Tag Archives: teaching

TeachMeet Streatham 2017

This year’s TeachMeet Streatham took ‘creativity’ as its theme. At the end of tiring half-term where exam classes are finally sent off to face their fate , most teachers are feeling anything but creative.  However, the chance to meet colleagues from a variety of schools and hear some inspirational speakers is exactly what was required to energise us for the final push to the summer holidays.

After Dr. Millan Sachania (@millansachania) opened the evening with an anecdote about the importance of creativity, James Mannion (@rethinking_ed)   took the floor. He helpfully looked at the difference between understanding and creativity and discussed how we can be creative in a fixed system. He believes one of the answers lies in schools running ‘Learning to Learn’ courses to give the pupils the freedom to think creatively as they complete a number of project-based tasks.

The enthusiasm of Nikki Snelgrove (@NikkiSnelgrove)  encouraged everyone in the room to take risks in their teaching which might mean letting go of the traditional teaching model. She extolled the power of flipped learning and shared some of the practicalities of how to make it work.

Having moved into a senior leadership role this year, I was particularly interested to hear Dr Jill Berry (@jillberry102) on ‘creative leadership’.  Although her recent research has been about making the move from deputy to head, she was adamant that we are all leaders as every teacher is a leader in their classroom. She encouraged us to think about the best and worst leaders we have experienced to help us understand where we are aiming and what  pitfalls to avoid.

As leaders we need to not only value our teams, but understand them and get the balance right between supporting them and challenging them.  Using an analogy of animals, we must  think about the foxes, owls, lambs and donkeys in our schools and how to get the best from each one of them.

Jonnie Noakes (@JonnieNoakes) then took us through some of the latest research into creativity in education before Toby Cooper and Emily Mundy gave us some practical examples of the creative approaches in dramatherapy.

The penultimate speaker Debra Kidd (@debrakidd) talked about the complexities all teachers face thrown up by the intellectual, physical, emotional and socio-cultural needs of our pupils.  While there is much that is not in the teacher’s control, if complexity is planned for, then it is amazing the impact that we can make.

Jaz Ampaw-Farr (@jazampawfarr) had no doubt about the impact that teachers had made in her life. She breathed fresh air into the room with her powerful personal account of how teachers can make a difference. Using the tragicomedy of her own life, she implored us to see failure as an opportunity. At the end , she gave us an ‘I am a mistak artist’ badge.  Let us not be afraid of failure, but see it as an opportunity to get creative.

What can we do differently? What risks can we take? How can we be creative?

Roll on #TMStreatham 2018!



Let’s start at the Finnish

It’s a new year which comes with new resolutions. However, my resolution isn’t new. It has been my ambition for many years to learn Finnish. Why Finnish, a notoriously complicated language with 15 cases belonging to the obscure Finno-Ugric language group? The most obvious reason is that my mother is Finnish, but I think the real reason is my love of learning.

There is a joy to be in the classroom learning new things, grappling with new concepts and developing new skills. There is also the thrill of succeeding and making progress; feeling the sense of accomplishing something worthwhile. I’m sure that many teachers have felt the highs of learning and perhaps joined the profession to enable others to feel the same.

Did I already mention that Finnish is very difficult language? While there are highs in learning the language, there are also many lows: trying to learn vocabulary that bears no relation to English, choosing the correct ending for every noun you utter and trying to pronounce combinations of tongue-twisting vowels. Don’t even get me started on consonant gradation!

As teachers, we naturally find our own subjects easy and we can forget what is like to be the learner in the classroom. Going back into the classroom and encountering problems and challenges can remind us that learning can be tough and slow-going. It allows us to empathise with our pupils, but more importantly to develop the strategies which we can share to help our pupils persevere and move forward from failure.

Teachers should never stop learning. I firmly believe that only learners can become effective teachers. How can you teach effectively if you can’t remember the joys and challenges of learning? Teachers don’t even need to take up a new subject or skill as there is much to be learned about teaching itself. There is no excuse for teachers not to undertake CPD, whether it is through INSET days, book groups or Teach Meets. Doing the learning is just as important as what we learn.

On Monday, I start attending Finnish lessons. When I’m finding it tricky to stick with my resolution, I should remember that I can’t expect my pupils to persevere, if I don’t.