Tag Archives: CPD


Edited edsoc 2

I’m a bit addicted to CPD but I wasn’t always! For the first seven years of my teaching career I did that clich√©d thing of treating my classroom as my kingdom. I only ever really learnt about teaching practices from immediate colleagues who taught the same subject as me in the same physical building as me.

I went to the odd event in my local education centre, but it was usually in the evening after work, and I was usually wrecked. Even when it was good, my attention was never fully in the room, as part of my brain was always pre-occupied by what I’d still need to do when I got home for tomorrow’s classes and the nagging guilt of the copies that hadn’t been corrected but that would NEED to be corrected. Soon. Somehow. These were the days I’d skip dinner, chowing down a bag of crisps and maybe a few biscuits, then staying up until midnight (or later) to complete what I needed to have prepared for the next day. The in-service that was provided during school days I refused to go to, unless it was compulsory, because I didn’t want to miss valuable class contact time. It just always felt like we didn’t have enough time with our classes! It still feels like that now, but having my blog as online support for my students makes me feel less stressed about it all.

Occasionally we had utterly brilliant CPD. In the early days of the Croke Park hours, back when I was still teaching in St. Flannan’s College in Ennis, I’ll never forget the day Professor Tom Collins came all the way from Maynooth to speak to us. He blew our minds open with his passionate argument in favour of the messiness of learning. I emailed him to find out more and he kindly posted me a booklet of research examining the teaching of English in Irish Secondary Schools. It provided many flashes of inspiration and insight but I think back then I was still waiting for the CPD to come to my door. I didn’t seek it out, I wanted it handed to me on a plate, preferably during school time. I was the first one to roll my eyes if we had CPD that I considered a ‘waste of time’ and my attitude to up-skilling could be described at best as reluctant (‘I don’t really have time for this‘) and at worst surly (‘Oh for God’s sake, can we just get out of here?‘).

So what changed?

I started a blog and attended a conference.

The ICT in Education conference in Tipperary in May 2011 was my first experience of mixing with teachers from across all levels – primary, secondary and third level – and learning directly from them in nano-presentations of about 5 minutes each at my first ever CESI meet. The conference the next day made my brain fizz and melt and explode with the possibilities (you can read about that here).

Fast forward 3 years and I’ve been invited to keynote at the same ICT in Education conference this May and my brain cannot quite compute how I got here?!? I’m flattered, I’m overawed and I’m a little bit terrified, but don’t tell the organisers that or they might retract their offer ūüėČ

Edited edsoc photo

Now, my CPD schedule looks very different. Every year, barring an unforeseen calamity, at an absolute minimum I attend the INOTE conference for teachers of English in October, the CESI conference for edtech beginners and enthusiasts in February, the ICT in Education conference in May and during the summer I’ll sign up for whatever I can that’ll keep the fires of learning burning. I attended a three day¬†Digital Bootcamp in 2012, did a five day ADE institute in 2013¬†and am currently plotting and scheming what I can blag my way into in summer 2014!

And I love it! I’m not going so my CV will look good, I’m going because I love learning what other people are up to and seeing how I can steal their ideas and adapt them to my own classroom.

As an English teacher, I also now regard a trip to London to see some theatre at least once a year as crucial (again, this is a change from how I used to approach my teaching, which for a long time I thought was all about giving good notes!). This is not to see the plays that are on the curriculum, it’s to remind myself why I became an English teacher in the first place. The same goes for reading books (the shortlist for the Booker prize is always a priority) and blogs and poetry and really great journalism; the same goes for attending TEDxDublin. Remembering why you love your subject, why you want to communicate that love to others is a must. Yes, it’s challenging finding the time (but it’s also bloody enjoyable) and yes, sometimes kids in your class will look at you like you’re an alien from another dimension, but that’s ok. As long as the passion remains, that’s ok.

But perhaps most importantly of all, my very best CPD comes from the fact that every day I connect with educators nationally and globally via twitter to inform my teaching, to challenge my perceptions, to shake me out of my comfort zone, to share resources and to try – and believe me I often fail – to get better at what I do.

Yesterday at the CESI conference, I spoke to so many passionate teachers. The idea that there are swarms of teachers out there who never do anything beyond what’s absolutely compulsory is utterly untrue. There were lots and lots of teachers using their Saturday yesterday to debate, discuss and deliver better teaching (in fact educators had to choose between the CESI conference in Galway, an Education & Research conference in Limerick, a School Planners conference in Laois, an Educational Leadership Symposium in Maynooth, the IPPEA conference in Carlingford Adventure Centre, a TY co-ordinators meeting in Athlone, a Young Critics and Film event in Monaghan Garage Theatre and volunteering at CoderDojo clubs nationwide) but I also know that once upon a time I was so caught up in prep and corrections that I felt I didn’t have time to engage in CPD. Now I realise what a wonderful motivator it can be. Really great CPD is invaluable because it encourages you to stop doing the same thing the same way yet expecting a different result. On the flip side, really crap CPD is unforgivable because it discourages you from ever doing any CPD ever again!

I also got teased yesterday (I’m looking at you John Heeney!) for giving the powers that be / the JCT a hard time for not providing enough CPD for the introduction of the new Junior Cycle (I deserved that one – I have been fairly mouthy on this issue!) and a few minutes later I spoke to Ben Murray from the NCCA about ePortfolios and about the connections that have been established with the Arts Council, the Abbey, the National Association for Youth Drama and the Irish Film Institute to provide supplementary workshops (click here for the timetable) for English teachers. Yes, it means giving up a Saturday, but, frankly, so what? As educators, we need to love learning. If we don’t we’re in the wrong game. I know life can sometimes get in the way and the locations and dates might not suit everyone, but it’s no longer fair or accurate to claim there isn’t CPD available, even if does feel a tad rushed and last minute. So for the record, I’m no longer whinging about the lack of CPD – a change indeed!

Everyone at the conference was also given the opportunity to offer their two cents as to what priorities should be at the forefront for educators in the National Digital Strategy. You can add your own thoughts and read what other educators view as important here: http://padlet.com/wall/cesinds

So what next?

1. I need to see if I can make it to some of the Saturday workshops for English teachers.

Like all of us, I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment but the feedback so far has been really positive. I’m following @JuniorCycleArts and @JCforTeachers on twitter to keep in the loop on this and apparently you just ring the education centres to book. I think some of the courses are booked out already so I’d better get my ass in gear!

2. I need to prepare my (first ever) keynote for ICTedu – eek!

However, scary and all as that seemed a week ago, a conversation with Simon Lewis on Friday night clarified a lot for me on this score, so thanks Simon. I went to bed, full of ideas (and red wine!) and typed like a mad yoke before I fell asleep so the ideas wouldn’t have disappeared when I woke up.

3. And, as usual, I need to go do some corrections!




Connecting Teachers: Whose job is it anyway?

Collaboration is the new black. Every conference I attend; every commentator I hear trumpeting the success of coder dojo; every colleague who has tried it in their teaching agrees. Collaboration works.

I’m not talking about glorified group work. I know what that is; I’ve done it. It’s where I the teacher set a task so I can feel¬†that my students’ opinions are valued¬†when all the while I¬†know I’ll end up feeding them my answer in the end so why should they bother?¬†Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending the fact that this happens in my classroom. There are days when I hate myself for it. But sadly, unlike J Alfred Prufrock , I’m not always convinced that “there will be time, there will be time, for decisions and revisions that a minute will reverse” particularly at senior cycle. So I plough ahead because after all there is a course to cover and if I don’t get it covered I’ll be hanging up my “Teacher of the Year 2012” boots and adopting a rather fetching “Jackass of the Year 2013” limited edition instead.

No, I’m not talking about group work; I’m talking about the really meaty process of collaboration where people work together to create something that didn’t previously exist; something that fills them with the overwhelming urge to share.”Look at this thing we created. Look how great it is“.

But now that we know how valuable collaboration is; now that the research tells us what an effective learning tool it is, I find myself asking why the enormous potential of this wonderful invention known as the world wide web¬†isn’t being used more effectively to facilitate greater collaboration between teachers in Ireland? Better connections, shared expertise, opportunities to connect.

I know it’s happening in pockets. I’m on the CESI list; I’ve conversed with hundreds of Irish teachers on twitter thanks to #edchatie; I’ve joined the INOTE facebook group to share ideas and resources and to tease out both new and old ways to teach effectively. But I’m also aware that there are thousands of teachers out there completely oblivious to the help and expertise that’s right there within their grasp if they just reach out and touch it. I know this because for eight years I was that person, living in a cave of my own invention and I wish, how I wish I had seen sooner what was just out of sight. Don’t assume reluctance, or laziness or complacency. For now, just assume ignorance – you can’t miss something you don’t know exists.

So what do I want?

Well a national database of English teachers would be a start (hell, let’s do it for every subject for that matter). This already exists. The Teaching Council have all of these details and I’m pretty sure there’s a smart computer programme out there somewhere which could cull this data into a usable list of email addresses. I think English would be a good place to start because ours is the first subject which will change in the new Junior Cycle so surely we’ll need to be kept in the loop and informed of new developments? Or am I just being a crazy person expecting to actually be informed about the changes which I will be introducing and implementing in my classroom? The teaching council website informs me that CPD is part of their remit. One of their aims is to facilitate networking among teachers. But I’m told they won’t give out this information to INOTE, the English teachers association (probably¬†because of issues around confidentiality) and they won’t use it themselves. But goddamn it, listen to the voice of the people I say. Give us what we want. An Irish TES where we can share and connect and collaborate. You’ve got 10 million in the bank. What’s the problem?

So that’s two things on my wish list. A database of email addresses for English teachers and an Irish TES. But then I think, well maybe it’s not really the Teaching Council’s job? Maybe I should be looking to the PDST? Their job is definitely to facilitate CPD for teachers. They’re low on funding I know and swamped trying to deliver literacy and numeracy in-service (I attended a day long session recently that was just amazing). I also know they too have been compiling a list of English teachers in an effort to ensure that all teachers attend these literacy for English teachers in-services. Maybe they contacted the Teaching Council looking for this info and they too were refused. Who knows. Word on the street is they can’t share this list with the English teachers association either. Confidentiality I presume. We need to be protected from each other it would seem!

And what about the NCCA? They’re the ones driving the change and I know they’ve got a teachers network going among the pilot schools who are trying out ideas for the new Junior Cycle. I hear it’s great. But I’m on the outside not looking in but staring at a blank wall.¬†I’ve been told that the new English syllabus / specification will be available for consultation in April/May. But don’t for a moment think that this means a letter will be sent to all English teachers. Or an email (from the list that exists but must not speak its name). It will most likely appear silently one day, I predict just as the State Examinations kick off. It will quietly lurk on a website unseen, unheard of by the vast majority of English teachers in this country (assume what you want about whether or not this is their own fault for not obsessively checking the NCCA website daily for updates). The book publishers will probably get their spoke in. And then with a flourish the new Junior Cycle English Specification will be introduced with minimal input from the people it effects the most – teachers and students – unless you’re in one of the pilot schools (and even then I’m told, by teachers in the know, that the consultation process often involves offering your input and then being completely ignored. Forgive me if I sound cynical – I try so hard not to be).

Perhaps I am naive. Perhaps I am too demanding; too vocal; too politically incorrect. Perhaps I am foolish to think for a second that anything I say makes the slightest ripple of a difference to anyone in these organisations. Maybe if I care so much I should be taking this on myself? Free and gratis. Just the way this government likes us to operate. More for less. More and more and more and more for less.

Or perhaps ¬†I’m right. Perhaps it’s time the hand started speaking to the arm and the arm to the body and the whole lot to the bloody head. If I’m making it sound terribly straightforward that’s because I believe it should be. Today we learned that a baby was cured of HIV; surely this is not beyond us?