Mind the crevice

In recent months, I began to feel – so acutely – the distance between me and what Further Education is really all about, widening. I could no longer put my finger on what we were doing – what was it really all about? What was I here for? What impact was I having? These spreadsheets, this celebration and sharing of learning, this modelling of technologies, these conversations with practitioners and everyone would say, ‘I wish I had your job’. ‘What a wonderful opportunity you have to be solely focussed on Teaching & Learning.’ I’d nod and smile along.

I’d convinced myself that this widening gap didn’t matter. I was too busy. There was far too much to do and I was struggling to cope as it was. It’d be fine. I could always go back if I needed to… and then May soon turned into July and before long, September was upon me with all of its fresh beginnings, joyful starts, hectic activity and above all, purpose. New students, filled with hope, were ready to begin their journeys and many more were set to continue with theirs. Where was I in all of this? A crevice appeared at my feet and continued to grow over the coming days; the black hole of ‘management’ I was sinking into all too quickly without any means of getting back out. And then the phonecall came.

‘Hannah, are you still wanting to teach a class?’

Fear and doubt rippled through me- Was I? Could I?


‘What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?’

‘Tomorrow? Crikey! Well, I have a  couple of meetings but let me see what I can do…’

I walked (half running) with my heart beating out of my chest to my manager’s office and I couldn’t get the words out fast enough.

‘I’ve been offered a class tomorrow. There’s a couple of meetings though… Do you think I should…?’

With a broad grin across my face and sheer glee in my eyes, we both knew the answer and it wouldn’t matter whether he thought I should or not. I raced back to my desk.

‘Yes, go on then- I’ll do it! What’s next?’

The seconds and minutes of the day passed like hours and in between the day job I messaged my friends, jotted down notes, and scribbled on pieces of paper. The end of the day finally arrived and I could get into creating mode: designing, planning, cutting and sticking before the late, late train home.
My students are polite, witty and respectful. They are full of life. They are complex, curious and excitable. They are keen to learn and pass their English (even if they are more than happy to share their complete hatred for the subject). They lack confidence and dislike writing; some of them far more intensely than others. We will all be aiming for the magic C grade; my students have each (mostly) resigned themselves to the fact they need it- and who doesn’t want a classroom filled with resignation?

I feel I’ve come full circle in my teaching: a classroom filled with young males; eager to learn but without yet possessing all of the tools and skills required to make them successful learners: this is one of our greatest challenges in the year ahead- aside from helping them cope with their 3 hour learning marathon as I squeeze a great deal of my missed teaching time into small spaces and weary brains. This is a group of young men who make me laugh, who surprise me endlessly with their intellect and creativity. It is the unexpected parts of teaching that both lift and crush you. As a manager, I am crushed daily but rarely am I lifted and it is this that is the source of my drive.

After our first lesson, I received a piece of feedback on our weekly review that said:

‘A pretty decent teacher’

This quote spurs me on each week to maintain this level of decency and you never know, I may even be able to report that ‘pretty decent’ was surpassed! What’s next on that scale I wonder? ‘Proper decent’ perhaps? Now that’s something to aspire to!

My purpose is back and I will no longer be endlessly searching the corridors for meaning; hoping to reach out and touch just a slither of the joy, despair, frustration and elation that is teaching.

This week has been filled with wobbles, tears, doubt and frustration but then Thursday afternoon eventually arrives. I step in that door, that world, and the hours that follow that time are filled with such comparable calm. My anxiety about my workload eases and whilst my lack of self-confidence is pretty much unshakeable of late, something has returned that restores me noticeably: ME- creative, bubbly, loud and silly. I call friends, I hold a real conversation with my partner and I even begin to look forward, ever so slightly, to other parts of my work.

I received a letter from a dear friend this week and she ended it with a quote from a book she was reading (one of the many reasons I love her so much):

‘Things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance even after physical contact has been severed.’ 

The niggling part of my journey in my new role was that I had known what it was to teach and I’m certain that knowledge will never leave me.

Meetings Kits

Earlier on this year, as I sat twiddling my thumbs and checking my emails in yet another meeting, I began to wonder if there was another way. The problems with meetings are variable and for me, can be summed up with a few Dilbert cartoons:



Once I entered management, I soon realised the way in which meetings would rule my life; forcing to the edges the ‘spare’ time I had to act on whatever emerged from a meeting. Ahead of my recent #ukfechat conference workshop, I ran a poll on Twitter to see how many hours education leaders spent in meetings- I soon realised that the upper limit of 150+ was a little low, with a number of College principals citing a number closer to 700 hours each academic year:


Although I’d love for the answer to this ‘epidemic’ just to be: ‘reduce the number of meetings!’, I recognise the reality is more complex than that. With many of us, especially in FE colleges, now working in larger organisations spread across a number of campuses and in some cases spread across counties, there is a clear need for meetings to take place. So if their number can’t reasonably reduce then they must add more value than they currently do. If their sole purpose and focus remains to share key messages and information or check on progress then that’s not value enough in my book. Before any meeting, we must ask,

‘How will our time together today lead directly to impact on the organisation AND reduce rather than add to colleagues’ workloads?’

My three biggest frustrations with meetings emerged as:


  1. Why don’t meetings enable me to share my ideas? Why aren’t they a soundboard for me to see what colleagues think- in a safe, honest and supportive environment? Working in the way I do, I could really do with their input but I don’t want to be adding yet another meeting to their already busy weeks.
  2. Why don’t meetings connect me to others? Why aren’t I learning from others’ expertise? Why am I having to grab a few words with each of them as I enter or leave a meeting? As a new leader, I could really do with having stronger connections.
  3. Why don’t meetings help me to get work done? Why do they always generate more work and make me feel like I’ve lost time that I’ll never get back? A cancelled meeting = sheer relief.

I began to gather lots of ideas together from my own meetings, from teaching practice, from other leaders, from other organisations and from what I felt would work. This resulted in the epic making the most of meetings post. I then worked with a couple of Deputy Heads of Learning who were working to put more Teaching & Learning into their meetings. I left them with a small basket of goodies and a list of suggestions about how the work we had started could continue into their future meetings. I then realised I might actually be onto something and so a trip to Wilkinsons and Poundland took place (other cheap stores will work just as well…). The meetings kit was born:

#ukfechat (1).png

Each of the objects had been labelled with some ideas for their use and a set of instructions was printed:

Welcome to your ‘Making the Most of Meetings’ kit!

Why have you been sent this kit? In a world where meetings are a commonplace occurrence, it makes sense that we make the most of the time we have with colleagues.

  • Why are you having a meeting?
  • What do you want the output to be?
  • What might be the best way to achieve that, whilst also hopefully boosting staff morale and confidence?

This kit may challenge how you currently run your meetings or it may complement what you already do. Whichever one applies to you, the hope is that this kit can inject a little bit of fun, engagement, creativity, collaboration and productivity into your meetings because I believe that time together in a meeting is far too precious to waste on fixed agendas, presentations and the giving of information.

Your mission is to use (at least) one object/ idea contained inside this box in your next meeting. That meeting could be a 1-1, a team meeting, or a meeting with a selection of colleagues.

Each of these items has a label attached with some ideas for how you might choose to use it. Once you’ve ‘completed’ your challenge, you must do each of the following:

  • Complete the meetings log
  • Add to the labels if you’ve used items in different ways to those suggested
  • Replace any of the items you’ve used if necessary
  • Add any additional ideas/items to the box as you wish

Your final task is to decide which of your colleagues will be the next recipient. Seal the box well, ensure there’s a warning about ‘handling with care’ visible, and add the next recipient’s name to the address label, before dropping the box off at your College campus post room!

It was placed in our College post room and addressed to the first recipient. For the new academic year (17-18), teams can book the kit for use with their team and today saw me receive the first request for the box.

The objects selected were as follows, although you don’t necessarily have to select the same things. Most are prompts for running a meeting in a way that maximises impact on attendees rather than things I expect managers to be waving around (mainly because I know they’re not all quite like me!)


My hope is that the meetings kit will bring the good stuff within reach and will meet each of my ‘successful six’ for meetings:

1- Challenging the 1 hour meeting paradigm– just because your calendar defaults to 1 hour slots doesn’t mean that you have to follow it. How about setting the length of a meeting based on the activities- if they will only take 20 minutes, 45 minutes or 56 minutes then set your meeting for that amount of time?

2- Challenging collective decision making as well as ‘silence is agreement’– If you wait until 100% of those involved have reached a consensus about the next step to take then you’ll be in meetings until the thing you’re attempting to fix has either blown up in your face or is no longer an issue. How about making like Google and Ideo and embracing small-scale experiments and iteration instead?

The opposite side of this is assuming that because everyone in the room is silent, they agree with your suggestion and you can push on with it: this will lead to a meetings culture where people will stop contributing altogether because they recognise their input isn’t of value. How about creating a climate of trust that values the input, and perhaps more importantly- feedback- of others- every time?


3- Challenging the favouring of extroversion- Meetings are set-up with extroverts in mind: agendas are shared with only hours to spare and the loudest voices are given the longest air time. How about arranging time for reflection prior to meetings and activities during the meeting that will allow everyone to contribute as they see fit?


4- Challenging knavish behaviour (saving face)– It wasn’t long before I felt I’d over-shared in a meeting; been a little too honest about how things were going. I soon realised that meetings were spaces for people to share what was going well and what actions they were taking-they weren’t to be productive or confidence-boosting for me. How about creating space for sharing challenges being faced and crowd-sourcing solutions instead?

5- Challenging the race to action– Meetings are all about the minutes and the resulting actions. A meeting is seen as a waste of time if it doesn’t generate actions; something for everyone to go off and do. How about a meeting where the actions are accomplished then and there and the action record is merely a record of problems solved and actions taken collectively during the meeting?

6- Challenging information transmission– Meetings generally consist of people sharing updates with one another- they become an overload of information, handouts and actions with very little time for reflection, let alone implementation. How about a meeting where information is shared prior to the meeting (or during it) but there are a variety of discussion and assessment activities set-up so that everyone leaves being on board and feeling clear about their role in the initiative.

Although there are objects in the box that will serve as reminders to you and meetings participants that you’re choosing to do things differently, the following ideas might help, in more practical ways-




In case you haven’t quite got it yet…



20 things I learned from #ukfechat


1- Clapham is not the same place as Clapton. Definitely not. Not remotely. This doesn’t stop me from being convinced Clapham is where we’re going and people telling me in person, over the phone, via Twitter DMs, What’s App and Facetime somehow leaves me even more convinced that Clapham is absolutely where we’re going. Until I pretend we’re going to see Eric Clapton and this means I will make it to the right place after all!

2- It is possible to hang around Paddington very early on Saturday morning for more than half an hour by not checking that tubes are actually running in the direction you need to go in… Even being relaxed enough to take a selfie with the queen of selfies! The relaxed vibe will suddenly be broken by a mad dash to the other end of the station upon realisation of the error though.


3- It is then possible, due to a lack of sleep, excitement and nerves, for this to result in me being an uber level of hyper that I haven’t felt in quite some time. So much so that it actually seems a real possibility for Rachel and I to facilitate our workshops on the streets of London with unsuspecting Londoners and stream it live to the conference. A whole ‘teachers on tour’ concept is born and it’s only just gone 9am!


4- At an education conference, you will find that you get to say about two words to someone you know before another person appears to say hello. The world of FE is small and the world of Twitter means that a conference is an opportunity to finally meet someone in the flesh- expect hugs from avatars you’ve only spoken to in bouts of 140 characters.

5- We are pretty good in FE at knowing how to use a conference as an opportunity to develop our students- giving them work to do and asking them to open the day with their music (on this occasion, the fabulous BSix students).

Evidence-based managing

Dr Gary Jones

6- Evidence-based leadership decisions aren’t taken often enough in the sector. We. need to develop the habit of challenging common assumptions (they’ll likely emerge as myths). Education contains far too many swings of the fad pendulum- early enthusiasm followed by widespread dissemination before something’s been fully tested. The world of education is also accustomed to providing a home for zombie ideas: the concept that one day CPD workshops will bring about changes in behaviour and practice, for instance. They’re ideas that just won’t die; we need to lead with caution when it comes to what’s now ‘accepted practice’. 

7- We shouldn’t leap straight from what the evidence tells us into implementing it; we have a duty, as leaders, to be far more conscientious, explicit and judicious in our decision making. This requires consideration: asking, acquiring, appraising, aggregating, applying and assessing. Our big decisions should always take into account these four things: 

  1. Scientific research findings
  2. Professional experience and judgement
  3. Organisational data, facts and figures
  4. Stakeholders’ values and concerns

We have a duty, as leaders, to make our use of evidence clearer to our staff; explicitly sharing the assumptions and evidence that underpins our thinking. It is in this way that we can build a profession that is more evidence-aware.


8- Sarah Simons, somehow, persuaded me to facilitate a session on ‘Making the Most of Meetings’. Earlier this year, I created a ‘meetings kit’ that is now making its way around The Sheffield College- one leader passing it to another and using the tools and ideas it contains in their meetings. I had a small number of attendees but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and all were incredibly willing participants; contributing great ideas. Here’s my post about the meetings kit. Click below to access the slides from my session:



Paul Dix

9- Paul Dix is just as engaging in person as he is on video and he speaks a lot of sense about behaviour. I have recently adopted the ‘meet and greet’ as well as positive post-its whilst students are working and their impact has so far wowed me. Gems shared by Paul included:

I made my 30 day pledge at the end of Paul’s session and it was to use the phrase ‘I noticed’ in approaching students’ behaviour or perhaps disengagement with an activity: ‘I’ve noticed you’ve had trouble getting started today, am I right?’ It was also to continue holding my hand out- for as long as it takes- with each of my learners. Not to give up on them after a week, after a few, even after a couple of terms. When they’re ready, I’ll be there to support them (That’s always been as easy as it sounds!)




10-I learned that I am privileged enough to know a whole host of awesome people who I nominated to speak and were in the middle of running their fantastic workshops whilst I was enjoying Paul Dix’s session:

Rachel George was sharing her ‘Me, Myself and I’ project: an idea conceived after a conversation I had with a colleague at Reading. An idea I didn’t know what to do with but I knew exactly the person who might. The incredible way she’s turned a concept about making sure learners are on the right course into a project that makes her students into a family who all stay until the end of the year is exactly why I chose to nominate her.

Liz Lang was sharing her time management techniques; a session that was facilitated at Reading to business support staff, leaders and others as part of the AoC Beacon Award winning Pass It On CPD programme. Liz works as a curriculum coordinator but takes it upon herself to also make incredible corridor displays for the sixth form, is a safeguarding officer and is currently studying an MA in Education. With numerous commitments in the community and with her family outside of work, I couldn’t think of anyone better placed to facilitate a workshop on time management.

It was really great to see the developmental obs system devised by The Sheffield College team (including one of my team, Helen Hayes) @sheffcol going down so well with conference attendees:

Paul, I may have to confess that I was a little absorbed in Twitter at some points during your session as what was happening in Graeme Hathaway‘s workshop was really exciting!

English and maths-ing

Julia Smith

11- There is a magical way to do times tables and it involves a pair of Marigolds and Julia Smith. Impromptu development at lunchtime is the best kind:


Paul Joyce

12-  English and maths as a limiting grade doesn’t exist. This is categorically the case. It’s absolutely NOT a limiting grade. This year will be slightly different to last year with regards to how inspectors will look at English and maths to place an emphasis on this being the case. When the support and challenge visits took place last year after an RI Inspection, inspectors really had a problem in getting over E&M and colleges’ perception was that the ONLY thing leading to their grade 3 had been E&M. The reporting framework inspectors had didn’t help because if E&M was an issue, it had been reported repeatedly in the report- in multiple sections. E&M also got talked about in every meeting inspectors went to. Whilst its importance and weighting hasn’t changed- inspectors have been advised to have a couple of meetings to focus on E&M and then not bring it up again in any other meetings. They’ve been told to report it once in the report and not throughout. For instance- in the L&M section and not anywhere else.

13- GCSE resit policy has put extra stress on colleges. There is a lot of discussion around this in government and the effect is being considered- he and Ofsted are contributing evidence to this discussion. There are some serious questions to ask- is the GCSE the right qualification for everybody? Is it a realistic expectation for students to move from a D to a C? He later confided that we need to look at the qualifications currently being offered- they’re not what our students want/need. There is a growing collection of evidence about whether the GCSE is the right direction to be headed. 


Paul Joyce

14- Ofsted’s sole focus will be on the student and the progress they make from their starting points through their journey- over time. This is the number one thing they’ll try to judge. They’re interested in how you plan, track and monitor students’ progress but they’re looking for progress. They’ll take as wide a view as possible- performance of cohorts, work scrutiny- especially second years- what they did 1st and then 2nd year. They’ll look at our records. Prior attainment. They’ll use as many different evidence sources as possible and then explore TLA as a whole, which informs the other info. Discussions with you and students too. The weighting inspectors place on one session is quite small. Snapshot judgements are not reliable and not valid. The process is about looking end to end. 


Liz Leek

15- There’s this leader on my doorstep, and she’s awesome: Liz Leek. She admitted to feeling like a fraud; awaiting the knock at the door that would mean she’s been found out (a feeling that would resonate with many within the @WomenEd network). Liz sees her role as being about developing other people so they develop students in the right way and building positive relationships is the foundation for this work. She builds a culture of trust with her staff and students; providing multiple opportunities to ‘feed up informally’. This unearths honest feedback from all but also gives students the responsibility to speak up. This responsibility extends to her staff; they’re the expert therefore she trusts them with decisions but this also makes them accountable for the decisions they make.

16- Politics and education co-parent tomorrow. Liz is not afraid to bring her politics to work and encourages all of her students and staff to do the same to that values and beliefs can be shared and challenged in a safe environment, conducive to learning. It’s important that students are taught the value of community and so, every year, all of her staff and students attend remembrance day ceremonies in the town. This makes the students more aware of their context but also results in the community being proud of her students. The behaviour of her college’s students becomes a discourse in that their ‘rule’ is ‘there is no anti-social behaviour’. This makes the ‘policy’ fluid enough to adapt to changing circumstances and behaviours. In dealing with students’ behaviour, we must consider ‘desire paths’- those paths made as the quickest and easiest route, rather than the one the town planners produced for us. Students are always making desire paths and carving their own way out- we need to consider why they’ve taken that path rather than the one, as adults, we laid out for them: this informs decisions in her college.

17- The culture Liz has created has an absolute and fundamental commitment to fun as well as well being. They have a college dog and she has a range of essential oil diffusers for staff to use in sessions, in meetings or to take home with them. Knowing how stress would affect some of their students, they created an exam prep room with sensory lights, headphones and staff on hand for last minute questions. Her staff make use of walking tutorials throughout the year; adding a different dimension to these coaching conversations but they aren’t all about the well being- students are still expected to write down their targets upon their return.

18- Three questions drive Liz’s continued development as a leader and I think they’re useful questions for any leader to contemplate on a regular basis:

  1. Is it possible for a principal not to turn into a sociopath?
  2. How does a leader make sure that they get the truth about what’s happening in the organisation?
  3. How does a leader switch off?



19- I’m not one for speaking up too often– it takes quite a lot before I feel comfortable to share my point of view. It takes time for me to feel I’m able to articulate my thoughts clearly to others. I am clear about one thing after the Big UKFEchat though: the sector needs to get better at shouting about itself; not in a ‘Cinderella / victim’ kind of a way but in a ‘Here’s what we’re doing and it’s great’ kind of a way. I feel that an overwhelming helplessness has crept into the sector in recent years as a result of our constant battering, funding cuts, area reviews and raising of the bar. Relying on others to pass our messages, challenges and good practice isn’t the answer (I’ve never been a fan of hierarchical communication routes- they’re slow and often end up as a game of Chinese whispers). We need to be unicorns instead (a la Peter Benyon) and challenge our colleagues to behave differently; asking the difficult questions of our leaders, contributing to policy discussions and debates by submitting ideas, and leading the way by showing what a different future for the sector might look like through experimenting and above all, collaborating. How many of us, working in the sector, have truly collaborated on projects, research or innovations with colleagues from other Colleges, schools or organisations? This conference demonstrated the value in sharing and getting our heads together so let’s not wait for a Saturday once a year to do this. Let’s hold more Teachmeets, let’s connect with one another beyond 140 characters (in person, with emails, via video, Google Docs or even by letter). I’ll be making a commitment to this and I’ll be sharing my journey- this will start with a post in the next few days (hopefully!)- What will your unicorn pledge be?


20- There’s a chocolate and raspberry cake you can buy at Borough Market and it will change your life!


Investing Time in Development Part 1- Ideas Meetings

December of 2015 not only meant a new job for me but also a new city, a new house and staff to line manage for the first time.

The line management aspect of my role has meant that I’ve encountered a great deal of expected and unexpected challenges, joys and experiences. I’m still learning all that I might be able to offer as a leader of my team but one thing I felt from the start that I might be pretty good at was our development.

In my previous job, the more than fabulous curriculum coordinator for the sixth form, Liz Lang, helped to launch a CPD offer for business support staff, before continuing it with a variety of events, initiatives and workshops. The main challenges we always faced were that the same people always contributed. Where were the rest? It became increasingly apparent that even staff who were interested in participating had been prevented from participating by their managers. What were the reasons? There was too much work to be done. They were far too busy. The time couldn’t be spared and ultimately, it was felt and stated that development wasn’t what their staff should be spending their time on- they needed to focus on doing their job well.

As anyone who knows me will be well aware, I’m of the ethos that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. To do a job well, I’ll certainly need to dedicate my time to it. To continue doing it well, I’ll also need to learn new skills, knowledge and engage with alternative perspectives. The thing is, that also takes time and with the best will in the world, if I don’t dedicate time to it then it just doesn’t happen. An investment in myself must be made. But this investment has many more benefits besides just helping me to do my job well: it helps me to be happier at work and this feeling should never be underestimated or viewed as a ‘desirable’ rather than an ‘essential’.

I have long since been a proponent for staff engaging with their development and taking ownership but their managers can be integral to this. I don’t believe that staff can feel empowered to invest time in their own development unless their leader invests in their own development AND actively encourages staff to set aside time for their development too.

My new job meant I had a business support team in front of me and I certainly wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. When it came to development, I wanted to demonstrate the importance of investing in yourself by sharing my own learning experiences and by making sure that time was set aside for us to learn together.

One of the ways we’ve achieved this is through our ideas meetings.

In these Friday afternoon meetings, I share a video or blog that will encourage reflection and that would hopefully lead to the emergence of new ideas and solutions. We spend some time in the week (whatever time we committed to putting aside) to engage with the resource and make some notes for discussion. What drives our notes is always, ‘What is interesting?’ but also- ‘How might this interesting thing translate to us, our work, our team? What might we do differently now?’ During our meeting, we share reflections before moving to the possibilities. We don’t always firm up future actions but, quite often, we do. For the purposes of writing this blog and sharing what we’ve been doing, I asked both Chris and Helen to make a few short statements to summarise their main thoughts about each of the resources we explored.

Simon Sinek: Start with Why

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘The Limbic brain reference was very interesting, made sense of why gut reactions happen and are often right! Using ‘Why’ is a powerful way of making sense of what we are asking staff to do for training and other purposes and also in the wider areas of your life.’

Helen: ‘The WHY concept. Why gut reactions happen and why it’s often the right decision Using WHY in everything we do (NLP).’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘Staff Development is now using the ‘Why’ concept in all communications to staff, which is having a very noticeable positive effect.’

Helen:Incorporated the WHY concept in messages to staff. Using the ‘WHY’ to encourage staff to take ownership of their own training/learning. Return rate of evaluations drastically improved since we told staff ‘WHY’.

We can’t totally measure the impact of adding the ‘why’ YET but there are some really positive indicators so far:

  • Our new staff who have accepted an invitation to the next induction has gone up by more than 50% since we added the why
  • Our evaluations used to trickle in when we sent out reminders until we added a why and we’ve made a leap of more than 100 evaluations across the college- increasing our % of development activities evaluated by 10%
  • We sent out reminders about essentials training without a why and received 25 in return. We added a why and in the week that followed, we received 73.

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘It has made such an impression on the way I think, that I am conscious whenever ‘Why’ crops up. It makes me question how I approach my role and how I communicate with people – ‘Why’ am I making the request?’

Helen: ‘Continue to incorporate the WHY in Staff Development. Question WHY I do things, how I do them and when I do them.’


#ldcuk16- Unconference

Click here to access this blog

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘A completely different way of viewing a conference. A way of making the day fun and meeting new people. I thought the laws were interesting: being given permission to not to have to stay and listen to conversations that were of no value to you or boring. Would be interesting to do a Development Day around this theme.’

Helen: ‘The whole concept of no agenda/structure; just basic rules to work by for the duration. Icebreaker of creating your own name badges. Make your own breakfast!’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘Could be a Development Day activity or for teams to use for the Local Day. Cross College teams sharing information/best practice.’

Helen: ‘Possible Development day activity Team/department activity. Circulate to other teams/departments throughout the college.’


David Weston- Unleashing Greatness in Teachers

Click here to view this video

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘David Weston made the subject interesting and inspiring. Gave clear guidelines of how to develop trust from learners. This was interesting even from a non-academic perspective.’

Helen: ‘All of it!! Insightful commentary, made the talk interesting to listen to. Spoke in such a way a non-academic could understand the concept.’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘Problem solving for myself and others. Collaborating and working together as a team. Understanding (Google a bit more!)’

Helen: ‘Looked for new ideas to use within the team (add-ons for Docs/Sheets/Forms etc like Autocrat, Choice eliminator etc). Frequent collaboration within the team and colleagues in another department (asking Online College for assistance when needed). Problem solving – working to find solutions (not giving up when trying to find the correct formulae in Google sheets). Understanding/Diagnosing (Google).’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘Look at future CPD for both staff and myself to encourage knowledge and perception to make a skilful working life more joyful.’

Helen: ‘Future CPD opportunities for self and staff to increase knowledge and skills in job role which in turn increases the spirit and joy in practice.’


Daniel Pink- The Puzzle of Motivation

Click here to view this video

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘The candle problem was interesting as was the fact that rewards narrow your thinking and hinder creative thinking. Engagement is better for creative thinking (self-direction). FedEx day – deliver something overnight was an interesting concept. Interesting that staff are trusted to use their 20% time constructively.’

Helen: ‘Mis-match between ‘what science knows and what business does’. The candle problem (blinkered view), which can inhibit your problem solving processes / way of thinking. Incentives / rewards – narrow the focus and restricts possibilities. Management was invented. Engagement – self-directed (take away rewards but give recognition. If/then rewards destroy creativity.’

What did you agree / disagree with?

Chris: ‘Management -vs- Engagement? Better to do things because you believe in them than to be directed. Agree that carrot/stick method is outdated and that 20% time would be more productive.’

Helen: ‘Agreed: 20% time – self directed = increased creativity and productivity. Carrot/stick method outdated – Motivators/incentives should be tailored to staff/department rather than the organisation as a whole.’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘20% time – for reviewing the videos and collating findings. For making use of the concepts discussed.’

Helen: ‘20% time thinking up new concepts in order to assist the smooth running of the department and provide robust information for other teams.’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘By using self-direction and the 20% time to review working practice and how we approach training and the implementation of new ideas for staff.’

Helen: ‘Continue 20% time.’


Rinsing the cottage cheese: making CPD meaningful

Click here to read this blog

What did you agree / disagree with?

Chris: ‘Disagreed – with rinsing the cottage cheese, it is too indiscriminate – takes out the best bits as well as the worst. Staff who just do not want to be involved seem to be missed out – should the ‘Why’ be part of addressing this?’

Helen: ‘Agreed; One size fits all does not work. Disagreed: Layered approach does not capture everyone.’

What are the next steps for our ideas meetings?stairs-man-person-walking.jpg

A review of the format and frequency and perhaps a change of name too.

Last term, Chris and Helen had already begun to share find of the own and this will be sure to continue as it contributes to my learning too; taking ME away from things I would ordinarily encounter, and you know what they say about your comfort zone, learning’s best when you’re out of it.

I’d like to incorporate some live hangouts with writers of blogs, creators of videos and thought leaders so that we can question them and interact with their ideas more directly.


How about you?

If you’re a member of staff who isn’t supported by your manager to engage in your own development then get proactive:

  1. Share this blog with your manager as well as some of the research into the importance of CPD: click here for some links. State how valuable your CPDis to you, the team and your work.
  2. Bring along interesting things you’ve found to your team meetings and instigate some discussion yourself.
  3. Send interesting materials to your manager and colleagues; sharing your ideas and you’ll begin with connecting with like-minded individuals.
  4. Arrange your own lunchtime sharing groups with colleagues.
  5. If all else fails then raise the issue with your staff development department and/or a senior leader for some support.

If you’re a manager (business support or otherwise) and you’d like to try ideas meetings for your team:

  • Integrate the activity as part of a meeting you already hold.
  • If meetings are difficult then why not create an online community and share resources there?
  • Allocate the responsibility for finding a resource to a different staff member each time.

A rather wise person (Ian Grace, Motor Vehicle Lecturer) once recommended this really great book to me and here’s a little quote from it:

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Making the Most of Meetings

Ever had that broken record feeling to life’s conversations? Colleagues (often the same ones) tell me, ‘I’ve just wasted half my day in meetings.’ ‘I’ve been in back-to-back meetings.’ ‘Well, that meeting was a complete waste of time.’ If you work in a ‘leadership’ role in education, especially of the further variety, then I’m certain this scenario will be far from unfamiliar to you. The worst meeting can feel like an insult:

Continue reading “Making the Most of Meetings”

#LearningFirst How can the system develop assessment practice that supports principled leadership?

Carolyn Robson @CaroDunelm

We all work too much in isolation at present. Primary and secondary work in silos and they don’t need to- teachers are teachers and learners are learners.

Continue reading “#LearningFirst How can the system develop assessment practice that supports principled leadership?”

How Google Works: Part 1- Culture, Strategy, Talent

As I have become more and more involved in learning and development it has become increasingly obvious to me that roles in this area are so closely tied to organisational development, leading change, as well as establishing, and maintaining or refreshing an organisation’s culture.

Continue reading “How Google Works: Part 1- Culture, Strategy, Talent”

Here is where my learning really begins…

The last few weeks have been filled with oh so much and I’ve been blogging and then not blogging and drafting and then deleting. Over the last few years, my blog has become a space for me to figure out the tangled mess that is my head but I haven’t been able to use it in quite the same way in the last few weeks.

Over the last 24 hours, it would appear that I have reached a sense of clarity about things I had never thought about before.

Continue reading “Here is where my learning really begins…”

#lsgwebinar- Revealed: the truth about the learning lives of managers

Managers are crucial to learning in organisations. They decide who has time to learn and when, and their attitude towards the L&D department can determine how entire departments approach it. But how do managers themselves learn and how can L&D influence them? Continue reading “#lsgwebinar- Revealed: the truth about the learning lives of managers”

AoC Conference 2015

I was at the AoC conference this year to discover whether we’d won a Beacon Award for staff development- we did and you can read all about it here. This also meant that I got to hear from the following people:

Continue reading “AoC Conference 2015”