Blog: One in three thousand
10 August 2012
So, there seems to be a bit of the buzz at the moment. I think it’s been mentioned before. Once or twice.
This year, for those of you that have been living the life of a hermit, is the 10 year anniversary of Teach First. One of the many events to celebrate such a monumental event is Challenge 2012 where over 3000 people will be looking to see how they can make sure that no child’s success is limited by their socio-economic background.
But I am just 1 in 3000. So why am I going? I’m not here to pull the wool over your eyes and I initially signed up because everyone else was and it was the thing to do... Having said that, my flat mate and I spent about two hours booking our break out activities and there are some exciting things going on. On our return to summer institute there was a real buzz for the weekend and the time spent with other participants really brought home the benefits of attending and the excitement surrounding it all. Am I really going to be able to hear the author of ‘Inside the Black Box’ speak and potentially meet him? Oh my days.
There are many different definitions of the term ‘challenging’ and it can be used under many umbrellas. Teaching is challenging. Schools are challenging. Pupils are challenging. The first break out event I have signed up for is entitled ‘How to transform a challenging school’ and is held by the principal of Uxbridge High School, Peter Lang who will be discussing the challenges and successes of the transformation of his school over the past 10 years. I have been very fortunate to be placed in a school that has transformed itself over the past 13 years. In the 13 years it has increased the percentage of pupils gaining 5 A*-C (including English and Maths) from 7 to 54%. To help truly understand how that can be done and managed effectively I am really looking forward to learning of the journey Peter Lang, his staff and pupils undertook in order to achieve success in their school.
Aspirations are great. In fact, they are fantastic and really help pupils succeed. However, in order for those pupils to achieve their aspirations I am a firm believer that they have to have the access available to them to do so. How can I get 11 year old Nathan to become the policeman he wants to be when he leaves school? We are all well aware that most primary pupils will tell you that they want to be a fireman, a footballer, a ballerina. So why is it, when they get to the age of 16 they have much lower aspirations? At what stage did they stop thinking they could achieve? When did that bar move? ‘From aspirations to achievement’ is a problem-solving break out event where we will be able to bounce ideas off one another and have input from young people to address why this is happening and what we can do about it.
Last but not least I felt this final break out event would help develop my own teaching practice. I have a vision that my classroom will become a student led environment very much suited to student-centred learning. This event incorporates that idea and uses the methods of enterprise learning, which I believe, will help me reach my goal. Not only will this help in my classroom based development but help give a stronger idea of how I, or other members of staff, can introduce this across the school to help raise academic achievement.
This weekend isn’t just about attending workshops and talks. I guess it’s all about the doing. What am I doing? What are you doing? And more importantly what are we doing? Each regional Teach First team will be engaging other delegates throughout the day in one way or another. I’ve been listening to the Teach First grape vine and it tells me that the North East have a real winner up their sleeve. It’s a surprise. But I can’t wait!
On the Friday night of the weekend I will be switching out of my work suit and donning a pair of jeans and, if you’re lucky, a pair of new heels to head to the North East inter cohort social. The 21st of September will be at the end of week 3, term 1 of my second year and, as with the Teach First conference in 2011, be a welcome break to the bubble of school life and probably a time when I will be in desperate need of a wee white wine (just a wee one – I promise…). That school bubble can often be difficult to burst and escape from but I will call on my trusted cohort to assist me.
Let me finish by saying the Teach First North East Cohort have been my shoulder to cry on, they’ve been the high five following the good times but most of all they’ve been through the same thing as me. If Challenge 2012 is anything it’s a chance for me to see those people that have fought the same battles and won the same races but not just on a regional scale and not just on a national one. This is an opportunity for those in the education sector, across the country, across year groups and across industries to say yes, we are all in this to address the same issues and we want to do something about it.
Please, join me at Challenge 2012. I’m only 1 in 3000 people, but all 3000 of us believe in the same thing.
Fiona McGregor, 2011 Participant