Well, it is the 3rd week in March and so that suggests that PrimaryRocks LIVE has been and gone for another year… and it certainly has.
There are a great many blogs appearing this week and this is unsurprising considering the quality of this year’s event. So, not being one to miss out on an opportunity to do the same as so many others, I thought I really ought to add my own thoughts.
Whether or not you were part of the 220 strong crowd of Primary Teachers, you really should read them. Get a feel for what this ever growing phenomenon called #PrimaryRocks is.
To put my thoughts in context, PrimaryRocks started as a #, became a Monday night Twitter chat and then stepped out of the internet and into the real world with a fully fledged conference event last year. It lives in its own personal nest in Manchester, home of several of the organisers, Gaz Needle, Bryn and Ang Goodman, Sophie Merrill, Rich Farrow and Rob Smith. Then there is Tim Head from the midlands Graham Andre from the Isle of Wight and Jenna Lucas and Leah Sharp from the south coast completing the team of PrimaryRockers who put this event together. I can do little but applaud them and their efforts. 2016 was brilliant, but 2017 was somehow even better.
I consider myself very fortunate to have lead a workshop at both events. This year was definitely ‘Bigger, Longer, Uncut’.
I think it would be difficult to put together a list of Bigger names to lead the sessions at a Primary Education Specialist conference. Paul Dix opening and Michael Tidd closing the day, workshops led by Tim Taylor, Sean Harford, Stephen Lockyer, Tim Roach, Sinead Gaffney, Jackie Ward and that is just a sample.
Longer workshops, 40 mins was increased to an hour meaning that delivery was less rushed and there was content could be extended and explained in greater depth.
And Uncut, the day started with a selection of knob gags from Gaz Needle and a selection of inappropriate tweets… but this is the PrimaryRocks way… this is what makes it special… this is why it works.
Before I even get to any kind of review of the day, I want to take an indulgent moment to say what I think PrimaryRocks is to me. It is not merely a thing, it is a community, a mindset, an approach to education. It is a full on, no bullshit, egos left at the door, community of people who have a shared passion and drive to be the best they can be for the children they teach. PrimaryRocks is a community where you can expect to see the fun side of teaching, see the humour in the little things, you can expect to be heckled and made fun of sometimes, people will challenge your thinking and make you justify your ideas, not because they think you are wrong, but because it will either make you realise how and why your opinion is correct or how it might need to be adapted. There is no right and wrong. There is only teaching and learning. Everyone is on an equal footing, class teacher, leader, head teacher or student, it matters not what your experience is - you can be safe in the knowledge that your opinion holds value, whether you are using Stephen King as an example of quality writing with Y6 (@MrTRoach), bemoaning the ‘Leadershit’ that can plague your life as a school leader (@oldprimaryhead1 & @theprimaryhead), or out and about writing multiplications on the wall and story maps on the playground in chalk (that was me!).
My involvement in the chat over the past two years has allowed me to see it grow and grow exponentially and it is responsible for so many positive changes to my practice and I know many, many others that would say the same..
Are you still reading?
Here’s the bit where I write about the day…
I’ll keep the sessions brief, realistically - you just had to be there!
Keynote 1: Paul Dix (@PivotalPaul)
I had heard that Paul was an exciting speaker, but I wasn’t prepared for how much. His speech about how in order to truly change the behaviour of children it must be the adults who change. Naming and faming not naming and shaming, PIP and RIP or praise in public reprimand in private, and of course shaking hands. This is one of my biggest take-aways. I now shake the hand and greet every child in my class as they enter my classroom, and after a week, the shock has passed and they now reciprocate enthusiastically. They are even starting to return the personal greeting. A brilliant and truly inspiring opening to the day - precisely what was needed.
Session 1: Rhoda Wilson (@TemplarWilson) - Whole Class Reading
This session was beyond rammed! An absolutely packed session where English SLE Rhoda shared the rationale behind her move to Whole Class reading ahead of Guided Reading. She was brilliant, I am not a massive note taker, but I must’ve written 4-5 pages. (I am keen to try it myself, after the Easter break). I will be sharing the Sketchnotes of the session as soon as I’ve made them pretty!
I live in my own personal world of self doubt, so leading a session is always daunting. I had thought that up against Tim Taylor, Sean Harford, Phil Nottingham and others, I would be happy with 15 people. I had 21. Thrilled.
Despite the beautiful Manchester drizzle, we managed to get outside to play around with some ideas for impacting on English, Maths and the whole school community. It seemed well received, and the messages I received made me smile. Reading Justin Starr (@TeacherStarr) directly quote me in response to a FB post - brilliant, and the fact that my ideas will be used in a project across a group of schools in Wales. I think I’ll take that!
These two. A bonkers but brilliant, scripted/not scripted walk through what this Double Act call Authentic Leadership. Through all the banter, insults, put downs, was a clear message about what it means to be a leader with clarity of purpose without being an egomaniacal monster. How the little things can build up and derail you, LeaderShit! While I was a Head of School I can definitely testify to the detrimental effect it can have and how you mustn’t let it adversely impact the way you manage people. Hilarious session, but you left know exactly how much sense they had just spoken.
Mr Tidd (now soon to be a Headteacher) is well known for what he seems to know best, marking, feedback and assessment. That’s what did. A room of teachers nodding in agreement and laughing at the examples of marking that served little or no purpose to move the learning on. Full of jokes and fun, he did a great job closing the conference with a subject that rankles so many teacher today.
- If marking was banned, what would you do in secret anyway? Do that.
- Remember, feedback is 2 way and it happens ALL THE TIME in many ways.
- Sometimes just looking at the books is enough for you to know what to plan the next lesson - don’t write it in 20 books - teach the lesson!!
Suffice to say, as I found myself in a Hotel lobby with Chris Dyson (@chrisdysonHT), Mike Highton (@isright) and Joel (@TrainingtoTeach) at 3.15am, I think it was a very good night. I also think we were the last men standing.
So many teachers relaxing, sharing, networking, drinking, eating pizza and take away, laughing, joking and at one point having a dance off and doing the splits! (@robertsniomi).
This is #PrimaryRocks, it is the community, the people that make it work. It is why the # trends every Monday night, it is why the conference sold out in 100 minutes. PrimaryRocks was amazing, inspiring and wonderful. I salute all who organised and attended.
As I complete this blog, one week ago I was in the pub getting ready for the event to begin. I think I am still on the come down.
Roll on 2018!