Monday INSET – Effective or just a non uniform day?

INSET or as I like to call them non-uniform days. Over my teaching career I have done a lot of CPD – has it made me a better teacher? Yes I hope so, certainly some has challenged and made me change practice, hopefully for the better but a lot, especially some “done to me” hasn’t made much difference and I have sat thinking of all the jobs I have to do or would prefer to be doing.

Not more INSET please not more

Heck now I’m a head I can’t moan any longer but I can evolve our systems and CPD programmes and look for something better. One of the first areas I wanted to develop was CPD, we have great teachers and I love hearing their ideas so how do we capture that, mould it with current ideas and good practice even academic research? That was the challenge and I just didn’t have time so with a new deputy we set about working on a project. Huge credit to him for making this work, by working out the finer details, you know how it is -he does the work I take the credit; not today it was just too exciting. But let’s go back to the plans:

  1. Get some topics we think the school could, should, might consider or be interested in, may or may not be on the development plan (summer 2015) BUT we are interested in.
  2. Get some teachers who are enthusiasts on these topics or maybe their own topics?
  3. Pay them – sadly no, no budget for that but maybe buy some time?
  4. Give them a nice title “directors of learning” – 6 get going
  5. Get them to choose a topic start some research/reading etc and tell the staff body about their projects Sept INSET day. Draw in a few other potential enthusiasts.
  6. This becomes a learning community and the rule is to share the ideas, work out what might really make a difference in a classroom, try it; YES try it in a class in our school with our pupils and be preparing for a February INSET to share with rest of staff.
  7. Meet them support them, get resources if necessary, bring in colleagues etc

Star “Directors of Learning” – gold stars

S0 in September through to February these little communities slogging away, reimageading about teaching and learning aspects of their topics, discussing with each other and other colleagues and then, that final rule they must try any ideas in their class, and do a bit of proper research and get feedback from staff, from observers, from pupils. [ and of course still teaching every day!]

So that was all going well but next up not just piloting with in the classroom sharing with that most critical of audiences – your colleagues – feels like the worst lesson observations ever.

Wow Kerbang Whoosh!


Here were our topics

  1. It’s not personal – How does student voice impact on teaching and learning
  2. Don’t say please – Practical positive approaches to classroom behaviour management, using light touch and considering what to do for the “not very OK” pupils
  3. Using data to inform day to day teaching and learning – instead of just looking at exam results and working out what did and didn’t happen, can those systems help us understand day to day interventions? can they help with new specs where we are in the dark a little about grading?
  4. Why are questions worth thinking about? Are we still stuck on closed questions? Can we move the discussion on and will this lead to deeper learning?
  5. Flipped learning – what impact can flipping the resource have on classroom time? How can we do it, what are the benefits and how might technology help us?
  6. What does Independent Learning look like in the classroom? – a KS5 focus considering how we might use a) research b) group work)teaching methods and d) assessment to create more resilient independent learners.

IMG_2499Then today we had out INSET day whereby each community led a 45 minute workshop, repeated twice – Three slots for staff, and then followed by discussions in departments, what did you learn about, what might work in your subject. It wasn’t about throwing out old practice it was about tweaking it, was about marginal gains instead of marginal losses for all of us in the classroom. It was occasionally a reminder that praise does work and I need to bring that back a bit ….especially with my year ….

Don’t you love that buzz when colleagues from different subjects with different experience just get enveloped in the issues, jotting ideas and enthusing. Picking each others brains. “This worked in my class in our school, it made my practice better and their learning enhanced” “OK might try that”. Absolutely no need to worry about the gigantic lesson observations going on in your workshops – listen to the big buzz, the chatter, the concentration the “loving it” moments. 

I do wish we had another INSET day tomorrow to get it all written into SoW or lesson plans but I know our staff, they’ll be trying stuff. Oh and follow up? Well from here we hope to try those ideas and feedback results to dept or pastoral teams, we have promised our Directors we will do that.

Next up we need to think if we can

  • continue the same topics and bring more effective learning
  • move to new topics.
  • bring in some more Directors
  • check out how staff are doing embedding the ideas
  • maintain a manageable workload but be more effective in the classroom


Wednesday Period 6 – Teachmeet Virgin

So my first ever teachmeet, 25th June 2014 – sorry to those old hand teachmeet -ers. Tempted as I am to compare it with my blog about meetings, and give a score, this is a very different sort of meeting. No one is compelled to go and it seems only enthusiasts do the presentations, and teaching is blessed with many enthusiasts, truly! Note that carefully any readers who are not teachers!

So what happens is you sign up then turn up – I did so with about 100 others in Nottingham attending the National College. What a great place to meet on a sunny summer evening! I am so jealous, there are many new buildings around the Nottingham City area for education thanks to the investment of two great Universities, and our local FE colleges and lots of bsf investment in many schools. I am deeply jealous as my school lost its £16m BSF as we were deciding the colour of paint at the end of 18 months planning, despite a judicial review Mr Gove took the money back. (So still crossing a road between sites in the rain and loving those 60’s corridors!) Hey but that’s not what my blogpost was about and neither is it what a teachmeet is for, except the building, the room, the hospitality, food and drinks are pretty important when the show runs 5.30 to 9.00. So well done organisers, that was all as it should be. The technology needs to be up to it too, there is swift movement between presentations for laptops/screens etc and twitter seemed compulsory, so accessing wifi and clear screens to read and watch video etc is vital to success.

There were some ‘goody bags’ give aways; some fliers from sponsors, some advertising materials. We sat on tables of up to about 10 people and the most enthusiastic discussions came undoubtedly from tables where there were a number of staff from a school or maybe two schools. Murmurs of excitement during a presentation and enthusiastic chatter afterwards.

Once the show kicks off, if you haven’t been to one, there are presentations lasting 2 minutes, 5 minutes or 7 minutes and some people did keep spot on with time, and there were others! We started with @Hywel_Roberts who was fantastic, definitely stimulating and every point was well made with great (northern) humour, great imagination and creativity. Secondary classrooms might benefit from a good dose of that. I couldn’t help be carried along, drawn in and excited by his challenges. fast moving but uplifting – hey there is the word in my blog about meetings. I was a bit frustrated because there was no overall theme or topic and the evening covered items across all sorts of sectors, however I reminded myself that I am an educator, albeit in secondary and we build on stuff from primary or early years etc [Thank you Primary ppl; Thank you EY ppl]. There were some great ideas shown off, really great – could I use them all, not really in a secondary classroom but seeing beyond that was interesting.

There is also the spin off of the network, I was very pleased to see a number of colleagues and some ex pupils now teachers. Networking isn’t easy though if everyone stays on their own table. Not quite true of course because there is the old twitter hashtag #tmm14 and thanks to @paulyb37 a running commentary and some good work from @MarcWithersey and @PeteBevington. There were supportive tweets when their school colleagues presented (difficult to cheer or whoop but anything goes on twitter!) and commendable comments for good presentations and the usual humorous banter, and I saw nothing critical or nasty- that’s teachers for you. If you wish check out the twitter feeds.

So I am now wondering and pondering where teachmeets fit into the CPD spectre:

Q1 Are themed teachmeets effective CPD ?
Q2 Are they more effective in say a primary sector where a meeting brings together lots of schools and their staff?
Q3 Is the model that is “teachmeet” something we should try within say a big secondary school? A model for a twilight, for an INSET; a way to bring different groups of staff or even different school staff who teach e.g. Science together? [I shall investigate this with my next teachmeet]
Q4 Is there any research about the success of a teachmeet, save the attendance numbers?
Q5 Why do you go?


Saturday Period 1 – Research Ed. Me, really?

This is my first attempt at a blog – it probably ‘requires improvement’ (RI) most things do. I hope it might help encourage teachers to become Tweachers(use twitter), read blogs (not necessarily mine) and learn about CPD opportunities. #NTENRED

So Saturday period 1 I usually like to make a long lesson mainly because it comes between Friday period 5 and Sunday period 1 which obviously brings Monday period 1 ever nearer. I try and do very little work Saturday period 1 because everyone tells me we need a work life balance, so no planning or marking or admin, but there is always thinking about school, almost always – there was when I had a full timetable and there is now (as Tom Bennett put it) that I have a fuller wallet and easier timetable being SLT.

This Saturday 3rd May I was in school, not mine but Huntington, there were lots of teachers SLT, heads, researchers and maybe 400 in total (someone can correct me) on a bank holiday Saturday. I got there really thanks to twitter and have tweeted with many people who were there. I think I have met two of them before, I felt I knew them from their writing, their tweets, though not from their twitter images and well it turned out the reality was even better than the virtuality. So my purpose is to encourage you to get on twitter, to get along to a Research Ed conference or maybe a teachmeet. Why?

I wish that I had been able to do a wordle of the day – most common words I heard were: teachers, learners, thriving, progressing, inspiring, sharing, reflecting, evaluating (well and a few more). What I didn’t hear much about was inspecting , Gove (one mention) politicians, targets. So frankly I found myself enjoying Saturday assembly with the inspirational John Tomsett, who in talking to us was as good as his blogs;

Period 1 with Mary Myatt I was seriously reminded about the aspects of teaching and learning I so love. She showed us that research is already happening and easy to encourage and profound in it’s ability to raise energy and passion in the day to day job and its ability to bring life cannot be unedrestimated. I agree

Period 2 with David Weston proved my decision to ‘work’ on Saturday was right as he said so much CPD gets lost once we return to that hurley burley which unlike in ‘that play’ is never “done”. David’s point ‘ the best CPD is aspirational, collaborative relevant, differentiated, sustained, underpinned by research, evaluated and led by leaders who model great learning and demonstrate trust and distributed leadership’ wow just that pearl makes me think about what we can do.

Period 3 we looked at some possible NFER evaluative tools. I find evaluation so hard to do, time being a major issue and was encouraged to see there is no easy, obvious way to do the task. However the tools here looked useful -we’ll see.
Lunch without supervision meant I could talk with a colleague who was also in York. An enjoyable conversation, a chance to catch up with a valued teacher colleague a reminder of the importance of finding a bit of time to do so.

Period 4 is a tricky slot and Jill Berry spoke about the transitioning from deputy to head and her research in that area. I tweeted this was more helpful than much of my NPQH but it was refreshing to hear from a wise practioner who is looking to help the profession on this task and who hasn’t joined the inspection brigade (sorry if you have).

Period 5 was Tom Bennett – those blogs, tweets and books of Tom’s came to life, an enjoyable session reminding us despite being busy practionors that we need to bring research and practice closer, we need to ask the right questions in our quest to find out what works for us, our learners, our strugglers. There is a challenge here, which was recognised as we do have frameworks to work inside and I am acutely aware myself that children get the one chance , but the idea of at least trying to get some overlap between proper research and the classroom is well worth the risks. I reminded myself we teach 80,000 lessons a year in my school, we need to get most of them right, not just worrk about ‘you know what’.

Period 6 OH NO I am only used to a five period day so was this an after school session, revision or just detention. Stephen Tierney showed us how he had made it work in his school. In a skilled presentation with good humour he showed how much he valued the research, how he had moved from sharing good practice to joint practice development. He brought me full circle as we thought about that busy brilliant teacher balancing workload and a home life. If they are doing a good job for young people that’s fine by me but to make sure it keeps on happening help others take on responsibility and spread the effective ideas.

Now if you led a session and I was one of your learners , just maybe you hoped I had learned more, well I have but I can’t get it all in a blog. As well as content there is the inspirational and the challenges. The latter is what I now need to consider. So my starter for four:

1. How do we help staff see they do research now?
2. How do we get more research going and make sure the “good stuff” we already do is caught, shared, lifted and trialled?
3 What do we ‘stop’ to make room for this in the ‘hurly burly’?
4 Evaluation evaluation evaluation.

Well and lots more questions too but they can wait until Sunday period 1 or for this bank holiday weekend Monday period 2.

I work in a faith community, today is the first Sunday after Easter and in church we were looking at story of the road to Emmaus “and they had their eyes opened” Our call and our duty too?