I had the fortune of being invited to the #DoMoreEdu event at BETT on Saturday by the team @DellEDU. Whilst I couldn't stay for the full event I was impressed with the way that the discussion created engagement of its own accord, regardless of the content of the discussion. Led by Ewan Macintosh and Tom Barrett of Notosh.com
One of the earlier topics in the conversation was about how we use space. Now I have to admit that I'm pretty nonplussed about the issue of 'space' in schools, firstly because I'm of the belief that the relationship between teacher and student is so crucial that the issue of space makes only a tiny fraction of a percentage of difference to education, and secondly because I work in a serviceable 30s built school. It isn't perfect but it works and we get decent results.
What surprised me however was that the discussion engaged me. Motivated me, even.
On to serendipity. It's not the kind of thing that one associates with schools. So much so that I had to ask the guy sitting next to me what it actually means. The top search in Google gives me: The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: "a fortunate stroke of serendipity". So it's something about happiness, good luck and benefit. Yet our planning and our timetabling is so tight, so rigorous, so full of targets, that I struggle to see how we can 'plan for serendipity' within the current system.
But maybe the answer was right there before my eyes - it was in the discussion that I was engaged; through the growing relationships around the table that I was motivated. It wasn't the content of the discussion that mattered so much at that time - more the process.
Back to school on Monday and I was preparing my first lesson for a group of level 3 students who are really struggling with maths. Disengaged, with low self belief, they find maths extremely hard. Both their attainment and their progress is below where it should be. I knew all that and realise that I have awful lot of content to teach them if they are to make level 4 by May (when they sit their SATs tests). Could I afford to give up a single lesson just to engage them?
I decided I could and so on Monday we sat around a conference table and held our own #DoMoreEdu. We talked about moments of unhappiness and happiness in maths learning. We talked about how we should organise the space and how we could find more time. The children made suggestions for how and what they should be taught. They resolved to meet online at 6:00pm on Tuesdays for an extra revision timetable. Some of their discussion is recorded here. We also wrote our first blog post about that session. Since then we've had our first real maths lesson, which did actually contain some real content.
It was by chance that I booked an extra night's stay at BETT that allowed my to take advantage of the kind offer from @DellEdu. It was also bad planning when I realised that my train ticket actually said 11:23am, not 1:23pm, meaning that I had to dash off earlier than expected from the session. But that chance and bad planning allowed me more time to reflect on the experience in the light of teaching nine disaffected maths students on Monday morning, and already they have shown a higher level of engagement than I expected. Is that serendipity? Maybe it is. Certainly giving up one lesson of content and direct instruction to gain more motivated students who are willing to participate online in their own time is a win for me.