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Monday, 14 December 2015

Good vs Great Education - The Difference is in the Personal Touch

I am currently in my second week of my Summer break and this morning I have been blessed with insightful pedagogical conversation.

The first came as a chance meeting with my daughter's school principal prompted by a forgotten outfit for a dress rehearsal. Immersed in end of year rehearsals, presentation preparation and school placements for next year I was given the gift of time to engage with her about the action research that the school had been conducting to promote best practice. As a professional I was encouraged to hear that many of the practices that are trending in current classrooms had been instilled in the culture of the school through teacher research. She added that due to the teachers action research they saw these classroom practices embedded well before they started trending in the mainstream. Examples she gave were Coding, Hattie's Mind Frames for Learning, Environmental Education, Instructional Rounds and Video Analysis. It was seen that this research informed innovation in pedagogy and guided the next steps needed to be taken towards the school's strategic plan. Professional development was driven by the teacher's passion but inline with the school vision to create the best experience of learning for every child.

The second came as I picked up my morning coffee. Three doors up from my house I have the most exquisite french patisserie and cafe. The owner Gary (obviously not french!) has spent many months building the business' reputation using market research, looking at the emerging trends and local feedback. This morning he mention an insightful comment "none of this matters if you don't know your customers and deliver them with a quality product that they see value in". He went on by saying "the delivery of a quality product comes from using the calibre ingredients, positive customer service and a smile. People just keep coming back because of the personal touch!"

What connections can we make as educators?

Research is important but knowing the people you serve is more important. People desire connection, this can be interpersonal face to face or online velcro moments as Mark Weston puts it. I also believe that beyond connection they want to know what you do well. If we don't promote our school successes they are left hidden. People want to know they are partnering with something that is moving in the right direction schools and teachers can guide this by controlling their narrative or reputation, Eric Sheringer calls this BrandEd. Once we are connected and control our reputation research becomes key, knowing what ingredients need to go together to deliver the high calibre education students deserve. This is where the Guerilla PD principle becomes crucial as part of the data driven research collection and teacher's professional development.

Out of both of these conversations a question that kept on spinning around my head, it is one posed by Dave Burgess in his Teach Like a Pirate book "If students didn't have to be there would I be teaching to an empty classroom?" When Gary made the statement "People just keep coming back because of the personal touch!" He gave the answer that differentiates the good from great education. When students are known and loved they want to be engaged with those educating them. Once they are engaged we as educators have the opportunity to inspire them to achieve anything.

Burgess, D. (2012) Teach Like a Pirate
Sheringer, E. (2015) The BrandED Difference
Weston, M. (2015) Velcro Moments
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