I have worked with colleagues at South Dartmoor Community College for six years now. Under the inspirational leadership of Hugh Bellamy, they have retained – during a period of educational turbulence – a dedicated commitment to the enhancement of learning for all students. Hugh – with whom I have had the privilege of working for twelve years altogether – is the most principled, passionate and opportunistic principal whose tenacious drive for inclusive education is beyond reproach.
On a recent visit to the College, I observed exemplary learning and teaching in a range of contexts. One lesson in particular – taught by Chris Turley – stood our for me. Chris has been a passionate advocate of Building Learning Power for many years and understands how best to teach with learning in mind with consummate ease; it is always a pleasure to watch her working with students.
The Learning Enrichment lesson around the Fire Pit that I observed was exemplary and provided many learning opportunities for both vulnerable learners and those teachers who were observing – and who, like me, were invited into the lesson as participants. The lesson was part of the College’s well-documented commitment to the development of mindfulness – this lesson benefited from being conducted in one of the College’s designated outdoor learning environments.
The learning positive features were legion and may be summarised as follows:
- Students were treated with maturity and respect and responded likewise to each other and their teacher
- The development of all aspects of emotional intelligence was carefully nurtured at all times
- Chris modeled highly sophisticated techniques by:
Being inclusive of all students’ contributions
Validating all efforts whilst challenging misconceptions in a mature and constructive way
Modeling a calm and purposeful approach
Providing relevant and illuminating information to supplement the experience of learning in the outdoors
Allowing students to adopt roles and responsibilities and act autonomously
Ensuring that the process of learning involved trying things out and learning from mistakes
Recognising that’s it’s OK not to succeed provided that the process is reviewed and future plans are established
Being open and honest about herself and her fallibility
Building in reflective moments when individuals could give constructive feedback on their own and other’s performance
Allowing time for students to uncouple from the urgency of the day to day and enable their senses to respond to the environment and each other
- The lesson was built around clear and coherent criteria that were used flexibly in response to the situation and students’ attitudes
- A progressive sense of what mindfulness means and how this can impact productively on vulnerable students’ learning was extremely impressive and cutting edge. Based on Chris’ ground-breaking work, there are huge opportunities for this to be adopted across the age and ability range for the benefit of more students – and teachers – at the College and wider afield. I was delighted that Chris was able to take up an opportunity to talk on a national platform about her work – at the Children’s Media Conference in July.
It was clear that students are making consolidated and transferable progress -across lessons and over time – in the four domains of learning – the emotional, the cognitive, the social and the reflective. This lesson was inspirational; taught by a consummate professional who understands the principles of Building Learning Power in the very fibre of her being.