It is not often that I use the word ‘inspirational’ when referring to a particular speaker at a conference or webinar I have attended. I can think of a handful of speakers who have truly inspired in the past. Many have informed, instructed, perhaps even rejuvenated, but I’m hard to inspire.
It is even rarer for me to attend a conference where not one but all of the speakers have inspired me.
And it is a true one-off when I have been fortunate enough to host such a webinar, where every speaker I interviewed was so engaging that I forgot I was supposed to be asking them questions.
Such was my experience at a recent virtual conference entitled ‘The Whole Teacher’, which I hosted on behalf of Discovery Education and the NAHT.
The conference began with an inspiring speech from NAHT President, Ruth Davies. Ruth described so eloquently and compassionately the challenges endured – and conquered – by her fellow school leaders and teachers over the last few months of lockdown. Her vision for the year ahead was filled with optimism and hope.
I was then able to interview NAHT General Secretary, Paul Whiteman. Paul spoke with such honesty and wisdom, recognising the sterling efforts of NAHT members across the country, as they work so hard to provide the very best provision possible in these unprecedented times, where certainty and control – surely essential tools for any school leader to be able perform their role – have been in short supply. Paul’s understanding, good humour and compassion for everyone in the profession showed that NAHT members have a truly inspiring and authentic voice speaking up for them in Whitehall.
My next guest was the brilliant Professor Tim O’Brien, an experienced teacher, lecturer, research professor and psychologist who has spent many years working in the field of wellbeing. Tim’s inspiring words will have been both reassuring and empowering for the 450 educators who attended, I am sure. I could talk to Tim for hours, and have been lucky enough to do so on several occasions. His ability to shed light on our wellbeing and mental health in ways that develop our understanding and self-efficacy is refreshing and very empowering.
Next up was Marijke Miles, experienced school leader and NAHT National Executive member. Marijke has led special schools for many years and she spoke so eloquently about her experiences in leading and motivating teams and helping to meet the complex needs of students. Her enthusiasm for the job and her eloquence in capturing why teachers teach and why leaders lead was inspirational.
I was then able to interview Ruth Davies again, where she spoke so wisely about listening to – and trusting in – our ‘inner voice’. The high-blame, low-risk culture Ruth spoke of, which has been forced upon many school leaders in a climate of hyper-accountability, will have been recognised by many attendees, I’m sure. Ruth called for all of us to place our trust in teachers again, arguing that now, more than ever, we can turn to teachers and school leaders to guide us out of the extraordinary situation we have endured and onto brighter and better times ahead.
The day ended with a walk through the Discovery Education Pathway Programme, a new holistic programme which supports the professional and personal development of educators, launching in schools in September.
The event was entitled ‘The Whole Teacher’ and with the help of our extraordinary speakers, I think we did the title justice.
You can watch a recording of the whole event on the NAHT’s Facebook page, including the technical hitch at the beginning, when the internet performed its usual trickery and sent our hearts racing for a moment, but in true teacher fashion, we kept going and recovered well!
My sincere thanks to the guests who all gave up their time freely and to the fabulous team at EY3 Media who, together with my colleagues at Discovery Education, helped make the day possible.
Here’s to many more discussions we will be holding about how we can best support #thewholeteacher. It’s about time.
You can find out more about the NAHT & Discovery Education Pathway Programme here