‘Moving from Good to Great’. This was the impassioned aim of all 140 delegates attending the recent TEACH! conference in Grahamstown. These education-driven attendees were given the opportunity to express and question their personal connection to their positions as educators through a series of informative lectures and discussions and a Sunday morning workshop. Doctor Ilse Appelt, counsellor at Kingswood College in Grahamstown, was part of the conference crowd. Her insightful reflection of the weekend goes as follows:TEACH! supported the practices of differentiated learning and innovation in teaching, amongst other things and also highlighted the need to allow pupils to come up with their great answers (and questions) rather than “the right” answer. Though value and experience could be found in each and every presentation, those presented by keynote speaker Rushton Hurley were some of the most joyfully given and raptly received lectures. Speaking on Seeking Excellence and Seeking Information, Hurley alerted participants to the wealth of free resources available and inspired them by showing examples of how these were used effectively and efficiently, all the while retaining his sense of humour. Many a heart-warming story was shared via short video clips and stories during the presentations. To list a few: The 8 to be Great TEDtalk by Dr Vassiliou, the fascinating lessons from Finland’s educational system and success by Opperman, the story of the support given to teachers and pupils at the American International School of Johannesburg by Page-Smith, the positive ABC mindset (not Accuse, Blame and Criticise, but rather Accept responsibility, Believe in the possible and Create change) by Eburne – all which left participants inspired. The themes and practices that resonated with Doctor Appelt included “Making ideas matter” and searching for the fascinating, “Giving pupils choices” with regards to assignment tasks, “Valuing time” by becoming more efficient and unpredictable (for greater impact!), “Honouring effort” and “Building support” by sharing success stories and creating environments where pupils can share their stories. The programme was very full during the day with a tea and lunch break for some networking, but the evenings provided time to meet new people over the delicious dinners served at the Wyvern club at Kingswood. This enriched the learning experience of all present and allowed the weekend to become one of personal reflection as well as professional growth and enlightenment.
The TEACH! conference has been running for a number of years, with the overarching aim to provide inspiration and motivation to teachers. The event is hosted by Kingswood private school in Grahamstown, and organised by Theuns Opperman, the Director of Academics in the Senior School. The conference was designed to fill the gaps left by workshops that only teach educators on how to handle the curriculum and students, but leave out the areas of personal growth and inspiration. Each annual event sees a number of influential speakers from all over the country, many of whom are affiliated with Kingswood school. As well as the formal lectures, the conference gave a “voice” to all participants via a live Twitter feed and regularly updated Twitter handle to share memorable ideas and reflections on the conference.