Tag Archives: coaching

A Summer of Festivals Part II: Friday at #EducationFest⤴

from @ @robin_macp

The second day of the Festival of Education saw equal amounts of sunshine and political debate given that Boris (finally) resigned so there was a real buzz about the place. I managed to fit in sessions on classroom practice, social mobility, coaching and the BAMEed strand, so there was no rest for the wicked…

Nicholas Hopton (@RisbyDuck0): Going On A Bear Hunt – Making Desirable Difficulties Desirable 

After being in the bigger venues yesterday I wanted to start today with some pedagogy. The Maths and MFL Departments have a very different feel, as sessions are usually by teachers and about what they do in the classroom. The title of this one caught my eye, and it didn’t disappoint. Nicholas is Head of English at Bedford School, and in terms of being well versed on current pedagogical  thinking he certainly knows his stuff. This session (as the title suggests) was about Robert and Elizabeth Bjork’s work on desirable difficulties and how we make that happen during lessons. 

In Nicholas’ approach, lesson planning is structured around the Bear Hunt story with balancing classroom challenges (rivers, mud, forests and caves) with scaffolds (walking sticks, pathways and maps). Of course, when faced with an obstacle, pupils can’t go around it/over it/under it but have to go through it. It’s about creating obstacles that pupils can, with effort and just enough support, overcome. Nicholas also threw in some Ron Berger (feedback should be “kind, specific and actionable”), and I loved what he does every summer with his pupils. They write spy fiction, and afterwards the pupils publish their work and have a book launch. Overall, a very good session with a lot of practical advice that was grounded in the best of current thinking. 

Hashi Mohamed (@hm_hashi): Adventures in Social Mobility

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Hashi since we both went on a Remembering Srebrenica delegation to Bosnia several years ago. Since then he has become one of Britain’s most important voices on social mobility and race (you can hear more about his own story via his BBC Radio 4 documentary series and his book).

Hashi is the 8th of 12 children, born in Kenya to Somali parents. His mother was illiterate and his father was killed in a car crash. He came to the UK in 1993 at the age of 9, and couldn’t speak a word of English. He then went on to Oxford University and qualified as a barrister. If you think this is going to be an inspiring story of how hard work and grit leads to success, think again. Hashi is a critic of the concept of social mobility (both absolute and relative mobility) and argues that his story is the exception, not the rule. 

Hashi was keen to stress the importance of early years education.

“I really strongly believe that this period can make a huge difference in someone’s life. No period of life is as important as the first four years. It’s when the basic structures of your brain are established. They set the course for your life.”

When it comes to inherited poverty, he warns that “deprivation begins in the womb.”

Much like David Olusoga yesterday, Hashi is not a fan of “meaningless slogans and phrases” (what David called ‘deepisms’). Teachers tell children that ‘work hard and you can achieve anything.’ He was scathing about Michaela Community School (which is five minutes from where he lives). 

“Children should not be robots who walk silently in corridors. That school would not have worked for me, as a traumatised child. I promise you now that that environment would not and could not have brought out the best in me.” 

He was clear that we have to grasp the reality that the problems we face in society are far more profound than teachers can deal with. Yet despite this, teachers and parents will still be left to deal with the consequences of what happened over the past two years; sadly, we cannot rely on the current government to deal with that legacy. 

Another interesting contention he set out was this:

“Data does not show a direct link between education and social mobility. It isn’t there. It isn’t the determining factor. Education gets you to the starting line of a race. You then have to run it.”

He talks about some young people benefiting from a life that goes “From quad to quad to quad. You run from one manicured lawn to another. It is a life that is both straight and square.” For his own part, he broke into this by luck as much as anything else:

“I know that I have been lucky. Luck is an important factor to consider. Bad luck is easy to see, you can’t miss it. Good luck is something we often think is not actually luck, but something created by us.” 

It was a fantastic session with many important provocations, making it a natural successor to David Olusoga’s talk the day before.

Chris Munro (@CmunroOz) and Christian van Nieuwerburgh (@ChristianvN): GROWTH Coaching 

There was a significant strand on coaching and some of the key individuals in UK and international education were at the forefront of this, such as Rachel Lofthouse from CollectivED and Jim Knight. I didn’t manage to see them but did catch Chris Munro and Christian van Nieuwerburgh from Growth Coaching International doing a session which was really a live demonstration and analysis of the process involved in coaching. Christian asked for an audience volunteer, who happened to be a lecturer from Oxford University, and they went through a coaching discussion (she asked for assistance with how to be a better coach). Chris paused every so often to analyse the method with the audience. It worked very effectively and they referred to the GROWTH model, which Chris was keen to point out is not linear, but can be done in any order. 

I had a really good discussion with Chris afterwards (somehow he and I have managed to miss each other despite his long period of lecturing at the University of Aberdeen). I’m really interested in where coaching sits in terms of reflective practice, as my next book will be on that theme. He gave me a lot to consider and links to go away and read, so that was a big help. This is why the festival is so good; you can approach any of the speakers and ask them for advice and guidance. 

BAMEed (@BAMEedNetwork) Mentoring and Coaching – Effective Development Support for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Educators

A really positive addition to the festival programme was a dedicated BAMEed strand, curated by Penny Rabiger (@Penny_Ten) (amongst others). Penny was in the audience and at one point reminded us that BAMEed was founded with both white and BAME educators on board, so that “it’s not a deficit model. We want to increase the racial literacy of white people who are in positions of power.” She also reminded us, when we hit the sensitive point of language and terminology, that “language is always dynamic and always inadequate.” For what my humble opinion is worth, we need many more people like Penny in education.

This was a lively panel chaired by Lizana Oberholzer (@LO_EduforAll), with Krupa Patel and Nazya Ghalib as the guests. The focus was on the network’s provision of pro bono coaching for three sessions, with continued support available thereafter. Contact can be made through the website and Lizana assigns the applicant a coach from the extensive and experienced BAMEed team. Krupa and Nazya gave a lot of insight into the way this works and what the experience has been like for them as coaches. Both are hugely experienced and I can imagine that anyone who has them for a coach is being really well supported. 

The discussion became very open with frequent questions from the floor, and I asked if the coaches tend to experience normative issues with coachees, or was it more specific due to the constituency? The panellists agreed that they see much more in the way of coachees dealing with issues of race and barriers, such as lack of representation. That is predictably sad, but BAMEed is providing support that will be game-changing in the long term.

Mindful of the discussion I had yesterday with Sanum Khan (@Sanumjkhan) and Kamraan Khan (@Kamraan1984) (who I sat next to at this session and we picked up where we left off) about the level of diversity seen in the regular festival session audiences and the BAMEed strand, I have to say that was again the case here. It’s brilliant that the festival has this strand, and I doubt there is much the organisers can do about audience footfall, but it was a really interesting point that Sanum makes about running two different PL programmes. Further thinking is needed on that point, but I had a great conversation with Penny at the end that will hopefully lead to further progress on this point in terms of teacher recruitment. Watch this space.  


Finally, if you haven’t already been persuaded to attend the festival in the future, consider the brilliant networking opportunities that it presents. I didn’t go to every single session because I spent so much time talking to people, many of whom I haven’t seen in a very long time. There are many areas where people can just sit and have some food, a coffee, or even a cocktail, and if you want to have a go at speaking then the outdoor ‘green room’ is amazing. I had a great lunch with Hashi Mohamed, Jim Heal, Sarah Donarski, Eva Hartell, Kim Kovacevic and others which was as good as going to any of the sessions. I strongly recommend putting in a pitch to be a speaker for 2023 via the website from September onwards.

That’s what makes this event so special; it genuinely is a festival rather than a conference, because the laid back approach, multiple stalls and activities, and sociable community it creates are wonderful. A huge thank you to Shane Mann (@shanermann) and his team (especially you, Adele Kilby!); you all did a great job. I’m delighted it’s back. 

Our Collective Responsibility⤴

from @ Becoming Educated

In the past week I have launched a short term working group in my school looking at using a coaching model for observations. The reason for this is linked to the narrative our school leaders are building towards. A large section of our staff have undergone training on coaching and using it to coach not only pupils but others and also we continually return to the ideals of system and servant leadership.

I believe a coaching model for observations will help us alleviate the fear and anxiety often associated with observations. Tell me, how often has someone observed you, gave you direct feedback and then you went to to do absolutely nothing that would improve your teaching practice?

In many schools and in many classrooms observations have little to no impact on the experiences of young people. This is because the key player in this does not have ownership or autonomy over their development. It is easy to watch a lesson and tell the teacher your thoughts but this can lead to resentment and anger or even worse…nothing. By encouraging observers to watch everything that goes on in a lesson and then ask coaching questions during their meeting to review the lesson such as why? tell me more? what do you think? and applying 80/20 talk time principles it places ownership firmly at the door of the teacher being observed. They after all are the most important factor in this. Through coaching questions you can provide a supportive yet challenging environment which forces people to talk through what went wrong, why it went wrong and what they are going to do about it.

By doing it this way we can all help each other as both the observer and the observed can learn during both the observation and the follow up discussion. This brings me to our collective responsibility.

We all have a collective responsibility for the success of each and every pupil. We also have a collective responsibility to improve each other, help each other and support each other. I want to work in a school where every teacher has learned that if any teacher or pupils is struggling and they have information that can help, they feel a responsibility to share it. Far too often teachers are an island in their own classroom. When the door closes (or stays open) and you are in front of 30 young people it can start to feel isolating but it never should be. We all teach the same young people with the same common purpose (our Just Cause) so it is ludicrous to think that we keep things to ourselves or allow others to struggle without showing them our support.

If we think of the ideas of Servant Leadership which tie in nicely with what I am aiming for here. A Servant Leader focusses on the growth and wellbeing of everyone within their community. They also puts the needs of others first and helps people around them to perform and highly as possible. In my model for observation I discussed above perhaps the observers role is that of a Servant Leader. They are placing the needs of the observed first and are using what they see in a 50 minute lesson to help the observer identify areas for improvement and strengths, of course.

A great video to watch about Servant Leadership is this short 3 minute video where John Harbaugh, Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens discusses how he enacts Servant Leadership. In his coaching conversations he regularly asks two questions ‘what do you think?’ and ‘what do you need?. We should be asking this of our Teachers everyday and it isn’t the sole responsibility of our school leaders but of everyone as we all have a Collective Responsibility for the learning of our young people and each other.

It is way too early to share whether on not our new model for observations will be a success but I do believe that become a Servant Leader and helping everyone learn of our Collective Responsibility we can make observations meaningful and impactful when the practice translates into helping our young people experience an excellent education.

Day 2 PIL Global Forum⤴

from @ Islay ICT


The day started even earlier than planned. That's why the agenda is written on to remind me.

During day 1 I had meet and spent some time with the group of teachers I was working with.

My group are from left to right are Alinazim from Azerbaijan, Tahmeena from Pakistan, Saba from UAE and Kara from Sweden (Below). Unfortunately Jenny from Bolivia (and her translator, Daniela) didn’t make it to Washington.

These were all amazing educators in their own right. They had already won the national and regional forum competitions for their Virtual Classroom Tours of there projects.

We are called SERC 7. The name is from our visit today on our Learning Excursion. We were group 7 heading to Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre – SERC.

First though the was a keynote from Microsoft’s VP for Education, Anthony Salcito. Ollie Bray has a great post on this and it was a very powerful mood setter for the event.

Off to buses with our groups. Once we had found them…


The Learning Excursions were a range of information gathering trips. Some groups went to the Zoo others went to the Gardens. We one of 8 groups that went to SERC.

SERC is about an hour outside Washington. In fact its in another state, Maryland. We had a stunning drive out of the city on a beautiful clear autumn day. Due to the time in travelling we had lunch on the buses.

At SERC we had a background talk on what the work i that's done. One thing that really caught my attention was the Distance learning programme.

SERC have a mobile video conference (VC) broadcast unit. This means they can broadcast to any internet connected classroom in the world. Having used VC extensively I know that is is a very powerful media. Much more powerful than TV or YouTube as the pupils involved can ask questions and interact. Something more schools could take advantage of.

We were give several options to go and look at; from building an Remotely Operated Vehicle to getting out in a canoe into the bay. The group decided we would split up and cover as many of the activities as possible.

I attended a topic called Environment Builders. This, it turned out, was looking at demonstrations and doing a few activities looking at how animals have an affect on the environment.

For example, we used the SERC (Soon to be) downloadable resources on jellyfish body design to conduct an experiment about the affect that different body types have on the water temperature layering.

Then a sampling exercise to look at how the Scientists estimate what the populations are in the bay. Using mixed beans and statistics

and a final exercise on the affect of different types of plants and animals have on the amount of light.

We I liked about these exercises was that none of them required high tech equipment or resources but demonstrated real effects and phenomena in very real and practical ways.

It was then a few minutes breathing space as the groups gathered and I could actually take in just how beautiful the environment was that day….

…but no time to dawdle, it was back on the coach to talk with our groups as we headed back into Washington. This was a slower run as we  hit traffic. Therefore we were late for our next mentor session.

An Introduction to Coaching

Coaching and Mentoring is something we have been doing on Islay for several years. In fact only a few weeks before Mathew Boyle had done some work with our senior pupils on this.

To me this something that is a vital skill for all learners. A shared understanding of the language and process  of learning and be able to have positive conversations about learning.

I was surprised at how many of these great educators had not done any courses on this or were even aware of it.

On the timetable it shows that we had sometime………. actually we had homework. We had to go to our team members and apply the skills we had jut been looking at.

The feedback from lots of the Mentors was that teams got a lot out of the coaching conversations. In fact they wish they had had the conversations right at the start of the event as they made them think. Some even restructured the talks they gave because of the Coaching conversations. That's the power of these.

In the evening I decided to go with the group of mentors for dinner at Old Ebbit’s Grill rather than go with the national groups for dinner. I wanted to get to know people outside the formal sessions. This is exactly what happened. About 14 of us had a fantastic meal and amazing conversations about all sorts of things.

This was also the first time I had the 2 bottles of Whisky with me to share. A Bottle of Bowmore 18 year cask strength and a 16 year old Jura, also cask strength. The idea was that they would go further.

Everyone was very impressed. In fact our waiter for the evening, Kevin, was allowed to taste them. He had the most amazing descriptions of them for the group. A natural born poet I feel.

Conversations continued back at the hotel in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of topics ……….