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PedagooGoliath: Pretty Shining People

On Saturday I had the great pleasure to attend the latest, and first Pedagoo event of the new school year. Organised and hosted by Paul Cochrane and Port Glasgow High School, the event consisted of 13 workshops and was attended by around 40 educators, all seeking to engage and share, in order to develop their own understandings and practice, and to support others on their own personal professional development journey. It was my honour to dip in and out of some of the 'conversations' taking place across the day, then try to pull these together at the end of proceedings. No easy task, as there was so much to hear and experience, as well as to try and capture.

This short post covers what I tried to summarise at the end of this fabulous event.

'I will go away from today totally inspired, and in awe, of the commitment, professionalism and wisdom that we have experienced, and which I know reflects the Scottish Education system and the work going on in our schools every day. Today was yet another example of the power of practitioners coming together to talk about and share their experiences and insights gained as reflective and thinking professionals. Egos were left at the front door, as everyone looked to support colleagues, whilst further developing their own thinking and practice. There were no set agendas, only those brought by each presenter in order to stimulate thought and dialogue around the common theme of learning and teaching.

We all know and understand that there are no 'silver bullets' to school or system development. Every academic or researcher worth the title has identified that system and school development resides in teacher and leadership, growth and development, not in a focus on systems, structures and accountability agendas. How often do we get this wrong, or the round the wrong way? Events like today show what can be achieved, and what might happen, if we trust and support practitioners to grow their own practice, and share insights with others. Teachers and school leaders are dealing constantly with imposed 'distractions' which pull them away from our core business. Today, and other similar events, demonstrate what can happen when teachers are given the right cultures, encouragement and support. What we have seen and heard today is all grounded in practice and context, reflecting the experience and wisdom that resides amongst practitioners in our system, and in every other.

What has been demonstrated today is what is being achieved every day by practitioners, is often despite the system, not through the support of the system. Which is why I feel we need to embrace Michael Fullan's call on schools and teachers to 'exploit policy'. By this he means that teachers and school leaders still find ways, within local and national policy, to take the right actions for their learners and establishments, based on their sound knowledge of themselves, their context and their learners. Much of what I have heard today is a reflection of that approach. None of what we have heard occurred in a vacuum or on a whim, all of it was born of professional expertise, informed by research and evidence.

The key themes that were explored in the various learning 'conversations' included:
  • Creating cultures of reading for pleasure
  • Equipping the teachers of tomorrow
  • Teacher professionalism
  • Raising attainment
  • Reflections of an NQT
  • Cognitive Science
  • Outdoor learning
  • Behaviour
  • Values and relationship based education
  • Nurture in education
  • Transforming CPD
  • Developing ITE
  • Stepping up to senior leadership

All of these are part of the national agenda for Scottish education and address many of the issues we are tackling on a daily basis. If you were here, you would have heard many effective, interesting and exciting ways of dealing these issues. Insights from practitioners, sharing their lived experiences, not controlled by any other agenda than their own professionalism and commitment. Every single one of us will go from today, with something new to think about and consider, and who knows, perhaps some answers we can apply in our own circumstances.

I would like to thank Paul, Pedagoo, the school and its headteacher Stuart, for giving us the opportunity to come together today for an inspiring day of sharing. Thank you to each of the contributors or facilitators for leading today's conversations and stimulating the thinking and debate. This has been a fabulous, invigorating start to the new school year in Scotland, one which we can look to build upon in the future. 

What remains for us all to do now, is not to merely copy what we have seen and heard. Rather we need to think and consider further what this might mean to our own practice. Consider how some of it might be appropriate or applied to your own context, personal and professional. Consider how you might need to adapt what you are interested in your own context. Trial changes, but consider how you will know if those changes have had a positive impact for learners and yourself. The 'So what?' question is really important. There has to be an impact on learners from days like this, otherwise they are just a chance for a cosy chat. Determine to keep engaging with colleagues in your own setting, at future events like this, or on social media. We all have some system responsibilities. Through events such as this and social media, we all have a voice and we should be using this for the betterment of Scottish education.

Finally, I would like to urge you all to give yourself break. teaching is very demanding and can be stressful and complex, you can't do everything, all the time. What you can aim for is a relentless commitment to the process of personal and professional growth throughout your career, but this needs to be proportionate, manageable and sustainable. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, make sure you have plenty 'you' time this weekend and beyond, this is vital for you, your family, friends, your learners and the health of the system. We have to deal with our own wellbeing before we can attend to that of others.'

One impressive aspect that I should comment on is the range of experience and expertise contributing to this day. Teachers ranged in experience from those with many years plying their trade, 'seen it all', others with differing numbers of years and a range of experiences, NQTs and RQTs and all with varying levels of leadership responsibility. Most impressive was that there was at least one ITE student there, at the very start of her career, but prepared to be brave and step into an event like this. There were others who had roles outside of schools, and all had turned up on a Saturday giving their time and expertise freely to support each other. Teacher-generated and led events like this have enormous potential to create real change and movement in our schools, from the ground up. The 'powers that be', need to recognise them, without aiming to control or direct, and all teachers need to be encouraged to attend at least one similar event over the course of each school year, in my opinion.

We finished up with George Ezra's 'Pretty Shining People' playing in the background. This has been one of my songs of the summer and I thought it an apt anthem for the PedagooGoliath attendees.

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