Staffrm transfer 1 The Other Me, Plenaries, Generation Leisure, Difficult Lessons and Recovery

It is with great sadness that I have discovered that the fantastic education blogging site staffrm is being shut down. For me, staffrm has been an excellent platform on which to write, connect and debate with likeminded souls. I have discovered that I actually posted 109 stories on there and so this morning I have set about copying and transferring them to here; fortunately I had already done the transfer of my #28daysofwriting posts from 2016.

So, for the record, I am now tranferring 5 posts at a time that were previously hosted on staffrm.

The other me..

Lena Carter · 1 year ago

As I have said before, I trained to teach modern languages with drama as a subsidiary. At school, I had been advised against taking drama because I wanted to go to university and it was ‘only’ a CSE. I made up for that by doing all the extra curricular drama I could both at school (as @sisyphus  will remember) and at university. I rubbed shoulders at university with a number of those who have since made it big as actors, comedians, writers and radio presenters. And a couple of them are still my closest friends, though geographically distant. I did my first year of teaching as a French teacher, put on a production of ‘Grease’ that earned me a reference that would have been worthy of a job at the National and moved to London and into a drama teaching post.

However, what I don’t think I have mentioned before is that if I had got into acting, I would never have become a teacher. During my PGCE year I auditioned for and got a place to study on a post graduate musical theatre course. The plan was that I would defer entry, teach for a year, save the £8000 needed for the course fees and then go off to stage school. Yeah right.

In fact, the reason I did not go was down to more than money in the end. I had a confidence and ethical wobble about the whole performing thing. I worried that I wanted to do it out of egotism and that going into teaching would give me more of a sense of purpose and moral justification. I know now that I was so wrong and that actors, drama and theatre have such power to change the world.

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would apply to drama school again.

My mum and dad always said that I was happiest when I was involved in a production and I think that they were right. To get the buzz of performing these days, I have got back into amateur dramatics and that enables me to be my alter-ego from time to time. Last year I had a ball playing Adelaide Adams in ‘Calamity Jane’ and I wait with bated breath to hear what this year’s show will be….

Plenaries….I hate the word!

Lena Carter · 1 year ago

The last five minutes of a lesson. I am sure that in the heady days of the 3 part lesson we would have made sure that in the last 5 minutes, we were doing something that was part of the ‘plenary’. I always hated that word, I’m not sure why. I have just looked up a definition and got this:


(of a meeting) to be attended by all participants at a conference or assembly, who otherwise meet in smaller groups.

“a plenary session of the European Parliament”

synonyms: full, fully constituted, general, complete, entire, open

“a plenary session of the European Parliament”


I think that in education, we took the idea of a coming back together and developed it to imply that it would be a re-grouping to reflect on the ‘learning intentions’ of the lesson.

Whilst, in theory, this is a superb intention, I am not sure that is always really works and I think that lots of wiser people have written about this – including ideas on why we need to reflect on learning over time and not necessarily after every 50 minute slot!

Any way, back to sensible ideas on what I do in the last five minutes of a lesson.

Drama – return to the whole class circle and check in after whatever small whole or small group activity has been taken place. Debrief, de-role and ensure that everyone is emotionally and physically ready to move on to their next class.

German – line the class up at the door and ensure that each pupil engages in a one to one exchange in the language (using a phrase that has been covered in the lesson) before they leave. Or, if I am feeling bad, putting on a blast of the department anthem ‘Von Allein’ by Culcha Candela (find it on Youtube). This gets them hyped up for their next class!


– NEVER set homework. Do this at the top of the lesson to ensure that those who struggle to get it noted have plenty of time and don’t leave the class in an unsatisfied panic. Make a link with the learning of the lesson or unit and allow for reflection on that if possible. Flag up what is coming in the next lesson.

– Ensure one to one eye contact or a brief exchange with every pupil before they leave to let them know that you are looking out for them and their learning.


Generation Leisure?

Lena Carter · 1 year ago

I few things have resulted in me writing this post. I recently wrote a wellbeing update ( and received some very helpful feedback from @jillberry  which included a suggestion that I watch this by @jasonramasami: I also read a very thought provoking post by Susan Ward ( ) and it all got me thinking about a lesson that my dad once taught me. It wasn’t one of those life lessons that takes place over a camp fire and stays etched in your memory for ever but rather a literal lesson; my dad served a double purpose in my life for a while as father and economics teacher. I remember that dad …or rather Mr Bell…talked in an economics lesson about the fact that within our lifetime we would experience a shift in working patterns as technology created efficiencies that would result in more leisure time. The leisure industry would grow and people would work less because tech and IT would make it possible to achieve tasks in less time.

So, where has that Generation Leisure gone? It sadly seems to have become what the Guardian this week referred to as Generation K?…. What on earth is going on? The article cites: “Life for us is hard. A struggle,” says Jake, 16, “I think we’ve got it much tougher than our parents’ generation. But we can’t give up.” Seemingly “British teenagers are among the most troubled in the world”: It is reported that we have teenagers crippled by anxiety; about debt, about terrorism, about social relationships. But in fact the article does go on to give hope, pointing out that teenagers generally value authenticity, connection and friendship.

But this is not just an issue for teenagers. Read Ariana Huffington’s book ‘Thrive’. Read or watch ‘I Don’t Know How she Does It’ by Allison Pearson. And listen to John Lennon’ s ‘Beautiful Boy, written as long ago as 1981, where he said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

It is time to fight back. Because as educators, parents and people, we need to encourage Generation Leisure to learn how to live and be happy in the life they have. To know themselves and their minds. To self-regulate. To live with uncertainty and understand the things they can be certain of. To embrace the best in social media and to reject the rubbish.

Back to Mr Bell and economics. Another lesson led me to the work ‘Leviathan’, written by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 which referred to state of mankind when unregulated as “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Over 300 hundred years later and our lives (at least in the Western world) are far from this. Yet, reading about Generation K, we might be led to believe that they are.

Let’s stop and see the wood amongst the trees. And let’s hold on to Jake’s optimism:

“…we can’t give up.”

Happy International Happiness Day.

For a longer version of this post, go to…

A difficult lesson…and the need to keep learning


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

I have had a tough week. Without going into detail, I have once again experienced a mismatch between the world and my expectations of it. I am having to reflect, hard, about the idea that I may be a bit of a bully towards people who do not work at the same speed or have the same values and priorities as I do. Reading the word bully in black and white brings tears to my eyes. It is not who I thought I was…..

I need to take some time to think about it and make some changes. I need to learn from this.

Today I have been reflecting on my professional development over the last year, as I have my professional development review this week. In Scotland, we have a new-ish system called Professional Update whereby each year we have to record the professional learning we have done and link it to an annual review. Then every five years, we link it to an update of our GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland) registration status so that we can continue to teach in Scotland.

I have realised that I have had an abundance of learning and reflection opportunities over the last year and that there is very little that I have done professionally that I have not been able to learn form. Being seconded to the central education team has been an incredible opportunity for me to gain understanding of how the ‘next level’ works but also to work alongside and learn from colleagues in Health, Social Work, the Police, The Third Sector and Educational Psychology. Doing the Scottish ‘Into Headship’ course has been an absolute privilege and allowed me to access the best in current leadership research and practice. I have written more about this here:…

But this last year has also opened my eyes to the world of Edu-blogging and the online learning community within Twitter. I have learnt an immeasurable amount through this engagement and cannot recommend it enough as a way of accessing CPD that is free, enjoyable and constantly inspiring. I wrote last week about the pros and cons of ‘Generation Leisure’ and the danger of never switching off….

And this weekend, I am going to switch off. Read a book, spend time with the family. Do a bit of nothing.

But I will switch back on again. Because I have learn such a lot in the last year, thanks to the generosity of my virtual friends. Learning opportunities have never been so good.

You know who you are. Have a great Easter break and I hope you manage switch off too, eat chocolate and enjoy the new life bursting out around.


Recovery and rainbows


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

This week I was lucky enough to attend training to become a mental health first aider for young people. It was a hugely informative and inspiring piece of training and chimed a lot with my thinking on optimism, love and solution focused approaches.

We touched on the issue of stigma and discussed how important it is to help children and young people understand that periods of difficulty, mental distress and even mental illness are far more common than they may think. Recovery is very much about recognising that wellbeing can be achieved after and even within such periods.

As the World Health Organisation says: “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

When I first applied for teaching jobs, the stigma around mental ill health was huge, largely (as I believe) in the wake of the Beverly Allitt case. She had been a state registered nurse who had committed a series of attacks and four murders involving children and babies and was believed to be suffering from the psychiatric illness Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Understandably, medical and criminal checks were tightened up hugely in the wake of this case but it meant that anyone applying to work with children had to give information about any mental ill health dating back 10 years. Ticking a box and confessing to mild depression while at school resulted in a friend of mine almost being refused a permanent teaching contract.

Things seem to be different now, thank goodness. We still vet those who work with children and the most vulnerable carefully and sensibly. There appears to be widespread understanding today, however, that you can suffer from depression, anxiety or even more serious conditions but still cope with life, hold down a job and make a positive contribution. And there. is also recognition that you can feel happy in between the dark periods….and maybe even overcome them completely. Broken for a while is not broken for ever.

I heard the wonderful John Timpson on Desert Island Discs this week, talking about his own experiences of stress and how talking about its debilitating effects has helped both him and others. What an inspiration.

I am sure that stigma still exists in some areas but progress has been huge since my early days as a teacher. Follow the right people on social media and you will know you are not alone.

From rain there can come rainbows. Save a picture of a rainbow…. Literally or in your mind… remind you of the beauty that has existed and can exist again.


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