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Reflections on #TLAB13 2 of 6: ‘What gets you up in the morning?’ Alistair Smith’s opening keynote [ @alatalite ]

2013-03-16 09.16.08
This is the second of six posts reflecting upon the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference held at Berkhamsted School.   This post will provide an overview the first keynote session.
Alistair Smith opened the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference on Saturday with a simple question and a call to arms.  He simply asked what got us up in the morning?  Also, what got us all together on a Saturday to learn more?
The slides used have been made available here, and contain a number of useful models and ideas for school leadership. 
The main points I took from the keynote were (as written, summarised and reflected upon in my analogue notebook):
  • How much do we, as teachers, know the research?  If we are to ignore the ‘Ofsted Whispers’ and take back control of curriculum and pedagogy then we have a responsibility to understand the research that underpins teaching and learning.  This links to another session I recently attended where Neil Mclean highlighted five pieces of research that all teachers should know about.  To me, how are we meant to challenge and disrupt poor leadership if we are not aware of the fundamentals and latest research?
  • Under pressure, we don’t rise to the occasion but default to what we have practised and habituated to.  This resonated with me and the relentless drive at Priory Geography and my school to improve outcomes and experiences for young people.  While the habits have been difficult to form, especially with regard marking and feedback, it has been worth it.  Not because an Ofsted snapshot said that we’re doing alright, but because our students are confident learners and are become more successful.
  • I enjoyed the challenge that Alistair put out about TeachMeets: how collaborative are they really?  I’ll leave that one for you to ponder, but it did strike a chord with me.
  • The characteristics and strategies of experts were defined and shared, and I liked the simple 5C model below:
The two big hits that set up the conference, for me, were:
  • The simple question: ‘What gets you up in the morning?’  Is it Ofsted? Results? Or is it to develop the skills, understanding and attributes that young people will need throughout life?   This resonated across both of the following keynote sessions and indeed throughout the other conference sessions that I attended.
  • Alistair warned attendees to ‘Beware the Ofsted Whisperers.’  This was my favourite moment.  He spoke of schools, such as St Andrews in Leatherhead, that have transformed themselves without mentioning Ofsted.  He cautioned that if we succumb to the language and measurement of other organisations, the curriculum and pedagogy of our own institutions will suffer.  We are the ones who are the experts.  Therefore, CPD and Lesson Observations should be linked to each other, something that I’m working upon.  The language connected with ,y own thoughts and feelings and my own monitoring aims to catch everyday brilliance instead of being able to turn on the tap.  I really don’t care too much for the snapshot that a 20 minute glimpse of a lesson gives, and I long ago stopped caring about being labelled as an '‘outstanding teacher.’ I’ve always wanted the best experience for the young people in my charge,m and now I have a new ‘tag’ to aim for.  There’s no point in being outstanding when you can play the system.  Indeed, Alistair shared this taken from a school just after receiving an ‘Outstanding’ grade.  Notice that Ofsted's Grade 1 is very different from a Real World 1.  In other words, the system can be played.  Interestingly for me, with my CPD role, is that most 1’s are 1’s because of CPD linked to learning and teaching.

  • We also considered what made an ‘expert’ school and the list below was explored.
What does this mean for me?
I’ve understood the importance of keeping up with research for a good long while.  I create time on a Thursday just to read research, but I’m not so good at sharing the insights and helping others to stay in touch.   That needs to feed into the work that I do.  All in all, a fantastic opening keynote.
So, what gets you up in the morning and into school?


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