I was delighted when Pedagoo SW was announced to be coming to Bristol. Aside from a 3 year interlude at University, which is all a little bit of a blur, I’ve lived in and around Bristol my whole life and love the idea that we can welcome a group of people from around the UK to come and visit us. And who could be a better bunch of people to visit than a bunch of teachers?
That being said, I’ve never actually stepped foot inside the venue, Bristol Grammar School before. I’ve walked past it possibly a hundred times, and admired it from afar, but was delighted to finally get a chance to nose around – and it didn’t disappoint. The hall which acted as the setting for most of the day was stunning, justifiably drawing comparisons with Hogwarts. But as well as the beautiful setting, made more beautiful by the sunshine, the members of staff of the school and student volunteers were just as exceptional, being as friendly, welcoming and helpful as you could wish for.
The day started with a welcome from teach meet aficionado Mark Anderson, before a rousing key-note from Rachel Jones. Rachel’s keynote provided great food for thought for the day. Two messages that stuck with me:
- There is more that unites us than divides us.
- Teacher have the power to do unlimited good.
It’s also quite refreshing to see someone who is obviously an amazing teacher and individual be nervous! Reminds me that we’re all just human (see Rachel’s point about ‘unity’) You can find her write-up of the day here.
As ever with these events, there are so many fantastic speakers that it’s pretty difficult deciding what to actually go to. Hopefully there’ll be a way to get a taster of the other workshops through individual blogs. Here’s how my day panned out.
Workshop One: David Didau
I’ve been reading David’s blog for a couple of years now, so felt I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see him in the flesh. David talked to us about Literacy, what it is, what it perhaps shouldn’t be, and how we might go about students think a little more carefully about their writing. He’s right: Too often we value the content or the ‘what’ of writing, without placing enough value on ‘how’ students actually construct their work. David was incredibly warm and humble, and invited input from the audience throughout. Best of all, he made me think. I look forward to reading The Secret of Literacy.
Key thing to take away: I need to spend more time and effort helping students frame their talk in an academic register, to aid their thinking and their written communication. ‘Say it like an essay’ may well be my new mantra.
Workshop Two: Harry Fletcher Wood
I was really excited about this workshop. I read Harry’s blogs avidly, and love the meticulous way that he thinks about teaching. Although he hadn’t actually told us this before hand, his workshop was about the power and potential of checklists. Harry sold his idea with a couple of great stories from The Checklist Manifesto, where checklists actually save lives. So, if checklists could save lives, could they help us with our teaching? Harry gave a pretty convincing case, and it was great to hear him talk about his experiences, specifically with his lesson planning checklist and his ‘before the lesson checklist’. I’ll certainly be giving checklists a try.
Key thing to take away: A lesson planning checklist could be a great way to quality assure your planning. But, just forcing myself to think carefully about what goes on this checklist might help me clarify what I actually want my lessons to be like. Wouldn’t “what would go on your 7 point checklist for a lesson plan?” be a great way to start a CPD event or department meeting?
Harry’s checklist blog here
Workshop Three: Stephen Lockyer.
Deciding who to see for workshop three was pretty tough, but I opted for Stephen’s session on building the primary curriculum. Stephen ran through 9 of different tools that we can use to help us plan and develop our curriculum, and was very funny too. I was a little bit frustrated though, because I couldn’t believe I didn’t know some of this stuff already!
Key things to take away:
Why didn’t I know this before? If you type in ‘/leanback’ after youtube.com, you can search for clips without having to suffer through all the adverts / recommendations and potentially offensive comments. After playing around with it this morning I’m sure the quality is better too.
– ccSearch ( search.creativecommons.org ) Again, another device to filter out little annoyances. This search page allows you to search Flickr, sound clips, movie clips, all safe in the knowledge the content you are presented with is copy right free.
Workshop Four: Chris Hildrew
Chris led a great workshop which provided lots and lots of food for thought for marking. He shared techniques with us and synthesised lots of excellent blogging and thinking on the topic from other sources too. The workshop was great, and Chris again was refreshingly open about his past mistakes regarding assessment and marking. It’s also great listening to a senior leader who is so clearly focused on the craft of the everyday teacher. Again, I left the session with lots to think about. I don’t know if this is just an English teacher thing, but too often I think we presume that our marking is good and helps our students without really questioning whether this is really the case. Chris has shared his workshop and resources here:
Key things to take away:
How much of my feedback is ego orientated, which might potentially demotivate students? What proportion of my feedback is task orientated, helping students mater and improve their work? If I’m trying different approaches to marking, which approaches should I keep and make habitual, even if this requires persistence. It’s quite easy to try something for a couple of weeks and then let it slip.
And finally, the plenary session with David Didau, a master of the awkward, thinking pause. David’s final point was about the importance of doubt and the fact that we might be wrong about lots of the stuff we think we’re right about. Despite that though, we have reasons to be cheerful. Firstly, we’re not alone. We can all doubt, question and explore together. We can go to teach meets, listen to other’s and be open to entreaty. We can also be safe in the knowledge that our voices can be heard, as groups like the headteacher’s roundtable demonstrates.
Key thing to take away: Question everything.
Throughout the day I’d met, listened to, and interacted with some fantastic people. I was also struck by the levels of humility from all of the speakers. No one presented themselves as an expert, they simply shared ideas and were happy to be questioned and challenged. Most of all though, they made me think, and I hope that if I think about things carefully enough, they’ll probably be OK.