10 Research Based Principles of Instruction for Teachers

Really succinct and accessible

Belmont Teach

I recently read an American Educator article from 2012 by Barak Rosenshine that set out 10 principles of instruction informed by research, with subsequent suggestions for implementing them in the classroom. It was also one of the articles cited in the “What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research” by Rob Coe et al and provided further elaboration on one of their six components of great teaching thought to have strong evidence of impact on student outcomes, i.e. quality of instruction.

Here’s my summary of the key messages from each of the 10 principles.

1: Begin with a short review of prior learning

Time-for-Review

Students in experimental classes where daily review was used had higher achievement scores. A 5-8 minute review of prior learning was said to strengthen connections between material learned and improve recall so that it became effortless and automatic, thus freeing up working memory.

Daily review could…

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You might not think that I care, but you don’t know what I know …

A boy shelters his sister - sorry I am unaware of origin or would reference it

A boy shelters his sister – sorry I am unaware of origin or would reference it

Before I get going if you don’t know the reference in the title then 1) What’s wrong with you? and 2) Go and check it out here

I’ve spent a while recently trying to organise a table for a charity ball in aid of children’s hospices. I managed to find enough people that were around at the right time (a bank holiday weekend and the start of half term when people are jetting off) and wanted to get measured and suited up – along with buying some new dresses for wives and girlfriends. It had been a job getting everyone together, booking table and rooms, collecting cash etc

Then I got a message saying someone couldn’t make it. They were in the RAF and had been called overseas. I was a bit miffed and immediately thought I’d have to track someone else down and then sort out getting money paid across and whether or not I could ask someone to take the place and then get them to pay full price etc etc. And then I slowed down a bit and thought about what he was being called overseas for. His posting was to India and having asked what the RAF had there he replied nothing but am organising aid being flown into Nepal. Talk about putting things into perspective. I’d only seen the picture above an hour or so earlier and my first thought was about the paltry problems my friend’s absence could cause me and not thought about the big picture.

I was disappointed as lately I’ve been looking a lot more at the big picture and rising above things that would previously have dragged me in. I’m no saint and can’t always say I keep out of things but I’ve got better recently. I’ve had fake accounts set up that used my picture and had gone through my wife’s account to find pictures and retweet them as well as including paedophile jokes. Charming I’m sure you’d agree and in the past it would have bothered me and got me wound up along with the various jibes and sarcastic comments. In the past I would have thought for a while about how to be sardonic in response and probably got embroiled in a particularly unhelpful and unhealthy exchange. I suppose it all made me think of the Simpson’s episode where Homer suggests that Bart lets, “the baby have its bottle.” So now the most I’ll offer in terms of a response is silence or a joke response as it’s about all things of this nature deserve – although I did think the paedophile jokes and trolling my wife’s account was a bit much (weird, offensive, disgusting perhaps?) so reported that one and twitter shut it down.

The system works - until another anonymous one is set up ... yawn ...

The system works – until another anonymous one is set up … yawn …

So what has given me this ability to seek calm and retreat into a zen like state? Well I’ve already reflected on the I’m Ok You’re Ok philosophy that encourages me to look for good in people and be able to take less to heart (I’ve also been quite taken with the notion of “people don’t hate you, they just hate themselves at you,” but that could just be denial) but it’s a couple of bigger things that have given me a sense of perspective and a sense of something bigger than twitter rows or whether Nicky Morgan is the same as Michael Gove, or whether knowledge or skills is the most important. I have an opinion on these and other things. Many, many other things, but they aren’t the things that define my existence.

One of them is something I’ll keep to myself for a while as it’s not my place to share – suffice it to say when you’ve laid on the floor of a casualty department with someone desperately close and important to you screaming and shouting after they’ve tried to take their own life while suffering from a severe episode of mental illness you don’t get worked up on whether Hirsch is a Democrat or a Republican. Cradling someone who is absolutely terrified while they don’t know where they are, who you are – or for that matter who they are – does help you see what’s worth getting worked up about.

The other is one that has only been a factor in my life recently. I suppose in some ways episodes like the one above – and yes it wasn’t an isolated case – had made me feel I was kind of impervious to most things but finding out my dad had cancer was still hard to hear and when I think about it it’s still coming through to me in waves and every so often the full implications of it smack me pretty hard in the face.

He got the diagnosis the day I was leaving my last job and typically for my dad didn’t want to tell me then as I was going out for a meal and it might spoil the day so it was a few days later that my mum rang me to let me know. She wasn’t going to tell me on the phone but I knew there was something there so I pressed and she did. He’d been ill for a while and had lost a lot of weight and was tired almost all the time but we’d put it down to a number of things; he was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and had to make massive changes to his diet, he’d had changes at work that were massively stressful, and his useless son had him doing all sort of repairs and renovations to his house. Still my mum knew there was something worth chasing (nurse’s intuition that didn’t help when I ACCIDENTALLY broke my brother’s ankle two and a half decades ago) so pressed for extra blood tests and eventually a number of scans.

They identified secondary cancer in his liver but weren’t sure of the primary so needed extra meetings and consultations. Extras that have now been going on for almost nine weeks and still with little sense of a next step. It’s hard waiting and the unknown is more terrifying than the first diagnosis as we still don’t know what it is we are dealing with and as such can’t take even the first steps. And I’m on the outside of it. I can’t even begin to think what it’s like for dad.

And that’s where we are. Still in the unknown. Waiting for a drip, drip of information from various doctors, some informed, some less so, some appearing to have no sense of empathy and others absolutely fantastic but ultimately pretty powerless. I’m likely to write more on this as I get a sense of what it’s about and I’ll apologise in advance if it’s a bit self indulgent but it’s a way of thinking things through.

So yeah, there are things that wind me up and no, I’m not immune to being abused (“do I not bleed?”) but I’m also aware of more things in heaven and on earth Horatio.

Lots of Love

Colin

You know what happened to Nelson …

Sorry but I'm a child of a certain era ...

Sorry but I’m a child of a certain era …

So dear reader, blog number two on the journey to the opening of Trafalgar College. Since the last one we’ve had the election – you know the one Martin Freeman told us about in a manner most five year olds would find offensive – and now purdah is done and dusted we can get properly get things going with the new school. I have been saying full steam ahead but needed a better phrase so went to my dad for advice and he suggested setting full sail so that’s what I’m going with.

Planning a school when you don’t know where it is going to be or what it will look like sounds like a strange concept but as Jim Bob says, “the school is not the buildings, it’s the children.” Admittedly we don’t know them yet but the principle is there and one that I’ve been working towards.

I don’t want to sound like I’m basically sitting around all day pontificating as there are lots of other aspects to my role at the moment involving supporting schools and teachers and writing curriculum models starting at year 1 and working through along with preparing and delivering leadership training (see, I am doing stuff) but there is also time to really consider a wide range of ideas and philosophies as we formulate the right one for Trafalgar.

I think that educational debate has recently become too polarised and, as I mentioned on my personal blog when I introduced the first Trafalgar piece, I think this is unhelpful. I always try to read around as much as I can and although I can have the same reactions as others to things on first sight or experience I think it’s important to reflect more and look for a bigger picture and a wider sense of what’s going on. I don’t mean that we need to embrace every single thing and know that there will be some ideas or approaches that won’t be part of the final picture but to give an ear to people or thoughts in order to see what things can be taken away is important.

This was particularly in my mind when I visited Michaela last week to speak to Joe Kirby and see the curriculum and the lessons there. The approach to teaching that I’d been told Michaela used prior to my visit was one that seemed to be quite removed from my own but I went with a genuine interest and an open mind. People often talk about effect sizes and what ‘works’ or doesn’t but I’m yet to be convinced that there is a way to teach that covers everything and is bullet proof. Tait Coles who wrote the brilliant PuNk Learning has written about the difference between the style and the code, making analogies between teaching and football, and suggesting that we get too hung up on looking for the right way to teach and lose sight of the reasons why we do so. Equally, while people might look at me as a TEEP trainer and suggest that it advocates a specific way of teaching (you often hear of people saying they or their lessons have been ‘TEEPed’) I have always seen it as way to bring together a range of approaches and provide a framework for discussing and sharing these underpinned by some pretty universal stuff.

So here I was, someone who delivers a course that has collaborative learning as one of its ideas visiting a school where I was told on arrival that there is no group work or talking and that pupils are told what they need to know, tested on it and if they don’t know they learn it again. I know that some people have picked up on this or other things they’ve heard about Michaela and really ran with them, especially after David Didau’s blog but as you’d expect, and I’d hope we’d all realise, things are never quite that simple.

We were delayed on the train so unfortunately we only got to the school for the end of Family Lunch but managed to catch the idea. The pupils were in tables of five or six and took turns to serve each other food, cleared the tables and engaged in discussions around a topic of the day. As we were there on election day the topic was pretty much unavoidable and I managed to join a table at the end where I introduced the idea of tactical voting to the conversation. After everything had been cleared away the pupils and staff had an opportunity to give each other ‘Appreciations’ that consisted of thanking someone for something they had done or recognising a kind act and clapping twice in recognition. Now this is where I can see hackles being raised in response to terminology or prescribed actions. I have to say it was unusual to me, but look deeper than this and see what was happening. Each day these children sit around a table together with an adult, share out tasks and responsibilities and help each other and the community out and then show their gratitude towards each other for acts of kindness. Remember the style and the code.

And then we were into lessons. And do you know what? The kids sat in rows, they were polite, they were quiet when it was asked for, they were tested regularly to check their understanding and all the other things we can decide to look at and dismiss because it must lead to x or y and can’t help them to be balanced individuals. But that’s just looking at the surface and possibly wilfully no deeper. What I saw were classes where students were completely engrossed in their learning because they wanted to be and because they wanted to do well. And they were doing incredibly well at incredibly high levels. In a French lesson for example the pupils weren’t just able to answer questions in the target language and demonstrate a fantastic vocabulary and ability to apply the language learnt they could explain exactly why the words needed an extra vowel or dropped a consonant in French. They had a real grasp of the grammatical rules and could explain them – and help each other out when someone went astray – in the target language. Rote learning with no real understanding? Not here.

English next, and again pupils were engaged, interested and enjoying the lesson. The focus was on Julius Caesar and the class were looking at a piece of extended writing and discussing (yes, discussing – while Joe Kirby who was teaching the class feels that group work can lead to too much freeloading he is a massive advocate of the benefits of paired discussion and sharing ideas in a class) the strengths and weaknesses of it as well as answering questions of the play overall and which characters said what and what this told us about them. As an English teacher I was interested in whether or not the students explored their own interpretations. The notion of a knowledge based approach seemed to me to suggest that they would be learning a set way of doing it with Core Knowledge equating to learning one way at the expense of others – I didn’t say I didn’t have prejudices just that I try to keep them in check! Having seen a reference to Tyger Tyger in their books I asked the two girls showing us round what the poem was about and what it told us about Blake’s view of creation and mankind. Not only were the responses impressive in terms of showing understanding of a poem they had studied some time ago (and yes, I picked one from a while back to see if there was residue of thought) but the two of them had a variation in their interpretations that showed a sense of critical autonomy developing and were able to justify their thoughts based on the text.

I also want to stress how comfortable, balanced and happy the students appeared. Again in responses to David’s post there has been comments that these children can’t be happy if they are working hard and challenged and almost as if the focus on learning means that they will lose the chance to enjoy themselves and be children and I have to say that this was certainly not the case in the lessons we saw during our visit or the children we spoke to. The French, English and Art lessons we went into were characterised by happy (which to some seems incompatible with learning), focused and hard working (which on the other side of the fence for some reason must mean they are stressed and unhappy) students who were fully committed and engaged (ah, need another side of the fence for those who baulk at the word engagement as if you engage students at the expense of them learning).

No excuses has been raised a fair bit as well and I can see how, if we equate no excuses with not being allowed to make mistakes, this could be seen as fairly oppressive, stress inducing and scary. To me though, and the impression given by the pupils, no excuses means to keep going, to redefine failure as a learning experience to build on and dare I say it was a way to develop resilience. You know one of those ‘soft’ skills that apparently have no place in schools and yet contribute a fair bit to developing what we might call ‘character!’ Flippancy aside if we can build classrooms where pupils don’t laugh at other’s mistakes and as a result feel comfortable to put ideas and answers forward – as it was expressed to me by the children – I’d be happy.

So what had we learned (Jerry!)? Well it was obvious that there was a very extensive knowledge base to the curriculum. Looking at the books the girls were working from you could see how much material they had covered and this was also evident in the French lesson where they had such an in depth knowledge of the grammatical rules. What was evident though was that this knowledge base was a starting point not a destination and that it didn’t restrict or limit the pupils but gave them a firm and impressive foundation to explore and question from.

In a wider sense (conscious that I’m verging into Martin Freeman patronising land here) the main thing going forward is that we need to be careful of how our preconceptions frame our explorations. We need to be aware of our own need for confirmation bias and be able to put it to one side, look beyond the obvious, no matter how readily it confirms what we expected – or hoped – to find and see what is really happening. I don’t intend for Trafalgar to be a recreation of Michaela any more than I want it to be Norwich School on the beach. I also think that Joe could have made more of Paul Ginnis’ work than he did when writing about it in fairly dismissive tones as being all about style and lacking content (it allows for content and knowledge to develop through engagement with high levels of challenge and it’s misuse rather than inherent problems in the thinking that are the issue in my opinion – Paul’s response was that he was flattered it was still being read) but I’m confident that with the wide range of ideas out there we can find something valuable in a wide range of them as we look to develop the curriculum and ethos of Trafalgar College. It’s not, as a friend expressed to me this week, about choosing between E.D. Hirsch and Ken Robinson but finding which bits of both can contribute to creating an education for our pupils that will be more than the sum of all the various edu-parts.

Lots of Love

Colin

Shouting to be heard, above the sound of ideologies clashing…

So… I was asked to write a blog for the New Schools Network about setting up Trafalgar College and wrote what follows. It was meant as a personal reflection on how I ended up in the position to do so and, aside from my tendency to have overlong sentences, I thought it did a decent job of that. It was put up on the trust’s website and then someone told me that it had received a reply on someone else’s blog who took comments in it as throwing punches and there were also comments that I’d been coerced in some way to write it. I can assure you that it was off my own back and any punches were in the mirror as I looked back on what I considered to be an unhelpful stance I’d taken and am glad to have moved on from. As I have said before on ‘debates’ about progressives and traditionalists, skills vs knowledge, etc I find polarisation and generalisation to be a barrier to moving on and think we need real communication which is about contributing a range of ideas and views to a more powerful and well developed way forward rather then just shouting till one voice is the loudest.

Anyway here it is and volume two will be along soon for your delight!

I’m not even sure if I was of school age when my mum, a determined Londoner dragged my poor old dad into the Norwich School tent at the Norfolk Show. Dad, a bricklayer from the gorgeous but pretty isolated village of Winterton on Sea told me recently he had no idea what she was up to. He knew it was best just to go along with her as having a headstrong Irish temperament (something I have to confess I have a little bit of myself) she wasn’t one for backing down.

Mum – and dad without knowing it yet – had decided that if I was going to get on in life I’d need the highest quality education. To be fair, she already gave me a pretty good start before I even set foot in a school by reading to me and encouraging me to get to grips with the letters, words and stories that would eventually lead me to a degree in English and to teach the subject. But now it was time for me to get a formal education that would mean I had an open door to success.

I had to work hard at that school. Even though I was on a scholarship mum and dad still had to give up a lot and I remember the night shifts at Accident and Emergency in Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth that mum did, putting up with all manner of things just to make sure that I, and later, my younger brother could access a high quality education. That scholarship wasn’t easy to come by and neither was maintaining it but I thrived in the focused, dedicated community supported by excellent teachers and equally committed and hard working peers.

Throughout my career I’ve always wanted to take what I had at Norwich School and give it to others. Not necessarily the subjects, or the model, or the games lessons in freezing cold rugby pitches (although maybe this is what’s meant by character education…) but the aspiration and self- confidence along with the qualifications and the experiences that make school the holistic, supportive and developing experience that it should be – maybe I’m back on those playing fields again!

I’m also someone committed to my local area. My tutor at Norwich, a wonderful man called Craig Hooper, once told me that when he was growing up he drew a circle of fifty miles around his home and pledged that his university would have to be well outside of this radius. I’ve never felt that need to escape, to leave almost for the sake of it and while I love exploring, seeing places and meeting people I’ve been lucky to have opportunities nearby. You’ll have gathered by now I was pretty blessed by the school I was fortunate enough to go to, and when it came to my degree where better to read English than the UEA where writers I’d devoured like Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro had studied and written?

And so it was with my teaching career. While I’ve worked across the country delivering TEEP and NPQML/SL as well as having the great opportunities and experiences that the FastTrack programme offered up in my earlier years, until recently I’ve worked in the same school where I was an NQT. In the time I spent there I’d gone through just about every role on the way to the leadership team and while I had drifted into the wilds of Suffolk from Norfolk I was always pleased that I was working in what was (near enough) my community and also working with students that hadn’t always had the greatest opportunities so could really use an education that opened up things to them and broadened horizons. I’ve been reading Biesta lately so am conscious of the view of education as emancipation that can look like some sort of master going in to release these young people by bestowing education upon them but I’ve never viewed what we do as a power based relationship. We definitely do give something to our students as we work with them but the greatest part of that for me is working to see what they have within them already and how we can help to develop that to give them a sense of their equal position and rights in a challenging society.

And so to where I am now. My local roots (and maybe that Irish ancestry I mentioned earlier) meant I was a little miffed to hear how education in Norfolk and other coastal areas needed to be sorted out and how various organisations were going to flood in and save us. Hang on I thought, what about those of us working here already? Can’t we be involved in this?

And it turns out we can.

Rather than sitting on the sidelines shouting and moaning (although maybe I did a bit of that in the early days) I decided to go and speak to one of the organisations working in the area and get a sense of what they were about based on more than the lazy twitter comments and newspaper articles. “Let’s go and see what these people are about,” I thought. So I arranged a meeting with the CEO of The Inspiration Trust, Dame Rachel de Souza to get a sense of the work that the trust were doing and who they really were.

This was the first of a few meetings and exchanges with Dame Rachel and others from the trust including Ian Burchett – now my boss – that included looking at some of the schools and at one point inviting Inspiration in as one of a number of trusts that we met at my previous school while we were seeing what sponsors were out there. In all of those meetings, visits and twitter exchanges what was evident was that here were people who were absolutely committed to doing the very best for the young people of the county (and even creeping into North Lowestoft with one school) and had a fantastic range of skills and experiences all of which were channelled into delivering an excellent education and start in life for all of the children in their care – children from my home county and, in the case of three of the primaries, my home town.

And that’s where my real excitement and eventual involvement stemmed from. In early conversations with Ian he’d said that he was writing a bid for a free school to be based in Great Yarmouth. Trafalgar College would be a secondary free school with a STEM focus and a commitment to ensuring that the young people of Great Yarmouth were prepared with the qualifications, skills and attributes that would mean they could secure some of the high paid jobs that companies in the town were currently looking elsewhere to recruit. This was a massively exciting message for me and I wanted in.

It took a while. Eight or nine months passed between those initial conversations and a post arising at the trust to work as Executive Vice Principal working across schools and then, all being well, forming part of the Trafalgar team if the bid was approved. The interview was a tough one and Ian and some of the other Principals and leaders from the Great Yarmouth Federation really put me through my paces; financial interviews, PESTLE analysis, on the spot presentations to people in role as parents at an open evening, and in depth leadership discussions. The last featured a question on resilience which, coming from a school that had recently dropped below floor and then been put into Special Measures by an Ofsted team inspecting a school with a large percentage of staff on strike for the duration of their visit, I had plenty to talk about.

So I left the school that had seen me arrive as a trainee, given me my first teaching position and then move from head of subject, to head of faculty and where I’d been part of a brilliantly supportive and collaborative leadership team to move to a job where not only did I not know who was who, what systems and structures to expect I didn’t even have anywhere to put all of the stuff I cleared out of my old office. A vision for a new school is an exciting thing but you can’t put your books on the shelves of a vision or put your certificates and well loved drawings from previous students on the walls.

But what a vision it is. And it continues to grow. I’ve been in post now for about two and a half weeks and boy have I made the right decision. If you haven’t seen our CEO at work then you’re missing out. She has such commitment and passion for what she does and for making sure that there’s not a single person in that room who doesn’t share it and push on and on to get the very best for the students in our schools and their communities. And that commitment is shared by each and every person that I’ve met. I consider myself genuinely fortunate to work alongside Ian who currently has a dual role as Executive Principal for Great Yarmouth and Commercial Director for the trust. We have already had fantastic discussions about what we are going to do with our school and the work we are going to do with the parents, students and wider town; we share an interest in developing pedagogy and the teachers and leaders in the group of school we work with; and I’ve also begun to get a sense of the workings of a multi academy trust and the ways in which it facilitates a collaborative approach to taking education forward which has sadly been lacking in some areas lately.

So that’s where we are and where I am. Like I say I am two weeks into the role and have so far presented to the CEOs of other trusts, met with people from the EFA and provided some leadership cover for a primary school to free up their leaders for some intervention work with year 6 hosted at a fellow federation school. Add into that meetings with The Regional Schools Commissioner and Roy Blatchford, planned trips to Michaela to look at curriculum and a visit to some place called ‘The Big Apple’ to see how things work stateside and I’m sure you’d agree it’s a time of great opportunities coupled with hard work. But all with the mindset of providing the very best.

All I need now is for this election to get itself sorted so we can end purdah and get on with finding a site and building Great Yarmouth a fantastic new school.

Lots of Love

Colin

 

Some ramblings and a challenge!

So it seems that Hywel Roberts thinks I’m worth listening to (man has taken leave of his senses) and has offered some very lovely words in the form of his nomination for the twitteratn challenge. I’ve copied the rules here as required and made my nominations below. Have also added a video to Youtube where I fulfil the requirements and added that here …

Hopefully something of interest here for people!

In the spirit of social-media-educator friendships, this summer it is time to recognise your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support.

 

Rules:

There are only 3 rules.

 

1 You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.

2 You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge

3 You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the Rules and What To Do) information into your own blog post.

 

 

What To Do?

There are 5 to-dos you must use if you would like to nominate your own list of colleagues.

 

1 Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regulalry go-to for support and challnege. They have now been challenged and must act as participants of the #TwitteratiChallenge.

2 If you’ve been nominated, you must write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @StaffRm.

3 The educator nominated, that means you reading this must either: a) record a video of themselves (using Periscope?) in continuous footage and announce their acceptance of the challenge, followed by a pouring of your (chosen) drink over a glass of ice.

4 Then, the drink is to be lifted with a ‘cheers’ before the participant nominates their five other educators to participate in the challenge.

5 The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top-5 go-to educators are.

Ok, So it’s my turn…

As I’m sure everyone that has to do this will think and comment getting just five from the momentous gang of fantastic people that we share, debate and laugh with on Twitter is massively difficult and if you’re not in the five I’m still sending lots of love and warm thoughts in your direction. Some have been included already by others or break the rules of the challenge and I’ve put my final list together with people I’ve had longest relationships or most exchanges with. A longer list would include @imagineinquiry, @McShaneChris, @developingtandl, @DKMead, @kbrechin, @gradgrind999, @ChrisMoyse, @davidfawcett, @mlovatt1, @Pekabelo, @dockershoops, @SeahamRE, @beetlebug1, @BridgetBurke2, @headguruteacher, @johntomsett, @vicgoddard, @learningspy, @Edutronic, @deadshelley, @hallrhall, @MichaelT1979, @kbrechin, @lisajaneashes, @MrsPrentice, @MissJKud and loads more

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First up and one that will be no surprise to anyone that knows me is the magnificent Tait Coles (@Totallywired77). We met on Twitter a few years back and in person from time to time. He never stops giving and challenging and is a massively principled guy and a true revolutionary.  And he’s written a brilliant book cutting through lots of the safe and formulaic approaches to teaching that seem to dominate educational literature nowadays. I’m waiting for him to move from pedagogy to philosophy and politics in his next one. Have just seen that he’s already been nominated so the rules say he can’t be in my five. As a PuNk I’m going to stick two fingers up and leave him in my write up and add another one as well!

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I first met Martin Said (@saidthemac) at Cramlington where I saw him deliver a workshop around an integrated creative arts curriculum. It was something I was looking into so was timely but his approach was also genius. As well as being a fantastic educator Martin is a genuinely warm guy and I still remember him saying how he knew he was lucky to work at a school like Cramlington and that he thought we should be more confident and comfortable to say how much we love young people and love working with them. And the XP school he’s been part of creating is an actual example of that over used and rarely real concept of innovation in education.

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As a public (sorry Nick independent!) schoolboy working in state education I’ve always enjoyed conversations with Nick Dennis (@nickdennis) He’s a deep thinker and genuinely wise man who writes a stimulating blog and is also responsible for the annual TLAB event. Nick works in an independent school and this has been something that has been part of our discussions around the notion of one sector helping the other and how actually this suggestion of superiority or inferiority is unhelpful and we could do better to look at best practice regardless of where the funding comes from if we hope to move forward. We also share a love of old school hip hop which is always good to cement a relationship.

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Sweary old Jamie Portman (@jamieportman) is someone I met through the Cramlington connection and is a #soldier that I’m glad to serve alongside in the education battlefield. He’s a straight talker and sophisticated thinker and also a great guy to have a beer with which I wish we could do more often but like so many of my favourite twitter guys he’s bloody miles away.

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I’m not doing as much TEEP training as I used to but worked with some great people when I did and right up there with the best of them was Sandra Towers (@SandraTowers) who is a TEEP Ninja and a wealth of ideas about teaching generally and more specifically English teaching as well as being a driving force in getting more people to get involved in Twitter as a forum for discussion and encouraging us all to bring a friend to a teachmeet. We’ve also stayed at some terrifying places!

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Last in my list but never last in my thinking is Kenny Pieper (@kennypieper) who I met at last year’s TLT and was a superstar when things were tough for me over the last year. Kenny sits quietly but is the architect of a hell of a lot of how teachers use Twitter and the associated grass roots movement of collaboration so next time you’re at a teatime or are tweeting a #pedagoo friday don’t forget to give a nod to the godfather. He’s also a fantastic moral compass and I don’t think I would have started blogging without his encouragement!

So that’s me. Let’s see where these guys take it next!

Lots of Love

Colin