3 amazing educators on what fuels their community passion

Innovate My School

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Image courtesy of Julie Hunter. Image courtesy of Julie Hunter.

How can teachers and leaders take advantage of what’s beyond their schools’ walls? In the Innovate My School Guide 2018/19, an eclectic selection of educators share their own community-oriented successes - here’s a sneak peak...

Sarah Bedwell - Teacher supporting teachers

Teaching can be a very isolated experience if you let it. You’re often the only adult in your classroom, you’ve got the door shut to keep the noise out (or in!), and you get on with the myriad tasks that need to be done all day, every day. It doesn’t have to be that way!

Your year group team, your department, your colleagues, your local community and your online community can all contribute to making teaching a collegiate experience, locally and indeed globally. From the brilliant #Teacher5aDay initiatives - that include everything from writing, sketching, exercising, photography and cooking, as well as the stunning Buddy Boxes that are gifted from one teacher to another - to the online staffrooms of #TeamEnglish and #PrimaryRocks, Twitter is an online community that can add much to your practice. You can dip in and out of Twitter, picking up ideas and resources for your classroom and your own wellbeing.

Claire Stoneman - No more homophobia

As my first year progressed, I began to be aware of something wasn’t quite right in the school’s culture. In the hubbub of the corridors, canteen, playground and even classrooms, I heard something that jarred me, that really bothered me, and (this is what irked me more than anything) wasn’t challenged. Comments from pupils to pupils went thus:

“I can’t believe you like that song. It’s well gay.”
“Yeah but your mum’s gay, so whatever.”
“Your bag’s really gay.”

On the surface, it was brushed aside as ‘banter’, but dismissing it as this is dangerous. It is not banter. The word ‘gay’ was being used as a synonym for something that was rubbish, something worthless. I became more and more aware of a curriculum that didn’t have any LGBT role models, that didn’t reference, or only fleetingly referenced, esteemed gay writers, musicians, scientists, designers, artists, mathematicians or sportspeople. I knew something had to be done.

Julie Hunter - Making learning multicultural through connected classrooms

We started the process of connecting classrooms by applying for county council and embassy programmes to host teachers from different countries. Students and staff started to have conversations with these visitors, and the curriculum started to evolve from these experiences.

The next step was to apply for funding to get our staff travelling the world. Stories from teachers about eating guinea pigs in deepest, darkest Peru started to bring aspects of culture alive. To truly connect classrooms, students needed to be in direct contact with their peers. Achieving funding for staff to visit Ghana started our plan to send letters between students. Many students simply don’t receive snail mail, and the fact they had to wait for months for a reply was a new cultural experience. When letters arrive, it begins a new conversation about the continent and country being studied, as well as the daily life of their peers.

Connecting classrooms can lead to frustrations - funding streams can dry up, contacts can leave, partner school interest can waning - so it’s always worth having several connections at any one time. This ensures that students have a rich, multicultural experience of life outside their own classroom walls.

Read the full Innovate My School Guide 2017/18 at www.innovatemyschool.com/guides.

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