Support Local – Updated!

The lockdown continues and so does the resilience and ingenuity of the local people here in Hastings and St. Leonards.

Rather than updating my previous post, I thought I would offer a fresh take on the businesses that are continuing to serve the community; as well as provide some info on a truly ‘Hastings’ approach to helping people stay active and creative during the lockdown.

  • Judges Bakery is still going strong. Pop in for sourdough bread; a sweet treat; or buy flour and yeast to bake something fresh at home. 🍞
  • Penbuckles Deli closed briefly but Richard and Ellie have regrouped and they are now open during the week. You can call them to place an order for collection; arrange a time to pop in and shop; or have food delivered to your home. 🧀
  • Trinity Whole Foods‘ main shop is open for business. They have plenty of fresh produce, dry goods and my favourite: Montezuma’s chocolate.1 🍫
  • Queen’s Deli has also started a home delivery service. They have a range of groceries; wine; and fresh deli meats; including the finest salt beef to cook at home. 🥩
  • The Marina Fountain drive-thru is still open. See their website for details of the food and wine that is available.🍷
  • Tommy’s Pizzeria is still open for delivery; keeping a pizza-wide smile on everyone’s faces. Check out their Instagram for updates and limited time offers. 🍕
  • St Leonards’ favourite Half Man, Half Burger have also regrouped and they are open for delivery too. Treat yourself to a cheeseburger. 🍔
  • Finally, the Cake Room updated their Instagram and it looks like Baxter may have something in the pipeline. 🍰

And, if you have not come across it yet, a number of locals have pulled together to run Isolation Station Hastings. They are live-streaming a daily schedule of events on Facebook during the lockdown, including:

  • Educational Classes (Pottery, Life Drawing, Sea Creature Feature)
  • Exercise Classes (Yoga, Family Fitness)
  • Music (Solo gigs and Sing-a-longs)
  • Local News and Quizzes
  • And a daily reading of ‘The Time Machine’, by H.G. Wells, which was this year’s selection for ‘A Town Explores a Book’.

So go ahead, stay home, order some food from one of our local businesses and tune in to the Isolation Station. 🌞

  1. Not exactly a necessity but ‘The Dark Side’ is too delicious![]

Support Local

[Update: On Monday 23rd March, the UK Government has placed the country under far tighter restrictions. As such, nearly all the businesses below are now closed. We hope to see all of you on the other side of this. #StaySafeSaveLives!

[Update: On Friday 20th March, cafes, pubs and restaurants have been directed by the Government to close and only offer take away. See the updates below for individual businesses.]

Today was, without a doubt, one of the strangest in my teaching career. Standing in assembly with Year 11, the unprecedented nature of what is happening truly hit home, as we worked to reassure them about the situation and their futures. I was exceptionally proud of how resilient they all were as they come to terms with such high levels of uncertainty – not only about their GCSEs but also what might happen to their friends and family over the coming months.

East Sussex has not seen high numbers of cases yet (eight at the time of writing), but the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are being felt across Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea. Not least by the local, coastal, community that is built around small local businesses.

If I’ve learned anything since Jennifer and I moved here, it is this: Hastings is an amazing place, filled with wonderfully eclectic, kind people. Many of them work in the local businesses, relying on the daily custom of those of us who live and work here, as well as tourists during the summer season. With genuine uncertainty over how long the pandemic will last, it is up to those of us who live here to help keep these businesses alive.

To their credit, many of them are adapting to the situation and doing their part to not only keep themselves afloat but to support the community in which they belong. Here is a list of some of the businesses that we will be supporting over the coming weeks. If you are local, we would love it if you did too.

  • Fika @ 44 – A fantastic café ran by two of the loveliest ladies. Great coffee; great food. Try the ‘dirty chai’ for an extra sweet caffeinated boost. [Update: Closed for the time being.]
  • Stooge Coffee – Fantastic coffee in a cute tiny shop. At the time of writing, they have taken the decision to do take away only, in support of social distancing. [Update: Closed for the time being.]
  • Trinity Wholefoods – Next door to Stooge: local organic, fresh produce and a genuine lack of people panic buying! [Update: Open with changed hours and some restrictions – see Instagram.]
  • Half Man! Half Burger! – They are open, having taken a range of steps to protect customers and staff. If you haven’t tried the ‘Bean Caught Stealing’ vegan burger you are genuinely missing out! [Update: Closed for the time being.]
  • Tommy’s Pizzeria – Fantastic Neapolitan style pizza. They are now offering take away, and have also taken steps to protect customers and staff. [Update: Delivery only; here’s the menu.]
  • The Marina Fountain – Great pub in St Leonards – good beer and awesome DJ nights! [Update: Closed but they have opened a drive-thru; they have fresh bread, dairy products, dry goods and of course alcohol that you can click and collect.]
  • Cake Room – Currently closed for renovations, they are hoping to reopen shortly. Good coffee and outstanding cakes – and Baxter! The cutest dog in Hastings.
  • Penbuckles Deli – Ellie and Richard were the first two people to make us welcome when we moved to Hastings. They are salt of the earth folks – Hastings through and through. Very much open. Check them out for coffee, wine, crackers and cheese, and deli meats. [Update: Closed for the time being.]
  • Judges Bakery – The best bread in town! And cinnamon rolls with lashings of icing on Saturdays! Open and they have started to sell a kit to make bread at home. [Update: Open but with reduced hours and some restrictions.]
  • The Crown – One of the best pubs I have ever had the pleasure to drink in. The range of beers is excellent and always changing. They have turned half of the pub into a shop to help locals get hold of essential items, including locally grown eggs, bread, fruit and veg. They are also offering take away beer and food. [Update: Pub and shop closed for the time being.]
  • The Albion – A great local pub with many traditional British ales and great pies. Like the Crown, they are also offering home delivery of food and alcohol. [Update: Closed for the time being.]
  • Porters Wine Bar – Good wine, food and music. Open and also offering a take away menu. [Update: Closed for the time being.]
  • Queens Deli – A great deli, with freshly made salt-beef. They have, sadly, but understandably taken the decision to shut in the short term; a two man team, we hope they will be able to reopen soon.

These places and the people who own and work in them are part of the fabric of the town we now call home. They have made us both welcome and exceptionally proud to be part of the community. It is uncertain how long they will be able to remain open, so if you are local, please pop in and buy something to take away or call and place an order for delivery.

Together, as a community, we will survive this.

3 things I do every (school) day that make me a better teacher

1. Read at least one article/blog post about teaching and learning.

As an English teacher it is probably a little predictable that I read a lot, however I believe that it is important to keep up with what is happening in education. I have also learned as many of us do that teaching is a busy and time consuming affair, therefore I don’t often find extended periods of time to read. Instead, I use a small number of apps and devices to bring reading material to me in a manageable way. This includes Google reader as an RSS aggregator and apps such as Reeder and Instapaper which I access on my MBP and HTC Wildfire respectively. I save and export longer articles/papers to read on my Sony Reader. Without going in to too much detail here, this combination of devices allows me to read at whatever point of the day I am free to or feel like doing so. Hotspots are: on the bus (7:30 – 7:45) heading to work and when school has just ended (3:40 – 4:00).

I am of the mind set that the best teachers are those who not only work hard on their day-to-day classroom teaching but also continue to keep up with pedagogical ideas, theories, new technologies and what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. When I talk to other teachers on Twitter or at conferences they tend to fit in with this description and in turn tend to be innovative in their practice, open to new ideas and are ready to discuss and share their opinion about education. Reading, for me, is an integral part of this dialogue. It is important to be informed.

2. Make sure one of my lessons is not teacher directed.

Two issues here. 1. Teaching from the front of the classroom (lecture style) is a sure fire way to kill creativity, learning and can lead very quickly to behavioural issues. 2. Teaching from the front of the classroom is a sure fire way to drain yourself of energy and enthusiasm for what you are teaching. At the beginning of each week I review what I have planned to teach and then set about planning into each of my days a lesson (with a different class each day) where, after sharing the learning intentions and explaining what is to be achieved, I shut up and spend the majority of the lesson sat with my students helping and supporting them with their learning.

I use these lessons in a variety of ways, here are a couple of examples:

  • Targeted support: I will group the class by ability and select a group to work with. During the lesson I will dedicate my time to that group – putting trust in the other students to get on and complete the work unaided. Some of the ways that I ensure the students are engaged in the work is by giving them a choice of what to do, in turn giving them ownership of their learning. I usually also set some sort of feedback exercise (not necessarily with me involved) where they are being relied upon to provide information. This allows me to then focus my time on the students I have decided to offer some more personal support to.
  • Assessment: I believe it is important to assess students work with them so that they can understand the process and what I am looking for. If certain students have been making the same errors repeatedly I will use these non-teacher led lessons to sit with them and will mark their work throughout the lesson with them, almost as a form of 1-2-1 (directed) learning. As they try to tackle the ideas or skills they have been struggling with I can address them and get them to work through, making corrections. This is time consuming and I don’t get around to all of the students in a single lesson but the level of learning and progress that takes place is very high. Over the course of the year every student who needed this level of support will have gotten it.

To some this may not seem completely fair and that some students may not get the same level of personal input from me. However, I do not have a problem with this and even tell my classes at the beginning of the year that some of them will get more out of me than others. What I also explain though is that I am not the fountain of all knowledge, that I will help them to understand where to look for answers so that they can solve problems for themselves. I also explain that for some of them I will simply be a facilitator, for others they will need my knowledge and expertise. They are all starting at different points and the better I know them, the better I can adapt the way that I support them as individuals.

3. Stop and take a break.

I make sure that I use either the 20 minute break time or the 50 minute lunch time each day to stop and switch off from what I have been doing and am going to be doing that day. Where possible I try to do this at lunch however, I teach during lunch time on a Friday. Why do I do this? Becuase, education is my career but it does not define me and I am certainly not going to let it kill me. Teaching is intense. Particularly when you are dedicated. Therefore, it is important to give yourself a mental break. I achieve this in a variety of ways. I may simply sit somewhere in silence; other times I may sit and read or surf the net; and on some occasions I will go sit with others and catch up on the gossip. Whatever, I do I try to make sure that it has nothing to do with school.

To those teachers who say “I simply have no time to take a break”, I say: “you are doing something wrong then!” The most important thing to learn as a teacher is how to do each of the many different tasks that make up your day in both the most effective but least time consuming manner. This could be:

  • using ‘assessment stickers’ that can be filled in with a few letters, numbers or ticks instead of writing out long paragraphs at the end of a student’s work.
  • keeping an electronic mark book instead of a paper one – easily copied for use with other classes.
  • setting extended homework projects that challenge your students but do not require that you are mark homework every couple of days.
  • using peer assessment more often to make your students more critical learners while lightening your marking load.
  • to collaborate with someone else on a scheme of work. You will not have to produce every single resource and your students will benefit from the ideas of two teachers, not just one.

There are many ways to cut down on your workload while ensuring that the learning in your classroom is engaging and effective. Putting just a few of these ideas in to practice would ensure that you have time to take that break. It is important to switch off. After all, you are only human contrary to popular belief! 🙂