Tag Archive | Engagement

Scaffolding learning – a different perspective?

scaffolding2

As teachers we break a subject down into components or elements of knowledge and understanding, into learning steps if you like. We then find the “best” way to deliver these steps in a way learners will, with a measured degree of effort, assimilate.  This process is influenced by our knowledge and understanding of pedagogy and our relationship with the learners. In short we “scaffold” learning.  Fairly straightforward but have you thought about it from a learner’s perspective?  No? – Well read on!

Using what we know to learn what we don’t know

I have come to believe that we learn by building on what we know. This to me is a sort of mental map of my knowledge and understanding, knowing and learning (yes there is a difference, see this article: http://wp.me/p2LphS-ba). The bigger and more detailed the map the more confident we are and easier we find learning something new. For example it has been shown that speaking more than one language helps in learning a new language. I have a way of visualising this process of building on what I already know and call it “anchoring”. I look to make sense of what it is I am trying to learn or understand by referencing it with what I already know or understand what I have already learnt. I make links between what I already know and what I need to learn.

brain-map-transmitters1

Anchoring essentially involves problem solving, an important aspect of Learning Intelligence, LQ (download a leaflet here: about-lq-with-lq-graphic). This is how this approach works and how a teacher can use it effectively in their lessons.

From the learner’s perspective

1) As the topic or subject is introduced we have to look and listen for words or phrases we already recognise.

2) We cannot assume they mean the same thing in this scenario as they do in others so we need to seek clarification and check meaning and relevance.

3) We take enough time to reflect on how what we know fits in with what we are learning. This also involves asking questions to check the links are valid.

4) Next is a sort of consolidation phase, where we explore a little further trying to see where what we know already and what we are trying to learn may take us.

5) This leads to as a sort of prediction phase where the links are established and we are ready to embark on a new learning journey.  We can make educated guesses or predictions if given certain pieces of information.

So learning starts by seeing learning as a problem to solve and a period of analysis and reflection.

From the teacher’s perspective

1) Ask yourself what students need to know or understand in order to make a start on this topic and prepare questions you can ask to check before starting the topic.

2) Don’t assume understanding. Often the same words or phrases can be learnt without understanding. Build in a check and reflection phase during the topic introduction.  Acknowledge and praise where students show understanding or can make links with relevant knowledge.

3) Create an opportunity for students to identify what they already know and how it can be useful in the learning process.

4) Introduce risk taking in the learning process. Encourage students to make assumptions or predictions about the new topic. Here are some questions that can be used to initiate this process. “Knowing what we know already what might happen if…?” “How do you think this might link to…?” You are actually leading up to “Let’s find out”

5) Don’t underestimate how much effort this takes on the part of the learner.  Allow for structured mental breaks and reflection periods. Build in activities that create opportunity for pair or small group work and class feedback sessions.

The proof is in the pudding

I have tried this out on myself in learning about path-finding algorithms used in game programming and after 50 minutes I was in need of a mental break despite being very interested.  I went through all the steps I suggest a student goes through here. During the process I was not passive, there is no good sitting there and hoping you are on the same page as the teacher. Learning intelligence, LQ, is about managing your learning environment and that means interacting with it.

There are two other observations to make about this approach. Firstly I was able to contribute much sooner than if I had just listened. I was in an active learner state earlier. This is important if we as learners are going to maximise opportunities for learning. For teachers it means a greater rate of progress.

Secondly I have a deeper understanding of the topic in a much shorter period of time and anchors that can be used to recall the learning links later. These anchors can be thought of the start of trail of “bread crumbs” marking our thought and learning associations. In case of reviewing or revisiting what we have learnt, and possibly forgotten, we can pick up the trail again starting from an established anchor point.  By following the same trail we reach the same understanding but importantly we can do this independently using our internal prompts. A simplified example is knowing that 12 x 12 is 144 so when asked what 24 x 12 is we can start at  12 x 12 and quickly recognise we are talking about twice as much.

I would be interested if you  scaffold your teaching or learning in this way too.

 

 

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An Even Better Way

arrow-with-the-words-hit-your-target-is-pulled-back-on-the-bow-and-is-aimed-at-a-red-bulls-eye-ta

Schools are pushing students at this time of year to make or exceed their target grades. A great deal goes on both during school, after school and during holidays to finish coursework or to revise topics. Revision strategies most commonly ask students to go over ground they have already covered, often in the same way with the same teachers and approach. What if there was a better way to reach those targets grades?

If we take a sporting analogy for a moment we can see that there is more to performance than learning how to do something and practicing it.  Athletes have to believe in their ability to succeed and without this mental state it matters little how often they practice or train. What if our students did not believe in their ability and what if we did little to change that state of mind? Would it matter how much revision or practice they did if at heart they did not believe they would succeed?

Roy Leighton is involved with a school in Leicester in changing mind-sets of a group of Y11 students. They are using a better way to help students achieve and it does not involve revision in any school subject but it will pay off across all of them. In fact it will have a lifelong pay off for the students because they will believe in themselves.

I had the opportunity to accompany Roy on a visit to the school to meet with some of the students during the Easter Holiday and to see the better way in action.  The better way is actually called the “Butterfly Model” and it is something Roy has been developing and refining very successfully.  I have known Roy for some time and our work has a number of common elements including enabling learners to manage their own learning and to understand the emotional impact on our ability to learn. Roy once said to me: “We are holding different ends of the same stick” and I take this as a both a compliment and encouragement for developing my work on Learning Intelligence seeing how big the stick is that he is holding.  

BM1
I recommend you check out his work on personal transformation here:  http://www.royleighton.com/the-butterfly-model1.html

Here are the two elements of LQ, PBCF “Please Be Child Friendly” enabling and supporting the engagement of learners and SAAB the Skills, Attitudes, Attributes and Behaviours that form the enabling aspect of LQ. You can read more about LQ, starting with an introduction at LQ Introduction

LQ and PBCFLQ round

 

 

Back to the school and students who voluntarily came in during the holiday to meet with Roy and carry on with the programme. This was his 4th visit and there are others to come along with “hangouts”, text messages and online resources that are part of the programme. This may sound like an advert for the Butterfly model but hey if you see something that works you should share it – right!

The session focused on being the person you want to be, making the changes you need to make and recognising the powerful emotions that influence our self-beliefs as learners.  “Getting from here, to where you want to be”. Not your typical exam boosting session but one that is as essential as any in achieving success, just ask any athlete.

As students reflected on the last session and what they decided they wanted to keep, develop and let go you could see their energy rise ready for the challenges this session would provide. A significant difference to getting students to go over work they have already struggled with again which does little to alter their “learning map”, what they believe they can and cannot learn.

Looking at ourselves and recognising our strengths and our weaknesses is difficult, acknowledging these and then deciding what to do about it even harder, but hardest of all is actually doing something about it.  I saw students fully engaged in this journey, facing up to the challenges and changing their beliefs about themselves as learners and having fun while they did so.

With the pressures schools face and not forgetting how these find their way to the teachers it is refreshing to see a school take a different approach, a better way, to achieving success. Some may even say a “braver way” and in many respects I would have to agree. Doing what is the norm, even if it does not always work, is less risky than doing something that is right when it is not recognised. The students who attended this session are in many ways pioneers and deserve recognition. I am sure they will show others there is a better way and I look forward to hearing of their success.

Part 4: The one and only learning theory that counts is …

Part 4.  The impact of the no one learning environment cont.

blame

A blame culture, the ultimate outcome of the “one way”.

Earlier I explored the impact of the one way not working. I described how in my experience it leads to the tightening of monitoring and checking systems,  inflexible frameworks and the limiting of creativity (or in some cases finding “creative” ways around inflexibility).  Now we turn to whose fault is it the one way is not working.

If the one way to learn, the prescribed approach, is not working then it is the fault of someone. Who is that “someone”? At the start there are always a lot of things to point the finger at, after time though the number dwindles. That someone was the Local Education Authority, trendy (lazy) teachers, progressive teaching methods, low aspirations, parents, disruptive students etc. Now it is either the leadership of the school or the teacher or a lack of effort on the part of the learner (also the fault of the teacher). In such cases it is easy to get into a cycle of finger pointing or a blame culture.

We in the UK are definitely into a blame culture and as we move further and further into it the language used by government gives this away. We hear things like “we are introducing a new check”, “pupils at risk of falling behind” , “target those areas” and “children aren’t being given a fair shot to succeed”. More the language of war you would think (the outcome of desperation?) than education perhaps.  Then there is the “takeover” manoeuvre (there is that war analogy again!), the one where those who were “in charge” or responsible are no longer trusted and a new regime is installed. In the UK it is academy trusts who take over “failing schools” but these are also failing (as we would expect if the one way does not work!). It’s certainly a dilemma for any government that persists on the one way path. I suppose with so much invested in the one way, both personally, as well as politically, it is hard if not impossible to even consider another way let alone more than one way.

What we do know is the learning environment created by the pursuit at all costs of the one way is very toxic for those involved in leadership, teaching, and learning.  Finding a way to deal with this environment is the key to improving teaching and learning. We know that through regulation and inspection leadership and teachers have their hands tied so this leaves the learner.  A simple analogy that describes how we may proceed in dealing with a toxic environment that is not going to change is living somewhere really cold and wanting to be warm. You can ask for sunnier days, less snow and ice each year or longer summers and shorter winters until you are blue in the face (ignoring climate change). You are asking for the unlikely if not impossible. The more successful way is to acclimatise yourself to the environment and seek ways of managing it in order to get what you want – to be warm. So you learn what clothes to wear and how to wear them, you practice ways of getting and keeping warm and after a while you are warm, despite the environment.

If we take the same approach in teaching and learning then it’s not about changing the learning environment to meet the needs of the learner it’s about equipping the learner to manage the learning environment to meet their learning needs.  This is important not only because of the one way  problem but because we do not learn just in schools or managed environments. We have the opportunity to learn in a number of different environments. For example at home, in work, during leisure and in a social setting are all potential learning environments.  My experience is that some learners do not do well in one school environment but thrive in another, some do not do well in any formal education environment but thrive when on work placements, and some excel in leisure pursuits but do less well in school. They are the same person but achieve differently in different environments. If we wanted evidence that we need to equip learners with the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours (SAAB) to manage their learning environment then we need look no further than these examples. Where their SAAB matches the environment they flourish, where it does not they struggle.

My claim is that in these situations the learner possesses the appropriate SAAB profile for the environment in which they thrive but not the profile for those where they struggle. It occurs to me that we need to broaden or develop the SAAB profile of the learner such that they can thrive in any learning environment. We need to work with the learner to explore their learning needs and how this impacts on their learning beliefs.  To build in the learner the ability to see a difficulty to learn not as a personal weakness but as a result of the environment they are in and not having the SAAB to mange it effectively.

Links to earlier parts are:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

diagram of LQ and SAAB

The Final Part of: What if everything we thought about learning was wrong?

foundations

In the final part of this article I will suggest that it is time to re-evaluate the foundations of teaching and learning and describe what I believe are the true foundations of any education system we should seek to build on to ensure learning remains at the heart of what we do.

clean-slate-board

It is time to go back to basics of teaching and learning, not those of the 3 R’s, or of rote learning, of the industrial revolution or that of the information technology revolution but instead the basics of relationships and trust in education. It is time to rethink our pedagogy. A time to wipe the slate clean and rethink things from the beginning and not keep adding things that we think will or should “work”.  It is not a case of what can be done but rather a case of what should be done with the tools education has at its disposal to promote teaching and learning.

Imagine starting again knowing what we know now about how education has evolved and been influenced by the revolutions that have occurred over the last 150 years. I hope you will have decided that the foundation of any education system must include building relationships between the teacher and the learner. Apart from three other key elements all the other “stuff” is just, well stuff. It comes and goes according to, for the want of a better word, “fashion.”

teacher and class

Some time ago I wrote about understanding learning needs. This led to an e-book based on both reflection on my time as a teacher and research. As I read studies and ideas about teaching and learning, old and new, time and time again I came across references to the importance of the relationships between the teacher and the learner. Thinking about my own time in the classroom when things went well I had a good relationship with my classes and when things went badly or were stressful for me it was because these relationships had not yet formed. A target driven system that distances the teacher from the learner  is not what learning is about. 

pbcf4

Building relationships and maintaining them is not always easy and is often more complicated than we think. Perhaps the divorce rate confirms this! I have boiled it down to four key learning needs that require being satisfied most of the time if we are to build learning relationships. The graphic below describes the four learning needs. It would be my approach to include these in any foundations. The acronym Please Be Child Friendly offers a suitable reminder of the aim as well as providing a memory key for the four learning needs. Ignoring learning needs is not what builds engagement and is not what learning is about.

Teaching and Learning Responibility diag v2

I have also developed a “learning responsibility ratio” graphic. The graphic aims to show how the dynamics of the learning relationship should change over time. It highlights how the learning relationship may also come under strain at times, especially during a transition point.  At the start the biggest responsibility lies with the teacher in learning about their students, planning the curriculum and developing resources. At this point the learner has only a small responsibility, that of “paying attention”. Later as time passes the ratio of responsibility should transfer from the teacher to the learner. There are points where there is some element of reclaiming responsibility but these need to be part of the learning journey.  If there are too many occasions where the teacher reclaims responsibility the downward trend of the line, the responsibility transfer, is slowed and may never reach a satisfactory stage. The result of such an action means the learner remains dependent on the teacher and takes little responsibility for learning. In a high stakes system it is all too easy for the teacher, who is often most “accountable” to reclaim responsibility in order to maintain control of the learning. Incorporating the dynamics of learning relationships is also a key element in the foundation of an education system. Making or allowing the teacher alone accountable for learning is not what learning is about.

hero's journey adapted for learning

The third block in the foundation is the continued professional development of the teacher. It is important that the teacher models learning to their students. This has two effects. Firstly it will demonstrate that learning requires effort. As the teacher shares the emotional challenges of learning as well as the practical aspects they can show how taking on a learning challenge can be both daunting and rewarding. Secondly it grounds the teacher in the learning experience. This is important because in building successful learning relationships there needs to be both empathy and understanding of the student perspective.  Roy Leighton’s work on the Butterfly Model and specifically the Learning Line demonstrates this aspect of learning. Another example of the trials and challenges of learning can be seen in the Hero’s journey once it is adapted to learning. Ignoring the learning journey and expecting a standardised approach and progress is not what learning is about. lQ graphic 6

The fourth block is a natural requirement of the learning transition. It is no good expecting the learner to take responsibility for and manage their own learning unless they are prepared for and supported in doing so. This last element is one that appears obvious but we do so little in education in this area. We need to directly develop the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours that support the learner in managing their own learning environment to meet their learning needs. The term I have used to describe this is “Learning Intelligence” or LQ. Failure to develop in learners an understanding of how they can manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs is not what learning is about.

Education learning foundation

So there we have it, the four corner stones of the foundation of any education system we care to develop based on learning. I would claim that if we remain true to these foundations then we can adapt and adopt all that is good and useful in teaching and learning from whatever source. We are in effect  guided by the foundations in selecting only those that adhere to the principles and therefore sustain them.  I would claim that such a foundation is both agile and secure. It is able to respond to changes in curriculum, forms of delivery and use whatever technology is appropriate to support teaching and learning.

Want to see any of the first 4 posts?

Part 1: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nz

We need to go back to the start, to look at teaching and learning from the beginning to find out if we have lost our way.

Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nD

How far back can we go with teaching and learning?

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?

In the last part of this article I argued for the need to re-examine the foundations of teaching and learning and to establish if the foundations of what we do and why we do it are still part of today’s educations systems. In short are they relevant? In this, the second part, I ask the question “How far back can we go with teaching and learning?”

campfire homo erectus

Well I would argue that there must have been a time when somebody knew something somebody else did not. Something they discovered for themselves, something that gave them an evolutionary advantage  and perhaps wanted to share with those they lived with.  The making of fire may just have been that one thing or that a stone can act as a club. Although it is rather romantic to imagine such a scenario it does conjure up the first possible teaching and learning scenario.  It does also point to a few possible long lost principles of education too. That:

  • learning through need is a great motivational aspect of learning
  • we learn better when we co-operate with each other,
  • sharing ideas develops new ideas and improves existing ones,
  • failing is just part of the learning journey and should not define who we are (try, try and try again) and
  • trust is a significant aspect of the learning relationship

Long before teaching was a recognised profession and education was a nation’s currency in world rankings there was a time when people learnt things from one another or by reflecting on experiences. Since this simple model we have sought to turn learning into a science and in doing so brought the principles, practices, evaluative and proof tools of science to bear on the process.  I believe some aspects of the art of learning have been sacrificed as we have moved away from the simple model of teaching and learning and adopted a more scientific approach of theories and testing.

As the sciences have  evolved we have attempted to build models of learning that influence how we teach. These models go on to set or influence education policy and practices. Some of these models have been discredited and some build up a strong following as they appear to provide insights into how we can teach better and improve the process of learning.  Whatever appears to work in any part of the educational landscape is explored in order to find elements we can transplant and improve the health of our own education systems.  The idea of science making the process of learning clear continues.  We have seen the rise of neuroscience as we look for ways in which people learn and have employed MRI scanning to map the brain functions.

But what would we do if we had only the simple model of learning and everything else that we believe in how we learn was wrong?  So what if there is:

  • no right brain/left brain functions,
  • no learning styles,
  • no benefit to rote learning or
  • no set of basics or subjects on which we build further learning,
  • no best time of the day to learn

or any of the other ideas or theories we have about how we learn best.

What would we do? What policies and practices would we adopt if there was only the simplest of learning models?

In the next part of this article I will propose the principles and practices of a simple learning model.

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?  http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv

The four foundations of learning and what learning is not

Graphic from: http://socialesiesae.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/prehistory.html

What is in a name and how important is it that people know your name?

baby’s-name

What is in a name and how important is it that people know your name?

What does your name say about you?

We are all given one but have you ever stopped to think how you would find your way in the world or how others would find you without one! In fact there a lot more questions about your name once you stop to think about it.

  • Do you like your name?
  • Does your name reflect who you really are?
  • Do you think people treat you a certain way when they meet you for the first time possibly because of your name?
  • Does your name help or hinder you as you make your way in the world?
  • Would you, or have you ever thought of, changing your name?
  • If you decided to change your name what would it be?
  • Do people call you by your given name or have you a nickname they prefer to use?

So now you may be thinking about your name a little more and if it is Kevin, like mine, then you may be happily reflecting on the “fact” that Kevin means  “handsome”.

You may be asking where am I going with all this name stuff? Well let me get to my point.

In 2011 I had achieved  33 years of being a successful teacher and a few more after that outside of the school environment exploring and working in the “real world”. Having a little more time at hand I started to reflect on my learning experiences. It occurred to me that successful learning and teaching was based on a set of skills, attributes, attitudes, and behaviours. The more I have prodded and probed this notion the more secure I am in my belief but I digress, more of that later. I truly believed then, as I do now, that I have something unique to say about learning and teaching and decided I needed to tell the world about it because as far as I could find out no one else had put the various bits together in the way I had. To me it is both blindingly simple and obvious at the same time, not complicated at all. A sort of eureka moment you would call it.

I needed a way to spread the word and let others know of this simple truth about how to make learning easier, be a great teacher and have successful schools.

In 2011 I decided to set up a company, a website, blog and Twitter account and tell the world about what I have discovered. In order to do so I needed a name for the company. Something that said what I was about and was easy to remember and search on the web so people could find me easily. This is where I was probably too clever for my own good because I have come to realise how important a name is and I may have got mine wrong. Let me explain.

I realised that if we did more of what we have been doing in education, especially in the UK, then we would get more of what we have now. To summarise: stressed teachers, stressed students, a waste of talent, mediocre results, more of a focus on meeting a target than being the best we can be, a lack of creativity or individual expression, too much change and a lot more negatives along the way. I realised we needed to do something different and that we needed to be creative in the way we did it. I still have the same aspirations for students, schools, and education as those who set targets or standards to aim for I just think there is a better way of going about achieving it, one that does not carry with it all the negative aspects we are seeing now. I wanted my company name to reflect this more creative approach and to emphasise the possibilities of being the best as a result of adopting it. There was also the need to be unique on the World Wide Web, a challenge in itself.

The name I chose, “ace-d” ,takes the “a” from advocating, the “c” from creative  and “e-d” from an abbreviation of education and stands for advocating a creative approach to education. The word “aced” is also an idiom for doing very well.

Did you get all that or have I been too clever for my own good?

So “ace-d” was born along with a “leet speek” version for the blog and Twitter called “4c3d” (the 4 replacing the “a” and  3 as a backward “e”. I had to use this approach because “aced” had already been taken as a Twitter and blog name and since creativity is a core principle of ace-d it seemed appropriate to find a creative solution.

Then there is the “ace” connotation of the name and its meaning in general use. We do not have to tear down walls to bring about positive change in teaching and learning, to ace it (too clever again?). As Ellen Langer has pointed out in her theory on mindfulness, we just need to be creative and approach things differently. A one degree change in your course when sailing can bring a different shore into view. Going around an obstacle is just as effective as going through it and there are plenty of obstacles in education!

So why do I think I got the name wrong? Well because it is now 4 years since I set up ace-d and although some people have found me and some of those have become colleagues, some have become listeners and some have asked questions I feel I have only been able to directly help a handful of individuals and schools. That is far less than I know that can benefit from ace-d’s approach and that is what makes me think I got it wrong. If people are looking for help would they find it, would they find ace-d? Try Googling “ ace-d LQ”  and let me know if you found me.

Advocating Creativity Ltd is the formal company name for ace-d and I offer an independent advisory service for those seeking significant and sustainable improvements in learning and teaching. This is primarily achieved by adopting a concept developed by me based on experience and research and called Learning Quotient, LQ for short, or Learning Intelligence. LQ is about developing a set of skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviours shown to significantly impact learning and teaching. You will find elements of Dweck, Hattie, Glasser and many more embedded in the concept of LQ. LQ is about an approach to learning that is both simple and powerful but one that as we chase targets and standards I fear we may move further away from.

You can download a leaflet about LQ here: About LQ with LQ graphic. You can also view a presentation about LQ to a TeachMeet at Northampton University here.

If you are a teacher, leader, or a learner and would like to find out more about how ace-d and LQ can help you I would be pleased to hear from you, now you know the name of course.

You can contact me at kevin@ace-d.co.uk

Links to website

Link to Twitter

The School Staffroom

staff

 

The value of the staffroom in schools (FREE CPD!)

There may be two polarised views about the staffroom in schools. On the one hand a place for gossip and rumour and possibly dissent to thrive and on the other hand a rich source of informal professional development, somewhere to unwind, and a communication centre. Of course it can be many things to many people but where does the balance sit in your school?

[There is now a shorter version of this post available on TeacherToolkit website. The link is https://t.co/6f2aHXvmBH ]

I was once told by a wise bursar that you can tell a lot about a school by the staff toilets. I think the same is true of the staffroom. In my experience you can make an initial guess at what the staffroom is to a school and what it provides by seeing who is there are key times of the day. If it is like the Mary Celeste for most of the day and you only find people there at time required by SLT and certainly not after the bell has gone at the end of the day you may decide that the staffroom is a waste of space. On the other hand if as soon as you open the door to the staffroom you are hit with a wall of chatter, people meeting and greeting each other and the smell of coffee you may regard it as one of the most important rooms in the school.

In my experience any school that abandons the staffroom does so at the risk of losing a great deal both in terms of staff cohesion and informal CPD. I know that in large schools travel to and from the staffroom may take some time and with short breaks and almost none existent lunch periods it is much easier for staff to ‘stay local’ as it were. Easier is not always better though and I would urge that arrangements are made to make the opportunity available for staff to get together in the staffroom once a day or at least a couple of times a week.  Of course with social media, texting and e-mails available people may argue the staffroom has had its day but where else can you inadvertently pick up what can be valuable information about what is going on, student issues and offer your help or advice to those staff facing challenges that may be new to them.

Staffroom dynamics have always been an interesting reflection of the attitudes and values of a school too. At one school I worked in each member of staff had ‘their seat’, and subjects ‘their corner’ of the staff room. Crossing these invisible boundaries was unheard of and on one occasion where I ‘mixed it up’ it caused some concern for a little while. I some schools it was seen as a sanctuary away from the leadership of the school and went strangely quiet if they entered and in others a collegiate melting pot where position or rank was regarded only after experience and value of advice or comment.

Fun, the lubricant of the teaching and learning engine.

One great advantage the staffroom has is that it can allow people to let their hair down a little and have some fun. Here are two examples from my own hands of using the staffroom for a little fun.

Training day

beach

Imagine the summer term and the end of the academic year. Students started their holiday on Wednesday and teachers returned on Thursday for two days of training. Imagine how staff must have felt coming back to school on that first training day. L

Now imagine turning up to the staffroom to find a beach scene with palm plants (Blue Peter style), paddling pool, a crazy golf course, tunes of the Beach Boys playing and a certain member of staff in ‘wild’ Bermuda shorts and shirt with a drink in hand sitting under an umbrella. Well the look on staff faces as they came up to the staffroom was priceless, from a frown into a smile in an instant. The mood was set for the two days. I really should have told somebody though because the Head was a little nervous about what our guests would think when they saw it. We need not have worried, one rolled up his trousers and went paddling, and the other had a game of golf. Both said what a great way to inject a little fun and admitted they had been a little concerned about how staff would receive them with it being the end of busy term and staff tired.  Result J

Monthly Celebration

At a particularly stressful time for all during the opening of a new school with unfinished buildings and temporary accommodation resulting in a split site, the staffroom was a very important place. However on any given day there is always something to celebrate if you look hard enough (a ‘on this day’ search). For one day each month I found something to celebrate and turned this into a one lunch period celebration event. The event and its requirements need to be published ahead of time to give people time to plan and to have something to look forward to.

One example was the forming of the Bank of England 1694. With only a little money spent on cakes and a few photocopies little preparation was required.  The entry fee was by showing a pre decimal coin. This lead to some ingenuity by staff and forgeries were accepted!

bank

So if you think your staffroom could play a much needed part in the life of your school perhaps you could start by celebrating something one lunch period each month and see how it goes.

If you want a few more ideas on how to make the most of the staffroom or want to share one of your own you can reach me at kevin@ace-d.co.uk

For more details about my LQ concept and any of my other ideas and strategies for school improvement, training, and teacher coaching then drop me an e-mail and I will contact you to arrange a time to discuss your needs.

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