Reflecting on 2013 and looking forward to 2014 – #Nurture1314

After reading so many excellent blog posts, this has inspired me to reflect upon a hectic year, many good things have happened but there are challenges to be faced and overcome in 2014. So here is my take on 2013 and hopes and challenges for 2014.



I started using Twitter as a CPD and PLN tool in 2012. Twitter was something that Jim Smith emphasised in his INSET course I attended in London and I thought I would give this a go. Without doubt using Twitter has been a revolutionary influence on my teaching career and given me countless opportunities both to network and be involved in a number of educational initiatives that would have otherwise been unknown to me. To all those I have shared resources with, who have helped me along or have exchanged ideas and opinions I thank you as you have reinvigorated and saved me from becoming stale and complacent.

Berkhamsted School’s Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference 2013

Quite rightly, this conference [the first of many, I hope] has gained much coverage on Twitter and I was privileged to be asked to lead a workshop by Nick Dennis [@NickDennis], who masterfully organised this splendid conference – no easy task. I casually agreed not knowing what impact this would have on my professional development. The reaction to my workshop – Signposting Progress – was well received and it was eye opening seeing how this gained coverage on Twitter while I was delivering the session. Also, being able to meet many famous teachers either delivering sessions or on a more informal basis was perhaps the highlight. It is rare that I leave a conference absolutely buzzing – this was one of those occasions. A more detailed review of the conference and my workshop can be found via these links –

Google Cultural Institute

During the summer, I was asked to be part of a team that could review and pilot the Google Cultural Institute in the History classroom by Ed Comms on behalf of Google. Flattered to be asked, I worked with our ICT Department in constructing a project for our Year 8 students on Apartheid in South Africa. This was not only gave our students a different project to undertake but it also enhanced our cross-curricular links with other departments. A more detailed review of this experience can be found via this link –

Back to RE

Because of various cuts being made to the school budget, my teaching timetable has increased has increased by 6 hours and all these hours involved me teaching RE – for the first time in nearly ten years. This I have enjoyed much more than I expected as this has given me the opportunity to teach more students in a different context, given me something different to do and allowed me to apply the different strategies I have been developing over the past couple of years – vicar top trumps being a highlight. Also, I have rewritten the assessments and mark schemes [mainly because there were not enough in accordance with the new assessment policy] which has allowed me to contribute to a different team.


I just love it! Sharing ideas, sharing resources, passing on nuggets and giving credit to others. I am very proud of the new blog I have developed since April and thank you to all those who have given me ideas which I have promoted on here.

Beaumont School’s Teach Meet

I had the pleasure to present at my First Teach Meet which was held in November at Beaumont School. It was the first Teach Meet held at a Hertfordshire state school and Beaumont School did an absolute cracking job. On a cold, wet Friday evening, it was a real pleasure to meet other teachers from different schools and collaborate in sharing ideas. A more detailed review of this event can be found via this link –


Without doubt, I work in a school with a fantastic student body. They have given me moments of despair and frustration but this is outweighed by the many moments of inspiration and enjoyment. I work closely with our Year 12 House Captains and we have a brilliant group of young people who are willing to give up many hours in leading others in House events. My classes always react well to my lessons, giving me honest feedback on what activities they have enjoyed and found useful as well as others that they enjoyed less well. They challenge and demand the very best from me but so many say thank you at the end of the lesson. Amazing.


Over the last few years, there has been an explosion of books that relate to teaching. What is important here, that many of these books have come from teachers themselves who give a realistic perspective but also come up with many teaching gems. I can be a little obsessive here as I do buy many of the books published by Independent Thinking but each one has given me food for thought and things to think about. 2013’s highlights include Ross Morrison McGill [@teachingToolkit] – 100 ideas for Secondary School Teachers – Outstanding Lessons and Mark Anderson’s [@ICTEvangelist] Perfect ICT in Every Lesson. Reviews of each can be found via the links below –

Not only have there been many books but also the development of the teacher blog has become an important development in personal CPD. There are so many to choose from but Russel Tarr, Gemma Harvey and David Didau’s blogs have challenged my thinking as well as provide me with ideas that I can tailor to my classes. Their blogs can be found below –

Hopes for 2014

Holding the fort

2013 ended with bad news. My Head of Department is seriously ill and will be out of action for the rest of the academic year, at best. This has meant a reshuffling of timetables to cover her exam classes. I have borne the brunt of this by covering 3 of the 5 exam classes. This has led to many of my Key Stage 3 classes and my Year 10 class being split up. This is a difficult situation, which is no one’s fault but has placed me in a challenging position with Ofsted likely to visit us next term. I am teaching both groups of Year 13 for the English History paper which means a massive marking load. I also have to write both Year 12 and Year 13 trial exam papers for next month. This is a real challenge – not only keeping up with the mark load, but to reassure parents and students as well as teaching effective lessons and ensuring that students are getting the very best exam chances in trying circumstances. Next term is going to see me as a thing of perpetual motion. Wish me luck, I am determined to meet the challenge head on.

A new challenge

It is time for me to have a new challenge. I have been Deputy Head of Sixth Form, Deputy Head of Year, have run House events for over ten years, and am currently Student Leadership and Student Voice co-ordinator. These experiences have undoubtedly made me a better teacher, widened my teaching perspective and raised my profile within the school community. Now, it is time for something else. This may be influenced by the fact I will turn 40 in 2014 but I am looking to do something new before staleness and complacency sets in. Whether this challenge is in the same school or elsewhere I am open to whatever comes my way. Let’s see what 2014 brings ….

Ofsted is on its way

We are due an Ofsted next term …….

Continue sharing

This has been a highlight of 2013, hopefully it will be in 2014.

Berkhamsted School’s Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference 2014

This time I will be a delegate and looking at what is on offer this is an essential CPD event of 2014. I have happily spent my own money to come along and also sacrificed a Saturday on the football terraces to be there. Also there are some fantastic pubs in Berkhamsted – anyone want to join me afterwards for some fine ale/cider?

Work/life balance

This has taken a massive hit since September. My dancing has been less frequent [I am a jive teacher in my spare time] and this was something I vowed not to do when I started to hit the dancefloor ten years ago. Exercise and bursting the teacher bubble is essential for stamina and sanity. 2014 will be different to the second half of 2013.

Cuban Missile Crisis independent learning tasks menu

This latest resource builds upon the new idea of an independent learning task menu as blogged here – – which was an idea built upon from @PeteJackson32’s work.

This resource is an independent learning task menu for the topic of the Cuban Missile Crisis and is geared for GCSE students, who will be given this leaflet at the start of the topic which begins next term.

The Cuban Missile Crisis menu plan

Giving students a homework or revision menu of independent learning

I wanted to write this blog post to share a teaching technique that has just recently saved my bacon in an emergency situation -something I will expand upon later. This idea came from Pete Jackson [@PeteJackson32 – do follow him on Twitter as he shares some really good stuff], a Yorkshire-based Head of Humanities. The idea also takes me back to my old German teacher who used a similar, if less nuanced, strategy in my lessons 20 years ago.

Recently, Pete highlighted his resource which was presented in a menu format in a four page leaflet. The menu contained a variety of Home Learning tasks from which students could choose to demonstrate their learning. The different types of tasks were structured in levels like a menu. So this means that –

Starter exercises provided overviews and focused upon reinforcing knowledge.
Main course exercises provided more in-depth, demanding tasks and focused upon applying knowledge.
Dessert exercises provided broader = more creative tasks that focused upon applying and exploring tasks.

An example of such a menu can be downloaded below as a clear example of how this task setting strategy works.

Elizabeth I foreign policy menu plan

This, I thought, was a fabulous way of presenting tasks and allowing independent learning to flourish. Pete kindly sent me an electronic copy of the resource to play with and I thought it could be applied in a variety of ways other than Home Learning tasks. So for example –

Topic based menus can be created for a revision programme, where students choose their own revision tasks to complete and for you to check.

But this is where it has truly saved my bacon recently. There has been a long term illness in the department I work in and I have been asked to take responsibility all the Year 13 and Year 10 classes in her absence. Now the timetable restrictions have led to the fact I cannot teach all the lessons for these classes. So I have created topic menus for the areas of the courses for these classes and will be setting tasks from these menus. Therefore, students have choice on how to demonstrate their learning, but also they will never have the excuse of never having any work to do. Especially as some of these tasks can be completed twice with different exam questions or readings. Ideal as then parents are confident that their students are being looked after in the event of a long term absence of a teacher.

In addition, the menu has attached to it a Twitter hashtag [#AskMitch] which I can monitor through the Department Twitter account and students can contact me and ask questions if necessary as well as my school email address so students can send me work based from the tasks on the menu.

This is a superb task setting strategy that promotes independent learning and can save your bacon, like it has done for me. Thank you, Pete, for being so generous and sharing this inspirational idea.

Pointless Henry VIII quiz

This quiz is based on the quiz show Pointless and is something I have been meaning to do for ages. Thanks must go to former colleague, Mike Elliott [@mfe1409], for providing the inspiration for this. The theme is Henry VIII and is targeted towards Key Stage 3 students. The quiz has 6 rounds all based on the kind of questions you would see on Pointless. The resources include a PowerPoint with questions and answers and an answer sheet which you can copy for your teams.

Pointless – Henry VIII Version 2

Pointless answer card – Henry VIII