On Saturday I awoke with the birds at 4.30 to catch the 5.40 Manchester train to attend Primary Rocks LIVE. A teaching conference. In Manchester. On your day off. Are you mental? Maybe a little bit. But it was worth it. There was free ice-cream and everything.
I started following @primaryrocks1 on Twitter about a year a go. The weekly Monday night chat became an essential lurker and then participatory event. Enthusiastic, knowledgable, engaged primary teachers all sharing practice and being funny with it too. I’ve picked up loads of tips, links and new interesting people to follow along the way. So,when Primary Rocks Live was announced, I jumped at the chance.
Social media suits the introvert. I’m not great at meeting new people or even saying hello. And true to the words of the song, you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties.
Some people who know me will be a bit perplexed by that, but I cover it up well. So, half way down on the train, I too was considering my actions a bit mental. Then I made a list of reasons to be cheerful. 1 2 3.
Reason 1: I think Scottish Education needs more primary focused face to face events. And we need to be more political. We have two primary Facebook groups with over 10000 teachers in each, some enthusiastic Twitter chats and bloggers but nothing that actually brings us altogether in the one room saying look at us, we are teachers, we are bloody good and proud of what we do, and we are a force to be reckoned with. Scottish secondary teachers have lots of subject specific associations for History, Maths, Geography, Technologies and the like. Most of us are in the EIS union, which serves its own purpose, but is politically lacklustre (not in terms of activism but in effecting the conditions for change). For me pedagogy and praxis are one in the same. Other than Facebook, Scottish primary teachers have no real unifying body or event. I’m not talking about better leadership, rather shared leadership amassing a positive collective voice. A way to be heard over the caterwaul din of systematic professional negativity, yet spiking poorly conceived national or local policy with authentic feedback from those at the grassroots of the profession.
Reason 2: CPD / CLPL, however you tag it, has died a death. There is no class cover, let alone a variety of courses to wet the appetite. The Scottish Learning Festival used to be amazing. Honestly. Room 13 and Creativity, Derek Robertson and Games Based Learning and Stephen Heppell were just 3 life changing experiences I took away from previous festivals. When, importantly, they were led by teachers and pupils. I was involved professionally as part of my secondment with Education Scotland and they were fairly bland corporate affairs. Hardly any teachers were there, either. It was during the week and there is simply no capacity in the system for cover.
Reason 3: There is no substitute for face to face professional development. I had researched loads about Genius Hour but it was only after spending half an hour with the brilliant @grahamandre I really understood it and could see how to take it forward. The same too went for the sessions by @watsed, @ataleunfolds and @misssmerril. Each passionately sharing how they gently persuaded parents into reading through outdoor learning, challenged teachers to make pupils producers not just passive consumers of media, and instilled the skills and craft of lifelong creativity though the making of magical sketchbooks in art. Hearing about all these things face to face lifts them off the the Twitter feed and the URL link into something truly transformational. Keynote speakers @mrlockyer, @HYWEL_ROBERTS and @redgierob all shared common grounds of a learning environment and attainment characterised by warmth and relationships and not tests and damaging accountability measures.
There were countless other presentations I missed that I would have love to have heard. Everyone gave up their time for free. Because they wanted to. Because they care. Because they are teachers. Strength in numbers. A growing movement, a gang. Politically aware too. The Labour shadow education Lucy Powell attended. She was rubbish and noncommittal but at least she turned up. There was also some dude on the panel discussion making nonsensical arguments about the ineffectiveness of creativity in education and how we should test more not less. Which is fine. We don’t all have to agree but we desperately need the chance for extended dialogue.
@mrlockyer ended the day by deftly questioning the cold setting on laminators and pointing out that we are a caring profession and should cherish moments like this that remind us of why we reach out to children in the first place.
Make learning beautiful he said.
And @redgierob closed with a clip from the wonderful film, Pride.
Yes, the pupils must have bread, but we must give them roses too. A whole lotta roses. And if you disagree then you are in the wrong profession,quite frankly.
Did I mention the bit about the free ice-cream?
More blogs I’ve read recently covering similar themes of how to rejuvenate informal professional development and voice for the Scottish teaching profession:
A time to be brave http://justtryingtobebetter.net/a-time-to-be-brave-invest-in-teaching/
TeachMeet Scot http://fkelly.co.uk/2016/03/teachmeetscot/
Finding your voice http://linkis.com/gg1952.blogspot.com/mGJJt
Voices in my head https://knowitshowit.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/voices-in-my-head/