This week I was fortunate enough to take part in the Prince’s Teaching Institute summer school residential for Geography, History, English and Languages. The PTI first started in 2006 to continue the work of the Prince of Wales’ Education Summer Schools and perform a CPD role. The focus is very much on reinvigorating teachers through experiencing academic lectures, keynotes, workshops…and providing amazing food in the beautiful setting of Homerton College, University of Cambridge.
The three day summer school (which runs for various subjects at different times of year) is very much run for teacher, by teachers. High profile, contemporary, leading edge academic lecturers provide a reminder of why we fell in love with our subjects and wanted to teach them in the first place – taking us back to the undergraduate days. Workshops provide time in smaller groups chaired by Teacher Leaders (subject specialist teachers who have taken part in the work of the PTI before and are coming back to offer expertise and facilitate / host). During these sessions (which were sadly, in my opinion, too brief) we had some time to share best practice which was excellent and insightful, and to reflect a little on the sessions we had seen and consider ways to utilise in school. We also had a field trip day (it is Geography after all). The days were very intensive; packed, insightful and intellectually stimulating, and each ended with a formal meal in the college Hall (with pre-dinner cocktails on the lawn of course) including an after-dinner speech by celebrity speakers – in our case Michael Wood & David Aaronovitch.
I came away from the event feeling uplifted and enthusiastic. Don’t get me wrong – I hadn’t been feeling ‘in a rut’ or forgotten my love of the job before, but I had been feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day and increasingly apprehensive about taking over the department. So this was refreshing, a total immersion in just good positive learning. And you know how sometimes on courses you get the feeling that some colleagues don’t really want to be there (“Oh, I just got sent by my boss”), or you hear the cynicism in their tone (“It’s a lovely idea but that would never work in my school”)? Well there was none of that. Everyone I met was positive, excited, keen. They loved their subject but more importantly they loved teaching and learning. They were lifelong learners themselves. They were keen to try something different. Yes, we had differing opinions on the curriculum or the role of technology or what is the most important thing in school etc., but we all had a common purpose. The vibe was fantastic. It was cathartic for me personally as, having recently suffered a bereavement that has shaken me, being submersed in this delightful bubble for a time was great. So all that needs to happen now is for all those little bubbles of individual teachers, and the bigger bubbles of their departments, to all coalesce so that great teaching and learning is occurring consistently throughout. Not much to ask for huh? 😉
Ok, this post has already become longer than planned and I haven’t really said much. What I planned is to outline what I shall cover. There is simply too much to say in one post, and I need to get it all out. So I plan to break up the three days into separate posts.
1) The opening keynote by Lord Hennessy
2) The Pupil Panel discussion
3) Day 1 lectures: Professor Iain Stewart, Dr Kendra Strauss, Professor Hazel Barrett
4) Day 2 lectures: Alan Kinder, Christian Nold, Professor Jonathan Bamber
5) Day 3 lectures: Dr Jonathan Darling, Professor Klaus Dodds
6) The group workshops & reflections
7) The fieldwork activity & follow-up
8) The closing Educators questioning panel
Quite a lot to tackle then, so I better get started. I’ll finish with a quote from Prince Charles in the opening of the delegate pack:
“If the world in which our children will live is to be one in which truly civilised values can flourish it will need a breadth of knowledge and understanding of the kind that only a good, rounded education can provide”