Category Archives: Pedagoo

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About Pedagoo

What is Pedagoo?

Pedagoo is a growing community of teachers collaboratively supporting, encouraging and sharing innovative and effective approaches to teaching and learning. We aim to improve outcomes for our young people through positively and professionally sharing our practice.

If you’re on twitter, check out our hashtag #PedagooFriday. Every week teachers share the highlight of their week from their classrooms with this hashtag. It’s a fantastically positive way to end the week and a great way of sharing ideas.

We also run Pedagoo events and so can you! Pedagoo events focus on providing a fun opportunity to learn from each other and further develop the community. Check out pedagoo.org/events for more information on how to attend an event or run one of your own.

Pedagoo is completely not for profit and is run by a small team of educators in our spare time. You can get in touch with the team by using the following email address: share@pedagoo.org

The Pedagoo logo is based on a shape originally created by [SPLASH-!T].

ACEs in spades

ACEs in spades

T.S Eliot’s famous assertion that “April is the cruellest month” took on starker pertinence when I spent some of my time last month reading, watching and listening to items dedicated to childhood adversity – none of this, particularly, by design; all of it very much amplifying the growing evidence of the alarming and indelible mark childhood adversity leaves on adult lives and that we, educators, need to know about it and be able to adapt our practice.

Gail Honeyman’s (http://www.foyles.co.uk/Author-Gail-Honeyman) novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine takes us to the damaged interior world of a 30-something, barely-functioning, care-experienced protagonist who manages her daily existence with the utmost care lest the threadbare façade of normality she’s painstakingly constructed become unravelled.

The language she uses is as impeccable as the world she has designed for herself and yet, despite the adversity, is humble, tender and unintentionally funny. The reader becomes gradually more aware of what major adverse event led to her being taken into care; about the persistent voice of ‘Mummy’ (chilling in her cruelty); about the loss of a younger child in this event; about how only because she’s buried this stuff away can she maintain a level of functionality. But we learn that the body doesn’t forget even though the mind tries to, and when she hits breaking point in a harrowing episode involving much vodka and vomit the extent of her pain becomes clear. It made me wonder about children who have ‘shut down’ and are burying their pain and how many of them might have been in my classroom, my care. And what might become of these children in later years.

What might become of them can be seen in Season 2 of the Dutch version of Dreamschool (https://www.npo3.nl/dream-school/26-02-2018/VPWON_1280977 sadly without subtitles) which, this year, introduced us to 14 adversity-experienced ‘drop-outs’ who get 3 weeks of coaching and teaching to find the insight, motivation, interest and aspiration with which to enter their adulthoods, expertly guided by two highly capable and empathetic authorities in their respective fields and at least a dozen ‘celebrity’ teachers introducing their various professions by means of imaginatively-designed lessons.

The adolescent participants displayed so much of the behaviour we learn about from things like the Resilience film (see more below) that it almost seemed to me as if they were sequential: problems with impulse control; substance abuse and addiction; behaviour damaging relationships; physical ailments; avoidance tactics; verbal abuse; inability to take responsibility; lack of trust; unpredictable behaviour; compulsive disorders; lashing out; signs of acute mental health problems. We learn about some of the adversity they’ve experienced (or still are) and are reminded that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past”. Mainstream schooling failed each of these children because their needs were not known, not expressed, not acknowledged – and not met. None of these participants appeared beyond help or potential; all were (or emerged as) high-functioning in their own way; none came with a map beyond navigation – just defective inner compasses. How they were so utterly failed by ‘the system’ I don’t know but, judging by the responses on social media I hope programmes like these serve as a clarion call for the profession to become much more educated about trauma and adversity: to teach all teachers that there ain’t gonna be no learning if their pupils are living with chronic fear and distress.

Which leads us to the recent STEP conference (http://www.steachersep.org.uk/home)

with, among others, Dr Suzanne Zeedyk (http://www.suzannezeedyk.com/) and Chris Kilkenny (http://chriskilkenny.co.uk) – the second time I’ve heard them both speak about their work and their respective crusades to make the teaching profession (and other public services) in Scotland much more informed about poverty and related Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). A year ago, Suzanne started a two-woman mission to bring the aforementioned documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope (https://kpjrfilms.co/resilience/) to screens across Scotland and I’ve been lucky enough to see it twice.

The film and its message are compelling: childhood adversity affects our actual biology, our bodies and behaviour and – unless resolved, treated or mitigated – will affect the rest of an individual’s life outcomes in relation to: education, relationships, health, standards of living, and mortality. Nowadays Suzanne also tours with (The Real) David Cameron (http://therealdavidcameron.net) exhorting the professions to lead the change towards a more trauma-informed practice by putting the learning from the film into action in our respective professional settings. The Eleanor Oliphants and Dreamschool participants of the world are the embodiments of the science, and they are the people in your classrooms and communities. Many of them are silent and live with shame, guilt and fear: poverty-campaigner Chris Kilkenny teaches us about this, and about how little it would have taken for him to have felt less afraid, less hopeless and less lonely at school – or just had somebody to teach him how to use the washing machine. He works hard in schools to raise teachers’ and leaders’ awareness of what they can do to recognise those pupils struggling with a range of adverse events in their lives, such as poverty and neglect.

It’s been a long, cold winter in Scotland but the snowball that began last year is one that I hope will continue to reach into the Scottish Government’s conscience and policy discourse, as it has started to, to support a profession enriched by this learning and more able to nurture and improve the life chances of those with ACEs in spades.

 

Stop Motion

And so we have reached the last week of term. I wonder if you, like me, have an advanced case of end-of-term-itis. This is a worryingly infectious condition that affects millions of teachers at this time of year. There are a few tell-tale symptoms. Most notably; not sleeping, panicking about your to-do list, scraping children off the ceiling at every turn and feeling like time has simultaneously slowed down and speeded up. If you work in a primary school, you will also have the exciting additional bonus of having all that brain noise and energy-sapping activity set to one particular Nativity song (usually the most irritating one), which will be playing in a continuous loop inside your head, day and night.

The only known cure for end-of-term-itis is the Christmas holidays, which will very soon be upon us. And whilst I am looking forward to the chance to rest and relax as much as you must be, I am also worried about how fast this year has gone.

The months seem to have slalomed into each other like drunken dodgem cars, resulting in a huge December pile up of events and experiences. The velocity of each collision is often set by the media, which seeks to hype each season’s main event months early. Halloween costumes go on sale in August, Christmas decorations in October. I saw the first headline crowing about the must see films/bands of 2017 back in September. Every shared celebration in our calendar is brutally marketed and fuelled by the inexhaustible determination to extract as much money from it as possible, over the most protracted period possible.

The effect of all this is the normalising of speed. We live in a society that is addicted to perpetual motion. We are forever hurtling headlong towards the next big event and when we get there we are hustled past it, our wallets emptied as we rush through and on to the next.

But the thing is, living our lives at such a tilt doesn’t just knacker your bank balance, it affects everything else too. When speed is king, everything else suffers. I wrote a while back about the danger of busy in the classroom for students and learning and the danger is no less real for teachers, families and school leaders; too much, too fast is toxic.

Now, those clever marketing folks have spotted this too and so to combat (and profit from) the endemic stress and busyness of our lives, they sell us back our free time in the form of adult colouring books and expensive holidays, spa retreats and mindfulness classes.

But here’s the thing; there is another way. How about if we all just decide to take back the control? Let’s wrestle the remote from the hands of the moneyman and prise his finger from our fast forward button.

And let’s choose to hit pause. Do it now, do it right now. Whatever you are doing as you read this, choose to hit pause. Just let yourself stop everything, choose to make it all wait, just for a little bit.

There. Doesn’t that feel good? Now that you are stopped, you can turn around. Stop facing forward and turn, just for a minute, and look back.

Look at what this year or this term or this week has brought. What’s been good? What’s been hard? What was special? What needs to change? And the golden question, the one that you must wrap around yourself and use to push back the busy and the speed:

What have you learned?

Because that’s what really matters. It is the only thing that really matters. Everything we do as humans is about learning. It is how we make sense of our experience of the world. And if we are moving too fast, we miss it.

As a teacher, it is your job to hit the pause button for your learners and give them time to wallow in what matters.

And as a teacher, you must do the same for yourself, because the difference between an excellent teacher and a busy teacher is simply who is in charge of the pause button.

If you don’t have the ability to know when to stop or slow things down so you can work out what you are learning, you cannot be an effective teacher.

So do your own review of the year and dinnae fash yersel about the ‘must see’ movies you didn’t see or the ‘must hear’ bands you’ve never heard of. Think about your own ‘must see’ moments instead. There’s a nifty little hashtag where you can share those highlights called #PedagooFriday.

Look back and learn.

Look forward and plan in your pause times. Plan in when you are going to step back and stop and look and wonder and think and inspire and imagine and have fun and share what you do. Pedagoo events and Teachmeets are built around the pause button and there’s one happening near you in 2018.

Most importantly, reflect on who is in charge of your remote control. Because if it is not you then you need to get that sorted.

Wishing you a speedy recovery from end-of-term-itis and a pause-filled and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

Curiouser and Curiouser

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.

What do we mean by leadership?

This is a more difficult question than you might at first think. If someone says they word ‘leadership’ to you, what do you first think of?

In my experience at least, for many teachers in Scotland the answer is ‘promotion’. We say things like ‘I’m not interested in leadership by which we mean ‘I’m not interested in promotion. But when you stop and think about it, that’s not what leadership means at all. We’ve all worked with classroom teachers who were great leaders of practice and we’ve all worked with young people who demonstrate fantastic leadership attributes. I like the following definition from a recent book chapter by Forde & Dickson (2017):

Leadership is an interactional process where influence and power are exercised in different ways, in different locations by different people across an organisation.

Given my job these days is supporting the development of ‘teacher leadership’ I find that we often need to begin by discussing the fact that great teachers demonstrate aspects of leadership in their role day in, day out. Here’s an example of this very conversation in action:

The question then becomes, how do you go about supporting the growth of leadership in teachers? If you’re a teacher in Scotland, SCEL has a growing offering. Firstly, there’s our *free* online framework for educational leadership. This has recently been enhanced and can be used to support teachers to develop leadership in their practice. You can even now download a record of your professional learning from the framework for uploading into your professional learning profile. Check it out now: scelframework.com

We also have a Teacher Leadership Programme on offer. This is free for teachers in Scottish schools and supports and challenges participants to take an enquiring approach to developing practice in their classrooms. We have been prototyping the programme this session and we are currently recruiting for an expanded cohort next session. If you would like to know more about this, including how to apply, check out our website. You can also keep up to date with our support for teacher leadership by joining our Teacher Leadership Network in Yammer.

In the meantime, one other way of course to develop your leadership as a teacher is to get involved in communities such as Pedagoo, TeachMeet and #ScotEdChat…why not begin by checking out the one and only #PedagooFriday today!

Getting started with IT

I was asked recently why I persevere with learning to use IT in my teaching, especially when I seem to be coming up against one problem after another.  At the time, my simple answer was “It’s because I have a degree in IT”. However, I have been thinking about it, and I am no longer sure that is the reason.

I have decided to share my thoughts on this because I see teachers who want to use more IT and really don’t know where to start, and there is always the element of fear of ‘what if it doesn’t work’.

To put things into context, I came into teaching from Industry. I have a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and a Masters in IT, and have worked across both industries for 18 years, before becoming a maths teacher – which I have now done for 3 years.

I have found the biggest issue with using IT is getting started – there are always teething issues in learning how something works. But just as we ask pupils to persevere when they are learning something new so should we – because it is through making the mistakes that we deepen our learning. (Hmmmm where have I heard that before??). Sometimes when things don’t work the way I want, I might use a work-around to try and get round the problem. This probably does come from being an Engineer but ultimately it’s problem solving – again something we are teaching our pupils.

The other big issue is knowing what apps/ software etc to use. The best suggestion I can offer here is to ask around / research on the internet / twitter.  What I am doing is starting within my comfort zone – which scarily enough is Glow.  I have used Sharepoint in industry, and know its potential as a forum for saving and sharing information.  While I am getting the pupils used the the basics, I am investigating the features of Glow and thinking about what I can try next, and how it will fit into my teaching in a meaningful way.

So in answer to the original question about why I persevere, I think part of it is because I am fairly new to teaching, and the fear of things going wrong is ever present, so to me many aspects of teaching are new, so I am not scared to try different things, and to be honest I hope I keep that state of mind throughout my teaching career. In the early days of my teaching career, I was less fearful of the technology than I was of the teaching!!!

Secondly I have come from Industry where I see a digital world.  Technology is everywhere, and pupils will see a big jump in the use of technology between school and either further education or employment.  Many pupils primarily see technology as a means of communicating with their friends or playing games.  The best way to teach our pupils to use technology responsibly is to show them that there is more to tech than Facebook/snapchat or improving their kill/death ratio, and the way to do this is by getting them to use it, as a regular part of their learning.

Wee Pedagoo

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!

Closing the mindset gap!

HOW DO WE INCREASE THE ATTAINMENT AND CONFIDENCE OF OUR LEARNERS ACROSS SCOTLAND?

While there is no overall magic bullet, I believe that by creating a growth mindset culture within our schools; we can do much to improve children’s attainment and mental health.

Let’s focus on the issue of closing the attainment gap. The link between attainment and poverty is well documented in education research, including the Joseph Rowntree report on closing the gap. However, working to support parents and teachers to embed a growth mindset culture transcends social class. It does so by raising the bar of expectation, in a way that is realistic, based on credible feedback that is supportive, friendly and person centred. Having increased confidence, resilience, appetite for learning and understanding by working hard and practising different strategies can bridge the deficit when there may be little aspiration or value attached to education in the family home.So, how do we make it practical? Growth mindset has the potential to act as a way of supporting vulnerable learners by working on their resilience and using a growth mindset to increase appetite and engagement with learning and allowing those who have reached a good command of a subject to achieve mastery while enabling everyone to improve. Teachers can fulfil this role as well by thinking about the language they use in class and how they differentiate work for pupils – thinking through their own judgements that are applied to student potential (such as avoiding the use of ‘sets’ at too early a stage; using mixed ability groupings to encourage learning, peer learning opportunities, etc).

Mindset activities within the school should be included within school plans but not necessarily as a separate area for improvement. Think what can growth mindset can do within the context of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. Standing back and looking at all activities that happen within the school can create the opportunity to think about teaching and engagement strategies that help learners to seek help, understand their intelligence is not fixed and that everyone can improve in their education.

We need to pay attention to transition points, to language, to the curriculum and in ensuring that everyone across the school community is working hard to promote growth mindset consistently and based on a plan that is right for your particular school and community.

So, what are you going to do today to make mindset real within your school for your pupils, fellow staff and parents? Comment below if you are using mindset to help attainment in your school.

John Paul

Unleashing Learners

At the start of October I attended the Pedagoo Muckle in Glasgow. One of the learning conversations I took part in was led by Fearghal Kelly about “Unleashing Learners” which was about the pupils leading the learning of a unit of work – I was instantly intrigued! The thought of handing over a whole unit of work to a class to plan was a scary thought but I could see how great it could be. So, I took the plunge and selected one of my Higher Administration classes to be unleashed!

When we were ready to start a new topic, about effective teams (quite appropriate!), we all sat around a table, just like a business meeting. I explained what we were going to do and they were interested in the idea that they could decide how the lessons would go. Each pupil was given some post-it notes to record their thoughts which were added to the planning sheet (see below).

I first of all asked them what they already knew about the topic of “Teams” – they knew a reasonable amount already which was pleasing. I then asked what questions they had about the topic – this they found a lot tougher – and we spent quite a bit of time on that. They worried that their questions were too silly or irrelevant – no such thing I cried! Every day I now give them a random topic (eg bananas, abbreviations, etc) and they have to come up with one question they would like answered about it.

We then looked at the Outcomes for the topic and looked to see where and if the questions fitted in with them, which coincidently most of them did. The class then decided that the success criteria for this topic would be the ability to successfully answer at least 4 past paper questions about effective teams. To reach this stage took about 40 minutes.

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The following period we then looked at the order we would like to look at the topic – not the order I would have picked, but they decided! I then asked them what kinds of activities would they like to do to cover the topics – they wanted to take notes, watch relevant videos, make a presentation, work in teams and have a speaker in. I was able to arrange for our Rugby Coach to come in and speak to them about working in a team, the skills involved and they did some team building activities. On this occasion we did not need any research teams.

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All in all, the planning took 2 periods – was it time well spent? Yes, it was, the pupils enjoyed telling me what they wanted to learn and how (after being suspicious of my motives, I was the teacher after all, was I not just going to tell them what to do). After one of the activities, a pupil said that they really like learning that way. Pupils are engaged in a topic they are finding interesting, they are displaying their own team skills and supporting each other.

Will we be planning the next topic of the course this way – absolutely yes!

Winter Wellbeing

What is Our Winter Wellbeing Calendar all about?

Whilst the Christmas period is seen as the time of the year for joy and celebration, what’s often not recognised, is that it can be a particularly tiring and stressful time of the year for school leaders and teachers.

The plays and special assemblies are all wonderful cause for celebration. However, the continuous run of late nights, mixed in with the everyday pressures of school life can take their toll!

That’s why this year, we thought we’d try to lend a ‘virtual’ helping hand! To help make December just that little bit less stressful and more joyful for you, with our first ever, Winter Wellbeing Advent Calendar.

What can you expect?

The Calendar will involve 24 days of mini-blogs/thoughts for the day designed to offer you encouragement, support and useful advice to help you stay positive right through to Christmas day.

These mini-blogs will be provided by inspiring educators, focused around a different theme of Well-being in education. We have enlisted top educational thought-leaders, bloggers, coaches, authors and inspiring school leaders to bring you a fantastic calendar of wellbeing wisdom, thought-provoking questions for reflection, and words of encouragement and inspiration.

Here is the list of the first 12 days of blogs for the Calendar:

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Our Calendar will also be run in collaboration with #Teacher5aday (Twitter Teacher Wellbeing initiative set up by Martyn Reah) and @Tim_JumpClarke’s Winter challenge calendar, which consists of 24 winter challenges, to help you relax and be more compassionate to yourself and those around you this Christmas.

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How does it work?

The window will be opened every day between 6:30Am and 11:30AM, on our Twitter account,  where we will be announcing when the day’s window on the advent calendar has been opened and the new mini blog/thought for the day has been released –  click here to follow us on Twitter

Even if you don’t have Twitter, when the window has been opened you’ll be able to read the day’s mini blog by following the link on the calendar itself or via our homepage.

Alternatively, you can now sign up to receive every day of the calendar by following the link below.

Sign up to receive everyday of the Winter Wellbeing Calendar straight to your Inbox

How can I get involved?

We’d love you to get involved with the calendar as much as possible, so if you have any reflections on the winter wellbeing thoughts of the day, please do share them via Twitter using the #WinterCalendar hashtag.

Likewise, if you have any photos, snippets of wisdom or quotes that have inspired you and think would inspire others through the month of December, please do share these too.

Just be sure to use the #WinterCalendar hashtag!