I See You, I Hear You, I Value You
Written by Kathryn Pogson, Teaching, Learning & Digital Lead and Lecturer in Teacher Education at Kirklees College
At the end of March was our Staff Development day, #TLARecharge. Being part of the team who decided on the programme and being given the autonomy to decide my own content was exciting. We gave staff a choice to decide what they wanted to attend, what they wanted to think about and develop. This was so different from the ‘norm’ of a staff development day looking at the usual topics of planning, assessment and whatever else is flavour of the month. Our aim was to try and reinvigorate practice and get excited about teaching, learning and assessment. We had decided on offers of bitesize sessions, spaces to share, time to put some things into practice, followed by some thinking space.
There were many spaces created for staff to come together to reflect, discuss and share various themes, and also spaces dedicated to digital skills development. There was so much choice , I was almost disappointed that I couldn’t attend all the brilliant sessions my colleagues were presenting. The beauty of this being online is that I can catch up with all of those later, as they were all recorded.
I have been reading about Retrieval Practice lately and I am very interested in the science of learning, so I opted to present a short session on this and the thinking environment of which I am a huge fan. I followed this with an ideas room that staff could book on to and take part in. I wanted to create some excitement and energy around the thinking environment as I really want to take this forward in the college.
My morning started off well with a large number of colleagues joining my first session of the day on ‘retrieval practice.’ I immediately felt the buzz as people piled in, it came through the screen. There was such a sense of community already. With cameras on and a quick ‘How are you?’, there was a warm welcome for participants. People were seeing each other in this space who hadn’t been together for some time. There was chat and laughter, people commented that it was nice to see their colleagues without a mask for those seeing each other in person. I felt this was going to be a good day. This continued throughout all my sessions during the day. The informal chat, the ‘nice to see you’ and the laughter. I smiled all day. The session was well received with some discussion at the end. A colleague commented how she used music to aid retrieval practice, being a big music fan, this struck a chord with me (sorry!) and is something I want to explore further in the future.
My second session was an introduction to the ‘thinking environment’ which again I felt was well received. However, on a whim, I decided I had enough time at the end for a quick thinking pair in breakout rooms which I hadn’t really factored in, I hadn’t really planned to due this due to timings but decided to add it in. In a thinking pair, each thinker will have 3 minutes uninterrupted thinking time, during which the partner will not interrupt and will give generative attention. This says to the thinker they are being listened to. I got a bit over excited that I thought I’d sold it so well, I would be doing a disservice if participants were not able to try this for themselves!! As I was trying to set up the breakout rooms, the numbers began to dwindle and there was a mass exit from the session! I could almost picture colleagues standing up and walking out! Not my best idea on reflection. Time was tight and participants didn’t have much time in-between sessions to get to the next one. However, those who stayed and wanted to try it out got the benefit of 3 minutes uninterrupted thinking time which was well received. I thought about planning a bit better in the future and not getting carried away! I did not repeat this in the afternoon session!
The Ideas Room had 8 participants in the morning which was a nice number for 45 minutes. There are few rules to the thinking environment but it is important they are adhered to. These include no interrupting, thinking and listening are equally important and role, rank and ego are left at the door. I fluffed the rules a bit and could have been clearer with these. I had just flown in from the debacle at the end of my last session and had no time in between to regroup. Time was tight and by acting on a whim previously, I had failed to create ease, which is one of the ten components of a thinking environment. Again, much for me to reflect on about how I manage time and strategy in the future.
The number who attended my sessions in the afternoon was significantly less than the morning, which was a shame, as they were better than the mornings, as I’d had a chance to practice and hone them! Luckily, these are the ones that have been recorded for viewing after the event.
My last session of the day was another idea’s room with 3 colleagues attending, all of them new to this environment. This was the best part of the day for me. I explained the rules better and they were understood. The connection was fascinating. So much came out of this space for me. As always says, ‘whoever is there are the right people’. I felt that this afternoon. So many lightbulbs for me in these 45 minutes with my colleagues remotely, in my dining room. Six words were my main takeaway from this and the whole day, I see you, I hear you, I value you. How could we take this forward with our students and colleagues? Much to think about and lots of work to be done.
A colleague summed up this day for me, she said:
‘I never really look forward to these days, but I’ve really enjoyed it’.
Another colleague said:
‘I didn’t expect to get a lot out of it, but today I am buzzing!!’
I feel privileged to work with a great team of people who made this day what it was and worked hard behind the scenes to pull it all together. I think we are on the road to changing the culture around here. Exciting times ahead.
I am a lifelong learner! I have been a teacher in the Further Education sector for almost 20 years. I am a Teaching, Learning & Digital Lead and Lecturer in Teacher Education at Kirklees College, currently working towards Advanced Teacher Status through the Education & Training Foundation.