Imagine if you will for a minute the stereotypical images of teacher INSET and CPD, be it a staff meeting, training day, local or national conference.
Someone droning on endlessly, loving the sound of their own voice. One who constantly interrupts and berates the course leader. The naughty group in the corner! Then there's the eye rollers, the yawners, the doodlers and the sniggerers!
'It won't work in my classroom!'
'I've done it my way for twenty years and I'm not changing now'
'More work for us from the top!'
I am not one for stereotypes, but all these have been familiar as the quality and quantity of CPD has been impacted by cutbacks, lack of time and the delivery of often generic and stale material.
Which is why, in response to a single tweet in August, I signed up for the inaugural SLTcamp.
The pre-camp emails suggested a quite open and general agenda, and as I drove into the pitch black of the Surrey countryside, losing phone signal and missing the turning twice, I wasn't entirely sure of what I might come away from the weekend with.
A week on from the experience, I can say that SLTcamp represented the best CPD I have ever been part of. For the past week my mind has been abuzz with the potential to employ the ideas and feedback generated by forty or so very different, diverse and dedicated professionals. Quick fixes; simple solutions to pressing problems; longer term strategic thinking. All were generated in a chilly village hall and over lunch and dinner.
Already this week I have ordered a roll of 'Magic Whiteboard', arranged the beginnings of staff meetings to be like a 'Teach Meet', set up a 'risk factor' analysis for vulnerable children, and introduced the now world famous 'Wobbly Wallet', a quite marvellous and simple idea, which had the primary group in stitches, thanks to the wonderfully effervescent @debtex.
Indeed, I have also taken inspiration from the salsa session that rounded off the Saturday evening! I am no dancer! Ask the wife! However there was no hiding place, so I faced and overcame my initial reticence, and used this in assembly, where I raised with the children the notion of facing a difficult learning experience, and the acquisition of new skills. I taught a few children some simple steps, and then to their horror asked them to dance together! To be fair to them I demonstrated too, thanks to one of our Teaching Assistants who gamely agreed to be my partner. One of the Year 6 children grabbed a table tennis bat and chalked a 10 on it too!
I challenge my fellow campers to follow suit!
Not a moment of the weekend was wasted. It was a tremendous opportunity to catch up with people I have chatted with on Twitter for a while, particularly @Andyphilipday to bemoan our respective football teams lack of recent silverware. The interaction between Primary and Secondary colleagues, so rarely experienced, was a real eye opener to shared difficulties, experiences and successes. I will be returning to the bank of ideas I came back with for a very long time to come.
One of the few requirements of the weekend was 'No Egos!', and this was firmly adhered to, which was incredibly refreshing. Of course there was a lot of character on show, as there always is in a group of that size, but the mix and balance of the participants was perfect. I left with new friends, new contacts and recharged enthusiasm.
Thanks once again to Sarah and Stephen for all their marvellous preparation and resilience in organising the weekend.