Engaging with reflection at Teachmeet Clevedon

I haven’t posted anything on my blog for well over a month. Sincerely because I’ve not had a great deal worth writing about nor felt there was much in my current teaching worth reflecting on. Although perhaps that is unfair to me and my classes as I often believe the majority of our work should be reflected on and yet I haven’t felt the need or accumulated the energy. Moreover, I am acutely aware of the fact that writing this blog has personally been helpful for the critical audience and judgements it procures – therefore writing when not feeling as open to those judgements could have been a risky move.

Worryingly, I feel I have dipped, circled and hesitated to a halt over the past term and as @HuntingEnglish describes in his recent blog post ‘Becoming a Better Teacher’ I have began to plateau in terms of my desire to keep near to, let alone on top of, my definitive goal to consistently reflect and subsequently improve. I could put this lapse down to lethargy but I shall not. I believe as Alex has suggested in his post that this simply a slip up, and I am thankful for the brief yet necessary glimmer back in to my GTPesque cheerfulness that 2013’s Teachmeet Clevedon gave back to me.

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It’s only my second time at a Teachmeet Clevedon which seems to me an almost autonomous Teachmeet. Well planned and executed – in my mind it seems to have acquired its own persona. I have found over the past year that the Teachmeet at Clevedon works because people believe in it, the goals which are discussed and more importantly everyone attempts sincerely to believe in the people whom create (@ICTevangelist) and contribute. At least that is why I think the mystique surrounding Clevedon exists; in part because perhaps it does not exist (at least not always) at other times of my academic year.

I was taken aback by Hywel Roberts (first of all who knew he wouldn’t SOUND Welsh!) whose advice to use creativity in questioning has left me having discussions about all sorts this week! Bizarrely, one of Hywel’s examples was brought up by one of my year 8 girls when she asked me if she could write a poem based on a world without gravity. This led on to a rather similar discussion to that which I expect Hywel was alluding to. Except my 12 year olds did not ask what would happen to their Grandmothers if they floated off in their wheelchairs. Thanks to @HYWEL_ROBERTS for reminding me that these accidental moments are the ones we should not only utilise but treasure.

Furthermore, I was overwhelmed by the kind and extremely fast paced Zoe Elder (@fullonlearning). I was extremely happy Zoe spoke so hastily; as she sped through her introduction to engagement and planning for reflection she gave me plenty of food for thought. More on Zoe’s workshop can be found here: TM Clevedon Workshop and I shall not even dain to paraphrase or summarise such complex and inspiring ideas for fear of misinterpreting or damaging them. Ultimately, I am always impressed by those who make changes based on evidence and critical observations (I believe I am a scientist at heart despite the English degrees) alongside their beliefs. Zoe’s theories and explanation of her practice seem to me to be exquisitely well created and highly refined whilst maintaining the consciousness appropriate to her investigations and intentions. Thus, work such as Zoe’s continues to maintain my faith that changes can and will be made for the right reasons. Ever since Zoe’s workshop I have been forcing myself to stand back and avoid causing interruption (is this intervention?) at possibly crucial points of pupils’ engagement in their learning. Observing the learning behaviours, patterns and level of engagement is certainly not something I have ever been asked to improve upon but I am beginning to think that may only be because only few observing me have thought in the same way about what true engagement looks like. Not a criticism in itself just a curious reflection. A huge thanks to Zoe for forcing and expecting us to question what the difference is between participation and engagement and for encouraging me to think about this in a more ambitious way.

Other highlights of TMClevedon included hearing Karen Duxbury-Watkins’ use of foldables (something I must get around to doing soon!).

Another effective strategy to take away included hearing Clevedon School’s Head of Geography Ellouise Pearson explain a simple but effective Connect 4 revision activity which I hope she won’t mind me sharing here: Connect 4 Revision Presentation. Certainly something I will be using with my year 11s closer to next exam period.

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There are plenty of blogs and the Teachmeet Clevedon YouTube channel where you can find further information about the brilliant and inspiring evening that was TMClevedon 2013 but this rather selfish post is really to reflect on the fact that sometimes we need those events, times and places to break the habit of believing we have no time left to improve or seek reflection. It has served to remind me that as I reach (what feels like) a plateau in the year that new strategies may need to be acquired. Teachmeet Clevedon should be known, if anything, for its ability to reignite and soften those who may have deemed themselves lost causes for a brief period of time. This may sound dramatic, it undoubtedly is, but I wish to say a sincere thank you to those who said hello on that evening and who shared their ideas so swiftly with hundreds of us. 2013’s Teachmeet Clevedon has reminded me that being a reflective teacher is the only way to becoming a brilliant teacher. Consequently, I apologise for this rant of self reflection and promise that next time (in the not too distant future) I shall reflect yet bring to the fore new strategies and techniques I have used this half term so that the most significant element of my next reflection is the sharing of ideas (with what @HuntingEnglish would call my ‘critical friend’ – aka. you).

Please feel free to be critical.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. chrishildrew says:

    Brilliant – thank you! I’d been looking around for the Connect Four stuff. I thought Ellouise was fantastic and I can’t believe she’s not on Twitter… I’ll definitely be using that in my lessons. Simple, effective – what’s not to like?

  2. Mr A Colley says:

    Absolutely right about resisting the urge to interfere Jen. Best piece of advice I ever got about teaching “If they’re learning, get out of the way”. As we all know, it’s more nuanced than that, but the temptation to be doing something (or to be seen to be doing something – this is especially prevalent in observations) can be huge.

    1. Indeed. It’s going to take some work but I hope to become more careful (restrained) in my interventions!

  3. Helene O'Shea says:

    I simply love this post, Jen! Strikes me as nothing like a ‘rant’ from a ‘plateau-ing’ teacher but more of a ‘coming of age’ reflection.
    I’ll stop with the ‘…’ now 🙂
    Looking forward to future posts.
    H.

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