As an aside, before I begin this post, if you are looking for inspiration to create your own awe and wonder, look no further than this wonderfully different little book. It is filled with an array of wonders that will leave you thinking differently about this magical world in which we live. A welcome addition to any bookshelf that will leave you feeling inspired to explore.
My Maths teacher would be found, only too often, manically squealing, “Why don’t you get it Lisa?” The truth is that I probably did ‘get it,’ I just didn’t give a crap about his uninspiring text book full of numbers. At school, I wasn’t the geek that I am today. The naughtier things in life appealed to me far more than any Maths class because I was young and wanted to have fun. Fun and learning didn’t seem to belong in the same sentence and I’d choose fun every time.
After being seriously uninspired by school, I became a teacher because I knew that there was a better way. However, sitting through one particularly dull CPD session years later, I found myself back in that uninspiring place; the text book had been replaced by a Powerpoint but my reaction to it was similar. The only notes that I wrote that session were the words: “Note to self, never expect pupils to sit through something this dull and behave.”
Remembering my notes, I try to stay true to my word. The curriculum, as with everything in life, is what you make of it. Having fun is still at the forefront of my mind but I know that combining having fun with purposeful learning experiences is the best way forward (there has to be a balance). As teachers, we all have the power to create an environment in which children can laugh and learn so why the hell not? Just because you are enjoying yourself does not mean that you are not learning. The power to turn poetry revision into an Apprentice style board room or develop communication by creating new worlds is only your imagination away. It would be far easier (planning wise) to recite a text book but wouldn’t you rather ignite young minds by showing your pupils that their world is a cabinet of curiosities full of awe and wonder which they are free to explore?
When asked why we felt the need to include jugglers, unicyclists, hoola hoopers and a pop corn vender at Pedagoo Sunshine, I replied, why the hell not? Sunshine had an awesome line up of teachers ready to impart their knowledge on peers. The easiest way to get this information out to the participants would have been to line them up in rows and lecture them for the day. It would have taken far less organisation and the same message would have been delivered but how many teachers would choose to turn up? The people attending were all university graduates, well capable of sitting still, behaving and listening for long periods of time, so why didn’t we take the easy option? Because CPD is what you make of it too.
The world around us in an amazing place, full of awe and wonder! Like the pupils we teach, we want to feel inspired and, like the pupils we teach, sitting in rows and having a Powerpoint read to us just isn’t going to cut it. For Pedagoo Sunshine, thanks the generosity and imagination of our new Head Teacher Heather Scott, we had the power to do something different, the power to transform our empty school street into an inspiring setting for an inspiring day. We had the power to create our own cabinet of curiosities and so we did. “Follow the windmills and music” our fantastic students told gob smacked visitors as they entered our ‘outside inside’ street scene, complete with gazebos, garden furniture and lashings of bunting.
The scene was designed to create awe, the sessions for sharing, inspiration and new learning. The balance between learning and fun was just right. This party wasn’t just for show. Practicing teachers delivered practical sessions on project based learning, apps for the classroom, questioning and display to support learning to name but a few. This CPD was delivered by teachers who are at the chalk face, willing to share and inspire their peers, willing not just to deliver but to discuss ideas and share practice beyond the day itself. Participants could tailor their CPD to their individual needs by choosing the sessions that suited them best.
As an enthusiastic teacher, you can often feel like a lone geek, the only one wanting to do extra homework; Twitter, Teachmeets and Pedagoo have unearthed a community of geeks all thirsty for new knowledge to improve their practice. Such geeks are already inspired to learn more; it is the teachers that we can liken to teenage Lisa that we really need to reach, teachers who have lost their enthusiasm, teachers who see CPD as being done to them (much like my experience in Maths). Events like Pedagoo Sunshine demonstrate that just because we are grown ups, does not mean we have to stop having fun in order to learn. Developing as professionals is vital if we are to keep standards high in schools but this does not mean sitting in rows…tents will do just fine.
The future of CPD is ours for the developing and if you missed out this time, don’t worry, there are far more Teachmeets to come(keep December 7th free for Pedagoo Wonderland not to mention the last Thursday of every month at Blakes coffee shop Newcastle #TMblake13). Pedagoo Sunshine is not meant to be a one off explosion, impressive but easy to forget once you return to your daily routine. It is an invite to all teachers, no matter how experienced, how new, how enthusiastic or how dissolusioned, to begin to explore the cabinet of curiosities that is our amazing profession.