Headteacher Talk: What is the Power of Positivity?

This month’s Headteacher Talk is all about positive thinking. Now that we’re approaching exam season, it’s easy for students to become dissuaded and let negative thinking take over. Let’s have a look at what Gemma has to say about the importance of keeping positive.

 

The power of positivity.

 

A couple of weeks ago, a few Year 13 Biologists were talking about tests they had had or were going to have. During their discussions, they were saying to each other that they were going to stay positive and hope it goes well.

This led onto a discussion about the power of positive thinking.  We all found some way in which we had thought we couldn’t do something and so gave up. My own personal experience at present is running. I couldn’t run. I hated it. But I have signed up for a 10km run in April and so have been training. I found it hard and thought I’d never be able to complete 2km let alone 10! However, I turned a corner when I actually started to believe that I could do it. Training is still hard, but I’m making progress and seeing results each week.

 

So, is there any truth in this?

 

Well, research suggests there is. A negative thought can create fear. When we are fearful we concentrate solely on that fear. This is useful in life threatening situations, as you need to concentrate on that one thing to survive. But passing an exam isn’t a life-threatening situation. Even if it seems like it is!

Now let’s think about positive emotions, like joy and happiness.  These allow you to open up to lots of possibilities, rather than focus on one area. Being positive about a situation allows you to be more productive. The more productive you can be the more successful at achieving your goals you will be.

 

So, how do you remain positive in the midst of revision or completing a 10km run?

 

  1. Believe it or not, smiling improves your whole mood. Try it!
  2. Start saying, ‘I can’ instead of I can’t. Or ‘I will be able to’ instead of ‘I’ll never be able to.’
  3. Celebrate your success. No matter how small the gain is, all gains are positive.
  4. Be kind to yourself. If you take a knock, don’t dwell on it and focus only on the negative. Brush yourself off and get back on to the road of success.
  5. Everyone knows that they do not function when tired and grumpy. Being tired encourages negative thinking. So get your rest!

 

Teacher Talk: Lively Literature

This week’s Teacher Talk is all about literature – specifically thinking about our Year 7 classes, who have just finished a topic on A Christmas Carol.

 

 

Why study A Christmas Carol?

 

Charles Dickens is one of the most well-known writers in English Literature and A Christmas Carol is one of his most famous works. The novella is chosen by many schools as a GCSE text to study in Year 10 and 11, which makes it a perfect choice for our Year 7s. Not only does studying the book at Spark help them to understand the content ready to study it further in future, but it also gives the students a great chance to start analysing nineteenth-century literature. Language was a little bit different in the 1800s, which many students find tough at first. However, after a few weeks all of our Year 7s were making leaps and bounds in understanding the novella!

Our classes took a tour of everything important about the novel. This included the plot, the characters, the context and how to start answering an exam-style question…

One of the most interesting areas we looked at was context. Our groups really enjoyed learning about the little differences between how we live and how people lived in the 19th century. In particular, we had lots of discussions on how the treatment of the poor then was very different to now – and all agreed we’d rather live in our time then theirs!

 

Creative Character Discussion

 

Another fascinating part of A Christmas Carol is the characters. All of our students studied the main characters in the novel. These included Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the three Ghosts.

One class, taught by Charlotte, decided they were going to take on the role of teacher themselves. The students were each given one character from A Christmas Carol and were given the task to create a mind map discussing their characters attributes.

 

 

They then created their mind map on the board, whilst teaching the rest of the class facts about their character. The class then made notes on these facts and began to build up a better understanding of the characters in the text.

 

 

Each student then had a range of characters that they understand in excellent detail. They also demonstrated their higher level thinking skills. They were able to understand, condense and re-explain information to their fellow students.
This kind of activity is fantastic to get students reading, analysing and pushing to develop their understanding of a text. Characters are a very significant part of any literature; our students proved to be experts in analysing them!

Headteacher Talk: What Does Success Mean to You?

March is just beginning and the year is ticking on towards exam season for many pupils at Spark. It’s time to hear what our Headteacher Gemma has to say about success and it’s role in your life!

 

ever doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams. – Hillary Clinton

 

Success.

 

What does success look like to you? For me, it is a measure of achievement. If I set myself a goal, no matter how big or small, and I’ve reached it, then I say that I have been successful.

There is still plenty of time left of this academic year to end it with success. Although we only publicly recognise the successes and hard work of one student a month, it is clear that so many of our students are working hard to make sure they have achieved their goals at the end of the school year.

 

I never dreamed about success. I worked for it. – Estee Lauder

 

 

One of my favourite  scientists, Charles Darwin is quoted as saying

 

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’

 

 

For me, I think this is a powerful thought. Okay, so he was talking about species becoming adaptive to their environments in order to survive. However, it can be applied to anything in life. For example, if you don’t get a great score in a test or a mock exam, what are you going to change about your preparations to ensure you do better next time?

 

This is emphasised by a quote from Winston Churchill,

 

Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

 

 

So if you get knocked down, or you experience a set back, you will only see success if you pick yourself up and try again. Learn from your mistakes, don’t dwell on them!

 

So, what are you going to do to make a success of your goals? I leave you with this final quote,

 

A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. – Colin Powell

 

Student Thought: No Stuffy SATs Prep at Spark

When we think of students preparing for exams, most of us think of GCSEs. We even posted about Spark’s GCSE preparation here but they aren’t the only students in an important year. Our Year 6s are in full SATs swing now and enjoying the support that Spark offers in the run up to their exams.

It’s not just in our own after school lessons that we offer SATs support. Over the past two years Spark has been supporting schools with their preparation – you can read all about our successes here.

 

What do the Year 6s study at Spark?

 

Like all of our Year groups, the Year 6s follow the national curriculum. For them, this includes the content that they will be tested on in May and exam skills practise. They will be tested on numeracy and numerical reasoning for Maths and spelling, punctuation, grammar and comprehension in English. This is exactly what they spend their time at Spark studying.

 

What do the Year 6s have to say about Spark?

 

Rhea told us that she enjoys

 

learning interesting things

 

to support her SATs preparation. Mohammed said that at Spark

 

they go over stuff that school doesn’t […] and adapt lessons to your learning

 

which goes to show the dedication that the Spark teachers put in to making sure that SATs preparation is relevant to each class and each individual student.

Many of the students commented on how much they enjoyed the lessons each week because of

 

a variety of activities

 

SATs related games and because they

 

enjoy how the teachers teach

 

Of course, much of the preparation for SATs involves exam-style questions and practise papers, but we’ll thrilled to hear how much our students enjoy our lessons!

 

Is Spark the best place for SATs prep?

 

Over half of the students we asked told us that they didn’t look anywhere else for tuition. We thought that was a big compliment! The others told us that they chose Spark over other providers because

 

it gave me better education

 

and

 

it stood out from the rest

 

which is always fantastic to hear.

 

Are there any places left for Year 6?

 

Now that we’re so close, our classes are filling up quickly. There are a few spots left across our two sites but you will need to be quick; book your free trial today!

 

 

Parent Perspectives: Raves in our Reviews

In this week’s Parent Perspectives post, we thought we’d look somewhere a little different than usual. Many parents have been rating and posting reviews for Spark Academy for years – it’s time we celebrated their views!

 

Where can you rate and review?

 

Spark’s Facebook page is a perfect place for anyone looking to give us a rating or write a review. In fact, many parents have been doing just that! You might also know that we recently launched our Spark Forum. This is another amazing place where you can review or leave comments for the Spark team. You can even give us suggestions on how we could make Spark even better.

 

 

So now you know where you can go to rate, review and rave about us…

 

What sort of things have our parents been saying?

 

The first fantastic point we noticed when we looked at our Facebook reviews is that we have an amazing 5 star rating! This rating is averaged out over the years since our first Facebook review, which just goes to show that Spark is providing the same high quality tuition it has since opening.

 

 

Here are some highlights from our favourite reviews. It was tricky to choose from some many wonderful comments from our parents!

 

My boys will be joining this great teaching academy soon in January 2018. They will be working to their school level […] Spark Academy is far better – classroom based and a more professional set up.

P. S.

We strive to provide excellent tuition to support our students in their education, so it is always wonderful to hear that parents can see and appreciate everything we are doing!

 

The support has been priceless […] A designated time to study is key in getting excellent results. I knew I needed a great tutor service and was so pleased when Spark was recommended to me by a friend.

N. W.

Recommendations are another fantastic way so many of our parents review Spark. It’s great to hear that from their perspective, we’re so good they just can’t wait to tell others!

 

It’s clear to see the passion you have to teach and the desire to make every child a winner. I can’t fault anything you guys do. My kids love coming to Spark and they’re making great progress.

B. P.

Our small class sizes are key to our ability to make every child feel successful and vital to our lessons. And we’re always glad to hear our students enjoy coming to Spark!

 

How can you get involved?

 

If you’re a parent and you want to share your perspective on Spark, there are lots of ways to get involved. You can use our Facebook page, our Spark Forum, or you can comment on this post with your reviews!

What are Mital’s Top Ten Tips for Success?

Spark Academy’s founder Mital Thanki is obviously very successful. Otherwise Spark wouldn’t be doing so well! Earlier this year, Mital wrote an article for The Eastern Eye about her ‘Top Ten Tips for Success’. We thank the Eastern Eye for letting us use some of her ideas to share with you today!

 

1. Turn Big Dreams into Goals!

 

 

All good businesses start with an idea. Then a lot of thought and planning is needed to turn your big dream into reality. This is only possible when you set goals for yourself and plan on how you are going to get there. By breaking your big dreams into small goals, you can structure your plan and help to form your strategy for the future.

 

2. Turn your Passion into Profession

 

Don’t let money be your only driving factor. Confucius said

 

Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life

 

This is a motto I live by. If you are passionate about your work, you will continue to work at it even through the hard times. Eventually, your drive, passion and enthusiasm will be noticed. It’s people who recognise the importance of loving what you do who achieve the most success.

3. Believe in your Ideas and Go with your Gut

 

It’s essential that you trust your instincts. This is how you will take your business from strength to strength. At Spark Academy, we shout out about all of our successes – big and small! It’s important to me that our parents and students know what our vision is and how close we are to achieving it.

 

4. Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices

 

Owning your own business, yet challenging. Successful people will sacrifice personal and social time to build their business. You might need to be prepared to sacrifice your financial stability, your work-life balance and your comfort. However, you should remember that after a few years your hard work will really start to pay off.

 

5. Learn from Failures and Never Give Up

 

Making mistakes is an important lesson that gives you an opportunity to start again with more experience. Failing is just one step on the road to meeting your challenges head on. Don’t let struggles put you off your goals. Instead, think of it like a learning opportunity – it creates stepping stones on the way to greatness.

 

6. Be the Best in Your Field

 

Dedicate a part of your working time to your own professional development. Take time out to network, study the competition, attend courses and conferences. If you talk about the hot topics in your field, you will enhance your credibility and get yourself noticed. Spark Academy is the proud winner of several local and national awards – this is an indication of how dedicate we are to being the best.

 

7. Look after Your Team

 

Unless you are the only one working in your business, your team is the most important piece of your organisation. Have fun and develop a culture of compassion and love for one another. Celebrate small wins and encourage friendships. This helps to create a positive environment to work and thrive.

 

8. Maintain Discipline

 

Planning your daily tasks is essential when trying to kick-start or grow a venture. You must invest time into this and make it work for you. Know yourself and work when you are most productive. Remain committed to a timetable and maintain your routine.

 

9. Listen to Your Body

 

It’s important to know your signs of burn-out. When you are running on empty, feeling anxious or overwhelmed, remind yourself that you’re human. You’re not a machine! Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat well. Try meditating or keep a hobby to help recharge you after a difficult week.

 

10. Keep Your Vision Alive

 

Your vision is what you will build all of your success around. Take time to write a clear vision statement. Create a vision board filled with pictures, quotes and key words that highlight your ideas. The work you do needs to reflect your vision. You can help yourself achieve this by surrounding yourself by people who contribute to your success. Never lose faith and just keep going!

Who was November’s Top Sparkie?

 

As you know, at Spark we like to celebrate one member of staff each month for going above and beyond to help the whole team. This month’s Top Sparkie is no different…

 

Why did we vote for this month’s Top Sparkie?

 

Before we reveal who this month’s winner was… Let’s have a look at some of the lovely things the rest of the team had to say.

 

helpful, patient and kind

 

helpful and always cheers everyone up by making us smile

 

This month’s employee of the month is valued for lots of reasons. These reasons aren’t just for the work they do but for the contribution they make to the morale and motivation of the whole Spark team.

 

But who actually won?

 

This month’s winner came from Spark’s admin department. She:

 

truly is the Chief Happiness Officer!

 

and one of the other reasons given for nominated her was for her

 

always being positive and working longer than necessary in the evening

 

This staff member works hard every day to help parents and students with any questions they have. This month has been no exception, even though the admin department has had a lot of changes. Most of you know that this month Spark welcomed Barbara to the team. Our Top Sparkie has worked through

 

lots of admin changes this month and she has worked hard to keep everything running smoothly

 

And the winner is…

 

The Spark team nominated our fantastic admin assistant Nidhi Rana as our Employee of the Month for October! Her continuous devotion to her role and hard work has not gone unnoticed. Nidhi is one of the keystones of Spark, holding lots of pieces in place to keep the whole business running successfully. And she does it all with a smile and a positive attitude!

 

 

Keep up the good work Nidhi!

 

 

Headteacher Talk: What Can Finland Teach Us About Education?

As we approach the end of the month, it’s time to hear from our Headteacher Gemma. She has been thinking about what we at Spark can learn about education from others. That could be schools, other professionals, and even other countries…

 

What makes Finland’s education system different?

 

Finland’s educational system underwent reforms about 40 years ago. Since then, they have consistently come at the top end of the world rankings for education. It is only recently, however, that they have been making waves in the world of education. With comparisons being made to our own educational system in the UK, are there lessons to be learned?

In Finland, a child starts school in the year that they turn 7 and remain in compulsory education for 9 years. This basic education is provided within a single structure, there is no divide between primary and secondary education. It is only in the last 3 years of their education that students are taught by subject specialists. There are no National tests for students in Finland. Instead, teachers are responsible for all assessment. There is just one exam at the end of the 9 years of study that will be the same for all students.  This is in stark contrast to our own system in the UK. Here, students as young as 6 will be entered for testing. There results measure the progress of the students throughout the whole of their academic journey.

 

 

So what about the ethos?

 

One task of education in Finland is to develop a student’s ability to self-assess, to support the growth of self-knowledge and study skills and to help make student’s aware of their own progress.  This is something very close to our hearts at Spark.  We commit to supporting our students, not only in their study and learning of specific content, but also in developing their independence and resilience in learning.

It is not only the students that are the focus of education in Finland, teachers have a very different experience than many in the UK. Teachers in Finland are held in the same esteem as lawyers and doctors. They are seen as the keys to quality education. As a result, they spend 2 hours a week on their own professional development. As you are probably aware, teachers in the UK are also currently in the news, but for very different reasons. More teachers are leaving the profession than are joining, with much of this down to workload and pressures from league tables (something which is absent in Finland).

 

 

Why is the Finnish system important to us?

 

At Spark, we too, believe that our teachers are the key to a student’s success. They are responsible for producing our bespoke resources and assessments. This allows them to concentrate on how they deliver the lesson in the best possible way for their students to learn. It is also important for us to allow for professional development. Our teachers continually look at teaching strategies and research other areas in education.

Looking at the Finnish system has drawn comparisons with our own ethos here at Spark. However, only time will tell if our schools will follow a similar path…

 

Student Thought: Different and Varied Learning

This week’s Student Thoughts are from members of the Oadby Year 5 class. Their ideas and comments help us to shape our lessons and develop the way we teach Maths and English.

 

What do you like about Spark?

 

We always ask our students what they enjoy about lessons at Spark Academy. Without student enjoyment, Spark would be the same as all other tuition providers.

Rohan Upple told us that his favourite part of both Maths and English is

 

that it is fun

 

Rohan (right) and fellow student Ariyan (left) working together.

 

At Spark, we strongly believe that making our lessons fun is key to helping our students learn. This is especially important as we are very aware that our students have spent all day learning, so by ensuring our lessons are enjoyable we can help our students stay focused.

Another student, Amelia Suleman, told us that

 

I enjoy learning different things in maths such as percentages. I enjoy learning different things in English such as spellings and comprehension.

 

The varied nature of our lessons and our coverage of the whole curriculum means that every week at Spark is different. This is obviously something our students also enjoy!

 

Amelia working hard to create sentences using the progressive tense.

Why did you choose Spark?

 

Amelia told us that she

 

looked at Kumon before Spark and I picked Spark because they follow the school curriculum

 

We strongly feel that following the national curriculum is the best way to support our students at school. It is clear that our students feel the same way!

Student Thoughts: Organise; Revise; Survive!

As you know, at Spark we are always looking for ways to share the successes of our students. What better way is there to do that than to ask our students to write about their successes themselves? This week’s Student Thoughts post with advise on how to organise and revise in Year 11 comes to you from one of our AS Level students. 

Hi, my name is Kiran and I am currently studying AS Chemistry and Biology at Spark Academy. I have been a part of the tuition centre since Year 8. I truly feel that Spark has not only helped me with my school work but has also allowed me to develop as a person and provided me with support throughout the years.

 

What I like most about Spark:

 

One of my favourite things about Spark Academy has to be the teachers. Their enthusiasm towards teaching their subjects is amazing; you can see and feel the passion that they have which encourages you to stretch your potential and work hard. Every lesson is unique and enjoyable which makes you look forward to next week.

 

Getting the balance right

 

I am here to talk to you about how I revised for my GCSEs and how I balanced my studies with extra-curricular activities. Over the course of a few blog posts I will be sharing ideas that I used to help me revise as well as manage my time!

If I had to narrow the key points down they would be:

 

Know What You Need to Do and When Your Deadlines Are

 

 

Whether this is having a to-do list on post it notes or a diary that you check regularly, having work written down will prevent you from forgetting to do it. For example each piece of work I have I write on individual post its and stick them on my study wall so I remember. This can be used for reminding you about homework you need to be do or when and what to revise for an exam.

 

Stay Organised

 

 

Try to have each subject’s notes or books kept separately instead of all mixed up. When it comes to revision you need to know where everything is and not waste time looking for your notes! You could use plastic wallets or folders with dividers to organise yourself.

 

Look After Yourself!

 

Make sure you have regular breaks. Revision in large chunks is not effective. For example, I used to revise for 30 minutes followed by a 5 minute break or even 45 minutes of work with 10 minute breaks. Whatever suits you best! Also don’t forget to leave time for you to relax and do things that you enjoy.

See you next time where I will talk about revision techniques that I use! Remember – if you organise, you can revise and you will survive your GCSEs!