I thought a lot about this blog before writing it. There are so many ways that you could go with it. I also wanted to keep it in the positive.
In December 2016, I organised a days training on Growth Mindset. It was something I had done some light reading on and wanted to explore. The training didn’t disappoint and we embarked on a journey with Growth Mindset – initially not sharing it with children but embedding its principles. We also spent time rewriting our school values, driven by the children, and then reframed slightly to fit neatly into the acronym GROW.
Over the next few years, Growth Mindset featured heavily on the School Plan from embedding to developing. It is now part of our vernacular, with children using the terminology and, in many instances, apply the principles effectively.
Having spent so many years on this, and also having started reading and researching more since around June last year, I really believe in the principles. I don’t think it can be taught, but I do think it can be supported and nurtured, in children but also in adults. This is what I wanted to talk about.
We have never used data for appraisal but have used a target based approach up until this year. It didn’t not work, but it always felt a little like targets were discussed in appraisal meetings but didn’t go much further and didn’t end in Growth for the member of staff. That was on me for not creating a platform for growth.
This year, we changed it up. Everyone still has an appraiser, but the forms, targets and top down accountability have all gone. In its place, we have embarked upon a research journey, whereby all teachers have chosen an area that they are interested in to look more deeply into. This was launched in our renamed professional learning meetings alongside our rationale for moving this way, some input on how and what research could be done and some frames to work within.
This represented growth for me, as I was branching away from the things that had known and felt comfortable with. But, to use a phrase that have used with staff many times, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. And I didn’t want the same. I wanted things to be different and for us all to grow as professionals.
These projects represented a way to see the growth in teachers too. What we were asking was whether they could find something out that made them a better teacher tomorrow than the one they are today. I have always struggled with certain comments in regards to this. Fortunately, they weren’t said too much but there were still a few pockets of resistance. With any CPD, especially that which is driven by yourself, we should never be saying:
- We are doing all of that already
- I didn’t learn anything new
- It reminded me of things I’m already doing
- It was interesting but wouldn’t work for me/here
- We’ve done all this before – it all comes in cycles
I’m sure there are others, but these are my personal faves! These do not represent growth. More so, almost an admission that things will stay the same. Growth doesn’t have to mean change, but we should at least be open to the prospect of it.
Through the reading I have done in the last 9 months, I have realised that I am not as good a teacher as I thought I was. I would love to have the opportunity to go back and have a class so that I could embed what I have learnt. Growth for me represents this thirst for new knowledge, techniques or strategies to make us better.
I think this is also reflected in schools. The Ofsted judgements have perhaps created problems. We have seen, with the exemption removed, many outstanding schools be moved down a grade. Could this be because they did not grow? I guess we will never know. What I do know is that all schools require improvement (credit Jeremy Hannay for the quote). We should all be looking to grow and improve. The journey of education is never finished. After all, in education, if you are standing still you’re moving backwards.