Global profession. Global message.

It’s great to travel and see the world; but it’s great be back home. Time to unwind and reflect.  I have just returned from delivering five days of training at schools in Lebanon, UAE and Oman.  Each of the participating schools was very different, each with their own charismatic leadership teams and idiosyncratic teachers; each serving particular communities and at different stages of development.  It’s fascinating.

Having now delivered training in a lot of international schools, one observation that’s painfully obvious to make is this: “Ah, so this is where all the teachers have gone!”

Seriously, it’s no wonder some schools in the UK are struggling to recruit when so many top-draw teachers are sampling the joys of living overseas and working in international schools.  Life is long – there is room to experience teaching in a range of contexts and I kept hearing how people were finding a healthier work-life balance, free from many of the hassles we shackle ourselves with back home – even though several said they missed it too!

In Lebanon, the school staff were largely Lebanese and in Oman, the training event included a mix of local and international teachers with different backgrounds.  Interestingly the discussions I had were the same as I had elsewhere.  Teaching is a global profession.  Teaching is teaching; learning is learning.  Primary, secondary, across subject disciplines, the message about delivering great teaching is a global one – one I’m privileged to be in a position to share it.

Everywhere I go I find that the ideas I’m sharing get a great reception. The ideas that I explore in The Learning Rainforest seem to resonate widely.  What are they?  Essentially this:

  • That developing a broad, deep knowledge-rich curriculum is a good thing if we want to educate for knowledge, character, culture, citizenship. This is especially so if we’re also conspicuously pitching things up, teaching to the top with very high expectations.  Establishing the conditions.
  • That cognitive science and other areas of research have much to offer in terms of sensible, practical strategies to secure deep learning, bring ideas about schema-building and retrieval practice into the mainstream of day-to-day practice.  For many teachers, it a palpable relief to hear that good, strong, interactive fad-free instructional teaching and intelligent workload-saving approaches to feedback can be the bedrock; the platform for success.  Building a knowledge structure.
  • That, in the right balance, there is ample scope for teachers to include elements of ‘Mode B’ teaching – to introduce set-piece elements of collaborative learning, extended projects and to express themselves, going off-piste when it feels appropriate. Exploring the possibilities.
  • That assessment needs to serve the needs of teachers and students and, in order to do so, needs to be strongly formative, low-stakes and forward looking, supporting teachers to diagnose difficulties, tailor good feedback and help students with self-regulation and the power to evaluate their own learning and success.  Authentic assessment. 

So often,  experienced teachers approach me after a training event to thank me for giving them validation; for reassuring them that great teaching isn’t about following some kind of rigid structure or dancing a dance.  It’s about doing things that honour their subject disciplines, that build from their curriculum knowledge; strategies that are totally within their control and that build on the good things they already do.

Every time I explore the ideas of Willingham, Nuthall and Rosenshine, tell people about Martin Robinson’s Trivium 21c, explore the wisdom of a knowledge-rich curriculum and show how all this builds around a sensible understanding of teaching to the top and  growth mindset – that blend of effort with strategy, seeking success, not fetishising failure… every time, I feel that the ideas form a coherent set of principles to build a great education around.   The way teachers respond gives me great hope; it’s so encouraging.

The message isn’t mine; I’m the messenger – someone who can reference the work of so many others.  But the message is undoubtedly as global as the teachers who hear it. Cognitive science, the values inherent in the idea of empowerment through deep knowledge; the power of expectations – such that we have to believe our students can excel if they are ever going to; and, finally, the need for a healthy dose of joy, awe and wonder.  If we make the right choices, not only do we have the power to give students the knowledge and confidence to take on any challenge, we can make the whole learning journey joyful and inspiring.

Can’t wait to meet more great teachers, read more research and develop the message I’m giving still further.  Thanks to everyone I met on this trip – it’s been inspiring to find so many people embracing professional learning with such enthusiasm.


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