This weekend witnessed another great day at Berkhamsted School’s education conference. TLAB is a very special event for me. It revitalised my outlook on education and is the reason I set up a Twitter account, started blogging and engaging with teachers across the country. What follows below is a brief account of Saturday.
First up was John Neal, using a host of incredibly interesting anecdotes he spoke about the conflict between winning versus development. In the short-term it can be easy to win, but often the long-term effect is a malaise that eats into the very fibre of an organisation. Along the way he noted the peculiar triumvirate of avarice found in many professional sports; worth is rated through winning, ego and money. Once again these traits are actually inhibitive to developing the character to enable lasting success. Neal noted that those who achieve long term success look beyond a win in isolation, they have the sole ambition of being the best they can be. Entertainingly he compiled a list of attributes that would lead to sustained success in an athlete:
- I am FG – perhaps more politely known as self-confidence
- The ability to understand why they are good
- Achievement orientated
- TCUP (one for the fans of Sir Clive Woodward, Thinking Correctly Under Pressure)
- Curious learners
- Selfish, to the extent that they always want to know how they can get better
- Courage, the ability to speak out
However, without the quality of humility Neal noted that although these characteristics will enable you to win, you would be a thoroughly unpleasant person (he may have used a slightly different word beginning with W). This presentation was a great way to start the day and had us absolutely spellbound. The message is clear, if you want to enjoy sustained success don’t just focus on winning .
Next came three workshop sessions. I opted to listen in to the Heads’ Panel Debate, which considered character education, safeguarding, examination reform and what education will look like in ten years. One choice quote from the discussion was that “change is a constant in education”. It was equally reaffirming and interesting to listen to those in charge of a school discuss and consider some of the topics du jour. Certainly the panel were unanimous in their feeling that in ten years examinations will still be taken en masse at desks, with pens and paper.
This leads delightfully to the second workshop of the day run by the brilliant Paul Gilliam (for those unaware, he writes the best IGCSE Biology revision blog on the internet and I would recommend you share it with your students / Biology teaching colleagues). At TLAB Gillam was discussing the paperless classroom, although he was at pains to point out that he really means a classroom with “less paper”.
Recently he has tried out eLearning paraphernalia with the aim of supporting students outside of the classroom as well as reducing paper waste. Having visited the magnificent new centre for research in learning at his school, it was a surprise to hear that the three vital pieces of equipment in his classroom were buckets for catching drips from the flat roof! However, it was also an insight to hear him talk about the ways he has engaged with technology, coming from the position of a cynic to seeing the benefits. Even a technological malfunction during the presentation did not dampen his bonhomie. By the end, never mind the technology or shiny new teaching centre, I would have loved to see Gillam just teaching such was his benevolence and obvious passion for learning. Indeed after the session he was mobbed, we were all eager to have a go on his iPad Pro and “game changing” iPencil.
After a very nice lunch I presented a workshop looking at how we are currently trying to build a programme of academic reflection and self-assessment. With huge thanks to those who attended, it was a real pleasure to chat about the ideas and end product. I am especially grateful that people didn’t leave the room following my atrocious pun about former QPR and Watford FC defender Fitz Hall.
At the final keynote Phil Beadle spoke with zeal about writing. He was adamant that the skills of constructing and understanding sentences were the domain of all teachers. And it puts me on edge, as a relative grammatical dunce, to be typing this now. I can imagine his gleeful disdain and deconstruction of my writing (odd though that we still call it “writing” when in fact we are tip-tapping away at a keyboard to produce it). My English teacher friend sitting beside me was very much in her element when carrying out Beadle’s tasks. However, I was pleased that I can use the word “however” properly. I think.
Once again the best thing about the day was not a single keynote or workshop, but the chance to meet, discuss and laugh with other teachers. Without the hugely energising input of this interaction I do wonder how my run in to Easter might differ. Therefore it is only appropriate that I thank the wonderful organisers of TLAB, Laura Knight and Alastair Harrison, as well as Rebecca Brooks and all of the support on the day (particularly Ross who was a very effective laptop-whisperer, just when I thought I would be presenting sans PowerPoint).
And if you enjoyed TLAB or were unable to come along you might be interested in SASFE. St Albans School are holding a Forum on Education at the end of May. For full details see here. Hope to see you there!