Some of you may call me a geek but I had a wonderful time at the weekend - not because it was the weekend but because I spent Saturday with the whole staff team at a conference in Lancaster. The conference was Beyond Levels - and these events have taken place all over the UK. The initial reason I was interested was that a hero of mine Dame Alison Peacock is one of the key organisers of these events. I have read her books and visited her school and can’t help but be inspired by her child centred approach to headship. The whole focus of the day was about assessment and the purpose of assessing children’s learning and how we do this so it is meaningful. When I talk about assessment - I don’t mean SATs or end of key-stage tests, I refer to the assessments a teacher makes throughout the school day and in his/her feedback that informs us where the learning goes next. This is a common misconception - it is important to remember that actually the purpose of assessment is to enable us (teachers) to tailor learning to every individual in our class. One of the reasons I became so inspired by Dame Alison Peacock is the work she has done around learning without limits - the belief that nobody should put a ceiling on any child sits at the heart of our school curriculum and vision:
“Every child should reach further than they ever thought they could.”
Well, this is exactly what I experienced for myself on Saturday - that buzz of reaching further than I ever thought I could.
During the conference I had the pleasure of leading a workshop - focusing on maths through problem solving and journal writing. Mike (Ollerton), our resident maths geek and myself planned it together and I was excited to deliver it. As you all know, public speaking is something that I have had to work on after becoming head. I don’t particularly enjoy standing up in front of grown-ups and talking. I hear my voice go high, I fiddle with my fingers and I forget anything I have said and wonder if I made any sense. Over the years I have developed ways to cope with this and I know I have improved but I definitely would not describe it as one of my strengths.
So why did I agree to do a workshop?
- I am incredibly passionate about learning and was very excited to be involved in Beyond Levels.
- I am incredibly passionate about the approach we are using in maths and have seen the levels of engagement increase since we started this approach in September and I wanted to share this - I want every child to love their maths lessons and become as independent learners as my Oaks are.
- Mike is always talking at conferences so he would do most of the talking and I could be his assistant.
Boy was I wrong on that last one. A couple of weeks before Mike announced “I think it would sound better coming from a teacher who is still teaching every day, so you can lead it and I’ll just be there if you need me.” â€¦.and this is exactly what happened.
On Saturday I lead a workshop at a conference organised by one of my educational idols but here’s the great bitâ€¦. I know I was great. That’s not arrogance. I never expected to feel like that but when I finished I felt amazing. I’ve had some lovely feedback via e-mail and twitter but I didn’t need the feedback, I knew it had gone well. I was absolutely buzzing with excitement, my stomach was in knots (excited knots not nervous knots) and when I think about it I still feel great and really proud of myself and sitting here four days later- I still can’t quite believe I was part of something so amazing.
I’m sure this all sounds a little self-indulgent, so please forgive me but it does relate to the classroom. That feeling I got wasn’t just because I’d done a good job, it was because I had done something better than I believed I was capable of - something I never thought I would do - I smashed my own ceiling. I realised that I had put a ceiling on myself, a ceiling that Mike pushed me to smash and it has led me to ask so many questions.
I am passionate about not putting a ceiling on a child’s learning but, like me, do they put a ceiling on their own learning?
We talk about challenge but how far would my Oaks dare to push themselves?
What stops them pushing themselves - what scares them?
I know that without Mike pushing me and challenging me, I would never have had the opportunity I had on Saturday. I would have happily let Mike lead and just given things out and allowed him to use the work of my wonderful Oaks, but Mike (rather sneakily) pushed me to “reach further than I ever though I could.” He knew I was capable of something even though I didn’t.
That’s my job and the job of every teacher: To know that a child is capable of more; to support them; to challenge them and occasionally give them a massive shove through the ceilings they create or others create for them.
So my philosophy has moved on a little - it’s not just about not putting ceilings on children - It’s about demolishing them - I quite like the idea of been a wrecking ball!!!
Thanks for being my wrecking ball.
From Kirsty x← back to the blog