I was trying to unpick some of the things I do in my practice, things I believe make a difference, and talking with a non-teacher friend, I realised that as a profession we tend to like a nice new shiny concept, approach, package, programme or resource. Now I’m not implying that’s wrong, far from it, many of my teacher friends are fantastic advocates of a wide number of approaches, you only have to look at the # tags that some of the prominent tweeters in Scottish Education follow, to see that good practice means having many different tools and options available so that we can meet and support ALL of the children in our classes. But I’m not sure that these approaches and methods are the real crux of why we have our own success stories of children we have nurtured. It’s a common mistake I think, to take a resource that appears to be the reason for success and then wonder why the success hasn’t been as great when implemented in a different environment. I have a feeling that it is in the approach of the person delivering and the school community in which they work. With this in mind I was keen to explore ‘Supporting change through the staffroom’ at the Pedgaoomuckle event in October.
As Outdoor Learning is my soap box, I wanted to ensure that there was some space in the learning conversation to give a gentle nod to the health benefits from being outside, better still being near greenspace (http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/6636651036540928) and the impact this can have on pupils learning and attainment. So we all put on our coats and went on a #walkandtalk . I encourage schools to try and have at least one staff meeting outside every term. Not only does this benefit the staff from a health point of view, but how many staff really know the environment the children in their class are walking through every day. We drive into the carpark, go into the building and at night get back in the car and drive out of the school again. There are so many learning opportunities right on the doorstop, from times tables on buildings, angles in our environment to social studies of house styles, age of buildings and types of materials.
How many coffee jars are in your staff room?
I had written questions on lolly pop sticks and folk quickly fell into a comfortable pace of walking and talking freely and enjoyably with their partner. The first question, how many coffee jars?, I hoped would spark a conversation around what kind of place their staff room was. I have heard many ‘horror’ stories from visitors to school staff rooms ranging from adults being told they are sitting in someone’s seat, to ‘huffs and puffs’ when they’ve not brought their own mug! Surprisingly our group began counting and sharing the different teas they all liked. But through discussion standing under the trees on Sauchihall Street, we pulled out thoughts and feelings about how a staff room represents the school community; is it a welcoming place, is the tea and coffee for all to share, offer and use? Do visitors feel welcome and gauge a sense of belonging? We discussed ideas to help promote the sense of community in the staff room. Here’s what we came up with;
• Social events
• Swap shops; bring a handbag and take home a different one!
• Communal drink fund
• Cake Friday; taking it in turn to bring/bake the cakes
• Staff library/bookshelf of books to read
• Social Fund
What fundraising do you do?
Swapping partners and making our way slowly through the Saturday shoppers in the sun, we shared all of the success and failures that we have tried, in order to raise funds for our schools. We spoke of the Tesco and Asda grant schemes http://www.tesco.com/carrier-bags/ https://www.asdafoundation.org/applying-for-funding the http://fundingscotland.com web page and then suggestions such as garden parties, fashion shows (M&Co, Matalan both offering stores after closing time with discounts for shoppers) race nights, sponsored walks/silences/jumps and fundraising websites such as https://www.easyfundraising.org.uk We all acknowledged that taking part in a communal fundraising activity usually made us feel more ‘together’. Speaking with staff members that we don’t usually talk too happens more naturally and freely at a social event, we can find commonalities between us, these can then be built on back in the staffroom.
What’s on your staff noticeboards?
As we passed by the Pavillion theatre discussing our staff room noticeboards, it was hard not to reflect on some of the things that we maybe haven’t quite got right. If our staff room boards are a reflection of the staff, are they saying who we really are? Are we simply about how to report Health and Safety Issues and when and what will the next collegiate meeting be?
Boards that are useful were discussed;
• Examples of sharing good practice; this worked for me, here’s a good website
• grab and go ( worksheets photocopied and ready to grab in a last minute emergency, or lesson plans that can be easily differentiated)
• Millionaire Moments; post-its on a board that are little successes that have made you feel like the best teacher in the world
• Apps to Action; Place to write up apps that are good and work eg CfE app, plickers, animoto, photohunt, Project Noah, any of the OPAL citizen science ones.
What are you great at?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
We are often, not good at saying what we excel at. We don’t really feel comfortable saying “I taught that lesson so well, they totally grasped what I was trying to teach”. If we want to change things then we need first to start with ourselves. We need to recognise what we are good at, we need to share it and then nurture and support others to feel confident about what they do well. Creating that supportive environment can be difficult at first particularly if we have ‘dementors’ (Harry Potter reference) in our staffrooms, the ones who sit in the corner finding difficulties and problems with every new day. The people who, put simply suck the life from you with their negativity! So start small – find your number 2, your first follower, who will join you in your new dance and make your staffroom something you are proud to let visitors into.