Opening Minds at the RSA Academy


I didn’t spend long at the RSA Academy yesterday. Only an hour or so to meet fellow teachmeet organiser @umerz1. But it was long enough.


It truly is an inspiring place.


On entry, a curving path leads to 3-fingered building, the central one holding a huge video screen showing students at their learning. Outside, allotments, nature area, pond and even a farm are all underway – impressive for a site that was only inhabited by its students this academic year.


But what’s even more impressive are the students themselves. As a primary school teacher, secondary schools often feel ‘out of my comfort zone’. The students are much bigger than I’m used to is, I suppose, the simple truth. But not so, the RSA Academy. Students move around the site in a purposeful way. A quiet assuredness fills the air – I hear no loud voices or hasty steps. They are happy too, talking with each other and their teachers in confident, positive tones. The opening minds rooms are purposeful too (they’re not called classrooms at the RSA). One room seems dark and silent as I enter, but that’s only because the darkened windows hide the dim light from the laptop screens and dulls the learning buzz that is only too evident once through the door.


The school has no staffroom. No food or drink (aside from water) is allowed anywhere other than the canteen (pictured) which is a friendly open-space for both staff and students alike. The whole site is also a chewing-gum free zone – a minor consideration perhaps.


Technology is everywhere. News 24 plays from large TVs on walls in Reception and in the canteen, most students in classrooms have access to a laptop or a tablet. There are rooms with Macs in, laptops, standalone PCs, PCs with midi-keyboards attached – it’s mind-boggling really. Envy-making for some, perhaps. Me, I see the RSA as leading the way – at my primary school we’re not ready yet to manage all that technology, let alone use it effectively – I’m happy that early adopters such as the RSA can find out how to do it best and pass down the good stuff to us at primary schools. Indeed, they have a whole room for testing, where they’ve discovered the best machine for student use – machines that haver reliable wifi, long-lasting batteries and are robust enough for classroom use. I’d have valued hearing some of that stuff three years ago when I began purchasing mobile technology for my school. While some of what I’ve purchased lasts still, some products have already become museum pieces through poor batteries or build-quality.


There’s more for me to learn about the RSA I’m sure. I’d love to find out more about the Opening Minds approach. But at the moment, inspired, I can take some of that motivation into my own teaching for the last few weeks of term. And it means I’m really look forward to Teachmeet Tipton that we will be holding there on the 19th July. Not only inspiring presentations from innovative practitioners, but also to be held in an inspiring place…

Another innovative use of The Lady

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Having used the voice of the Lady who reads the KS2 mental maths SAT to inspire music creation a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find a new and (I think) surprising use for her verbose talents.


I entered the Hall to find Year 3 practising for an assembly they will be doing on Friday. In a move of inspired genius, the teacher of the class was helping the children learn how to speak over the top of distractions by playing the mental maths lady CD while the children were reading their lines. Assemblies can sometimes be full of extraneous noise, especially if there are the inevitable pre-schoolers in the room, and it’s great to see children being given the opportunity to present what they have to say over those distractions…

Creating an online booking system for Parents evenings using Google Apps

Watch on Posterous

Here’s my first attempt to create an online booking system for my school using the new Appointments feature in Google Calendars. I filmed the video while I was creating the system for the first time, so please excuse the quality of the instructions…

Growing Leaders Session 9 – Staying Fresh

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Today the participants have been reflecting on staying fresh in leadership.

What can you put in place to maintain your leadership role without becoming weary and disillusioned?

We discussed 5 stages of training:

  1. Personalise your training
  2. Stretch yourself
  3. Work out a rhythm
  4. Keep close relationships
  5. Complete the course

Each participant came up with suggestions on how to improve in these areas, and hear are some of their suggestion:

Personalise your training
  • Continue to meet with mentor after the course (if they are willing) – to discuss ongoing issues.
  • Is there anything you need to stop doing to give the time to get where you are going?
  • Get more biblical knowledge
  • Focus on God
  • Practice a spiritual discipline
  • Plan rather than simply just letting things happen
  • Regular fellowship meeting
  • Pray and push at doors
  • Listen to Him for my plan
  • Words of encouragement and motivation
  • Be open to new ideas including ongoing discussions with mentor
  • Be prepared to share ideas and thoughts.
  • Write the plan down.
  • Share with people who can support you.
  • Review personal life statement.
  • Discuss issues with mentor.
  • Prayer
  • Use personal life statement to develop priorities.
  • Take stock of what you have.

Stretch yourself
  • Find out from God which areas He wants to grow me in and be prepared to delay others for the 'Greater Yes'
  • Don't stretch myself unnecessarily but trust God to give me the strength to grow.
  • Be open to new opportunities – take risks.
  • Seek God to help recognise areas for growth
  • Seek God to smooth the 'rough' edges.
  • Struggle to remain open to further change.
  • Be willing to step out / try new things.
  • Make time to reflect on day every evening
  • Be open to requests for help from the church.
  • Use journalling to remember the positive experiences and lessons learned from not-so-positive ones.
  • Learn not to be afraid of vision.
  • Be brave enough to practice gifts God has given you in opportunities you have.
  • Share thoughts about gifts / direction your going in with others
  • Pray / ask God for guidance / opportunities.
  • Change and development are part of growing.

Work out a rhythm
  • Put things around you (at home, work, in the car, etc.) that will help you direct thoughts towards God.
  • Keep a rhythm of spiritual discipline.
  • If you don't manage time, then it will manage you.
  • Daily Bible study
  • Prayer at same time / place each day.
  • Have time for myself at work – be willing to delay dealing with non urgent matters, until I have time to reflect.
  • Keep a rhythm of spiritual discipline.
  • Never say "I'm too busy for…" or "I don't have time for…" you always do have time but need to make decisions about how to spend it. (Editor: Gandalf himself said "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.")
  • Pray
  • Have a plan to follow but be flexible to change if need to.
  • Complete day off – totally away from work – be accountable to this.
  • Meet deadlines rather than seeing them as flexible – don't expect too much – give yourself more time than you think you need.
  • Plan in rewards.

Keep close relationships
  • Increase our openness to being forgiven – it will help us in the area of forgiving others.
  • Keep meeting with mentor
  • Pray for and look for opportunities to serve others.
  • Be yourself with people and don't be judgemental.
  • Value relationships
  • Show others that you care.
  • Learn to make time for others.
  • Seek and take opportunities to invest in others.
  • Be more disciplined in prayer life
  • Prepare more for mentoring sessions.
  • Be intentional in all that I do.
  • Plan time to spend with others regularly – put it in diary so other things don't crowd.

Complete the course.
  • Be honest with God about our good bits and bad bits.
  • Remember how God has blessed me in the past and expect that in the future.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit into my day EVERY day for guidance and strength.
  • One day, we will all be part of the most beautiful worship service ever! For all eternity!
  • Time to reflect / listen to God;
  • to soak in God's presence and hear what he may be saying for the longer term.
  • Be faithful in the things (little or Big) that God gives me to do as I run the race.
  • We are like children going to work with our Dad for the day. He doesn't need us – chooses to involve us because he loves spending time with us. Enjoy it.

The session ended with prayer.
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