Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.
Seth Godin – Linchpins.
I recently submitted my evidence for the NPQML qualification and thought it may be useful to share my experience. The qualification is a middle leaders qualification which looks at the challenges of being a middle leader from a variety of perspectives.
The qualification requires participants to undertake a school based project. I was already involved in a number of whole school projects so decided to use something that I was already doing and felt passionately about. My project looked at creating more opportunities for staff to engage with effective, meaningful CPD across the school. For me I don’t see this as work but as something I really enjoy doing – finding innovative and creative ways to engage staff with CPD with intent of improving experiences for students beyond just those that I teach. This is my art.
My project had a clear trajectory.
- Assemble a group of great teachers.
- Plan and deliver a 50 minute CPD marketplace session.
- Plan and deliver a school INSET day (each member of the team would deliver a workshop).
- Plan and deliver a TeachMeet.
I collected evidence as I went along with some of the highlights below:
The one key element that made the project worthwhile were the people. The group of teachers I managed to get together and work with were (and still are) truly remarkable people – doing everything in their power to help young people. It was a real inspiration for me to work with this group and made me want to work even harder and take on more challenges. The people I met at the away days during the course were also a great source of inspiration and challenge. One of the best parts of the course was meeting people outside of my school and talking about teaching, learning and the challenges of middle leadership. Teachers talking about teaching.
My advice to people interested in enrolling on the course – find something you are truly passionate about that will make a positive change and then make it happen. If you can’t get on the course do it anyway. Don’t do the course for the sake of getting a certificate – do it because you want to make a difference. Find you art and make it happen.
In my last post on leading whole school CPD for teaching staff I described my plan for the year and my thinking behind it. Now that the first term is over it seems like a good time to reflect on how the schools vision for genuinely continual, personalised CPD is taking shape.
At my school CPD sessions are scheduled every other Wednesday afternoon throughout the whole year. During term 1 these sessions were given over to departments. This has been really popular with staff and has enabled departments to recap and embed expectations whilst sharing great practice. In preparation for this department heads were asked to submit a plan for the sessions (brief summary of what would be covered in each session). This was really useful for me as I was able to see at a glance what departments were working on and also start to connect the dots across the school – linking up departments that were focusing on similar things.
Outside of the Wednesday afternoon sessions being run in departments I now had term 1 to set up and embed optional CPD activities for staff, something that had not happened before in school. Before I outline some of the optional activities, first let me explain my thinking behind this approach.
In John Kotter’s book ‘Accelerate’ he puts forward an idea of how great organisations stay creative and innovative as they grow in size. When most start up companies begin they don’t tend to have a hierarchical structure, instead they work in small groups that collaborate and innovate with flow. This is in essence one of the driving forces behind successful start up companies – their ability to work in a way that is free from hierarchical structures which encourages and enables innovation and creativity. Ironically as these companies grow into large organisations they tend to develop a more structured hierarchy and lose the spark of creativity they once had when they were a small start up. Kotter argues that the truly great organisations run what he calls a dual-operating system – they have a structural hierarchy to ensure organisational accountability but they also deliberately create opportunities for groups of people to get together and collaborate outside of this structure.
This is what I wanted to create with optional CPD activities – opportunities for people (regardless of job role) to get together and collaborate on things they are interested in. Making these groups optional means you get the right people on the bus at the beginning which increases the chances of success. Success is teachers talking about teaching. Success is collaborating in meaningful ways which empowers people to take action and improve because they feel passionately about doing so.
With Kotter’s dual operating system in mind I went about setting up a few optional CPD activities over the course of the first term…
15 minute forums.
Over the course of the first term we have held three 15 minute forums on Friday lunch times. Each session is lead by a member of teaching staff and attendance is completely optional. These sessions serve as a great opportunity for colleagues to share ideas and discuss them in more detail. The worry is always ‘will anyone turn up?!’ Thankfully numbers have been good with sessions ranging from 15-20 colleagues in attendance. Sessions this term have included:
- Positive relationships with staff and students.
- Effective mind-mapping techniques for revision.
- Learning dialogue.
What has been really pleasing is that the sessions are not necessarily about someone giving you a ‘silver bullet’ on how to do something. The theme that has evolved is that staff bring something they are working on, explain their thinking and any impact it has before others from the group share their experiences or thoughts on how a strategy could be improved or implemented more widely.
Another relatively easy activity to set up. I choose the book ‘The hidden lives of learners’ by Graham Nuthall to start of with (after the first cycle I will be asking staff to submit book options and then vote on a range of books). I sent an email out to all staff advertising the activity and set a limit of 10 places. Within a couple of days the places were filled, books were given out and the ball was rolling. Towards the end of term 2 we will meet to discuss the book and present back to the staff body during a morning teacher briefing on what we found out.
‘Bright spot’ learning walks.
No grades no forms. The purpose of these learning walks is to find great practice, those bright spots that exist somewhere in every school. I conducted one in our Science department recently where I managed to take pictures of several great resources and bits of student work. These then go into a presentation which can be used for a teacher briefing. During the teacher briefing you display the images and ask colleagues to explain more about the context of what was going on in the lesson and how the resource / strategy helped. Longer term I would like to create more of an ‘open door’ culture across the school and involve staff in searching out the bright spots for themselves.
I’m not sure if it was over-ambitious and just stupid to organise a TeachMeet for the penultimate evening of an 8 week term, but I did and it offered another opportunity for staff to get involved. Just over 100 heroic teachers from different schools (across multiple phases) showed up for an evening of having their thinking challenged whilst also being inspired and thanked for their hard work. The theme of the evening was about understanding what works rather than just being bombarded with 1000s of ‘quick wins.’ TeachMeets are a great opportunity for expanding your thinking, developing ideas and networking with great people outside of your immediate day to day surroundings. Last weeks event was brilliantly captured by David Vignolli (a visual artist from London).
Now that these activities have been set up it’s my role to ensure they continue (for as long as they are useful to people). My hope is that these additional activities provide staff with opportunities to engage and develop in ways which suit them. The one size fits all approach to CPD is dead. To make great teaching a typicality across a school, staff must be given meaningful opportunities to develop and feel supported in doing so. Investing effectively in staff will ultimately lead to better experiences for the students which is what all of this is about after all – the students.
About 18 months ago I had a moment of clarity and made a decision that I wanted to become a head teacher. Why wouldn’t I? It makes sense to me. I want to make a positive difference to as many young people that I can and allow as many colleagues to flourish as possible. I thrive on challenge both professionally and as a hobby.
Since making that decision I have been busy learning and taking action. I decided not to wait for permission to lead but to start leading. Leading with a clear moral purpose. Leading by example. Leading with a sense of urgency but also on the side of caution. Leading to improve.
Fully support by the SLT, I decided to set up a group of ‘Pedagogy leaders’ (original idea from Kev Bartle) with the aim of improving awareness of great teaching and learning. This led to delivering a number of CPD sessions, teacher briefings, workshops on INSET days and a teachmeet under the guise of #NeverStopLearning. Inspired by Seth Godin’s idea of the ‘Linchpin’ I sort out other opportunities like coaching and helping to set up a link with a school in China. I joined teams working on whole school initiatives like IT refresh and improving provision of CPD. All whilst teaching a (nearly) full time table and maintaining excellent standards in the classroom. Teaching is the guide rails I will cling to as I move towards headship. As John Tomsett (I think?!) put it, “The headteacher should be the head teacher.”
It has been an extremely busy 18 months but equally rewarding. As a result I will join my schools leadership team in an extended leadership role responsible for teaching and learning CPD from September. I owe a lot to the inspiring colleagues I have the honour of working with but also to the extensive list of leadership books that I have ploughed through. They have given me lots of ideas to think about in terms of leading teams and implementing change. Increasing my knowledge through reading has also allowed me to spot ideas from books in a school context (usually school improvement) and give me a deeper understanding of how ideas from books can be implemented in a school setting.
Following on from my post on Reading for CPD, the following is a list of books to get you started on (or to add to) your leadership journey. The list is by no means comprehensive (and is in no particular order). It is a mixture of my own reading list and contributions from people on Twitter. Please add more titles in the comments section at the end of the post.
More to explore – thank you Twitter!
Ever felt like giving up on something? A project, a run, a blog post, organising an event, revising for an exam? If the answer to this question is ‘No’ I applaud you. You are either an extremely ‘GRIT-y’ person or perhaps you haven’t found a real challenge yet. If you answered ‘Yes’ then you have experienced the ‘Dip.’ In this, the first in a series of posts that explore motivation, GRIT, character strengths & growth mindset, I’m hoping to summarise what I have discovered from reading a series of books on these areas and what potential impact I believe it could have in the classroom. This first post looks at the bigger picture and addresses the general myth that successful people ‘never give up.’ In Seth Godin’s short book ‘The Dip’ he looks at why some businesses, organisations and people are successful and why some are not. Over the timeline of any successful project he argues that more often than not there is a ‘Dip’ where things get hard, more effort is required and the honeymoon period of the initial idea ends. The dip looks something like this:
The Dip is the point in a project whereby people leading make a decision. Is the outcome worth the extra effort and resources? Successful people are able to make the tough decision to either persevere because the outcome is worth the extra effort and resources or quit and invest their time, effort and resources into something that will be truly remarkable instead. Being able to successful make that decision at the point of the dip is tricky, risky and requires some experience, clear bigger picture thinking and the confidence to quit. Godin suggests the ‘Dip’ is the secret to success…
…the Dip is the secret to your success. The people who set out to make it through the Dip – the people who invest the time and the energy and the effort to power through the Dip – those are the ones who become the best in the world. They are breaking the system because, instead of moving on to the next thing, instead of doing slightly above average and settling for what they’ve got, they embrace the challenge. For whatever reason they refuse to abandon the quest and they push through the Dip all the way to the next year.
If something is worth doing then it will probably involve a Dip. But not always. How do we know it’s time to quit something? Have a look at the curves below:
Godin talks about knowing when to quit if the project curve looks like a ‘Cliff’ or ‘cul-de-sac.’ The cul-de-sac is described as…
…a situation where you work and you work and you work and nothing changes. It doesn’t get a lot better. it doesn’t get a lot worse. It just is.
Godin describes the ‘Cliff” as…
…a situation where you can’t quit until you fall off, and the whole thing falls apart.
The main problem is knowing when you are on either of these two paths. It would be quite easy to mistake the Dip for the ‘Cliff” for example. Having a clear goal, starting with the end in mind will help you determine what path you are on. Revisiting the purpose regularly, reflecting and being brutally honest with yourself will also help – sometimes it may be easier to continue a project (even if you suspect a ‘cul-de-sac’) then quit and devote your time and resources to something will make a bigger dent in the universe.
I experienced the Dip recently whilst organising a teach-meet. After the initial buzz of announcing that I was going to host a teach meet for 200 teachers I was hit by the never-ending list of things that needed to happen in order for the event to be a success. Coupled with a full teaching timetable and responsibilities within my department – there was a point (if I’m being honest) where the thought of quitting crossed my mind. My goal was to put on a truly remarkable event and if I didn’t have the time and resources to do that, perhaps I should focus my time and resources into something else. However the end of goal was too important and I instead decided to lean into the Dip and persevere (something I’ve learned from ultra running). Having attended other teach meets I knew how inspirational these events can be and how much they make teachers think, re-focus and offer opportunities for teachers to take ideas that can have a positive impact on students.
Links to teaching.
As a teacher I’ve certainly had many moments where I’ve felt like quitting something because the outcome didn’t seem worth the time and effort. There have been times when I’ve powered through the Dip and had some truly amazing lessons, CPD sessions, e.t.c. There have also been other times where in hindsight I would have been better off quitting earlier and re-focusing my time and effort. But still I learnt from those experiences so all is not lost. From reading Godin’s work I will definitely be thinking of the curves mentioned earlier in this post when planning new department and school wide projects. It has also made me think about planning lessons. In a lesson or scheme of work when will students experience the Dip? What will students be thinking during the Dip? What action should I take? I believe this is where GRIT, character strengths and the growth mindset model fit in. These habits can be used to help navigate through the Dip. In my next post I’ll be exploring these habits and how they can positively influence learning.
How do we make learning stick?
Chip & Dan Heath’s most recent book ‘Made to stick’ provides a framework for making ideas ‘sticky.’ If you’ve not read the book I’d advise getting a copy. Whilst you’re waiting for your copy to arrive, I’d recommend watching the following two videos to get an overview of the Heath brothers ideas.
The Heath brothers brilliantly summarise a ‘sticky’ idea here…
A sticky idea is an idea that’s understood, that’s remembered, and that changes something (opinions, behaviors, values). As a teacher, you’re on the front lines of stickiness. Every single day, you’ve got to wake up in the morning and go make ideas stick. And let’s face it, this is no easy mission. Few students burst into the classroom, giddy with anticipation, ready for the latest lesson on punctuation, polynomials or pilgrims.
Here’s the good new about stickiness: This isn’t just interesting trivia about how the world of ideas works. Rather, it’s a playbook. There are very practical ways that you can make your teaching stickier.
In the book the Heath brothers come up with a framework called SUCCESS which can be used to deliver knowledge in a more memorable way.
Planning a ‘sticky’ lesson.
All of this has made me reflect on how I approach planning a lesson and I now believe that I can not only use this framework to help hook students into content, but help them remember it at the same time (I’m not ruling out the importance of deep, deliberate practice here). This is especially important at the beginning of new units and topics where baseline knowledge of students may be little or non-existent. Inspired by the ‘5 minute lesson plan’ series I’ve created a ‘Sticky’ planning document that would work just as well for lessons as it would do for workshops (in fact I used it recently to plan a workshop on GRIT I delivered to colleagues on an INSET day – blog post to follow). Here it is…
How does it work?
Top right hand corner is probably a good place to start. What do you want students/colleagues to think about in the session? Why is this important? Consider this English lesson about Romeo & Juliet whereby students were creating puppets of characters to act out a scene (Ofsted – Moving English forward report – March 2012). What do you think students were thinking about during the English lesson – the characters of the play or how to make a good puppet? It’s important to design experiences that will enable the audience to think about the core knowledge or practice key skills (this is explored further in the book ‘Seven Myths about education’ by Daisy Christodoulou. Daisy specifically refers to this lesson in myth 6: ‘projects activities are the best way to learn’).
Once you have decided what you want your audience to think about during the session you can think about how you can make this stick by using the SUCCESS framework on the left hand side. This is Shaun Allison’s brilliant example from a year 11 Science lesson where he wanted to introduce the idea of nuclear radiation:
Simple – I anchored it on to their existing knowledge of the atom, by getting them to draw and explain the structure of the atom, which we then shared and discussed. This would then lead on to two key concepts for the lesson – be able to describe and explain Rutherford’s scattering experiment and what an isotope is. This is definitely not about dumbing down or lowering expectations. It’s about distilling complex ideas into the key ideas and then using what they already know to build up to these complex ideas. In his article on explanation (see below) David makes the point of how important it is to use specialist academic language here – and insist that students do too.
Unexpected – In order to get them curious, we looked at photos of Chernobyl and posed the question, how could these tiny atoms cause such devastation? This is the gap in their knowledge that we were going to fill, having opened it. They were curious!
Concrete – Rutherford’s scattering experiment is very conceptual, so I demonstrated it by throwing squash balls at footballs. They bounced off, in the same way that early scientists expected the alpha particles to do when they hit the ‘plum pudding’ atoms. This led on to a discussion about what it meant when the alpha particles went straight through?
Credible – The photos of Chernobyl helped with this, as it made the issue very real. This can also be backed up by statistics e.g. claims that Chernobyl won’t be fit for human habitation for 20 000 years. However, this will be returned to next lesson, when we get out the radioactive sources and the Geiger counter. Students will see that objects emit radiation.
Emotional – The photos of people who had been affected by Chernobyl (mutations) certainly made them feel for the people. The ‘emotional’ trait can also be developed by making students feel aspirational.
Story – Science provides loads of opportunities to tell stories – and the story of Rutherford’s scattering experiment was no exception. It also resulted in some great questions from the students about ‘How science works’ e.g. Why didn’t he just believe the plum pudding idea? What made him think of this experiment? Did he do any other experiments? Did people believe him? How do we know he’s right? Brilliant fodder for the science teacher!
The last section of the plan can be used to plan out the logistics of your session – timings, activities, resources, e.t.c.
Sticky plan (editable) – print double sided on A3.
The SUCCESS framework has certainly made me think about how I deliver information, whether in a lesson, staff briefing or workshop. The power of a story certainly hooks people in and when pitched correctly using concrete, emotional examples I believe greater depth and retention (by the audience) is reached. Using the above plan to design a recent workshop (I’ll upload a copy of my plan if I can find the original paper copy!) made me really think through the content before hand and how it might be perceived. The SUCCESS framework made me think about how I would like to learn about the knowledge I was trying to deliver.
I’m going to be using it for future workshops that I deliver on INSET days and next term I intend to use it to plan a series of lessons. Why not give it a go yourself. Try planning a lesson or workshop using the ‘sticky’ plan. I’d really like your feedback on how it can be developed.
Inspired by Zoe Elder’s post – ‘Why we continue to accept the challenge’ and Mark Anderson’s post ‘Be happy,’ here is a quick post with the start of a new term in mind.
2013 was a remarkable year. 2014 will be better. It’s time to shift gears.
Four tips to help you make this year even better:
1. Keep exploring.
2. Connect with others.
3. Share your discoveries.
4. Deepen your understanding.
Remember, you’re only human but you make an incredible difference.
2013 in no particular order…
1. Remarkable colleagues.
I work with some remarkable people. People who think good is not good enough and will go the extra mile for their students and fellow teachers. These people are remarkable in many ways and continue to inspire me to do and be better everyday. Check out a few of them on Twitter: @mr_bunker_edu, @mrtleahy, @artedu_kheath, @sporteredu, @mrgillenglish, @mrdaymentmaths, @gwilliams195, @jonericjones, @dominichoudhury, @bristolbrunel
2. Safe is risky.
To provide the best possible outcomes for the young people we teach we have to provide remarkable experiences for them. In order to do this you have to be prepared to take risks in the classroom. Great teaching is not a ladder to climb, rather a jungle gym to explore.
I was successful in securing a leadership honorarium at my school in September to drive the improvement of teaching and learning. Since then I have set up a small team of pedagogy leaders and created the brand #neverstoplearning (http://neverstoplearninghub.com/) to share remarkable ideas around teaching, learning and leadership in schools. A teach meet is also in the pipeline for 2013!
4. Leadership is not a position, it is a choice.
This is my 5th year as a teacher (4 of them as a programme leader of Computing) and I’m beginning to understand what it means to be a leader. It’s not a title. It’s about leading by example, high expectations, good habits, strong moral purpose and growing other leaders.
This is one of my passions and I love teaching it! It has involved me having to work hard to ‘re-fresh’ my skill set & subject knowledge, but that does not feel like work because one of my other passions is learning.
6. Teach Meets.
I’ve attended a few teach meets this year and I am convinced it’s the best CPD out there. Created for teachers by teachers. No hidden agendas. I always walk away feeling inspired, more motivated and with a long list of ideas to explore further.
Simon Sinek. Seth Godin. Malcolm Gladwell. Chip & Dan Heath. Hugh Mcleod. Doug Lemov. John Hattie. Jamie Smart. Ken Segall. David Didau. Hywel Roberts. Zoe Elder.
8. Distributed leadership works.
I work in school full of leaders. The forward thinking SLT have dissolved more power to the people closet to the action. They have invested time and effort into growing more leaders and as a result there is much more purpose and collective accountability about what our school does. I’m excited to see where 2014 takes us.
9. Make more art.
A realisation I’ve had this year. If you view something as work you tend to find ways to do less of it. If you view something as art you tend to find ways to do more of it.
10. Ultra running.
Running is part of my life. It helps me to achieve clarity and feel good. Ultra running tests me physically and mentally. This year I completed my longest ever continuous run – 54 miles in one go, as well as a few other shorter ultra marathons, marathons, half marathons and 10k’s.
It’s the ultimate staff room. Lots of interesting debate, ideas and an overwhelming willingness to share. Teaching is an emotional, people orientated art form and without the support, kindness and gift giving of fellow professionals I don’t think the profession would grow. So I thank you Twitter for connecting me with many marvellous artists!
13. Next steps.
I recently attended my first interview for the role of Assistant Principal. Didn’t get the job but learnt an awful lot! Why Assistant Principal? I want to influence more students than just the ones I teach. I like to be challenged. I like to connect, collaborate and work with other people. I like to learn from other people and help them to do their best possible work. I have a passion for teaching and learning that I want to share. I’m devoted to meaningful work.
2014 in no particular order…
1. Keep exploring pedagogy.
2. Take more (measured) risks in the classroom.
3. Blog / reflect more often.
4. Listen more.
5. Read more – looking forward to Simon Sinek’s ‘Leaders eat last.’
6. Deliver a teach meet in Bristol (keep diaries clear for 20th March 2014).
7. Encourage more people to share remarkable ideas through http://neverstoplearninghub.com/
8. Run 100km in one go and complete 5 ultra marathons.
9. Keep expectations high.
10. Continue to work through Doug Lemov’s ‘Teach like a champion’ book, trying out different techniques in the classroom (if you don’t have this book get it!).
11. Organise and run CPD sessions with pedagogy leaders.
12. Exercise everyday.
13. Eat less chocolate biscuits.
14. Never stop learning.