Welcoming the hurricane

Slide1At the beginning of this academic year, I made an “(in)decent proposal” to our staff, which led to us creating a shared vision together.

This week – as part of our Magic Monday 2 – I shared our progress in turning this vision into a reality, some of the reasons it was so important we achieve this, as well as looking at what more we might look to achieve in the coming months.

To begin with I returned to one of the key questions I had asked us to think about right at the start, which was:

“Why might a school want to focus on developing teaching and learning?”

The response, which you can see below, won’t come as any big surprise to anyone and is also supported by the research summarised by Dylan Wiliam during his Keynote presentations at the 2012 SSAT National Conference and the 2013 Wellington College of Education Festival (slides available from our resources page here)


In short:

  • Choice of school is not as important as the classrooms you are in
  • Improved teacher quality = Improved student achievement
  • Students learn more in a shorter space of time with the best teachers
  • Students from disadvantaged backgrounds learn at the same rate with the best teachers

Becoming an “expert”

I then shared the steps my football-mad son goes through when trying to perfect the free-kicks he takes for his club on a Saturday morning (with thanks to Shaun Allison for the inspiration for this example)


…and the fact that if he is to ever stand a chance of taking them professionally for his beloved Sunderland AFC then he will need to have engaged in deliberate practice for up to 10,000 hours, which could equate to up to 10 years.  In other words up to 10 years to become 10/10.

Why is this important?

Research has also shown that as teachers our performance and its impact on learning increases rapidly in our first few years of teaching, after which it tends to slow down and stop once we have mastered the basics.


When we first start teaching we need to get better quickly in order to survive in the challenging environment that is the classroom.  We achieve this by constantly trialling new ideas, seeking feedback on their success or failure, reflecting ourselves on what worked or didn’t and why before making slight adjustments and trying again.  In other words, we engage in deliberate practice.


With expert status requiring us to work in this way for up to 10 years, most of us will still have some way to go on our journey to becoming “10 in 10”.

 Love the one you’re with

During our initial meeting at the beginning of the year we heard how many of us were already engaged in acts of deliberate practice in the form of:

  • Trying out new teaching methods and resources
  • Reading educational books
  • Attending Teach Meets
  • Engaging with fellow teachers and educators, including via Twitter
  • Blogging


We realised that the potential within our own school to support all of us to become expert was great – we just needed to get better at working together to achieve this.

Vision to reality

In order to support this process we identified a number of initial aims that form part of a long term commitment to developing our pedagogy as follows:


Where are we now?

  • Our first Magic Monday before Christmas (which you can read all about here) was a runaway success and the feedback was glowing in its praise of our colleagues, the ideas and resources they shared as well as the positive, supportive atmosphere.
  • Our “Belmont Teach: directory of excellence” is now well established and growing by the day, with over 3000+ views since its creation in November, as well as being recognised by other schools and teachers who have made links to it or its specific contents as examples of good practice.
  • More staff than ever have attended or have signed up to attend external Teach Meets in their own time after school.
  • A few are now sharing their ideas to a wider audience by presenting at Teach Meets in other schools, with a few more ‘in the pipeline’.
  • Nearly half of our teaching staff are travelling down to Leeds to attend the Northern Rocks 2014 education conference this year (…on a Saturday!)
  • Over half are using Twitter in a professional capacity to develop a Personal Learning Network.
  • More are reading about, talking about and implementing ideas from educational books they are reading
  • Over 10% are now blogging their ideas, thoughts, reflections or just what’s happening via their personal or departmental blogs.
  • More are talking to, working with and supporting each other to try new ideas or develop their practice – including with colleagues in other schools.


How does it all fit together?

By being more ‘outward facing’ and reflecting upon and developing our own practice more, we’ve seen no shortage of staff wanting to share ideas they are using in their classrooms with other staff on Magic Mondays.  Presentations and Workshops for Magic Monday 3 in March have been decided already and preparations will soon commence for the final two this academic year.

This in turn has fuelled and will continue to fuel the growth of our “Belmont Teach: directory of excellence”.  As well as being a ‘one-stop-shop’ this is also starting to become a stimulus for collaborative working, which we hope to develop further to include Joint Practice Development in classrooms.


My final thoughts were inspired by the writing of one of our recommended bloggers Alex Quigley – who has written extensively on Teacher Improvement and Coaching – with thanks.

Welcoming the hurricane

According to the work of Edward Lorenz a very small change at one end of a system can cause significant changes to occur at the other end.  This was later popularised as the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being dependent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks earlier.  The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system which causes a chain of events that culminates in the large scale alteration of events.


As more and more of us continue to make these small, deliberate changes to our practice, the closer we get to our goal of becoming “10 in 10” and the more we look forward to welcoming the hurricane!


One final thought courtesy of Bruce Lee…


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