The doors slammed shut and Stephen and I sat bleary eyed and a little dishevelled in the front of the mini bus. It was Sunday morning and the end of SLTcamp. We sat in silence for a moment and then I turned to Stephen and said "We only went and bloody did it!" We both laughed, Stephen started up the engine and we set off on the muddy road out of Holmbury St Mary YHA. We had done it. The weekend was a blur and it all seemed a little surreal to be honest. We were both exhausted but very happy that it had gone so well. As the scenery wizzed by we chatted excitedly about the weekend through smiles and yawns in equal measure. We talked about what we liked and would we will improve for next time... And yes there will be a next time.
We arrived at Dorking station and I bundled out of the mini bus trailing behind me my suitcase and clutching my flowers from the campers in my arms. I stood on the pavement and waved Stephen off as he tooted past and off home. I stood there dazed for a moment. It was over. Moments from the weekend swirling around my head and a smile crept across my face. The announcement for my train home snapped my focus back to the here and now. The bubble of SLTcamp bust and off I skipped... back to reality.
Later that evening I started to update the @SLTcamp twitter feed with all the larks of the weekend and I felt a real sense of pride at the quality of leaders we had spent the weekend alongside. I felt proud of what we had all been a part of. The exhaustion I had felt that afternoon had passed and a feeling of euphoria had taken over. I didn't feel tired at all; I felt buoyed up form the whole experience. Both Stephen and I agreed there and then that it was such a special weekend full of innovative ideas, sharing of experiences, amazing people, great conversations and a supportive development that we would be mad not to let more leaders benefit from the experience we'd had. Would we do some things differently? Yes without a doubt. Next time will be even better, even more tailored! I thought I would feel battered and bruised from the weekend away that week in school but I was wrong. Actually, I felt rested, reinvigorated and inspired - not a touch of tiredness to be seen.
What a weekend.
It was jam packed with quality CPD experiences, workshops, talks and debates. The teachmeet on the Friday was brilliant opener to a brilliant weekend. The breadth of topics and experiences that were shared and discussed was top notch. Personal highlights for me were Phil @joeybagstock, Tom @tomboulder, Stuart @stuartlock and Debbie @teachertweaks - all of whom gave passionate and useful presentations that made me think about my own practice. That being said, we were spoilt for choice with the presentations that evening - from pedagogy to behaviour, whole school CPD to lesson observations approaches, educational research to developing leaders. There really was outstanding leaders in our midst and the presentations showed this. The difference with this teachmeet was that we had time to follow up those discussions once the talks were over - and boy did we. The atmosphere during the break and after the teachmeet was electric. Debate was deep and questions were flying around the tables until late into the evening.
The Saturday sessions were kicked off my Mel and Debbie leading the team building warm up activities. Great fun and it really got everyone chatting to one another. The workshops covered teaching, learning, behaviour, pastoral issues and leadership topics. I was astounded at the passion and generosity of the sharing of experiences, resources, advice and ideas that flowed freely around the tables. Ideas that had been touched upon in the teachmeet the night before were picked up again and debated with vigour. Connections were made and tribes formed. People found others with similar interests or delved deeply into heated discussions around different views. Notes were made in every session and reading over these as we publish them on the SLTcamp site have confirmed to me how useful and developmental these sessions truly were. The evening was a feast of fiesta food and dancing and I very much enjoyed the impassioned chats had with Grahame Newell of IRIS Connect, Debbie and Mel, one of our Headteachers (who shall remain nameless ;-)) at the event and all the other wonderfully different senior leaders who took the time out of their weekend to better themselves and others. I take my hat off to you all.
The Sunday morning reflection session was sprinkled with amazing virtual presentations from Ross Morrison McGill @teachertoolkit Rachel Orr @rachelorr Jill Berry @jillberry and Heath Monk @heath_monk. During this time we had space, quiet and focus to digest all that we had been a part of over the weekend. We focused on what we were taking away with us, what conversations we wanted to continue and what the next steps were for us individually. Committing to our next steps following the weekend. Then, as had been the case all weekend, the attendees teamed together and cleared the place up in the space of a few short minutes. We said our good byes, warm hugs and smiles all round, and locked up what had been our home for the weekend.
And then there were two...
And then there were two...
This is such a crazy and outlandish job we do that we need a little touch of something different - this was that. To quote one of our campers Ashley @BMS_MrHarrold "I don't know what you two have started this weekend but I know I like it." It was the start of something, something organic that is yet to be defined. Watch this space. I am looking forward the next one where we can make the event even more useful and give even more senior leaders the space to develop themselves and others.
Register your interest for #SLTcamp14 below and be a part of something special if you dare.