Last week on Saturday morning I found myself at the helm of yet another free teachers-for-teachers mini-conference held at the University of Hull – called #PedagooHull17. It felt very special. Yet again, about 50 teachers left their homes on a Saturday morning to learn from others’ expertise, share practice and discuss a number of different areas of teaching and education.

In launching and running this event, I was helped by Paul Hopkins, a Lecturer in Education at the University of Hull (@hullpgce), Lisa Cook @lisacook81), a Science teacher, James Waudby (@waudbyjames), an FE teacher, and Glenn, a CPA teacher at my own school. 

For those of you who don’t know of Pedagoo (Pedagoo.org), it is a nation-wide network of volunteer teachers who work tirelessly to launch local events across the UK and share practice. TAt Pedagoo events, the sessions (called learning conversations) are led by practicing teachers, who share whatever they feel they are good at and can share with the learning community. The learning conversations involve short presentation / introduction to the topic, but the truly essential aspect of these is discussion around a table that is had by teachers, sharing their views, their own practice, bouncing ideas off another another. In other words, teachers become unconstrained by performance management issues, workload issues too often overburdening them at school, but focus on their strengths, their dedication to the children they teach, their experience and practice. They become empowered.

This is truly the main reason why I have become a Pedagoo Curator for the Kingston-upon-Hull / Humberside area: to empower teachers.

The variety of sessions on offer had me dumbfounded. The topics ranged from flipping classroom, tackling workload and SOLO Taxonomy to EAL, questioning techniques, introduction to Godly Play, scenario-based lessons, revision techniques and cooperative learning. What better way to understand the sheer amount of knowledge teachers have and represent. Have a look at the event’s schedule below to get a better idea of the breadth of the offer – all for free, all delivered by teachers, eager to learn, eager to share, eager to devote their Saturday (from 9am!) to this process. 

PedagooHull17 – schedule

I make no excuses for the fact that this is an activist event as well – by its very virtue, it is designed to give teachers a breather, allow them to reconnect with what I find most, if not all, of us are in education for – teaching, and remind people of their worth, their value and their knowledge and professionalism. Our Q&A panel at the end of event, consisting of Mike Whale (Hull NUT representative), Paul Hopkins (University of Hull lecturer) and Awaz Zaidky, a Science teacher at my school, did speak about these issues, asked questions by teachers on the floor. Awaz related to how event such as ours allow us to step out from the daily grind of schools, remember our worth as teachers, and reconnect with our values. Paul Hopkins spoke about the need for collectivism – teachers coming together and opposing the pressures coming from the government and directed onto teachers, producing very often unnecessary workload around school areas such as data, excessive marking of students books and administrative duties. He urged us all to never feel guilty about not working in the half term, and stressed that taking our own development into our hands – such as through events such as PedagooHull17 – indeed empowers us and gives us the tools to oppose and start effecting change.

This blog website is about EAL and diversity. As Pedagoo Curator, but largely as a practicing EAL Coordinator and teacher, I take the view that in the environment where many teachers to come to teach in school, too often untrained (by universities and through other routes) in EAL pedagogy, it is very difficult to ask teachers, tending to be overloaded with bureaucratic requirements, struggling to find time for their own families, dealing with excessive workloads, to learn the additional, and vast, knowledge of EAL pedagogy. Don’t get me wrong – I will always say that it is absolutely essential to teach English language to all learners; however, I do believe that an environment which is conducive to actually having time to learn and develop and having time to reflect is paramount if mainstream teachers, in large numbers, are to develop this side of their practice. This is why these events are so important to me. Teachers need to be supported. Only when do you feel supported will you feel able to give back more.

We had two fantastic EAL sessions at the event. One, by Anne-Margaret Smith with ELT-Well (http://eltwell.com/), who is a phenomenal trainer, specialising in working with multilingual learners (young and adult) and special educational needs such as dyslexia. ELT-Well has produced the Cognitive Assessment for Multilingual Learners, a fantastic product for any school that wants to assess EAL learners for SEN. During the event, I had to move often between rooms, so I didn’t get a chance to stay in Margaret’s session very long, but it was clear from the short time I had that it was a very engaging session (on phonological awareness). Anne-Margaret travelled to us all the way from Lancaster – I am very grateful to her for this!

Second – in fact, second to none – was my colleague from work, Anthony Barnes, a Maths teacher from my own school, who delivered a session and led the discussion on Maths and EAL. To my memory, I have not been in a session (anywhere) where a mainstream teacher would be talking about Cummins’s research into EAL and insights from people like Charlotte Franson into serve EAL learners better. Of course, EAL specialists are very well aware of these names, but hearing it from a mainstream teacher was new, refreshing and made me feel optimistic. A very interesting discussion emerged, where other teachers present in the room started raising questions about the lack of translated assessments for Maths (and other subjects), commenting on the benefits of the first language (L1) in the mathematics classroom and cognitive and academic abilities of EAL learners. The lack of translated resources and tests was seen by one of the teacher as raising an artificial barrier to EAL learners’ education: in his words (and I would certainly echo this), as a Maths teacher, he is to teach them Maths, so why the persistent pushing out of L1 on the national level? The consensus quickly emerged in the group – very much in line with NALDIC’s view and broader EAL pedagogy tenets that language needs to be taught contextually. 

I only spent the last few minutes of this session, but I left seriously heartened.

We finished with a panel where teachers in attendance had a chance to ask questions of Paul, Awaz and Mike. This was followed by giving out several prizes, kindly donated by Pivotal Education, NALDIC, Crown Publishing House and Twinkl. I have to mention, too, that we were very generously supported by Hull NUT and ATL so that we could make this event actually free to teachers.

What a friendly, heartwarming day of learning, spent with likeminded teachers and education professionals – all keen to learn, all taking the Saturday morning and early afternoon to come to the event! Thank you all!

I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

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