SWAT 2016 -Poetry from Sue!

On Thursday June 16th, I left home at the unearthly hour of 7am to ensure bagging one of the sought after parking spaces at Exeter Uni for the SWAT conference. I was due to present a workshop with my colleague from Eggbuckland who was kindly driving and despite my cough and sore throat we talked all the way to Exeter, attempting to perfect our presentation.

As the sun attempted to break through the mist, we pontificated on the importance of the – in our opinion – incorrectly titled “soft skills”, & managed to reach the Uni and one of those coveted spaces. The Forum, a relatively new area of the University, is a fantastic space and ideal for this kind of conference – lots of well-appointed classrooms for a variety of audience sizes and a fabulous lecture theatre for the keynotes – one before and one after lunch – with tiers of comfortable high backed swivel seats.

As well as the wide variety of workshops there were also opportunities to listen to student speakers from some of the schools including our own brilliant Alfie Carlisle.

I listened to one speaker on how to prepare for, apply to and interview for a new job or role – no amazing new insights but presented with some humour and relevance.

Our talk on the necessity for employability skills in addition to exam grades unfortunately only attracted five delegates so we had somewhat over prepared resources, but at least the nerves were gone in time for my final workshop choice which was a very interesting explanation of growth mindset in action throughout Gt Torrington School.

An eclectic and on the whole valuable day – wish I’d been presenting earlier so as to lessen the stress!

Here is my not very successful attempt at putting the day in rhyme…

So delegates who made up the quorum

Were asked for a short piece to blog

About the conference in Exeter’s Forum –

That’s the reason for this monologue


Communication as in sharing good practice

Or gath’ring classroom top tips and some notions

No end to the subjects designed to attract us

From growth mindset to prep for promotions


SWAT Conference 2016

We made our way by train which always makes for an optimistic and exciting start to the day and this along with the prospect of meeting people and having time for focussed discussion and likely a yummy lunch in the forum at the university was truly a positive prospect!File_000 (1)In the last 4 years, more than ever before, I have come to love the opportunities to learn specifically about teaching and learning from my peers as very ‘real’ experts. I love the buzz of being around people as excited about learning as I am. Teachmeets, SWAT events and Learning walks in our school , are accessible opportunities.The keynote started with this information on Generation K:

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After 25 years of teaching my subject, I am keen to revive and refresh and develop the quality of learning happening in my classroom more than the content of what I should know about Biology. I remember looking at experienced teachers when I was about 4 years into my career, and wishing that I had the luxury that they had, of experimenting with delivery and practice rather than worrying about behaviour and subject knowledge and here I am. It’s not surprising then that it’s part of my role now in a mixed experience school team.File_000 (5)
To be at SWAT, accompanied by DHSB colleagues and others; all there to make teaching and learning more enjoyable and accessible, was pretty special. I didn’t contribute a thing at the conference other than friendly chatter but I walked, sat chatted and listened. I thought and reflected. As the day went on ideas started to form in my mind. I thought about my teaching, how I assess and the quality of my students learning and also the experience of students coming to the ‘ 5th lesson in a day where the teacher emphasises the importance of the work’ ! I feel compelled to act, having listened to the enthusiastic PHS students as they spoke of the need for variety, “ditch the textbook to independent study” they said, and as they shared their 10 Tips for teachers. See here:File_000 (3)

Following a great presentation from Jill Clayton and John Steiner at Torrington school, I know that I will execute a plan now to embed an ethic of excellence in my lessons too.My outgoing year 13 class were a stunning group who celebrated effort (not achievement ). Together we had built a climate of trust. Following a previously disparate sixth form group, I wanted to grow a more ‘in it together’ and positive culture in my new class in 2014. I wanted them to be united and feel responsible for their own progress. We developed a sense of team and they had definitely developed a sense of autonomy in their learning. We explored their mastery through me helping them to evaluating their answers in past papers (every single one there ever had been too!) The next step in taking this culture forward will be to tie their work with a sense of ‘purpose’ sooner.

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I wholly recommend that you too read : The Ethic of excellence by Ron Berger.It’s about much more than drawing butterflies!