I am emailing you principally to share C’s letter and pass on that C and his parents expressed an interest in communication with you in any form you could manage. I also wanted to thank you in writing for the training you led back in October, as well as Cameron’s copy of your book. I am copying in LT as I hope this demonstrates some impact of the work that goes into organising the DHT conferences in South Gloucestershire. The timing of the training seemed to be just right, as I have the privilege of teaching an exceptional group of young people this year. The idea of looking at what it would mean for them, at their point in their educational journey, to be elite was irresistible.
Much of our training on the day I know was aimed towards us as adults (or maybe this was what you planned all along(!)) but it just made sense to share many of the principles of leadership and performance with the pupils. After all, what do they want from this very special, last year at primary school? To have fun, do well and move on? Or perhaps to take the opportunity to pose the question you put to us: How good can I be? This is turning out to be a highly engaging, challenging and rewarding journey for all of us, regardless of age. I don’t think I have ever felt prouder to be part of a team.
We are taking elite to mean the definition you give of continually pushing the boundaries of our potential. This is even threading through our experiences of leading up to the national tests for year 6 pupils (10 and 11 years old). We are recognising the tests as a pressure exercise. Many educationalists bemoan the wording and structure of the tests, particularly in mathematics. This is understandable, as this can lead to reduced performance and sometimes comes across as adversarial. As a group of learners, we are coming to see this as a personal challenge. Will we be able to apply the key knowledge and skills we have learned together in this individual test? Will we forget who we are as learners and strong mathematicians when pressure is applied in this way? What do we do in this situation? Through training ourselves we are beginning to want these opportunities to show how good we can be. Our classroom was most recently described as “A learning zone in every sense” and adult observers demonstrate surprise at the level of progress, as well as more importantly, the way the class are supporting one another’s learning. Pupils who were perceived as weaker team players are being seen to lead others and encourage knowledge and skills. As far as raw data is concerned, test scores have demonstrated an average increase of +14 in just two months. All of this is also making sense alongside the idea of ‘mastery,’ which is a principle idea behind our learning and training in schools with curriculum 2014+ at the moment.
The longer journey is where we are looking at the different personality types in our class and at the importance of our differences in attitude, reaction and approach. We are learning what to expect from one another and how to work with this (often with a strong pinch of humour)! There is a developing sense of needing all these types to make a great team – a great year group.
Don’t take the above to be gushing praise – this is hard work and certainly no easy fixes here. But the rewards are great. The usual pressures of the job are ever-present but I find myself looking forward to more of them, as well as standing up, calmly and reasonably as a developing negotiator, against those that won’t hold benefit for colleagues or students. Ofsted might be a tough assignment this year. I find myself (almost) looking forward to it.
Many thanks again and best wishes for the coming year,
Please find a transcript of C’s fantastic letter below (I think he surprised himself):
Dear Mr. Woodrow,
You are an amazing, inspirational man who is one of my favourite role models. Thank you for your signed Elite book it is one of my most prized possessions. You were probably just a normal school boy like me one day. But we all have dreams. However, to get a push towards them is something else.
In this class we all want to be elite. There are a number of people in this class who want to challenge themselves mentally and physically to end up in the forces, including me. My dream is to get in the SAS. What was your dream when you were eleven?
As well as reading your book I have heard you are a brilliant speaker as well as all your other talents. Whatever we want to do, getting an inspirational speech would take it the extra mile. I know you might not be able to fulfil this job but if you can it would be respected massively.
At this school we learn to perform under pressure by completing many tasks, so imagine what we could do with your help, please, however big or small to truly be elite.