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Curiouser and Curiouser
November 10, 2017
0

I was at child protection training today. It is never the most enjoyable of training experiences but clearly, it is essential we do it. The presenter urged us to be ‘professionally curious’. To wonder why a child is presenting to us in the way that they are.

I have also been busy recently finding out about digital citizenship and how to take the next steps with this within my school setting. As part of my information gathering, I watched the very inspiring Devorah Heitner talk about how, if we really want to find out about what children are doing online, we need to get curious about what makes them tick and what motivates their online behaviour.

Curiosity is perhaps our greatest tool as teachers. Harnessing the power of ‘I wonder why’ opens a vast array of doors into learning, emotional behaviour, adverse childhood experiences. And where it doesn’t throw open a door, it might just unlock a window, provide a tiny chink of knowledge, only gleaned about a child and his or her life through being curious and asking why. For instance:

Why does he take three pieces of bread with his lunch every day?

Why does she hide her phone when adults walk past?

Why does he kick off every Tuesday afternoon right before PE?

Why is she so focused on getting full marks on this test?

And the biggest and most powerful why of all:

Why is his head down today?

Find out the answer to that and you will find out everything you need to know to help that child.

To be good at what we do, we have to wonder why.

But you know what? It’s actually not enough. It is not enough to be curious just about the young people you work with. Because curiosity begins at home. We need to turn the spotlight on ourselves and our practice and get really curious, asking:

I wonder why I reacted like that…

I wonder what would happen if I changed this….

I wonder what it would be like to….

I wonder if it’s time to do less…

I wonder if it’s time to do more…

I wonder how I could make that work for…

These questions are highly flammable; they ignite learning. If you want to be good at what you do, you need to keep these questions in your back pocket and use them like lighter fluid; spray liberally in amongst the orderly and carefully stacked dry wood of your usual routine and then strike a match. Throw a question in and watch it light up your practice.

And then be ready to kindle the flames. Because there’s no point in letting your curiosity be a flash in the pan. If you’re going to go to the effort of asking the hard questions, you need to be ready to stoke the learning and keep it burning. And that means spreading the good word. Put another way, you need to make your curiosity contagious and infect everyone you work with.

Make the flammable questions part of everybody’s daily business and you build a fire so big and so bright it becomes unstoppably brilliant.

There are lots of ways you can get going. Ask a flammable question in the staffroom. Write a blog post or start keeping a little journal of your wonderings- it doesn’t matter what your why is, it just matters that you ask it.

Get to or organise a TeachMeet and surround yourself with curious people just like you.

You might even be heading to the glorious Pedagoo Muckle this weekend. This will be a proper solid tinderbox of an event, stuffed full of curious and inquiring people and questions who together will burn bright and kindle others as they go.

So if you are Muckle-bound this weekend (and even if you are not), remember:

Curiosity begins at home.

Ask the flammable questions.

Kindle others when you get back to school.

And always remember it is our job to push back the dark.

Wee Pedagoo
March 5, 2017
0

Good things come in small packages.

Talking about teaching and learning is a magical thing. Get a bunch of teachers together and they spark off one another like pieces of flint. Inspiring, creative, curious conversations happen that lead to practice-changing ‘I-never-thought-of-it-like-that-before’ moments. This much we know.

We also know teachers are busy. Crazy busy.

So how are we supposed to make space for all this sparky flinty goodness in amongst the noise of everything else that happens in schools? Welcome to Wee Pedagoo, the pocket-sized Pedagoo event that really packs a punch!

One conversation. One hour. One huge difference.

Wee Pedagoo is about one conversation that really matters. No name tags, no presenters, no PowerPoints. Just teachers talking. A Wee Pedagoo event is about carving out a wee space to talk about the big stuff. It’s really easy to organise (even if this is your first time planning an event), super-flexible and guaranteed to give teachers the feel-goods. You can have a Wee Pedagoo whenever and wherever teachers get together. You can set the topic for the conversation yourself or choose from our ever-growing ideas page full of #haveaweegoo questions to get teachers talking. You can have a Wee Pedagoo with as many or as few teachers as you want- it’s the quality of the conversation that matters. So what are you waiting for? Have a wee goo and sign up today!

Interested?

Great! Hop over to the Wee Pedagoo page to find out more and register your event now- then get ready for the sparks to fly!

Any Questions?
March 19, 2016
0

 

It’s been a busy week. Busy at school, busy at home.

The ‘to do’ list has kept growing and it has felt like every time I crossed something off at the top of the list, another four things have appeared on the bottom.

Most people I meet seem to be the same. Hurried ‘good mornings’ with colleagues in the corridor at work as they race from one lesson to the next and hurried catch-ups with friends as children are bustled from one after school activity to another.

Why do we do this? Why are we living our lives at such a break-neck speed?

I feel like I spend my life rushing through tasks, head down, keeping going, with the constant knowledge that to let one of those tasks slide would be to admit a fatal weakness; I’d be a bad mum, a bad teacher. ‘If you were just better organised’ I chastise myself whilst folding the kids’ washing at 6am. ‘If you’d worked through lunch today you could have got that done by now’ I mutter to myself while marking jotters at bedtime.

The impact of all this busyness and negative self-talk is stress. Oppressive, shove-you-to-the-ground-and-sit-on-you stress. That breathless, panicky feeling like someone’s hand is round your throat, even when you are asleep.

I am a big believer in authentic teaching and learning- to get the best out of my learners, I know I need to be the best version of myself. I need to be in the room, present and ready to create the conditions that will allow my learners to flourish. That means not thinking about the homework my own kids still need to finish before tomorrow morning or the emails I haven’t replied to.

Stress + Busyness = Poor Quality Teaching

Having a teacher that is constantly in motion is like trying to learn long division from a whirling dervish; it simply does not work. I have come to realise that, instead of deserving an award for keeping on top of everything, instead I am short-changing my learners by trying to do too much.

 My busyness has become toxic. And what’s worse, it’s highly infectious. Rushing my learners through one lesson after another, trying to pack everything in, infects them with my stress. The message they get from my hurried glances at the clock and reassurances they’ll be time for questions later, is that learning is linear and speed is king. Do it right, do it once, do it fast.

How awful to reduce the magnificent, sprawling, gloriously creative mess of learning to a sad little straight line, from A to B.

Twitter (via @FifeEduTeam) led me to a quote this week:

“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child’s need for quietness is the same today as it has always been–it may even be greater–for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.”

Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown wrote children’s books. She died in 1952. I can only imagine what she would have made of how as a society we have continued to worship at the altar of activity (with increasing devotion) in the sixty years since her death.

The idea that quietness is an essential part of learning is often overlooked. It does not sit well beside Government benchmarks for progress in learning or tracking attainment. It is jostled out of the way by a curriculum bursting at the seams. School leaders are nervous about teachers embracing quietness. ‘What’s the point of this?’ they’ll ask crossly when they see a class reading for pleasure or taking a walk down the corridor after a Maths lesson. ‘Where’s the learning here?’ ‘What is this achieving?’ Such school leaders cannot see the invisible, subtle importance of weaving quiet space into the busy tapestry of teaching and learning and this is a fatal mistake. The downtime to process learning is fundamental to the learning process- it needs to be built in and respected. It is not a skive if, as a result of twenty minutes of quiet reading, learners and teacher are refreshed and ready to move on to new and greater heights.

So, my plan this week is to start from quiet. I am going to carve out spaces for quiet in my professional and personal life and I am going to infect my learners with this instead of my toxic busyness. I am going to breathe in deeply and avert my eyes from that hateful ‘to do’ list and just start doing. And I am going to break up the doing with quietness. I am going to say:

That’s an interesting idea, let’s explore it.

How would you like to tackle this problem?

Let’s take time out now to let that sink in.

And best of all:

Any questions?

 

[This post was first published on https://knowitshowit.wordpress.com/]

 

 

 

Previously undiscovered football skills and why it’s time you practice what you teach

I was unloading the dishwasher yesterday and I dropped a mug. Not just any mug either; it was my brand new, most favourite mug (it’s dinosaur mug, by the way, but a cool one, obviously). Seconds before it smashed to smithereens on my kitchen floor, I threw out my foot, bounced it off my ankle and caught it mid-air. In your face, mug-smash sadness!

I looked around triumphantly and saw… no one.

No one to witness my small (but epic) win.

Teaching’s a bit like that sometimes. You plan the lesson. You teach the lesson and somewhere in the middle of the teaching your classroom goes through that indefinable change that means your learners are totally engaged. You know the change I mean- that tiny difference that lets you know something really good is going on. A little quieter (even the serial rustlers and fidgeters are with you on this one) or a little louder (is that the kid whose only spoken twice in the last 6 months getting in on the discussion?!).

Whatever it is, it’s magic. It’s what happens when, as educators, we get it right.

That magical moment can feel surprisingly elusive; behaviour issues, wide variations in ability, time constraints and general pressure can sometimes make real, quality engagement with learning feel like a needle in a very large haystack.

And it’s sad that there’s no other teacher in the room to see you make the good stuff happen. If you were a professional footballer having a really good day at work, people would be jumping on you and hugging you round the head right now.

And much, much worse than the fact there’s no actual witness to your great lesson, (which would be a nice, though clearly not essential, ego boost) is that a lot of the time there’s also no one around whose up for a debrief.

Footballers have to sit as a team and watch action replays over and over, analysing exactly what went right, what didn’t and why. Working together to identify good practice, agreeing pathways for ensuring more of the good stuff happens.

That kind of in-depth analysis of your practice is foreign to most of us as educators. I’m not suggesting we start recording lessons and organising playback sessions, but how great would it be to have a team of your peers watch what you do best and then give you high quality feedback on how to do even better?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘That would not be great’. You’re thinking ‘I’d rather stick my head in a basket of rats than teach in front of my colleagues.’

And I get that. But you know what? It’s time to get over it. Would you accept the basket-of-rats response from your learners? Hardly! We are constantly encouraging our young people to seek out and give each other high quality feedback- it’s the mantra we embed for all improvement; know where you are, know where you’re going, know how to get there.

It’s time to practice what we teach.

I understand that the ick-factor is high. Most of us have limited experience of being observed by our peers. Those of us that have experienced it usually find the experience less than enlightening. Once a session peer observation at the behest of management is a box-ticking exercise. Watching a colleague teach for twenty minutes and then telling them how wonderful they are in every possibly way (regardless of whether you actually think this) is a big, fat waste of everyone’s time.

What I’m talking about here is actual discussion. Professional dialogue that results in measurable, improved practice. Sharing what you believe is excellent about what you do. Putting it in front of others and discovering if they agree.

Scary? Absolutely. It means taking a chance. Trusting others to be respectful with something you have invested in. But it’s no more than what you ask kids to do every day. Share your learning. Ask for feedback. Use the feedback to make your performance better.

I want to be part of a profession where sharing what I do is just part of what I do. It shouldn’t be scary, or icky, or involve baskets of rats. It should just be what we do in order to get better. And wherever possible, it should involve cake.

So I set up #PedagooPeebles. I’ll be there, being brave and sharing what I do.

Ready to join me?

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