So, yesterday was Northern Rocks 2015 in Leeds and I returned to my university. Felt like being home again entering the gym where we used to play volleyball and the like. And I may have spent more time in the lecture theatres yesterday than I did in 4 years studying my primary education degree.
The chance to learn from fellow professionals is something that is rewarding. People who I follow on Twitter sharing more than 140 characters and giving me more food for thought. More opportunities to question and evaluate decisions I make everyday and whether the things I do are always for the kids or sometimes to make the powers that be happier. I was so pleased to have 3 other members of staff with me because that meant we got to see more of the workshops. Had I been by myself I don't think I would have ever been able to choose the workshops to go to.
So, first up was the discussion which although very valuable was very similar to the NAHT conferences recently attended. Laura Mcinerney was also very inspiring there too! She definitely knows her stuff and I know she is on the button! She may not be a teacher anymore but I know that she speaks from the heart and from the brain.
So my first choice - @leadinglearner
What a great first choice as well. I've long been reading Stephen's blog as a lot of what he writes about it what i also believe in.
Session One - @leadinglearner - Stephen Tierney
Leadership for Great Teaching
What is great teaching at our school - how is it defined - what is the vision! The first thought that popped into my head.
Don't put anything on the paper that you feel needs to be. E.g. Differentiation. Planning had always been a wonder of teaching that takes so many forms and which ultimately is something that if not done properly can lead to unsuccessful teaching. However, planning does not always have to be on paper. Some of the best lessons I have taught have been thought up because of something read or something which has happened in the news the day before.not written, but something that is interesting, current and hooks the children in. It's bout the learning not the activity after all.
The next point Stephen made was this..
What do we want him to know, what do we want them to do? How does great teaching fit in with this? Of course, it's about what we want them to learn and designing a learning sequence around this that excites and motivates the children to want to know the stuff!
Ask the question in the obs follow up - Why did you do that in the lesson? "Because I thought you'd want to see that." is not an answer I hope
As you can tell I was already thinking hard. A sure fire sign of excellent CPD. "Be the designer of the learning not the planner of the activities." Not something new but it is good to be reminded of this at a time when we are always looking for new ideas to help learning when learning is actually the only key thing!
The next key point that Stephen came up with was...
When composing a learning sequence, Define the end point. What are the milestones for learning. The building blocks to achieving the end point. Can they do it? If not, redefine the planning. Find out what they don't know and teach it. Stop following the non-descript plans.
Build in the processes for children to work towards so steps are taken to enable all to achieve the end goal.
I had heard of Google forms before and know how to use them but had never thought of using them for staff CPD needs. Now I am and wondering how to go about it to make this successful for our school. - hoping to find staff willing to share some and then staff who need to learn some and pairing them up.
What a great first session and left me excited for the rest of the day ahead.
The next session up was with Alastair Arnott and Mick Waters. Phrased as 'Why put psychology into schools after the damage has been done, why not before?'
Is it a gap or a chasm? Was Alastairs first food for thought. The gap will remain unless we develop the children's understanding of learning and thinking. I'm hoping this is something we are beginning to do in school and something we will continue to develop and build into everyday learning but it is also something that potentially non-educators (parents) also need to be able to understand.
"Holy grail - psychological efficiency" has to be true! Mental health issues amongst young children is on the rise. We need to help children with this aspect of their health. But how? We are not psychologists, we may know some psychology but not all. But with the cuts to services we are trying to be psychologists as well as teachers and many other roles.
"Do we spend too much time thinking about being a great teacher rather than being a great teacher?" But how do we differentiate between thinking about being a great teacher and learning about being a great teacher. This, I suppose then begs the question: Can you learn to be a great teacher?
I'm a keen fan of developing children as happy learners first and knowledge builders second and this session affirmed my view. My view of happiness as one of the key drivers to helping children succeed is something I will always strive for.
Safe and happy children take risks (same for teachers). Give staff space to fail. First attempt in learning but don't allow repeated failure. Act on the failure to ensure achievement next time. Teachers need to do the same - take a risk, if it works brilliant, if it doesn't don't do it again and learn from it.
Lunch was great - I didn't even know it was free!
Next up was The Real David Cameron. Not since being entertained by Hywel Roberts, Dave Keeling et al at Independent Thinking big day out in 2013 have I felt the need to just shout - yes! You are bloody brilliant! Yes, it was entertaining and full of swear words and rounded off with the clash, but he message was strong and powerful!
The fact I made barely any notes because I was hanging on his every word shows how powerful and how incredible this man is as a speaker.
"It's about adaption not adoption. It's about better than now, not better than them." We have amazing educators in Great Britain so why do we need as David says to swim to Sweden or sail to Singapore for ideas. We have the ideas here, we just need to make them more accessible for all. Unfortunately, CPD in some places is still not good enough and CPD is ill-informed and ran by people who have not been in a classroom for many many years. That's one thing that must change for CPD to develop.
The next thing that resonated with me was the following...
"Finding ways to engagement because that's where the gap is. How do they know what their life can be if we don't show it to them."
Yes!!!! We need to inspire them, not just teach them. We need to show them what can be done and what they can achieve. Is it going to be easy? No!? But will we give up? No! Because that's what we do! We never give up on children and we give them chance after chance to make sure they have the chance to achieve!!
My final session was then with John Tomsett. A man who is like a CPD machine from a blog. A man who despite being a head also manages to teach regularly. He was awesome and summed up quite a lot of information already shared through the day. I still have no idea on the sweets question even though he showed us exactly how to solve it. To coin his phrase...
This much I know about John Tomsett - he is an inspiration, a man who does things for his students and nothing else. Thank you John.
Many thanks to Emma Ann Hardy and Debra Kidd - you two are fantastic!!!
Till next year...
I'm a deputy head in Scarborough, England and love using media and tech to develop writing. I'm also a keen advocate of Learning Without Limits and believe in a games based approach to developing mathematicians.