It’s been a long time since I last blogged due to moving schools and needing to find my feet. I’ve not felt that I have had anything to share in a positive sense yet while I make the heady transition, but more on that in another post I am mulling over perhaps. It’s been a wee bit mental so I’ve struggled to find time to do anything apart from breathe, but I shall do better! Hopefully!
This Saturday 18th October marks the first of the new 2014_15 year for the Prince’s Teaching Institute Subject Days for new teachers. I’ve been involved with the work of the PTI for the last year as a teacher leader for Geography (other subjects are available 😉 ). The subject days are aimed at NQTs or non-specialists in particular (the PTI also offers other training days and residentials that are subject specific or for leadership) and cover a variety of content over six Saturdays including a fieldwork day. It’s a great opportunity to receive the most up-to-date theory from current researchers or lecturers, to spend time with colleagues discussing what has been heard, and then to work with teacher leaders and peers during focused workshops based around the lecturer content.
The structure of the days usually involves two lectures, plus two workshops, a lovely lunch, and time with colleagues to chat and plan how you would use the information back in the classroom. The workshops are led by current teachers / heads of department such as myself, Graham Goldup, Andy Emms, Helen Boxley, Kate Amis, Ed Chandler, and Paul Cornish at four different locations of London, Manchester, Harrogate and Birmingham. The events are tailored to suit the individuals attending, and I’ve certainly enjoyed being at them and the conversations you have with educators of different experiences and interests and backgrounds. We’ve enjoyed lectures from the likes of Professor Iain Stewart and Simon Reeve, Hazel Barrett, Alan Kinder and Jonny Darling as well as many others. So I am really looking forward to this new year and learning more from others and being involved myself.
Part of the extended work of the PTI also encourages curriculum leaders to join the Schools Programme with their department. This is a scheme that involves a department self-evaluation against a range of criteria, setting of targets to aim for as part of your department development over the course of the year, the submission of an end of year report for review by teacher leader consultants, and an invitation to come to training days and share resources through the PTI website. Admittedly this website isn’t the most user friendly at present, but it is a work in progress and the PTI are aiming to improve their use of the site and social media over time. The programme is to be completed over the course of three years so that the actions taken are meant to be sustainable. The aim is to choose development points that are beyond your usual department development focus – a bit ‘above and beyond’, and could include whole school influence, network creation, etc. . I worked through the Schools Programme with my team at my last school and did find that the added level of accountability knowing you were working with mentors and sharing with others was a good extra incentive when plodding through the year, and added some extra clout for those discussions with SLT that needed it.
During the review sessions in the summer this year we read all the reports, moderated them and then decided whether a department would pass through to the second year at different levels of quality – similar to the GA Quality Mark in that sense. I loved hearing what was going on elsewhere – where departments were turning their results around, or changing their teaching strategies, creating local networks of change, embedding technology, etc. . Departments can also go on to the Associate Department scheme after three years so there is always something available. The scheme does cost money, but does also include the training days and mentoring throughout the year – and there is a deduction for schools with multiple departments involved. It’s certainly not the only scheme that can offer that sense of progression and structured development, but I can only speak from own experience with having enjoyed the whole process and the support available. I suppose the thing I like most is that anything offered by the PTI treats you as an intelligent professional, and I love the ‘back to uni’ type feeling where you are being fed information and taught by specialists who are currently researching that issue – it just makes you feel topped up with knowledge, enthused and ready for more. Unless I’m the only person who ever feels a little ‘dumbed down’ from just teaching to GCSE standard and not getting the thrill of the challenge of learning something hard like you did back at uni? No? 😉
“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.” (Leonardo da Vinci)