37 of us at Christ the Sower have spent a day together enjoying the chance to be together, to relax and learn together and once again to receive the challenge of craftsmanship (that word again) into our lives and our practice.
I have little fear that we will not take this seriously – I am blessed to be surrounded by teachers who are committed to learning and changing, for whom a day spent flat-lining in terms of their own progress, and not reflected on, is pretty much a day wasted. Today I have been very proud of them, watching a co-coaching session where they outlined how they would commit themselves this coming year to the vision for learning we live by.
The metaphor this morning has been the Bauhaus manifesto, written by Walter Gropius in 1919. Its approach to schooling is quite inspirational, and relevant for the modern educational world, combining as it does the longing for high artistic creativity and elegance of expression along with the willingness to master a “trade” that can and must be reproducible and “marketable” to a world that is there to be influenced. We used two quotes:
The manner of teaching arises from the nature of the workshop: organic form developed from mechanical knowledge; elimination of all rigidity; emphasis on creativity; freedom of individuality, but strict scholarship.
There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The artist is an exalted craftsman. In rare moments of inspiration, moments beyond the control of his will, the grace of heaven may cause his work to blossom into art. But proficiency in his craft is essential to every artist. Therein lies the prime source of creative imagination.
Proficiency in his craft is essential to every artist… This is the nub of it: seeing teaching and artistry as crafts helps us with all manner of otherwise conflicting issues: creativity versus standards, for one; spontaneity versus discipline for another. You apply yourself to the craft of a subject and this in turn enables you to be as creative (and effective) as you want to be.
We have been studying therefore the impact of last year’s teacher development, and its growing impact on children. With the publication of the excellent Teacher Development Professional Standards (July 2016), we have been able to compare the work we did with the standards, and as a result, are encouraged by the direction we have started to travel. This is not the place to be too explicit about what we have discovered, but the implications for continuing work are clear:
Persisting with a deepening understanding, training in and application of our Theory of Learning in staff meetings and INSET together.
Changing the conversation in teacher development to a much more impact-focused approach to what we do:
- This is what I heard/read/observed in pupil outcomes/learning/attitudes in my class
- This is what I decided to do about it
- This is how I changed my practice as a teacher as a result
- This is what changed for children and here’s the evidence to demonstrate it
In other words, the driver for all professional learning is change to provision or outcomes for children in line with our vision for learning.
In the co-coaching we addressed four questions, to stimulate our thinking, express any concerns we had about the year to come, and become a little more accountable to one another as collaborators in this great work:
- What do you see right now as the main challenge(s) you face in Teaching and Learning this year?
- What are your initial responses to the challenges you’ve identified?
- What opportunities do you see to enhance your work towards our vision for learning, and what is the likely impact on your children this year?
- What support will you need either to enhance your teaching and learning or to meet the challenges you have identified?
It is a good start, getting our minds into a focused and necessary place, with the children as learners at the centre, and ourselves as learners right alongside them.
Have a good term.