Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life


The day of #PedagooLondon had arrived. Days like these, although wonderfully inspirational, do provide sufficient moments of trepidation for me. Yesterday, I almost bottled it. All those people. All those Twitter folk. All those potential moments of small talk looming. If I wasn’t a good sleeper, it would have been a sleepless night. Fortunately, I could happily sleep through a bulldozer ploughing straight into my bedroom so a lack of sleep wouldn’t be another problem to add to my already anxiety ridden day.

Upon arrival into London I sauntered to the station toilet. I didn’t really need it. To all you extroverts out there, this is otherwise known as socialising procrastination.

Inevitably, I then got lost. I don’t know how. I never know how. I’m invariably in London when it happens. A sense of direction is something I was certainly not born with and it turns out, I’ve still not developed it. I have just under 2 years until I’m 30 and it’s my ambition to have found my sense of direction by then. I even walked in the opposite direction to a huge bunch of people talking about teaching. They were most definitely all teachers. They were almost definitely heading to Pedagoo. My gut ignored them as my gut always ignores the things that might prevent me from being lost. Something inside me still convinces me I’m not lost, when all other parts of my absolutely know, with all certainty, that I am.

Once I had reached my final destination, I sat at the back of the room and got out my phone. I texted my partner who has been away and then I started flicking through Twitter. I heard people ‘Twitter spotting’ and I realised that I should be avoiding their gaze as, horror of all horrors, someone might spot me and actually want to talk to me- in person.

Someone sat down next to me, I glanced at her, whispered ‘hi’ and returned to my phone- but to do what? I had no-one else to text, I knew I needed to avoid Twitter so I pointlessly scrolled through some old emails. I then concluded that I needed to get a grip. The small talk with the lady next to me was awkward. Terrible. I’m so boring. I have nothing of worth to say to anyone. So I started gazing around the room instead (yes, whoever you were, you probably thought me incredibly rude. I wasn’t- I was just anxious and would have loved to have spoken to you some more).

If you’re reading this and you were at #PedagooLondon then you’ll know why I didn’t come over and speak to you. My friends and family never really recognise this as an accurate description of me. Work colleagues realise this is only me in certain situations and usually before I’ve got to know people. Strangers probably just perceive me as rude and dull, which is something I’m struggling to just live with because in reality I’m lovely, open and have lots and lots to say… as the ensuing post might indicate. Some of what I’ve written below is almost word for word what the presenter shared. Other elements have been inserted as my own thoughts and I’m unsure which is which in many cases!

Rachael Stevens- The Wind of Change

The inspirational Rachael Stevens @murphiegirl presented ‘The Wind of Change’ and essentially got the room excited about the way in which education is undergoing somewhat of a transformation at present.

She began with how she had spoken to others about the fact she was going to CPD on a Saturday! In London! For free! Where lots of other teachers would be! Sharing and learning together! Who’d have thought this existed?

She then referenced the top #Twitterati who have been changing things with Ofsted. Things aren’t yet changing as much as they should be though. Yes, Ofsted policy has been changed but do all leaders, teachers and perhaps even more significantly, Ofsted Inspectors, follow it?

She reminded us that Twitter is tiny in comparison to the rest of the teaching world. Outside of us, there is a whole host of other teachers who don’t appreciate the change that is possible if we move as one group. They are still convinced that no-one will listen. Who’d have thought this existed?

This disparity in the potential of the huge changes taking place and the practice taking place in schools is sending out mixed messages, especially to the newest generation of teachers who will influence the future. This is worrying.

Rachael reminded us all that we should follow the example of individuals like @cazzypot and bravely fight against the system. Changes don’t need to come from the top. Perhaps the best and most effective changes come from within. We have the power to change things and even if we don’t, we should try or we’ll be crushed.

Paired walkthroughs and lesson studies, for her, are the greatest tools to combat graded observations. Even lesson studies in their purest form- looking at what the learners are doing, rather than the teachers, is most valuable.

She played the following video, which, quite honestly, made me want to cry.

I work in FE so the call of ‘just saying no’ to SLT who want to carry out a graded observation would be lost. Ofsted are still grading individual lessons. There are no plans to stop doing this. I am trapped but I wouldn’t change the sector I work in for the world so I suppose I’ll just have to keep fighting for whatever gains can be made from within our own organisation.

Allegedly, Socrates once said,

This quote fits so much with my current role and the progress I see occuring in our College.

Tom Sherrington- Walking the Progressive/Traditional Line

After Rachael’s wonderfully uplifting speech, I navigated my way to @headguruteacher Tom Sherrington’s room, where he’d be speaking about ‘Walking the Progressive/Traditional Line.’

Essentially, he’d be arguing that any way is the right way as long as the students are learning. I suppose that might be simplifying things but I felt that was his ultimate message.

My notes in this are, well, copious to say the least. I think I practically wrote a transcript of almost everything he said! Once again, some of the comments and phrasing are mine and not his so this may warp or simplify his points but it’s just the way I do note-making so I sort of gave you an apology there and then took it away with the other hand. Let’s just get on with it, shall we?!

Are there certain methodologies that can be correct all the time, with any set of learners? Almost definitely not!

Teachers are forever feeling like they have to justify their methods. If the end result is good enough, why is this necessary?

There are so many elements of teaching, which can all add value and no single one should be dismissed outright because it fits a certain stereotype about being ‘fun’ or indeed ‘old-fashioned.’

‘Sage on the Stage’ and ‘Guide on the Side’ are unhealthy distinctions between teaching styles, suggesting the teacher is not the expert in the room.

Moving wholly from one to the other is wrong- shouldn’t it be a combination of both?

This image (from makes everyone angry in one way or another (apparently the quote doesn’t even come from Einstein). It’s actually a childish reduction of a debate that should be happening about methods of assessment. The image polarises the two sides of the argument and prevents a legitimate discussion from taking place.

His son was asked to make a maths hat. What on earth is a maths hat in any case and how should it look?! His son stuck numbers and symbols on a wooly hat with staples. He was not challenged enough in relation to his present ability and tasks of low value can be found all over the place.

Caricatures are being made of what constitutes good and bad teaching. This renders very hard-working teachers feeling inadequate. If the students are learning then we shouldn’t be apologising for it.

Can it be said that traditional teaching leads to the crushing of creativity? Probably not…

It’s a flawed and messy argument on both sides- we need to have an awareness of both things- it naturally emerges for Tom (and through his blogs) that the two are closely related.

He spoke of the English department at his school that is exploring a ‘Poetry by Heart’ approach. Poetry is, after all, designed to be felt and experienced- not to be learnt and picked apart. He wonders how one could go about separating traditional and progressive in these lessons. The students are learning something by heart but are also taking part in performances and evaluations of language and meaning as part of this.

He is aware that everyone has feelings, emotions and dispositions, which education should also nurture.

He sees progress not merely as a set of steps moving upwards but when he tried to create an image that would represent progress as he saw it, there’d be a wholly indescribable mess of elements and that’s not helpful for teachers in ensuring that progress takes place.

He resolved that a cloud shape with jigsaw parts would be the closest representation of progress in that there are some foundation pieces that form the fundamentals and the middle pieces could be made up of whatever other elements the teacher felt led to progress in their lessons with their classes- the fluffy stuff of either traditional or progressive methods, depending upon the teacher.

Drills are important but there must also be a level of motivation and engagement in working towards the final result.

Life beyond the classroom is often ignored by teachers and any approach needs to take notice of the learning that takes place between lessons. For my sector, the recent release of the FELTAG report will render this even more important.

Trivium 21c is a book that Tom feels brings together the two ideas of teaching: traditional and progressive. It describes a synthesis of the foundations of learning as well as the energy that should accompany it.

His final analogy related to his feelings about where we should be going with all of this.

He ended by showing a picture of a tree with the roots growing down below. If we have kids who have the trunk of knowledge, then we can take them into the progressive leafy parts reaching out in all directions.

The part of this analogy that especially related to my own FE setting were the roots. If the students have never developed the fundamental elements of wonder and exploration about learning then we can’t say, ‘we’re just doing knowledge today, folks’- a combination of the elements is even more essential in these situations.

In conclusion- we need one teaching approach for the other to work.

When asked if there were any questions, one person suggested that after all he’d said, perhaps the argument was worth having. I knew that, unfortunately he’d been unable to see the light of what Tom had said. The argument isn’t necessary because the means of teaching isn’t important, as long as the end goal is achieved. End of.

Thank you Tom. You made sense to me.

After Tom’s session I had mixed feelings. There were still people who wanted this argument yet it didn’t need to be had. My hope is that through leading CPD activity at my College, I can influence changing the culture there too.

I sauntered a few doors down the corridor to my next session.
Daniel Harvey- Action Research
This session mainly did what it said on the tin. Daniel (danielharvey9) spoke about the approach his academy has taken to action research. Most of all, this session was a great deal of food for thought about the future development of our approach to CPD at College.
For those of you interested in the process, Daniel seems to have many resources that can help so get in touch with him. He also spoke to David Weston and Carol Davenport who would be two of the best people to speak to about research in education.
This is a summary of some of the steps his academy took:
Step 1- Form a question to work towards in mixed groups.
Step 2- Plan what to do and how to go about it.
Step 3- They needed to make the time for it and deadlines were set.
In mid-November an internal TeachMeet-style session took place where each group were asked to present their summary of what they were going to do. This made it real as previously many staff thought it wouldn’t even happen. All groups bar one managed to present on this deadline, which I think is incredible!
Part way through the process (January) groups were given the chance to refine and improve their own question or they could go and work with other people and form a new question.
The research they chose to conduct would ideally have an impact on other departments in the school (College) too. Ideally there’s a product that can be shared so that the impact is wider than just the people conducting that particular piece of research.
One main top tip for research that Daniel shared was to always have in mind the kinds of students you want to affect; not an entire year group but smaller groups and even individuals.
The first term of this process was really about getting teachers used to the idea of doing it and now the quality of work is a lot deeper.
The other important input is to make yourself available (or someone should be available) to answer questions and offer support to colleagues.
The work and research conducted will also be shared externally so that staff can share their work in a wider sphere. This adds another important dimension to the process and encourages staff to see the research process through to its conclusion.
I left this session thinking about how we might make action research part of the CPD offer at College but the session also gave me time to reflect on our approach to CPD in general, which is currently undergoing development. This is, I believe, one of the greatest thing about CPD in that it provides an opportunity to reflect on your work, your progress and your future direction. Who wouldn’t love that kind of an opportunity more often?!
After the once more horrible awkwardness of the break- avoiding people, eye contact and limiting movements so as far less likely to be noticed, I had realised today would not be a day when my people-related anxiety would lift. It would probably need to be endured for the remainder of the day.

Debbie and Mel- Taking the Temperature of Your Classroom

After the break, I headed to ‘Taking the Temperature of your Classroom’ with Debbie and Mel, otherwise known as the fantastic duo of @TeacherTweaks.

To be perfectly honest, their slideshow is comprehensive and covers the vast majority of their session. When shared, this is all you’ll need to see. The session mostly provoked discussion about what we do with students who are not feeling challenged enough or those who are being challenged too much.
Embedded image permalink
(Image from Debbie and Mel’s Twitter feed).
What I mostly left this session with was the resolution that I should be trying to find the balance between stretch, panic and comfort in my lessons more often. Obviously feeling stretched is the ultimate but there are moments when feeling comfortable matters too- so that students feel able to take risks and also shine. To a certain extent, I think my students should be made to feel panic sometimes too. We’re preparing students for the workplace and life. They’ll all need to be able to cope with ‘panic’. I’m certainly going to be exploring these ideas further in my classroom so thank you ladies for producing this idea and making me think about and question my practice in more detail. The best kind of CPD achieves this for me.
Their Twitter feed and slideshow from the day(once shared) contains all of the fantastic ideas they shared.
One thing that I’m definitely going to do more of is modelling on video as a flipped activity for my students; especially in relation to annotating extracts and showing my thought process as part of this.

Rachel Jones- Higher Order Thinking Skills

For me, this day needed Rachel Jones @rlj1981. A truly inspirational lady who shared some fabulous ideas, which can all be found here.

She began her session by playing Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’ and then I realised that great music and a comfortable environment was exactly what can put me at ease when my anxiety has kicked in. Her classrooms must be a truly awesome place to be.

Her session was all about using engaging activities to achieve higher order thinking skills. Fun isn’t the aim but it is a convenient outcome.
I’m especially going to explore more ideas around 3D planning and using sellotape to attach ideas to around the room. Things could get messy!
I then realised I’d lost my coat. I had to leave to get my train and left my coat behind.
I have been feeling down all evening that I couldn’t be Mrs Sociable and outgoing today but sometimes, for some often unfathomable reason, I just can’t, no matter how many pep talks I give myself. Give me a room full of students or teachers and have me delivering then I’m fine but give me a room full of people to socialise with and I just freeze.
Apologies to those many, many Twitter people that I would have loved to have met and/or just spoken to more than ‘Hi’- Fran Loxley Rachel Jones Louisa Enstone Debbie and Mel Jo Baker Shanie Nash Keven Bartle David Didau Shanie Nash Dan Williams and many others too! Most of all @hgaldinoshea who I only spoke to in a panic about my coat, as if she didn’t have enough to organise! She now has my coat. I feel like a kid. I’m really sorry for not speaking to you properly and still lumbering you with my coat 🙁 You did a fantastic job of organising such a wonderful day- thank you!
This was a perfect day of thought-filling CPD. I now have a target for next time I attend something similar- actually talk to someone- at some point. If anyone else at all is in the same boat and fancies meeting up prior to any such future event then please let me know!

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

7 Responses

  1. Hannah-Thankyou!

    As someone that lives Oop North & rarely gets past Nottingam your summary of Pedagoo London is extremely useful!
    Clearly the benefits of being ‘quiet at the back’ & not multitasking on Twitter allowed you to produce this brilliantly detailed account of the event & speakers.
    For what it’s worth-even those who appear to be confident in meeting new friends from twitter are just as nervous and apprehensive as you are.
    It’s perfectly normal behaviour!

    Thanks again for your post and if we ever go to the same conference/tweet up/event etc it would be a real pleasure to meet up beforehand.

    Julian @ideas_factory

    1. Hi Julian,
      I used to be a northener myself and I have to say I’m pretty jealous of you at present. Could do with a bit of north right now!:-)

      Thank you for your really lovely comments. I really appreciate them and thank you for taking the time to share them.

      It would be a real pleasure to meet you too. Perhaps one day our paths will cross.

      Thanks again. This comment is so very kind.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Hannah – really good to read detailed notes on sessions I didn’t manage to get to, but would have loved to have heard. There was such a lot of choice!

    Sorry not to speak to you on the day, and hope, perhaps, that we manage it at a future event. I’d love to have the opportunity to get to know you better….

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