This is a guest post written by Jon Tait @TeamTait
It’s half past 3, you’ve taught for a full day, worked through your lunch and now you are trying to get yourself re-focused on Powerpoint slide number 64 that someone is reading off during what is tentatively called Continuing Professional Development. The word ‘Continuing’ can be loosely attached to the session due to the fact it feels like it’s going on forever, but the words ‘Professional’ and ‘Development’ are merely a fictional twist, buzz words and a dream of what it ought to be.
There is however, another way……
Sharing good and outstanding practice, by the very nature of it, is best delivered by highly skilled current practitioners. These teachers are the ones who still teach 20 odd lessons per week, parents evenings, write reports, mark books and still have the enthusiasm and energy to teach ‘knock out’ lessons to the children in their care every day. These are the real Super Heroes of Education – not the glamourised consultants or super heads on television programmes, but the teachers on the ground at the chalkface in our classrooms.
But just like in the comic books and on the big screen, these Super Heroes are working amongst us and we sometimes don’t even know it. They go about their daily business without shouting about their achievements and often shying away from the limelight. The reason? They feel like they are just doing their job. In the past these Super Heroes were not aware of their super powers and they lay dormant and undiscovered for years, only ever coming to the surface in the four walls of their own classroom.
But something happened, something that threatened to change the course of educational history forever. That something was the emergence of ‘Super Heroes of Education Conventions’, more commonly now known to us as TeachMeets. These events are not too dissimilar to Star Trek conventions where the geeks of the profession descend upon a school hall to eulogise over the incredible, interesting and innovative strategies that our Super Heroes are using to raise engagement and achievement in their classrooms.
The TeachMeet has brought out the Super Heroes within us. Seeing these teachers talk about their amazing work on stage, is like watching a Super Hero put on his or her costume for the first time. The realisation of their super power is a wonder to see. The idea that they once had that they were merely just doing their job like everyone else, soon turns into a realisation that what they are doing is something different, something that fellow professionals have come to listen to, and something that they will all soon be copying in their own classrooms. No longer are these teachers just ‘doing their job’, but they are now inspiring outstanding practice far beyond the four walls of their classrooms. They are helping shape the education, learning experiences and life chances of children they will never even come into contact with, because on that stage, they are helping to develop and grow the next cohort of Education Super Heroes.
So why do the geeks of the profession flock in their hundreds to witness such acts of super power? Why do they travel across the region after a hard day at the chalkface to sit through what could be seen as another example of death by Powerpoint or Continuing Professional Development if you dare to call it that? The answer lies in what can make these Super Heroes go unnoticed in our lives for so long – because beneath it all, they are real people ‘just doing their job’ and the tales they tell are authentic and true. No sales pitches, jargon or corporate rubbish, these are real teachers talking about what really makes their classrooms tick. Presentations are strictly timed so that the message they give is concise, informative and sharply focussed on what we’ve all come to witness – what is your super power and how can I get it? I’ve physically seen teachers beaming with joy at these presentations, writing down copious notes and being visibly excited to get back in their classroom the very next day. I’ve heard teachers tell me it’s given them their mojo back or that they now feel they have the permission to do things differently. But more than anything, it has spread the crucial message that the most powerful professional development that we can ever take part in, is delivered by teachers, to teachers. That we learn better when we want to, not when we are told to and that the people delivering the sessions are just like us……they just might look like they are different due to their Super Hero image.
So when are you going to don your Super Hero outfit? Because we’ve all got one….it’s just that we might not have found it yet, or know where it’s hiding.