New for 2018/19, this will be the space where PD North members and some special guest Bloggers will share ideas and experiences. Watch this space and, if you would like to write a Blog for us, on the topic of further / adult community education and skills, please contact Chloë at email@example.com
WORD: 300 – 1,000 words. Keep it short and engaging. Something folks can read in their break, on the bus or in the staffroom when they have a spare moment.
STYLE: Flexible. We’re interested in: Voices from the classroom/staffroom. Resource explorations. Reviews of books, blogs and events. Think pieces. Descriptions of PDNorth exchange activity. Critical thoughts.
REFERENCES: If you choose to mention other people’s work, events, videos, resources etc please reference them and give them the kudos they deserve.
By Debbie Williams, PD North member and Teaching and Learning Manager at Lancaster and Morecambe College
Having delivered teacher training for many years, I’ve found that one of the greatest pleasures of the role is seeing trainee teachers enlivened, motivated and inspired by the professional discussions they have with others who teach in different areas. Trainees tend to arrive to evening classes weary at the end of their working day, but leave the session energised and with minds buzzing with learning and ideas.
We wanted to bring that positive energy into the staff training for all the teachers at Lancaster and
Morecambe College. For many staff it’s a long time since they did their initial
training, and a lot of exciting developments have emerged from the evidence
base on effective teaching since then. We wanted to build professional communities
of teachers who didn’t usually work together, or even really know each other, where
they could share ideas and explore emerging research through informed
Groups of around 10 teachers were groupedinto
“Communities of Practice” to meet at the end of a working day on five
evenly-spaced weeks throughout the college year. The groups were scheduled for
times which all contracted staff would be able to attend, and attendance was
mandatory for these teachers – it was optional for non-contracted teachers. Most
of the groups met at the same time on the same corridor, which created a
feeling that there was something going on!
A small team of enthusiastic and
experienced teachers who were keen to facilitate a group were sent materials
for the session ahead, along with a plan of how to share these with their group
– topics included active learning, marking work, and metacognition. Conference
video clips and extracts from research reports were used, and there was plenty
of time built in for teachers to share their thoughts and examples of effective
practice from their areas.
The group facilitators hugely enjoyed the role,
and often reported having lively staffroom discussions on the same topics in
the following weeks!
Levels of attendance were good on the whole
– a handful of teachers didn’t attend at all, but most attended regularly, with
clear expectations from managers contributing to this. It meant that far more
staff than usual had attended regular in-house training by the end of the year,
in contrast to the low numbers attending the optional training sessions run in
At the end of this first year the teachers
involved completed an anonymous survey about their groups, to see how effective
they had been in meeting the aim of improving teaching across the college. A
key question was “”What impact has attending the sessions had on your teaching
this year?” This was a completely open comment box, giving teachers the clear
opportunity to declare “none”! Unsurprisingly,
a few did just that; however, 80% of teachers reported at least one way in
which their practice had improved, the majority of them stating that they had
increased the range of teaching and learning strategies they used in the
Next year we will be re-mixing the
communities, giving our teachers the chance to hold professional discussions
with different colleagues. From our experiences this year it’s clear that the
communities have helped to build new cross-college relationships, build teacher
confidence and build better teachers.
By Sue Keenan, Head of Teaching and Learning at Myerscough College.
A long time ago, I was on a training course about preparing
to work overseas in a new culture. One question posed was ‘are you going to be
a garlic or a tofu?’ . The definition of a garlic was someone who went with the
attitude that they knew best, their way was best and that things should be done
their way. In other words, infusing and overpowering
everything with their strong garlicky flavour so that other flavours were
obliterated. In contrast the tofu was someone who absorbed the range of favours
around them. A tofu was a person who learned about the new culture and soaked
it all up,recognising that they needed to change their
It’s a metaphor that’s stayed with me and can be applied at
times to our culture in education. I’ve worked in many staff rooms and offices over
my career where there can be a couple of garlics….these are the people that
constantly permeate the space with negativity. They moan about the leaders and
managers, the learners, teaching, the job….for whatever reason they aren’t
positive about the job anymore. I get the challenges. We are in a time of deep
cuts in funding in the FE sector. We don’t feel confident about job security.We
work hard teaching, marking, planning and preparing.
The garlics in education can be very toxic. They can suck
the enthusiasm out of teachers who have come into work feeling positive, they
can have a huge impact on staff morale and organisational culture.
That’s why it’s really important to surround yourself at
work with the positive sunny people, the ones that love teaching, the ones that
get a real buzz from seeing their learners achieve. If we go into lessons
feeling negative then this will have a huge impact on how are learners feel and
what they achieve. And after all, the learners are the reason we’re all working
in education, aren’t they?
We can all be a little bit garlic sometimes, we might not
agree with a decision made at a higher level, we might just be a bit fed up, but
we need to manage our own behaviour as professionals and keep our outlook
positive. We need to recognise if we are becoming a little bit toxic….
Surround yourself at work with the sunny people, the ones
who come into work with a smile on their face. The ones who are new to the job
and are excited to do it. The ones who have been teaching for a long time and
still enjoy it. Lots of sunny people together have great power to do great
things in education. They determine the culture of an organisation far more
than senior leaders do.
In these tough times, try to keep your outlook and attitude
as a teacher sunny side up.Have fun at work and enjoy the job. Have positive
impact on those around you. Together lets try to support those pungent garlics and turn them into tofu,
soaking up the sunshine and positivity around them.
When the North West TLA
Professional Exchange Network first met, we were challenged to decide three
things we wanted to work on over our year together. There was conversation
about the ever present challenges in Further Education and Skills. We discussed
the usual suspects; maths and English, motivating reluctant learners, doing
more with less etc etc.
Despite all these ‘real and
present dangers’ we wanted to focus some of our thinking and time on teachers.
Teachers are the sectors greatest resource, they truly are the front line of
education. The experience a learner receives when they walk into a classroom is
critical. Teachers have an impact on learners’ lives forever. Everyone has a
story to tell about the worst teacher they ever had. Mine was Mr X who spent
most of his time smoking in the Art room stock cupboard and gave me 2 out 10
for my drawing of a shoe that I’d spent all Sunday doing, therefore destroying
any love and interest in that subject for many years. He didn’t tell me why it
was a 2 and what I needed to do to get better – hopefully times have moved on
as this was in 1984….
We also all have stories
about the best teachers we’ve had – those who inspire us, interest us, and make
us want to know more. Many of our choices in life and the routes we take are
determined by teachers. Just take a moment to think about the teachers who
inspired you and the influence they have had on your career and life choices….
We wanted to think about
how to develop teachers’ confidence in a world where too often the focus is on
what you haven’t done rather than what you have. We decided to go back to the
start and ask teachers to think about why they started teaching and what their
high points have been. Group member Lynn Naylor set up a Padlet for partners to
We have had some amazing
contributions from teachers and reading the Padlet truly is rewarding and
inspirational. Teachers’ comments
‘It is rewarding in itself to help students create memories,
not just in an academic context but through giving them an experience and the
tools to enjoy learning all their lives.’
‘It is also great when students share their knowledge and
experiences with you, so we all learn together.’
importance of looking after ourselves and each other as teachers is perfectly
summed up by this contribution.
‘I was motivated by an inspirational teacher myself when I
was a student. I thought at the time what a great job it must be and it has
proved to be the case.’
Let’s keep this padlet
rolling across the sector and capture the reasons that teaching in FE and
Skills is such a valuable job. Feeling confident and empowered about our
professional results in a great experience for our learners, and that, after
all, is the reason that we teach.