When I was 18 I was going to be in a band. I was going to be famous. Actually, I was in a band for a while (I was neither rich or famous) and my parents were horrified. I, on the other hand, had a blast. I was taken under the wing of some talented post-graduate students and enjoyed myself hugely – but it didn’t last. Before long, they were off to higher things, and I went in a different direction.
I still enjoyed the singing. I bought a guitar and taught myself to play it. In my free time, I lala-ed away to myself, writing songs made out of chords I could do (mostly G, C and D), figured out covers by playing-and-pausing my tapes over and over. It was, though, a private endeavour. Publicly, I turned my attention away; rather than taking to the stage, I stepped off it, learning instead about room bookings, staging, PA hire and publicity.
Not that I’m saying that NetworkEd2106 was anything like a gig, or me like some sort of impresario/student leader of a band society, but there was something about it that brought back a rush of fond memories.
Maybe it was the setting. Maybe there was something about it taking place in a university that kicked them off – I don’t know. The Park Campus is a bit more glamourous than the Langwith Corridor of my student past. For a start, the walls weren’t plastered with anything that didn’t suggest the serious nature of the study taking place therein. No hastily made, hand drawn photocopies here, detailing the latest offering at the Drama Barn or down at the Spotted Cow; we had beautiful programmes designed by the design magicians at Schools Week, who sponsored the event.
Spotty students were nowhere in evidence (although the curtains to their bedrooms were reassuringly closed when I got there at 8:20am – thank you to Simon Knight and to Andrew Hunter from OUP for your help in unloading a shed load of Twinkl covered mugs – thank you Twinkl – and Teach Primary and Teach Secondary magazines – thank you Maze Media – proving that things might change a lot in universities, but some things remain the same); instead, the hallowed halls and ivory towers of the University of Gloucestershire were populated by teachers from across the sectors, from EYFS to FE, mainstream and special, to meet, discuss, question and debate – and think about the things that draw us together as a profession, as well as the issues that drive us apart.
The speakers were impressive. Sue Cowley spoke with passion about the work she does in EYFS – and how the fact that she is a volunteer changes the balance of power between the setting and the inspection system. You could have heard a pin drop while Rob Webster told us the other story to the DISS Report; the way that it was reported, and how bad policy decisions have been taken on the back of half understood banner headlines. Martin Robinson caused hackles to rise even as he entranced us all with his appeal for truth and beauty in an age of measurement. We ran out of time and delegates took to Twitter to pose their tricky questions in return. The panel debate drew an impressive consensus as the values which underpin what we do were discussed, and their relationship to research – and the research which drives policy decisions. The head met – and conversed with – the heart.
Smaller presentations running in the style of Teach Meets allowed people to choose whichever strand they were interested in. The leadership room, led by Jules Daulby and Keziah Featherstone (the one I was chairing), was alight with ideas, with problem solvers who looked at the challenges of school leadership straight in the eye and said, ‘This Must Change’ to allow more talented people to use their talents in ways that don’t destroy their family – both men and women.
Simon Knight and Ben Davison held the Teaching and Learning room in thrall (I was a bit jealous I wasn’t there, I must admit) (they were the ones who were late for lunch) while they talked about what differentiation and planning from the needs of the child actually means, while not boring them to death with a mastery curriculum. The attendees of the Research room, led by Caroline Creaby, Sonia Dines and Michelle Haywood had grins on their faces a mile wide – I wasn’t there, but I could see them bouncing around the auditorium later in the afternoon. (I will put links up to presentations and other blogs referring to the event on the NetworkEd2016 website as they come in.)
But for me, it was the outside spaces, the informal moments when people connected, shared the reality of what they were doing, that made my day. Standing slightly to one side, watching, making sure that everything ran smoothly, that everyone had a good time – it took me right back. I’ve always enjoyed facilitating other people’s talent. Maybe that’s what I like most about teaching. I take the stage at the front of the private world of the classroom, but when the private becomes public, when the children take the limelight, I’m more than happy to renounce my place. To bathe in the glow of their reflected glory.
We don’t want yesterday to be the one and only – we plan to be back, not necessarily bigger, but certainly better, in the future. The format, the blend of the formal and informal, seemed to work. The ideas and discussion – combined with the coffee, biscuits nice sandwiches (which could certainly be improved on by the introduction of cake) and a great venue is a winning combination. If you would like a regional event of your own, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.