Category Archives: TeachMeets

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.

teacher5aday-wintercalendar

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!

Taking Care of the Soul in the Role – #PedagooHampshire16

 

I was delighted to be offered a chance to speak this coming Saturday 17th September at Pedagoo Hampshire 16 in Alton. This event, which features a day of interactive seminars hosted by individuals across the educational landscape, aims to discuss and tackle key issues in education and create a forum for speakers to share their rich experience and expertise. If you have been lucky enough to get a ticket and you are thinking of coming along to my session on Saturday, there’s one key question on which I’d like you to ponder, as this one question will form the core of my session.

And that question is…

“What do you believe is the most precious thing that you bring to your role as an educator?”

We’ll be exploring this question, because for the last eight years, working as an Executive Coach, I have spent easily over 100 hours listening to the inner most thoughts and questions of Head teachers and senior school leaders, and when individuals find their own answer to this question, things begin to change.

I also have another question for you, … What do you know of the journey you are on?

From ‘walking alongside’ individuals on their leadership journeys, I have come to the conclusion that school leadership is a journey of deep growth and personal transformation. However, because of the systems over-emphasis on results and league tables many individuals are devoid of a language or a space to describe the inner dissonance that often accompanies this walk into the unknown.

It is not until they have been afforded this space, that they begin to see the role of school leadership anew and in so doing make the vital connection between being alive to what Parker J Palmer [American author and social activist] calls the ‘Soul in the Role’ or the ‘being’ in Human-being’

Having been in the profession now for over twenty-eight years, I fully get why this is so; why it feels so alien for us to engage in conversations that take us inside of ourselves. I believe it is because too often we are asked questions that demand that we justify, explain, give account for;

– Good results

– Bad results

– Good performances

– Bad performances

Persist in asking me questions that seek justification for external outcomes and I become a stranger to my inner world, upon which these external outcomes depend. I will seek to defend, ‘who I am’ and what I bring to my role. On the other hand, ask me questions that invite me to explore the ‘how and why’ of what I do and then you invite the best in me to come forth. You invite my soul to come out from behind its defences and engage in more live giving and affirming conversations about what matters most.

My session on Saturday will be just that, an invitation to begin taking part in a journey with us on the subject ‘Taking Care of the Soul in the role’.

The journey begins with Saturday’s interactive workshop and continues throughout September with a series of related blogs on bringing who we truly are into our roles as educators and leaders. The journey’s end will be on Tuesday 4th October from 8:00-8:30 PM when we will be hosting our webinar on Staying in Love With School Leadership.

webinar-photo

If you would like to receive our register for this webinar, please click here.

Starting the Conversation #PedagooHampshire16 : More for less – Marking with a purpose

I’ve no doubt we all understand the role and importance of effective marking and feedback in student progress but how can we deliver this without detriment to our work/life balance?

As part of my #PedagooHampshire16 learning conversation I’ll be sharing many of my own tried and tested ideas as well as tips that can help to reduce the amount of time we spend providing feedback without compromising its quality.

In addition I’ll be encouraging discussion around the topic of ‘More is Less – Marking with a Purpose’ where there will be an opportunity to explore the issues and solutions surrounding the provision of feedback.

To get you thinking in advance of the session, below are some questions to help inspire your thoughts.

  • How does marking and providing feedback impact upon your work/life balance?
  • What is the biggest issue for you associated with marking and feedback?
  • Does your schools marking policy impact upon your work/life balance? If so what could be change to ensure they are not detrimental to our work/life balance?
  • What other ways are there that we can provide high quality feedback without the consumption of  vast amounts of time?
  • What other formats of feedback can we give to achieve the same outcomes?
  • What marking and feedback techniques have worked for you to maintain a work/life balance?
  • How do we make verbal feedback as valuable as written feedback? Should we be evidencing it?

 

Feel free to suggest other questions for us to ponder and discuss on the day.

If you’d like to attend you can sign up for free here.

Thanks to @martynreah who’s hosting this year’s great line up, click here to find out about some of the learning conversations.

 

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

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?

Pedagoo Ayrshire September 2015

The recent Pedagoo event in Ayrshire was the first of it’s kind that I’ve been to, first TeachMeet of any kind. I am currently studying on the PGDE (Primary) at Strathclyde and was directed towards Pedagoo by the lecturing staff, who seem keen to promote collaboration between teachers and the use of social media to share good practice. Here I have to admit a certain level of personal inexperience with using and sharing internet-based resources for teaching and with social media in general. It was during the same talk where Pedagoo was mentioned that I decided to venture into this new world and create a Twitter account. I’ve always been fairly averse to creating public profiles online, or even profiles that I know only people I know would see; I don’t have a Facebook and still enjoying keeping in touch with people by calling them up or actually meeting them. Twitter has seemed even more of an alien concept to me, but probably because I couldn’t imagine why I’d be interested in what celebrities are doing or saying at any given time and – even more unfathomable – why anyone would be interested in the mundane thoughts in my own head. Now I’m not saying these things to make a point about the unnaturalness of social media, and please know that I do see the positives, but rather I’m trying to illustrate my own ignorance and inexperience.

Very quickly after I created my Twitter account, I instructed it to follow Pedagoo and started receiving updates and posts from other users. I could immediately see how easily people were sharing examples of their own good practice, with an obvious passion for their work while trying to give ideas to their fellow professionals. It was here I heard about the Takeover event and decided to sign up for my local Pedagoo meeting. I was curious about what the event would look like and what kind of discussions would take place. Being from Ayrshire myself, it made sense to attend my local event being held at the University of the West of Scotland in Ayr. On top of my curiosity about Pedagoo and TeachMeets in general, I guess a felt that attending would be good for my studies and a change from the reading and writing of the PDGE course.

So I drove to Ayr on Saturday morning, something which I can imagine would feel like being above and beyond the call of duty for many teachers after having worked all week in class, not to mention any other extra-curricular commitments and professional development. It was the first time I’d been to the UWS campus and was definitely impressed, very modern facilities in pleasant surroundings. It’s very different to a city campus like Strathclyde, but that’s not to be critical of either. I parked my car and went into the building, following the clearly marked signs for the Pedagoo event. The campus was quiet and I walked in alone, despite having arrived around 5 minutes before the scheduled start time. When I got upstairs to the lecture room, I reached a sign-in desk with a Pedagoo poster and a few people hanging around, chatting and holding paper cups. I went inside and was pleased to find a refreshments table with hot coffee, tea and a plethora of chocolate biscuits. One of the organisers had even brought homemade brownies which I could see were a popular choice, so I made sure to get in early…

The first thing that struck me was that there were less people than I expected to find, probably around 20-30 people present, which I was pleased about. I’d been concerned that I’d just end up in a lecture theatre full of strangers, being talked at by presenters with a point to make about their own views on teaching. It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to be the case. People were talking and introducing themselves in a friendly manner before we were invited to sit down for a brief introduction. The format for the event was explained and we were asked to indicate our preferences for the conversations we would like to take part in. This language of “conversations” was comforting and set the tone for the relaxed discussions which we were to be taking part in. A timetable of four sessions was drawn up and we were given the choice to join in the conversations in three different rooms, each with a dedicated topic and hosted by a nominated attendee.

Over the course of the morning I took part in 4 conversations, each lasting between 30 and 40 minutes. I chose the conversations that dealt with Learning without Limits, Literacy, Inclusion and Online Learning Platforms. I enjoyed each one of these and feel I can take a lot away from what was said. It was clear that the leader of each discussion was passionate about the subject they had chosen, as were the people in the room. I was certainly the only student present but it seemed a mixed group, from different teaching backgrounds. This made for healthy debate of the issues at hand and I appreciated the fact that no-one was pushing an agenda and were weren’t striving for any particular conclusions; we just wanted to hear each other’s views and explore some ideas. Each of the discussions that I attended could have easily stretched on and time always ran out, more than once the phrase “We could talk about this all day…” was used. For me, it was just great to be around people who really care about the job they do and the teaching profession in general. I guess that’s the great thing about a voluntary event where people are giving up their own free time to come along. At the same time, I think it’s individually rewarding for teachers to sit together and talk through, outwit their workplace and with people other than their day-to-day colleagues. During our discussions we talked about the concept of emotional literacy and how this applies to teachers, and I can certainly see how a TeachMeet style event can have a therapeutic “get this off my chest” element.

Once the conversations were over, we had a brief roundup of the day and said goodbye. We were asked to give our views on what went well with the event and what could be improved. The chocolate brownies were finished by that point but I was given a thermal mug as a freebie to take home. Personally it had been really valuable in terms offering the views of teachers who are living and working in my local area, something which I probably don’t get from my course. It provided a good complement to what I’ve been learning about since the start of term, provided some food for thought about current issues in Scottish education and introduced me to some new people and teaching practices. So my experiment with social media has not only proven to be valuable in terms of what it can offer to me online, but also in how it can lead to enjoyable and useful “real life” experiences. Pedagoo Ayrshire was a success and I’m looking forward to the next one.

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?

Where the Sun Shines #PedagooLondon

A write-up of my keynote at Pedagoo London 2015. Summer Turner (@ragazza_inglese)

I am really honoured to be the final speaker today. Much like many of the people who have spoken today, I have a big place in my heart for Pedagoo and so it means a lot to me that Helene asked me to end this day.

Phil Stock spoke eloquently at the start of today about the power of this type of CPD and he also spoke about leaking roofs. Weirdly I had this metaphor in my mind about the two. I’ve always felt Teaching found me – walking into a classroom for the first time since leaving school and watching a commanding female teacher weave a magic spell over her pupils with literature – I remember feeling that I had found my home. Yet two years later, worn from an onslaught of behaviour management and an ill-balanced workload, it began to feel like the roof of my home was leaking. Seeping through were the negative images and words whether from politicians, the media or most sadly other teachers. And then my colleague, Chris Waugh, encouraged me to explore the world of Twitter. I was already online but unsure what I was doing (hence the silly Twitter handle) or what I wanted to say but with guidance I began to cut a path for myself. The next step was a TeachMeet – this one at Tom Sherrington’s previous school KEGS. Suddenly I felt that: yes the roof of my home had holes but the sun was shining! Being in a room surrounded by teachers determined to be better, to do better by their pupils was amazing but even more so was the generosity of spirit which I found there and which I find today. There is no keener example of that than Helene, who organised today, she is the embodiment of this generosity: someone who gives so much of their time to helping others in the teaching community find a voice, someone who works tirelessly to provide a space for this meeting of minds. For that I would like to thank her most deeply.

Today there has been some great sharing of ideas but, perhaps more importantly, there has been disagreement. One of the themes that has come out today is the importance of teacher autonomy. In the London Nautical English Department session they discussed the importance of this in terms of their approach to curriculum and assessment. Teachers are empowered by their ability to make choice and to therefore have a sense of autonomy. This prompted a debate about how how autonomous teachers should be – where is the role of leadership and whole school ethos?Recently bloggers such as Kris Boulton have started a discussion about whether teachers should have any say in curriculum design at all. Phil Stock provided an example of something which perhaps bridges this gap with his workshop on on collaborative teaching cycles in which there was a suggestion about the value of a framework provided by leaders but with some autonomy at department level. It’s clear there is a healthy debate to be had here, one which I have certainly begun in my own mind!

Another point of friction came through the discussion of assessment – including a continued argument about the importance of progress measures. In her session on assessment without levels Hayley Earl talked about the fear that schools have about developing a new system and called for leaders to be brave and to have conviction. It’s a concern to me that we are still discussing progress measures when we should be focused on valuable assessment systems which are driven by curriculum and by the desire to work out what our pupils know and how to help them make genuine improvement. I concur with Hayley that fear is the one thing that is holding us back. I’m not sure if it’s a hang up from previous criticisms levelled at teachers or from the accountability system and Ofsted but fear is the one thing that is going to stop us from making the change that we believe in. Fear is also what leads to some of the stupidity that still goes on in schools and results in people thinking that they can go to a PixL conference and pick up some hot trick that will make their school outstanding. There’s still this terrible culture of trends in teaching based on little to no evidence and usually ending up reducing the complex questions of education into a motivational laminated poster. If your thinking can end up in three words on a poster, I would suggest you need to think again. I think what all of the sessions shared was the importance of ethos, values and courage of conviction.

The reason this isn’t seen across school is I think a consequence of a fear of “the struggle”. We constantly encourage our pupils to embrace risk and struggle and that point between challenge and failure – yet half the time we run a mile from it ourselves. We run from the feeling that comes when you have to think about something complex and have to navigate the difficulties. Yet sitting in sessions today hearing ideas that I disagree with forces me to consider and refine my ideas. How do you know what you really believe until it is challenged?

These challenges are easier to face here because we are not alone. A number of people have talked today about the feeling teachers have of being ‘on their own’. It’s much less terrifying to take risks when you know you have this community and it also means you don’t always have to re-invent the wheel; I think we can put pressure on ourselves to always be original and be our own island of inspirational teaching. But it’s not cheating to work together, to collaborate, to use other’s ideas – with suitable credit of course. And that is just another reason why today has been so worthwhile. I lead on Teaching and Learning and after Phil’s session today I do feel a bit like he’s taken a year’s worth of thinking and work off my shoulders. Even in the divisions and differences and arguments that ensue as part of the profession we are truly united by the passion we have to do the right thing by our pupils – to provide them with the best education. Determining what that is demands argument but this can be achieved positively.

In my first ever blog post I demanded that we all face the education world with this unrelenting positivity. I now realise that what I wanted was for us to be positive activists. As the years have gone on, this positive activism has been realised through the grassroots movement from events such as Pedgaoo, ResearchEd, Headteachers Roundtable, TeachMeets, Twitter, blogging and more. We have seen curriculum, assessment, teacher training, behaviour management and even Ofsted be shaped by those within the profession. What is happening here is not only CPD it is this meeting of minds; a collaboration of ideas and an active pursual of change from the profession itself. It is the very best of what we are about.

What I also heard today was a plurality of voices. Even within the education community we can sometimes be self-limiting in terms of who we listen to. This is a problem, which we need to address. And I’m going throw in the F word now – FEMINISM. (Not a swear word but sometimes it feels like one.) 74% of the profession are women – yet think about the biggest voices in education when it comes to blogging, Tweeting and conferences. How many of them are women? How many women here today probably didn’t ask a question or make a comment out of insecurity or ‘imposter syndrome’. If we are taking charge of our profession then we need to take charge as a whole group together. We need to follow the example of Helene and work to allow a multitude of voices to be heard. In that space lies our power.

I recently re-read the book ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ and there is a moment at the end of the book where the protagonist Charlie reflects on his journey over the time he has been writing. He says:

I don’t know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might

be too busy trying to participate. So, if this does end up being the last letter I just wanted you to know that I was in bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn’t know what I was talking about or know someone who’s gone through it you made me not feel alone, because I know there are people who say all these things don’t happen, and there are people who forget what it’s like to be sixteen when they turn seventeen.

I know these will all be stories some day and our pictures will become old photographs and we will all become someone’s mom and dad.

But right now, these moments aren’t stories this is happening, I am here and I am looking at her, and she is so beautiful…I can see it.

This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story, you are alive.

And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder, when you were listening to that song, on that drive with the people you love most in this world.

And in the moment, I swear, we are infinite.

In the moment, I swear, we are infinite.

It’s that I feel when I am surrounded by my profession at events such as these; it is standing up and seeing the lights and it is beautiful. And everyone, every teacher, should feel this. So I urge you all to become positive activists for our profession, to contribute to the multitude of voices and to allow our passion to unite us. Together, we are infinite.

My thoughts and reflections… #PedagooLondon

Saturday was a wonderful non-stop carousel of enthusiasm and inspiration. I had not attended a Pedagoo event, nor even a teachmeet, before and it looks like I will now be making up for lost time! What follows below is a brief chronological summary of my Pedagoo experience.

Pre-Pedagoo

As the eighth floor of the Institute of Education was slowly filling up I found myself agog at the fact that so many of the teachers I follow on Twitter were in the room. One of my happiest moments was spotting the batman socks of a certain well-known tweeter!

Welcome

Phil Stock gave a very welcoming speech and channelled Andy Lewis’ question of whether we were “Mugs, Martyrs of Fools” to be giving up a day to take part in CPD on the weekend. The question he put to us was “what is missing in our schools for this to be the case?” However, his positive summary that we can and are growing CPD from the inside out clearly resonated. Who could question the need to put student learning firmly at the forefront of our training?

Session 1

I am currently part of a working party to look at redesigning the marking and assessment at my school, so it was logical to attend Dawn Cox’s “Assessment without levels.” Indeed this topic is very much en vogue and I have read many recent blogs with great curiosity. During this session I was very interested in the development of Dawn’s assessment system for Religious Education. Two ideas I particularly liked were:

  1. The concept of students working back from a definition of a command word (e.g. explain) to the actual command word itself.
  2. No stakes multiple choice question testing where one option is always “I don’t know” to see exactly what a student doesn’t know.

Two simple yet highly effective strategies to help students engage with the assessment process. I will be interested to hear how it progresses as it is rolled out next year, particularly the no stakes testing.

Session 2

For the same reason as above I chose to attend another session based on assessment, this time Chris Curtis’ “The link between planning, progress and marking.” He started his talk by asking whether books actually tell the story of how a student is taught and of their learning. This again is a key topic in the days of work scrutiny and book checks. His use of the magician mastery and leaping up the ladder analogies were spot on and ones I will be using with staff and students alike. As part of an activity during the session I wrote down two very prosaic sentences on London and then managed to self-mark using a very clever grid of 15 targets to improve my work; unlike the famous Paul Daniels quote I liked this idea a lot!

Session 3

The ever enthusiastic dynamic duo of Crista Hazell and Candida Gould were up next with their “Recipe for Deep Learning.” This was a fun session, but also one that made me question many of my core educational beliefs; although not specifically about this session Hélène Galdin-O’Shea put it brilliantly in her tweet “I guess when you are struggling to agree with some of what you hear, it helps you figure out exactly why you do.” During Crista and Candida’s presentation they had a slide with a scale from the seemingly interchangeable Nicky Morgan / Michael Gove Tory Secretary of State for Education to Sir Ken Robinson. Perhaps my difficulty in digesting the mention of “Shift Happens”, “jobs that don’t exists” and “digital natives” would put me squarely at one particular end of that spectrum? However, that is not the point and I took many fine ideas from this session. Indeed it was a celebration of enthusiasm, hard work and, above all, passion for the job. Whilst listening to both Candida and Crista speak the sheer love they have for student learning come across loud and clear. PS – many thanks for the sweets!

Session 4

This was the session I was delivering, ostentatiously called “The one hundred one percents.” This topic is very close to my heart and was essentially a whistle-stop tour of ideas, gimmicks and thoughts to get the best out of teaching and learning. Since its first outing in March I have tweaked, changed and (I think!) improved the session. It was very enjoyable running the session and I am hugely grateful to Hélène for inviting me to do so and the wonderful people who actually came to listen; I do hope they took away a few ideas and look forward to hearing how they get on.

Session 5

Grassroots Leaders and Research-Focused TLCs was next on my list from Athena Pitsillis and Keven Bartle. I particularly liked the idea of pedagogy leaders as “brokers” between SLT and teachers and this made me think how it felt to be in such a position. My initial thoughts of it being akin to metamorphic rock were allayed as the session progressed. One thing that struck me is the sheer volume of leaders that this approach develops, in some schools such opportunities are few and far between. This reminded me of the Multiplier Effect and echoed the theme that all teachers are leaders. Finally it was also inspiring to hear Keven talk about how they have broken down barriers between teaching and support staff; as a teacher that relies on two excellent technicians I heartily agree that we should be doing more to develop the roles of support staff within schools.

Plenary

The final official part of PedagooLondon was Summer Turner’s summary of the day. This was particularly apposite as she called for more autonomy and empowerment in what we do as well as encouraging debate to help allow opinions to form. Summer also echoed Hélène’s sentiments when she said “how do you know what you really believe until it is challenged?” But I will remember this final talk as embodying the collaborative nature of the event as we look to maintain the positive activism.

Teacher5aday

There was also time to see Martyn Reah’s collection of #teacher5aday ideas in an exhibition on the seventh floor. Not only were there some great thoughts and reflections but this also distilled just how connected we can be and was a lovely way to leave PedagooLondon.

The Marquis of Cornwallis

This led nicely to a nearby pub where I was lucky enough to meet some extraordinary teachers, chatting for hours and reflecting on the day. Certainly I hope to return in a year’s time to PedagooLondon16, but until then I will be keeping in contact and trying to get to as many events as possible.

Thank you to all who were involved in organising such a fantastic day!

Everyone has a voice #PedagooLondon

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting London, not to take photos of architecture, nor to experience the pomp and circumstance of our great British institution. Interestingly, despite the fact that one of the biggest tennis tournaments was taking place in London, I wasn’t anywhere near Wimbledon either. I was a delegate at Pedgaoo London, a TeachMeet organised by Hélène Galdin-O’shea (@hgaldinoshea) that I hadn’t been aware of until quite recently and, honestly, if my ATW (@hayleyearl) hadn’t been presenting there (which now makes her the Most Amazing Teacher Wife!) I wouldn’t have attended nor would I be blogging tonight (sorry Hélène). However, I cannot express my delight in attending and my gratitude towards Hélène for organising the event, supported by Kevin Bartle @kevbartle, to the many speakers and to the delegates also, many of whom I have started to follow and extend my own professional network.

Whilst my ATW was nervous about speaking to her peers, I housed my own anxieties: I would be in a room with delegates with extensive levels of knowledge and experience compared to my 7 years as a TA, Unqualified Teacher and Student, how could I participate in the anticipated discussions? Listening to Phil Stock (@joeybagstock) and then Chris Waugh (@edutronic_net), I was filled with awe; these two guys could hold an audience with musings of wisdom, and evidence of practice that I hope to achieve one day in my career. Maybe I had a right to be nervous, these people were eminently worthy of their podium position at the front of one of the IoE’s classrooms, what could I offer in discussion?

However, these fears were somewhat alleviated when I entered the room and realised that everyone was there for the same reason, to learn, share and develop professionally, a common expectation. What’s more, when I shared opinions, I found I was not alone, nor were they dismissed, people were interested in my thoughts and could relate and, dare I say, agree.

The day was a resounding success for everyone involved, for my ATW with her new-found desire to speak publicly (see www.musingsofateacher.wordpress.com) but selfishly, for me too. I’m lucky enough to have lots of CPD opportunities, formerly as a Schools Direct student, now as an NQT and as a Teacher at a forward thinking, staff investing school. Notwithstanding the existing opportunities, I cannot advocate enough the professional and personal rewards available from attending TeachMeets. The TeachMeets don’t have to be as big as Pedgaoo London or Northern Rocks (which will be in the diary next year!): try to meet locally in cluster schools to discuss progress and experiences. Meeting with colleagues of various levels of seniority, form varying backgrounds (primary and secondary) and with different levels of experience is an invaluable form of CPD. I’d even go as far as saying that I would happily organise PedagooGlos if enough are interested (will book ATW first!)

Finally, from this weekend’s experience, never underestimate the value of your own knowledge too: everyone has an opinion, everyone has experience, everyone deserves a voice.

TeachmeetASN

This is my first ever post on Pedagoo!

After a career in Community Education and Social Services, I decided to return and train as a Primary Teacher, following my probation year I worked for an Education/Care resource for three years and for the past year and a half I have been working in an ASN school.

Two wonderful friends introduced me to Twitter and I began following a wide range of people tweeting about education and educational issues. I discovered #pedagoofriday. I spent many an hour smiling and sometimes laughing out loud at the many brilliant things that class teachers were tweeting about. Mostly, wishing that I could come up with similar ideas!

Earlier this year, I attended the #pedagooprimary event, it was great and I loved meeting other people. Throughout my varied career, I have always loved meeting new people and finding out what things they were doing and, in the main, trying to steal their ideas!

So I took the first step and thought I could organise my own Teachmeet! I blackmailed a few friends into presenting and in turn they roped other friends into presenting, and someone was even brought into the fold through Twitter! I even thought of my own presentation, albeit, not as fabulous as the others. A colleague and friend baked cupcakes (always a good bribe for people attending).

I just wanted to say to everyone, if you want to get involved, just do it! Even if you have five people attending, it is the sharing of ideas and contacts that can make the sometimes lonely job of a teacher so much more and can have an enormous impact on your teaching and learning. Thus benefiting the people we all do this job for- the kids!