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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.


Think it worked

It did...


Reflections on working with Ross….

Tom Barwood

As a result of delivering one of my typically ‘so far out of the box, design it on the back of an envelope’ style presentations at one of the IRIS Connect Teach Meets I was asked to do some work at Grieg Academy with those that, so far, have been reluctant adopters of the IRIS technology.

I felt somewhat awkward to be going there. I was being invited in by Ross McGill – an award winning teacher who has a blog following in the tens of thousands and over a million followers on Twitter. As with many things, I always seem to be the last one to find out and always trying to catch up. It seemed to start with my university applications and get steadily worse. Social media simply seems to have reinforced my self perception of being a bit of an unintentional Luddite and just a bit behind the game.

The title of the original presentation had been ‘Zen and the art of observation’. With no disrespect to the original author this was the genuine background to what I had to say. I do believe that when it is working well that teaching is a flow activity and not some carefully measured and scientifically dished out entity.

So – how was it? Well, it was great, as it nearly always is with teachers when you take the time to remind them of what it takes to teach well and how everyone has that capacity within them. My biggest worry with Ofsted’s grading of lessons was never about the grades but more that people internalised the grading i.e. on the basis of one inspection someone would say ‘I am an outstanding or inadequate teacher’. No, you are not you are simply someone whose teaching has currently been graded outstanding or inadequate by Ofsted. That grade might change the very next day or if you were then inspected by someone else or if you asked the kids.

I remember once naively asking pupils in my first school (a fee paying school) if they would be happy to burn £35 of their parent’s money (what I had estimated each lesson cost) as that is what they were doing by not paying attention. This backfired when one of the pupils in the next lesson told me that now he knew the value of the lesson he didn’t think he had had his money’s worth!

I promised to make up the ‘difference’ next lesson and it became quite a fun form of AfL to ask at the end of every lesson whether it was good value or not.

So maybe we should a try that as a new idea?