My dream model of learning.

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In many, many ways educators stand on the shoulders of the giants that go before us.  In this post, it’s the many sources of inspiration out there, especially the Staffrm crowd who fed into the feedback.  You see, I only ever hold my ideas lightly, but I’ll still fight you for them…. It’s struck me over the past year that the online community is not wholly healthy for education.  To me, it represents a healthy dose of state the obvious (dressing old ideas up with new language and buzz words) blended with utter pointless arguments.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good argument, but there are many offline colleagues that provide endless inspiration and challenge. 

I include myself in this.

It’s been a brutal year, one characterised by redundancies and a drop in outcomes with all of the pressure that generates.  What’s important  is that we dust off and continue to face the storm.  This post comes about as the result of countless runs and a certain colleagues always asking me what I’d do with a magic wand.  I’ve been leading learning all my life, and as a member of SLT for two years, so I thought I’d have a stab at articulating what learning means to me.  It’s inspired by Noel Jenkins who posted about his ultimate KS3 scheme of work back when we had a decent Government…..

It’s put here to invite comment.  It may be naive in places and totally based on bugger all but what I think – but deep down there’s a little more than that.  It no doubt will change. The diagram itself was inspired by reading Legacy, the story of the All Blacks (as a Welshman I won’t mention Graham Henry….).  I image the school that I lead will have a mural of it somewhere….  There’s a heavy influence there from my previous Head too and it al;so matches the logo of my current school.  In an ideal world, it would be open to co-construction.  This isn’t an exhaustive explanation of every element, if you’d like that buy me a pint some day…

What is the point of school

The idea is that the aim of ‘Every individual achieves more than they thought possible’ is based upon the foundations of a coherent vision, quality CPD and the three pillars.  If any one element is allowed to crumble, the whole thing falls down.  Bear in mine that I consider all individuals in a school as a learner.

What is the point of school? This is the school’s vision that should be contextualised within the community that it sits.  This is the point of turning up in the morning and must be more than an Ofsted grade.

CPD is the basis of everything.  I’ve long held the belief that teachers are the change agents within any school and that they need investment in time to ensure that they are ready.  Sometimes CPD should just be inspiration and celebration.  It doesn’t have to cost lots of money.  Get CPD wrong and the overall aim will be missed.  Sure, we may reach targets, but we want more than that.

The three pillars: In no particular order:

Learning Behaviours: Developing a love of teaching and intellectual curiosity:  This is about teaching subjects really well and beyond the exam specification or curriculum requirements.  It’s about teachers using their passion and subject knowledge to instil a love of learning:

  • Routines – I firmly believe that if you get the first 5-10 minutes of a lesson right, the rest will follow.  Meet them at the door and say hello and have something for them to get on with straight away.  Behaviour routines are essential and should be applied consistently.
  • No excuses – there are often stories behind individuals  and these are often used to avoid engagement and learning. We need to look beyond that….
  • GRIT – This is important.
  • Geographical Rucksack – I know, I am a geographer, but young people and adults all come with their own perspectives and ideas.  It changes their behaviour and, although I think kids are kids wherever you are, schools do have unique characteristics dictated by their local area.  We need to understand these and harness them to create powerful learning opportunities.
  • Modelling – the best teaching always has the right balance of modelling – not too much that it’s spoon feeding, but enough to show the way.  I’ve put it here because I think it’s more important for teachers to be modelling the learning behaviours that we expect in young people, from the please and thank you to reading a book to admitting when you’re stuck.

Teacher Behaviours: Teachers love teaching: I’ve worked with individuals who obviously don’t like teacher or children and this perplexes me. There are many occupations that are well paid and require neither tact, patience or being around young people.  To me, if teachers aren’t invested in and don’t love their job, the aim of education is lost.  This doesn’t mean endless hours rather passion and enthusiasm.  Understanding that many young people don’t mean it personally when they tell you to fuck off.  We are the adults and they deserve a second chance.

  • Beliefs – teachers have a range of beliefs about all sorts of stuff and this is healthy.  Above all, they should believe in what they do and what works for young people. Different ways of teaching is all fine – it’s what works.
  • Pedagogy – teachers need to be experts in this but not be deliverers of external lesson plans and ideas.
  • Subject – I’ve worked with some inspirational Primary school teachers this year that have shown me that we set the bar too low at Secondary.  In either phase or subject, we need to be experts in it.  Plus, we need to help for advice when we need it.  I’ve no problem with the online stores of lesson plans and resources, but a teacher needs knowledge of their subject, school, class and pedagogy to enable them to modify them so that learning happens over time.
  • Exam – getting young people examination results is our bread and butter.  Get over it.
  • Students – I use data to start conversations but I never reduce young people to a percentage.  This is about teachers knowing their classes and their children.

Curriculum Design: Making learning memorable: Let’s face it – it doesn’t matter how good your children and teachers are if the curriculum is pants. When I became a Head of Geography, I knew it was about redesigning curriculum that was going to make the difference.  This takes time.  I’ve included what I believe to be the most important elements to weave in over a curriculum, not within lessons.


Overall, teachers need to be taking decisions in order for learning to happen. Research, by the way, is included in CPD.

Anyway, there is ale to drink and a 50 mile run to prepare for, so I’ll leave it there now.

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