I cannot believe a year has passed since the last Teach Meet! The weather this afternoon and evening was just like last year too … warm and sunny, making for a very pleasant drive from Gloucester to Bishops Cleeve.
On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Jerome Garnier, Lead Practitioner and Assistant Head of MFL and organiser of the annual Teach Meet Gloucestershire, and offered an array of drinks, accompanied by freshly baked scones oozing with jam and cream (yes, this proved to be a good ice-breaker and provoked some lively discussion … should it be cream first, then jam, or the other way around!). I also met a former colleague from Ribston Hall High School; it was lovely to be able to have an informal chat and catch up on everyone’s news.
The format of this Teach Meet was similar to last year; a series of five or ten minute presentations given by local teachers, Senior Leaders and representatives from a couple of organisations. Due to Jerome’s position, there tended to be a slight slant towards MFL and secondary level. However, there were some items that were more generic or primary-centred in nature. Below are a few that really stood out for me.
Becky Rose, Head of Humanities and a Teacher of History at Ribston Hall High School, as well as ITE Training Manager and NQT Induction Tutor, briefed us about ‘Developing retrieval practice starters on from practicising recall of substantive knowledge to developing disciplinary knowledge as well’. Whilst this related to history, it was easy to see how such strategies could be employed across other subject areas at secondary level and, perhaps, even within history at KS2. As Becky will be the History Subject Leader for GITEP SCITT from September 2019, I am hoping that we might liaise further to see how we can support both trainees and those History Subject Leaders at primary level that regularly attend Primary Humanities Network meetings.
I recall Janet Dowling presenting last year (a former primary school teacher of 25 years, who retrained as a solution-focused hypnotherapist four years ago). She reinforced the importance of sleep for our mental and emotional well-being and performance, including some strategies to improve sleep. Whilst the latter is something that I do not have any problems with, I do think it is really important that teachers’ mental health is not neglected (there is so much focus on young peoples’ mental health and well-being at present).
Claire Croxall, currently Head of MFL at Woodrush High School in Worcestershire, but due to join Cleeve School in September 2019, spoke about a whole school literacy project that she had overseen. I did not appreciate just how many young children do not have books read to them at home (something that I have done automatically as a parent). She talked about changes to the timetabling of tutor time this past academic year to enable thirty minutes to be allocated to guided reading; the tutor reads to his/her tutor group and then they discuss the text together, e.g. what might happen next; characters; key messages; issues. Year 7 and Year 8 pupils engaged enthusiastically with the programme, perhaps as this was something they had done more recently at primary school; Year 9 and Year 10 students were more reluctant, wanting to choose the text that the form should read, rather than being forced to focus upon a particular novel (often, as a result of budget constraints). The school hopes that such issues will be ironed out over time as students see this as part of the whole school routine and more money becomes available through grant funding.
Becky Harbour, an NQT music teacher at Cleeve School, shared findings from a study that she had conducted. This looked into ‘how different groupings affected student happiness, productivity and the quality of work produced’. It revealed some interesting findings and may tempt many to reconsider the grouping mechanisms that they use on a daily basis in their classrooms. The most effective seemed to be grouping pupils of similar ability and positioning weaker groups next to more able ones. In this way, weaker students could ‘magpie’ ideas from and witness effective team work by more able pupils, yet not feel too intimidated to speak out or become fully involved.
Next, it was my turn. I delivered a short presentation about the development of our Primary Humanities Network, as well as giving a ‘shout out’ for the new geography southwest website that Simon Ross and John Davidson are currently establishing in time for the start of the next academic year. I provided some background to our rapidly growing Network, highlighting its intent and the foci of recent meetings. I had intended to share a photo story with images taken from all our gatherings since April 2018. However, the school did not have Movie Maker installed and there was no IT support on hand to overcome this technical issue, so they had to listen to me for a little longer instead of letting the images tell our story. Towards the end, I shared information about Simon and John’s ventures; a website that aims to be ‘the’ first port of call for all geographers in the south west of England. Whilst this is likely to take a few months to get off the ground, I do think it will eventually be envied by many in other areas of the country.
Finally, Claire Sheppard, Vice Principal at Cleeve School, spoke about leading teaching and learning and training, including an insight into Cleeve School’s teaching and learning journey. She highly recommended taking a look at Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby’s award-winning book, entitled ‘Making every lesson count: Six principles to support great teaching and learning’ (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Every-Lesson-Count-principles/dp/1845909739/ref=sr_1_1?crid=EF71T89HBCLV&keywords=making+every+lesson+count&qid=1561902328&s=gateway&sprefix=making+e%2Caps%2C164&sr=8-1). Here, the authors distill teaching and learning down into six core principles, namely challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning and show how these can inspire an ethos of excellence and growth, not only in individual classrooms, but also across a whole school. Cleeve School have used this to construct their ‘five teaching and learning pillars’. Claire also discussed a great activity that she had done. Each week, she has undertaken a trip to Poundland to purchase items, such as paper plates, straws, playing cards. Then, during a staff briefing at the beginning of the week, she has challenged members of staff to take away an object, use it within a lesson and then report back the following week. This approach clearly encouraged teachers to reflect upon what they did in the classroom and proved to be an effective means of sharing best practice (it also became quite competitive too!). I am considering incorporating this idea into a future Primary Humanities Network meeting; handing out an object to pairs as a starter, giving them time to develop their teaching and learning strategy during the main element of the meeting and sharing ideas as part of the plenary. At the next meeting, teachers could also feedback about any ‘tried and tested methods’ in the classroom, including photos and examples of pupils’ work.
A productive way to spend an afternoon and evening as always! Many thanks to Jerome and his team for all their efforts; organising an event such as this is no mean feat!