Tag Archives: TeachMeet

‘Nothing Ever Mattered More Than Not Doubting’ – A huge year for Scottish Education?⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

On the first day of teaching practice in 1998, in the school at which I still teach, I entered the staff room nervously, eventually sitting down beside a kindly gentleman who greeted me warmly. We chatted for a while before he offered me some advice: get your jacket on and go and do something else. Teaching will ruin your life. Of course I was shocked and outraged; I looked upon what I assumed to be a cynical old fool and vowed that that would never happen to me. We went on to be friends over the next few years until he retired, but I never got over that first meeting, especially when I got to know this brilliant man who had been worn down by the education system.

Twenty years on and I can understand what he meant. Continuous change is exhausting and often demoralising. It often feels – like a repeat of ‘It’s a Knockout’ (wee joke for the kids) – that, while we’re trying to do our jobs there seems to be buckets of water being thrown over us from all angles. It’s so easy to allow yourself to become cynical and forget the younger teacher who walked in to the staff room for the first time. But we have to try. It’s why I like to mentor new teachers; they often remind me of me.

I wrote a post yesterday about where I thought we should be going in Scotland and what it might take to get there. I wanted to make the point that we should be prepared to push aside all of our resentments and gripes, all of our reasons to be cynical – of which there are many – and be prepared take control of our curriculum. It will take a huge shift in policy and approach to allow us to do that and it may well be naive; but whoever got anywhere without a bit of that. They may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one…

I hope that message came across in the post but I’m not sure I made that totally clear. I’m not asking for time; I’m not asking for a period of stability; I’m not even asking for any specific changes to the curriculum. I want to see a period where we take what we have now and start to talk about how it fits the needs of our children. We can debate forever whether the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence has been good or bad, how we’ve spent an inordinate time on S4-6 assessment, whether consultation has been non-existent or not. I’m bored with that. It’s like a revolving door of resentments – perceived or not  – and it’s getting us no where.

So in a year where we will have pay discussions, we should, as part of a modern day ‘McCrone Settlement’ be prepared to demand a say on the future of the curriculum. We should make promises that we will engage with research if we are given the space to do so – more teachers required please. I understand that there’s a lot of resentment out there, often rightly so, about time wasted. But if there’s a real chance of a curriculum approaching anywhere near ‘Excellent’ then it’s worth fighting for.

A few years ago, I bumped into that crusty old teacher. He’d gone back to Uni to study something he loved and he looked twenty years younger. He’d been burned out by the system. I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to look back and be proud that I was part of something special.

If we’re serious about the poverty gap in Scotland…⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

Get past this first paragraph: it’s not what you think.

I have a really nice house and have just had and incredibly comfortable, happy Christmas break. I’m dabbling with learning to play piano and often listen to Jazz, classical music less so. I try and eat healthily, for the most part, and have money in the bank. I enjoy gardening have a season ticket at my football team, occasionally listen to Radio 4 and get annoyed at Question Time. I am, to all intents and purposes, living the archetypal Middle Class Life and, while I grew up in a reasonably comfortable working class background, I recognise that I have ‘escaped’ a life I could have had.

I teach in the area in which I grew up and would have attended this school. I see problems with inequality all the time, recognise the poverty gap and want to support our Government’s attempts to narrow that gap. Inequality means we have a huge imbalance in our society: an imbalance of wealth, opportunity, services, voice. While school is a core part in society it must never be seen as the hub of all our problems but we do have our part to play. As an individual I have a responsibility to do what I can to help alleviate society’s problems. But what am I prepared to do?

Those in poverty very often see schools as the enemy; that might seem extreme but it’s true. Parents who’ve had generational resentments of authority see us offering something which is not for them. Families with unemployment running through generations look upon educational aspiration as a middle class conceit. They don’t believe that their cultural heritage- whatever that may be – is valued and see themselves being mocked and derided; the fast food they eat, the TV they watch, the way they talk. To say that education is the way out of that mindset is naive and misguided.

As educated professionals, it is easy to think that we have all the answers, that we know what’s best. What if we gave up that ‘voice’ in order to listen to the problems of our communities? How often do we really listen to the concerns of the parents of our students, instead of voicing annoyance when they don’t turn up to Parents Evenings? How do we create communities where teachers have to give up some of their free time to go and listen to these communities? Would that be a sacrifice? Would that help us understand?

Would we be willing to pay a little extra in tax if we we’re convinced that it would improve the lot of our poorer communities? We see high tax societies working well in Scandinavia but shudder at the thought of paying more here. Why is that? Because we’re not convinced our Government would put it to good use? Because we don’t see evidence of it yet? What would change?

If we are serious about alleviating poverty and improving the lives of those who live in poorer areas then how much are we really prepared to do? How much are we willing to sacrifice? As educators we have the knowledge and the tools to help but need to involve ourselves in the lives of our students and their families. Otherwise the gap will widen. And keep doing so.

If we are serious about closing the attainment gap and alleviating poverty then those of us in a position to do so will need to make some sacrifices. It’s not enough to get annoyed at Question Time or, dare I say it, write emotional blog posts. Otherwise let’s stop wringing our hands and pretending we care.


It’s Time to Nail The Curriculum in Scotland⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

As we enter 2018, wearily and warily, we face up to the prospect of new Scottish Government proposals for Education reform. At this stage, these proposals look something like this:

• Creating a Headteachers’ Charter (more autonomy for headteachers)

• Increased parent and community engagement in schools

• More pupil participation

• Regional Improvement Collaboratives (a way to help local authorities work together)

• Creating an Education Workforce Council for Scotland (to replace the General Teaching Council for Scotland)

Taken from:

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/107248.aspx

Of course, this all stems from a very worthy policy of closing the attainment gap. However, I struggle to see how any of these ideas move beyond the concept of ‘sounds like a good idea’, and if there’s anything we really need to avoid in Scottish Education is a range of strategies which sound like they should be good.

I’m very privileged to be a teacher: I love my subject, get paid comfortably well, despite below inflation pay increases for too long to remember, my holidays are great. But, as a profession, we are overloaded with change, weary with the next thing. Perhaps what is most frustrating is the lack of real consultation – asking us to participate in something when we’re neck deep in work is not an acceptable scenario – about what we feel about that change and how we help bring it about rather than just as part of a delivery system. Without that, any reform is bound to get bogged down.

So where to now? What might be my suggestion? If we’re serious about narrowing the gap, serious about attempting to eradicate poverty, or at least alleviate it, then education is part of the solution, of course. Where we fall down is an ability to really come to a consensus as to what our curriculum means, what the key aims for Curriculum for Excellence were really all about, especially in the Broad General Education years, upon to the end of S3. What do we want for our children? Where do we want them to be? What do we want them know or be able to do?

Dozens and dozens of E’s and O’s – experiences and outcomes – are not helpful. They lead to confusion and misinterpretation. We need to nail this curriculum once and for all. Get educators in schools to sit down and talk about what it is. Get it in writing on one side of A4, ten bullet points at most. That’s all. Own it. Then stick to it, never veering off the page. Every school can then work out a path to achieve what’s on that page, creating local solutions to local problems. But never veer from that page. Keep BGE separate from exam years by all means, but BGE must be leading the way, not the other way around.

Of course, if we genuinely want to ‘close the attainment gap’ then we need to resource our curriculum properly, whatever that may take. If tackling poverty is a genuine aim then we need to throw everything behind a movement that will do that. If that means a move towards health and well-being issues for a time and less of a focus on the academic side then do it. But own it. There will be criticism; there will be a firestorm from those who will claim that it will be a race to the bottom. But what I’ve found in my time as a teacher is that unless we are united behind one way – and telling us to just get on with it never works – then it will be doomed to disappointment. There is a lot of good will in classrooms around Scotland; we want this to work. But we do have things to offer to the debate. Just give us the opportunity and listen.


Time to rise above our station.⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

It’s 4.30 in the morning: I can’t sleep. Today is the fourth whole school development day I’ve organised – a morning of workshops led by staff, attended by staff – and, of course, I’m convinced it’ll be a disaster. I’ve woken up with a cold so that feeling of impending doom is magnified, that ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is kicking in. It’s never gone badly before but there is always a first time and I’m pretty sure today will be the day. I’m sick of feeling like this.

I’ve spent the last  two months coaxing and cajoling colleagues into leading workshops, delivering training, sharing ideas. The number of superb colleagues who have convinced themselves that ‘I don’t do anything special’ is both mystifying and heart-breaking. What is wrong with a system whose lead specialists feel like this; worn down by s system which seems to be against them, which often treats them like the enemy? A system that treats anyone who raises their head above sea-level as a show off or a trouble maker? But we’re not allowed to rise above our station, are we?

For a year I’ve felt like that. Last December my book came out. Pretty soon after, I received two tweets from followers; one a very prominent member of the Educational Twitterati, who reminded me ‘Not to get above myself’. The other one – someone who I have met – told me, after beginning writing for TES Scotland, that I was ‘a big mouth who no-one wanted to listen to’. Both comments have never been very far way for most of this year. Oh, I know that some will think I’m massively prominent on Twitter myself. Perhaps. But I’m a humble classroom teacher who has found himself apologising for being so prominent.

I spent much of my childhood being told I’d never amount to much, much of my school life being invisible. Even when I eventually became a teacher, for the first ten years there was little expectation that I would rise above the mediocre; I’d been conditioned to think that. So, being from my background, coming from where I come from, bringing out a book is an extreme rarity. As a result, I find it hugely difficult and uncomfortable to accept compliments. I expect and anticipate that someone will try to burst my bubble. And that means I turn down a load of offers to speak about my book. No more.

For anyone who is reading this, perhaps recognising these feelings, sharing my upbringing and background, it’s time to get above our station. It’s time to break free from sneering negativity and acceptance of mediocrity. I’m just a teacher like you; I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in a position where I can write a book. But for all of us, it’s time to shout from the rooftops – both literally and metaphorically; write if you don’t want to shout – that we have things to to say; that we will no longer be silent and humble and shy about the great things we do in our classrooms. Lift your head up; look people in the eyes: you are a teacher.


#4countries Post-Brexit.⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

When it was created back in 2011, part of the thinking behind Pedagoo was the belief  that if you put a group of teachers in a room and allowed them the time and space to discuss all things education, then great things can happen. Put them in a nice room? Even better. Treat them like intelligent professionals? Fantastic. I’ve just returned from a weekend at the Norton House Hotel where I spent two days with 25 educators from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. And, yes, great things did happen. Seven hours of sessions on Saturday, four on Sunday, ram-packed with intelligent conversation, searching for common ground.

And it went on through dinner and breakfast. Other than a set of bullet points for discussion there was no plan, no agenda. We found a path through the complexities of each of the four education systems and began to discover a way forward. It was a challenging and exhausting experience – by five thirty on Saturday I was out for the count – but hugely rewarding and wonderfully invigorating. While recognising the blocks to progress, what was fascinating to find out was the huge ambition and focused determination to overcome those barriers.

As we began, what was striking was that after the initial moans and groans about our respective education systems, the pride and joy we felt about the job we do every day in our communities shone through in every conversation. We started in our own countries, developing themes for debate and recognising areas for development, and as we moved into mixed groups, the room came alive. We probed and pushed, explained and extrapolated. There was serious debate and loads of laughter. But we began to focus on the things that we may learn from each other in post-Brexit Britain. Whether we feel that the UK is on its last legs or at the beginning of a new, golden age, we can still share the vision we have for our children.

In my group, when asked ‘From what you’ve heard about the context, if you could move to any of the other countries, which one would you move to?’, every single person knew that they would stay where they were. For what better way of changing things for the better than working hard to enhance our own communities. The (very) real David Cameron reminded us of Debra Kidd’s line from ‘Notes from the Front Line’: “it is pedagogical activism that will prove to be the butterfly wing of change” .

Sitting at dinner on Friday night, slightly nervous, none of us really knew what to expect. By Sunday, we left with greater resolve and determination to go back to our schools with a rebooted energy to continue to fight to enhance the life of the children we serve.

I left with a greater understanding of the difficult issues teachers from other UK countries have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. However, there were also wonderfully inspiring tales of hope and aspiration from everywhere; a determination to succeed against difficult odds because we all understood why it was important. It was an honour to be invited to the #4countries conference; an honour to meet such inspirational people, people I can now call friends. No matter our political futures, we understand that education exists to allow the children we teach to become empathetic global citizens; to strive to be the best that they can be. They will need to be.


Teachmeet Firestarter 2017.⤴

from

It was cold. Cold like winter. In fact, it was winter, but 15 teachers from across the region started fires, literally and metaphorically.

The first part of the teachmeet involved using steel and flints to spark onto a cotton wool pad which had some vaseline on it. It was huge fun. I think your class would like it.

Once we’d managed a spark and ignited the cotton wool we added the kindle we’d been taught how to split and gradually built our fires. Some were in Kelly Cans and one was in a colander with a trivet on the top. Simple, but huge fun. We boiled the water in the Kelly Cans and mashed ourselves a cup of tea. I know my class would love this, all of them and when they went home that night I reckon they’d tell their folks.

Matt from Grounds for Learning explained how to keep it safe, how to use the equipment and gave examples of the ages of children who’ve done this. You’d be surprised.

Aileen gave out some red strips of paper to add to the fire with our reasons we don’t do more outdoor learning. For me it’s really a bit of laziness. I know when I’ve gone outside with my classes they’ve loved it and they are engaged. Engaging children is something I believe is vital to our children getting the most from school life. I burned my laziness paper, I need to do a bit better.

The more traditional teachmeet section that followed was, as always, interesting. Listening to teachers talk about what they do, why they do it and the impact it has always is. Listening to Aileen talk about children needing recent experiences to talk and write about sparked my thoughts. I need to get my class outdoors a bit more. Teacher after teacher talked about outdoor experiences they had with their classes and each one spoke of the engagement with the traditionally ‘hard to reach’ groups of children.

Our final challenge was to write and then share:

‘What fires are you going to start:

In yourself?

In your class?

In your school?’

 

Well, I am going to take my class out once a week for at least half an hour of learning – I’m thinking this will be maths as this is an area I feel comfortable with and happy to challenge myself with.

In my school, I’m going to tell people how much my class enjoyed going out and offer to share the learning we’ve done and resources we’ve used.

In myself, I’m going to get my outdoor clothing organised so I can go out whatever the weather with my class!

 

Many thanks to Matt and Aileen. Grounds for Learning is know in the rest of the UK as ‘Learning Through Landscapes’.  Their website has lots of resources and ideas.

It really was cold, but it was worth it and I will make sure my children’s learning benefits.

 

TeachMeet.scot⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

Over the years I’ve enjoyed being part of Teach Meet. This new site aims to help promote TeachMeets in Scotland TeachMeet.scot.

From pretty much the start TeachMeets have been organised on the TeachMeet wiki. This can at times get a little messy. There has been various attempts to tidy it up, some breakaway sites. I even worked on an attempt inspired by Ewan to make an alternative international site. That last came to naught.

Very much in my opinion the wiki site does not function well: the front page was huge, with large graphics, spam was getting out of hand too. A couple of years ago I’d spent some time deleting spam comment, and suggested a reduction in logo size on the front page. This didn’t have any impact and I am sure that many folk are quite happy with the wiki.

The new teachmeet.scot site was inspired when talking to Feargual, Susan and Athole last year.

They had set up tmscot.wordpress.com in an attempt to reboot TeachMeet and Scotland and make organising & publicising TeachMeets a little simpler in Scotland. I was interesting in making something a little bit more usable than the pbwiki site.

TeachMeet.scot is the result. It was ‘soft’ launched last year and has been used to organise a few TeachMeets.

It is a work in progress, the aim to be a simple, easy to navigate site. It is open to anyone to use. Currently you can add a TeachMeet in a couple of ways: you can fill in a form and someone will add it for you or you can request an account and add as many as you like. How you organise a meet is up to you, you could use a contact form on the post, an embedded google form, link to eventbright or whatever you like to get folk to sign up1.

It could be used instead of or as well as the TeachMeet Wiki site. We are hoping it will be useful rather than exclusive. There is no axes being ground, no profits being made. I organise the hosting and own the domain, but I consider it held in trust for TeachMeet rather than owned.

If you are organising a TeachMeet in Scotland please have a look and consider using the site. There are plenty of folk who will help you get started if you need a hand. How to use this site – TeachMeet.scot

1. Longer term it is hope to have a booking system built into the sire as another alternative.

    #PedagooMuckle Tech Tools – Record and Share your event online⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    These are some note from/for the Pedagoo Muckle event. I’ll update this with a few more details over the next few days.

    Supported by SCEL and with a slightly different format, #PedagooMuckle aims to support, challenge and encourage participants to go forth and organise their own Pedagoo events, TeachMeets and other collaborative, sharing opportunities for educators.

    I was asked to talk about how to broadcast and share your event. I am very much an enthusiastic amateur in this field. This is a quick romp through some of the available tools from a quick and dirty point of view.

    The premise is that these events are worth sharing and folk can get value from attending virtually or catching up later.

    Distributed in Space & Time, live or archive

    Is is possible to either record for posterity, broadcast live or both.

    Both give different affordances, recording shares across space and time, live broadcast may allow distant listeners to participate via twitter.

    Short snippets may provide more value than recording whole events. Instead of recording a whole presentation or workshop 3-5 minutes with the presenter can be useful, or record a conversation between two or more presenters or attendees.

    Before you start

    What have you got in the way of equipment and more importantly space? How much effort will it be for what sort of size of audience? What you equipment will the results be watchable or audible?

    Who is going to do the broadcast. Have they any other jobs.

    Audio vs Video

    Personally I prefer audio, less to go wrong or get right. Audio can also be listened to while the audience are washing the dishes or driving.

    Don’t forget text might be better, can be easier to give multiple viewpoints. Twitter is the easiest currently for live text.

    Some Tools

    These are towards the quick and dirty end of spectrum.

    Sound is the most important ###

     

    Mic types (Mostly I am just glad to have a mic)

    • omnidirectional pattern – all directions are equally sensitive to sound.
    • figure-8 pattern – the front and back are sensitive, while the sides are ignored.
    • cardioid pattern – meaning the area in front of the mic is most sensitive, the sides are less sensitive, and the rear is ignored.

    Video Recording

    Smart Phone/ video camera for watching later. Simple. Audio is important so consider adding a mic to the camera or your phone.

    Use a stand.

    Try to test the light, field of view and sound before the event starts.

    Live Video

    YouTube, the set up has recently changes, see When it’s Your Googopoly Game, You Can Flip the Board in the Air Anytime for details.

    TL:DR Youtube streaming has got a little more complex. Best to go for the simplest options:

    Go to YouTube and log in

    1. On your profile icon at the top left click on your icon
    2. Choose Creator Studio
    3. Click Live Streaming on the left had nav
    4. Ignore all the choices and click events below the Live Streaming option
    5. Schedule a new event
    6. Create a new event and Go Live Now (avoid Advance Settings)
    7. The Hangout will open, use the link button to copy the link and send it out on twitter.

    Or schedule an event and share the link to the watch page ahead of time.

    Periscope iOS and android app, integrated with twitter. Works really well. Can save to camera roll.

    Ustream apps for live streaming with chat.

    Audio Recording

    All smart phones have some sort of recorder built in. This will work fine for archiving. Get the phone as near to the speaker as possible if you do not have an external mic.

    There are a host of better audio recorders, you can borrow some from Edutalk, including a Zoom H4n which is a nice piece of kit.

    Audacity or GarageBand, again an external mic is a good idea.

    AudioBoom is very useful for recording and sharing short pieces of audio, conversations etc. Add the hashtag #edutalk to auto post to http://edutalk.cc

    #EDUtalk

    Audio Streaming

    Edutalk, we use a icecast server and are happy to share the account. There are apps to stream to icecast servers on all platforms. A bit more of a learning curve but we are happy to share.

    Mixlr – Broadcast Live Audio

    Archiving Recordings

    You want it to be as easy as possible for as many people as possible to view or listen to the recordings.

    Edit or Not?

    The Levelator® from The Conversations Network

    Storify

    Other Things

    Bonus sign up forms’ e.g. google forms eventbrite etc?

    http://activitywalls.com or other tweet displays if you have a second monitor

    Not Just Confidence. But Integrity. A ‘sort of’ Review of ‘The Confident Teacher’ by Alex Quigley⤴

    from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

    confidentThere’s a long walk up from York City Centre to Huntington School but it’s a beautiful day, unexpectedly beautiful, and I’m soaking in it. My first visit to the city and, after a nervous, sleep-interrupted night in a TravelLodge, Research-Ed is getting ever closer. I’m listening to Teenage Fan Club. I recall it clearly; Songs From Northern Britain; a nod to my three hour trip from Glasgow the night before; the real Northern Britain. To the jangly guitar twang of ‘Ain’t That Enough’ the humble and ordinary looking Huntington School appears to my right. Yet despite that ordinariness, a welcoming aura surrounds the place.

    That welcome feeling defines the school. Throughout the day, the words ‘honourable’, ‘humble’ , integrity’, pepper my notebook. Personified in their remarkable head teacher, John Tomsett, and the one speaker I really want to hear, Alex Quigley, Huntington School in May 2014 is everything you expect it to be. Pupils, in on a Saturday, justly proud of their school, go out of their way to assist. I get my talk out of the way – a poetry-based analysis of Scotland’s curricular development. Yeah, I know, right- and wallow in the atmosphere. If I had ever wondered about the kind of school I’d like to be a part of then on that day I found it.

    Two years on, and both John and Alex have become successful authors. There’s a lot of them about in Education. The Twitter world has spawned a multitude of new voices. These two rise above them all. The humanity and integrity I witnessed two years ago shine on every page of John’s book – I blogged about it here – but Alex’s new book, The Confident Teacher, is a different thing altogether.  I loved his first book, Teach Now. Becoming a Great English Teacher. However, the new one achieves something of which most other Education books find themselves falling short.

    Like the echo chamber of social media, very few teachers I know bother to read Edubooks. They don’t have the time. There’s a feeling that reading about new approaches and techniques is just another burden on top of the mountain of work we have to complete already. I can teach well. Why should I read your book? Alex’s book does something quite remarkable. I read a lot of these things and, perhaps for the first time, I think ‘The Confident Teacher’ speaks to teachers as equals. It understands the real issues we experience and never patronises. It is practical, positive, hopeful. It is a book written with integrity, humility and a deep, deep passion for teaching. It has knocked me sideways.

    Leaving York that night on the evening train back to Northern Britain, I reflected on what I’d experienced that day. I remember little of the sessions apart from my own, the day was too much of blur for that. But I took away an image of the kind of experience I’d hope my school provided. I love my school and hope we display the characteristics of Huntington, at least on some days.

    This might not be a book review as such, but I’d recommend Alex’s book to any teacher looking for some practical advice on how to improve our day. Reading it took me back a couple of years; to a school that operated on confidence, with confident staff and pupils. Read it now.


    TeachMeet Connect #teachmeet evolution⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    evolution

    TeachMeet Connect

    This move from Susan Ward looks like continuing the re-boot of TeachMeet in Scotland.

    On Wednesday 21st September, we are launching TeachMeet Connect, a series of TeachMeets happening across Scotland on the same day, where teachers will get together and share what they do. Coinciding with the Scottish Learning Festival, this will be a celebration of all the good things happening in classrooms across Scotland and a chance to explore how TeachMeets can support professional development.

    Whether you’ve been to loads of TeachMeets before or this will be your first, this is your chance to get connected to other teachers in Scotland who want to share too. We’d love you to get involved and hold a TeachMeet Connect of your own. There’s loads of info here about how to set up and run a TeachMeet and it’s entirely up to you how fancy you go- you could promote your event and have people sign up to come along and share, or you could just arrange a coffee with half a dozen colleagues where everyone talks about something that’s worked for them.

    from: TeachMeet Connect – TeachMeet Scotland

    On the TeachMeet front it was good to read David, for a bit of nostalgia: EdCompBlog: TeachMeet – What’s in a name?, I got the name wrong the first time round, but I don’t think I am wrong in thinking that this new blossoming of TeachMeet in Scotland is going to be great.

    The featured image a the top of this post Great Gallery of Evolution a public domain photo from Joe deSousa on flickr.