Old tech: Insert, Delete, Control

My timeline has been full of BETT tweets and images today. Some attendees are excited and energised by what they’re seeing and hearing; some are underwhelmed and dubious. I’ve got a soft-spot for much technology as all of it is an advance on the nightmare that was configuring perfectly formed punchcards to number-crunch the statistics in my geography dissertation on the (yes – just 0ne) mainframe computer at Lancaster University. From calculating subject capitations on excel spreadsheets from the faculty allocation, to having OS mapwork transformed by a classroom visualizer, through to – today – spending a day reclassifying my Evernote entries into more useful tags (Top tip: if you want to keep hold of those potentially ephemeral tweeted links and posts – Evernote is invaluable).

And yet…..

It has been an item of the most low-tech merchandise that has allowed me to retain a sense of some control, superimpose order and evidence a viable record of achievement. It is the humble WHSmith pocket notebook that has been a daily companion at work and allowed a degree of order amonst the maelstrom – and not a little sense of earning the Friday night G’n’T.


In a job with unrestricted hours other than the ones we delimit ourselves, with demands shooting in from external and internal school directions, and a sense that we never finish something fully before the next wave is crashing over – it has been my way of keeping a sense of progress, of making headway, and marking out a timeline of ticked-off achievements.

Sunday evenings, the last task would be to construct the week’s ‘to do’ list. When it was done I’d make sure there was a mix of immediate- , medium- and long-term priorities, along with tackling three audiences: external (usually exam-board related or field-trip organisation), internal (emanating from within the school) and – vitally – mine (something I wanted to achieve for my own satisfaction). A final check would be to see if it was all paper-related admin., or whether I’d missed out something to do with human contact – whether that be with people in my faculty, or linking up with someone beyond. It’s always easy to promise to deal with issues emanating from  paper or screen first before working the people relationships, and often it was necessary to adjust the list to make sure it wasn’t just ‘things’ that were filling up the week.

By Friday evening there’s a satisfaction of at least ‘some’ of the items being crossed off. In amongst the teaching, the planning, the marking, the meeting- attending – progress has been made; change has been wrought. Shards of satisfaction have been won.

And those things that didn’t get crossed off? Well – onto the next week’s list 0r… you know?… were they that important after all?

However you choose to do it, – hi-tech, low-tech, medium-tech… find a way to visibly record what the differences are you have made next week in amongst all the teaching and ‘conventional’ demands of the five days. You’ll never satisfy all the things you think you ‘could’ have done; but let a glimmer of self-worth linger as you cross through at least a few lines of what, at the start of the week, were aspirations, and by the end of the week were progress markers in making more of a difference than you were ostensibly appointed to achieve.


(I’d just read this advisory post by @cazzwebbo on keeping it all in perspective. Although aimed at recent entrants to the profession – it’s good to be reminded of how to keep the whole thing sustainable: Ways to lighten the load…





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2 responses to “Old tech: Insert, Delete, Control

  1. jillberry102

    Enjoyed reading this, Andy!

    Re: “A final check would be to see if it was all paper-related admin., or whether I’d missed out something to do with human contact”, made me remember something that happened when I was Head of English. I’d always listed my Sunday jobs and worked through them, often trying to do the hard things/less palatable things early on to get them out of the way! Planning my lessons was usually towards the end of the list. But one week we had a departmental HMI inspection (pre-Ofsted) and, on the Sunday before, I planned my lessons first.

    My lessons were usually fine – this was a good school with very biddable and responsive pupils – but I found that planning the lessons first, when I was fresher and not rushed, made them considerably better. For the rest of my time (in that role, and in subsequent schools as Head of Sixth From, Deputy Head and then Head) I always planned my lessons first on a Sunday. The more thought and care I gave to it, the better I felt they were, and the pupils, of course, deserve this!

    Thanks again.

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