Woodhey High School‘s Nicola Martin shares her personal reflections on our WE11 conference “Leading your evolution with purpose”:
I retrained as a teacher about 5 years ago and the Spirals of Inquiry project is the reason that I became aware of Whole Education.. As the project lead, I was given the opportunity to attend the WE11 conference in May 2021. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but my mind…was…blown! The vast array of inspirational speakers was refreshing and the passion shown by speaker after speaker was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. So much to do, so many options, so much to find out about…
Our Spirals of Inquiry project is focusing on reducing exclusions so my choice of conference talks to attend was largely influenced by this with an add on of the adverse experiences of students that I’d started looking into. As the week went on with the conference, I found myself writing the same thing again and again:
Sometimes it was student voice, other times that of the teachers or parents. To a lesser degree, the voice of the wider community. It highlighted the fact that when considering stakeholders in the life of a school, everyone has an opinion and those opinions need to be acknowledged, just as in any area that would include an element of change management.
The other message that fell centre-stage was that of change: if not now, then when? The pandemic has already forced changes and it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to revolutionise an education system that is progressively seen as broken and fails to meet the needs of students or employers both in the short and long term.
The phrase which has stuck with me from the WE11 conference is student agency. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what this encapsulated. However the ideas and information linked to it made me sit up and pay attention:
what do you want children to be like when they leave your school?
whose lesson is it?
do you have the confidence to trust your students?
I loved Shonogh Pilgrim’s presentation and her enthusiasm to get student agency embedded across her school with confidence and focus. I loved the idea of deciding where you wanted to be and worrying about the consequences later. I’m not a particularly patient person myself, so this resonated, especially when you sincerely believe that you are doing the right thing for your students. Again, if not now, then when?
On the back of student agency taking root in my brain, I have started looking into how to increasingly introduce this practice into my classroom. A great piece of advice was given to me when I said that my school, as with many, takes time to make changes, “Start the practice now in your classroom and if it works, people will notice”.
I look at the question ‘what do you want children to be like when they leave your school?’ and I look at agency in the classroom and agency in life. Surely we want our students to be able to overcome adversity, to be able to effect change and to exercise influence on their world. These are all things that the OECD see as the wider benefits of promoting agency with young people in their ‘Future of Education and Skills 2030’.
What started as an idea for improving the independence of my students solely within the classroom has taken on a bigger potential than I had initially appreciated: why stop at the classroom door? I feel that I have had my eyes opened to aspects that I feel I needed to become aware of. For that, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the WE11 conference.