with the complexity of our information-rich lives.

What mindfulness slowly brings to our understanding is how much our experience is shaped by our minds. To have that insight as a personal experience rather than something one reads in the growing body of scientific literature on the subject is transformational. It loosens that reactivity which can trap us in a limiting loop, and allows for very different responses which can manifest in all kinds of ways – greater creativity, more empathy, more patience, less judgment.

Some call this a mindfulness revolution but, like Jonathan Rowson at the Royal Society of Arts in a recent thoughtful blog, I think the jury is still out. Mindfulness is derived from Buddhist meditation, which at its heart is revolutionary in its emphasis on compassion and non-harm. It is profoundly counter-cultural in its asceticism. But this derivative has been meticulously framed as secular by a generation of scientists.

They identified that the Buddha's insights into the behaviour of the human mind was resonating with breakthroughs in psychology and neuroscience. Delinked from Buddhist ethics, mindfulness could become a form of performance enhancement – some of the enthusiasm coming from the corporate sectors and military leads it dangerously in this direction. That is a real risk. As is the danger of a sort of wild west of unregulated teachers, which any cursory web search reveals is well under way.

Another risk is that it becomes the privilege of the stressed middle classes who can afford the courses. Some of the most inspiring work is being done by people like Gary Heads in County Durham who is working with unemployed people. Or the project in Cardiff which taught the single mum who recently stood in front of a gathering of Welsh Assembly members to describe movingly how mindfulness had helped her to be a better parent, as well as to find the confidence for public speaking.

The point is that, diligently practised, it very quietly and slowly revolutionises lives in multiple ways – sometimes small, sometimes big. And when you start noticing that process of change – both in yourself and in others – it is quite simply astonishing.

jamielarge - May 8, 2014

Interesting thoughts on mindfulness from Dr Anthony Seldon, Master at Wellington College

samshelley - May 7, 2014

Posted by Gwilym Batchelder, Head of D&T:

I love it when students learn or are already carrying out a particular skill but don’t actually realise it.

For example, evaluating, analysing, thinking critically about something….. potentially words that conjure up ‘lots of writing’ in students minds and potentially boredom as a result! Yet they are already carrying out all of these skills when they go shopping for shoes, the latest gadget or whatever they are looking to purchase! You go into a shoe shop and immediately analyse the products before you mentally: “I like that colour”, “don’t like that style”, “that looks hideous!!”, “too expensive”, “I like that brand” – and the mental list goes on. Students are already evaluating what is before them, analysing and thinking critically about things it’s just a case of pointing that out to them and then getting them to go through the same mental checklist relating it to the task in hand.
tom.caston - May 6, 2014

thanks to Georgina Dore for this link on Mindfulness (copy the URL)

tom.caston - May 6, 2014

There are many key indicators of great teaching in no particular order. The key is whether teaching really ‘ignites the spark’ in students. Here are some ideas, but not an exhaustive list:
1. Teachers are inspired and enthused by ideas in their subject and by what they are teaching.
2. Learners are inspired and enthused by the teaching, and respect their teachers.
3. Teaching differentiates between learners in order to extend them as best fits their individual needs.
4. Teaching extends all students beyond their comfort zone but within the realm of what they can cope with.
5. Teaching is organised and well planned in accordance with schemes of work and specifications.
6. Teaching is flexible to the needs of the moment in a given lesson, not slavish to a lesson plan at the expense of being creative and engaging for learners.
7. Teachers have an excellent rapport with students without trying to please them. Behaviour is managed effectively and positively, and teachers show care and respect for their students.
8. Teachers explain concepts clearly and patiently.
9. Lessons show a variety of teaching methodologies. This includes, amongst other things, the effective use of ICT where it genuinely improves learning.
10. Lessons are fast-paced and well constructed, but don’t shy away from giving time for students to think, reflect, read and even, where appropriate, be still.
11. Teaching encourages students to work together, learn from each other and critically reflect on each other’s work and ideas.
12. Lesson aims are explained effectively, but lessons allow a sense of mystery when it helps students to engage in topics themselves.
13. Lessons are creative and encourage divergent thinking, but also focus on the practical necessities of doing well in examinations.
13. Teachers give detailed and regular written and oral feedback to students on class work and homework. Formative comments are a significant contributor to improved learning in students.
14. Lessons are taught in a safe environment.
15. Teaching reinforces the Christian Ardingly ethos and draws from it. Lessons help to promote a sense of awe and wonder and encourage students to keep developing their own journey of the spirit.
16. Teaching encourages students and teachers to keep developing habits of effective learning, like those on the ALP.
jamielarge - May 1, 2014

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