I’ve been to quite a few teachers-for-teachers conferences in the last few years, but this one must be one of the best ones I’ve been to. Very friendly, very relaxed – and very inspiring.
@johntomsett’s keynote set the scene and theme for the event in a very novel way. “Sharing practice can be dangerous,” he says, by which he means that far too often teachers in their classrooms use a new idea, resource or new element of their practice once and then discard it. Even when it does work that first time around, without being used consistently and becoming our habit, it won’t make a difference.
With that in our minds, we went to our workshops. The one that I ran, on pitching differentiation for different levels/groups of EAL learners came first. I’d chosen to speak about substitution tables and graphic organisers, with specific examples of how to utilise these in our classrooms – insisting that there is no particular reason why we shouldn’t be able to teach academic language to EAL learners, regardless of their second language acquisition learners.
Next up was the workshop of the day for me: @MrsSpalding led one asking questions about whose knowledge are we promoting/teaching in schools? Are we including underprivileged voices and their knowledge? This, of course, led us to discuss what ED Hirsch proposes: do all students learn what he calls cultural literacy – i.e. facts and knowledge which are deemed as necessary to know for everyone in a country – those that give power to the elites. Is teaching such elitist knowledge already assimilation of the underprivileged into the existing structures? These are powerful questions and tend to be controversial. I came out of the workshop impressed: finally, I was a part of an open discussion about the issues of knowledge, power and politics of curriculum design.
The fantastic David Fawcett @davidfawcett27 ran my third session – on Questioning. I learned huge amounts about how to rethink the kind of questions I ask my learners in my class. In particular, the idea of what to do with wait time – so that students don’t just wait it out – appealed to me. It was a very interactive session with loads of input from different teachers and me having copious notes to choose from. I am definitely making this one my target. This is the one thing I am going to be consistently doing starting next week.
My last session was on Cognitive Toolbox (by @pimpmymemory & @doctorwhy) and was largely a practical session on how to use insights from cognitive psychology to get students to remember better. It’s the spacing of learning (not cramming for exams) that we need to remind our learners of. Also, apparently, practice tests work well before the actual final exam – the challenge is how to incorporate these in our school curricula!
A brilliant event – from
Thank you to those of you who chose my workshop in the morning!