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Tom came to teaching with one goal in mind – to be an inspiration. He continues this mission by providing workshops for students and teachers in all aspects of learning to learn.


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In times of stress – just work harder!

Tom Barwood


I think it was Einstein that said ‘to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results is the surest sign of madness’, which is why I am completely baffled by why whenever we are faced with situations of austerity we always chuck out anything we think is not vital and focus on what we think is ‘important’, normally to the detriment of those most in need. This seems to be the case whether it is education, the economy or our own finances and one can see the psychological reasoning for it.

The piece of graffiti below really nailed this in terms of the style of thinking around the economy.

I was once loaned a book by a good friend entitled the ‘E myth’ by Michael Gerber. The 'E' in question being entrepreneurship. The basic premise of the book was that all people who are self employed, or who run their own businesses, fulfill three roles – entrepreneur, technician and manager. In times of plenty business owners will expand and hire others to be the ‘technicians’ whilst they focus on the managing and entrepreneurship but in times of scarcity they quickly ditch these two in favour of going back to the technician. Something my brother (a builder) refers to as ‘going back on the tools’. The main point of the book was to say that you should be doing the opposite.

Chris Holmwood of Shenley Brook End LTC neatly coined this when he told me half jokingly that the only problem with Ofsted grading was that no one understood the initials properly and that R.I. meant ‘requires innovation’ and not improvement ! However we know that in these situations most schools simply apply pressure to make everyone improve. One could argue that if those ideas were working then the school would have never got to Grade 3 in the first place.

Requires improvement (3)

The school requires improvement because one or more of the four key judgements requires improvement (grade 3) and/or there are weaknesses in the overall provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

However it would seem that the last thing we think of doing in difficult circumstances is to innovate. Instead we simply try and make everyone work ‘harder’ normally with the implicit or explicit threat of redundancy.

Professor John Hattie’s book ‘Visible Learning’ proves indisputably that the thing which has the most impact on school performance is for teachers to review and reflect on their performance, something which must be sweet music to everyone at IRIS Connect which has really harnessed technology to facilitate this in a way that one would have previously thought impossible. I have to admit to being biased in this as I have recently begun coaching teachers online. Being able to look into someone’s classroom remotely and coach them live via an ear piece as the lesson progresses is amazing, as well as being highly productive, time/cost efficient and carbon friendly.

However despite this I met a teacher in a school recently, where they have failed to properly embed IRIS, who said the reason that they hadn’t taken up the idea was summed up in the following analogy. An umbrella is a great thing to be given if it is raining, but if your hands are so full of files and books that you have no more hands left, then you will probably refuse the offer and brave the rain. The idea that you might need to put some files down or hand them to someone else seemed to have passed him by.

Having attended last week's Whole Education conference, where education experts Prof John Hattie and Ron Berger were talking, was amazing, however it was pointed out that whilst all the talk of creativity, collaboration and reflection was great, it had to be remembered that as a group we were akin to the Rebel Alliance in the film Star Wars. The big question was who might be Darth Vader and what was the Death Star – I would like to suggest the former is the worst aspect of ourselves and the latter the psychological impact of panic! I would also suggest David Jackson of the Innovation Unit as Obi-Wan Kenobi!

So, after all this my siren call to the profession would be that, just like any business we need to innovate by embracing modern technology and different teaching techniques rather than just battening down the hatches and hoping to weather the storm.