Friday, 8 August 2014

Day 5 Summer Institute - the last day.

Day 5  Summer Institute - the last day of the Institute.

On Friday Mary and Ann provided the demos.

Mary began, as all our Fellows had, with an overview of her teacher journey and some comments about what is at the core of her work as an educator.  She noted that she loves teenagers ... 'and that really helps!'  She emphasised how important it is for her to provide a learning environment which is underpinned with a focus on self-esteem, confidence, dignity and respect.

In Mary's demo we considered poetry and talked about 'post it' poems.  We were treated to Randoms, reminded about William Carlos Williams and Raymond Carver, and we experienced Mary in 'teacher mode' giving us WWs - working wells - and reminding us not to drink in class!

We stood up, we watched, we listened, we wrote, we left the room, we returned.

We were engaged in learner-centred, active, values-driven approaches to writing.

In the second demo Ann declared herself a writer, which she said she had never done before.  It was a fabulous moment for Ann and for the group as we felt we had all travelled with Ann on the last leg to the point where she could make this statement.  Ann talked about her work, what had brought her into teaching and how at one point she had got lost as a teacher.  She noted that she had to change her pace - she is famously energetic - and to allow time for feedback and reflection.   She highlighted that her work is influenced by Barrie Bennett.

Ann emphasised the importance of happiness and that, in her experience, as stress reduces, confidence grown.  Given that her first passion is drama she drew on  influences from that world specifically, from Stanislavsky: method acting, emotional memory and the magic IF.

Ann's demo connected us again with imagination bringing us full circle to Monday's sessions and the ideas about imagination that surfaced then.  In her demo we warmed up physically and connected with the range of senses.

Ann remarked that working with colleagues over the week reminded her that she could (should?) write when her students write.  In addition, being at the Institute helped Ann to remember who she wanted to be as a teacher.

Friday, the last day of the Institute, also included author's chair over lunchtime.  During author's chair we listened to pieces that our Fellows had started on Day 1 and that they had worked on at different times throughout the week.  There were five authors who read to us on Friday: Chris, Mary, Eileen, Christina and Patricia.  The works were diverse and engaging - the variety intriguing and the worlds finely drawn.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to listen to these Fellows' writing: a most enriching and enjoyable way to spend lunchtime.

Lunch was followed by an invited contribution from Carmel Lillis, herself a very experienced teacher at many levels including on Toriaocht a leadership programme run by the NUI Maynooth Education Department.  Carmel encouraged all of us to see ourselves as potential leaders and she talked about the necessity to have professional conversations within our education settings.  Carmel urged us to think about how we can affect change and she drew on Alan C Jones' work which notes, amongst other important factors, the need for moral purpose, courage to act, situational awareness, sustainability through empowerment and modelling.  We were left wondering how we could build on what we had learned and experienced during the week once we return to our own settings.

The day finished with more writing and talking and a focus on the need for reflection.

We also began to think about 'what next?'

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