“The irony of life is that it is lived forward but understood backward.” Soren Kierkegaard
It is true, we experiment, we guess, we hypothesize, but ultimately we learn through our mistakes, reflections and experiences. As teachers reflective practice is incredibly valuable but we must think about the future by asking ourselves ‘so what?’ in order to make best use of our reflections and attempt to ‘understand forward’ as much as is possible.
Following on from my cluster’s professional learning focus last year on visible learning and teaching in reading, I identified that I had elements of visible learning and teaching that were having a positive impact within my classroom but in order to achieve strong visible learning and teaching I had to re-think how I planned and delivered my lessons. Now, I attempt to focus more time on the thinking of ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what if’ during planning, teaching and learning rather than just delivering teaching and providing feedback. The feedback I get from pupils is more positive when lessons are delivered in this way as they find them more engaging and enjoyable and also feel a sense of accomplishment as they are aware of what they have learnt, why they have learnt it, how well they have done and what they need to do in order to improve. With this deeper learning I observe that the pupils are able to apply this learning to other contexts and challenges and the language they use around this is more confident and succinct.
From further reflections after reading about the work of Hattie and Loughran I have identified 3 bits of learning to take forward –
- The time spent on visible learning and teaching is valuable and although I am constantly tempted to skip the discussion time in order to keep up with expectations of pace of work set by my school, I need to remember that the pace of work is not worth anything without visible learning and teaching, as the learning will end up being re-visited at another point.
- I am more confident with visible learning in literacy and social studies curricular areas and need to start applying this thinking to learning and teaching in numeracy and science. I plan to read work from ‘Jo Boaler’ to support this.
- I need to use the skills of the pupils in providing feedback to one another as the feedback will be useful in itself but the act of providing real, evidenced feedback will make learning more visible for the pupils.
I was confident when beginning this task, I know what I believe in, I understand my personal and professional values well. I didn’t think it would be difficult to share this.
Turns out I was a bit naive. When I looked at the reflective questions that matched the values, the answers to the reflective questions did not come as easily as I initially thought.
- If I am committed to social justice, what does that actually look like in my classroom/daily interactions with pupils/colleagues/school community?
Whilst reading through the values I was very confident that commitment to social justice was a strength of mine however, this is the question that stumped me the most so I challenged myself to put it into this blog. After much thinking I decided that the reason I couldn’t put my finger on a particular method or technique I use was because I don’t consciously plan to do this in a particular way, there is no tick list because social justice is instilled in every action and decision I make. The way I was brought up and those around me have developed this as a value behind all of my thinking. My head teacher and school ethos supports this so it makes it very easy to commit to ensuring social justice without having to overthink it.
- Do I value all learners/people I support? In what ways?
- Who do I find it challenging to support? Why is that? Do I need to know something more to help me work with those people? How might I interact differently?
The answer to the first part of this question was easy, of course I do! But how could I evidence how this looked in my classroom?
I frequently discuss barriers to learning with pupils and make them aware that these can be continuous throughout their education or can come and go with different changes in their life. I strongly believe in opportunities for all and encourage pupils to try opportunities even if it is within an aspect of learning they don’t feel confident in. I have high expectations of myself and this spills over to all my pupils but is relevant to their qualities and needs and what is achievable for them as individuals. I’m very open with my pupils and frequently ask them to provide feedback on lessons and teaching which can be scary, but very helpful in ensuring all learners are included and supported in a way to suit them. I find it challenging to support those who don’t want to work and don’t want to cooperate with you to find a solution. Confident Staff, Confident Children training helped me to think beyond what you see on a day to day basis and look further into the background of the child and what might be a barrier for them that is harder to identify. This has helped me to build relationships with those children in order to hold them accountable for their learning with sensitive support based on their circumstances.
This task has made me reflect deeper into what I already thought I knew about myself. It has forced me to think about how I carry out these values and why I have them rather than just what I believe in. There are no tick lists, it comes from within and works in collaboration with the shared values of people around you.
Teacher Leadership is a phrase that has only come to my attention within the last year or so. However, it doesn’t appear to be a new concept or ‘bandwagon’ to jump on. In a time where teacher wellbeing is needing more and more attention, Teacher Leadership is allowing practitioners to think about the most important things, Learning and Teaching. During my Teacher Leadership induction day, a fellow participant described Teacher Leadership as ‘a personal development experience suited to your specific time, place and environment’. Finding the time to critically reflect on practice, discuss, and look for how to develop further with the help of supportive friends is what we all wish for and Teacher Leadership allows this to happen. Buzz words and new concepts are thrown around a lot in staff rooms, CAT sessions and classrooms all over Scotland and often people are hesitant when new programmes or initiatives are introduced. Teacher Leadership is not a buzz word, it isn’t new, it is a crucial opportunity for teachers and learners to develop in a supportive, friendly environment. I can’t wait to get started on the Teacher Leadership Programme 2018-19 but I’m hoping the skills I learn won’t just last for this year and that I can continue this method of practice into my future years of teaching. If Teacher Leadership is a bandwagon then I’m jumping on and staying on for a long time!
My name is Faye Nicholson and I’m currently teaching Primary Seven at Kingsland Primary School in Peebles, Scottish Borders. I also live in Peebles so frequently get strange looks from pupils who suddenly realise I don’t live in the cupboard in my classroom! I’m very active and love sport. I particularly enjoy athletics and used to compete in long jump despite my allergy to sand… I now enjoy slightly less serious training and attend fun exercise classes like Clubbercise and Highland Hustle. I recently got engaged so life is also full of wedding planning and excitement at the moment.
I’m excited to start the SCEL TLP 2018 and am looking forward to meeting and chatting to lots of different teachers to discuss what is going on around Scotland. I’m excited to engage with others through the blogs and build professional relationships to support this programme. I hope to grow in confidence with my reflections and make these more critical and purposeful to enhance my future development. The unknown workload is my biggest apprehension going into the course however, the supportive environment for managing the workload is reassuring.