With meetings left right and centre it is no wonder teachers get sick of them, but how often do teachers get to attend a meeting with very little agenda and a focus on teacher wellbeing? Over the last 2 years an excellent, mountain loving, colleague of mine facilitated a reading group focused on positive psychology and I found this was an excellent opportunity for me, and other teachers, to discuss happiness and wellbeing in the classroom, covering articles from authors such as, Carol Dweck and Martin E.P. Seligman. Not only did these meetings provide staff with practical measures to increase wellbeing in the classroom, but (arguably) what was more important was that it provided teachers with the opportunity to discuss their own wellbeing. Early in 2015 when I asked my colleague if the reading group was to continue, I was disappointed to discover it would not be continuing in 2015.
Quite often we rely on team members with lots of energy and enthusiasm to ‘take up the slack’ or create new opportunities for staff, so I thought I would take the baton and continue the reading group myself for 2015. A lot of the information related to teaching and learning that I am naturally drawn to consists of two things,
- Ideas and techniques based on research that make my teaching more effective and efficient
- Resources and ideas that are new and innovative
From this it was clear to me that, while there will always be an underlying theme of positive psychology and staff wellbeing, the reading/listening group would take a new path focusing on, The Science of Learning. The science of learning aims to optimize learning in the 21st century using scientific research to prove how it works. A lot of the research focuses on neuroscience, another personal interest of mine and so it (neuroscience) plays a lead role in the discussion. We cover questions such as, to what extent does a stimulating environment play a role in building long term memory (top down function) and how can we use functions of the brain to better shape our own lives and how does Neuroplasticity link to positive psychology?
I started learning about neuroscience in late 2006 when I was asked to attend a PD opportunity for staff at a school I worked at as an After School Hours Care Coordinator. The presenter, John Josephs (Focus Education) primarily focused on exploring how the brain learns and he provided practical applications for classroom learning. He shared stories where his techniques had worked in making learning more accessible to students otherwise preoccupied with ‘survival’. This was my first experience with neuroscience and it has definitely formed a firm memory in my prefrontal cortex. A lot of my exploration through neuroscience now comes from The Brain Science Podcast and this information is not only easily accessed, but clear and simple with excellent summaries at the end of each podcast that bring the listener back to the purpose of the interview/conversation.
I feel that it is essential that staff share what is passionate to them so others may be able to share their enjoyment. It is clear after the positive comments from the last reading group that people from around our school share a passion for the Science of Learning and, while I don’t claim to be the font of knowledge on this subject, I am happy that my mountain loving colleague and myself are able to provide these opportunities for staff to discuss teaching and learning in an informal setting.
So, if you find something new, share it with as many people as you can. After all, communication is the foundation upon which all good relationships are built.