A trip to #LLL17

Today marked my first trip to a Lead Learn Lancs Lancs event. Hopefully it won’t be my last.

The event which was brilliantly organised by Sarah Bedwell @flymygeekflag is in its second year now. I had been due to attend and speak last year but a family event meant that I couldn’t attend.

It is amazing to think she has pulled the event together single handedly. Something that it takes ten of us to do for #primaryrocks.

My weekend started with a chance to visit great friends near Manchester. Just having that time to relax and decompress after a school week is never to be sniffed at.

This morning Bryn Goodman. Sophie Merrill and I drove to the event, wondering what the day would have in store. As we pulled up we were greeted by the smiling face of THE Gaz Needle. It was clear that there was going to be many familiar faces there today and we were not disappointed.

Catching up over coffee in the canteen turned into a game of match the person to their twitter handle. Some were easy some were harder! At that point the ninja had not been unmasked! Sarah Bedwell had amassed whet can only be described as a small army of students that had been drafted in to help. They had everything covered from directions, to coffee, to even taking lunch orders for the chippie!

Nathan Ashman kicked off the event by reminding us to stop and take time to reflect. He challenged us to consider whether we were early adopters or laggards. He also invited us to name pop songs. I’m not sure whether to be proud or ashamed to know who sang “things can only get better”, or what year it came out. The heard warming tale of his grandma referring to her iPad as her ‘facebook’ was a definite ah moment.

From there I trotted off to listen to the inspirational Simon Smith talk power of picture books within reading. Looking deeper, we considered how the illustrations led the plot as much as the text. There were some old favourites such as Rosie’s walk and owl babies but I can see an expensive trip to amazon at some point in the next week. His ideas make you realise the power of these books and how they can still be of value in the upper junior phase.

Then it was my turn. I had been expecting an empty room for this, so when people started coming in I felt both relieved and nervous. I shared the ways I have used green screening to support the curriculum, giving ideas how backgrounds and masking can be created to inspire writing. I have people the chance to try the technology out for themselves, which is the only way to see if it can work for you. Hopefully people have taken one idea away they can use in the classroom.

I stayed in the same room for the much fabled Vocabulary Ninja. There was a hush and a bubble of excitement to see if he had already arrived waiting incognito to reveal himself. When he entered the room, clad in black suit and red mask (details may have been changed to protect his identity), the room experienced a collective “oh its him moment”. His subject knowledge is deep and he evangelised about the importance of vocabulary understanding in the classroom. He questioned us to consider how many words we expose children to in a day that they do not understand. We as teachers assume sometimes they children innately know what every word we use means. They done and are often too polite to ask. We need to challenge their understanding and explain when they do not understand.

At lunch we like many people brief walk to the local chip shop. I have to say they were some of the best chips I have had in a long time! Perfect for soaking up the beer from the night before.

After lunch I attended Sam from schoolwell’s session on staff wellbeing. It painted a gloomy picture of how the expectations of DfE, School chains, slt and teachers own guilt can create the perfect storm. We need to be mindful of ours and our colleagues wellbeing, taking time out to check they are ok and if not to do something about it. We all love teaching but it is not and cannot be the only facet to our lives. Working a 60 hour week is neither advisable or sustainable.

My final session of the day was with Richard Farrow, a man who is well known for his strong opinions on Twitter (though deep down is a fantastic kind and caring guy). He talked about how curriculum needs to be designed around reading and excellent literature. He also challenged us to think more about the school location and the excellent links that can be made in our local surroundings.

Stephen Logan rounded the day off with his wise words about leadership. It’s important not to ever lose the connection with the classroom, even as a senior leader.

It has been a great day and as I make my lengthy train journey home, tired and getting odd looks for carrying chat looks like a pop up tent, I’m smiling. It’s been. Great day.

Thanks Sarah and all who attended Lead Learn Lancs.

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