Summer fun

summer fun

Apart from the blog title being a shameless attempt to get you to read this, I have just been browsing the twitter and blogosphere for educational stories (yes, why? I hear you ask) and retweeted on my own account What we wish we did on our holidays.  It got me thinking as I had considered a similar blogpost, but a little more nerdy, just listing and explaining the books that I need to read over the summer.

In reality, the time I get for reading gets squished down into a very tiny amount, and I end up thinking very carefully about what I will completely finish, and what I will usefully browse instead.  Having said that, over the last year and particularly last summer, what changed for me is that I got stuck into some books simply on teaching pedagogy, rather than the obligatory novels, academic guff and of course the odd literary biography, worthy intimidating tome etc.  Rather like the 15 minute forum itself I found it a highly refreshing and reflective way of preparing for the term ahead.

Let’s face it, when you combine family commitments, catching up with old friends, taking time out for yourself, being with your other half, doing the inevitable classroom sorting at some point, possibly some departmental jobs that you drew the short straw on (yes, moving round book cupboards, sorting last year’s work into new class lists, de-cluttering the team office), the new term will roll on without you feeling you have adequately prepared.  And what were you thinking anyway?  Were you going to plan every jot and tittle of the first two weeks’ lessons?  Or had you dreamt up a whole new system for keeping on top of marking that you were going to implement the first week back?


Think small.  Think little changes.  If you are going to think at all over the summer!  And the best little changes are the ones that we do every day, rather than the big change that never gets off the ground.  For this, I’ve put together a short list of books that I read that really did have an impact on my teaching over this last year (and some of these I want to come back to).  It really IS worth getting off the treadmill, and creating some space in which your own practice can vividly be paraded in front of you, and you can picture yourself, like the director of some movie in your head, changing a line here, a scene there, bringing in a new character here, creating a different outcome there…

I’ll get that list out the next post, as I have to go and take the kids to the park!

What is a fifteen minute forum?

I hear you cry?  Well, let me tell you.  A 15 minute forum is a brief opportunity to gain a bit of CPD on the run, so to speak.


You know how in the past you would gear up for a whole day out of school for some training, have to check train times, prepare your cover, leave earlier in the morning, not expect to get back at the same time and then have to pick up where you left off?

All this has changed!  Due to recent advances in our understanding of the brain, we now know that we can learn as much in a couple of short sessions as we might in an entire day.  If we come with an open mind and can engage in learning culture, who knows how one brief, dynamic or thoughtful input might help to improve your practice?  What is more, you do not have to leave the comfort of your own school staffroom, your favourite brand of coffee on tap, and colleagues you know and are confident with, but perhaps do not get to bounce ideas off as often as you would like!  In this way (see below), it even has some improvements on the recent CPD phenomenon known as the Teachmeet.  No cover required, no travel time, AND negligible impact on after-school marking or planning time.


Teachmeet, which according to Twitter and indeed to Wikipedia takes place all round the country.  A West Sussex organiser explains that:

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every TeachMeet I’ve ever been to – it’s never felt like a burden. I’ve come away from each one with a tonne of ideas to use in my classroom, new friends who are in the profession and a full belly from a very decent pub meal.


Well, perhaps we’re not getting as far as the pub meal here, but essentially this is grass-roots CPD we are talking about with no threat.  We know that practitioners are best placed to help practitioners, and let’s face it, as teachers we do not need a vast amount of preamble, or build-up, but simply the ‘meat’ of the idea itself.  We can very quickly in our heads scroll through our current groups, or subject topics, and see whether what is being offered will be useful for us or not.  Find out more about Forums by checking out Marginal Gains and MrBenney.

So what’s the snag?  Will you remember to come?  How will you know that attending the 15 minute forum will help to improve your practice?  Here are some recommendations for how to take responsibility for your CPD and know that you are giving yourself a good deal:

1. Prioritise attendance of the 15 minute forum.

2. Make sure that you talk to someone else about it and commit yourself to trying something out that is new for you

3. Bring back to the next session something that you have discovered.

4. Aim to make a contribution yourself – this could be anything from a comment on the blog, or a retweet, up to offering to present something from your practice as a forum session.