Becoming a Reflective Practitioner – @sbonniciwills Blogs about her @teachingleaders Journey

Becoming a Reflective Practitioner

In an attempt to keep up with this fast paced technological age, I have accepted the challenge to blog about my journey as a ‘Teaching Leader’. The idea is that I will share my experience of implementing Kolb’s reflective process into my teaching practice, in the hope that it may be of some use to you and our students. This first piece serves merely as an introduction which sets the context for why I feel the need to begin to use Kolb’s cycle. 

Where to start?! To say it has been a busy start to the term would be an understatement! I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail trying to get everything sorted for our new KS5 cohort. I have spent far too much time over the last few weeks in the data office sorting timetables, surviving learning sweeps and learning the names of students in my newly acquired classes. However, despite the busyness and my mind feeling awash with thoughts about how Corbyn’s left wing politics may influence education, whether or not Cameron really did have inappropriate ‘relations’ with Miss Piggy, and getting my head around understanding rugby as an amateur participant in PE’s organised sweep stake, I am totally buzzing! My optimism for the progress of our students @CABsixth is at an all time high which is why I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

Reaching this high has been largely a result of embarking on my teaching leaders journey; the turning point being the assessment centre experience. During one of the activities, I was given the opportunity to describe my educational dreams. Until this moment I hadn’t realised that my educational reason d’etre, my pursuit of teaching in challenging contexts, had been buried under copious amounts of policies, spreadsheets and marking. As I began to voice my deep rooted aspirational, and somewhat naive desires for my students, I felt two things: Firstly gratitude to my senior leaders @katie_friedmank @mailey_jonathan and Jim for challenging, listening and encouraging me to pursue these ambitions, and secondly, increasingly hopeful. I also knew that, successful or not, this assessment had completely  changed my educational professional outlook, because of making me stop and relocate the ‘why’. As T.S Elliot so aptly put it, ‘Neither from nor toward; at the still point,  there the dance is.’ As I reflected on my answer, I dug below the apathetic and cynical attitude I’d adopted and voiced the real thing that gets me into the classroom everyday; educational equality, and a relentless optimism to see this realised started to surface.

Fortunately I did manage to worm my way into the #tlfp2015 cohort and had an amazing time at the Warwick residential, surrounded by like minded, driven middle leaders and inspiring speakers. From @realGeoffBarton ‘s witty, refreshingly original and insightful literacy session, busting the dance moves with @thoraeberts on the last night, to early morning breakfast discussions on Ofsted framework being used in ‘our kind of schools’, I learnt more than I had anticipated. The best thing? (Aside from the late night debates over a few G&T’s at the bar), was starting term re-envisioned and beginning to implement strategies and concepts with the encouragement of my coach and South West tlfp2015 fellows, oh and a new twitter account…

So, as I am in danger of rattling on and on about myself, let me ask you what it is that made you pursue teaching in the first place? I urge you to pause, reflect and to find that still point. What are the things you want to see in your lessons, schools, education, and, dare I say it, society. We may have to dig beneath the thousands of marking stickers, beautifully fitting now within a geometrically flawless arrow, (or your equivalent latest whole school policy), to find these dreams and insights, but we need them. Then, when we are stretched, challenged, and run down, we can draw from these; we can roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. We can use those marking stickers for our post 16 students, face the difficult management conversations, work outside our comfort zones. We can, (despite the pragmatic nature of teachers), have those magical moments in the classroom where teaching almost takes on an art form, because we’ve opted out of apathy and into our current educational system; committed to use our skills and energy to drive it forward to the next level.

The challenge? To remember that as we engage in the practicalities of teaching; be it thrashing out impact initiatives, meeting exam analysis deadlines or calculating target grades that; ‘Neither from nor toward; at the still point, there the dance is’.

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