Author Archives: Fiona Duncan

Inspired by the possibility

On the first Sunday of the six weeks (in England that is, our colleagues north of the border were already well into the summer spirit), I was sat in a little car park in the Brecon Beacons at 6am watching my husband, and at least 30 other people head off in the wind and rain to complete a walk, or a run over the top of Pen Y Fan, either with a pack on their back or without.

I didn’t do this. I sat in the car, drinking lots of coffee, wrapped in a blanket (it was very cold) and discussing ideas with my daughter.

We were talking about why the people were doing it; she wanted to know whether they’d “get a prize” at the end, and when I explained they were doing it to prove that they could do it, she said she thought that they “really should get a prize”.

So, to find out what they did get, I did what every good teacher (and parent) does when they don’t know the answer; I Googled it.

The company who organised this, Avalanche Endurance Events (, are a relatively small company ran by people with some interesting backgrounds and stories.
The founder of AEE has an incredible background.

Ken Jones was caught in an avalanche. The injuries he sustained were horrendous, but I won’t say too much about it here, he describes it himself in agonising detail in his book “Darkness Descending”. He explains how he walked, crawled, and hobbled his way to safety, using the skills he had learned and been taught along the way. He did however, write something that struck a chord with me.

After his Avalanche accident, and the time he spent in hospital, Ken found himself at his parents house in late spring when, during a snowfall he was reminded of a memory of pair of boots from his childhood, and what that memory meant to him. He wrote that he was “inspired by (the) possibility” of this memory, and this set him on the path to recovery.
In no way am I comparing teaching to the arduous rehabilitation he went through, however the fact he was “inspired by possibility” rang true.

That tiny quote made the link between what I was seeing in the pouring (and still cold) rain, and us as teachers. In the pedagoo and teachmeet community, we are constantly inspired by possibilities; the starter someone shares, the group workshops, the marking, the resources, #pedagoofriday, and, dare I say it, DIRT were all inspired by the possibility that they might just work.

We know in the classroom we have within us the drive and determination to make sure every student “gets it”, and the dogged determination in not giving up shown by Ken made me realise that we’re not that different. How we execute it differs vastly, but the ethos to push past our own comfort zones, the desire to prove to people that they can do it is exactly the same. We celebrate the successes, we make sure every student knows that we will – without question – help, support and encourage them in any way possible, and we make sure that every student knows that they are what makes the success: it doesn’t matter if it takes months of hard work and preparation, we are there, ready to shake their hand at the end and tell them “well done”.

We all know people who crave the plaudits, the praise, the prizes, but us, the pedagoo and teachmeet community, we are here, constantly adapting, constantly changing, constantly pushing ourselves so we can ensure the students we have in our classrooms are inspired by their own possibilities.

So, to answer my daughters question “they”, the people who are climbing Pen Y Fan (in the sunshine now) are doing it because for the majority it’s the culmination of months of hard work and preparation. AEE stood at the bottom and shook everyone’s hand who finished, and told them ‘well done’.

So, why do we teach? We do this not because we want “a prize at the end”, we teach because we are inspired by the possibilities our job brings. We don’t wait for someone to come along and do things for us, we get out there and keep on walking, pushing ourselves to be better then we were yesterday.

To those who have done “The Fan Dance”; you are incredible people.

To those who are teachers; you are also incredible people.

You see, the skill set we need to do our job, is not that different from the people who work and run Avalanche Endurance Events.

Maybe we’re not as ‘unique ‘ as we think we are.

I’ve tried something new – have you?

I’ve tried lots of new things this year. And I’m very brave for doing it!

That’s an arrogant statement, I know, but when you can say that because of two little books which were loaned to you last summer, and you have engaged, inspired, and supported colleagues into trying something new, then I think it’s something I can be a little proud of!

(The best reward was to hear that my students had confidently supported and corrected other colleagues when they were getting a little mixed up; “no miss, I can’t be Extended Abstract yet, I’m not a confident Relational”.)

That was up until Christmas, then, I discovered the wonderful world of Pedagoo, and the Saturday which changed my professional life, PedagooSunshine.

After that day I promised that I would try something new every week, and, I’m -blowing my own trumpet again – proud to say that I have.

From IRIS to Poundshop pedagogy, SOLO Stations to listening the the inspiration that is Ron Berger, I have had the best last term ever!

I have tried, failed, succeeded, and had my taste in music questioned (nothing wrong with a little Rancid @Totallywired77) and I’ve made sure that at the very heart of everything was my students. What did they need? How were they going to achieve it? What could I do to ensure they’d get there? Was I confident enough that they’d come back from their mistakes?

My students have totally surprised me! They have been engaged, planning lessons has been a joy, watching them grasp a topic and run with it, and celebrating the wrong responses so we can learn how to make the right ones has made me realise the power that sharing our ideas has.

With that in mind – and the fact we all have 6 weeks to think about it – why not try one new thing in September? We have the time to think about it, research it, plan it and then worry it won’t work!

But it will.
I promise you.
If it doesn’t, you can even blame me.
Be brave, read what’s out there and ask!

I wouldn’t be in the position I am now if it hadn’t been for twitter and the people who have influenced me the most; @lisajaneashes @Totallywired77 @TeamTait @SciTeacherBrad @ASTsupportAAli @fkelly @DKMead @RonBergerEL @kennypieper

So, to finish; relax, recuperate, regroup and remember the only limit you have is your own imagination; if yours doesn’t have limits, imagine what you could inspire in your students!

Comfort Zone? It’ll be like walking on hot coals… #pedagoosunshine

First things first.

In writing this I am TOTALLY out of my comfort zone (hope that’s a big tick for me from the pedagoo team). Secondly, what is it I’m actually uncomfortable about?
Judgments? They happen frequently.
Derision? Not here.
Reflecting honestly on my own practice? …hmmm…

I was one of the many at pedagoosunshine this weekend, and like many, I left feeling inspired, curious and positive about the ideas I’d heard, the ideas I’d shared and the potential to build new friendships with colleagues I wouldn’t have normally come into contact with.

I left feeling awed at the level of learning my new found colleagues are able to inspire in their students, and it got me thinking; am I capable of doing this with the students whose minds I’m responsible for?

I’m not sure I know the answer to that question, but I will promise to try – at least once – every single one of the ideas from this weekend.

We should take the risk. We should feel uncomfortable. We should be able to look at each of our students and see that spark ignite because we’ve taken the risk that’s caught the imagination of that hard to reach student.

My promise is simple:

I promise that every week I will allow a class to do something which takes them – and me – out of our comfort zones.

I promise that we will take the steps towards a new, braver classroom where all of our minds are opened to new ideas and possibilities.

I’ll be sharing it with the students, and colleagues in the hope that they, like you, will take up that baton and try something new.

Will it be scary? Probably.
Is it guaranteed to work? Not really.
But it is possible to walk across hot coals with the right attitude…