My tag line is ‘connecting, reflecting and imagining the possibilities’ and expresses what I am constantly doing in life.  Increasingly it is becoming more obvious to me that I should view this statement as a cycle as each element is intrinsically linked and influences the others.

Let me put my musings into context. At the end of the summer term I evaluated two Creative Partnerships projects.  One had built strong partnerships between Teachers and Creative Practitioners whereas the other had seen little Teacher interaction. The later had demonstrated that in some respects this shortcoming had a positive impact on the relationships built between the Creative Practitioners and Pupils but my concern was how creative teaching and learning would be embedded into the school’s curriculum without the teacher making a direct contribution.

Before the project continued into a second year, I was interested to explore the barriers to teacher interaction. When I spoke to the staff they acknowledged that the Young People had benefited immensely from the project but the overwhelming view was that it was perceived somewhat as an ‘add on’. They also felt that it was only relevant to the year group directly involved. They hadn’t been able to make the link that a creative approach could enhance cross curricular learning and encourage a whole school approach to creativity.

 The other school that I was working with had an established thematic approach which was topic based. Through their Creative Partnerships programme, its Teachers had explored how a more creative approach could challenge something that was already working well. They focused on raising literacy standards through their year 3 summer topic and from the outset made it clear to their Creative Practitioners what their targets were.

In a nutshell, the outcome of this project was that the Creative Practitioners energised the topic with a fresh perspective and take on its delivery. They facilitated a diverse range of experiences to stimulate the pupil’s desire to write based on the Young People’s responses to a trip to the seaside. Through the project the Teachers were able to position themselves as the literacy experts building on the stimuli. It gave them confidence in their own skills and a creative approach that they could implement in subsequent topic work without external support.

It was at this point that I made the connection. The majority of my work requires me to flit between two worlds; education and the arts. These worlds have different identities, expressed through their language, values, etiquette and dress sense! Bringing them together often requires skilful mediation; sometimes it requires back-up. As my workshop practice encourages peer to peer learning I decided that I needed to bring the Teachers of each school together so one could communicate the unique selling points of a creative approach in a language that could be heard and understood by the other. Hold this thought.

Next came the reflecting. A very perceptive comment that a Young Person had made during an evaluation conversation resonated with me. She had said that during the Creative Partnerships project her Teacher had become a Learner and that sometimes this was scary for her. From my observations, in both schools the most exciting creative outcomes had happened when project participants (teacher, practitioner and pupil) were challenged to learn and especially when this took them out of their comfort zone . I met with both school’s Creative Co-ordinators to consider what the learning would look like in year two of the programme.

Although both schools were at very different places on their creative journey their pupils had the same entry point, that being Reception. I began Imagining the Possibilities of an Early Year’s focus for this year’s project with the Creative Co-ordinators which led to discussions around the High/Scope approach. As a High/Scope practitioner I could see how it would sit well with both the Teachers and Creative Practitioners whilst challenging their current practice.

‘In the High/Scope Approach to early childhood education, adults and children share control. We recognise that the power to learn resides in the child, hence the focus on active learning practices. When we accept that learning comes from within, we achieve a critical balance in educating young children. The adults’ role is to support and guide young children through the active learning adventures and experiences.’   David P. Weikart. 1995

It was at this point that the project planning began to fit together and ‘connecting’ on my tag line cycle made an appearance again. It seemed that I had an obvious opportunity to bring two programmes of work together to share experiences and resources, to support and learn.

Reflecting on my mission to promote the use of social media as a tool for reflective practice and a platform to document and evidence creative learning I also put forward the idea of training the Teachers and Creative Practitioners involved to blog so that their experiences during the project could be shared both between schools in the form of a virtual learning network and with a wider audience.

Imagining the possibilities and beyond; The Story so Far

At the end of the summer term I brought together Creative Co-ordinators from St Mary’s Change School and Fulbridge School of Creativity with High/Scope Trainers at the Totem Pole. We developed a structure for the joint programme based on the plan-do-review cycle.

We planned to bring together Teacher and Practitioner pairings who would work together for three days a month for a six month period. Each month they would come together at the Totem Pole to explore an element of High/Scope practice. This would then feed into collaborative planning both between themselves and Reception children, a delivery session and reflective blog post.

We anticipated that by using this structure, pairings would choose to develop a ‘spark’ or ‘lightbulb moment’ into innovative new practice each month and that this would look very different from pair to pair. Also because each session would explore a different element of High/Scope practice participants learning would scaffold from month to month and that planning would be responsive. The programme would therefore evolve rather than being seen from the start as having a beginning, middle and end.

At the beginning of the Autumn term, Fulbridge’s  Creative Co-ordinator Charlotte Krzanicki led a day for St Mary’s Reception Teachers and Practitioners to experience the ‘Fulbridge Way’ and to hear Teacher’s experiences of last year’s Creative Partnerships programme (connecting; peer to peer learning).

This week Mary Barlow and Barbara Thomas led the first High/Scope session at the Totem Pole, bringing together five Teacher/Practitioner pairings in a room for the first time. And what a room; the ‘Studio’  training room, is a soft, homely space which is conducive to active learning and created an energy  between participants before we even got started!

It was a fascinating experience bringing the worlds of the Arts and Education together. I observed commonalities between us all and quite obvious differences. The common thread surprised me; everyone was feeling quite anxious about the unknown but assumed that everyone else was more comfortable entering into it. This echoed the young person’s comment about her Teacher being a Learner and it being scary.

Terming ourselves as Learners created a supportive environment and we gave ourselves permission to ‘ask stupid questions’. We created collages to introduce ourselves and here I noticed an interesting difference. When the Creative Practitioners made their introduction they defined themselves in terms other than their job or role. They spoke passionately about their values and beliefs, challenges and issues and were brutally honest and open. It created an interesting dynamic and seemed to relax the group.

The day was filled with awe and wonder, curiosity and intrigue and of course a decent sprinkling of fairy dust.  We explored active learning and intrinsic motivation and the latter exposed me as an anomaly. I am driven by the factors of intrinsic motivation: Enjoyment, control, interest, probability of success and feelings of competence and self confidence but I also love a prize!

 I started this blog as a response to Ewan Mcintosh’s 100hr challenge and I got the prize (Tina Seelig’s What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World, it has a note inside to acknowledge my triumph and I treasure it). I am keeping a journal to monitor the prize loving Katie’s behaviour and am ashamed to say it already contains a holographic sticker from my dentist for being brave!

The next step in this exciting journey is a New Technologies training day for the Learners next week. We will create a virtual learning network with the guidance of Abhay Adhikari so that we can share and reflect on how the learning from the Totem Pole will facilitate creativity with the two schools Reception children. Some pairings may travel along a meandering country lane; others may head for the motor way. It could be a bumpy ride or a cruise on fresh tarmac, either way we will celebrate our successes and failures alike. This is a rare adventure and a huge leap of faith for all involved.