The day of #PedagooLondon had arrived. Days like these, although wonderfully inspirational, do provide sufficient moments of trepidation for me. Yesterday, I almost bottled it. All those people. All those Twitter folk. All those potential moments of small talk looming. If I wasn’t a good sleeper, it would have been a sleepless night. Fortunately, I could happily sleep through a bulldozer ploughing straight into my bedroom so a lack of sleep wouldn’t be another problem to add to my already anxiety ridden day.
Upon arrival into London I sauntered to the station toilet. I didn’t really need it. To all you extroverts out there, this is otherwise known as socialising procrastination.
Inevitably, I then got lost. I don’t know how. I never know how. I’m invariably in London when it happens. A sense of direction is something I was certainly not born with and it turns out, I’ve still not developed it. I have just under 2 years until I’m 30 and it’s my ambition to have found my sense of direction by then. I even walked in the opposite direction to a huge bunch of people talking about teaching. They were most definitely all teachers. They were almost definitely heading to Pedagoo. My gut ignored them as my gut always ignores the things that might prevent me from being lost. Something inside me still convinces me I’m not lost, when all other parts of my absolutely know, with all certainty, that I am.
Once I had reached my final destination, I sat at the back of the room and got out my phone. I texted my partner who has been away and then I started flicking through Twitter. I heard people ‘Twitter spotting’ and I realised that I should be avoiding their gaze as, horror of all horrors, someone might spot me and actually want to talk to me- in person.
Someone sat down next to me, I glanced at her, whispered ‘hi’ and returned to my phone- but to do what? I had no-one else to text, I knew I needed to avoid Twitter so I pointlessly scrolled through some old emails. I then concluded that I needed to get a grip. The small talk with the lady next to me was awkward. Terrible. I’m so boring. I have nothing of worth to say to anyone. So I started gazing around the room instead (yes, whoever you were, you probably thought me incredibly rude. I wasn’t- I was just anxious and would have loved to have spoken to you some more).
If you’re reading this and you were at #PedagooLondon then you’ll know why I didn’t come over and speak to you. My friends and family never really recognise this as an accurate description of me. Work colleagues realise this is only me in certain situations and usually before I’ve got to know people. Strangers probably just perceive me as rude and dull, which is something I’m struggling to just live with because in reality I’m lovely, open and have lots and lots to say… as the ensuing post might indicate. Some of what I’ve written below is almost word for word what the presenter shared. Other elements have been inserted as my own thoughts and I’m unsure which is which in many cases!
Rachael Stevens- The Wind of Change
The inspirational Rachael Stevens @murphiegirl presented ‘The Wind of Change’ and essentially got the room excited about the way in which education is undergoing somewhat of a transformation at present.
She began with how she had spoken to others about the fact she was going to CPD on a Saturday! In London! For free! Where lots of other teachers would be! Sharing and learning together! Who’d have thought this existed?
She then referenced the top #Twitterati who have been changing things with Ofsted. Things aren’t yet changing as much as they should be though. Yes, Ofsted policy has been changed but do all leaders, teachers and perhaps even more significantly, Ofsted Inspectors, follow it?
She reminded us that Twitter is tiny in comparison to the rest of the teaching world. Outside of us, there is a whole host of other teachers who don’t appreciate the change that is possible if we move as one group. They are still convinced that no-one will listen. Who’d have thought this existed?
This disparity in the potential of the huge changes taking place and the practice taking place in schools is sending out mixed messages, especially to the newest generation of teachers who will influence the future. This is worrying.
Rachael reminded us all that we should follow the example of individuals like @cazzypot and bravely fight against the system. Changes don’t need to come from the top. Perhaps the best and most effective changes come from within. We have the power to change things and even if we don’t, we should try or we’ll be crushed.
Paired walkthroughs and lesson studies, for her, are the greatest tools to combat graded observations. Even lesson studies in their purest form- looking at what the learners are doing, rather than the teachers, is most valuable.
She played the following video, which, quite honestly, made me want to cry.
I work in FE so the call of ‘just saying no’ to SLT who want to carry out a graded observation would be lost. Ofsted are still grading individual lessons. There are no plans to stop doing this. I am trapped but I wouldn’t change the sector I work in for the world so I suppose I’ll just have to keep fighting for whatever gains can be made from within our own organisation.
Allegedly, Socrates once said,
This quote fits so much with my current role and the progress I see occuring in our College.
Tom Sherrington- Walking the Progressive/Traditional Line
After Rachael’s wonderfully uplifting speech, I navigated my way to @headguruteacher Tom Sherrington’s room, where he’d be speaking about ‘Walking the Progressive/Traditional Line.’
Essentially, he’d be arguing that any way is the right way as long as the students are learning. I suppose that might be simplifying things but I felt that was his ultimate message.
My notes in this are, well, copious to say the least. I think I practically wrote a transcript of almost everything he said! Once again, some of the comments and phrasing are mine and not his so this may warp or simplify his points but it’s just the way I do note-making so I sort of gave you an apology there and then took it away with the other hand. Let’s just get on with it, shall we?!
Are there certain methodologies that can be correct all the time, with any set of learners? Almost definitely not!
Teachers are forever feeling like they have to justify their methods. If the end result is good enough, why is this necessary?
There are so many elements of teaching, which can all add value and no single one should be dismissed outright because it fits a certain stereotype about being ‘fun’ or indeed ‘old-fashioned.’
‘Sage on the Stage’ and ‘Guide on the Side’ are unhealthy distinctions between teaching styles, suggesting the teacher is not the expert in the room.
Moving wholly from one to the other is wrong- shouldn’t it be a combination of both?
This image (from http://motivatedmastery.com/) makes everyone angry in one way or another (apparently the quote doesn’t even come from Einstein). It’s actually a childish reduction of a debate that should be happening about methods of assessment. The image polarises the two sides of the argument and prevents a legitimate discussion from taking place.
His son was asked to make a maths hat. What on earth is a maths hat in any case and how should it look?! His son stuck numbers and symbols on a wooly hat with staples. He was not challenged enough in relation to his present ability and tasks of low value can be found all over the place.
Caricatures are being made of what constitutes good and bad teaching. This renders very hard-working teachers feeling inadequate. If the students are learning then we shouldn’t be apologising for it.
Can it be said that traditional teaching leads to the crushing of creativity? Probably not…
It’s a flawed and messy argument on both sides- we need to have an awareness of both things- it naturally emerges for Tom (and through his blogs) that the two are closely related.
He spoke of the English department at his school that is exploring a ‘Poetry by Heart’ approach. Poetry is, after all, designed to be felt and experienced- not to be learnt and picked apart. He wonders how one could go about separating traditional and progressive in these lessons. The students are learning something by heart but are also taking part in performances and evaluations of language and meaning as part of this.
He is aware that everyone has feelings, emotions and dispositions, which education should also nurture.
He sees progress not merely as a set of steps moving upwards but when he tried to create an image that would represent progress as he saw it, there’d be a wholly indescribable mess of elements and that’s not helpful for teachers in ensuring that progress takes place.
He resolved that a cloud shape with jigsaw parts would be the closest representation of progress in that there are some foundation pieces that form the fundamentals and the middle pieces could be made up of whatever other elements the teacher felt led to progress in their lessons with their classes- the fluffy stuff of either traditional or progressive methods, depending upon the teacher.
Drills are important but there must also be a level of motivation and engagement in working towards the final result.
Life beyond the classroom is often ignored by teachers and any approach needs to take notice of the learning that takes place between lessons. For my sector, the recent release of the FELTAG report will render this even more important.
Trivium 21c is a book that Tom feels brings together the two ideas of teaching: traditional and progressive. It describes a synthesis of the foundations of learning as well as the energy that should accompany it.
His final analogy related to his feelings about where we should be going with all of this.
He ended by showing a picture of a tree with the roots growing down below. If we have kids who have the trunk of knowledge, then we can take them into the progressive leafy parts reaching out in all directions.
The part of this analogy that especially related to my own FE setting were the roots. If the students have never developed the fundamental elements of wonder and exploration about learning then we can’t say, ‘we’re just doing knowledge today, folks’- a combination of the elements is even more essential in these situations.
In conclusion- we need one teaching approach for the other to work.
When asked if there were any questions, one person suggested that after all he’d said, perhaps the argument was worth having. I knew that, unfortunately he’d been unable to see the light of what Tom had said. The argument isn’t necessary because the means of teaching isn’t important, as long as the end goal is achieved. End of.
Thank you Tom. You made sense to me.
After Tom’s session I had mixed feelings. There were still people who wanted this argument yet it didn’t need to be had. My hope is that through leading CPD activity at my College, I can influence changing the culture there too.
Debbie and Mel- Taking the Temperature of Your Classroom
After the break, I headed to ‘Taking the Temperature of your Classroom’ with Debbie and Mel, otherwise known as the fantastic duo of @TeacherTweaks.
Rachel Jones- Higher Order Thinking Skills
She began her session by playing Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’ and then I realised that great music and a comfortable environment was exactly what can put me at ease when my anxiety has kicked in. Her classrooms must be a truly awesome place to be.