Nick Dennis: This is how I work

I am Nick Dennis and this is how I work

Nick Dennis

Nick Dennis

Current job: Deputy Head at Berkhamsted School

Been a teacher since: 2003

Location: Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, UK

Current mobile device: I have two at the moment. I have an Android Galaxy S3 and an iPhone 5. As I do a lot of work with mobile learning I thought it would be useful to experience Android over the long term. Can’t say I love it. I also have an iPad Mini with 3G.

Current computer: I have an iMac and a Chromebook (provided to me gratis by the people at Google at one of the first Chromebook events).

School-issued devices: MacBook Pro 13 inch which also runs Windows 7 via a Virtual Machine (Parallels). I also use it at home as I can connect to the school network.

One word that best describes how you work: Now, I would say ‘effective’. Before, I would say ‘improving’. This does not mean that I am not improving now!

How do you manage your calendar/diary?

As I work in a PC dominated environment, I use Outlook when at my desk (my MacBook has Windows running via a VM). This way Mrs R (our PA) can manage my diary. I have my diary sync to my iPhone so most of my calendar management happens there.

How do you manage your lesson planning?

Depends on the lesson. I use Planbook to log things but often plan on an A3 pad when I need to be clear about what I am trying to get the students to learn through the activities I am using.

How do you manage your marking?

I try to do it early in the morning before anyone comes into school. I actually enjoy it more now. I know. Strange.

What’s your best tip for term-time weekends?

I always read at the weekend as it keeps me focussed. I normally go and support students/colleagues at matches on Saturday and it is great to see them in a different setting and is a weekly reminder that Education is more than what happens in the classroom. It also gives me a great opener with students when I see them during the week at school. The Salesians of Don Bosco talk about the ‘liking what they like’. Although not a Catholic, having volunteered for the organisation via my Catholic friends, it certainly cemented the view that ‘Education’ is about positive, healthy and appropriate relationships.

What do you do during school holidays?

Sleep and see family/friends. I have inconvenient friends who live in the corners of the country so I normally get to see them when I am on the break. I also read a great deal. It keeps me off the streets.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

At the moment? Clash of Clans. I am addicted to it. I would like to  thank my Year 8 class who suggested that I play it. A waste of time but I need to harvest more elixir…

On a more serious note, I use Twitter quite a lot to find out what other people are doing. I used to be an avid forum user but find it better to connect with people outside my immediate interests. This is not to say that it is wonderful…

What offline tools can’t you live without?

Paper. Pen/pencil. Books.

What’s your main workspace like?

My office is lovely. I have a great view of the school and it has some student/personal prints on the wall. I also like the fact that I have a comfortable sofa that parents/students/colleagues can sit on when they come in. It is a little thing but it makes all the difference. At home, I use a desk and my dining table to write on. I have moved my computer display to the top of a cabinet so I can stand and type/browse/email which is better for my back.  I intend to buy a ‘standing desk’ at some point.

What do you listen to while you work?

Nothing at school as I do not want to distract others and my office door is open so colleagues/students/parents can come in to see me. At home, it depends. I find that when I really need to concentrate, I do not listen to any music at all (especially in the morning). At other times, a wide variety including classical, funk, R&B, indie. Anything really.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Personally? I always put things into my calendar. Makes it easier to plan the day and allocate focus which saves time. I don’t have a general time-saving trick.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Notebook and Firetask.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

None really.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?


What’s your sleep routine like?

I go to sleep earlier now than I used to. My aim is to get to bed by 10 during term time and wake up at 5. I usually go to bed at 11 and am awake by 6.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I am an introvert who has learned/acquired extrovert tendencies.

Fill in the blank.

I’d like to see David James, Colin Goffin, Mark Steed, Jamie Portman, Mark Lovatt & Andy Kemp answer these same questions.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Can’t remember anything specific in terms of work but working with Mark Lauder, Headmaster at Ashville College, was an ‘advice fest’ in itself. Especially when it came to haircuts. Personally, things my Grandma says.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

No thank you.


Many thanks to Nick for agreeing to be the first person to post.

Nick Dennis: This is how I work

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