I suspect part of this whole thing may be down to the fact that I was trained as a trainer long before I was trained as a teacher, and there’s part of that approach that I feel is missing from my classroom at the moment. It’s time to try and bring it back
Towards the end of my NQT year I was asked to be one of a team of teachers who would develop a skills focused curriculum for our year 7 students. SMART, the product of that orginal team, is still going, and I was lucky enough to lead the team for a few years. That experience showed me the power of putting students at the centre of the learning. It showed me the importance of risk taking and of straying outside your comfort zone. But most importantly it showed me what young people were capable of if we just got out of their way. At the end of the year, the year group worked together to turn our main hall from a dining hall into an interactive exhibit of their work from the previous 10 months. And each of every year they blew me away with what they achieved. I need to try and harness that.
As part of the process of setting up and developing SMART, I was lucky enough to talk to and visiting teachers from a variety of schools, implementing a variety of approaches, including the RSA’s excellent Opening Minds programme. That experience showed that there’s no single right way to do this. Get stuck in, take the students with. Become learner in chief, rather than venerated sage
Many of you reading this will probably have heard of Ken Robinson, either through one of his TED Talks or his RSA talk which was animated so wonderfully as part of the RSAnimate series. You may not have heard of Ewan McIntosh, but both of them have served as a wonderful backdrop of ideas and inspiration over the last few years, fuelling the little voice in my head that keeps saying ‘this isn’t good enough’ and more recently ‘well, if no one else is going to change it, you’d better give it a try’…
I mentioned in my last post about the frustration with not being able to change a system I perceive to be significantly short of where it could be. In the past I’ve got too caught up in the idea that I shouldn’t try something unless I can see how it will scale. If I do it, I need to be able to roll it out to everyone. Recently I’ve abandoned that view. My focus is now solely on the students in my care. It’s both arrogant to assume that anyone would even want to copy what I’m doing, and in any case, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the important thing is the journey and not the outcome – and I’m the only one on my journey [ I’m aware I’m in danger of sounding like a contestant in some reality TV contest. Time to move on…]
My experience in Primary really did open my eyes, but in particular I loved the way that pupils worked semi-independently, supporting each other to allow the class teacher to work in a focused way with a small group of students. I should be building on this, not ignoring it.
Finally, in Project Based Learning, I’ve found a methodology which, while not universally accepted (and I’m not sure anything is in teacher) has a research base behind it, as well an existing support network that I can link in to via things like Twitter.
And if you put all of those things together, that’s why I’ve decided this year has to be different.