What a year!

I thought this academic year was the kind of year that warranted some reflection. So this blog is going to be more of a string of personal reflections and thoughts around a year that I have often described as a kick in the nuts.

Seems like the teachers pay and conditions negotiations this year.

Firstly I am just so grateful that I have managed to get through this year with all my staff healthy. At the start I was really concerned that some of my team with pre-existing conditions would catch COVID on my watch and end up in hospital. Thanks to a bit of luck, and living in an area at the tail end of outbreaks we made it through. 

I remember being so happy when they closed schools the first time. It was such a relief. I realise closing schools had a huge negative consequence on some students but at the time the combination of poor policy on masks and increasing case numbers had me so scared. The second time they closed schools I was more frustrated than relieved. From my perspective it was an avoidable decision had there been better management in September by the government. 

Remote teaching is so boring though isn’t it? Staring at a blank space pretending the students are not on fortnite was a little soul destroying. It did give me time to think carefully about planning explanations with expectations of low prior knowledge which is probably something ill take with me.

I didn’t realise how much information I gathered subconsciously when I circulated the room. Those little glances in the books, reading body language and troubleshooting are just easier when you are not stuck at the front. While I’m not a big ‘presentation is everything’ guy I will be doing a big push on presentation in books next year because that is another area that has slipped.

Online CPD is democratic but I still think we get it wrong. It was great that so many CPD opportunities went remote as it allowed people to fit them around their lives easier. While I think the rED’s and other talks work really well remotely, more traditional CPD still has a way to go in my opinion. The sessions I have been to, in my opinion, really don’t address the issues created by remote learning. The main issue for me is the curation and navigation of group discussion. Often sessions will just forgo it or assume the breakout rooms will solve the problem. Using breakout rooms to discuss and feedback is wholly inefficient. The time for each group to have a say is so much longer than in a face to face session and the redundancy of comments saps all momentum from the session. The best way I have seen is used by Deep Ghataura. He creates forms to be used in the breakout room. These do two things brilliantly:

  • They allow you to check understanding by application to scenarios
  • They allow you to collate written responses anonymously.

When the breakout room closes the submitted responses can be shared and discussed by the course leader. This is efficient and low threat. In the sessions I have run this has worked really well to address contentious and non contentious issues alike.   

For this reason I think face to face meetings and conferences have power in the casual conversations that occur in and around the sessions. Remotely you just turn up, open a second window and crack on with some emails and listen along. Face to face you get to know people and ask their opinion on things, share ideas and generally build a network. I guess that organisations will adopt a lot of remote meetings for cost and convenience but I hope they don’t remove face to face completely. 

Personally this year has a number of highs and lows that challenged me personally. Like us all my only hope is that I remember the lessons I’ve learnt along the way and use them to grow. By learning from my own and others mistakes it should help me bounce back quicker from the setbacks that will inevitably come in time.

My hope is that September is a fresh start for us all. My only nagging doubt is that I don’t think this thing is over by a long way.

Have a good break. You definitely earned it!

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