News| For the third time, the Festival of Teaching...

For the third time, the Festival of Teaching Inspiration has successfully taken place at the Kunratice Elementary School

12. November 2017 The traditional Festival of Teaching Inspiration organized by Helping Schools Succeed took place in the Kunratice Elementary School on 10 and 11 November 2017; in all, 780 teachers from all over the Czech Republic attended 130 workshops there. For the first time ever the Festival also offered a panel discussion on systemic changes conducive to improvements in the quality of teaching and learning. The Kunratice Elementary School is one of the first schools involved in the Helping Schools Succeed project run by The Kellner Family Foundation.

How to improve the quality of the Czech school system and how to motivate teachers; this was the topic for professionals in the panel discussion during the Festival of Teaching Inspiration
This year was the first time that a moderated panel discussion on What and How Should Be Systemically Changed to Improve the Quality of Teaching and Learning at Czech Elementary Schools was included in the Festival’s programme. Experts with many years of practical experience and representatives of institutions and organisations operating in the Czech educational system and elsewhere held a debate on what, according to the latest research and experience from schools, helps to improve the results of children’s learning at schools and also on how to transfer these findings to teaching practices at Czech schools. Vít Beran, principal of the Kunratice Elementary School, and Ivo Mikulášek, principal of the Dobronín Elementary School, also joined the panel discussion in addition to Hana Košťálová, the Programme Director of the Helping Schools Succeed project. Jitka Kmentová, principal of Gymnázium Na Zatlance (a grammar school in Prague), shared her experience with the first alternative class at a public school. Dana Pražáková of the Czech School Inspectorate represented specialised institutions in the discussion, while Rik Vanderhhauwaert, Director of DNI-VSKO, Belgium, shared his international experience.

Teachers for teachers
“Through long-term monitoring and our own practices, we have arrived at the conclusion that every teacher who wants to continuously improve their teaching learns best from their colleagues. Such professionals also need feedback from someone else, someone in whom they have trust in both professional and personal terms, for their further development,” Hana Košťálová describes the method of teachers learning from each other. The participants in the Festival of Teaching Inspiration therefore addressed teaching problems and challenges, and jointly analysed the preparations for teaching, teaching itself, and ex post evaluation of teaching, during 130 practical workshops. “If we want to improve children’s learning we have to improve teaching, and that is fully in the teacher’s hands. If, then, we want to improve the whole system investments must be channelled to teachers on a long-term basis,” Hana Košťálová says with certainty, adding that she does not primarily mean across-the-board salary raises when she says investments but rather the fact that the school management must have the opportunity to promote the quality of teaching right in classrooms and in the staffroom. Experts say that for a systemic improvement in learning and teaching at public schools, governmental institutions’ assistance is primarily required; for this purpose, the following propositions must be accepted:

  • Promote teachers’ and schools’ learning from each other through, for example, co-teaching and experience sharing between schools;
  • Put trust in teachers and express this trust also in practical terms: make them responsible for their own pedagogical development, which helps them to become more successful teachers;
  • Opt for a simple vision concerning each pupil’s learning, and then pursue the vision;
  • Do not tie the flow of money for school innovations by rigid templates or projects for only prescribed topics;
  • Help schools with regular evaluations of their current condition and comparisons against their vision. Together with teachers, specify what and how they want to learn so that their school continuously progresses towards its vision;
  • Finance the implementation of schools’ plans for pedagogical development, which does not have to be expensive;
  • Refrain from taking further steps that add to the current administrative burden on teaching staff.

Practice: Co-teaching to classrooms
One of the well-tried methods practised by the schools involved in Helping Schools Succeed is co-teaching. A teaching assistant – a university student, a fresh graduate or even a teacher with a few years of practice – is present in the classroom together with the main teacher. The teaching assistant is actively involved in the teaching, but also has an opportunity to watch their more experienced colleague. “Initially, co-teaching may be unusual for the teachers themselves. It is important that they have confidence in their pupils and in themselves, and the school management have to support them in this at the beginning,” Vít Beran, principal of the Kunratice Elementary School, which has been employing this teaching method successfully for seven years, described the need to strike a balance between the teachers’ autonomy and their feeling of security. Indeed, not only does the novice teacher benefit from co-teaching; but the main teacher also benefits, receiving a second opinion, new ideas and, above all, a helping hand, and the two together can provide individualised care to pupils, which is the objective of a good public school system in which every pupil enjoys learning.

Third year
The Festival of Teaching Inspiration took place at the Kunratice Elementary School in Prague for the third time. In the Kunratice school the two festival days saw more than 130 practical workshops for teachers, conducted by those from schools involved in Helping Schools Succeed and by other experts. This year 780 teachers from across the country participated in the Festival. Stage reading and video workshops were also part of the educational programme.

Inspiration also after the Festival
Support for teachers does not come to an end with the last workshop at the Festival of Teaching Inspiration. The schools involved in the Helping Schools Succeed project continue to stay in touch and their staff members can share experiences throughout the year. Instructional coaches provide practical support and feedback on teaching to the schools, while theoretical support is provided by the project website at www.pomahameskolam.cz and the Critical Literacy trade journal.

For more information about Helping Schools Succeed please visit http://www.kellnerfoundation.cz/pomahame-skolam-k-uspechu

Videos from the preceding editions of the Festival of Teaching Inspiration and other educational videos can be watched at http://bit.ly/PomahameSkolam

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