The overriding impression from my day at Pedagoo Hampshire 2018 is that one is never too old to learn. Even after a lifetime in education, listening to another can either crystalize an idea or challenge one’s thinking.
The series of talks that I chose were focused around well-being. Five different people sharing personal insights into a singular topic. There was both similarity and sufficient difference in each to create those “nugget moments” that is to be hoped from a day of thinking.
The similarities were along the lines of people helping people, looking out for each other, spotting and engaging when there were evident signs of personal distress. There was an equal focus on preventative approaches, giving background support so that an individual and the context within which they operated could interact and respond according to need.
The similarities were overwhelmingly human. In a system where the “capital” is based on the humans that form the workforce, to identify work practices and demand is a significant element of organisation, requiring high quality communication, both globally, so everyone knows what’s going on, but also enabling high quality 1:1 discussions, where personal information can be shared confidentially.
Ilse Fullarton @kidshealthuk talked about The Children’s Health Project, aimed at providing essential background for PSHE and establishing healthy lifestyles in children, through a combination of basic knowledge and healthy practices; movement, food, habits and thought. All these elements combined in cross-curricular teaching in PE, science and PSHE. As someone who lives what she preaches, Ilse described her own journey to health.
Simon Warburton @Simon_Warburton is a member of SLT in a Secondary school in Cambridge. Simon gave a very honest and clear account of why he has developed such a passion for ensuring that CYP have support and guidance in well-being. Having had a period of stress, effectively debilitating and destabilising his personal and professional life, he took drastic steps to address his fitness and eating habits, losing a considerable amount of weight in the process. He also took stock of his professional life and stepped back from one role, to take on another that would allow restoration of an equilibrium.
In this role, he is charged with the healthy approach of his school, to adult colleagues and to the children, developing a wide range of opportunities for exercise, an education programme and high staff awareness towards each other and their charges.
Adrian Bethune @AdrianBethune asked a “simple” question; can you teach happiness? This happens to be the premise behind his new book, Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom (Bloomsbury).
Adrian explored the research base behind his premise, both psychological and physical, eg stress and anxiety, engagement and meaning. He explained that happiness can also mean experiencing and being aware of low points; self-awareness and quoted identical twin research, considering genetics, as well as life opportunities. The work of Dr Alejandro Adler was used to explain that a well-being curriculum increased academic outcomes as well as well-being, which led to my simplistic reflection, that happy children are more energised to engage with learning, so improving outcomes by being “in the moment”. Adrian used a statistic that emotional health at 16 can be determinant of future success and happiness and that the onset of depression in teenagers growing.
Exploring and comparing ideas of mind full or mindful led to the statement that mindful meant being in the here and now, aware of surroundings and what is happening, whereas mind full could mean overload.
Adrian focused on looking for positives, so had established the idea of WWW; three good things, to talk or write down. @PookyH Dr Pooky Knightsmith regularly uses this on Twitter, to share her three good things. Adrian had also rebranded anti-bullying week to become “It’s cool to be kind week”; emphasising positives rather than starting from potential negatives. Post-it boards recorded random acts of kindness, recorded by pupils and adults.
Mal Krishnasamy @MalCPD was my last session, looking at quick coaching techniques within her 40-minute session. There was a significant focus on active listening, with one participant describing to another something significant that they were passionate about and for the listener to draw a sketchnote of what they had heard, to retell it for accuracy. A second activity took us on a listening journey from the inner space to successively distant spaces, returning slowly to the inner. It was a form of meditation and a very pleasant way to end a busy day.
Mal, Adrian and Ilse gave a similar example of a very straight forward mindfulness practice, to focus on breathing, one thing. Pause time- 2 minutes; put a hand on your tummy, be aware of own breathing, from upper chest or diaphragm. One variation could be to put a soft toy on tummy and to watch the toy rise and fall. A second variation included timings, breathing in, holding and breathing out; 3,6,5 or similar, depending on the children. This activity raised physiological awareness. Adrian described how he used something similar as a teacher; self-awareness of in lesson stresses, utilising breathing exercise to establish calm.
My first session, in many ways, could be seen as the “wildcard” in the series, in that it was a trio of presenters, Max Bullough, Carolyn Hughan and Leah Crawford @think_talk_org presenting on their project Leadership through Narrative. As the session moved on, it became clear that it was “all about the people”; an active listener enabling another to present their story as clearly as possible so that they were in a position to interact appropriately and avoid issues that arise from assumptions. The joint discussion enabled an analysis and reflection before a clear description of future actions, decided by the interviewee.
This session was the “grown up” version of all the others and emphasised completely, along with @SueRoffey opening keynote, that education is totally “all about the people”, any of whom might need, at some stage, another person to care sufficiently to offer mentoring, coaching, or just a shoulder and a cup of tea; someone prepared to listen. Openness, honesty and trust underpinning relationships.