In this last week, I attended the ignition 2013 unconference, which has been an eye-opener in so many ways. I went into it knowing I would feel humbled by the awesome educators there, and possibly slightly disappointed with my own teaching practice. Some of that was true – the people there were amazing in their thinking and approaches and fearlessness, but what did become apparent was that while my teaching practice is not yet a transformed one, there are many approaches and ideas that were discussed during the two days that I currently use because that’s what makes me happy. I have been out of touch with the progressive education world (partly my fault, partly my surroundings) and therefore out of touch with much of the language that comes with pedagogical approaches, and so didn’t think of my strategies as co-construction, project-based learning, electronic learning and so on under these labels, but more as something that I feel comfortable with, that I know increases my and my students enjoyment and therefore engagement with the content and context of the material.
So this was an unforeseen positive outcome – the awareness that I am doing some good ‘stuff’ in my teaching, and more than that, that I choose to do it because it feels right and natural and good, not because I’m fulfilling some kind of label.
The language used in educational psychology and philosophy always annoyed me while at TCol – it seemed to me these academics who made their profession out of using big words to describe common sense things in the classroom were condescending in their approach to us fledgling trainee teachers, and made us feel like progressive education was their home turf and only obtainable in the insular world of University; not something that could be seen in most classrooms in some way, shape or form. Instead of making us realise the excitement and potential of the concepts we discussed, the use of high-brow language was exceedingly off-putting (and this to me, with a doctorate in a specialized field of medicine! I don’t say this in a hubristic way, but more that I was used to that kind of language in appropriate circumstances, and I feel that a more approachable vocabulary could have been used to hook us in).
Even now, during PD events where a specialist visits the school, the language they often use or the concepts they talk about seem removed from our reality. I came away with so much more than I could have imagined attending ignition13, and it was so refreshing to listen to people using these aforementioned approaches and pedagogies in their classrooms, but discussing it in a down-to-earth manner that was so inclusive to everyone present. The generosity of everyone there to give advice, ideas and resources was incredibly welcome, and I could see how easily I will be able to incorporate them into my classrooms.