First of all ‘Happy Holidays’! Thought I would make my contribution to #nurture1314 on what has been quite an eventful 2013! As the year draws to a close I’m going to take this opportunity to reflect on my teaching highlights and achievements from my first full year teaching in Dubai and also my first taste of Senior Leadership. This time last year I had not heard of Teach Meets, was not at all au fait with blogging and would have chosen Facebook over Twitter every day of the week….what a difference 12 months makes! 🙂

Here were my new term’s resolutions for the beginning of the Spring term, back in April 2013. Pleased to say I achieved all three 🙂

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Teaching highlights/achievements 2013

Twitter I remember being very bored one Sunday evening in March 2013, to try and alleviate the boredom I started to scroll through my personal Twitter account, (which I barely used) and found Ross McGill’s Blog. Here I began to read about Twitter CPD/Teach Meets and other professional development opportunities and it flicked a little light switch in my brain. I created a professional account and soon began to realise there were so many other like minded teachers out there, passionate about professional learning and education. It has been great to begin to develop my school’s account and also to see so many of my colleagues at SRS take the plunge and create their own accounts, 45 staff at last count which I am really pleased with J . On a personal level, I have learnt so much from Twitter over the last 10 months from interacting with other teachers on #SlTchat, reading Blog posts, having my thinking challenged on a daily basis. It has made me a far more reflective practitioner, a better teacher and has opened doors to a window of opportunities. There are some highly inspirational educators on there, too many of you to thank individually, if I have spoken to you, retweeted or favourited your work then it means I hold you in high regard. A special mention to Stephen Lockyer for his encouragement in the very beginning, also to Tom Sherrington, Ross McGill, Shaun Allison and Kev Bartle, I have learned a lot from you regarding Senior Leadership/T&L. so thank you and keep up the great work!

Teach Meets #SPARKuae Calling my professional account on Twitter @Dubai_Teachmeet was a deliberate attempt to try and put together a Teach Meet in Dubai, having been inspired by what I had seen developing in the UK. Within a couple of hours I was put in touch with Mark Wood, Lee Garrett and Mark Barrington who had the same idea and had already founded #SPARKuae, the UAE’s version of the Teach Meet. It has been great to work with such like minded individuals in the UAE, with the same passion for CPD and collaboration as I have. Unfortunately I missed the first SPARK event by a week, however was able to attend and presented three times at the second event in June and hosted the third event on 26th October. This event was the biggest to date in the UAE and attended by over 250 educators, really great to see so many of SRS staff either attending or presenting on that day. Since then Ian Plant, Neal Oates and Stephen Brain have also joined the SPARK team and we all presented together at the KHDA’s ‘What Works’ event in early December, my favourite event so far. Looking forward to what 2014 has in store for SPARK!

#TMLondon It was reading about #TMLondon that first got me thinking about putting together a Teach Meet in Dubai, so when I saw that there would be an event on 5th July at The Heathland School in Hounslow, London and that I would be back in the UK for the summer, I had to sign up. I ended up presenting at the event, it was a really great evening and fab to put faces to names and Twitter handles.

Blogging I am by no means the most prolific of education bloggers, teaching is hectic so finding the time to write can be limited. However I am proud of what we have achieved so far with my school’s T&L Blog. Since April 2013, 51 posts published so far… almost 10,000 hits from 76 different countries. By the end of this academic year all teams at SRS will have contributed to our ‘Tweak of the Week’ section. Blogging is great professional development for yourself and has given me the opportunity to crystallise my own thoughts on certain issues. I have been inspired by so many other people’s blogs, again too many to mention in this post, but to everyone who currently writes about education keep up the fantastic work!

Senior Leadership Stepping into the dizzy heights of Senior Leadership with little prior experience has been thoroughly hard work but also thoroughly rewarding. I am highly passionate and (over) enthusiastic 🙂 about the leadership of Teaching and Learning and the professional development of teachers and it has made it clear to me that this is the role I want to have in education. I have learnt a great deal about myself and how to deal with people as a member of SLT. I still have much to learn and I will be the first to admit I don’t get it right 100% of the time, but my heart is in the right place and I look forward to continuing to develop my leadership skills even further in 2014.

CPD programme Reading extensively over the past 12 months has helped me to develop a clear vision for what the leadership of T&L should be like and as part of my role I wanted my school to have the very best professional development programme there can be. A slightly later start to the academic year for our students meant that we could focus on getting our teachers ready for the new term. First stop was an intensive, comprehensive and very well received induction programme in August. Many staff commented that this was the best they had ever attended. Also very high on my agenda was to establish a formal and effective system of coaching. To date we now have three successful coaching programmes running alongside each other. I further wanted to develop the ways in which we share best practice and we now do this in a variety of ways. This year we have established 10 T&L Hub groups that meet every half term around 5 key foci. The subsequent two WoW (watching others work) weeks following these meetings are when we carry out peer observations. A massive thanks to the 23 staff who signed up to be our Lols (Leaders of Learning) and who run the T&L Hubs. It has also been refreshing to see more and more colleagues utilising social media and our T&L Blog as a way of sharing best practice and sharing examples of success within teams. Further 7 SRS staff presented at the SPARK event we hosted in October and over 35 attended. Thanks to all teachers for embracing the CPD programme at SRS, these things would not run without your support and enthusiasm.

Students/ Work colleagues I have been fortunate to work with some fantastic students and colleagues at SRS. This academic year I don’t have a class that I do not enjoy working with. KS3 and their fab efforts with the Humanities Homework projects, I need to get better at rewarding and praising them for this. My Year 10 GCSE History class are amazing, they work so hard, despite the difficulties of studying the complexities of the Cold War and they inspire me to work harder on their behalf. Special mention to my solitary Year 11 student who has studied the History GCSE after school in her own time with me, week in week out for the past 16 months, only 6 months to go now till the exams and I know her hard efforts will pay off! Also thanks this year to numerous colleagues, to my close friends at SRS for their love and support. It is difficult being 4000 miles away from loved ones and they are my family here xx. Also massive thanks to those colleagues/friends on the Senior team who I continue to learn from and feel inspired by.

Digital Learning Twitter and Teach Meets have been responsible for completely opening my eyes to a Digital world that I knew very little about previously. I have enjoyed getting to grips with Twitter for educational purposes, Prezi, WordPress, Edmodo, Class Dojo, Infographics and am keen to learn and experiment more.

Reading Sitting still is not one of my strong points.. hence I never been much of a reader in the past. However once I started reading blog posts, I’ve not been able to stop and have developed a new found passion for reading all things education. Currently I have 17 books about education on my kindle, I have managed to read 10 of these so far and working on the others. Carol Dweck’s ‘Growth mindset’, ‘Practice Perfect’ by Doug Lemov and ‘Leverage Leadership’ Paul Bambrick-Santoyo my top 3 so far..never stop learning!

Teaching in Dubai I love Dubai, it is an amazing city and I have to pinch myself on a regular basis that I live here. I left my comfort zone and 12 years at a school I adored in the UK to come here, but it was a risk worth taking, I have no regrets and will not be going home anytime soon. If anyone reading this is thinking about doing the same then my advice is go for it! You only get one life so live it. Teaching overseas is hard work, a challenge at times but is really rewarding and there are not many places in the world where you will have a better quality of life.

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Teaching New Year’s Resolutions/things to look forward to 2014

Digital Learning This is an area of Teaching and Learning that really excites me and I want to develop further and establish more links with other schools. We have two staff pedagogy groups that are currently focused on Digital Leadership, though I would like to extend this and develop a student’s Digital Learning group.

#SPARKuae SPARK domination continues and there are further events planned for 2014. Perhaps most exciting is being involved in the SPARK event planned for the GESS event at Dubai’s World Trade Centre in March, which promises to be the biggest and best yet!  There are further plans to develop a mini SPARK for students and in the very near future we are going to host our own ‘in house’ SPARK event at SRS.

#Dubai_Leadmeet I have had it in my head since first coming across Teach Meets and also reading about SLTeachmeet in the UK, that I wanted to organise a SLT specific event in Dubai. So ‘LeadMeet Dubai’ has been born. This will be a similar format to other Teach Meets but the presentations will focus on leadership issues. I am organising the first event for the summer term 2014, date to follow, so watch this space!

Work/life balance There are not enough hours in the day and I think like most teachers, passionate about the job, I don’t always get this bit right. I need to learn to sometimes switch off and walk away from the laptop. Easier said than done, changing habits, but small steps I intend to take in 2014 are to run more and to read for pleasure. Currently 17 books on the kindle and all are education based….need to address this!

External CPD events I’m looking forward to showcasing our talents at SRS and leading a workshop at the KHDA’s ‘What Works Leadership’ in February. There are also a couple of other CPD events in the pipeline I have been asked to be involved in, so looks like another busy year ahead.

Student Blogging This has been the one thing on my ‘to do’ list since August that I haven’t yet ticked off and is a priority for me next term. We are going to try some quad blogging and have established links with schools in Coventry, London and Abu Dhabi. Also looking forward to working with another school in Dubai on a collaborative writing History project with my year 9 students.

New building Very exciting times at SRS as we move to a brand new building early 2014 and I look forward to the challenges/ term ahead.

Inspection To further develop professionally I would like to explore being trained in school inspection. I really enjoy observing others and I think such training would help me to learn more about other aspects of school leadership. Not entirely sure if such training is available in the UAE but definitely something I want to look into.

Positivity I have a positive attitude to life and learning and with every passing year of teaching, I love the job a little bit more. I love being in leadership and I want to continue next year to learn, read, develop, be motivated and motivate others. Also to ensure I always maintain the enthusiasm and passion I have, for what I do day in day out.
To everyone on Twitter who has inspired me or anyone reading this, staff and students at SRS, have a great New Year! I would like to wish you, health, happiness and all the best for 2014. I look forward to working with and continuing to learn from you next year.

Best wishes

Rachael Edgar X

@Dubai_Teachmeet

@Dubai_Leadmeet

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