Saturday, 7 January 2017

Oracy Post 3: the importance of connection (relationships) in a great school

This week, quite by twitter chance, this image appeared on my time line from Caro Fenice :

I have been leading a whole school initiative on ORACY this year as part of my work towards NPQSL (National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership).  This quote epitomises my reflections on the power of a community that really listens.  It came after I had read this blog from Alice Stott - here.  I loved her reflections on 'Lundsteen’s central argument', which is that 'listening is to speaking what reading is to writing – namely, to be able to do the first well supports the development of the second.'

We have been working with School 21, where Alice leads Oracy, to develop whole school and cross curricular strategies in Oracy through discrete lessons for year 7, assemblies and CPD (Continuous Professional Development).

SCHOOL 21 reflects the power of a ‘connected’ group of professionals in the work of a school.  CPD is fortnightly and offers an opportunity to reflect as individuals (coaching) and as a group (whole staff sessions).  These sessions are strongly linked to:

o   Classroom practice with sessions where the leading teacher demonstrates high quality teaching in delivering the session.  For example, Peter Hyman led a session on the history of education using images to illustrate each of his points.  The session demonstrated how images can be used to convey knowledge and develop understanding.

o   School21’s values and purpose: CPD strengthens teachers ability to use the oracy protocols by using them in CPD time.  The teachers use them as a participant as well as a leader.   The school publishes a journal of the excellent work that staff create in their CPD work alongside similar publications of student's work - everyone in engaged in the commitment to excellence.

o   The spirit of Enquiry: everyone is learning, everyone is developing through the school's holistic and 'joined up' practice, this asks a great deal of the staff, who in responding to this challenge, model best practice for the ‘spirit of enquiry’.

·        By using CPD in this manner, the school is developing a shared lexicon of learning, mirroring the support offered to students & staff as well as building the collaborative and creative practices of the school.  The teaching team is connected through a host of knowledge, skills and experiences. The processes support the production of a community that works in the best interest of everyone.

The idea of ‘connection’ is highlighted in this short recording from the Social Worker who has turned ‘Qualitative Researcher/Storyteller’, Brene Brown.  Her TED Talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ covers ‘connection’ in the early minutes which she describes as ‘what gives purpose and meaning to our lives… the ability to feel connected… is why we are here’;

This is also reflected in this short recording on the ‘Almost Everything we know about Addiction is Wrong’ where a person’s ability to connect with others is attributed to their interest in addictions of any kind:

This strong ‘connection’ can be fostered through Oracy protocols, which have the well-being of all at their heart.  The vision is connected to the people, who are connected and because of this, everyone is empowered.

Connection, it seems to me, is what we mean when we talk about the importance of relationships and the significance of a shared culture, which permeates all that it is to be a great school and foster deep learning.  

Post Script #1

Our work on Oracy as a whole school initiative has led us towards this practice.  It has developed a real sense of what it means to be an individual with a 'right to speak' in a community that listens.  I am really inspired by this as a vision.

Today I led a CPD session where the content for our teacher and staff participants was very much the business of our school and the form was very much decided by the Oracy protocols of Harkness Discussion, which it is hoped teachers will use in lessons this term.

Harkness is a collaborative discussion defined by the necessity to think deeply and develop our understanding of the knowledge discussed.  It supports and promotes connected thinking, learning and collaboration.  

At the end of the day, our head teacher shared this quote:

Find our power point here  early slides as per CPD presentation, scaffolds to use with students within later slides.

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