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Putting the ‘character’ in 140 characters: my first ScotEdChat

Last night I hosted my first #ScotEdChat on Twitter. It is the third chat so far having accidentally started the ball rolling a few weeks ago. The first chat happened on 5th November hosted by @MrsPert1, the second on 12th hosted by @athole. Next week the host will be @DrewBurrett. Having started with basically zero followers, the @ScotEdChat account has 625 followers as of this second. Not bad for three weeks worth of fun.

The theme of the chat last night was a meaty issue that I have been fascinated by for a few years now: Character, Values and Citizenship. Initially I was a bit worried about the idea of hosting a chat on a theme that I have a personal interest in – however I was reassured by various people that it would be of interest to others too and to just get on with it.

If you don’t know me, I work as a consultant for the charity Character Scotland and I recently curated a major international conference for them on the theme of ‘Character, Culture and Values’. I am now delivering a Pathway Project, which includes a call for evidence to practitioners, designed to build on the successes of this event. I have a range of other potential projects lined up in these areas for 2016 involving Character Scotland and other organisations. Hopefully you will see more developments on that front soon. Please get in touch if you want to know more: gary.walsh@character-scotland.org.uk. That’s me.

Here are the questions I proposed for last night’s ScotEdChat:


It was a steep learning curve. I felt like I imagine the wee dude on the skateboard must have felt seconds after the photo above was taken. I have never hosted an online chat before and participated in only a couple, all the while wondering how on earth the host is supposed to keep up. So there I was with all my tweets scheduled (I used Hootsuite for scheduling and Canva to produce the images), and Tweetdeck open so I could follow the thread as it happened in real time and prompt as necessary.

It was another successful (I think!) and interesting chat that raised lots of issues and questions. You can view the summary on Storify here.

You will notice that I have proposed that the conversation carries on using the #SlowChat format unti Wed 25th November. There are a few reasons for this. When I was lucky enough to have a loose and completely voluntary ScotEdChat ‘team’ in place, we had some conversation about the format of the chats. Concerns were raised from the off that the one hour format can be too fast and frenetic. We agreed that a week-long SlowChat could be more effective and therefore worth a shot. However, you need a following to do that. So we’ve had three fast chats partly to establish a critical mass of followers. I think we have now done that pretty effectively. So you might see more ‘slow chats’ happening as #ScotEdChat continues to evolve.

The other reason why I think #SlowChat could work better for an online conversation about character, values and citizenship (among other topics) is that there is a danger that the dialogue only reaches a superficial level. There were sparks of engagement with deep questions and critique last night that I think we could build on in a #SlowChat format, such as:

  • What is meant by character, values and citizenship, and who decides what they mean?
  • If we can agree that the purposes of education extend beyond a utilitarian and economic model of individual ‘cashable’ capacities towards something that is about character, values and citizenship – what exactly are those purposes and to what extent are we fulfilling them at the moment?
  • What is the role of character, values and citizenship in a liberal democracy and just society?
  • Are ‘character, values and citizenship’ the right words to use? Does it matter what words we use? What are the dangers here?
  • What are the key influences on character, values and citizenship and what is the role of formal schooling in this regard?
  • What is the role of parenting, early years provision, communities, informal education and collaboration with 3rd sector organisations in this regard?
  • How could teachers address these issues safely in and out of the classroom? Constructivist approach? Psychological interventions? Enquiry? Critical pedagogy? Socratic dialogue? Aristotelian virtue ethics? Indoctrination? Experiential learning? Collaborative learning? Outdoor education?
  • A great question raised last night: is it easier to address the issue of character in Catholic schools? Why? And what does that mean?
  • What type of citizenship and what type of citizen? Responsible, global, local, social, digital, active…?
  • To what extent is it possible to discuss character, values and citizenship in an online environment? Is it useful to do so or is it just pain silly?

(I am aware that several dissertations could be written on any one of these topics…)

Sue Palmer from Upstart Scotland emailed me after the chat with this wonderful quote from Neil Postman, comparing ‘Brave New World’ (Huxley) and ‘1984’ (Orwell):

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no-one who wanted to read one.

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

Neil Postman, author of The Disappearance of Childhood, in a 1995 interview on PBS

I share the fears of both Orwell and Huxley regarding an exploration of the slippery issues of character, values and citizenship. I have had the thought in mind for a while now that the way forward with regard to this exists in the ‘spaces between’ various tensions.

As a musician, Claude Debussy’s comment appeals to me:

Music is to be found in the spaces between the notes

The spaces I am referring to might fall between tensions such as knowledge and skills; knowledge and character; progressivism and traditionalism; liberalism and conservatism; evidence-based and research-informed; economic, social and human capital; freedom and conformity; rights and responsibilities; globalism and localism; all of which could be false binary distinctions by the way.

So where do we go from here? As educators we often fall into the trap of trying to find the right answer when really we should be looking for the right questions, or indeed looking for the spaces between all of these.

Nobody can really comment with authority on any issue of remote importance within 140 characters of text, particularly and ironically, when the subject itself is character without the ‘s’. Having said ALL of that – and thank you for reading to the end – the other option of doing nothing about it, to me, is no option at all.

So why not tweet or blog as part of the first #ScotEdChat #SlowChat on this wonderfully bewildering theme. If you need a reason to do so, this image shared last night by @KatyKingUK during #ScotEdChat is as good as any.


#ScotEdChat is here!

It started with a tweet


“RT if you agree – educators in Scotland should be sharing & connecting on Twitter using the #scotedchat hashtag – pls using it!!”

I have never caused a mini Twitter-storm before so this was new territory for me… I haven’t been using Twitter very long but in a short time I have found it to be one of the most valuable learning and development tools I use. I also observed that trailblazing teachers have come to the same conclusion – see the success of @UKEdChat and our very own @Pedagoo, as well as Twitter champions such as @cijane02, @mrkempnz and @markrpriestley to name just a few.

So I thought to myself:


Given how popular #UKEdChat is: why isn’t anybody using #ScotEdChat? And what would happen if I suggested that we should be using it?

It turns out that others might have been thinking the same thing. Previous attempts had been made at establishing #ScotEdChat but perhaps the timing wasn’t quite right. Before I knew it the tweet above had 214 engagements including 24 retweets and 41 hashtag clicks, it had started a few conversations, with ‘early adopters’ such as @fkelly, @mrspert1 and @athole getting right on board with the idea straight away. All of a sudden there was an expectation that #ScotEdChat might become an actual ‘thing’ so I continued to push it out there to see who else might like to get involved somehow, with no real idea of what #ScotEdChat was or could become.

Since then the hashtag has received more and more attention and people have been making suggestions as to what it could be and how it could run. So here is my summary of feedback received so far and where I think we are at now.

#ScotEdChat is:

  • a regular week-long #SlowChat happening on Twitter – each chat has a voluntary host who chooses the topic, offers to pose the questions using the @ScotEdChat account and collates responses in a summary blog for the Pedagoo website, all using the #ScotEdChat hashtag,
  • an inclusive grassroots movement open to anybody wanting to continuously improve education in Scotland – this includes teachers, young people, parents, youth workers, 3rd sector organisations, etc,
  • a place where people can freely chat about key issues in Scottish education (some of those mentioned were the attainment gap, teacher workload, professional learning/development, recruitment, standardised testing, learning using technology and a host of other issues)
  • not a #moanathon,
  • a place where the main objectives are (probably) learning, connecting and sharing,
  • a place that allows for dialogue and “messy progress” – get involved to see where it takes you.

We even have a logo…



How to get involved

  1. Have a look at the #ScotEdChat forum on Pedagoo and contribute your ideas
  2. Get chatting on Twitter using #ScotEdChat
  3. Tune in to the first #ScotEdChat – 5th November at 8.30pm


For Your Eyes Only

Driving to the Early Years ( EY ) conference this morning I couldn’t help being inspired by the colours of Autumn here in Argyll, around the shores of Loch Fyne. Ironically, Sheena Easton was singing ‘For Your Eyes Only’. This was certainly not a sight for my eyes only but one that would be shared with every driver and passenger lucky to drive this road at this time. Similarly the Early Years conference was not ‘For Your Eyes Only’ but for everyone who was there to share in the fantastic work our Early Years practitioners do on a day-to-day basis.
Our Government quite rightly wishes to close the attainment gap of our poorest, most vulnerable children, however testing them is not going to achieve this. Investing in Early Years will help. We all witnessed the positive steps our practitioners were taking to address the development of the child.
One example:
We offer a hand to parents and ask ‘How can we help you help your child?’
Parents reported back and said they were not confident with their own literacy skills. What do we do? Put in place a vehicle to support parents. Yes, and it was fully endorsed by parents.
Just one example of exemplary work happening in Argyll.
There were many more fantastic examples of how families are being engaged in the development of their youngsters. Investing in quality practitioners and quality practice will pay dividends in the long run. Dylan William quoted the financial gain to a country per child for this intervention in Early Years. I’m not going to quote the amount as he rapped my knuckles on Twitter before for getting the amount wrong but let me tell you it is a six figure sum.
So as our Executive Director asked today in his closing address, ‘why are the Scottish Government not paying heed to this research.’
In Argyll and Bute we are getting it right. Not quite there yet, but at least we’re on the right track.
If the Scottish Government take us down the other track of high stakes testing they’re missing a trick and it’s our most vulnerable children that will suffer. Ms Sturgeon and Ms Constance want to get this right as we all do, but for me they’re listening to the wrong people and not reading the research.
Today was such an inspiring day. The Developmental Milestones tool kit for me is leading the way in Scottish Education.
Why don’t we all jump on this train, because if we get this right from EY’s we will have a more prosperous, innovative, entrepreneurial nation.
I’m already on the train. Come join me.
Sheena will be singing for ‘For all our eyes’.
Thank you Argyll and Bute Early Year’s team.

The Complete Guide to DATEs – Subject Specific CPD
DATE background

The Complete Guide to DATEs

Developing approaches to Teaching English
Developing approaches to Teaching &Education

Embedding CPD which allows for the development of subject specific knowledge and subject specific pedagogy. Skip straight to The Concept to avoid my preamble!

About me
I’ve been an English teacCPD modelher for 15 years and Curriculum Leader for 6 years. In January 2015 I was given the opportunity to join the Senior Leadership Team and among other things I have responsibility for NQT, ITT, Strands 2 and 3 CPD (targeted and opt-in), the Teacher Guide and Literacy

CPD menu
Over the last 12 months our school’s CPD has radically changed and developed, building our structure from Shaun Allison’s Perfect Teacher-Led CPD book and including approaches through blogs that have influenced our thinking and ideas from our Academy partner school. CPD is no longer exclusively a top down model but a model where staff are empowered to share, explore and collaborate through a wide range of avenues.

Part of my SLT remit is to increase CPD opportunities for staff in ways appropriate to roles, career stages and interests. There is a pleasing appetite for personal development and engagement in the opt-in programmes (such as 15 Minute Forums, EduBook Club, the Teaching & Learning library) is continually increasing. Directed CPD such as the Inspiring Leader Meeting (where TLR holders – all those who are not Curriculum Leaders – and aspiring TLR holders are trained on things you are expected to know when you have a TLR but no one ever shows you) is going from strength to strength.

As much as the whole school CPD offerings have been going well, at the start of this term I found myself increasingly considering the need for subject specific CPD. This was partly through reading a variety of materials online/in books and partly as a result of staff changes in my own department:

• Reading blogs which highlighted the need for subject specific CPD and the benefits it brings, for example, this from Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist http://tinyurl.com/nbraaow, many things from @ShaunAllison https://classteaching.wordpress.com/, interesting articles from Joe Kirby, Kev Bartle, Chris Chivers and David Didau on CPD.
• Revisiting The Sutton trust’s Report on ‘What Makes Great Teaching?’ made me consider the importance of a teacher’s subject knowledge to improved outcomes for students, particularly the depth of knowledge needed.
• Evaluating our approach to CPD over the last year and reflecting on how we can take the things we think have worked and translate these in a more bespoke way to different subject areas.
• We’ve had a major change to the make-up of our department. I have a superb team but much of the knowledge and skills that develops from teaching over a number of years has left us – we have NQTs, NQT+1s and overseas trained teachers (experienced but unfamiliar with our texts at KS3 and KS4) making up a significant proportion.
• My super KS3 co-ordinator, Rachel Kilburn, undertook a SWOT-style audit which flagged up implications for KS3/4 teaching as we progress through the year. She found some aspects could be addressed though 1-2-1 help and others from the innovative ‘thinking moments’ cards she developed to aid self-reflection but common threads cropped up which would require an alternative department approach to boost the impact in lessons.
• We have significant changes to English with the new GCSEs. I’ve co-ordinated and organised this from a long and medium term position but was concerned how confident (or apprehensive!) were we with the new poems and texts.
• Other than continuing to create pre-made lessons (which are great but I have always had reservations about how much someone can really take a pre-planned lesson and understand the thinking that has gone on behind it), I pondered how we could use our individual expertise to help others with the various parts of English teaching many admitted fearing.

The Concept
Introduce DATEs to our weekly English Department meetings – developing approaches to teaching English.

Our Approach
• We made the DATEs high status – they are always the first agenda item regardless of anything else that may be deemed urgent or important in that meeting. DATEs can be scheduled to last different periods of time depending on what is needed.
• After Rachel Kilburn established which aspects of English teaching held the most ‘fear factor’ she calendared DATEs for the year ahead, looking at where things would be best placed for maximum effect. She then approached English staff who she knew had specific skills/knowledge in each area to deliver. New staff have also been encouraged to look at where they would like to contribute. Topics such as how to analyse quotations, s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g able students in English lessons, scoring highly on Q4 H Tier, tackling pre-19th Century poems with reluctant learners are all on the schedule.
• I used the AQA enhanced results analysis facility from this summer to determine which question areas we must work on and built in DATEs for these, whether that’s rethinking how we teach it or ensuring staff whose students achieved better than others have the forum to explain how they teach it.
• Where we had spaces to add extra DATEs, we looked at previous highly rated 15 Minute Forums which new staff haven’t been able to see to rework them in an a English specific way.
• We will take other opportunities to have DATEs as/when they will benefit teachers and enhance their knowledge/skills/understanding in a manner that will improve not add to workload.

Types of DATE
• First DATE – the launch session
• Hot DATE – one that covers up-to-date ideas, popular methods receiving twitter/blog time
• Speed DATE – maximum three minutes when something only requires a short, snappy burst
• Cheap DATE – where cost effective extra resources might help the teaching of a complex skill (Poundland Pedagogy/@WallaceIsabella style)
• Dream DATE – talking about a poem or section of a novel: what every English teacher loves to do!
• Double DATE – two in one meeting
• Bad DATE – things to avoid (for example I ran a VAK one last week)
• UnDATEable – the particularly difficult areas to teach that we might try to avoid (grammar for me…) but by looking at them from a different point of view we can see they are worth a go
• Blind DATE – surprise session
• DATE night – a series of sessions in one go

Next Steps

These sessions are proving really popular in the department. Staff are enjoying the opportunity to have the time to really think and talk about the subject in a way that builds confidence, enthusiasm and excitement in lesson planning and delivery. I appreciate there is potential for some limitation – where depth of subject knowledge is needed for great teaching this won’t be resolved in one CPD session. However, it is a start to promoting and developing areas that we’ve perhaps neglected up to this point or just assumed everyone knew on account of the fact they’d been employed to teach English. Also, whilst I have always worked on the mantra of start meetings on time, regardless of who is missing, there has been a noticeable improvement in the promptness of attendance – teachers don’t want to miss any of the DATE!

Over the next half term I’ll be rolling out the concept whole school under the name developing approaches to teaching & education. I’ve already met with the maths department who expressed a strong interest and have already started to map out their sessions. I’ll meet other CLs in pairs to explore how DATEs can be enhance their curriculum area CPD. For me it’s crucial that CLs don’t have anything added on to an already challenging workload without something being taken away so I’ll work alongside them to see how this can work.

Later in the year we’ll have a calendared school DATE night in one of our Monday whole school CPD slots, almost like a mini-TeachMeet but with the focus on departments. We’ll start with a whole staff 15 Minute Forum (we still have some teachers who’ve never attended one so this will give a flavour of what they’re like and hopefully encourage some to come to future ones), progress to department based DATEs and will have a few blind DATEs thrown in for staff who like a bit of spontaneity so they can drop in elsewhere and see what they can pick up!

Differentiated CPD – It’s The Future! I’ve Tasted It!
Garlic Bread

Have you ever been forced to sit through a whole day training session on an area of teaching you consider to be one of your strengths? Has a trainer visited your school to say that you should be teaching in a style that really wouldn’t work for you? Did you go to the same Teachmeet as me last year where an ‘Educational Consultant’ stood up and spent ten minutes telling a room full of qualified teachers what the difference is between formative and summative assessment? (She gave me her business card if anyone’s interested.) How about a death by Powerpoint experience? An evangelist with an annoying amount of enthusiasm for an idea that’s a tiny bit rubbish? If you are like me, the answer will be yes to all of these questions.

It’s funny how we are all busy differentiating our lessons for the benefit of the children we teach. But what about our learning? How can we make sure that we are getting the CPD we need to be the best we can be? The answer is something like Pedagoo Hampshire.

A menu selection of 40 mini seminars, each delivered by different speakers who ranged from primary, secondary and further education teachers from across the south east of England, was available to choose from before arrival. After a talk by @graham_irisc which set the tone superbly, it was off to the starter course – Telescopic Education by @chrischivers2 and Collaboration by @hayleymc2222. Hayley bought to the table a plethora of suggestions on who to follow in the Twitter world as well as some wise words on how to organise a Teachmeet – something I would recommend to anyone looking to develop their own, as well as their school’s teaching and learning philosophy and delivery. I love the fact that Hayley organised one in her NQT year – amazing! It was nice to get a mention on one of Hayley’s slides (they say everyone is famous for 5 minutes don’t they?) but I didn’t let this go to my head. Instead, I concentrated on the importance of learning from each other. Next, Chris Chivers stimulated a discussion between a group of primary teachers on the barriers faced when trying to implement a bottom-up teaching model to secure progress. Admittedly, the group digressed into a sharing of ideas on curriculum enrichment and CPD opportunities and what the barriers to these are instead. The message was loud and clear – lots of teachers feel scared to digress from the core subjects – a terrible shame in my opinion, and that of my peers in the group.

The sorbet course to cleanse the pallet came in the guise of @basnettj on giving pupils feedback and @lizbpattison on how differentiation might just be counter-productive. There were some great discussions generated around the importance of involving students in feedback. I raised the question of peer feedback in mixed ability groups and whether this can work for the higher attainer – I haven’t yet found my answer. Then my clever (sorry I mean able/gifted/talented *delete as applicable) friend Liz stepped up with some fascinating thoughts on the effectiveness of differentiation on the growth mindset we are all looking to expand. What did I take away from her talk? Well, it reinforced my view that differentiation is brilliant when done properly but can be disastrous when done badly – as it was for Liz during her school days when she was labelled ‘middle ability.’ (You wouldn’t know it to hear her now!) Unfortunately for Liz, but fortunately for us, she still can’t let it go, which means I am very much looking forward to hearing about the research she continues to do into the subject.

The main course was a corned beef and pickle sandwich (me) paired with a fillet steak and triple cooked chips (@graham_irisc). Graham invited a discussion on what is important to focus on – is it inspection? Is it budgets? Is it the standard of biscuits in the staffroom? No, the room came to the conclusion it was teaching & learning. Although, in my opinion, biscuits definitely feed into this. (Pardon the very accidental pun) Then it was my turn to evangelise on the benefits of empowering middle leaders along with some tips on how these vital members of staff can empower themselves to deliver brilliant learning experiences for their pupils. Thank you to everyone who turned up – I hadn’t slept for a week wondering if I still would have delivered my presentation to an empty room! I think I would have – it would have been a terrible waste to have not given it an airing.

And then, just when the full-up sleepy feeling started to take over, there was @natalielovemath to wake us up from our slumber with a very inspiring talk on using objects bought from Poundland to enrich Maths lessons. I don’t teach Maths anymore and this session only served to make me sad about this fact. Although, the idea of pasta graphs, children writing on disposable table cloths and sticking numbers on fly-swatters have been enthusiastically received by the Maths teachers at my school! Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal (in a brilliant and inspiring way!) @haslemeremuseum extracted woolen brains from a poor Egyptian rag doll. Learning through objects is very under-rated and can be the key to unlock the door of learners who struggle to take an interest.

Before departing, the classy port and cheese board came in the form of @lcll_director who pressed home the need for using days like this to actually make changes in our practice. “All of these brilliant ideas are no good just stored in our heads,” murmured the rag doll from session 4.

So there we have it – a day of differentiated CPD just for me. Imagine if groups of schools got together to do this at the start of every school year – giving teachers a choice of CPD suited just to them through the sharing of strengths and passions of their peers. Would that be better than a whole-school INSET day which doesn’t differentiate for the needs of every learner; in this case, teachers? I think so. How about you?

The “Yes, And” rule can help you fulfill your leadership potential!
Inspiration 4 Teachers

When setbacks send you plummeting back to Earth from the stratosphere of your dreams, leaving you staggering through the debris of your once hopeful rise to leadership, you may be thinking that your opportunities are over. 

But if a glimmer of hope still burns inside of you, how do you re-gain control and get yourself back on track?

Leadership plan

The “Yes, And” rule 

Applying the, “Yes, And” approach to your leadership aspirations helps to re-frame your situation allowing you to regain control.

“Yes, And” is a creative tool taken from comedy improvisation where in order to draw in an audience to a drama the actors must take a “Yes, And” approach to their scene.   The “Yes, And” rule  suggests a participant should accept what the other person has created (“Yes”) and then add something to it (“And”) (1)

The aim of the “Yes, And” principal is to keep the comedy improvisation in creative flow by not putting any blocks in place that would halt the improvisation, for example, a closed question that would result in a NO outcome drawing the scene to an end.

So let’s put you in your leadership improvisation scene, how would the “Yes, And” rule work for you?

First you need to begin by saying, “Yes, I want to be a leader!”, but more importantly, “Yes I can!”

Inspiration 4 Teachers

Admitting this to yourself opens the doors to the “And” conversations, voicing your desire to be a leader is the first step in having an open conversation with others about how you can achieve that goal,  because this is where others can offer the “And” ideas about how you might get there.

Chase the positive facilitators

In our fragile state where we often doubt our leadership aspirations it’s all too easy to have our “Yes, And” conversation halted because we sought feedback from the wrong person(s) or believed that someone’s opinion was in fact our truth about what we can and cannot achieve.


Don’t have your “Yes, And” conversation with the person(s) least likely to champion your talent.  It’s all too easy to have our dream crushed off the back of a flippant comment.  Find the people that are willing to make you better and guide you on your leadership pathway.  You may be lucky to have those people already surrounding you in your school, or you have a good friend that will have this conversation with you.  If not, the WomenED steering group will help to provide you with the platform you need to begin your leadership journey.

For immediate ideas and solutions on kick starting your leadership pathway, listen to episode 38 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Jules Daulby and host Kelly Long discuss how to get back into the leadership game!


Finally, show no FEAR!

“Face everything and rise” – Zig Ziglar

Because the alternative is to, “forget everything and run”, bidding au revoir to your leadership aspirations as you mooch off into the distance.

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community!



Until next time ~ Keep inspiring! 



(1) (Rules of comedy improv and acting”. Pan Theater. Retrieved 2015-09-20)

The darker side of perfectionism
Inspiration 4 Teachers

If you are a woman and a perfectionist you may get referred to as being, “highly-strung”, “difficult to work with”, “inflexible” and that is without adding in all of the expletives. 

But you know as well as I, because I’m waving the flag that I am somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to teaching, being mummy and a podcast host, that being a perfectionist means that your high personal standards can be relied upon to get things done!  This type of pro-active perfectionism is known as “Perfectionistic Strivings”, the good side of being a perfectionist because it can lead you to feeling a great sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.

The darker side of perfectionism 

There is however, a darker side to being a perfectionist.  Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of her reflected back at you in the mirror.  She’s the stressy, worrier that feels she’s a fraud because she is unable to meet her own high expectations at work or in the home.

A research study conducted by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology revealed that the toxic and destructive side of being a perfectionist can lead to health problems, eating disorders, higher stress levels, fatigue, and even early mortality.  These “Perfectionistic Concerns” come about when we feel as though we are letting people down and not living up to our own exceptionally high standards.  “Perfectionistic Concerns” are the dark-side of being a perfectionist; they are the toxic, all consuming feelings of fear and doubt over our performance that can lead to burnout.

Keeping focused and healthy

Challenging these feelings can be accomplished by setting goals, recording past achievements and by letting go and knowing that every time we make a mistake, it is an opportunity to fall-up and grow.

Helena Marsh, Deputy Headteacher, agrees that sacking the perfectionist is one way of balancing work vs. life.  On episode 39 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show.  Helena and host Kelly Long discuss strategies for juggling work vs. life and how sacking the perfectionist can help you to focusing on what is really important.


If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community!



Until next time ~ Keep inspiring! 

Inspired by the possibility
Image by Mark HorrellImage by Mark Horrell

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 (www.thefandancerace.com/Avalanche), 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.

Bruner scores a century!
Jerome Bruner

Yes, Jerome Bruner, currently Professor at New York University, had his 100th birthday on October 1st. And in the snappy headline to this blog, it’s his scoring (writing) which has been one of the main contributions to so many lives and disciplines in that time (only a third of a million mentions on the web!). I’m not going to attempt to write a full story of Jerry’s story, but would like to use this occasion to highlight.

Jerry was born blind, but had sight restored by the age of two. We are greatly grateful for that. He has helped us see so much. He went on to study, and gained a PhD at Harvard in 1941, later leading the Harvard Center for Cognitive Studies. That gets called the cognitive revolution, because the study of human mind flew in the face of behaviourism (A Study of Thinking, 1956). Creation of meaning is complex.

It was the theme of adding meaningful complexity to our understandings which started then and has continued for decades in a range of disciplines. Thankfully Jerry became involved in education and curriculum development (The Process of Education, 1960; The Act of Discovery, 1961: Towards a Theory of Instruction, 1966).

Later Jerry contributed to our understanding of context and multi-level view of individual, context, culture (The Culture of Education, 1996). This includes a chapter analysing “folk pedagogy”, which helps us identify stereotypical ideas about how learning happens, many of which are active today, including in the acts of politicians. That volume also reflected what is sometimes called “the narrative turn”. “A life as led is inseparable from a life as told” (Life as narrative, 1987). This perspective helps us humanly read the context we’re in and then identify new stories to create.

In 1970 he was offered a chair at Oxford, and sailed his boat across the Atlantic to get there, landing in Southern Ireland. He still enjoys Reenogreena.

I love (to use a technical term) his style of writing: it’s so constructionist and connected with the reader. He’s taking an idea for a walk and wanting to do that explicitly with somebody. Example “I would like to try out an idea that may not be quite ready, indeed may not be quite possible. But I have no doubt it is worth a try” (Life as narrative, 1987). Similarly “Let me begin by setting out my argument as baldly as possible” (Narrative and paradigmatic modes of thought, 1985) – a chapter which transformed my thinking. Most recently he has been applying this stance to the dynamics of the law (Making Stories in Law, 2003).

This also characterises his presentation/lectures. In 2007 when Oxford University decided to name one of their buildings after him, he popped onto the stage and said “This afternoon, I’d like to try out another idea for the future” (see link). That session was titled “Cultivating the Possible”, a phrase which characterises much of his contribution. His contribution on YouTube last year (How does teaching influence learning? 2014)

Relating to his century, Jerry has scored another point for us: “A life is a work of art, probably the greatest one we produce” (Narratives of Aging, 1999). His is a visionary human masterpiece. Jerry emailed yesterday “I find it both enlivening and thought provoking.” So we look forward to the next installment …….

Portrait by Beth Marsden, at University of Oxford.

Originally post on the IOE London Blog

Dae something…….Dae something…..Dae something……
Image by Tracey AlvarezImage by Tracey Alvarez

Having had the privilege to have heard a number of superb educational speakers over the past 6 months, among them Iain White from Newlands Junior College, who quoted from the great Billy Connolly’s classic Crucifixion joke the need to ‘Dae something….’ in terms of leading with courage; this leads me into the new, unfamiliar (and a little scary) world of blogging. But having been supported by my authority, SCEL and dared by colleagues Jay and Lena, I feel that I owe it to myself and those amazing people I have heard to put some thoughts on paper and ‘out there’……..

I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky…….

Being of the same generation as Kylie, I am one of the lucky ones in education who has been nurtured, supported, encouraged and invested in during a career of over amazing 20 years. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been part of the SCEL Fellowship programme for its second cohort this year.

As part of my systems leadership enquiry for the Fellowship Programme with SCEL I have been planning a Network group of middle leaders across Argyll and Bute, based on a model I was part of in Cheshire, called the CHiLL Network. Ten middle leaders have the opportunity to read and discuss current educational theory around leadership and develop accurate school self evaluation through a focussed project on school self improvement that they are passionate about and supported by their Head Teacher. At the beginning of the month I had the great privilege to lead the first session and the talent, thoughts and reflections were of the highest quality. It was an uplifting and exciting experience for all concerned and I am looking forward to seeing how the leaders projects and thinking have progressed at our next meeting in November.

Sir Andrew Cubie, who amongst many posts and roles throughout a distinguished career, chairs the Scottish Credit and Qualifications framework and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education; presented to the SCEL participants at our inaugural event and talked about SCEL fellowship as being a fantastic opportunity to make a difference and had the potential to enhance the esteem of the teaching profession. He recognised that Head Teachers and leaders can be in a lonely and isolated position and it was important for us to feel that ‘we could do it’ and to have ‘leadership beyond authority’. By this Sir Andrew said that we needed to empower others to do something ourselves together rather than waiting for others ‘in authority’ to be able to move on. Sir Andrew also emphasised that it is often the process of change rather than the outcome that is important. He questioned why some colleagues may hold back from taking the lead and that we should have a vision where mediocre is not accepted. Finally, Sir Andrew challenged us to think about how our vision, values and aims are felt physically when we walk into our schools?

We were fortunate in Argyll and Bute recently to have Sir Andrew speak for us and facilitate conversations between Head Teachers. Professor Clive Dimmock, representing the Robert Owen Centre for Education, also gave a considerable contribution focussing on the personal qualities (personality traits, dispositions and attributes) associated highly successful leaders and asking the question from research are leaders born or made?

All the speakers had very particular styles and affect on their audience, one senior manager reflected on how Professor Dimmock had a gentle prodding way of encouraging colleagues to think about where they were in terms of being a high performing leader when conveying his research and thoughts but his crescendo of educational passion warms your enthusiasm and she found ‘that he was walking with me in terms of my own development and it has stayed with me in terms of thinking about how to move forward’. Powerful stuff.

However, as mentioned previously; the inspirational, witty and straight talking style of Iain White engaged many of my HT colleagues at the same event; many recognising a great deal of the challenges Iain spoke of in leadership and agreed with his view that at the end of the day we need to focus on what is right for our children and not lose sight of our core values.

Little wonder that feedback we have received about such quality of input from Head Teachers present has been that the session was incredibly valuable and one that should be built upon in the future here in Argyll and Bute.

We need to provide staff with quality time with quality input from thoughtful speakers to develop their practice of critical thinking of their own role in the classroom and in leadership terms.

My Mum always said it’s important to keep an eye on the company you keep…..

It has not only been the amazing opportunity to hear top quality speakers during the last 6 months that has moved my educational world but also the opportunity to work with my fellow participants. Louise, Sheila, Andy, Jim, John and George are all more experienced than myself and have such differing situations but I cannot spend 15 minutes in their company without learning something and my thinking being challenged. Hence the need to listen, discuss with colleagues thoughts and ideas and apply your thinking to your practice in a conscious way. Indeed, my fellowship colleague Andy Travis in his captivating presentation at SLF this week described the experience of SCEL’s Fellowship programme as giving ‘Head space for Head Teachers.’

While there is exciting practice in our authority, the importance for us to get out of the glen and see what is happening elsewhere is vital to move our thinking on and I am incredibly excited at being able to work with George Cooper from Bearsden Academy in late November when both of our middle leadership groups will be working together.

Tom Bennett at the recent ResearchED conference in Glasgow said that the nature of CPD is changing; the positive energy around the event was palpable as it was about practitioners attending an event at a weekend with quality speakers and the need for them to be up to date with current research so that their work can be evidence based and they can ask ‘Why?’ with confidence (and all for £30!). Teachers need a choice in their development and how they need to be supported. Giving staff opportunities to hear quality speakers talking about what they are passionate about is motivating in itself and reflection important but it is what you do with it that counts. Where and when does it roll out into your practice? Where is the impact on our children?

As I said previously – Kylie and I have been lucky, but what of the next generation of teachers and leaders? The leadership habits I formed as a middle leader in a successful network have stayed with me into my Headship and it has been interesting that the focus of more than half of the SCEL fellowship participants this year is on capacity building and supporting leaders of the future, here’s hoping the impact is tangible and sustainable.

Personally, given that I have only outlined a fraction of what I have experienced as part of the SCEL experience, I have a feeling that my learning still needs time and space to breathe and it will be over the following year in which things become embedded and some of my leadership habits will to continue to evolve, as well as developing my systems leadership skills.

So, when Iain White says to us to ‘Dae something….’ we need to follow his advice – these are challenging times and our children deserve the best possible experiences possible. Our biggest asset is our staff, we need to listen, value, support and develop the talent that is out there so ‘Dae something….’

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