I recently had the pleasure of attending and delivering some training sessions at the King’s Group Professional Development Weekend in Madrid. I’ve been a speaker at this conference since 2015, and it’s always one of the highlights of my year.
This year, there was a separate Early Years Professional Development Programme running alongside the core programme, meaning that over 450 specialists, teachers, TAs and speakers were present, with over 30 workshops being run at a given time.
The weekend always opens with a key note. This year it was delivered by Dr Christian van Nieuweburgh, a Professor a Coaching and Positive Psychology at the University of East London and focused specifically on well-being in education.
During the session, Dr Christian discussed what is necessary for teachers to excel at their jobs – they need energy, to feel respected as professionals, and to look after their own well-being, before discussing the role of coaching and positive psychology.
As I listened, I was struck by how much the role of the TA overlapped with the role of the coach. Dr Christian went into detail on how the role of the coach is to:
- Enhance learning and development
- Increase self-awareness and personal responsibility
- Encourage self-directed learning
And that “the coach uses the skills of questioning, active listening and appropriate challenge in a supportive and encouraging environment”.
That’s a TA! I was absolutely thrilled with this as it actually formed the basis of some of my sessions later on that afternoon!
He then went on to discuss the importance of positive psychology, and ensuring that not only our students but also ourselves are not merely going through the motions but are flourishing.
Needless to say this left everyone in the room feeling highly motivated and excited for the rest of the weekend!
Throughout the afternoon I delivered four hour long small group workshops:
- Working with higher achievers
- Phonic development beyond phase 3
- When NOT to support
- Dealing with inappropriate behaviour
The level of engagement and discussion in each of these sessions was brilliant. We discussed practical, classroom strategies for each of these issues, as well as looking at the bigger picture of the impact of our statements and actions.
Personal highlights were discussions based around how we can use resources already at our disposal in order to extend thinking or create new challenges, how we can encourage children to explore and manipulate their phonic knowledge independently and how we can be assertive and move away from relying solely on rewards and sanctions as a method of behaviour management.
The reason I enjoy this weekend so much is that not only to do I get to work with amazing practitioners and support them to reflect on and develop their own practice, but I learn so much for myself as well. I always leave feeling energised and motivated, and ready to do the best I can for the people I work with and, by extension, the children they support. I was, as ever, impressed with the commitment, contributions and collaboration the King’s staff demonstrated and am already looking forward to my next visit.