Guest blog by Stephanie Anne Dudley, English Key Stage Coordinator at The Excel Academy.
Change is inevitable. That is one thing that is certain.
Coming a long way from their 2004 debut, Turner and the Arctic Monkeys took a bold, fresh direction with their recent album Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino. Staring at the vertical white lines against the black background from previous, one can only imagine the delightful interchange as the band decided, ‘let’s try something new.’ It is art after all.
Music is an art that needs to be refined and nurtured to keep it interesting both for the musician and the listeners. My question is, is teaching any different?
Teaching, in itself, is a craft, to be nurtured and developed. Being able to understand the way that children think and breaking information down to allow them to access it. It may not be sunglasses and mod haircuts but viewing teaching as art sounds pretty incredible to me. It needs to be adapted in the interest of the students and the teacher, to keep it fresh and to enable growth.
In developing this school of thought, our academy embraced IRIS Connect as a development tool approximately a year ago. As Key Stage Coordinator and a teacher with an eager passion for teaching and learning, I have been keen to promote its use within the English Department in order to increase staff confidence and diffuse the myth of video CPD as being another measure of performance management and appraisal.
I believe that the first word that came to mind when hearing of the idea of using video equipment was fear. The theme behind the early noughties classic can easily play a huge role in staff morale. Many people were afraid. Afraid of being watched. Fearful of video equipment being a way to catch out under-performing staff or promoting criticism.
Nevertheless, quickly it became apparent that this was not the case. IRIS Connect was made for practitioners to develop their practice. You would never see a surgeon operating without refining his technique and that is the same for teaching. Kudos Grey’s Anatomy for that lesson!
With English being a core subject it is very easy to slip into the mentality that we are all just too busy. Mock examinations, pressure to perform, piles of marking, where is there time to start recording our self to help others and how is it possible to get others on-board with this idea, when in the modern teaching world, there’s no such thing as an easy ride or free time.
Here are a few ways that our English Department and academy has embarked on this new use of video with success:
1. Channel your inner thespian
Reigning in the desire to quote Shakespeare and prance around in a doublet, as an English teacher, a desire to perform comes naturally. Recently, I have begun to use video to record student performances of Blood Brothers in order to show other members of staff as part of CPD. This is to show staff and students how to bring a text alive and distinguish the difference between a novel and a play, which is integral to understand writer’s intentions. Students who do not experience a range of culture can travel without moving through using video in this way and so it can be quite revolutionary to many students.
2. Coach it
Are you struggling for new ideas? Are you finding it difficult to pitch the lesson? Are you newly qualified and trying to evolve your teaching but do not know how?
Get on film!
Teaching is a profession that once would have spat out its tea to the idea of being recorded; a permanent reminder of failures or mistakes, I am in awe of trainees and NQTs who are learning the profession as in 2019, it is a typicality to use video in teaching in order to develop. It is an excellent tool to observe your strengths and next steps and the best thing is it is just for you and you have the ownership and authority to share it. Win win! As Knight puts it, ‘video turns the focus of coaching away from the coach’s opinions and towards what matters – students’ learning.’
3. Sharing is caring
Donne coined the phrase, ‘No man is an island’ and in the teaching profession that is certainly true. I truly believe that as a team you are only as strong as your weakest link, as harsh as that sounds. Hence, because of this, as a team we must nurture everyone to allow the department as a whole to flourish and if you do not show someone how it do it, will they ever really know? For us, the use of video has improved confidence and enabled more people to share the resources that they are making and ideas that they have. Obviously, this is an ongoing process. Wouldn’t it wonderful if the anxiety of being ‘watched’ became a thing of the past?
You teach a challenging class. They are not responding to usual sanctions in line with academy policy? Where do you go with this now?
You guessed it…film it!
Often students cannot actually see that what they are doing is wrong. This is normal behaviour for them. Recording it means they can watch it back and reflect and you also it to other staff involved and parents/guardians if required. Needless to say, they will think twice before misbehaving again.
Video can also be used to show how teachers can use behaviour to develop relationships, looking at ways to use language with children to better their behaviour such as, ‘pens down face the front’ being a more directive positive instruction than, ‘Stop swinging on your chair and hitting people on the head with a ruler, Dave.’ IRIS Connect can be used to observe this positive use of language to enable positive behaviour to flourish.
Reflect. Develop. Inspire
Thus, using technology and video for professional development has made strides in bringing the teaching profession into 21st century. 1980 called and claimed video was rocking it thirty years ago and those Bugles weren’t wrong. In the end, us teachers learn in similar ways to the students and need showing how so that we can go on and do it ourselves.
Inevitably, IRIS Connect has most certainly spiced up daily teaching for me and others. Our practice needs refining just as much as those rock stars and surgeons and so I will continue to reflect on its impact going forward.
So, thank you to our latest addition IRIS Connect. Being reflective in this way creates a magical feeling that is fresh and new. I certainly have a feeling it is going to catch on.