Thought shrapnel: #TLT13 review. Bedrock, mantras and roots


I forget where I first picked up the term ‘thought shrapnel,’ I think it may have been Doug Belshaw.  Putting that aside, the first Teaching and Learning Takeover yesterday was full of thought grenades.  It was the perfect antidote to seven weeks of a new school and role.  This isn’t a cry for help, I’m big enough and ugly enough to be ok, but I’ve been feeling a bit lost this term. Being a net learner rather than contributor is not my usual gear.  For that purpose, it was fantastic to bump into old and new friends.  It’s really true, when people you respect tell you the same thing, the message sinks in.  The event, for me, was like finding that elusive gold at the end of the rainbow.  I came away from Southampton University with a mind like this:

Wood through the trees

I can for the first time, see a clear path though the trees.  Thing is, it was already in my head – I just needed help to find it.

Although there was a little bit too much gratuitous Gove and Daily Mail bashing for my taste, I left #TLT13 inspired and with a clear plan and actions that I will put in to place soon.  It’s the most useful and timely CPD I’ve received for a long time. I’ve even revisited my manifesto.  What follows is a review of the event from a personal perspective, with a smattering of action points.

Jamie Portman’s opening rallying cry hit a chord: do simple things that have a high impact.  As attendees had given up a Saturday, Jamie reminded and challenged us to take what we found back into our schools and classrooms.  Giving up a Saturday for me makes sense as it doesn’t impact on the time spent in school.  Jamie pointed out that schools are far more than the buildings in which they inhabit, they are communities of people.  I also liked the way in which Jamie made the distinction between his own views and those of his school.  He was there representing himself. 

Jamie ended with this video:


I’ve always been someone who wears my heart on my sleeve, and what I took away from Jamie’s talk is that I need to find the bravery to share what I feel, think and believe.  I was also reminded that as a senior leader I perhaps shouldn’t be tempted to tinker and play around at the fringes of things and certainly never be the source of more new initiatives than Nick Clegg who is desperately trying to convince us that he’s different from them Tories.  Instead, decisions should be made with an understanding of their impact, be based upon a deep knowledge of a school’s context and pedagogy and take into account the workload implications. In other words, what is the evidence that we need to make this change beyond the Oftsed report action points.

Next I headed to Kev Bartle’s session focused upon leadership.  I share Kev’s passion for extended metaphors so therefore enjoyed how he linked the main protagonists in The Gruffalo to characters familiar to those working within the British school system. Kev shared his school’s journey to make pedagogy infectious.  The approach was not a rush to innovate but to build an approach to pedagogy over time.  I like this long term approach and took away the way in which his school didn’t shy away from using the word ‘pedagogy’ and this echoes my own thoughts on what learning actually is.

I really enjoyed listening to the grass roots approach taken to improve pedagogy and it’s something that I plan to reflect further upon. I’ve realised that I need to build upon the work started at my previous school where teachers were given responsibility for leading CPD and developing pedagogy.

The final session I headed to was John Tomsett. He’s already blogged about his session which was about developing a growth mindset within a school.  Again, there was a focus on using a grass roots approach.  I found John’s session very useful and took away the following:

  • If you’re trying to change a school’s culture (or implement anything widespread), keep it simple.
  • One participant pointed out that we should all be aiming to get every child an A*.
  • The power of mantra: a simple message to reinforce over and over.
  • Using the mindset questionnaire with students and staff.
  • Intervention (aka personalised CPD) also needs to happen to staff as well as students.

Again, all things that were in my head already but not fully formed into a plan.  I guess the next step is to put it into action!

Massive thanks to David and Jenn for putting together this masterpiece.

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