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Advice to anyone delivering inset

Yesterday we had our second annual joint inset with our five link Primary schools. Last year’s was excellent, and we had high hopes for this one. There’s been loads of progress made on both the transition process, and understanding in both Key Stages about how the other works. Sadly, the speakers that had been brought in left a lot to be desired. What follows are some tips for any other potential inset speakers, based on our experience yesterday.

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1. Don’t start by telling us that your presentation might be a bit rushed because you’re going on holiday tomorrow. If something breaks,  I will forgive you, but you’re being paid a lot of money to come here , and you’re taking three hours of my time. I expect your best

2. Don’t tut and get all matronly when people don’t instantly fall silent at your every word. If you can get people ‘buzzing’ about your ideas, this is a good thing. If people are bored by you, it is a message for you to change something. This is basic teaching that I expect from PGCE students. You’re being paid a lot of money to come here , and you’re taking three hours of my time. I expect you to embody the great teaching you apparently don’t think we’re doing

3. Don’t make great claims about the research that your ideas are supposedly based on without actually ever telling us what it is and where we can go and find it. Certainly don’t make sweeping statements like ‘all the research shows’ and then expect me to trust a word you say. I expect my year 7 students to cite their sources.  You’re being paid a lot of money to come here , and you’re taking three hours of my time. I expect you to actually know what you’re talking about, and be able to prove it.

Linked to that

4. Don’t turn up claiming you know about the work we’ve been doing in our cluster group, and then tell us to do a load of things that we’re already doing. Certainly don’t turn up claiming you know about the SMART programme that I helped to write and currently coordinate and then have the audacity to warn us of all the things we might be doing wrong, particularly when we’ve been aware of them, and in many cases directly moved to solve them since we wrote the bloody thing.  You’re being paid a lot of money to come here , and you’re taking three hours of my time. I expect you to be professional, and if you can’t do that, at least extend some professional courtesy to me and my colleagues.

5. Don’t use a crap powerpoint, which it later turns out is exactly the same one you were using back in 2007.  You’re being paid a lot of money to come here , and you’re taking three hours of my time. I expect you to have actually done some preparation for OUR inset day.

6. Don’t tell us that the links to your materials online that you’ve provided no longer work, and instead describe how to find them via another website. Have you not heard of tinyurl? You’re being paid a lot of money to come here , and you’re taking three hours of my time. I expect you to have fixed any problems before you arrive.

7. Don’t provide us with one useful activity, and then ask for all the copies of it back at the end. You’re being paid a lot of money to come here, and taking three hours of my time, and I’d like something useful from that.

8. Don’t fill your presentations with trite soundbites, many of which contradict each other, or your work, or show up how little you understand about current debates in education.

“Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is worthless”. No it’s not. Any curriculum based soely on the transfer of knowledge is out of date, but a world where people didn’t value knowledge? Doesn’t bear thinking about.

“Teachers perceptions of the ability of their pupils is a barrier” What??? What does that mean? What am I supposed to base my teachings on if I have no perception of the ability of my pupils? Misperceptions of pupils ability – fine, that’s a problem. Teachers not looking to have expectations exceeded – fine, we should always be looking to stretch our pupils, but your statement doesn’t even make sense. You’re being paid a lot of money to come here, and taking three hours of my time, don’t come and stand in front of 100 teachers, and make yourselves look ridiculous with statements like that.

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I deliberately didn’t write this yesterday as I wanted some time to calm down before I did, but writing this I’m still angry at these two women. I did think of naming and shaming, and I still might, but at the moment I won’t. However, if you’re in Wales and planning on booking anyone to come and talk about the skills curriculum and want to check who I’m refering to, please get in tough and I’ll happily tell you.

My suggestion is going to be that we run next years transition inset ourselves. What would be valuable is some time to actually talk to primary colleagues about some of the things they do, some of the issues they face and share some ideas. Perhaps to be capped off with a Teachmeet style event in the afternoon.

There are some fantastic, thought provoking speakers out there, but for every one of them there are too many people like this who not only waste the one resources teachers really don’t have enough of – our time, but also damage the debate that we’re currently trying to have around a skills based curriculum.

Apparently I’m still cross, and I suspect I will be for some time to come.

Dave Stacey

One Comment

  1. Crap PD can be an infuriating experience all around. We’ve all been there (hopefully on the receiving end, rather than the delivering end!), so I can empathize.

    Your suggestion to run the inset with in-house faculty/staff is a good one, and it’s a model that my previous school developed over the course of many years. Every year, teachers would submit proposals to teach PD sessions that other teachers could take for cash or credit on our salary guide. In a somewhat less structured version, we also had 45-minute drop-in sessions after school one Monday every other month or so; again, taught (voluntarily) by teachers, for teachers.

    This went a long way towards contributing to a collaborative culture at that school, and we very rarely felt patronized by our colleagues (as many of us often did by ‘invited guests’).

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