Really making a difference – The radical-progressive.

I’ve written before about the radical train.

It gives this notion that we’re all somewhere on the train, under bridges, over bridges, whether we be progressives, conservatives or traditionalists… Except, that is, for the radicals who are busy laying the tracks two miles down the line.

And the problem then is, which radical do you follow? The progressives, who are in the engine room, have to make that choice – make the wrong choice and they’ll be hurtling down the wrong tracks. And as everyone knows, trains aren’t that easy to turn round.

Personally, I’ve often tended towards the radical. I like to have ideas – lots of them and then hope some people will shoot down my tracks. I don’t get too worried if they don’t though, because I’m busy having more ideas.

However, I recognise that being that way doesn’t actually get anything done. At times I have to force myself into the progressive, and even the conservative and traditionalist, because each have value in my organisation. Each is important in getting stuff done. Getting stuff done well. Getting stuff done right and safely.

Today I met two people who I would call “radical progressive”. Right at the moment I think these kind of people are the best. They kind see tracks that are off in the future, they are happy to lay a few tracks of their own, but they also have the determination to make their trains go down their tracks. They make me want to be on their trains.

The first person was a teacher called Nadine from a school near mine. Nadine, like me, has an interest in developing her more able learners – her gifted and talented students. She also believes, like me, that a gifted and talented approach to teaching, applied in the right ways can benefit all learners. Fantastic.

Last year I had set up some gifted and talented network meetings following the death of our Local Authority led network. We planned three meetings, cancelled one and at the last meeting there were about 6 people there. For me it was one of those tracks that I had laid and nobody really wanted to go down. Fine.

And then I met Nadine. Like me, she has started a network, but unlike me, she has made a plan for how that network should run. She hasn’t opened it up every school, but limited it to just a few and she has placed an onus on each school to contribute a learning activity to the rest of the schools in the network. She has laid some tracks and driven her train down them – a radical progressive.

And then I met Daniel Harvey. Find him on Twitter at Danielharvey9. Like me, he wanted to get a network of teachers together to meet face to face and share good practice –  a teachmeet – Teachmeet Brum in fact. I had previously organised a Teachmeet back in 2011 – the first Teachmeet Brum which you can read about on Oliver Quinlan’s blog.

The thing is, after that teachmeet, I had a failed attempt at organising a teachmeet and then helped out at another teachmeet but didn’t do a very good job at it – not so many people attended and I had begun to think, oh well, there go some more clean bright tracks into the overgrown, weed-infested place where train tracks go to rust away their latter years.

Not so perhaps. Daniel Harvey has a plan. There are a cluster of primary schools attached to his secondary school. He has a supportive leadership team. He has a passion to improve practice and see positive outcomes for his students – one of the great things about this teachmeet was that his students actually presented – and they did a fantastic job. In short, we can have more teachmeets in Birmingham, because Daniel is a radical progressive – he lays tracks yes, but he is also driving his train down them.

Thanks Nadine. Thanks Daniel. You’ve reminded me to be determined. My own train is a small one-form entry primary school, but I must drive it down some of those radical tracks and not be completely overtaken by the numbers game demanded by league tables and Ofsted.

And I hope neither of you mind if I hop on the back of your train once in a while.

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