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The International Centre for Leadership in Teaching & Learning

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How OLEVI changed my view of CPD

We’d been here before, or so we thought. OTP delegate Sarah Butler, Newham Sixth Form College, reflects on her personal professional development journey with OLEVI and how it changed her mind about the impact and effectiveness of CPD.

“On hearing that we were to get some professional development through the Outstanding Teacher Programme (OTP), our collective thoughts turned to: Did we really need another prescriptive training course, being told what outstanding looks like under whichever current government fad, phase or initiative might be in vogue? We collectively rolled our eyes at the idea of yet another career-hungry, overly assertive ‘outstanding’ teacher telling us what works for them and expecting us to do the same. We worried we didn’t have the time, amid marking deadlines, data drops, lesson planning and meetings, to fit in more vaguely helpful CPD. We were sceptical, and a little more jaded than we would like to admit.

“So, our journey began. We met in our glass-walled space, a group of teachers and tutors of varying experience and style. We delved deeper week by week into the nuts and bolts of our practice, we unpacked a professional toolkit that we hadn’t had the time to visit reflectively for what felt like years. We talked at length in a calm space, sharing, enquiring, laughing and connecting.

“It’s only looking back that I see how quietly, confidently and profoundly we were coached, and how we were in desperate need of that space to be held for us. To nurture us, to empower our growth. The coaching was almost invisible, but it was extraordinarily powerful. Each seemingly casual question came with genuine interest and led us from light discussion to deep reflection. The energy in the room changed – from a cross section of excellent but tired teachers, to a dynamic of close, empathetic, beautifully collaborative professionals. We built each other up, we played devil’s advocate, we shared ideas, constructed new narratives. We shared our visions for change, and discovered they were surprisingly similar.

“The OTP sessions soon became the highlight of my week, not simply another ‘task’ to squeeze in amongst the bureaucracy and paperwork, but a purposeful and productive gathering of minds.

“When the time came, we walked comfortably, feeling welcome and invited, into our colleagues’ classrooms, and gleaned ideas, perspective and inspiration without paperwork or pressure and, most importantly, without criticism or hierarchy. We began to invite others into our classrooms. At first, purely for convenience, generally to provide cover whilst we nipped out to a learning walk, but the conversations happened nonetheless. We began to share, to support, to collaborate and to open our doors organically and without any management direction. The dialogue began to change. Teaching and learning was the headline not the footnote. Our purpose was back on the agenda. Learning. Progress. Students. Ideas. Risk-taking. A breath of fresh air.”

The OTP, part of the OLEVI TLC Syllabus, is facilitated throughout the UK and worldwide by members of the OLEVI Alliance.