Reflections on @NRocks


A truly amazing and inspiring day doesn’t do Northern Rocks justice. I am still excited and reinvigorated by the whole day and the sessions and today is Wednesday.  Ripples have spread through my classroom, across the MFL team and the school.  The three of us that attended had the best day – thank you. The drive back to Bristol was ‘buzzing’ and the two colleagues that came equally couldn’t stop raving about the day as they reflected back across the different sessions and workshops.

In @Hywel_Robert’s session he showed a similar image: yellow

making reference that to be an effective teacher you needed courage, brains and heart. This sums the sessions I attended at Northern Rocks up perfectly.

Session 1 – @Davewhitaker246 The Behaviour Debate.     This was an amazing session that spoke directly to my heart, gave me goosebumps and everything.  Dave spoke candidly about how they look after, care for and ‘batter with niceness’, the students in their school.  Dave spoke about his students and their school’s philosophy and it got me thinking about the ones that come in to my classroom.  I know that many of them have a different home life to those perhaps in Dave’s school however when he asked the question ‘how do some students cope with the challenges of a school day?’  My brain kicked in.

three-glasses-of-water_Can students cope with the challenges of the day ahead because they have room left in their glass? Or are they going to ‘spill over’ with a ‘pipette’s dribble’ of water because just ‘one more thing’ is going to force it over the edge?

We know the data, the targets, the progress, we are very data rich in schools these days but the family situations, the home life, the reality – do we know everything? Although arriving to lessons on time, with a pen & their exercise book is important, there are those students that we may have, that this is ‘insignificant’ to what is going on in their lives and by giving them the ‘consequence’ or detention this is going to push the emotions over the edge. So ‘batter them with niceness’, make sure they know you care and will support them, always smile, be clear that you’ll do what you can so they can come to your classroom feel safe, feel that sense of support, achievement so they can learn and maybe even smile and be nice back. Brilliant. I absolutely love this and have already started being super nice!

Session 2 – @Headguruteacher ‘What do GREAT teachers do? How do we help them do it?

Being bombarded with honest questions the brain was well and truly engaged but it also spoke to my core being. Reflecting upon his tenure at KEGS, Tom Sherrington spoke honestly and with great affection for the team of staff he has had the pleasure of working with to create a highly functioning team with excellence and collaboration at its core. I loved this session as it allowed me to think about myself as a leader, as a team player & as part of the ‘big picture’ that is our school, reflecting upon the questions asked and also look at potential solutions for developing the team, myself as a leader and my role in the school.

Key points to consider:

  1. What makes a great teacher?
  2.  Identify the key elements or components of a great lesson to ensure that learners are nourished and engagement is high.
  3. Create the right conditions to allow great teachers to thrive.
  4. Sharing values and language.
  5.  Monitoring, evaluating and deep review to ensure departments are effective and moving forward together.
  6. An ‘everyone cares’ approach – whether its my classes results or a colleagues, we care about each others classes performance because we are a team and we all work together. We are all accountable.
  7. Good quality and bespoke CPD is required to ensure individual needs are met.  Input needs to be focused and good to ensure improved output & motivation.
  8. Creating opportunities to develop aspects of learning & sharing the practice and its findings to spread the word!
  9. Read and share the pedagogy & encourage others to do the same.

What a session – amazing and in this term of ‘gained time’ some quiet and focused reflection to ensure that we get the atmosphere and ethos right for ourselves, our students and our teams.

Session 3 – @Hywel_Roberts Imagineering Teaching. ‘Imagineering is letting your imagination soar and then engineering it down to Earth’. With this as a start to Hywel’s session we knew we were in for an absolute cracker! Hywel posed many key questions that hit me and many others in the room right in the stomach, head and heart all at once, and my best friend who was sat next to me said she felt like she had completed a stint in ‘the Wonderland of awesomeness’. She was, like many of us, entranced by Hywel’s session and by the end of it completely invigorated.

Key points to consider:

  • How do you teach your students?
  • What is it like to be taught by you?
  • If there was a plaque on the wall – what would it say about you?
  • When does learning start in your classroom? How much dead time is there?
  • How do you get your students hooked in to their learning in your classroom?
  • How do your students see their reality in the world in your classroom?

Interesting questions to ponder to ensure that time isn’t wasted, engagement is high and they arrive in the right frame of mind, excited and wanting to know more!

Session 4 – @debrakidd Building a Curriculum with Conscience                                                                                   Debra challenged me to the core to think about the provision of students that come in to my classroom and the MFL department which I do frequently with the MFL team and as we are currently looking at the learning experience, the schemes of learning and weekly planning grids, assessment (without levels), progress, resources, project based learning, well actually at this time of year; everything,  it seemed like the perfect session to wander in to, as it seemed, did many others.

Sat at the front, on the floor, Debra challenged us to think about our curriculum and how it makes our students feel. Does it instill awe & wonder? Why not, asked Debra, there isn’t a boring part of the scheme of learning, the framework or the National Curriculum is there? Approaches have to change, we all have those elements and those topics that we ‘don’t really like’, that we say are ‘really hard’ and we stop the students from enjoying them if we commit this to the air in our classrooms and aren’t especially careful with our planning. So be creative about it, look at it from a different perspective. Interestingly Tom Sherrington stated that in his school he has KS5 teachers teaching teachers different modules of the maths curriculum to improve the knowledge, skills and understanding of staff which benefits students and the teaching team. A truly excellent idea to reinvigorate repertoire as well as developing knowledge! Debra gave us many ideas based on her vast experience across a range of classrooms, key stages and establishments about changing what we’ve always done to create opportunities for awe and wonder, to allow students to experience, feel, smell, taste the topic or module so they are ‘gagging’ to express themselves and the experience through writing or speaking.  She reminded us all that our students do not have to be sitting behind desks to learn, experience, feel, to make progress, to gain knowledge or to develop their skills.  The immersive learning experience is the way forward! This supported what I have long since thought and have sought to do so, across KS3.  Watch out KS4! The immersive experience will be coming to a classroom near you soon!

So what have I come away which I pledge to do in my classroom? Well that would be to use my heart to consider what could be going on in my students lives outside of school to ‘batter them with niceness’, to use my brain to consider the learning experience for my students asking myself ‘what is it like to be taught by me and what would I say about me and my lessons as well as to ensure that the conditions are right in my department to support each member of my team to develop in to and to continue to be GREAT teachers and to have the courage to see the reality of the situation and change it to make it more appropriate, more bespoke for our learners.