WHAT A PERFORMANCE!

It is really difficult not to show off when your teaching is being observed.  The stakes are high and if you, like me, consider teaching an art form, you are metaphorically laying your soul out for someone to scrutinise.  Of course you want to show yourself in the best possible light.  Of course you want everything to go right…who wouldn’t?  We may do a little extra if we know our classrooms will be visited – it’s natural. Some may teach completely differently to normal when being observed. How can you separate blatant performance from reality?  Does it really matter?

This blog is about showing off unnecessarily (or necessarily for some!)  Putting on a show lesson – a one off.  In other words….NOT typical!

The kids know when their teachers are doing it.  They’re not daft.  The monotony suddenly gives way like a ray of light through the football marked window.  Resources suddenly appear on lots of different coloured sheets, there is a flashy presentation to match.  Those pupils that struggle are suddenly helped with some scaffolding and keywords sheets.  Absolutely EVERYTHING is announced by the teacher as if they are narrating the lesson as well as teaching it.  The coloured worksheets are loudly and unashamedly put down in front of the pupils.  You have never heard so many ‘WOW – that’s excellent,’ or ‘you’re making amazing progress’ (for underlining a title) or ‘let’s just flip back and check the objectives.’  You notice it’s ALL teacher….are the pupils as excited? Are they giving as much as the teacher, or is there an imbalance?  Every time you go to a pupil to speak, the teacher is suddenly there directing the conversation you were about to have, until you manage to break free and a pupil says to you ‘we never normally have lessons like this.’

Technically, everything this lesson should contain in terms of ingredients was right there loud, proud and totally in your face.  You notice though, that the pupils are not giving 100%.  They passively get through the lesson doing as the teacher asks, but not much else.  The pupils arrived to the lesson in dribs and drabs.  The T.A stares vacantly out of the window.  When students ‘get it’ they are given more of the same – even the pupils who understood it 5 minutes into the lesson.  Mysteriously, all the pupils are working on sheets – not an exercise book in sight.  As the teacher patrols the room, they stamp random pupil work with a smiling green frog that says ‘well done!’

OK – that example is totally fictitious and possibly a bit cynical but a couple of years ago, a teacher may have been able to get away with a bit of a performance in a lesson and be held up as a good example of teaching and learning.  Not any more.  It’s great to show off and vital when you want to show the best of your practice and share great ideas and pedagogy with others, but…..who are you showing off to?  What are you putting a performance on for?  What is the purpose? Why?

Teaching with passion and enthusiasm and enjoying what you do consistently can not be faked.  Neither can progress over time and ensuring good rules, routines and relationships are set up from the beginning.   Progress is a process.  It can be seen and is a pleasure and privilege to observe.  When the teacher asks questions, pupils answer confidently or feel challenged but supported.  The learners ask questions too.  The pupils know when it’s time to apply their knowledge.  They take pride in their work.  Learning and teaching is not binary….it cannot be switched on and off.  The relationships and expectations are constant – by observing, you are witnessing a very small part of a long journey.  You know it, the teacher knows it and the pupils know it.  When you see great teaching, you have no choice but to encourage the teacher to ‘show off’ their great teaching for the benefit of others.  Whether you are charismatic or quietly confident in what you do – solid, consistent typical teaching and the impact on learning can be seen without exaggerating teaching strategies, making different coloured worksheets or ensuring you have ‘included’ everything in the lesson like a tick box exercise or a recipe list.  It’s much deeper than that.  Get the basics absolutely spot on first before adding the frills.

I was looking into the psychology of showing off and there are many different reasons for it, and I’m sure we can all think of people we may have met that fit into each category – where would you place yourself?! – here are a couple of examples:

  • Those that show off to mask something about themselves or their performance
  • Those that think they are wonderful and HAVE to let everyone know about their talents
  • Those that genuinely are not showing off but seem like they are because they are so good

Putting on a performance can skew the whole school picture of teaching and learning if you are not really examining typical teaching or daily practice.  This can be avoided by following the steps below:

1) Think about the pre-conditions needed to secure progress over time – these should be great, staple habits in every classroom
  • Student engagement – attitude to learning
  • Recap, refocus and intervention – this includes written and verbal feedback
  • Effective explanation and modelling
  • Student application of knowledge
  • Appropriate pitch and differentiation
  • Questioning to check understanding
2) Have well organised lesson observations that serve only the improvement of teaching and learning
3) Do NOT grade the teaching – instead focus on strengths to share and improvements to master
4) Be thorough – to determine the true quality of teaching look at the teaching, the pupils’ work and the data
5) Ensure feedback to staff is a dialogue – be honest, suggest improvements – sometimes the dialogue might be tough but worth it

I have blogged about lesson evaluation here – click the link below:

https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/evaluating-teaching/

6) Develop a no-nonsense approach to improving DAILY teaching – dig in, involve everyone!
7) Organise and encourage learning walks, open door events and informal peer-peer observations

I have blogged about our TEACHWEEK event here – click the link below:

https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/teachweek/

8) TRUST AND BE TRUSTED!

Finally, my absolute belief in the fact that adopting great habits gives rise to excellent daily practice was written about here https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/thats-just-typical/ and is my most re-blogged and viewed.  I really am passionate that we should monitor the the quality of teaching and learning to develop, share and improve it, not to point score and prove ourselves.  Be genuine – aim for great daily practice, keep planning fresh – know when it’s time to pull all the stops out WITHOUT having to put on a big performance!  Aim to be the teacher who delivers amazing lessons where the pupils say….’yeah – it’s normally like this in this lesson – that’s why we love it!

Advertisements

Where does the time go?

They say time flies when you’re having fun. I’m not convinced. I think time just flies.

Here we all are again, limbering up for the exam season. Another year, counting down our lessons or days left until the examinations, trying to inject some sense of urgency into our pupils while walking the fine line between giving necessary support, keeping everyone motivated or positive yet applying enough pressure for pupils to take responsibility.

As teachers, during term time our lives are dominated by timetables and routines that are indifferently monitored by the school bell or stroke of the clock hand, mechanically reminding everyone to move on to the next thing. The build up to the exams always makes me think about time…..probably because there never seems to be enough hours in the day and that it seems to be moving at an incredible pace. It seems Earth increased its rotation.

I have noticed over the years that younger people (it’s all relative remember) have a different perspective of time. I remember having a ‘loads of time’ attitude as a teenager. Nothing ever really mattered until it really DID matter. I recall my parents and teachers saying, ‘only eight weeks from the exam!’ And me genuinely thinking ‘WOW – that’s ages!’ It never crossed my mind that the exams, whether it be GCSE or A level were a culmination of YEARS in the education system. I thought prep for exams was something that happened a couple of months beforehand. So I really try to make my pupils see the importance and relevance of every lesson – even if it’s the first of the course!
Nowadays I am stunned at the passage of time whether I’m having fun or not. They say it heals all, it can be killed, we try to save it and make it but time is a mystery to me and the differences in perception of time are even more of an enigma.

So, where does time go? One article I was recently reading indicated that our brains measure time relative to the memories we create over a certain period. The more memories made, the faster time seems to travel. I’m not sure about this theory. You would think young adults make many memories over the course of a short period of time, therefore their perception of ‘8 weeks until the exams’ would be more realistic. I read another article and it speculated that for middle aged people, day to day time is perceived as ‘normal’ whatever that means, but weeks, months and years go far too quickly. Now even though I’m not middle aged YET, I get that! Weeks just hurtle by. As do years…….16 years since the last proper eclipse! I had just completed first year of Uni. Scary.

So as the seconds tick, as each bell rings how are you actually using your precious time? Our lives and the time we get are miniscule in the grand scheme of things. We shouldn’t really be thinking about our time or even worse, the lack of it in school, but instead thinking about the time our pupils have. It is such a short period and we need to use it so effectively to teach, inspire, and help children and young adults to make the best possible use of time! It should never ever be wasted.

One of my favourite Floyd songs is ‘Time.’ Here are some lyrics……have a listen if you get chance too!

2015/03/img_1004.png

PINK FLOYD – CLICK HERE FOR TIME

Let’s make sure that all our children hear the starting gun and know precisely when to run. Let’s ensure we are teaching them to be the pilots of their time.

2015/03/img_1006-0.jpg

Self-awareness, Teams, Trust and Johari

The phrase ‘team work’ often gets banded around in many environments but what does it actually mean?  I think the concept of team runs much deeper than a group of people working together towards a common goal.  Team work is complex, intricate and within the team, relationships, behaviours and individual strengths should be well balanced and complementary for maximum impact.

In this short blog post, I want to briefly examine self awareness, team, trust and how they link together.

I am really fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be part of many teams since being a youngster and throughout my life and career.  Whether it was swimming, athletics or being part of a choir or orchestra, my understanding of team was not from reading about it but actually being a part of it, like many people in leadership positions.

To be part of an effective team, you have to be extremely self-aware.  You must know your strengths, limitations and your impact on others.  As a young person, I didn’t really think about the concept of team much – we just did it.  As an adult, mum, leader and professional I have become increasingly interested in ‘team.’  Especially more recently.  We all rely on teams, we are all part of at least one team!  Team work has been cheesed-up quite a lot – I am not blogging about McTeam today.  Team work and self-awareness  should be taken really seriously.

But these most visible leadership abilities build not just on empathy, but also on managing ourselves and sensing how what we do affects others.” 
― 
Daniel GolemanFocus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Know yourself – know others.

In your team(s) is everyone open?  If so, your team is probably really effective.  Professional, respectful and mutual trust exists amongst the team members.  They feel confident to ask questions, give opinions, solve issues and accomplish much together under a common vision or goal.    When I first started exploring the concept of team seriously, I came across the Johari Window.  Many of you will have used this, or discussed it in some form.  It’s really useful in a team context.

It’s nothing new at all, in fact, it has been used extensively in educational leadership, but I thought it was a great model/tool to help develop trust and with the help of feedback from colleagues, learn loads about yourself and others and develop team functionality.   The model was developed in 1955  by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (hence the name Johari).

johari good image

The model (pictured above) is divided into four segments.

Segment 1 – The Open area – this is what is known to you and others about yourself

Segment 2 – The Blind area – represents what is unknown to you but known to others

Segment 3 – The Hidden area – this is what you know about yourself but is not known by others

Segment 4 – The Unknown area – not known by you and not know by others

The aim of any group should be to develop the open area of the team and all within the team.   The open area is the space where good communication and co-operation occurs.  The size of the open area can be maximised horizontally by pushing and extending  into the blind space.  This can be achieved by actively seeking, listening to and acting on feedback.  This could be particularly useful when becoming a member of an existing and established team.

The open can also be extended downwards into the hidden area in a process of telling and disclosure.  It is totally natural to keep some things private – common sense, but in the hidden area there may be relevant sensitivities, fears, insecurities, hidden agendas, manipulative intentions.  Where it is work related – it is better out in the open.  Reducing the size of the hidden area reduces potential for misunderstanding and poor communication.

The most exciting area to me is the unknown!  These might be skills that have not been used or developed yet, behaviours, capabilities that can be beneficial.  The unknown area is all about self and team discovery.   The unknown may be really deep feelings or facets of personality that influence behaviour.

The Johari model represents and illustrates perfectly (IMHO) the need to share, listen and develop.  I think this should be the crux of any team.   People with large open areas generally are very ‘free,’ easy to talk to and communicate very well.   The actual goal of the Johari model was to open the channels of communication to develop team trust.

The single most important aspect of ‘team’ is trust.  The Johari model, or whatever model it is that a school uses to develop and build self and team awareness is utterly pointless without high trust.

Leaders should be trustworthy, and this worthiness is an important virtue.  Without trust leaders lose credibility.  This loss poses difficulties to leaders as they seek to call people to respond to their responsibilities.  The painful alternative is to be punitive, seeking to control people through manipulation or coercion.  But trust is a virtue in other ways too.  The building of trust is an organisational quality…Once embedded in the culture of the school, trust works to liberate people to be their best, to give others their best, and to take risks.’ (Sergiovanni 2005 p90)

If a team knows the strengths of each of its members based on trust and thoughtful, sensitive, constructive feedback, leadership at all stages will flourish.   Covey (2006 p19) believes that ‘when trust is high, the dividend you receive is like a performance multiplier…..high trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation….’   I agree with Covey and love his concept of ‘performance multiplier.’  But it all starts with opening up.  The first step to trust is to trust!  The best indicator of trust in a school is whether leadership is devolved and shared across the school regardless of a persons’ age, status or role.  A further indicator is the success of the teams within the organisation.  Is the development of relationships on the same level as having impact with a task, and does the team regularly ask ‘How are we doing?’ and ‘How can we improve?’

A deeper understanding of ourselves through effective feedback, communication and sense of team will develop into a high trust environment.  This will enhance leadership within yourself and others and contribute to securing effective teaching and learning.

What an Inspirational Week!

Last week was so busy but really enjoyable!  I organised a ‘TEACHWEEK’ at school.  This involved an ‘open door event’ where staff signed up to visit colleagues’ classrooms to observe good practice, a teaching and learning market place, form activities and a series of assemblies.  The main aim of this week was to encourage a whole school dialogue about improving teaching and learning, to provide opportunities for staff to lead CPD and to launch and introduce the main concepts of adopting a ‘growth mindset’ during assemblies and form activities.  If you missed last week’s blog, you can check it out here…..

https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/teachweek/

and the assembly is here……

https://prezi.com/ceqobbcyl3dt/nobody-is-born-clever/

I was a little overwhelmed by the positive reactions of staff to the open door event.  I wanted to improve the view of being observed and observing others, as for some, it had become quite a negative experience.  Therefore, it was great to hear conversations about what worked in the lessons seen…even for specific children.  It meant that staff were really valuing, evaluating and reflecting on the practice that they had directly observed. Every time I heard ‘I’m going to try that,’ or ‘he’s really good for you…how do you do it?’ or ‘I’ve never observed a lesson since my NQT year, it was great to do again,’ and finally ‘wish we could do this more often,’  It made me smile.  I hope we can build on this momentum, with the aim to be habitually in and out of each others lessons for CPD purposes and developing the use of IRIS within school.  We have so much to be proud of, but equally and realistically, much to improve……hasn’t everyone?!

Moreover, the marketplace we held was awesome!  We had some amazing CPD sessions delivered by staff who really put their very best practice out there for everyone to use and develop.  A few of the sessions were extremely creative!  The afternoon provided learning, laughter and  inspiration.  I got a few positive comments on the assembly and resources too from staff and pupils! One teacher said that during the assembly, a pupil she had battled with about ‘attitude’ had the grace to look over to her with a guilty look and acknowledge that he’d been a pain! Result!  Some staff have requested a copy of the image I used in the assembly to put up in their classroom…a lovely idea!  We are all on the ladder somewhere!

steps to success

I implore anyone who is reading (has anyone got this far?!) especially if you feel like your school has lost it’s way a little bit with data, data, data at the very top of the agenda dictating everything, to organise some kind of week/fortnight in their school that promotes teaching and learning and puts it truly back at the forefront where it should be.  Teaching and Learning, coupled to USEFUL data should be the driving force of every decision, every plan, every day, for every person in a school.  Not that I’m biased……but without great teaching and learning, you won’t get the great data.

We’re working on feedback now….have been for a couple of weeks!

In the week preceeding our TEACHWEEK – all the staff were consulted on feedback to pupils.  We have come up together, with a list of bullet points that we consider non-negotiable when it comes to giving quality feedback to pupils and how to signpost progress in pupils’ work more consistently.  What we have suggested as a body of staff seems like common sense, but when provided in a framework makes it more objective.  Expectations are spelled out in black and white, yet the framework is flexible enough for vital departmental idiosyncrasy.  The outcomes for this huge piece of work we have done on feedback and marking is ‘pick up any book, folder or portfolio and see development of learning.’  Equally, the pupils need to be addressing and deepening their learning as a result of the feedback.  Staff were further consulted about the framework at our marketplace and it was accordingly adapted.  We will revisit this at our staff CPD afternoon on Tuesday for some final consultation and tweaks ready to launch formally before Easter.  There has been so much consultation because it is important that we get it right for everyone – especially the children, but of course, it is a ‘work in progress’ and is subject to evaluation and review at any point.  My prezi for the original session launching the development of feedback and marking in school can be found here…..

https://prezi.com/kxuaz6cjckhk/feedback-getting-it-right/

….and I will be blogging about how we do feedback with all the documents and resources very soon!

TEACHWEEK!

At Christmas I was reading some research by Viviane Robinson.  This was conducted in 2009 but I consider it very relevant.  It is about ‘School Leadership and Student Outcomes’ and what works best.  It explores the effect size of leadership initiatives and actions and their impact on student outcomes.  Put simply, an effect size of 0.2 is weak and an effect size of 0.6 or over is an initiative or intervention that is deemed to have significant impact (similar methodology to Hattie.)   As Hattie says ‘It’s not what works because 90% of all interventions are positive….it’s what works BEST.’  Robinson’s work tries to establish leadership foci that have most impact on student outcomes.  In the summary of the best Evidence Synthesis (Summary – School Leadership and Student Outcomes) it clearly states that ‘A strong message from the study was the link between student success and the active participation of school leaders in professional development and learning with their staff.’   In other words……ENGAGE, TALK, SHARE, LEAD, COLLABORATE, IMPROVE.

To encourage active participation and leadership of learning at my school between teachers OR leaders (I would argue they are the same) we are having a ‘TEACHWEEK.’  The main objective of the week is to build up trust and teamwork but mainly to ignite the whole teaching and learning DIALOGUE.  I want us to create a buzz and get everyone participating in improving and developing their practice and committing whole-heartedly to their own professional development.

OPEN DOOR EVENT

come on in

Running throughout the week, we have a wonderful team of great staff that have volunteered to ‘open’ their classroom doors to any member of staff that would like to visit when they are free.  It includes senior leaders being observed too!  This was advertised to staff on a timetable pinned up in the library so teachers could select the lessons they would wish to visit.  As a result we have 17 peer observations occurring during the week.  I’m sure there will be more to follow.  I really want to develop informal observations.  I think it was @teachertoolkit that tweeted ‘the best way to improve teaching is to observe and to be observed’ …so true!  I’m sure that staff will find visiting other classrooms beneficial and see how teachers inspire, engage and motivate their students to achieve.  Hopefully there will be lots of cross-pollination between departments.  Equally, those great teachers who have opened their classroom doors are being given the opportunity to lead the way and demonstrate why they are so successful in their classrooms!  Those that have observed can share the strengths seen at their faculty meetings with their departments – another opportunity for teaching and learning leadership.

TEACHING AND LEARNING MARKETPLACE

mattie stepanek

I have to thank @headguruteacher for the inspiration for this – though I think maybe his marketplace sessions run a little differently??

All staff were invited to submit a session they would like to lead during our CPD afternoon on Tuesday.  Nine staff volunteered really useful and informative micro-CPD sessions of twenty minutes on all things teaching and learning – from entrepreneurship to using google effectively, to building students’ confidence for communication.  As with the open door event, the timetable was pinned up in the library and teachers, T.As and pastoral staff chose the sessions they wanted to attend.  It has all been organised now and over 30 CPD sessions will be running throughout the afternoon!   I will be tweeting about this on Tuesday with everything going on from my school account @DVHSTeachLearn.  It looks really good and again, provides opportunities for staff to lead on what they are passionate about.

FORM ACTIVITIES

Throughout the week, pupils will be engaged in teaching and learning activities during form time.  As a school we have not really embraced the ‘growth mindset’ philosophy yet – so it’s time to get the ball rolling, and TEACHWEEK provides the perfect opportunity! We will initially be focusing more on teaching the children about resilience, grit, how the brain works and the qualities of having a growth mindset using some tweaked/adapted resources from the centre for confidence and well being. (http://www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/) – @CfCWB THANK YOU very, very much!

ASSEMBLIES

I will be doing the assemblies for the week – my first as Assistant Principal…EEK!  I know I will enjoy it though!  Must remember to read my blog post on how to avoid getting nervous!  https://te4chl3arn.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/getting-on-my-nerves/

I want to promote great attitude to learning as well as developing teaching.   @chrishildrew thanks for the inspiration ‘attitude determines altitude’.  Here’s my prezi link – can be used during form time or in an assembly.    https://prezi.com/ceqobbcyl3dt/nobody-is-born-clever/ Thanks @khanacademy for the video I’m using.

So, they are the main events for the week!  Just about to settle down and put the finishing touches in.  I’m sure it’s going to be really busy, but I hope we will all have a great time and learn loads!  I hope this is the spring of the ‘active participation’ that Viviane Robinson talks about in her study.  The impact is yet to be seen…….watch this space!

Getting on my Nerves

Delivering an assembly, speaking in staff briefing, leading whole school CPD, lesson observation, interview, OFSTED visit, results day…….endless reasons for the bothersome butterflies to start fluttering in your tummy and to develop sudden speech issues rendering you unable to pronounce a word properly without sounding like a sheep in slow motion.

Ok – that may be very exaggerated but, nerves are as common in teaching as stage fright is in the acting profession. It’s called ‘performance anxiety.’ As a profession, on a ‘stage’ in front of children, young adults and our peers we are generally VERY good at hiding it!! Speaking before a group allegedly ranks in the top 14 of human fears! A study by Bruskin in 1973 and re-published in 1977 showed that speaking in front of a group was the number 1 fear. There was some doubt however about the validity of the data!!

2015/02/img_0996-1.png

Nerves are caused by a variety of reasons, but the best explanation is that nervousness is a physiological reaction. When your body is faced with a situation – usually outside your comfort zone, it’s natural reaction is to get excited or to be frightened. Very simply, this triggers the release of adrenaline into your bloodstream. The job of adrenaline is to enable your body to deal with the situation, but the ‘side effects’ of adrenaline are trembling, dry mouth, cold hands, rapid pulse, sometimes giddiness!

From personal experience, the more often I have to present something the more I get used to it and I am fully aware of what can make me feel nervous and therefore I can control it. In the early days of first leading whole school CPD (about a year ago) the school had previously been put into a category with looming forced academisation. Lots of morale issues, disgruntled staff. It was scary and very difficult to put good ideas out there enthusiastically and get buy-in and that is what made me feel nervous. I spoke to the head about my nerves and she couldn’t believe that I was feeling so nervous – apparently I didn’t come across that way at all. She immediately dispelled my belief that I was a jelly like blabbering wreck, which shows that the affects of anxiety are, much of the time, in our heads. Just because you feel a bit nervous does not mean you come across that way! I think I’d be more worried if I did not get a bit nervous!

So, in a situation where you may feel nerves follow these top tips!

PREPARE! PREPARE! PREPARE!
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
When speaking – know your lines! Rehearse and practise. Know what you are trying to achieve! Have your handouts/activities/presentation ready
Be ready for technical hitches – though it might not be as crazy as what happens in this clip! CLICK THIS LINK

TED SPEAKER’S WORST NIGHTMARE?!

ACKNOWLEDGE!
That you need some nervous energy to absolutely knock it out the park and sock it to ’em – get your point across energetically!

WATER!
Have water available at all times during your presentation – take a sip

SHIFT THE FOCUS!
It’s not you as the presenter that matters – it’s your listeners so put them in the limelight.

RECOGNISE!
Recognise when you are starting to feel nervous and breathe!!! What’s the worst that could happen?!

ENJOY!
If you are a bit nervous it probably means you are outside your comfort zone – that means you are learning! I am a very new Assistant Principal – only been on it for half a term but loving new challenges – I think it would be a little unproductive not to have a little bit of nervous energy to give each day a bit of a zing!

Finally – laugh!!! Have you ever made a spectacular mess of your words when you have been nervous?? In my very early days as a trainee in a mock job interview I was supposed to say ‘that’s a hard one’ referring to a question that had been asked. Unfortunately I mispronounced ‘one.’ (Think about it!) Luckily my professional mentor didn’t notice, either that or they kept an amazingly straight face! Oops!

If ‘speaking in front of a group’ is in the top 14 of human fears – us teachers do pretty well! Remember, not everybody can do it. It makes teachers pretty remarkable. Feeling nervous can be annoying, but it is natural – learn your own ways of dealing with it. Harness the energy and use it positively.

The White Room

JUST A THOUGHT……What would teaching be like without resources?  No interactive whiteboard, no equipment, no i Pads, no computers, no Prezi, no PowerPoint, no nothing?  Just you, your class and your combined brain power.

I often wonder this, and when I do, my imagination goes off into my metaphorical white classroom.  An empty white room. No posters, no display….just me and my pupils to give life to the learning…..(OK, maybe I have a flipchart and marker!)

create reality

In fact, my planning often starts from this extremely weird place.  If I can get my point across in there….I can do it anywhere! My white room, as a concept, is in my head and never will be a reality thank goodness!  But I find it quite refreshing to strip my teaching RIGHT back to the basics for the sake of the learning.

I sometimes create my lessons from this strange ideological beginning, because it really helps draw out my passion and enthusiasm, fluent and clear explanations and anecdotes to keep my subject alive and inspiring.   I strongly believe the most substantial resource in the classroom is straightforward people power – the teacher, the pupils!  The learning is about questions, discussions and explanations.  I suppose you could call it Socratic learning, where the power of ‘talk’ and ‘inquiry’ puts key ideas and concepts on the slab to be dissected, de-constructed and built up again into real knowledge.

Don’t misunderstand, I absolutely love using a wide variety of ICT/resources/equipment – I have to.  But, I do not plan around the resource.  If I visualise the objective and flow of the lesson and the discussions/questions that will arise, and add resources in after, the lesson is more rigorous. The resources become purposeful and necessary, and not just time fillers or gimmicks that can sometimes get in the way of actual learning – for example, a three year old, 15 minute card-sort that someone from your department created.  You still use it because it is there and ready, it has reduced your workload….result! However- is it really addressing the learning?  If it’s not having an impact – don’t use it!

I also realise that some subjects are more suited to practical and resource based learning…..couldn’t imagine trying to teach some aspects of design technology or PE in the ‘white room,’ with nothing but teacher and pupils. You kind of need a lathe or a javelin. Yet, other aspects of these subjects really lend themselves to the socratic way of doing things.  The discussions and enthusiasm are still vitally important.  A lesson is like a good joke I guess…..it’s the way you tell it.  A really great teacher could get their point across in a meaningful way, anywhere!

I challenge everyone to step into their own version of the white room – have a switch off from ICT, resources and all things gimmicky.  Think deeply about HOW you make your pupils learn.  We ARE the ‘change agents’ (Hattie).

Finally I have to make the point about how unbelievably lucky we are to be so resource-rich.  I’m happy that we have fantastic ICT, equipment, texts and stationery readily available in the UK, and in some cases brand new school buildings.  We are so fortunate and our children need to realise how lucky they are.  Use resources well, wisely and for impact in learning gains!  #loveteaching

school in poverty