Enter the CPD twilight zone

Making time for CPD is difficult. As a full-time teacher myself, now entering my twentieth year in education, I know how many demands there are on one’s time once the children go home at the end of the day. The school submarine is poised to submerge once again, not resurfacing until February half-term. During the voyage, there is little time to reflect and re-energise; no time for oneself and barely any time to connect with colleagues and remind ourselves why we still do this difficult job.

Books don’t mark themselves; no matter how much we all agree that marking should be manageable and efficient, the children’s efforts still deserve our attention at the end of the day. And if our teaching is truly dynamic, then what our pupils have learned today will inform our planning for tomorrow, so there is always preparatory work to do every night.

So cramming in a CPD session after school is not always the most popular move a school leader can make.

But it’s worth it. Good CPD is not only instructive, it’s motivational too, and dare I say, entertaining.

I like delivering WISDOM. That’s not an arrogant claim that I know all there is to know about teaching and learning. By wisdom, I mean ‘What I Shall Do On Monday’.

I’m talking practical, tried-and-tested ideas for use in the classroom on Monday morning. Those little fixes and tips that cheer us up and make teaching more effective, more efficient and, I hope, more enjoyable.

And we’ve all got some of those to share.

Getting a bunch of dedicated adults together in a room, even for just an hour, is always worth it. It’s a lonely job, after all. But as a former headteacher myself, having worked in both state and independent sectors, I know that it depends entirely on the CPD provider you get.

Opening gambits like ‘When I used to teach…’ or ‘When I used to be in the classroom…’ can do little for inspiring trust or confidence. I’m pleased to be back in the classroom again because it gives me an opportunity not only to try out all the strategies and ideas I’ve ‘magpied’ along the way, but also because it reminds me how difficult the job is. As teacher you are: mentor, coach, CBT therapist, model learner, pastor, listener, data-tracker, motivator and the curator of your children’s curiosity. That’s a lot of hats to wear. So a regular boost can be rejuvenating, if delivered in a positive and helpful way.

A good CPD session is authentic, rooted in the realities of classroom teaching and filled with practical solutions and strategies for doing the job better, and getting the most out of the children whom we teach.

I have delivered CPD sessions in over a hundred schools across the UK and abroad, of all shapes and sizes. I’ve met thousands of fellow teachers over the years, and one thing links us all together. We all believe it is about the children. Putting the children first is what motivates us all, but placing the children at the centre of all we do leaves little space for us. If we’re caring for the children, who is caring for us?

The answer, of course, is the school leaders and governors. The best headteachers ‘serve to lead’ in the inverted pyramid of school management. But with so many demands on their time, and so many pressures, it often falls to the visiting CPD trainer to put the staff at the centre of what they do, to put them first and to share ideas that will ease the burden and help them to rediscover the reasons why they went into the profession in the first place.

A good CPD should be an opportunity to recharge the batteries, have a laugh and a joke and share some WISDOM that might, just might, get us excited about Monday morning again.

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