So this week I am off to the Google Teacher Academy UK #gtauk for two days of educational geekery, sharing, learning and problem solving.
If you want to see my terribly cheesy and not brilliantly made application video it is here:
The event is being organised by Ewan Mcintosh of No Tosh and there is a focus on this being not a one-off event but a sustainable CPD opportunity where educators / technologists / innovators get together and try to thrash out some of the problems faced by teachers and learners in schools, to come up with solutions, and to then go back to our schools and trial these, adapt, improve and keep working with our teams and mentors.
I am excited and nervous in equal measure! I always find it hard meeting new people, and generally feel very inadequate when hearing stories of what other very innovative and inspiring people are doing. As I have only recently changed schools I feel it is difficult to share stories of success since I’ve not had an impact yet: other than ruffling some feathers and changing the decor of the rooms :-) But I’m hopeful that I will have something useful to say and something to share, and can’t wait to hear what people are up to worldwide when facing the same issues and same goals.
Part of the pre-work was a set of three immersion tasks, that required us to delve deeper and look carefully at our learning environment. We had to sketch out an area, interview others (staff/student/parent/other) about how they and we felt about the place (positive and negative), and create and ideas & bug list.
Being in a new school made me wonder whether the problems I have been experiencing are real or if it is just a case of getting to grips with a new vibe and way of doing things. Equally when you first start somewhere as a fresh pair of eyes perhaps it is easier to assess things and suggest change. The process of conversations with others has been really interesting, and not just in the school itself.
This lunchtime was a family meal back home in Kent. Parents and siblings (my brother-in-law is just another older brother) plus dogs having a good catch up. My family are awesome and I owe who I am and where I am to them. What is great is that nobody takes themselves too seriously, and that we are forever ribbing each other and making jokes – including the necessary black humour required when ‘telling off’ your dad for always getting ‘top marks’ when you find out his latest cancer check up shows his scores are tripling, and not in a good way. The conversation got onto what I’d be up to at GTA and we ended up having a real deep and meaningful chat about everyone’s experience at schools. Such variety. I consider all of us well educated, well rounded, full of the ‘right kind of stuff’, with good jobs and good relationships, and yet we all had such diverse and discordant experiences of school and education.
It was really eye opening. We talked about aspirations, commitment, resilience, bullying, results, pressure, ability, teachers, etc,. I hadn’t realised that one of us had been bullied badly and hated every moment of school, and when asked what could be done to improve the school experience they couldn’t think of a way to fix it short of being one-to-one with a teacher and no other students. This person being someone whom I look up to, who is a lifelong learner, very smart, very capable, and still collecting post-grad qualifications. The phrase that struck was that ‘going to school actually interfered with the learning process’. And this will be true of so many of our students. Anyone who is slightly different, who maybe wants to do better, who is considered smarter, maybe is less sporty or just doesn’t want to get involved in other social areas of young life. Fortunately this hasn’t stopped them from wanting to succeed and from wanting to learn – but this won’t be the case for many who lack that resilience.
So what can we do in schools to make them more appealing? To improve engagement in every aspect of youthful development? How can we ensure we are bringing out the best in every child in every way, and that we are not driven by the accountability and results machine to forget other ‘softer’ aspects that are equally if not more important?
So some questions I’ve had buzzing round this week following conversations with staff, family and friends, and students:
- How can we make education a fully social and interactive experience that benefits all?
– How do we ensure all kids are reading and writing at their appropriate age?
– How can you encourage independence, especially in able children, in those who want to succeed but are nervous of independent work in case they ‘get it wrong’?
– Is leadership more about intelligence or emotion?
– How do we raise kids to be entrepreneurs whilst still valuing education and nothing thinking ‘others became millionaires after leaving school with nothing’?
-How do we get kids to sleep, exercise, eat healthy and to explore the real outdoors, rather than being up til 3 on social media and computer games?
-Is endless access to information at your fingertips a good thing for young people? How can we ensure information consumption is productive and beneficial?
-How do we encourage independent learners in an atmosphere of worry that they must pass exams, where they have been cushioned at home and school and just want to be given the answers?
-How can we make the most of the hall at break times so that it’s not a venue of depression / nerves / fear associated with exams and assembly?
-How do we ensure technology is used for more than just consumption?
-How can we break the mindset (in students and in teachers) of ‘this is your target’ when it’s tied to accountability, and break that invisible ceiling of ambition / aspiration / ability?
Some pretty big questions in there! Certainly ones to grapple with. I’m hoping the next two days will give some food for thought and some strategies for some of these. Let’s break the ceiling, stop limiting ourselves and others, and have more #moonshot thinking.