Refreshment for the Teaching Mind – BrewEd Birmingham 2019

blackboardA special educational brew was mashed in Birmingham this weekend in a very spruced-up pub, in a very-spruced up area of Birmingham not far from the future terminal for HS2 (not a terrifying Orc from Snobs or Mr Egg in sight – check your Brummie Knowledge Organiser provided by @stoneman_claire !) Although the event was organised by some twitter big hitters (thank you Claire and Kathryn @KLMorgan_2) the feel of the event was very unlike Twitter – come together and connect with new people, while listening to something you may not agree with, from a sector you are unfamiliar with, delivered by (in my case!) somebody considerably younger than you – and do so with an open mind and a pint in your hand!

@MaryMyatt presented ideas from her long experience working in 100s of schools in the form of ‘provocations’, things to ‘cut’ and ‘thoughts’ to put in place in any school that would allow teachers and students to be ‘human first’. She noted in particular how some of the bravest heads (in the most challenging schools) are comfortable using the Love-word, talk of bringing the joy and to see, even on the most difficult of days, the blessings that children bring. She started what became a common theme throughout the day with the encouragement of empowered, well informed and vocal children succeeding because they are led by trusted and valued expert teachers – most speakers echoed this theme throughout the day.

Two head teachers Clive Wright (@irenaeues) and Helena Brothwell (@educurious2015) described how teaching was simplified and staff empowered at their schools to be the experts students needed to learn successfully. Both schools reflected the Mary Myatt endorsed school culture of ‘High Challenge and Low Threat’.

It was brave in such illustrious and experienced company that Daniel (@sabato0612) presented the ups and downs of leading teaching and learning in a school as a new assistant head – he was clearly doing a much better job than he gave himself credit for and he was able to acknowledge the help and support he had received from, amongst others, people present in the room.

Kiran (@ksunray3) and Anoara (@anoara_a) delivered inspiring testimony of what levels of self belief and advocacy even the youngest of students can achieve when given a voice, whether that is through a simple storybook like Leonard the Lion or through social activism because of a catastrophe on their doorstep.

Another primary colleague Justin (@teacherstarr) presented a personal manifesto calling on us all to be the teacher that ‘champions’ kids and the wise reminder that some kids will be really looking forward to seeing you on Monday morning. In terms of personal commitment to the BrewED cause a two-cake production by Justin is noteworthy (crème egg cheesecake!?) but more importantly he put a lot of himself into his talk and it was all the more inspirational and moving for it.

Although I didn’t agree with all of what Mark @lehain (I guess the ‘Saint Michael Gove’ slide and ‘UK teachers having the greatest autonomy’ is where I needed my open mind and a big slurp of my pint!) I couldn’t argue with his passionate advocacy for great schools that get behaviour, curriculum, assessment and enrichment right. Indeed, his measure of a great school being one that he would happily send his daughters to is a good one, long favoured by all teachers. Judging by the content of a great BrewED day in Brum I would happily have my children taught by the wonderful teachers I met today, in schools lead by these inspirational leaders.