I talk a lot about schools being learning centred organisations – it seems obvious really doesn’t it!
Schools should be hubs of learning in our communities. Places where our young people are able to develop their skills, knowledge and expertise, be given appropriate challenge and build the characteristics and dispositions of effective learners.
However I also believe that in really great schools, that are ‘learning centred’ you will find teachers and leaders who are great learners – unrelentingly curious, eager to receive and act on feedback, always striving to improve and develop. In these schools there is an openness and transparency, teachers comfortable visiting each other’s classrooms, taking part in enquiry and authentic collaboration at all levels. These schools are full classrooms and meeting rooms opened up for professional study.
The most important part of my job as a school leader is to ensure that we have consistently highly effective teaching in every classroom. This means we have to recruit well, grow and develop our own effective teachers and leaders and make sure that teaching and learning is at the heart of all we do.
At Darton I’m really lucky to have a developing staff team who share this belief.
A key part of any learning is the giving and receiving of feedback. Sometimes giving feedback can be difficult, but having honest and constructive dialogue with staff is critical. We also owe it to staff to develop them. Sometimes they are completely unaware of what their areas for development are – if we don’t have clarity about what we need to improve how can we?
In great schools there is a high level of consistency of practice, this is only achieved when we don’t accept mediocrity, when we ‘sweat the small stuff’ and have courageous conversations- our Heads of Department play a key role in this at Darton. My mantra is always if we are going to do things we need to make sure we do them really well. It’s the Bananarama effect!
Developing the capacity of others to support and develop teachers is essential and we have increasingly focused the work of our Heads of Departments so that their energies are spent on both ‘proving’ and ‘improving activities. They have embraced enquiry methodology and are using our ‘teacher lenses’ to scaffold and support the development of teachers and our departments.
We also have some wonderful developing teachers at Darton. I had a fantastic end to my week last week working with one of our young teachers, Miss Thornton. Never have you met such a bundle of energy! She is a great example of a great learner! As a result of listening too and acting on feedback she made small tweaks to a lesson on Thursday and transformed it – Y7 Period 5 were totally absorbed in their learning! There are plenty of others too – Miss Banks, Miss Deakin, Mrs Owen and Mr Taylor spring to mind. We must be ready to invest our time and energy into supporting and growing them – it’s the most important work we do.
So Darton is becoming increasingly learning centered with some exceptional learners – young and old! Amongst all of the competing priorities we face we must ensure our energies are focused on the ‘main thing’ – teaching and learning.