Guest blog written by Tom Trower @Mr_Trower, Assistant Head, Co-op Academy Woodlands
First of all, let me introduce myself! I’m Tom Trower, Assistant Headteacher at Co-op Academy Woodlands in Leeds and I know it sounds cliché, but I have always wanted to be a teacher… no really, always! For one of my birthdays growing up, I was gifted a school bell and blackboard and so I feel very lucky to be one of the few people who is doing what they have always wanted to do. I have to thank my fantastic Scout Leader who, if it wasn’t for her, I would not be the person I am today. Growing up in Scouting taught me to help others, see the best in people, be honest and caring and to ask for help when I need it.
Starting out with Video CPD
I studied Primary Education at Leeds Metropolitan University and, after four years of placements and training, I started working at St James’ Church Primary school (now The Academy at St James) after completing my final teaching practice at the school. Thanks to my amazing mentor at the time, Donna Langley, who convinced the school to have me as a student!
In my NQT year, I was invited to take part in a Dialogic Teaching Project with the EEF. This project required me to record myself teaching and then review the recording with my NQT mentor, focussing on questioning, teacher talk and child-initiated discussion. This project taught me that:
- I am more camp than I think I am.
- I should focus on one thing at a time when reviewing my teaching - as I can’t work on everything at once.
- I always need to pick a positive and focus on something I do well.
By watching myself back, I was able to pick apart my practice and focus on the change I needed to make to improve. Seeing this myself, rather than getting feedback from another practitioner, placed me at the centre of my change and development as a teacher.
Towards the end of my RQT year, and after two years at St James’, I decided to be bold, make a change and apply for a job at Co-op Academy Woodlands - and boy, I’m glad I did!
Working in Year 5 for the remainder of my RQT year, our fantastic Headteacher, Adele Clark, asked if I would like to move up to Year 6 - and of course, I said yes!
Building a video CPD strategy
When SLT re-introduced IRIS Connect to our teaching staff and set us projects in mixed-phase teams to explore Questioning, I found that the experience I had previously gained in recording myself for self review, not only helped me take the lead, but it helped the rest of my group, too.
Below I share some steps that helped me to build an effective video CPD strategy for my school.
Step 1 - take the lead on IRIS Connect
In my second year of teaching Year 6, the Co-op Academies Trust began their IRIS Connect Leaders project and I applied for the role of IRIS Connect Lead at Woodlands. The idea was that every Co-op Academy would have a dedicated member of staff who was responsible for embedding IRIS Connect into the day-to-day workings of the school, evaluating the impact and then feeding back on successes and the challenges.
Step 2 - take it beyond self-reflection
Having successfully acquired that position, I set to work on thinking of ways I could use IRIS Connect with our teachers to help develop teaching and learning by creating a video resource bank of good practice that could be shared. We set out on our next IRIS Connect project which asked teachers to work in mixed-phase teams on a range of projects, each group being led by a different middle leader. The groups were given a full term to explore and create Groups in the IRIS Connect platform and then share their practice in a staff INSET meeting. Mike Brennan, our dedicated IRIS Connect Account Manager, attended this meeting which was a great success! From these projects, we learned that it takes time to embed the use of IRIS Connect into practice so we decided to give the projects another full term to explore and create their groups and pages. The mad thing is, because of the success of this project, I was invited to speak at the IRIS Connect Northern Community Hub event - sharing the journey we as a school had been on with IRIS Connect.
Step 3 - make it fun
To thank our staff for their fantastic involvement and engagement in the project, we decided to hold the very first IRIS Connect Oscars ceremony - a bit of fun with some food and nibbles in our staffroom where teachers were nominated for awards and received a small Oscars statue!
Stepping into senior leadership as a result
Using IRIS Connect gave me opportunities to improve as a teacher, but also as a member of SLT in my school. It gave me the chance to develop leadership skills and take responsibility for whole-school projects, working in collaboration with other leaders. Because of this, last year I applied for the Assistant Headteacher post and was successful!
Seeing the value in self-reflection as an individual has meant my enthusiasm has shone through, which has made it easier for staff to adopt new projects. Teachers know they can come to me with regards to self-reflection. Using video in this way has encouraged our teachers to take charge of their own professional development; making them more confident and content, leading to a greater sense of wellbeing. We’ve also seen learners becoming much more independent, too!