Mr Curson – you made my day

IF is getting growing, one converted enthusiast at a time but it is tweets like these two below that keep you moving forward.

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I do hope that we get to play his game.

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Parent or Carer Meetings with Structure

Be hard on yourself and life will be easy. Be easy on yourself and life will be hard.

This week I ‘coached’ a colleague preparing for a parent, carer consultation arranged to challenge the behaviour of a bright and significantly under-performing student. Here is the situation. The member of staff is a conscientous professional and is also aware that she does not feel comfortable in these situations. Given the fact that she is willing to challenge this status quo, we sort to address this situation.

First, from her point of view, we meet to discuss the student’s behaviour and progress. From my point of view, we meet to address her discomfort with the situation and prepare herself for the conversation.

Second, after discussing the student concerns (behaviour and attainment) we discussed how to structure the conversation and in doing so increase ownership of the conversation and reduce the impact of uncertainty and hopefully her discomfort. Here are the five markers we used to structure the conversation.


Be concise. Keep it simple.  In one or two sentences, get to the heart of the problem. Be thoughtful about your language. Use the students name.


What’s at stake? What is the future impact if the issue is not resolved?


What specific results do I want? SMART-R works fine, (R being ‘written’) or GROW – goal, realism, objective, will. 


Summarise. Keep it factual. Reference key school policy. In our case we referenced ‘The Behaviour for Learning Code.’ Make sure you have a copy of any policies or documents referenced. Afterall, the parent or carer may like a copy. Afterall, in my experience parents are often not fully aware of the situation and more often than not, want the same positive conclusion you do. No-one likes to be overwhelmed or side swipped.

A soft pause here is often suitable. It gives you moment to take breath and it also gives parents or carers the chance to contribute ‘relevant background information’ of their own.

After you have listened attentively. Processed the impact of the contribution, if any, thanked them for their contribution. You have structured the conversation, so move on.


What have I done so far? This is where previously following school procedures is highlighted. Recording incidents in the students planner, filling out referrals and adding communications in the planner. Being hard on yourself, getting it done, will make life easier in the long haul.


What options am I considering? What is the expected contribution from the parents or carers. Again SMART-R or GROW applies.

Third, we worked through points 1 and 2, rehearsed a little just to demonstrate the effectiveness of the preparation, before the member of staff went away to structure the conversation. I requested a copy of the conversation in advanced. Added a few notes and returned it. We meet 5 minutes before the meeting to confirm my role, which quite simply was to listen and observe and just be there if needed. I am pleased to say the meeting went very smoothly on points 1-4. The parent was very supportive, the student was very accepting of the evidence and the member of staff did a fantastic job in presenting that evidence. In fact it went so well, point 5 was not addressed. More of that in a moment.

Coaching a structured conversation for the first time. What I learnt?

The following day I read over the prepared conversation. There is a temptation to lay it all out at the beginning. There is even the temptation to defer responsibility for the situation to the student and parent or carer. I understand the motivation for this response, you have tried a number of other strategies before calling for a conference, you are possibly exhuasted by the situation, frustrated, angry, I could go on, however even more reason to try and be concise. Think of it this way, you want the situation to improve, even resolution, so be concise, clearly and suscinctly define points 1 and 2 and be default you are focusing the conversation on point 5. Afterall, in my experience most parents and carers are often not fully aware of the situation entails and more often than not, want that situation to improve, and the same resolution you do. No-one appreciates being overwhelmed, side swipped or embarrassed in the first three minutes of a conversation, if at any point.

Provide factual evidence of the situation at point 3. This may mean excluding some of the minor points that can not be easily evidenced. Leaving ‘anything’ out seemed a difficult point to accept. Again, stick to the core, evidence based examples. Be aware of your choice of language and tone and do try to be impartial and I know that considering ‘all the hard work’ you have put in up until this point that its difficult. You are merely outlining the situation. % attendance,  x missed homeworks, x missed detentions, x number of referrals, that are recorded and backed up by referrals and school policies. After all you should have been employing these policies to manage the situation. Interestly, in preparing point 4, my colleague began to see the real value in those blasted forms and planners….

Now for the money shot. Point 5. Why you are here afterall. As you know, in this example point 5 was not covered and even given the success of the meeting, it should have been. The meeting should always end with a clear end point and outcome becuase even though it was a very positive meeting and even though the parent was fully supportive and offered great opportunity for communication there needed to be a road map to measure the impact of the meeting at a later date.

Now, as a school leader I learnt that I have a responsibility (and the opportunity) to impact on staffs perception of her own capabilities. Having shared this approach, I hope to consolidate my colleagues understanding of structured conversations by asking her to reflect and lead a department session on the same topic, dessiminating the use of this formal approach within the department further. I also learnt, that as a result of sharing this approach, she also gained a deeper appreciation of the policies and structures in place at our school, and indeed I expect she will use them more fully as a result. It is my professional opinion, that both the students and parent’s opinion of the school and my colleagues, were enhanced. Lastly, using a combination of both mentoring (introducing the strategy) and coaching (exploring it with her and letting her construct the script) approaches led to a more confident and capable colleague.

(If you would like a santised version of the script that was written, I am sure we can provide a copy).

Favoured Tweets


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More educators backing IF

It is great to hear such positive feedback from Nick Jackson (@largerama) and Alan Heard (@MrAHeard). Behind closed tweets Nick was particular positive

Felt like I made a break thru frm an educators point of view re Quest last week & yesterday in both knowing how to get the ball rolling quickly with it and my approach to how to use it. But not only that – I saw students’ very positive response to playing IF……. Even more convinced of the power of it now.

You can read and hear his thoughts online but he didnt stop there, throwing down the gauntlet with this final paragraph.

All of these materials are available here so you now have no excuse but to give more young people the chance to explore this exciting area of literacy, programming, problem solving, game-making, game-playing, IT, Computing, literacy, storytelling etc etc

Meanwhile, via Twitter and phone calls, we have recruited Alan Heard to the IF fold. It didn’t take much as he was a self confessed IF ‘oldboy.’ Within days he had moved from player

Loving brings back memories of playing Zork back in the day. Where to start? Get children playing Dreamhold first?

to designer,

just designing game now to have a play with, right up my street this!!!
Just got the rooms on paper with exits. About2 open quest and create rooms. Have query re objects and ending but might be a long one. Email?

to programmer,

Any way to obtain user input for a pass code for example

It’s ok thanks I’ve just found the getInput() function its for a password for a door what player finds somewhere in the game.

to advanced problems solver and community member,

Simply could not go to bed until I’d figured the right code out. Now its done it’s quite simple. Will share later.

The power of IF.

Now, there is one other notable inclusion. Our very first contributor from the English fold. An AST with a fantastic reference.

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It is so good to be able to draw together such fantastic educators.  It is so reassuring to have Lisa’s (Lisajaneashes) help, as without her we would be without that sharp focus on literacy.

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