Kazakhstan, India …… Wales
Once again I am using this blog to update visitors to the Tibke Education website as to what I have been busy with in recent months.
After the lengthy account of last year’s second and even more memorable workshop tour of India, I never even got round to reporting on a week of working with teachers in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. This was on behalf of the University of Cambridge, as part of their contract to develop curriculum and pedagogy in the Nazerbayev schools.
It was incredible to think that some of the teachers had longer journeys to get to Astana from areas of Kazakhstan than I and my fellow consultants had from the UK. This was my first experience of working in a former Soviet state and I was fascinated both by the legacy of that and the evident passion for promoting Kazakh culture.
Much like the teachers in India, I found our Kazakh colleagues very receptive and appreciative. There is so much to learn from them, in terms of how what we bring can translate into their classroom contexts. And speaking of translators, this was my first experience of working with interpreters, both of whom displayed incredible linguistic understanding and highly honed skills in managing the verbal contributions of everyone, whether originally in English, Kazakh or Russian. I was most struck by this when the teachers were presenting, as the translators were simultaneously telling me what the teachers had just said whilst listening to what the teachers were saying next!
This year so far has concentrated on projects closer to home. This is a deliberate decision, as I have firstly a PhD thesis to complete (The Case of Teachers and Neuroscience: how do teachers mediate information about the brain?) and alongside that I am pleased to say that I have agreed to write a book for the academic publisher Sage. The book relates to the PhD territory, though is a separate project and differs in writing style and audience. It has a working title at the moment, simply ‘Teaching and the Brain’ and is designed to help teachers make sense of what is and is not useful or accurate amongst the information they may encounter about the brain. More on this in the future, as the writing progresses.
So no trip to India or Kazakhstan, but I have been busy with the good people of Skyrocket Training Ltd in Wales. Our collaboration has been very productive and everyone at Skyrocket is a pleasure to work with. Using venues in Swansea, Cardiff and Llandudno, we have run two different Mindset programmes and delegates have responded positively on each occasion. One experienced teacher in North Wales described ‘Mindset 1’ as the best course she had ever been on. Another piece of feedback that I was very pleased by commented on how the programme was grounded in the realities of the classroom; that is something I am always eager to achieve. I do not want delegates going away feeling that they cannot realistically take the day’s contents forward in their daily work, or that the day was interesting but largely irrelevant to their current needs.
That sense of day to day classroom reality is fundamental to the next Tibke Education/Skyrocket collaboration. I have billed this as a workshop rather than a one day course, as it is a behaviour management event with a difference. Entitled ‘The No Magic Wand Workshop’, it is a challenging day in which delegates will be expected to be open and honest about what they need to improve, will explore new ways of analysing and understanding what is happening in their classrooms and will consider how the best guidance and strategies can be applied in their own contexts. There will be no generic content that delegates then have to go away and figure out what to do with, no snake oil tips and tricks. We will instead be planning and practicing what steps they need to take back at school, having gained a greater understanding of what is not working and why and how these issues can be systematically tackled, over time. As this is intense and delegate-centered, places are restricted to 8 delegates. I am delighted that the Skyrocket team fully grasps the purpose of this, recognizing that this event could not work with large numbers, even though that would obviously create larger income. The first of these events is set to take place in Cardiff in July.
Also in Wales, it has been a pleasure to keep my music skills active in supporting Helen Vincent’s work, both with her community choirs and with her Alzheimer’s Society ‘Singing for the Brain’ sessions. There is considerable crossover with some of my work in the latter, notably the use of music and increasing knowledge of the brain. Above all, all these sessions remind me of the efficacy of music in all sorts of ways and how important it is that everybody has opportunities to access music. This was the very thing that took me into education in the first place, determined that music in school would not just be for those who were already developing musical skills elsewhere, or be restricted in other ways. Helen’s welcoming and engaging approach is a joy to witness and is supported by her own academic pursuits in the field of health and wellbeing and the use of music as an intervention. I am still kept busy in professional development work with teachers – this month alone I am running courses on primary music, secondary music and music as a means of developing communication in special schools.
I have two more new projects underway, the first is another aspect of musical experience. The charity MusicLinks Ltd has invited me to write an evaluation report on their music festival-based project ‘Jam Tent’, which offers young people the chance to make music and particularly seeks to offer this to those who have not had the opportunity before. I will be observing how this works at this year’s Kendal Calling festival.
Finally, I am delighted to be working with Osiris Educational again, to create and present a course investigating how children learn, which we will run in London and Birmingham later this year. The aim of this course is to update delegates on the best learning practice for which we have sound evidence, so will root out some of the prevailing myths whilst examining what research on learning styles, cognition and neuroscience does have to offer. This sits well with the growing interest in schools in accessing the most worthwhile research and in my own mission that teachers should be informed consumers of what the education market offers them.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update. I have shamelessly concentrated on the things I am doing – must mention the work of the other Tibke Education Associates next time! Do comment and/or make contact!