To quote Marvin Gaye-
“Ain’t not mountain high enough,
Ain’t no valley low enough,
Ain’t no river wide enough,
To keep me from getting to you.”
Lots of us make a special effort to get to a ‘Teachmeet’ Why did we do that? Because we know we’re taking part in something special. We know it’s a big opportunity to meet people and learn something.
So why isn’t all CPD like Teachmeet?
Let’s be honest if the Local Authority was putting on a course in your bathroom-we’d all go a day without having a wash.
Anna Freud once said-
“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.”
But I think our creative minds survive despite bad training.
Sociologist Ray Oldenburg, said “It doesn’t have to be like this!” and I’m sure we all agree-I’m going to talk about a term Ray coined in his book ‘The Great, Good Place’. I’m going to tell you about a ‘Third Place’, a place where teachers are engaged, stimulated and where the training has had a direct impact on the learning of the pupils in class.
Third places are the many public places where people can gather put aside the concerns of home and work (The 1st and 2nd places) and loiter simply for the pleasure of good company and lively conversation-doesn’t that sound familiar?
I was heavily influenced by this concept and decided I could do an educational mash-up.
Education is often understood as the sole responsibility of parents and teachers. Early years experts in Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy have identified a third teacher between child, teacher and parent-The Environment. In its attention to how space can be thoughtfully arranged, the Reggio approach has reconceptualised space as a key source of educational provocation and insight.
Out of these 2 concepts came Inathirdspace.
A project that took teachers to a third place, where they were influenced by their environment.
Teachers were told to meet in the staff room, they were given an envelope which gave them instructions on how to get to their location. Once there they met an expert, who would inspire them to use their surroundings and their experience to devise a lesson for the whole school to do.Teachers went on a canal barge with a watercolour artist, they did archery with a drama expert, they went to a sawmill with a sculptor and a theatre with a poet.
Here is one of their stories-
How many of us can really say that we have truly been in the role as learner?
Sharon was an experienced teacher who was a member of the SMT. She was part of the group that did the archery. The instructor had specifically told the group to never go over a certain line in any circumstance because it was dangerous. Unknown to the group the Instructor was in role as teacher and the drama expert was provoking by asking the Instructor to react to them in different ways, some supportive, some negative.
Inadvertently Sharon crossed the line to pick up a dropped arrow-the Instructor reacted furiously, shouting at Sharon and berating her for not following instructions. Afterwards Sharon saw this as a valuable learning experience-she thought about the times she had shouted at her pupils for not following instructions, when they were in danger. She thought about how she had felt when the Instructor had shouted at her.
She said that the experience really changed the perception of the pupils in her class.
“It’s never enough to just tell people about some new insight. Rather, you have to get them to experience it in a way that evokes its power and possibility. Instead of pouring knowledge into people’s heads, you need to help them grind a new set of glasses so they can see the world in a new way.”
We all agree that it’s the experiences that matter. Inathirdspace combined the experience of surroundings with the challenge to a teachers’ pedagogy.
Everyone in school took part in the project-Teachers, Cleaners, Dinnertime Supervisors, Teaching Assistants, Administrators and Management. Everyone devised devised a lesson from these sessions. The whole school planted and grew sunflowers. The whole school mixed classes and had a careers in role afternoon and produced giant art work.
The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) were the last team to do the project and wanted to show the rest of the staff that they could devise a ‘really-risky’ lesson.
The whole school, including Nursery went on mass to the local park. The pupils were given materials and were asked to do what they wanted-there was an emergency envelope for those that didn’t have ideas. There was a time limit, each class went around and looked at what was produced. No lesson plans, No Assessment, No right or wrong answers-just pure child-centred creativity.
A BECTA report said-
“It is the interaction between the distinctive features of technology and the characteristics of creativity that open up new perspectives on the development of creativity in Education.”
Inathirdspace hoped to use new technology-to take risks and make mistakes in a non-threatening atmosphere and have flexibility for the different stages of creativity.
Staff used mobile phones to send text messages to the project website, took photos and uploaded them to the photo-sharing website Flickr. Using mobile phones gave staff the freedom to text or take photos anywhere and the confidence to use a familiar technology in a very different way. We also used Twitter to post photographs thoughts and feedback. Pupils and staff used it to gage the lesson in the plenary. The speed and spontaneity of this method meant we gathered a range of opinions and constructive criticism within minutes; participants in the Third Space could connect with each other and extend the learning to beyond the face to face sessions. We were able to look at what was going well in order to maintain and develop the project. All this remained anonymous-it both supported and challenged our practice and made a big impact on the evolution of the project. Using new technology as an integral part of the project, meant taking on new challenges, for most of the participants. This enhanced the creative process because staff had a ‘fresh’ approach and had no pre-conceived ideas that could influence their contributions.
So why can’t all staff CPD be like this all the time?
Finally I like to leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs-
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences than other people.”
Inathirdspace was a Creative Partnerships project that ran from January 2009 to June 2009.
The Inathirdspace Twitter feed is here.Written by Julian S Wood - www.ideasfactory.me/about/"rel="author"