Well it finally happened…and it was brilliant! After months of endless tweeting and organising, I was a bit apprehensive as the day of #PedagooPeebles arrived.
My head was full of questions; would anybody come? Would they be interested in what they heard? Would any of it really make any difference? And of course, the really big question- have I bought enough cake?
The answer to the first question was yes- people did come. Not loads of people, but enough. People who were willing to give up their Saturday morning to talk about education and learning. People who came because they wanted to, not because they had ‘CPD hours’ to make up. People who engaged and challenged and questioned and said nice things about the level of cake provision. Such people are heroes to me and here’s why:
These people will make a difference.
Changing the way we look at professional development in education is what this was all about for me. It was my rejection of all the times over the last ten years I’ve ‘gone on a course’ and come out with a feeling that it was two hours of my life I’d never be getting back.
Picture the scene:
I’m sitting in an overly hot room with other tired people at the end of a long day. I’m only there because the title of the course sounded like it might vaguely fit with some of the things I’m interested in. Others are there because they’ve been told to attend by senior management, because it ticks a box if someone on the staff has ‘done the training’. You can spot these people, because they look even less happy to be there than the rest of us. The session begins and I find I am listening to someone very well-meaning talk me through every slide of a very long PowerPoint, in punishing detail. Now it’s time for the obligatory group discussion. I’m not sure what we are meant to discussing as I mentally checked out and went to my happy place somewhere around Slide 17. I shuffle round in my chair though and get chatting to a couple of other teachers. One mentions she’s had a tough day with a boy in her class; she just can’t seem to get him to engage with learning. I have just begun to share a similar experience I’ve been having at school when suddenly time is up and we are supposed to report back to the group on whatever it is we were meant to be discussing. I notice none of the other groups are particularly forthcoming with their answers either. Then it’s feedback sheets all round, maybe a certificate for your CPD folder if you’re really lucky, then we head off home.
How many times I have spent the hour-long car journey home thinking ‘Well, that wasn’t worth missing the kids’ bedtime for.’
And they don’t even give you cake.
Where’s the learning here? And why do we think that’s all we can expect from professional development?
Would you accept that standard of provision as good enough for your learners? Of course not! We strive to give them the very best conditions for learning.
So what about you? As my head teacher so rightly said during her workshop on Saturday, ‘Without being a learner yourself, you are unlikely to be able to set the right conditions for learning.’
How do you learn best? For me, it’s about talking. I want to talk about what I do and I want to hear about what you do. I want to examine my practice and justify why I do what I do. I want to look at what I’m doing through the lens of the best research and see how it measures up. Through that process, I get better.
When I read on the brilliant pedagoo.org about #PedagooLocal, I thought, ‘Here we go. This is how I make it better.’ A couple of emails later and #PedagooPeebles was born. With the support of my head teacher and the really very amazing Fearghal Kelly, the big day arrived on Saturday.
We had great speakers who set the scene and shared their own practice on a range of different topics. We interspersed this with teacher-led discussion about their own practice and pedagogy thanks to some scratch and riff cards (made through stealing this book from my 8 year old) ) And obviously, we had decent cake.
#PedagooPeebles was about carving out time and space in our busy lives to talk about what we do and give teachers the chance to share practice and challenge each other. Of course, we wanted to provide some ‘Wow! I’ve never looked at it that way’ moments (which were never in short supply, thanks to our great speakers) but it wasn’t just about leaving with a bunch of new tricks to try in the classroom; it was about taking time to reflect on what you do and how you can make it better. Because real, systemic change happens when you look in, then out. In, then out.
For me, #PedagooPeebles was just the start. The way forward is many, many more of these carved out spaces, until they become just part of what we do. High quality professional dialogue and reflection integrated into our everyday practice. We are professionals and we should be developing ourselves professionally; if it’s not good enough for your learners, then don’t accept it for yourself. You’re worth more. And your learners will get better from you as a result.
So here’s my challenge to you- stop letting professional development be done to you. Be active, not passive. Find an opportunity this week to talk to a colleague about what you do and what they do, link it to what you’ve been reading and then make a change.
It doesn’t have to be a big change.
Because any change borne out of professional reflection that you are in charge of is a very powerful and important change indeed.
Tweet me your #smallbutbigchange @susanward30
Thanks to everyone who made #PedagooPeebles a success, especially @GeorgeGilchrist @Wilson722Wilson @SB_GPS and @dotcoe- you are wonderful people!