I had the pleasure of spending a day with @danhaesler last week. He gave a day of workshops on Teaching Kids to Stretch. This, as you would expect if you have followed any of his work, was very much part of his take on well-being. Having had many conversations with Dan and seen him present, I was keen to get my hands dirty with his ideas and the practicalities of application in this area not only as a teacher but as a parent of two primary school aged children.
The day was a great learning experience for me, and colleagues I shared it with tended to echo my feelings. Yet, it wasn’t the content that was so ‘out there’, so revolutionary, so mind-changing. In my opinion, it was the delivery that made the difference. I hold my hands up at this point and admit I like Dan as a person. I think we have a lot in common and despite the fact he was born on the wrong side of the Pennines, Lancashire not Yorkshire, he is a good sort. Yet, this doesn’t stop me from standing back and being as objective as I can. Hence, I would like to say he is damn good at what he does.
So, what makes him ‘damn good’ and other presenters, other workshop conveners, not so? To me, it comes down to the delivery style and he, as I witnessed @tombarrett do a couple of months earlier, used styles that, although different, were on the wave length of any average teacher. Dan’s anecdotal, storytelling (often including his own son) approach elevates the passion of his work. In my opinion, he presents his beliefs in applying Carol Dweck’s fixed/growth mindset in such a convincing fashion because he has real life examples that are really easy to imagine and empathise with.
In a chat with him over lunch that day, I asked him where all this work is going for him, where he sees himself in a few years. He shrugged in reply saying he didn’t know then said, “I’m just a PE teacher”. At the end of the day, he told the workshop that, “any of you could stand up and deliver this”. Unfortunately, he could not be further from the truth. Undoubtedly, some people in the room could have gone some way to match him but far more could not have. What Dan represents in my eyes, is someone who is willing to invest time in figuring out learners, what motivates them, what inspires improvements in their learning and ultimately in their achievements. In a similar way, it could be argued @tombarrett and the NoTosh crew have done likewise with learning activities. They have then devoted huge amounts of energy to honing their craft in how to deliver their messages to those at the coal face. This is no mean feat.
When I returned to school the next day gushing over my experiences with @danhaesler, a colleague of mine really summed it up for me. I said to him that much of what I learned was simple down-to-earth application of Carol Dweck’s work. His reply was something along the lines of, “yeah, but he has obviously taken the time to deconstruct Dweck’s work, to figure out how it can be applied and indeed how it should be best applied to maximise effectiveness. That has to be applauded.” This got me thinking about the difficulties full-time teachers face in mimicking Dan and Tom’s in-depth work. It is very difficult to both commit the time to gaining hardcore knowledge of such a subject but also to build up the presentation techniques that enable high quality delivery. Perhaps such opportunities need to be engineered by those strategically planning education systems. Or am I better off writing a letter to Santa?