Of course the pupils in a school are the most important members of the school community -there is no doubt about this; don’t let anyone tell me otherwise! But when we think about the pupils’ learning, the progress that they make and the benefits that they get from school, we have to think about another key resources – and one into which we have to invest just as much educational resource: their teachers.
Coming to this school I found one of the most generous and well managed continuous professional learning (CPL) budgets that I had ever seen – with every member of staff involved in all kinds of professional development on an ongoing basis. The CPL opportunities that they have range from small scale, skills sharing sessions run by the teachers for their colleagues after school on a Thursday evening, to complex, international conferences – with complex, international budgets to match!
Every single one of our teaching and class assistant teams attends our international education conference every two years – in the last few years they have enjoyed hearing Sir John Johns talking about magic weavers and Claire Harvey talking about tackling equality and diversity issues in school. Both Sir John and Claire had us in tears for different reasons and both were inspiring. We have enjoyed learning about happiness in school from Sir Anthony Seldon and positive psychology from Dr Christian van Nieuwerburgh. This is just a flavour of the internationally recognised speakers who are keen to be involved in our conferences and who encourage our staff team to reflect on the big issues in education, and consider the practicalities of implementing these big issues in their practice in school. With some fabulous results!
With the new technology that we all have access to, we can now connect with leading organisations in education and research via webinars and online training courses. For those of us who teach the IB diploma this is a regular aspect of being up to speed with the curriculum and being able to teach the pupils confidently in class, but we also have a large number of Prep and Pre-Prep teachers who have completed Project Zero classroom courses at Harvard Graduate School of Education – a phenomenal resource for learning visible thinking and the project based approach.
Of course, nothing beats face to face training and bringing trainers to the school from overseas (whether in a conference situation or not) is a great way to ensure that we share our resources as widely as possible. Recent topics have included bilingualism, differentiation in the classroom, maths for primary teachers (and their children!), quality circle time, literacy, personal social and health education….. the list is endless!
We believe that the best teachers are continuous learners – this means that they need to be given many opportunities to carry out their own research, reflect and collaborate at conferences and in training events and share their skills with their colleagues. Keeping our own minds active means that we can appreciate the best ways in which to develop the learning skills of our pupils – and also understand their frustrations and challenges when that learning is difficult…. Incredibly important for us to be effective teachers.
So, what is next on the list of staff development opportunities? Well, I would like to help the team to learn more about how to learn…. And I have my eye on a brilliant speaker, who I reckon can help us to do just that!