Bravery versus blanks: reflections on the South West Academic Trust Conference 2015

150612 LEL

When have you experienced your strongest sense of trepidation? Before an interview? Prior to a bungee jump? Awaiting the results of last month’s general election?

Stood in front of approximately 70 of my DHSB teaching colleagues ten days ago, I quaked. Having been given the opportunity to share results and reflections of a collaborative action research project carried out this year, I felt overwhelmed by the professional experience, skill and intellect of my school team.

Thankfully, they are also a lovely group of individuals and were receptive to my stammering, halting presentation. Audacious goal number one: achieved.

Forward another ten days and I was ready to quake once more; this time preparing to deliver a workshop on a similar theme to delegates at the 2015 SWAT Conference, in a seminar room with seemingly robotic facilities and a sweeping view of Exeter.  Once again, one crucial common denominator saved me: teachers are genuinely lovely people!  My workshop title began ‘Filling in the blanks…’ and, without encouragement, the delegates immediately began to do just that whenever given the chance.  Not that there were blank gaps per se, more carefully structured opportunities for discussion. Teachers are curious, hungry for knowledge and keen to support; they are the perfect audience.

Personal bravery aside, a key theme began to emerge throughout the day.

Dan Roberts’ emphasis on the personal crusade that teachers must wage (with He-Man as a metaphorical lynchpin) was pertinent, given the emphasis on bravery and independence seen elsewhere in workshops.

Year 10 students from Torquay Boys’ Grammar School led workshops on teaching techniques and were able to argue, with conviction, for greater independence in learning. Another Torquay voice, this time a literacy coordinator from the girls’ school, has engendered bravery around grammatical skills by fostering a ‘grammar amnesty’ in which staff and students alike are encouraged to debunk notions of mistakes as failures by sharing them and address issues through witty videos.

Young undergraduate students delivered a keynote to the entire cohort about the challenges and issues faced throughout the transition from KS5 to university and spoke with compelling honesty on some difficult subjects such as sexism and mental health among students.

Therefore, despite some of the many challenges, changes, accusations and cuts faced by educators, teachers and students alike are working as hard as ever. Despite political change, the classroom remains a shared space in which teaching and learning drive the development of people.

The diversity and passion of the students and teachers at the SWAT Conference 2015 was infectious.  Bravery as an approach allows us to experiment, innovate and reflect: it builds our resilience (like He-Man, we will master the universe) and enables a sense of defiance to drive our work in turbulent times.

Louise Everett Lindsay @EverettLindsayL

Teacher of English and Media Studies

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