Well, what a day Saturday 8th March was! Pedagoo London returned, courtesy of the (and I know I’m biased here, but I don’t care) wonderful Hélène. The first event under this moniker was the best education conference I’ve ever been to in terms of the genuine warmth it exuded. I was worried beforehand that the 2014 reboot (to use the seemingly de rigeur term) wouldn’t come close to capturing that essence, but it did. And how.
With that in mind I want to keep this post simple and reflect upon the things I enjoyed most about the day, partly for the benefit of anyone who cares to read this post, but mainly to preserve in blog-aspic a little bit of what gave me a warm glow on the Sunday morning that followed.
Rachael Stevens’ Keynote
If you don’t follow @murphiegirl on twitter, then what are you waiting for!?! Go do it now. This post will be waiting for you when you come back.
All done? Good.
You see, Rachael is twitter’s equivalent of Ronseal Woodstain. She does exactly what it says on the tin. A genuinely no-nonsense online presence who knows what she likes and likes what she bloody well knows. When Hélène selected her to be the keynote speaker at this year’s gig, I just knew she was going to deliver something good. And she did.
No twitter folksiness and self-congratulatory back-slapping here, she began by reminding us that the teaching world doesn’t revolve around these 140 character-long soundbite squabbles and solipsisms, even as she recognised the tremendous impact that certain twitter luminaries appear to be having upon the movers and shakers of Sanctuary House and environs (I say ‘appear’ only because politicians are an adept bunch and we may soon find ourselves as little more than tomorrow’s chip-wrappings).
She gently chided her own Head on at least three occasions without ever letting us think him some kind of monster. I can imagine that she’s happy to do exactly the same to his face, and I picture him nodding and smiling along to this even as he may never read it.
Most of all though, I loved her call to us as authors of our own destinies (the Trojan Mice of my own keynote a year ago) to control what we have it in our power to control, from working collaboratively to reclaim the professional ‘learning’ from ‘Learning Walks’ to the utterly sensible suggestion that we ‘just say no’ when offered a grade for an observed lesson and instead ask only for developmental feedback.
I smiled all the way through, knowing that this was EXACTLY what H would have wanted: no Gove-bashing, no desperation, no ego. Just what it said on the tin.
Steve Hickman on the Elephant in the Room
I’ll be honest here: I went to see Steve for three reasons other than interest in his session synopsis. Firstly, he had one of the best titled sessions of the lot and I’m a sucker for an intriguing title. Second, he was a first-time presenter and I love seeing those making their way into the fray. Thirdly, he’s a Harrow teacher and a colleague of Hélène’s which had to make him a good bet. I wasn’t disappointed.
Despite his initial nerves (oh how I remember those from last year!), he imparted some gems from the world of psychotherapy (splitting is with me to stay) and genuinely made me reflect upon a couple of students with whom I have had cripplingly awkward relationships in the past three years. In doing so, and more importantly for when I come across similar students in the future, he genuinely made me reflect upon my own role in the dynamic of those relationships. I suspect that this will be the slowest burning but most rewarding of all my ‘take-aways’ from the day.
Daniel Harvey on Lesson Study
I suspect he’ll hate me for including him in this, but include him I will. If there was ever a man who epitomized the word ‘stalwart’ it is my good friend Daniel. He is ever-ready for me when I need him, and as I am starting out on my own lesson study journey I needed to hear this session.
The best thing about the session was that he didn’t try to gild the lily in any way at all. To be honest I don’t think he knows how to apply a coat of gloss to his reflections, which was perfect for what the room required. From his initial explanations of the stalled first attempts through to his lottery-like review of staff feedback on the process (the good, the bad and the ugly as is almost always the case) he told it like it was.
Most of all though, I was so pleased that he showed us all that the lesson study approach needs to be both iterative and incremental. In doing so, he set me up beautifully for the key points of my plenary session. The work his school is doing on this is ‘everyday exceptional’ and I only hope that my own school can follow in their footsteps.
Andrew Old and his Halo Effect
My one and only regret of the day was that I didn’t get to see Andrew make his non-anonymous debut at one of these bottom-up educational conferences at which he has so often been in attendance. Like most people in the twittersphere I have sparred with Andrew on a number of occasions: I still have the scars to prove it. But unlike many, I’ve never felt the need to unfollow or block him because I love what he brings to what might otherwise be the echo chamber he refers to in his selfless curated blogsite.
I don’t know if he knows it but I even wrote this blogpost about him at a time when I felt he was being too harsh on those around him. And, if you care to read it I hope you can see the respect I have for him. If not, to quote the man himself, “you have lost the argument”.
Thus I was very happy, for both him and Hélène, when he agreed to run this session. And when I saw him last week and heard how nervous he was ahead of the session, I knew she had made yet another great choice. He’s a man who clearly cares and that was very much reflected in the tweets I saw coming from people who were in his session.
In case you’re thinking I’m building him up too much then think again. As this, my favourite, image of the day shows, he does indeed have a halo and it shone very brightly on Saturday. It’s good to have him fishing closer to the shore.
Keven Bartle’s DIRTy ToEs and AGILE Ways
Do I dare put my own sessions as a highlight of the day? Yes, I do. They went well and were well-received by the lovely people who came to see me.
The DIRTy ToEs session was a real pleasure. It came from this blogpost on my school teaching and learning blogsite, Canons Broadside. I love talking about what I’m learning as a teacher, but am always wary about doing so because I honestly believe that SLT members shouldn’t oversell their talents in the classroom given all of the advantages they have when observations roll around.
I had most of the slides planned for a TeachMeet that never happened and so was pleased to be able to use then on this occasion. I supplemented the ‘teacher input’ phase with activities to make the participants consider how they could apply the techniques in their own classrooms for their own subjects. It seemed to work and I earnestly hope many of them get as much out of the process as I have.
My plenary session was also one of my highlights because, unlike last year, I had next to no panicked moments. I spent plenty of time scribbling down my thoughts but, when push came to shove, I was able to toss them aside for most of the session. I only picked them back up in order to pick out parts of the day that linked well with my theme.
That theme, stolen from computing for the second year running, was about teachers (and particularly the teachers in the room) becoming AGILE in their individual – as opposed to institutional – self-improvement and self-development planning. I’ll blog about the main points of the session another time, but the gist is that we need to focus tightly, be responsive and keep the end goal of student learning (not progress) in mind all the time. Most of all, though, I wanted to finish with a message for teachers to pay attention to their own needs and own interactions ahead of everything else. In doing so I got to pay a small tribute to a great twitter friend, Jonathan Curley (@MrPalomar1) who sadly died some sixth months ago. Many thanks to Gwen for the idea to include Jon: it made everything else feel human-sized again.
The Square Pig and Pen TeachMeet
At Pedagoo London last year the evening TeachMeet was amazing. Chris Waugh’s tour de force and Jude Enright’s beautiful performance were worth the entrance fee alone (I’ll avoid mentioning the fact that there was no entrance fee).
This year’s evening session may not have been such a barnstormer in some ways but it was possibly the strongest TeachMeet I have been to in terms of the content of the presentations. Andy Knill was short but very sweet, Oliver Quinlan was excellent, my colleague Athena Pitsillis drew appreciative nods from around the room. And then there was Jill Berry!! To meet someone with such a wonderful twitter persona who is even more so in the flesh is one of the things I love most about events such as Pedagoo London. The fact that she reminded me so much of the best Head I have ever worked for was an added bonus. I hope it won’t be the last time I meet her.
I know I’ve gone all gooey in this blogpost, and I haven’t even found the time to mention all of the lovely people I met on the day, old friends such as David Fawcett through to new ones such as Dan Williams.
But above all else that made me smile on Sunday morning about this year’s Pedagoo London, it was the opportunity to see Hélène smiling that I will remember most. She works like a Trojan to get this event onto the calendar. She supports every presenter so that they want to make the day an unequivocal success. She works minor miracles to ensure that people attending get to see whoever they want to see. But most of all she cares about teachers and their development and, as Fearghal Kelly pointed out in a tweet, she ‘gets’ what the Pedagoo spirit is all about and makes it live and breathe in this event. What has really stood out in the tweets and blogposts written since Saturday is how much this caring and this spirit has passed from her through to her presenters and, through them, to the teachers who attended the day. And that’ll do.
Until Pedagoo London 2015, at least.