Have felt worse

My #tlt17 takeaway

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Yesterday was my second visit to Southampton for David Fawcett and Jenn Ludgate’s TLT or teaching and learning takeover. (here’s my write up of the 2016 one). More than a few colleagues (and family members) couldn’t work out why I would want to go. You spend so much time moaning about feeling exhausted and wrung through by your job. It makes no sense and seems hypocritical that you should want to give up your Saturday to go and hear people talk about teaching.

Well yes it does. So here are the main reasons I wanted to go again

  1. Last year was great and I picked up something from that day I now use in EVERY lesson I teach. No other CPD in 20+ years has ever done that.
  2. Through all the hard times my career, even when it was really tough and I could hardly walk out through my own front door to go to work, actually being in the classroom has always remained a joy; a sanctuary even. Now if you imagine the feeling you get in those good lessons, THAT was the vibe at Southampton university yesterday. People teaching because they wanted to share. And people listening and thinking because they wanted to learn.
  3. I met up with some friends from my own school. Sharing this love of teaching with them was a real luxury we can take back to our staff room.
  4. The sessions are relevant to me. Picked by teachers, delivered by teachers, with teaching, learning and teaching in mind. Its proper CPD, not forced on you and done to you between a full day’s teaching and full evening’s marking.
  5. Free of the influence of OFSTED, school improvement plans, performance management and unnecessary paperwork.
  6. Free coffee. In fact a free day.


Chris Moyse (@ChrisMoyse ) started the whole thing off by reflecting on the legacy we would like to leave. Could we “leave the shirt in a better place than we found it in”? © All Blacks. He asked us not waste the day by letting it become OPD (occasional professional development but instead to make it what the Japanese call ‘kaizen’ or continual small improvements

My favourite thing he said though was how it was still okay to teach ugly but good lessons. In the hubbub of everyday school lessons I like to think I can always fall back on delivering an ugly but good lesson or two. Mr Moyes also has some seriously good IT presentation skills by which we were able to see on video loops the various painful ways pole vaulters could knock off the bar and injure themselves

I next heard Dawn Cox ( @missdcox ), a head of RE, talk about how she had dropped giving grades as part of her feedback to pupils and how they still longed for them. While I couldn’t possibly agree with her when she said she loved marking books, I did absolutely concur with the general murmuring of agreement as she discussed the ‘utter nonsense that has and still does masquerade as feedback in lessons; marking one exam question and giving it a whole exam grade, asking pupils what they need to do to improve their work, marking/feedback as proof for others to see, and those interminable trackers to show progress. Whilst she quoted Dylan Wiliam and Alfie Kohn on the trouble with feedback and grades I thought one of her own pupils put it best


Ever since I’ve been in teaching I’ve wondered about the obsession with grades and measurable improvements. Like Dawn’s excellent session (which you can find here) it has always reminded me of Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

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My next session blended excellently with that one. The man himself David Fawcett ( @davidfawcett27 ) was also mainly focussing on feedback. I nearly purred when I saw his opening slide


David showed how, just because Hattie found it to have a high impact, not all feedback is good feedback. What we should be looking for is a mixture of Robert Bjork’s idea of less input more output and Dylan Wiliam’s of ‘Feedback causing thinking”. Then David suggested one technique I really want to practice when I get back to my classroom. He talked of how he uses his visualiser for not only showing good work and discussing why it is  good, but also for putting an imperfect piece of work under it and asking the class what needs to be done to make it better. I love this. I have never mastered ‘live marking’ as I never get round more than a minority of pupils in my lesson. This idea, if I can get it to work, would it by like a ‘live crib sheet instead’!

I was really looking forward to Mark Enser’s session, because I like his blog a lot www.teachreal.wordpress.com and because he appeared to be the only geography teacher presenting on the day. Hs talked about creating a culture of excellence that doesn’t leave anyone behind. Mark said my favourite thing of the whole day. “We hardly mention the exams to the pupils. We help them make excellent work. They really enjoy producing excellent work.” It’s almost something Pirsig might have written.

I got more Kenzai ideas to go with the visualiser one. Mark talked of how he had used a blog to share posts that more able pupils could be asked to read and discuss. Since I have just revamped my classroom blog only this week (www.geogteacher.wordpress.com) this is fine time to try this strategy. I have already added a tag “Excellent Geography” and shared a possible post all about puffins and global warming. I will also try to get parents to sign up to the blog via email so I can involve them too.

As David’s session overlapped with Dawn’s, so Mark’s snuggled in cosily with David’s. He too talked about using bad exemplars of work to improve learning and how modelling can help a lot along with that. I already do this in parts, but not as explicitly as Mark suggests. There is my third “CPD not OPD” moment.

Session 4  was by Jack Philips ( @Mr_P_Hilips ) and had the best slide of the day


He was also the third person in the last few months to recommend the book in the middle here. Maybe I should buy it.


My takeaway from Jack’s enthusiastic vocabulary promotion will be to use some y10 tutor time to promote learning and using new words. I think this might involve prizes and having to have a witness teacher sign for your efforts

Finally we were all back in the big lecture theatre for Jane Ashes ( @lisajsaneashes ). With more than enough enthusiasm and energy to fill the place Lisa reminded us of the important things about the day:

  • Don’t leave the ideas in the room
  • Simple ideas are big enough share the ideas – don’t keep them to yourself
  • Sometimes we see problems as the reason for not doing something. There are many, many people with much bigger problems than us (for which she used her recent Ghana and Nepal experiences to prove)
  • The only way you can avoid any type of criticism is by doing nothing at all

And there we are – a fantastic day. I have new ideas to try those small changes, to keep it CPD and Kaizen. I have got them from wonderful, kind people who gave up their own time to share them with me…

The atmosphere at TLT17 reminded me of the quote John Tomsett uses to close his book “Creating a culture of truly great teaching”. It comes, knowing what I do now of Chris Moyes’ musical taste, from a man he would have greatly admired….



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