Monday, 9 June 2014

Dealing with the wreckage left by Northern Rocks

Saturday.  Heavy rain.  Leeds.  At least 2 out of 3 of these are reasons to stay in bed.  I'm glad I didn't.

Like around 300 others, I attended the inaugural Northern Rocks event.  (The title of this post is from an Independent article about the collapsed bank of a similar name but adequately reflects my brain after Saturday's event).  Below are some thoughts, not in any particular order.

There's been a large number of great blogs appearing after Saturday so I won't try and detail everything that was said and I'd ask that you don't judge me against them as I'm just splurging (that's my excuse)!

1. Debra and Emma.  Wow.  It takes some cahoonas to organise an event like this and they nailed it.  Most impressive though was the genuine warmth, passion and respect towards everyone; there was always time for a quick chat to complete strangers and nothing was too much trouble.  No doubt there was some frantic leg paddling going on under the surface but the smiles never left their faces and they both deserve knighthoods (or is it damehoods?), for pulling this together, although this is unlikely as they are both probably on some secret service watch list for being enemies of promise.  It is saddening to hear that Debra is all but leaving direct teaching - I would have loved her to teach my own children.  (My post on why I'm leaving the UK system is here).  Bravo ladies, I'm tempted to fly back from Brunei for next year!

2. Lunch.  Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding the size of a plate.  Enough said.

3. The People. It was like my Twitterverse came to life, so many names that I've connected with previously!  I suppose it could be taken for granted that there would be a large number of like-minded people there, what with it being a Saturday (and raining and in Leeds) but the passion and positivity was palpable.  There was a subtle air of pride about being part of something exciting and different and, whilst there was justified criticism and exasperation expressed, becoming 'militant' and outright 'anti' everything was avoided and positive alternatives explored - in particular, Debra handled the panel meeting expertly, there must surely be a career opportunity there?!  As always, Hywel Roberts and Mick Waters got right to the heart of matters and motivated the thronged masses (although I think the rally song may need a bit of work!).  These guys are awesome and, like everyone else on the day, have no pretentious air about them, happy to chat with anyone.  Not an easy thing given the celebrity status bestowed upon them by us mere mortals!  I haven't met many DfE staff but I suspect that would be a different experience.

4. So what?  Yes, it was a nice day out (have I mentioned lunch?) but it has to make a difference.  On a personal level I got loads out of the SOLO and Flipped Learning workshops and I can see how they could link brilliantly together.  So, given the time of year, my role and the fact that I'm leaving my current school in 6 weeks, I'm limited.  I'm going to get some children to create some 'how to...' videos for key concepts that the staff have noticed too many children struggling with.  This will tick the flipped learning box and could be used to discuss various stages in SOLO - "are you pre or unistructural?  Watch the video." type thing.  I'm then intending to introduce SOLO and Flipped learning in my new school once I get settled.
What about a difference on a wider systematic scale?
I believe and hope that events like these, combined with Twitter and TeachMeets are the best way to empower teachers to make a difference.  I feel the challenge is to get headteachers to buy in.  I am often surprised and disappointed by fellow heads who haven't been to/heard of TeachMeets.  In my experience it isn't that heads don't want to do relevant, different learning, I think it's a combination of having time and overcoming the fear of doing something alternative to what they perceive will keep outsiders happy.  This isn't a criticism, I fully understand the pressures.  I was fortunate to get into Twitter years ago and so have accessed years worth of exciting resources and thinking whereas some heads are just coming to this way of thinking; ironically the new curriculum has stimulated some to truly consider what their school offers.  Perhaps there's a need for a headteacher only event where they can see the types of learning their teachers could/want to offer and be helped to implement it.
One final outcome for me is the hope that, with an increasing critical mass of educators like those at Northern Rocks, maybe, just maybe, our wonderful profession will be given the respect it deserves and those in charge will consider the children rather than the voters.

Later this week I'm off to Birmingham for the Inspiring Leadership conference.  I suspect I won't get as much out of it!

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