Teachmeet Takeaways

By Alex More

TeachMeet SP7 was held at Shaftesbury School on Weds 9th October 2019

TeachMeets are events held for teachers, by teachers. They are a platform to share ideas, celebrate our profession and recharge your mental battery. This years event sold out fast (although the tickets were free) and the guest speakers were booked way in advance. Before I delve into the top takeaways from the event, I would like to thank the following sponsors for helping us host such an event; Epson, BlueSky Education, Avantis Education, Hodder, Markmate, Crown House Publishing and Ipevo. Please check out their products!

Take Away 1 – Be 10% Braver!

Talking Teachers Joe and Lorna kicked off the event, sharing their top takeaways from their hugely successful podcast.

Subscribe and listen via Podbean, Spotify or iTunes

Being 10% braver in teaching is an interesting concept. Joe and Lorna took the plunge by hosting a podcast for teachers. At the time, they were happy if 100 people listened, 4000 listens later they are fully up and running and have been interviewing the main people form the EduTwitter world as well as some local teachers and experts.

I took two main ideas from this TED talk

  1. Be 10% braver, try something out of your comfort zone to grow as a professional. This could be a new pedagogical idea, presenting at a TeachMeet, becoming a mentor, coach or member of the leadership team.
  2. Be Coached or become a coach. The power of coaching should be underestimated in our profession. Take the opportunity to seek out a coach, someone who can help you GROW and realise your potential as a teacher. Or, become a coach yourself and help others grow and develop in the school setting.

The definition of coaching promoted by Growth Coaching International 

“A one-to-one conversation focused on the enhancement of learning and development through increasing self-awareness and a sense of personal responsibility, where the coach facilitates the self-directed learning of the coachee through questioning, active listening and appropriate challenge in a supportive and encouraging climate.

Take Away 2 – Mistakes are OK and help our students learn

Natalie Wood promoted the idea that it’s OK to get things wrong in the classroom setting. Natalie represents the Primary sector, a sector where awe, wonder and experimenting with ideas is the norm. For some reason, perhaps exams, things get a little more serious in the Secondary school setting and we often forget about the power of mistakes as a way to learn. We shouldn’t frown on mistakes, we should embrace them.

I liked the idea that our brain can grow when we make a mistake. This is due to the ERN response and the PE response (Moser, 2011). Creating an ‘error climate’ in the classroom can liberate your students to feel confident in making mistakes, after all, FAIL really does stand for First Attempt In Learning! Natalie found from her own research that when children perceive their classroom as ‘mistake friendly’ – they increased their effort in their work. 

Take Away 3 – Take the time to get to know your neighbour!

Daisy Cordingley, Primary to Secondary transition expert proposed we take the time to visit each others schools and learn about our students

Daisy’s TED talk could be seen as controversial. However, she makes a valid point. In her role as primary to secondary transition teacher, Daisy sees first hand how prepared students are for secondary school, and gets an insight into all the amazing things our primary colleagues do to prepare their students for life beyond year 6.

As a Governor of a local Primary school, I am always blown away by the nurturing vibe and feel of the year 6 classroom. In this setting, students are often with the same teacher all day, 5 days a week, relationships build and teachers really know their students, strengths and areas for development. I have always felt this notion of having a huge divide between primary and secondary education is bizarre. Should education not just be a continuation of learning? Why the need for this transition, gulf, divide? Daisy suggests the secondary school setting and the multiple teacher nature of the 11-18 setting can cause us to overlook student ability, underestimate their ability and maturity and to a certain extent … take them backwards!

So, the big point here is; take the time to get to know your neighbours. If you are a primary teacher, spend a day in a secondary setting as CPD. Take the time to see where your students are heading to better prepare them when they arrive. Equally, if you are secondary colleague, visit your feeder primary for a day and immerse yourself in all that is great about this sector. I promise you will come away humbled by the experience.

Take Away 4: NURTURE, it’s in our NATURE

Kat McGreal presented a 10 minute TED talk on the importance of NURTURE

When preparing for TeachMeets, I am always looking for presenters with unique ideas. The Nurture movement has been growing in the UK over the past year and Kat McGreal has been at the forefront of this work locally. Kat is Head of Nurture at the Gryphon School in North Dorset. She shared with us her take on what it really takes to get the best out of students who suffer with anxiety, lack of confidence and behavioural difficulties.

Kat advocates banning the ‘F’ word, something that resonates with Natalie Wood’s take on mistake based learning cultures. She expressed how students often arrive demoralised and disengaged with education, believing they have no chance of achieving success. Through nurture groups, defined by the DfE as a short-term, focused intervention for children with particular social, emotional and behavioural difficulties which are creating a barrier to learning within a mainstream class, Kat shared with us some amazing success stories. Whilst careful not to name individual students, Kat did show us some data proving how powerful this nurture intervention had been. I know from conversations with other colleagues at the event this talk was well received and some have even made contact with kat to arrange visits to see Nurture in action. Powerful stuff!

Take Away 5 – Engage the heart and the mind will follow

If you haven’t checked out the book GUERRILLA TEACHING by Jonathon Leer, do your teaching self a favour and get your hands on a copy, it’s epic!

I shared with the audience some ideas from the brilliant Guerrilla teaching book by Jonathon Leer. Leer is a primary teacher based in North England. His book inspired me in many ways and made me re-evaluate how I teach. In the past I have always valued what I teach (content) over how I teach. Not anymore! Leer promotes the idea that if we want students to be creative then we need to model creativity ourselves. So, in a moment of self-reflection and what Leer calls ‘Magnet Eyes’ I produced a check-list to myself (below).

The word ‘ness’ is a Paul Lavis creation. It means essentially ‘mojo, vibe’

Leer describes ‘Wonderments’ as amazing moments where you engage young people’s minds and they become curious creatures capable of incredible things. I have been experimenting with Wonderments within my DNA (Do Now Activities) to start lessons. This is about ‘engaging the heart’. Questions like Do we look after the planet, or does the planet look after us?

Powerful images work equally well. How about something like, where is the sanity in this? What would happen if?

Swanage Deep Water Solo Circa 2015

Finally, I always valued engagement first, then activity which led to learning. Leer made me think Learning must come first, then activity and engagement. This, I am thankful for.

If you haven’t been to a TeachMeet yet, do it, take your brain for a walk. Thanks to all the heroes and villains who made this one happen, until next year, chow!

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