Cologne Nov 2018 

Keynote speaker, Hywel Roberts, shared a picture of a cow stuck in a fence.

“The fence is the stuff that stops you being the teacher you were going to be. We’re here to sort the fence out.”

 This conference gentley forced me to question my own practice. In the work I do currently I am the specialist in my area – there are few colleagues who can fully question and interrogate my pedagogy. It was refreshing and sometimes vulnerable to have a space to do this.

The most poignant moment for me was participating in workshops on Mantle of the Expert and drama in teaching. I have a BA Honours in European Theatre Arts from Rose Bruford Drama School, an MA in Opera and Music Theatre, 8 years’ experience of earning a living as an opera singer/performer and 6 years running my own Brighton Drama School for young people…and yet I needed this reminder! I was angry and disappointed at myself to begin with – I was a cow stuck in a fence! Once my ego had recovered, I started to question – why was I not using this approach anymore? I know it can unlock doors, it invites student to lead their own learning, it opens areas for investigation, it’s creative, it’s challenging, it pushes students outside of their comfort zone…everything I advocate; yet I haven’t been using it. Why?

The answer is that I have got too scared. I work with students who have been excluded from all other schools. Students with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, some of whom have experienced severe trauma, abuse and neglect. I have not been trusting their imaginations, worried that I would trigger something for them, or push them too far. Also, explaining imaginative approaches in the classroom can sometimes be challenging. There is not regular data on ‘learning progress’ that can always be produced. It is more instinctive than that – you see young Bryn go from being scared to make a noise, to becoming a robot and loudly taking over the world…you know his confidence in himself is growing, his ability to take on new ideas and learn – but it doesn’t fit in a graph so well. Without realising it I have been playing safe with my students for these reasons. I can do better.

“You’re allowed to have intuition. You don’t have to explain everything if it works. Kind, relentless challenge…”

What a permission slip! I am a teacher who uses positive relationships and building safe environments as my basis for teaching – my intuition. This conference has instilled me with the confidence to follow it. I have put the first steps into action, and will report back soon…

Workshops I attended:

Indigenous Knowledge in the Classroom – Helen M Murray

Helen had many insightful observations (and games!) into how Indigenous people are represented through the curriculum, along with lots of resources to use at her website.

The point that got me thinking the most, was that we often refer to how Indigenous people were in the past. Where are the modern Indigenous people?

Follow the Money – Dominic Tremblay

This one was my ‘wild card’ workshop. As a trained English Teacher this is not a topic I come across, and I was expecting to be, well, bored: I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Dominic’s approach to Financial Literacy in the classroom is project-based learning that can be as small as students having a budget for their art projects themselves (usually resulting in far less wastage!), to whole school economies. Imagination, challenge and excitement for the students enables them to tackle real life problems that we face as a society such as: Someone’s Mum has brought in cheaper supplies from outside the classroom, should we charge them some sort of border fee?

Diminishing the Difference: practical strategies to support, motivate and inspire disadvantaged pupils so that they perform as well as their non disadvantaged peers.–Julie Richardson

A fascinating sharing into a school in Havering that has a higher than average in-take of Pupil Premium students. It was great to share good practice in this session for pupils similar to mine, and I particularly liked the idea of finding the ‘Seed Pupils’ – the movers and shakers of a year group to act as ambassadors for new staff initiatives.

Inclusion For All- Whole School Approaches to Positive LGBT+ Inclusion and Human Rights Education – Shaun Dellenty

I am a devoted fan of Shaun’s moving, vital work. If you have not attended one of his trainings just go. Everyone.

Grassroots Wellbeing: promoting staff & student wellbeing from the bottom up – Charlotte Ward

A frontline sharing of the challenges and successes in promoting Wellbeing in a school that doesn’t really ‘get it.’ Was great to have retired Headteacher, Vice Principal and NQTs in the same room investigating the root of these issues.

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