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Nurturing a Love of Learning #PedagooWonderland

Once again it gives me great pleasure to write about the brilliant Pedagoo event #Pedagoowonderland held at Joseph Swan Academy on Saturday 7th December. For me it can only be described as an incredible Saturday in so many ways, but mainly because of my wonderful year 11 students!

I can’t actually believe it is a full six months since our last event, #Pedagoosunshine which was a resounding success. With this in mind we really didn’t want to rest on our laurels and were determined to build upon Sunshine and make it bigger and better. So we took all of the lessons that we learned from Sunshine and #Pedagoowonderland was born. Our primary aim in the true spirit of Pedagoo was to create a high quality professional learning event in a relaxed atmosphere where educators could collaborate, share, develop and grow. We wanted to inspire both ourselves and others and as always, learn exciting new ideas to take back to our schools and academies. We wanted it to be fun, social and the kind of event that people talk about for a long time afterwards and I hope I am not mistaken in saying that this is what transpired. I was truly humbled by the messages of thanks and congratulations across the weekend, yet for me it was the generosity of spirit and commitment of every single workshop presenter that made it so special.

One of the best educational books I have ever had the pleasure of reading is Sir John Jones ‘The Magic Weaving Business’ and in this he explores the fact that teachers are powerful script makers inside a child’s head. What we say to them makes all of the difference. This book made me cry (if you read a bit further, you will see this is a common theme!) It made me want to be a better teacher and actually a better person. I knew therefore when planning Wonderland that for me it was about making a difference, to each other, to our staff back at school and most importantly our young people. The central theme of the day had to be about, not just nurturing learning, but nurturing a love of learning and I think that this is what we saw on Saturday 7th December at Joseph Swan. In ‘The Magic Weaving Business’ Sir John talks about going the extra mile for the students and he says it should be for the love of it, because you care. How many extra miles did you see on Saturday? I know that I saw a lot; I know that I saw many ‘magic weavers’ on Saturday and I’m not just talking about the workshop presenters, but they were present everywhere. This is what I aspire to be- a magic weaver.

I’d like to share with you my experience of my own session, particularly for those who didn’t attend. The session was led by 7 students from my year 11j2 class. Every day that I teach them, they make me proud, but on Saturday they were simply outstanding, in the true sense of the word. I was blown away by their enthusiasm, right from the minute that I asked who wanted to be involved and most importantly questioned them about why they wanted to be involved. Their response ‘Well Miss we get to tell a load of teachers how they should be teaching us, why would we not want to be involved?’ Maybe the lure of hoodies and pizza also provided an initial appeal but I have to say they took charge of it all, right from the very beginning!

I feel that before I tell you where they ended up on Saturday, I should describe our very first meeting. I vividly remember almost skipping to their first English lesson, thinking great, they are a set 2 class, they’re going to love English (how naïve, for a teacher of 15 years!) One of the first questions I asked them was ‘Who loves English?’ and guess what… not a single person put their hand up. The second question I asked was ‘well who likes English?’- two students raised their hands. I remember being gutted and in full on panic mode arrogantly told them- ‘Well I can guarantee that by the end of year 11, all of you will like it, some of you will love it and a few of you may even want to become English teachers’ After the lesson, with clarity of thought, I may have sworn a little and thought, how am I going to pull that one off and why did I say it??? But I did and I knew I couldn’t let them down. I suppose looking back that was the day that I really began to consciously develop as a teacher. I had been in my last school 15 years and needed a new challenge (anyone that knows me, knows how much I love a challenge!) and here it was. I can honestly hand on heart say that I have learned so, so much from them- they have made me a better teacher without a shadow of a doubt. They are open and honest with me; they tell me when something’s not working or it is rubbish or they’d rather do it a different way. They keep me on my toes!

So we come to Pedagoo and their role. We met initially on a rainy Wednesday afternoon and I simply asked them 3 questions- what would your dream teacher look like in your eyes (and not physically!!!) what strategies have we used in class that have made you love learning and how have your attitudes to learning changed since Key Stage 3? I couldn’t shut them up! They had loads of ideas, discussions and Little Miss Bossy (Emma) took control of how it would be structured. After the initial planning stage, I met with them a few more times and have to say was surprised at their nervousness. However, I needn’t have worried, as on Saturday they were amazing. They absolutely took control over the session and absolutely ‘taught the teacher’ They dished out ‘Bank of Hutch’ money to the teachers they thought gave them a deserving answer, they questioned the teachers present and implored them to improve their vocabulary in ‘Pass the Paragraph’ They very strictly awarded and deducted points in ‘Hutch’s Hotspots’ They were passionate, confident, articulate and just amazing! I was so very, very proud of them (and again I had a tear in my eye) They may think I’ve taught them well, but I know they’ve taught me more than they will ever know. This post is therefore dedicated to my wonderful students- Emma (Little Miss Bossy), Logan (Mr Hungry) Levi, (Little Miss Sunshine) Amy (Little Miss Neat) Lidia (Little Miss Perfect) Billie (Little Miss Splendid) and Ursene (Mr Forgetful) who showed me not only who I am and what I do, but what I might become.

Here’s some feedback for you guys:
‘Thanks for such a wonderful session- what an amazing set of pupils’
‘An inspirational set of students. Thanks for your advice’
‘One word- fantastic! – forget the perfect teacher, you guys are the perfect students’
‘What an incredible bunch of students…’

Jane Hutchison (Assistant Head Teacher- Teaching for Learning)
Joseph Swan Academy


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